Fata Morgana Destinations

The Life Nomadik is now on Patreon patreon

Where is S/V Fata Morgana heading to next?

MAP23

Many are anxious to find out where the wind will blow us after five months in Panama, our longest stay in one anchorage EVER! And even though our plans, like the sea, are never solid and may change without notice at any time, here is where we would like to go in the near future, Neptune permitting. This is the Best Case Scenario for The Life Nomadik crew aboard S/V Fata Morgana:

After sailing to most of the Caribbean region in the past two years, from Cuba, to Mexico, Guatemala, The Bahamas, Dominican Republic, down the Easter Caribbean Island Chain to Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and back to Puerto Rico, we crossed over to Aruba, next we sailed to Colombia, the San Blas Islands, and across the Panama Canal to the “other side”. We are now in the Pacific Ocean, waiting for spring, when it is the best and safest time to cross from Ecuador to French Polynesia. But before this, we still have much to explore in Central and South America on land.

Two Years in the Caribbean Sea

Two Years in the Caribbean Sea

In the beginning of December 2015, which is the end of Rain Season in these parts of the world, we will leave Fata Morgana at anchor in Panama City and take the bus to the Province of Chiriqui, near the border with Costa Rica. This is the most beautiful part of Panama, with hiking trails in tropical forests, volcanoes, canyons and waterfalls, best enjoyed in Dry Season, between the months of December and July. With a tent and warm cloths, we are planning to climb Panama’s tallest peak Volcan Baru, from whose top one can see both oceans in the distance, the Atlantic to the east and the Pacific to the west, early in the morning, before the clouds roll in.

Нашата палатка нощем

Our tent at night

After Chiriqui, we will take the bus to Costa Rica. First stop: El Golfito, where we are hoping to meet new friends cave bats researchers, and then we will spend some time hiking, camping, drinking river-water, and socializing with parrots and monkeys on one of the most bio diverse places on Earth: the Osa Peninsula. Another bus rides (or a passing car or two) will take us from Osa Peninsula to the foot of Cerro Chirripo– Costa Rica’s highest mountain. Of course we’ll climb it!

.

.

Next on the agenda is the capital San Jose and some of the nature parks around. From San Jose we will continue north to the beautiful town of Liberia, surrounded by even more nature parks, volcanoes and hiking destinations. Then we will hit the beaches on the Pacific Ocean side near the border with Nicaragua and see if the wind will fill Ivo’s kitesurf or not. Kitesurfing in Costa Rica, and then on the big lake of Nikaragua is on the menu. If all goes according to plan, all this kitesurfing will be in the company of our good friend Rado, whose entire family lives in Managua, Nicaragua’s capital. We will pay them a visit and pitch our tent in Rado’s parents’ backyard right around Christmas and New Year 2015. There are a lot to see and do in Nicaragua, and our “local” friend will show us around.

Central America Trip

Central America Trip

In the beginning of January, we will head back to Panama City, where Fata Mrgana will hopefully wait for us safe and sound. She will need a quick bottom job there (a new coat of paint on the hulls) before we sail south to Ecuador. Arriving in Ecuador by the end of January 2016 will give us two-three months’ time to explore the country, hop to Peru and all the way to Bolivia once again riding The Bus with a tent and sleeping bags on our backs.

panama-ecuador-peru

South America Trip

April 2016 the big epic ocean journey begins. A thousand miles to the Galapagos Islands should take us between one and two weeks of sailing west. How long we will stay in Galapagos depends on how much it will cost and how much we will have collected from our Galapagos Fund. A unique and fragile ecosystem and a final rest stop before the long journey west, the Galapagos Islands are not a place to be missed. Unfortunately, these islands are one of the most expensive sailing destinations on the planet, but we are sure it’s worth it.

.

.

The four thousand miles of Nothing-But-Blue should begin somewhere between the end of April and mid-May 2016 from Galapagos and hopefully end successfully a month later on the shores of one of the most beautiful islands on Earth in French Polynesia. From here on, our plans are a distant blur. By November 2016 we will have to be in New Zealand, but we might postpone New Zealand with a few months or a whole year if we feel like it. Once settled in New Zealand, we will spend a lot of time exploring the two islands by land, and who knows when (sometime in 2017-2018) we will continue to Australia. Needless to say, we will visit Australia properly on wheels and foot before continuing on to Indonesia. We have “a date” in Bali with an awesome individual and his awesome family.

Across the Pacific Ocean

Across the Pacific Ocean

And then Asia. In Asia is where our hearts are. It will take us years of traveling in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India… Across the Indian Ocean, from the Maldives, to the Seychelles, to Madagascar, South Africa, and past Cape Good Hope to Cape Verde with a stop in St Helena, The Canaries Islands, Gibraltar, Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey…. If we are still alive and well, we will be at least 5-6 years older, with eyes filled with beauty from around the world, hearths full of friendships, minds populated by unforgettable memories and unbelievable stories to share with you, when we finally reach the shores of the Black Sea and drop anchor in Varna, BULGARIA.

