There were six of us on a tour of coffee farms in the Andes Mountains hosted by Andes Ecotours Colombia. Our party consisted of one Colombian man (our driver), one South African woman (our tour guide), a woman from Poland, a couple from France and myself. Aside from the tour itself, it’s interesting hearing the political opinions of world travelers about politics in the United States.
People who are multi-lingual and who travel off the beaten path seem unanimously opposed to “(insert your country’s name here)-first” politics. Nationalistic, inward-looking, selfish, chest-beating politics are anathema to these people. Bravo. The “America First” path my country has taken in recent years truly saddens me and makes me doubt I could ever live there again. But, hey, I can’t change the world. I’m not able to change minds. I’ll turn my back on it and follow my own path.
There, done with politics 😉
The drive from Bogotá to the farms was long. The drive back seemed longer. But, it was an awesome trip and very eye-opening. When I booked the trip ($85 USD plus a $5 “service charge”) I pictured us visiting vast acres of neatly-groomed fields tended by large multi-wheeled machines.
Nope; nothing close to that.
We first stopped in Sylvania where we visited a coffee bean buyer/seller’s warehouse. This is not high season, so the depot was a bit empty, but not completely.
We visited two farms. Both were one-man operations. These guys strap small buckets around their waists with the bucket placed right under their belly. They pick the coffee beans by hand, one at a time. The beans are green when they are unripe, but as they ripen they turn yellow and then red. The coffee plants aren’t arranged in neat rows on flat terrain. The plants seem to grow wild and haphazardly on the side of a mountain. This must be very hard work.
Panama City is better than I expected. It would be worth coming back here to see more.
Sadly, I don’t think I could live here. It’s nice and it’s modern, but it’s very car-dependent and it’s difficult being a pedestrian here. I can’t stand countries that consider pedestrians as an afterthought. Plus, it’s hot here and extremely humid.
Panama City is better than I expected. It’s fairly modern and there’s a lot to do here. Plus, it feels very safe.
This is where my great-grandfather Frank Taylor disappeared from our family history. He had fought in World War One in France. Later, he went to work on the Panama Canal. The last time he was seen by anyone in my family was in the 1950s. After, only vague rumors and guesses about him maybe marrying a Scottish woman. Then, poof! Gone.
Where did you go, Grandpa Frank? Did you go to Scotland? Did you die in Panama?
Today was a good day. I got to a coffee shop at 7:00 and relaxed until about 9:00. Then it was Uber time. My driver took me to the Miraflores Visitor Center where I got to see some ships being towed through the locks – after paying a $20.00 entry fee. It was worth the fee. Good times.
Then, as I was leaving, I figured the exits would be packed with taxi drivers looking for fares. I felt kind of weird ordering an Uber. I don’t know why, really. In any event I got ready for the haggling. I priced out an Uber fare to my next destination. After I had the number, I headed towards the exit.
Sure enough, before I even got to the bottom of the escalator a guy in a yellow taxi shirt was asking, “Taxi? Taxi?” Below is the conversation. Email me if you need a translation, or there are online translators available 😉
Him – “Taxi?”
Me – “Pues, depende…cuánto me cobra hasta Casco Viejo?”
“Quince??? Pero desde aquí Uber es solo seis”
“No…bien, lo hago por diez”
“Diez? Hmm, okay, diez”
It was fine. I can’t blame him for trying to gouge a gringo. They have money he doesn’t have 😉
He walked me through the parking lot to his private vehicle. Shit! He’s not even a true taxi driver. In Central America these guys are called, “piratas”. You probably don’t need a translator for that. But, it was cool, his pickup was brand new with very comfy leather seats. He was also a very good conversationalist. He told me all about the places we passed along the way. I had told him about my long-lost relative and he pointed out the American cemetery. Two miles further on he pointed out two huge government buildings that house the records documenting the workers involved with the Panama Canal. Interesting. I might want to come back here and do some research. That, or maybe hire a local pro who might do it for me. Something to think about.
Casco Viejo is very nice. There are plenty of tourists there, but not too many. I counted maybe 15 of them. That’s the largest number I’ve seen in one place since beginning my travels in Mexico in July.
Tomorrow, a coffee shop to start, then more Uber adventures!
