We fly to Contadora Island

Trip Start Dec 02, 2008
Trip End Feb 07, 2009

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Flag of Panama  , Pearl Islands,
Thursday, December 11, 2008

9 Degrees Latitude 
Pirates past and Pirates Present

We caught a $1.25 one hour bus ride from Boquete to David, a short Taxi to airport, then boarded an Aeroperlas flight to Panama City. The planīs tail looked like it had been damaged and repaired. The flight went well, we settled down at the Panama City airport for a two hour wait for our next flight. The next flight was on a smaller twin engine De Haviland twin otter. We sat and waited an additional 20 minutes as things just seem to take more time down here. The flight was to be a short one, some 70 KM off shore to Contadora Island in the Pacific. Barb and I watched as the skies kept getting darker and darker over the Pacific.As we boaded, I choose the seat near the entry door, which also serves as the ladder to the ground. Once we were all aboard and the plane beagn it taxi to the runway, I noticed outside a Aeroperlas staff member walking along side with a small fire extinguisher. This was very considerate of him, and I canīt tell you how reassured I felt. The cannister had just enough fire suppression  to put his pants out should they ignite! 

As we taxied to the end of the runway I tried to not think about these small planes which make repeated takeoffs and landings everyday, more compressions and decompressions in a month than most long haulers do in a year. When flying in these old beaters, I try not to think of things metalurgical, like metal fatigue. 

In the seat I had chosen, I found myself wedged in like tuna in a can. My knees were pressing into the back of the seat in front of me, so that I ended up with my knees elevated toward my chest.. As the crew closed the door next to me, I noticed that they had a hard time locking it. It didnīt seem to fit well. I thought
1. It might fly open in mid air, and thought that I should remain calm in that event, as myy eardrums blew out..
2. If we did indeed ditch into the Pacific, I might not be able to get it open again. Looking forward to the next availale exit,ten seats and 20 bodies ahead of me , it was a grim reminder that it needed to open.

I decided it would open and I would now search for my ĻSalvavidaĻlife jacket. Without putting too fine a point on it, Try this

Sit in a chair, lift you knees to your chest, then try and find something under the seat in front of you. In a word ĻÏmposible!ĻI then resolved to exit my seat, search well for my designated slavavida, then, if it was not there, I resolved to steal the one off the pilot!!

As you can probably see, flying for me is much like going to the dentist. The waiting and worrying is almost worse than the experience itself. Our flight into the blackness of the storm clouds was a bumpy, but uneventful ride. We stayed just below the clouds, at 3,000 feet ot so and passed over many, many ships cueing for their passgae throught the canal.

We landed on a very short runway cut accross this 1.7 sq  km island named Contadora. Contadora is the most touristed of the 20 odd islands that make up the Archepeligo de Las Perlas. If I had it to do again, I would fly Air Panama's newer planes, better equipment!  

Pirates Past.
Following Henry Morganīs successful sacking of Panama City in the 1600s, other buccaneers decided to try their luck against the Spanish.  In the 1800s Edward Blake an English buccaneer joined forces with a group of French Pirates. They fought a battle with a armada of 20 Spanish gunboats amoung these islands.

More recent Pirates

In the late 1950s, the US government supported the destabilization and overthrow of the democratic government of Iran. Once Iranian President Mosedech (sp)was deposed. the US and Brits promoted the Shaw of Iran as the most rightful successor, to run the Iranian Government. The Iranian British Petroleum Company was thrilled to be back in business, the Iranian people were less enthused. When in the 1970s, the people revolted, and the Allatolla Khomeni filled the vacumn, with his Islamic Revolution, the Shaw Reza Palava (sp) was deposed.

What the devil does this have to do with Contadora Island,  you ask.

Well, the Shaw flew to Panama with his countless millions of dollars and settle down on little Contadora Island, where he lived until he became gravely ill. He died elsewhere in hosptial , I believe. While he was here on Contadora Island, it was said that this island was one of the most secure places in the world. His home, Punta Lara , was built on a small pennensula on the western shore of the island. The Shaw had over 200 armed security personnel guarding his home. His security umbrella covered land sea and air, 24hours a day 7 days a week. Sounds like something out of a James Bond movie, dosenīt it. (If you notice there are no question marks, it is because I canīt make it work here, and if I did, it would probably be upside down. ) 

While the Shaw is dead and gone, numerous other celibrities also own properties on Contadora. Jimmy Carter, Michael Bolton, and Jose Iglesias are said to be property owners. 

The American Reality TV show SURVIVOR was filmed from here. I believe the occupied  small island nearby, and staff stayed here on Contadors. They hired locals to support the project with boats, food , labor etc.Following the US Survivor, the Columbian and Israeli versions were also filmed here.

All of this celebrity makes Contadora an expensive proposition! We had prebooked the Contadora Island Inn for $80.00 US a night. I was one of the cheapest places to stay. Breakfasts were included. We were here for 4 nights. Once we landed and were shuttled to our inland hotel room, we found a set of two fourplexes. The first night a nice young couple from Talahasse Fla stayed in a room on our four plex. The next three nights we had the place to ourselves. Upon arrival we were referred to a local resturant run by a German Guy named Gerald. Barb ordered pasta, I ordered his special wienersnitzel (I was having memories of that huge snitzel I had in Vienna a few years ago for 10 US). When the food arrived , Barb had a cup of pene with cream soup on it . I got two small breaded cutlets smaller than a paddy from a jr whopper and a teaspoon of ënsaladaĻThe bill was $28.00!

Barb and I knew one thing for sure. The Challenge for Survivor Team Tom and Barbara, was to leave leave this island with as much cash as possible, as we have 7 more weeks to go.We did rent the golf cart to get around for three days, but managed to economize by buying food at the loacl market, and cooking in the apartment kitchen for the next three days. We had wonderful baked chicken breasts, beef with pinapple, and fruit salads.We spent the next three days touring around this small island and I took a few photos. 

It is hot here, in the 80s ahd HUMID! I understand that it is cold and snowing up there. We have one more day here in Panama, and will fly on the 17th for Managua. Nicaragua.
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