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Bella Donna April 26, 2007 (14)

Yesterday, we took two cabs, each $4, to the YMCA, just a few miles away. We had the internet, nautical maps, and banking on our minds. While ATMs are accessible in Panama, there will not be an easy place to get money until we reach Tahiti, some 5,000 miles away. I foolishly came without money, thinking I would use a credit card. In some primitive areas, money is not even used. If you want fruit hanging from a tree, you are expected to trade some of your stuff – shoes, shirts, lipstick, pencils, paper … for the fruit. 

Critical fuel for Bella Donna may require cash; we remember that local money was needed in the Cape Verde Islands off South Africa. Standing on a busy street corner, we must look out of place. One thing is that Panamanians do not wear shorts, only long pants. Living in such heat, how does this make sense? John spots a pickup truck taxi, a perfect solution for hauling five bag-laden travelers. 

We head for our next destination, the Albrook Mall near the small municipal airport. Wow, this mall is huge, clean, short-wave, and modern. It would be ranked among the best in the US. We found the short-wave radio we have been looking for. Deborah found that name-brand clothes were going for meager prices. She bought some nice shorts for $3 a pair. The mall was air-conditioned and had a food court, just like in the US. Two floors of food made up of the usual brands. The prices were excellent. A soft drink for 50¢, a small pizza for 3, and a 6-inch Subway sandwich for $3.

We need two cabs for the $4 ride back to the anchorage. In Panama, public transportation is done with crowded school buses. Some school buses must have actual students aboard, but there seem to be a lot of red, white, and blue public transport buses. The cab driver warns us about the roho deablo, the red devil bus. He says they drive wildly out of control and cause many accidents. It seems all the buses go too fast, pull out before you, and cut you off to change lanes. It is better to leave the driving to the taxi with its local knowledge.

Well, it is Thursday already. We are doing our shopping this morning for any last-minute maintenance supplies. Tomorrow, we will grocery shop. We will fuel up, go on the Flamenco Marina dock this afternoon, and spend time getting Bella Donna ready for the departure on Saturday morning. Dusty and Victor are flying in tomorrow night at about 7:49 PM. 

We have a welcome planned for them on what should be a wild night at the same restaurant we visited the other night. This time, we will walk the dock to the restaurant, a difference of yards versus the 2 miles we walked the other night. This will be our last chance to partake of a beverage; there is no drinking on passage to the Galapagos.

Today, the cloud cover is again protecting us from the fiery sun. It is very humid, but the cooler temperature makes it bearable. At the top of a mast of a nearby sailboat, a rather large man has been working for hours. He looks well-planted, working above the masthead. The boat is rolling in the swell, creating pendulum movements that do not seem to interfere with his extensive project. Many ships in this anchorage have seen many sea miles, living on a tight budget. We have listened to the sailors discussing being here for weeks, preparing their boats for the following passage. Some boats have dinghies that must be rowed to the dinghy dock. Not all the sailors are grown-ups. We observed a mother swimming with her children behind their worn but probably still sea-worthy catamaran. The decks were covered with jerry cans, anchors, rope, bumpers, and family recreational items. They enclosed one of those large truck tire tubes so the small children could play inside like a wading pool in the backyard. The older kids were using it as a diving platform.

A thunderstorm came up just as we decided to dock in the Flamenco Marina. The docking was a little tense, but John did the ferry drift using the wind, and we were secure—more tomorrow.

God Bless Bella Donna.

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