Half Baked Nutjobs at the Panadaria

Trip Start Sep 07, 2011
Trip End Dec 22, 2011

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Flag of Panama  , Colón,
Sunday, October 9, 2011

The hub of the universe in this tiny place is the panadaria which would mean bakery anywhere else in the English speaking world.   Portobelo's panadaria is different indeed from the corner of an American grocery store where we buy crappy doughnuts and day old bread.   This free standing green concrete shack with two tables under an overhang is where the backpacking/sailing to Colombia crowd crosses paths with the locals.   Interesting people lurk over very decent breads and information about the next boats to Colombia.

This morning I ordered my takeaway egg and mozarella sandwich with papaya smoothie and began to wait the eternity required for the 11 months pregnant woman to prepare these simple items.   All I wanted to do was mind my own business while avoiding asphyxiation from chicken bus fumes .  Some German guy decided to break my exhaust filled zen by asking me what I was doing at the panadaria.   Same thing you are bud...getting food.  What does it look like?  I am not sitting here for my health breathing in eau d'recycled schoolbus.

Now it was totally my fault for speaking to him in German because that encouraged him to launch into some existential conversation about life.   "The beginning of wisdom is the admission of the lack of one's knowledge," he explained to me as my eyes glazed over.   This pen I am holding in my hand is about to give you the wisdom not to bother me when it gouges out your eyeballs you freak.    I guess he hasn’t admitted he lacks the knowledge to see I just want to wait for my egg sandwich in some peace.   Wisdom my ass. 

I meet all sorts of people who come to these countries and then feel they have found the secrets to life.   Is there some magical transformation of one's psyche that arises from looking at graffiti on a wall in Guatemala or climbing a church tower in Mexico that has somehow passed me by?   For sure I am having a great time but I doubt the ghosts of Socrates and his buddies are about to reach down and touch me in any way, shape or form.  

Hell, I’ll admit it, I am not on this trip to change the world, uplift the poor and promote world peace.  All I want to do is meet cool people, see some neat crap and move on to the next place.  And speaking of moving on to the next place, I have learned an important lessson about traveling.  It's not so much the destination but what we do along the way.   The destination may very well change anyway based on how the journey unfolds. 

I have been hanging out with two guys here in Portobelo with destination Colombia also in mind.  For them boredom struck and they headed back to Panama City while they wait on the boat.  The canal, kayaking or anything else I've found along the way bored them to tears.  Their loss really.  I am quite enjoying the different things I am seeing that would otherwise remain hidden and unknown far from the pages of any guidebook.  

The kayak drew me in yet again and and today's trip rounded the peninsula to check out the open seas and the mysteries that lie on the other side.   I am beginning to understand why people like Colombus set off into the unknown and ended up in places like Portobelo.   The unknown fascinates me, and I had no clue what would be around that corner when I set off.   An hour of nonstop paddling got me just to the tip of green jungly land, and I pressed onward another hour further.

The unknown turned out to be some rough seas and salt spray but with the reward of calm, shallow water complete with coral reef in a bay.   What a great surprise.  Take that Lonely Planet guidebook Panama edition...I never saw any mention of this in your Portobelo pages!   Gliding just inches above rock formations and water every shade of blue and green is just amazing. I stopped paddling and just let the currents drift me around that bay.   A camera can never capture the sunlight playing off the different water depths but no worries, my soul has it forever.

Plenty of wind and 5 to 6 foot swells definitely made for a tough going trip and I admit to wondering why at times I attempt stuff like this.   One byproduct of all this paddling is that I discovered I really don't understand how tides work.   The waves can aim for the beach but if I stop paddling, the kayak turns around and drifts the opposite way. Whichever way the water aimed me, four hours of arm movements gave me dual workouts of the physical and mental sort.  My reward was floating on my back in that 80 degree lagoon water while howler monkeys called out from the jungle around me.

I have one more day to spend in Portobelo before my boat hopefully leaves for an amazing adventure through the Kuna people filled San Blas Islands on the way to Colombia.  

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