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Panama (with family)

22FEB - 02MAR2020

February 22nd: After checking out at the Albrook Inn, I took a taxi to Tocumen, rented an SUV for the family and waited until the Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt arrived. It is good to see the family again. We have been apart for 38 days, longest time ever!

As this blog is about my flights with N5581M (and I couldn't fly with my family, because it is only a 2-seater), I am not going to describe this family vacation in detail. Only the highlights:

We drove to the Mamallena lodge and arrived there late, due to several traffic jams, road blockings and re-routings (Carneval). Stayed there for 2 nights, enjoying the cool forest and Brandon's excellent home cooking. February 24th, we drove all day to David and stayed in the Gran Hotel, before continuing to Boquete on February 25th, enjoying the hospitality of Ibu, Pat and Teo there.

February 26th, we drove to Almirante, the Banana shipping port where the water taxis to Bocas del Toro depart. Most people fly to Bocas, prefering the 1 hour flight over the 10 hour drive from Panama City. But we drove the long and windy roades. Even from Boquete it was still a 4 hour drive. When entering Almirante, boys on bicycles offer a follow-me service, guiding you to the parking places for your car. These parking places are basically private garden properties misused for this purpose. They cost between 3 to 5 dollar per day and the boys on the bikes get a dollar too.

The shuttles to Bocas leave every half hour. The open boats are built for 15, but loaded with more then 20 passengers, small children not included. Their 225 hp outboard engine gives them a cruise speed of 25 knots. Journey to Bocas is about 30 minutes.

Bocas is a crowded, noisy tourist town. We enjoyed a rest in one of Bocas many ocean-side terrasses before we continued to Isla Bastimentos, another 30 minute high-speed cruise, now with the background of the setting sun. We reached the Azul Paradise resort in darkness, our home for the next 3 days.

We had a nice cabin, overlooking the ocean. There are no streets or cars on Isla Bastimentos, a lovely, quiet place. No loud music, no beach parties, only a few cabins, some over water, some on the beach. White sand, azul blue water. We saw stingrays on the first day, swimming below the over water cabins. The friendly staff kept us mostly alone. We basically did - nothing.

Well, this is not fully true for me. February 28th, I did some flight planning for Colombia. I am still unsure about my route through the mountains. February 29th, I sent emails to the civil aviation authorities in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, but it was a Saturday and I didn't expect any answers before Monday, March 2nd.

March 1st, we left Azul Paradise, took the boat via Bocas to Almirante and then drove 9 hours back to the Albrook Inn in Panama City.

Once, the police stopped us. The officer approached us and while his colleague was looking away, he claimed that I drove 98 km/h in a zone limited to 80 km/h. He told me that this costs 50 dollar with paper work or 20 dollar without paper work.

Twice, we saw fires alongside the road. Who or what caused them?

Most of the vehicles on the road were modern. Just once in a while, we saw nice looking busses like the one in the picture.

March 2nd, my family left. We returned the rented SUV (we drove 1401 km) at Tocumen, they took an airliner and I a local bus back to the Albrook Inn. It is sad, to be alone again. Travelling alone, is half the fun. But riding in that bus was interesting. It was a private bus, running the same route as the popular metro bus. While the driver was busy texting and watching videos while driving, a boy riding along was yelling at the people at the bus station trying to convince them not to take the public bus and jump on. And it was cheap. An Uber would have cost me 20 dollar, the bus was only 50 cent.

Picture shows the route we drove with the SUV back from Bocas to Panama City the day before.

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