What's not to like about a day at the beach, especially when through the miracle of wifi, one can look at the Chicago forecast and savor the hot temperature and unbelievably warm water here on Bastimentos Island.
Henry started the day with birding. What a surprise. There are a few local mutts on our island. Blacky. Rojo. Henry's best friend accompanied him on his early morning birdwatch. Not a great companion for attracting rare tropical birds for Henry's life-list, but awfully cute.
The front of our house faces the beach, the back of the house faces a swampy area with parrots, water birds, monkeys, and cayman. We are living on a sparsely inhabited island--only three other occupied homes in the vicinity, besides the small inland community of native Panamanians. Luckily one of the tourist families has three kids who play beautifully with Pearl and Henry. (nice for our kids, nice for the parents...)
Henry and the oldest neighbor enjoyed catching jellyfish from our swimming area. Reminded us of the good ole days at the campground in Michigan when Henry used to catch buckets of bullfrogs.
Before we came to the island, we shopped for enough groceries to get us through the week. Additionally, the natives come by with their dug-out canoes and sell fresh caught fish, lobster, and octopus. Tonight we scored a small tuna for 4 pesos americanos. Delicious.
Yesterday was our final full day on Bastimentos Island. We've loved it here--it reminds us of spending time at Warner's Landing Campground: an uncomplicated lifestyle in a beautiful location with nice people. Henry and Pearl had a great day hanging with the 3 other kids here. Henry and his new friends Drake and Cruze enjoyed kayaking and exploring for wild animals--crabs, lobster, stingrays, eels, starfish, and jellyfish.
Pearl loved making sand castles with Reese.
In the afternoon, we had a potluck with the property managers Christine and Michael, and the Williams family. Michael brought out his huge turkey fryer, and we ate a traditional Island Thanksgiving lunch.
Later with the buzz of insects loud in the trees, Dave and Sue night-hiked by flashlight on a 30-minute spooky jungle trail filled with monkeys, bats, and caymans to the only restaurant in the area. "Al Natural"--referring not to clothing-optional, but rather to the rustic state of the lodging on the premises. Dinner is served family style at 8pm. All of the lodging guests attend in addition to random island-people, like Dave and Sue. There was even a couple from Traverse City. Certainly if we had dug deeply enough we would have found that two-degrees-of-separation-from-Jack-Warner that everyone from Michigan seems to enjoy. We swapped stories of Panama travel and favorite Traverse City pies. After dinner, we hand-fed bananas to gentle Panamanian Night Monkeys that show up regularly to check out the open-air restaurant action. From the dock, we shined our flashlights into the water, then extinguished them and saw the glow of Bioluminescent Jellies.
On our return hike, our pace was even quicker. We were still keeping an eye out for carnivorous animals, but also trying to lose our tailgater--a sad-eyed, hungry, sweet puppy. All of Panama has a dog population problem. The dogs are scavengers. In fact, all of the houses on Bastimentos Island are equipped with dog gates. If someone forgets to close the gate, within seconds you have a dog in your house. The little guy that followed us home was so skinny that the gate couldn't keep him out of our house. In the morning, we found him curled up in a tight crescent just outside our front door. The Griffin family's special dog lover Uncle John would have had a hard time seeing the state of the dogs around here.
This morning we woke up to squall winds and driving rain. Our house was flooded with an inch of rain before we even got out of bed. It wasn't looking good for our morning boat taxi departure back to Bocas Town airport. At 10am, we encased our 4 suitcases, 4 backpacks, and 3 musical instruments in plastic garbage bags and carried them to the dock. Michael was waiting for us in his small boat taxi. (Think simple open-air motorboat with 2 rows of bench seating.) The boat ride to Bocas Town is a solid 45-minute ride at top speed. Luckily we had a break in the rain. Or so we thought… The four of us and Michael hunkered down in the pelting rain that stung like sleet hitting our faces. Sea water swells dumped into the boat as we lurched forward. When it comes to rain gear we quickly learned the difference between water-resistant and waterproof. We knew that we would need a change of dry clothing after the boat ride, but we had no idea that we would also need a change of underwear. As Dave said, "Never before has it felt so good to rummage through the dirty laundry bag and put on yesterday's used undies." Henry said, "I feel like the whole Caribbean Sea is in my underpants."
Many thanks to Michael for delivering us safely to our destination. Upon our arrival, he admitted that for several minutes we were in a total white-out situation. Luckily, Michael is an experienced skipper in these parts and knows how to avoid shallow water, coral reefs, and mangroves. All's well that ends well. We are on our final flight right now. Looking forward to landing at O'Hare, seeing home again, and drying out our underwear.
We'll be home for the next 4-5 weeks. Dave departs on the CSO European tour on January 6. Sue and the kids head to New Zealand on January 11. We'll resume our travel blog postings at that time. Thank you for enduring our ramblings thus far. We hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a happy holiday season!
Greetings from northern New Zealand! Thanks to the enigma of the International Date Line, we are still trying to wrap our over-tired brains around the loss of Sunday.
At the moment, Dave is on tour with the CSO in the Canary Islands, and since we are in New Zealand, over 11,000 miles separate us. I don't think we'll ever be further apart unless one of us decides to rocket off on a solo trip through outer space.
Today I'm going to let pictures speak for themselves, except for a couple of observations:
1. Kiwis are tailgaters. Nice people, mind you. Exceptionally friendly, awesome accent, fun-loving--but TERRIBLE tailgaters. This speed racer couldn't zoom her Mach 5 fast enough around the winding roads of the Northland. Lucky for all involved, I studied British driver's training videos on youtube prior to the trip. Now if only I could stop signaling my turns with my windshield wipers.
2. NZ cities must have been named by toddlers or middle schoolers. Very hard to keep a straight face while passing through Kawakawa, Whakapara, Tutukaka, and Ruapekapeka.
Looking well rested and excited on our cab ride to O'Hare.
Waiting to board our bird in San Francisco
Less well rested, but still excited. Thank goodness for on-demand cartoons and non-stop snacks.
Arrived in Auckland!
Scenic stop 1 at a beautiful beach just 30 minutes north of Auckland.
Today was a quiet day of recuperation for us in New Zealand. The kids are really adjusting well to the time difference, especially my expert traveler Pearl.
This morning we attempted some homeschooling. Unfortunately, algebra story problems about "how long does it take a boater to paddle 25 miles upstream and 25 miles downstream" didn't go over too well. That's the stuff that nerds like me live for--sadly, Henry didn't inherit the math gene. Easy does it with the schooling while we get used to our traveling and 24/7 time together.
So for our quiet day, we enjoyed breakfast at a bayside cafe,
Walked the mud flats during low tide looking for shorebirds and sea creatures,