Panama – Day 3

Our last day at MD! For breakfast, we ate a rendition of pancakes (more flat, less sweet that “American” pancakes) with butter & jam, bananas, cookies, and juice. After breakfast we packed up our bags, said our goodbyes and took a cab over to Albrook Airport. The airport staff were all really nice. I’ve found that here, as long as you try your best and smile, people will be forgiving/kind. Although I’m “fluent” in Spanish, I’m still not a native speaker, so the patience and smiles have been appreciated. (:

One thing I was not expecting upon checking in – having the airline agent tell me to get up on the scale! We learned that both person + bag are weighed! Makes sense to me. More weight = more fuel = more cost. For a quick moment, my mind ventured into thoughts of what would go down if this was ever proposed in the states. I image there would be a fairly epic upheaval, with the topic of “discrimination” flying all over the place. Unfortunately, but alas, being “PC” frequently triumphs logic.

ANYWAY, I digress. Moving on:

Contadora Island is part of the Pearl Islands on the Pacific side of Panama. (about a 15 minute plane ride.) There’s also a ferry, which takes quite a bit longer. We opted for the flight, as it wasn’t much more expensive, but was much quicker. Well, on paper anyway. (; 

Here’s a visual – A. is Panama City, B. is Contadora Island:

Mi boleto!

After an hour or so, it was time to board the plane. There really was no gate or order of boarding (that I could make sense of, I must add). Periodically, we heard announcements on the loudspeaker, but there was so much echo in the room, it just sounded like a giant cluster of sound. I was nervous we might miss our flight, but alas, we did not. w00t!

Walking out to the plane!

There were no seat assignments, so we opted to sit in the first row. There was a little curtain to close off the cockpit, but it was never closed, SO we were about 2 feet from the pilot/co-pilot and watch the entire flight in action. It was so neat! 

Up, up & away!

Ships waiting to enter the Panama Canal:

Touchdown! Here we are landing on Contadora Island! Contadora Island has a 1 lane landing strip which is the length of the island. 

We disembarked the plane on the runway and realized we had no idea what to do. …which is odd, as I’m a micro-managing detail-oriented feign. Eek. 

Plan B. There was a hotel about 10 yards from the landing strip, so we walked over and asked for directions to our b&b, Contadora Island Inn. They said: It’s too far to walk, but we’ll give Tony (CII’s property manager) a call! Take a seat and wait one moment…

A few minutes later, two guys in golf carts arrived. One was wearing a UT shirt. What?? UT on Contadora Island??? Texas is everywhere! They said hello, teathered our backpacks to the back of the golf carts, got into 1 golf cart and told us to get in the other. Before getting to Contadora Island Inn, we would first be getting a tour of the island!

Here’s Tony leading the way:

Apparently Donald Trump purchased this property with the intention of creating some sort of super swanky over-the-top Donald Trump beach resort, but that was quickly ended. Now, it just sits:

We continued on and saw some incredible mansions as well as some super rickety structures. The spectrum is crazy. Many rich Panamanians have vacation homes here on CI. These are the incredible mansions that we have been seeing. Many (though not all) locals either live in the mansions while the Panamanians are away (house-sitting, maintenance, etc.), or in extremely modest housing.

We made it around the entire island is about 20 minutes. Most people on the islands drive golf carts or some type of scooter and there are no traffic lights. Aside from the golf cart airport pickup/tour, we’ve walked everywhere on the island and it’s been great!

On CI, there are a handful of small hotels, b&bs & restaurants. We went to Villa Romantica for lunch today and had a ham & pina panini:

After lunch at Villa Romantica, we walked down the stairs and tested the waters on Playa Cacique:

We headed to Playa Larga, a beautiful beach surrounded by a few massive run-down buildings that at first I thought had been victim to arson. Not the case. Apparently, it was once some super swanky hotel on the beach – attracting all sorts of celebrities, with all sorts of night shows, activities, etc. The owner passed away, family gained posession of the hotel, family members became greedy and the hotel fell victim to a family dispute. At this point, everything went to shit and things still are not resolved. Apparently, Panamanian gov. has threatened to take over the property if a conclusion is not drawn soon. It really is heartbreaking to see the current state of the grounds, as it’s obvious how beautiful the hotel once was, just a few years ago! For the sake of the island and the people who live there, I hope the dispute is settled soon.

Here’s Playa Larga. We walked down to the beach and played in the water. It still blows my mind how desolate the beach was!

Al fin, we arrived back to Contadora Island Inn. It looks like a house that has been separated into individual rooms with a shared kitchen and living area. All the rooms are themed on birds. We are in the bobo room. (:

Here are a few pictures of CII from the outside:

The island is so small, it takes maybe 30 minutes on foot to walk from one side to the other. We walked to Gerald’s for dinner tonight. Ate a pizza. The restaurant is outdoors, so I saw all sorts of critters! Frogs, lizards, other unidentified reptilians… On that note, tonight I learned that “sapo” is another word for “rana”.

I’ve learned that everyone knows everyone on Contadora. I’ve also learned that absolutely everyone and their dog, brother, sister, & friend know Tony!

One final picture for the night. Our view while walking back from dinner at Gerald’s. 

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