In the land where we were born, our journey will pause but not end, as there are so many more ports in the world waiting for Fata Morgana, and so much more thirst for adventure running in our veins.

Sailing Fata Morgana

Sailing Fata Morgana

Find us on Facebook@The Life Nomadik

Support us on Patreon@The Life Nomadik

Share

Maya’s Journey. On a Search for Whales

An example of Maya’s Boat School experience/experiment is her recent Whale Project.

Humpback whales Mother and Baby, by Maya

Humpback whales Mother and Baby, by Maya

After visiting the Pearl Islands in Panama where we met and observed humpback whales in their natural environment, Maya had to do a project, as a part of her education and development. The objective was to create a coherent written text using research and personal experience. For the research, we watched the 1998 documentary Whales An Unforgettable Journey, pausing the film each time there was an important information so that Maya could take notes of all the scientific and interesting facts mentioned. Next, she had to find an on-line article, read it and select some more facts and information related to the humpback whales. The final step was to write a text containing description of the animals, details about breeding, migration, as well as an account of Maya’s personal encounter with them, accompanied with a drawing.

Maya on a whale watching expedition

Maya on a whale watching expedition

The Whale Project

The whales are the largest creatures in the world. They are bigger than dinosaurs. The Blue Whale is the biggest of all whales measuring 30 meters (100 feet) in length and 200 tons. Its head is bigger than a small car and a young child could crawl inside its largest arteries. His heartbeat is so loud that you could hear it a mile away. The white skin on their heads is called ‘callosity’ and each and every pattern is unique like a fingerprint. Whales look like they have a frown. Only male humpbacks sing. The humpback whale’s songs travel a thousand miles away through the sea.

Photo by Maya

Photo by Maya

Whales migrate great distances every year. They travel between the cold waters of the North to the hot waters of the equator. In the cold they feed on krill and plankton by filtering them through their teeth called ‘baleens’. Plankton and krill are a massive protein source and thus the whales store fat called ‘blubber’ which helps them survive without eating anything during their migration for a few months. They travel 3000 miles away and lose a third of their weight during the trip, following the same ancient routs as their ancestors.

Photo by Maya

Photo by Maya

When they arrive to the hot waters of Hawaii and the Pearl Islands Archipelago in Panama they give birth. Humpback whale-mothers are pregnant for a year once every four years and give birth to a baby that weighs 2 to 3 tons. Like humans, whales are air-breathers and babies have to come out of the water for air every few minutes. Calves only drink milk for the first few months. While nursing, the baby gains 100 pounds a day in the first few weeks. Mothers protect their calves. Physical contact is very important for the mother and the baby. The young whales like to play and sometimes to block their mother’s blowhole in order to attract attention.

Photo by Maya

Photo by Maya

This year, I went in a small motorboat for whale-watching with my parents and a Russian couple we met in the Pearl Islands. We were looking for humpback whales but for one hour found no sign of them. Then we suddenly saw a mother and her calf breaching and waiving their tails with absolute joy. They both had masses of callosity on their heads. The mother was huge! It was nice. And then we saw about 12 spouts in the distance coming from the ocean. Whales! They were approaching us, jumping in the air and flipping their tails. It was terrific; we certainly took a bunch of photos. It was a nice journey on a search for whales. I liked it.

Maya S/V Fata Morgana

.

.

Killer Whale tribal design

Killer Whale tribal design

 

Watching humpback whales has been a valuable lasting lesson not only for Maya, but for all of us. Learning through nature and direct experiences with the support of research materials and documentary films has proven to be the best successful strategy. Such lessons are also easy, interesting and unforgettable.

Find and follow Maya on Instagram/Theyoungtraveler

 

*Related articles from the blog: Boat School

Find us on Facebook/The Life Nomadik

Support us on Patreon/The Life Nomadik

 

Share

In The Company of Whales

In The Company of Whales

.

.

We love exploring by foot the small lush island of Contadora with its many steep shady streets among the forest, some ending in the backyard of a house or on a beach, others leading us unexpectedly to the same place we started from. On one such walk, we meet a young couple with groceries and we stop them to ask where they bought the food from. The guy explains how to get to a small grocery store where they sell a few basic products and I detect a particular accent.

Pearl Islands, Panama

Pearl Islands, Panama

– You speak Russian?- I ask them in Russian and they are super surprised and glad to meet people who speak Russian on a small island in Panama.

