#TBT: Panama Canal Cruise, April 2013 – Part 3

I wrote this post on 4/4/15.  It will publish automatically on 4/9/15 at 6am and is part of my #TBT [Throw Back Thursday] series.

My last post discussed our stop in Colon, Panama and our crossing of the Panama Canal.  After exiting the Canal we spent a day at sea before reaching Puntarenas, Costa Rica.  My sister-in-law Tomoko set up a fabulous outing for us with Odyssey Tours, a local eco-tourism company.  Our day with them included zip lining through the rainforest, monkeys, crocodiles, lunch, shopping, and Scarlet Macaws.  Odyssey Tours picked us up at the dock at 8am and the 11 of us [9 Fergusons + 2 guides] headed out.

Our first stop was on the side of the road on the way up a mountain, where white-faced monkeys are known to hang out.  The guides whistled and called, and we did see some, but we didn’t get any decent pictures.  They were off in the branches and hard to see.  Next up was the famous Tarcoles bridge where ginormous [up to 19′] crocodiles hang out:

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That’s Jim’s brother John with his adorable daughter Sedona walking across the bridge.  The bridge was really high – I was able to get closeups of the crocs with my 300mm zoom lens.

20 minutes later we arrived at Vista Los Suenos Rainforest Tours for their zip line tour through the rainforest canopy.  After a 15 minute tractor ride to the top of the mountain, we began our zip line descent via 12 lines and 14 platforms, covering 3½ kilometers of rainforest.  Some of the zip lines are suspended 120′ above ground level!  Given that, the platforms were scarier than the zip lines.  Some were 80 feet high and they don’t have railings [photo courtesy of the Vista Los Suenos website]:

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Instead, as you arrive at each platform, you get un-clipped from the zip line and clipped to the cable looped around the tree.  Then you have to shimmy yourself around the tree, trying not to look down, while you wait to get clipped onto the next zip line.  At no point are you in any danger of falling – you’re always clipped to something – but convincing your brain of that is another story!

At one point I was standing on a platform and heard a hiss behind me…  I turned around and a toucan was sitting in a tree about 6 feet from me.  As I turned it hissed again [OMFG]!  Then it flew away.  I was so shocked I barely got a picture:

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The guide said “oh yes, very ornery birds!”

Here’s a few shots of the Ferguson clan taken by the Vista Los Suenos photographers:

My niece Sedona [who was 6 at the time – looking cool as a cucumber – I think she was the only one completely unfazed by the heights]:

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My nephews Keanu & Sage [ages 8 & 12 at the time]:

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My brother & sister-in-law John and Tomoko:

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Dad #2 & his wife Susie:

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And finally, me & Jim!

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The photographers try to encourage you to hang upside down for the camera.  I was too afraid my DSLR camera [which was around my neck] would fall into the forest, never to be seen again.  They said that wouldn’t happen, but I didn’t trust them!  For those of us unwilling to hang upside down, they said to at least smile and open our arms really wide.  Even that’s not easy to do when you’re flying down a cable!  Your instinct is definitely to HOLD ON TIGHT.  But we all did a great job for the camera people 🙂

Here’s a shot of the whole gang:

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To see a video Jim took of me zip lining click HERE!  Even though the man keeps yelling “no break!”, he had previously told me to break the whole time [which is verified in a video Jim took just before this one].

After the zip lining, Odyssey Tours took us to Punta Leona beach which was really remote and really pretty [that’s Jim & his bro swimming]:

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Then we were taken to a little food stand on the side of the road where we ate fresh fried fish with rice and beans, and some kind of strange [but delicious] juice.  Being completely paranoid, I was convinced I’d contract some type of horrible gastrointestinal plague from eating fish from a road-side cafe in Costa Rica, but it was delicious and I suffered no ill effects.

Odyssey then took us to a little shop down a side road where local artists display their wares.  There were some really cool things in there!  The last stop was a huge tree on the side of the road where Scarlet Macaws are known to hang out.  They were beautiful and quite loud!  My zoom lens came in handy since they were all up near the top of the tree.  I rather fancied the squirrel eating nuts alongside them:

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Then we were returned to the dock, where our giant ship was docked [2nd pic taken by Jim]:

