Friday, April 11, 2008

Portobelo- The Pirates Paradise

Today is kind of a sad day. We woke up with the realization that our trip is almost over. It is true the halfway point has already passed, but spending yesterday in the city and surrounded by the normal hectic activity of everyday life really made it clear.

The past week has been a great getaway and spending it with people like the Embera and in locations such as the Darien Jungle, Manuel Antonio, Corcovado and Coiba National Parks and Golfo Dulce has been an experience that is difficult to see coming to an end. Enough of that though.

Today we are visiting Portobelo where we will get to explore the ruins of stone forts that once served to slow invading pirates as well as take zodiac tours of the Mangroves in the area. But first we eat breakfast and join everyone on the Sun Deck to listen to guest speakers Mr. and Mrs. McGehee relate the history of Portobelo.

The McGehees have lived in Portobelo for more then 30 years and have studied the local history which they presented to us this morning followed by a question and answer period. Sitting on the Sun Deck listening to the history while looking out at the bay and ruins of old forts surrounded by jungle was pretty interesting for me. It doesn't take much imagination before you begin hearing canons and seeing ships in such surroundings.

After learning a bit of history we took a zodiac to shore for another dry landing at the McGehee home and on to a tour of the town. Dani and I, like others broke off on our own and quickly came across the first of several small souvenir stands. This particular stand though, attracted us not because of the selection, but rather the monkey perched on a small platform inside.

This friendly little monkey climbed all over us and went from person to person looking for treats and attention. I have seen monkeys plenty of times in the past, including having the monkeys in the Manuel Antonio National Park an arms length away, but this was the first time I have ever touched or held one and we spent quite some time here before moving on.

Next we came across another souvenir stand where we bought a few items. From the things we had been looking at, this town was up there with the Embera as far as pricing was concerned. The selection was different, but the pricing was not overly inflated like it would have been had we spent time in the cities rather then out of the way places such as this.

The ruins of the old fort are worth the trip, and if we had come on a land tour rather then a cruise, I would have thought the drive worth the time and effort. Like most ruins, it was mostly crumbling walls, but there is still more then enough to give you an idea of how things looked hundreds of years ago. That, along with many rusted canons still sitting as if ready to fend off invading pirates was plenty to keep me happy today.

A couple of things that may interest some of you- Cheap beer and inexpensive model ships. When Dani and I returned to the dock to catch a zodiac back to the ship we saw several people enjoying a beer and found they had purchased them at a grocery up the hill from the church. Pricing, if I remember correctly was between 35 and 75 cents a can depending on what you bought.

We did take a quick run up the hill to get some, but went to the wrong store and bought something else instead. We were too worried about holding up the last zodiac so did not continue on to the correct store.

When we got back to the dock again, the very same beer drinking guest was sporting a couple of hand made ships he had found in a shop. He collects them and said the prices were very good for the quality. I do not know model ships but they were nice looking. So if you are in to these things, make sure to keep an eye out in your walk around the town. You may just get lucky.

We went back to the ship for lunch and then went down to catch a zodiac tour of the Mangroves. This is something I had been looking forward to and was not disappointed. Like much of the sights on this cruise, I had only seen these things on tv so far so getting an up close look was something I was eager to do.

During our tour of the mangroves we saw several kinds of birds, including 3 of the 6 types of Kingfisher in the area. We also saw a small version of a crocodile and some cows in addition to the great scenery.

After our mangrove tour we returned to the ship for the usual social hour, daily recap and some evening dance. Believe it or not, even I danced a bit. That makes 3 times in 20 years, 2 of which were on this cruise.

That pretty much wraps up the day, and here are some more pictures for you. In the mean time, it's off to bed to rest up for tomorrow. We are visiting the San Blas Islands and doing a little more snorkeling so see you then.

Photos taken with Canon Powershot A570is

1 comment:

Leroy Grey said...

Tracy, thanks for the tour of Costa Rica and the Panama Canal. Like you, I'm not interested in touring with 1000's of people who think of little else but entertainment and gambling, but this trip through nature on a small cruise boat would be my choice for a great trip. Some great pictures too. I'd like to setup my own Botantical Gardens one day so it would be interesting to find out how this couple started theirs 25 years ago.

If you get a chance, check out my latest "Transform Yourself" wisdom blog at or what we're doing with 3Circles Church Communities at

Would be interested in getting a heads up on any future trips you and your wife take.