After the crazy days, down Azuero peninsuala to the beaches.
Past Pedasi down the Azuero peninsula after the Las Tablas carnival craze, we roll into a dusty and windy Venao, an amazing bay of a Pacific beach. There are two Israeli owned bars/restaurants, lounge or beach bars, and I decide to bite the bullet after 5 days of deep down and dirty fried carnival snacks, sausages and chicken legs to go, all damn cheap and greasy, I always wonder how you can survive on this. But the bars and juke boxes and their music soothed with the best of Columbian and Panamanian Cumbia, some Puerto Rican and Cuban Salsa and of course Regeaton is all over Panama, that great Panamanian invention.
So here in Venao I decide to settle for some lounge music, some Lebanese Fairuz mingles underneath, some nice Hebrew stuff too that I don't know, we are in a lounge bar with an amazing view and sunset over the Pacific. Beer is a touristy 2USD, food an average burger (10USD) and burnt, rusty, oil soaked fried calamaris (12USD), just a tad worth then the fried chicken leg on the carnival (for 1USD). The calamari are unbeatable, uneatable; but our own fault, I think, to order Mediterranean food, Central Americans are hardly ever trained to do it properly, it is better to stick with their 'delicious' food.
I put a smile on, just then something bizarre happens, the music switches, plays some old Bon Jovi rock, some Beatles, and I still only shake my head. Only when I hear the 7th Bee Gees song in a row I stand up, pay and walk out of the place, this is more than the average man can handle. I even ask whether she could play some Panamanian stuff but the arrogant full-breasted, tattooed know-it-all Columbian bar tender tells me that Alfredo Escudero is hardly something she would play in this établissement of class, but Bee Gees yes. Yes I wonder, why wouldn't you want to give your clients some lessons in the grandest variety of Latin music, in a Central American, Caribbean country, full of heritage, why would that be so misplaced?
Playa Guanica, past Tonosi is then a very local affair, music excellent, beer 65c, food delicious, local, shrimps in sauce and fries for 6.5USD, and in the morning the quiet unusual; sunrise over the Pacific.
Playa Cambutal and beyond, pure paradise.
But wait, wait this is even getting better. We get to Cambutal and beyond, where the dirt road starts, past some stream crossings, where the grandest and loneliest beaches commence and nobody goes no-more. How many years will the solitude out here exist, before the lounge bars and hotels move in, when will the road be paved and the locally held properties be sold? Those beaches are black sands or pebbles, hundred meters wide when the tide is low, steeper and a force not to underestimate when the tide is in.
Out there where the road ends, almost where the mountains of Cerro Hoyo start, is nothing, is where the double killings by stabbing took place, a murder and another one to redeem it, and never before and never after has such an atrocity occurred out here on this peaceful stretch of coast. But so Escahorta tells us, it was the year of her quinceañeras, and she had started to go looking for her dad at night, and that night she found him stabbed to death, and the murder redeemed by her uncle. Her father had worked hard on the land, made it in potatoes and corn, and bought some of the coastal lands when they where cheap, his success was the thorn in the eye of the envious slayer. That day 40 years ago changed her life forever, resuming responsibility she worked as a maid to support her siblings. Today Escahorta wants to sell the inherited land, she doesn't want to work anymore.
For food we are back in Cambutal and intuition leads to a nice lady, Nubia, she owns a delicious restaurant with a juke box almost at the end of town; if you, dear reader, ever get here; Chicken and sauce, or fried fish and rice and beans, with plantains and salad, all comes for 2.5USD and is delicious and yes, beer for .65. Yes, here you want to stay forever. The spume on the beach is white, sand black, and with some luck you watch some riders who take their horses swimming and body surfing in the waves of the Pacific; Cambutal is paradise.
On way to Panama City we turn into Punta Chame, wide windy peninsula of granular salt and pepper sands. Punta Chame has two faces: a sunset side where you go to watch the kites fly on glisten ocean waters under a bloody red sky. The other side is reserved for sunrise, to view thousands of pelicans hunt for fish in the dawn hours of the day until the orange ball of fire turns white and the big birds settle. We would come back to Punta Chame a week later, but the pelicans would not hunt but a lot farther out, hundreds of dead jellyfish instead litter the morning beach at low tide.
Splendid Panama City.
Panama, maybe the friendliest, the most secure country in Central America, surprises with the most splendid capital, a skyline like Dubai or Miami, a cosmopolitan feel and pulse, a Casco Viejo heritage.
Car repairs take their time, it's the same wheel bearing as twice before, and after the repairs the breaks don't work. Bored I put my 17-35mm f2.8 Nikon lens in the washing machine, it is when you hide things too well that you forget where you put them, time to smile, this is how one manufactures an expensive paper holder. Friday night we see a Cuban Salsa life explosion in Havana-Panama club in Casco Viejo, and for a long time I have not danced so much and till 3 in the morning. Panama City, while we eat the nicest squid and shrimp ceviche that is sold almost everywhere, keeps us busy organizing the crossing to Colombia, as it is here in Panama where the Pan Americana highway ends in the Darien jungle. So, see you on the other side... March 2012.
And yes, the Fab Trek has been going for 7 year, 7 months and 7 days, 777, jackpot, but not yet time to go home.