Have you ever tried to contact me via this blog? The blog page had some bugs. I made a post and it disappeared. Messages sent to me never arrived and then the blog went offline for about a week.
I changed the contact form to a simple email address. If you sent me a message, I never got it. Please try again with the email listed on the contact page.
As of today I’ve spent about a month here in Costa Rica and it’s time to move on. Costa Rica was great. I’ll have to come back and explore it some more. I mostly spent the month here just relaxing and not doing much of anything. It was good for me 🙂 Early tomorrow morning I’ll be on a short flight to Panama City, Panama.
Not surprisingly, Costa Rica is fabulous. After visiting Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua for about a week each, I need a rest. Costa Rica is a good spot for it.
The people are chill. They have an attitude of, “pura vida” and “tranquilo”. Pura vida roughly translates as an attitude of going along with the flow; enjoying life as it comes at you. Tranquilo is an attitude of being calm, no matter what type of troubles come at you.
In the four countries I visited before coming here, drivers were constantly at each other. Traffic was insane and honking horns was a way of life – especially in Guatemala. Here in Costa Rica, it’s uncommon to hear someone honking a horn. So nice 🙂
I arrived here a week ago. You might have expected to hear about my visits to beaches, jungles, volcanoes or flying down zip lines. Nope. Like I said, I needed a rest. Being a full-time traveler is hard work! Maybe I’ll do some day trips in a few days. We’ll see.
A few days ago I needed to buy a t-shirt to replace one that I’d stained. I took an Uber to a nice mall. I found a shirt I liked and asked the girl, “Dónde se puede probarlo?” (where can one try this on?) She smiled and said, “Ah, quieres probarselo!” (oh, you want to try it on)
I laughed at myself as I do whenever I make a mistake in Spanish. I made a point of repeating her correction back to her. “Si, por favor, quisiera probarselo” (yes, please, I would like to try it on). I said it in a funny way and she laughed.
After I tried it on and decided it was what I wanted to buy, I took it to her register (she was damned cute, by the way). I chatted her up for a while talking about Spanish and, jokingly, about my poor command of the language. I chided her a bit on the “vos” form of Spanish they use down here. I think I was doing pretty good with her, but I didn’t pursue it. I just don’t feel like getting involved, even so much as a dinner date. I’m too lazy for that right now 🙂
Could I live in Costa Rica full-time? I think I could 😉
In 1972 Managua was almost completely flattened by an earthquake. The country is poor and the city still has not recovered. Large areas of downtown are flat and devoid of buildings. Poverty is a real issue in Nicaragua. 80% of Nicaraguans live on less than two dollars a day 🙁
Be careful when you walk the streets of Central America. The sidewalks are often in very poor condition – or non-existent. I can’t count the number of times I’ve tripped and almost fallen; that includes this morning’s walk.
While in Managua I intended to do day-trips to León and Granada. I may not do that. I’m feeling a bit lazy and I’m enjoying staying in the gym and exercising 🙂
When I arrived in Managua I walked directly to a nice looking hotel for a beer and a nice dinner. I had worked out the walking route to my Airbnb. I verified the route with my waitress. She was very troubled by it. She insisted I take a taxi. I was surprised. Really? It’s only a 15-minute walk.
She went and got two other waiters to back up her stance. They all insisted I should take a taxi. They said it was far too dangerous.
Dangerous? No way. I had no idea what they were getting at, but it seemed ridiculous to me. A 15-minute walk in a taxi? That would be what? A three-minute drive? Silly.
I sat and ate my meal. 30 minutes later I was finished, paid the bill and prepared to leave. My waitress asked if I’d reconsidered the walk. I said I was sorry, but I was going to walk, “para ver lo que sea”. In order to see whatever there was to see. She wished me luck.
She was worried because it was the beginning of the weekend – late Friday afternoon. I didn’t know it, but government opposition parties were planning a weekend of marches. The president of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, said there would be none of that. All major streets in the city, including the area I was in, were packed with all-black clad riot police with guns, batons and plexiglass shields.
I spent three days walking the streets and quite a few times I walked right past them. I always greeted them and they greeted me back. No problems 🙂
Sadly, no photos of the police here. I almost got arrested in Morocco once for taking a photo of a policeman and I don’t want to repeat that.