Later, we meet Natasha and Alex from Moscow again on our beach, one thing leads to another, we become a sort of instant friends, and invite them to check out our boat. On vacation in Panama for a few days, the two Russians are passionate travelers visiting every part of the world every time they have time off work. After stopping for a bit on Fata Morgana, they invite us to join them on a whale-watching expedition.

Whale Watching tour with our Russian friends

Whale Watching tour with our Russian friends

A world of islands, the Pearl Archipelago where the biggest pearl on earth, “La Pelegrina” was found, is one of few places in the world, where thousands of humpback whales arrive each summer. From July to October, the large island group is home to somewhere between 900 and 2,000 humpback whales who travel over 6,000 miles from the cold waters of the Arctic and the Antarctic where they feed to the shallow warm waters of Costa Rica and the Gulf of Panama where they give birth and nurse their babies. Their journey along the coast of South and North America and across the equator is the greatest migration of any mammal on Earth.

Pearl Islands

Pearl Islands

We start from Contadora late in the afternoon in a small fishing boat furnished with benches for the tourists. It is just our family and the Russians. Our guide is a local guy who knows where to find the whales and how to approach them. We go around a few uninhabited islands, but for the longest hour, there is no sign of the gentle giants. It is getting late, the small boat is almost out of fuel, and we are worried that we will not find them at all.

Ivo and our whale watching guide

Ivo and our whale watching guide

Just when we give up and are ready to head back disappointed, we see a tiny black island sticking out of the sea shooting a golden fountain of mist in the air with the sun setting behind it. Next to it- another fountain, and another, and another! A small heard of whales on the western horizon is slowly heading towards us. It looks like they found us, and not we them. Our anxiety and disappointment are quickly replaced by excitement and utter happiness. Everyone except our guide and Ivo are taking pictures while the humpbacks are filling their lungs with air with slow majestic motions.

Humpback whales, Panama

Humpback whales, Panama

They dive. We hold our air. We stare at the sea. We wait. There they come out again, even closer this time, and the cameras are clicking away. Ivo is our lookout spotting the whales, pointing and yelling in Russian every time they surface for air: “Streliay (Shoot)! For Mother Russia!” or “Za Stalinu! Za Rodinu (In the name of Stalin and Patria!) and other such glorious military commands and cheers, while we are clicking like mad in the direction of the water spouts, like happy snipers.

A display of the tail was always a joyous moment.

A display of the tail was always a joyous moment.

A mother with her calf is so close to us now. She breaches high with a glorious slow motion display of might and elegance, her white fins spread like the wings of a butterfly, her mighty 15-meter long 36,000-kilogram body slicing the water with an unbelievable splash. We are all smiling with awe, our eyes full of love and gratitude. It is a moment we will never forget for the rest of our lives.

Humpback whale breaching, Pearl Islands, Panama

Humpback whale breaching, Pearl Islands, Panama

After this, we see whales every day. They come in the anchorage, near the beach, and so close to the boat that we hear their unhurried deep PUFFFFF and run on deck to look at them passing. Sometimes we jump in the kayak and start paddling towards them to take a closer look. It is unbelievably exciting and a little scary to chase an enormous mighty animal with a tiny kayak. What if mama whale doesn’t see us and jump out of the water landing on top of us? Or simply overturns the kayak without effort with a small slap of her giant tail? But we know this is not going to happen. We trust them completely. Humpback whales may be big and powerful animals, but they rarely attack people, kayaks or boats. They are the gentle giants of the sea.

Humpback whales

Humpback whales

The night of the lunar eclipse, the sky is deep and cloudless, the air is warm, there is no wind and the sea is sleeping. The eclipse announced for 8:00 p.m. starts promptly on time. We prepare popcorn for the show, and we watch the bright white moonrise followed by the slow ominous miracle of the moon-eating dragon. We observe the most perfect lunar eclipse surrounded by fragrant shadows of tropical islands in the company of humpback whales.

Lunar eclipse 2015

Lunar eclipse 2015

Humpback Whales Facts

  • The humpback whale is one of the largest rorqual species. Adults range in length from 12–16 metres (39–52 ft) and weigh approximately 36,000 kilograms (79,000 lb). The largest humpback on record, according to whaling records, was the female killed in the Caribbean; she was 27 meters (89 ft) long with a weight of 90 metric tons (99 short tons)

  • The humpback has a distinctive body shape, with unusually long pectoral fins and a knobbly head.

  • An acrobatic animal known for breaching and slapping the water with its tail and pectorals.

  • Males produce a complex long, loud song lasting 10 to 20 minutes, which they repeat for hours at a time. Its purpose is not clear, though it may have a role in mating. Each song consists of several sounds in a low register, varying in amplitude and frequency. Humpbacks may sing continuously for more than 24 hours. Cetaceans have no vocal cords, so whales generate their songs by forcing air through their massive nasal cavities. Whales within a large area sing the same song.

