First city we’ve been in since Toronto? London?  Skyscrapers, taxis everywhere neighbourhoods, a beautiful waterfront walkway, it is really nice to be in a city again.  Poor Phil had to make it back to Colon to finish paperwork we weren’t able to sort out because of Carnival, he still had to pay overtime even though the holiday was over, oh well, Panama, land of bureaucracy and as many extra charges as they can get away with.  The next day Norberto and I made our way to Vacamonte, to check out a possible place to get our boat hauled out. It was a great adventure a day on the buses and for 25-50 cents each way a fabulously affordable way to see the city. We made it to Albrook mall and then onto the bus to Vacamonte, we went over the bridge of the America’s and into Vacamonte, a small town, I felt like there should be tumbleweed blowing by.  We had a lunch fit for kings for $4.00 in an open air restaurant with the most incredible fresh juice imaginable, we ended up having at least 3 glasses each (and I tried a different one each time). I think the trip was worth it just for the juice!  We had to get on another bus to get to the port and almost made it, but we got to a checkpoint and the guard came on the bus, pointed at me and Norberto and we were escorted off.  Thankful for his Spanish again we were asked what we were doing (trying to check out the haul out facilities) and if we had permission (no) and were told we could wait for another hour for the bus to come back, but we weren’t allowed in without special permission… honestly what a pain in the behind.  Meanwhile while we were waiting the guards tried shooting hoops with coconuts (10 cents for every basket, the old guy won the money).  We managed to catch a lift with a very quiet guy in a pickup truck and then spent the rest of the afternoon finding our way home on the bus.  We got back in time to see bloody Francisco, our slimy line renter/ line handler provider collecting the lines from Phil and giving him a refund, he did not however collect his tires, even though I went back to find him and tell him he needed to come and get them. I shouldn’t be disappointed in humanity, but he embodied everything slimy and corrupt about this place. I’m looking forward to getting back to somewhere a little less corrupt.  Friday, our last day with Norberto was another wandering around town day, we found our way to San Felipe, the old part of town with an amazing fish market (although we all decided it would have been outlawed in our respective countries for lack of refrigeration, not including the stall with the ladies screaming and running out, we guessed a rat???  A delicious treat of seafood in a lemon marinade and then beers (Milwaukee draft) served in a Styrofoam cup watching the tide roll in.  Guys who would have made Chris cringe fiberglassing their dinghy, no gloves, no respirator and heaps of glass while the tide was out, and scampering to get out of the way while it rolled back in.  Then lunch, at the delicious stall, 3.00 for a huge plate of beans, rice and meat.  Delicious.  Walked into the old town, down to a beach, saw some stalls with tourist things, then a tiny alleyway, filled with shops and repairs places; it was like a secret path, filled with magic.  I want to go back.  Finally a plan to head back to the hotel district for a drink with Mike and Paul before everyone except me and Phil left panama.  Norberto taught me the value in stopping in an air-conditioned restaurant for a beer, of walking and of laughing.  Waking up in the morning to watch the sunrise.  Then on Saturday, he went home… we both feel so lucky to have had such a great visit and transit with him. Norberto  has an incredible business in the Azores whale watching, diving and doing research with the University and we have both decided we would love to go and visit one day!  He is one of those people who are genuinely good and will be a friend for a long time I hope.  For anyone interested check out his website

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