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After another day at sea we woke up in Puerto Quetzal, Guatamalla.  For Jim & I, this was the hardest stop.  There is so much poverty.  I know there is everywhere, but it’s the stop where we saw it the most.  Jim & I had signed up for a ship-sponsered excursion titled “A Drive Through an African Safari-Themed Nature Park and Zoo”.  The whole trip was depressing.  There was a long bus ride through impoverished towns where people live in dirt-floored huts made of tin, cardboard, and other materials they’d scavenged.  And the zoo was equally as depressing.  It was a blazingly hot day – the animals and the people were sagging from the heat.  And the enclosures were small, dirty, barren, etc.  Many of the caged monkeys were slamming into the cage walls or gripping the metal bars and shaking them like “let me out!”.   It was hard to watch.  Near the end there was a cage with 2 raccoons in it [that was a head scratcher – maybe they’re rare in Guatemala?] – as we watched, one climbed onto the other one for some “boom-chicka-wow-wow”… OK!  Time to go!  After a long bus ride back to the dock we decided to stay near the ship for the rest of the day.

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We boarded the ship, had some lunch, got changed, dropped off our cameras, grabbed my laptop, Jim’s iPad, and my Kindle, and headed back off ship.  We’d noticed an impromptu “internet cafe” set up under a tent on the dock, so we paid a few dollars and got access to the net for a couple of hours.  I was finally able to download new books to my Kindle and also login to my office laptop and run some reports that are supposed to be run weekly.  And Jim was able to download new copies of the New Yorker to his iPad.  The internet access on the ship was slow and expensive.  Much too slow for downloads like books and magazines.  And I didn’t realize until we were on the ship that VPN access is blocked.  I had thought I’d be able to login to my office [which requires a Virtual Private Network [VPN] connection] and run my weekly reports during our long “at sea” days, but no.  At least I was able to get them run from Guatemala 🙂

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After finishing up, we still had a few hours before we had to be back on the ship, so we decided to wander through the vendor stalls lining the dock.  The people were very enthusiastic as they tried to sell us their wares.  I don’t like that.  They also enjoy bartering, and I’m terrible at that – it makes me uncomfortable.  I’d rather just pay them a reasonable price than bicker back and forth.  When we left the ship that morning we’d had to walk through the vendor stalls to get to the parking lot for the zoo bus.  I’d spotted an awesome bright orange carved wooden striped giraffe for $20.  I thought about buying it then, but it was a foot tall and I didn’t want to lug it with us to the zoo.  So I went back to the stall to buy it that afternoon but it was gone!  The vendor had plenty of giraffes, but they were all yellow with spots, like real giraffes.  I wanted the one painted like a tiger, dammit!  I asked the vendor if he had any more and he said no, but pointed out his grand array of yellow.  I told him I wasn’t interested and wandered off.  He followed me down the street trying to entice me with offers: “$15?… $10!?… $5???… $1!!!???” but I just kept walking.  I wasn’t in the mood to deal with him anymore.  Although for $1 I probably should have bought the damn yellow giraffe!

We did buy a beautiful, soft shoulder bag made from different scraps of purple cloth for our neighbors [who were feeding our cats], and a few beaded parrots which are very pretty [that’s Darwin checking it out in the first pic]:

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And in the last vendor stall I spotted this monstrosity:

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SEÑOR CAT!!!  I had to have him!  He’s hand carved, hand painted, with crazy colors, AND a mustache [or at least something whacky going on]!  He’s the perfect amount of tacky and he’s all MINE!  The man selling him said his wooden animal carvings were on sale – we could have 2 for $35.  And since Jim & I are suckers, and really bad at bartering, we paid him $32 for SEÑOR CAT + a crazy wooden chicken.  We gave the chicken to Dad #2 & Susie.  I wish I had a picture of the chicken.  She was equally as spectacular and tacky.  Dad #2 – if you guys still have her, maybe you can send me a picture!!!  I’m guessing she might have accidentally fallen into a trash can along the way [can’t say I’d blame you!] but if you still have her, please send a picture!

SEÑOR CAT lives on the shelves above our sofa with my long-tailed wooden cat collection:

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Part 4 will post next week and will cover our stops in Puerto Vallarta & Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

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5 Comments

  1. What a fun family trip! I would love to do any of these activities, but it would be even more fun if the whole family was along with me. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    • It was a really fun vacation, and the day in Costa Rica with the whole family was the best day of the trip!

  2. Your descriptions and photos are spectacular! Love Senor Cat!

  3. I would love to go zip lining, but I don’t do heights, either! Too cool an opportunity to pass up, though. I have heard about the zoos down there … that would be hard to see. I think we have the same sensibilities about a lot of things … including Senor Cat! He’s awesome!! 🙂

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