  • Found in oceans and seas around the world, humpback whales typically migrate up to 25,000 kilometers (16,000 mi) each year.

  • Humpbacks feed only for a few months per year, in polar waters, and migrate to tropical or subtropical waters to breed and give birth in the winter. During breeding, humpbacks fast and live off their fat reserves.

  • Their diet consists mostly of krill and small fish. Humpbacks have a diverse repertoire of feeding methods, including the bubble net feeding. A group of whales swims in a shrinking circle blowing bubbles below a school of prey. The shrinking ring of bubbles encircles the school and confines it in an ever-smaller cylinder. This ring can begin at up to 30 meters (98 ft) in diameter and involve the cooperation of a dozen animals. Some whales blow the bubbles, some dive deeper to drive fish toward the surface, and others herd prey into the net by vocalizing. The whales then suddenly swim upward through the “net”, mouths agape, swallowing thousands of fish in one gulp.

  • Females typically breed every two or three years. The gestation period is 11.5 months.

  • Newborn calves are roughly the length of their mother’s head. At birth, calves measure 6 meters (20 ft) at 2 short tons (1.8 t). They nurse for approximately six months. Humpback milk is 50% fat and pink in color.

  • Like other large whales, the humpback was and is a target for the whaling industry. Once hunted to the brink of extinction, its population fell by an estimated 90% before a moratorium was introduced in 1966.

  • While stocks have since partially recovered, entanglement in fishing gear, collisions with ships, and noise pollution continue to impact the 80,000 humpbacks worldwide.

  • In Japan, not only humpback, minkes, sperm, and many other smaller Odontoceti, but also including critically endangered species such as North Pacific right, western gray, and northern fin have been targets of illegal captures utilizing harpoons for dolphin hunts or intentionally drive whales into nets. Humpback’s meat can also be found on markets even today, and there had been a case in which it was scientifically revealed that humpbacks of unknown quantities with other species were illegally hunted in EEZ of anti-whaling nations such as off Mexico or South Africa, and so on.

.

.

*Related stories from the blog:  Children of The Moon and The Whale Who Came to Say Hi.

Find us on Facebook/The Life Nomadik

Share

Sailing to The Pearl Islands

Sailing to The Pearl Islands

The Pearl Islands

The Pearl Islands

About 30 nautical miles south of Panama City, the Gulf of Panama is dotted by over 200 small and big mostly uninhabited islands and islets of exceptional beauty, named Islas de las Perlas (The Pearl Islands). It is our favorite destination on the Pacific Ocean side of Panama and a place no cruiser sailing through these parts of the world should miss.

At Anchor near Contadora

At Anchor near Contadora

The Pearl Islands emerged from the ocean over 60 million years ago. Before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores, they were home of the Cuevas and Cocle indigenous cultures. In 1513, their “discoverer” Vasco Nunez de Balboa named the islands Pearl Islands, after the Indians greeted him with baskets full of large pearls. This friendly gesture from the part of the local population was met with violence and only two years after the arrival of the Spaniards the locals were brutally and completely wiped out. After killing everyone, the conquistadores realized that there is no one left to harvest the pearls which were so abundant in the waters of the archipelago. So they imported slaves from Africa to do the dirty job; slaves whose descendants make the majority of the inhabited island’s permanent population today.

.

.

After one unsuccessful attempt to sail to Las Perlas from our anchorage at La Playita (the wind died and we spent four hours drifting with the current, covering just one mile in the wrong direction, and decided to turn back …) we start again one slightly windier September morning. It’s rainy season in Panama which also means not much wind until November.

.

Big Ships anchorage and Panama City in the distance. Water in the gulf is covered with floating plastic garbage from the ships.

The wind dies down again just as we are crossing the big ship anchorage outside the Canal Zone and we find ourselves drifting with strong current and almost no wind among containerships, some waiting at anchor, others maneuvering, and we almost get run over by a giant metal boat (or rather, we run over the giant boat), because Ivo will not turn on the engines even in a situation like this, and with the spinnaker up our options for turning are limited…

Sailing on a collision course

Sailing on a collision course

Very slowly, we are out of the danger zone so crowded with cargo ships and so polluted with plastic garbage floating on the surface of the sea, it’s appalling.

.

.

.

.

The next couple of hours- still no wind and our progress is ridiculous 1 to 1.5 kts…

Ivo- one horse power, 0.5 kts speed...

This is Ivo- “motor-sailing”- puling the boat with one horse power, 0.5 kts speed…

In the afternoon, the wind finally picks up and we sail fast now, with 6 knots. Yet, we have lost precious time for the first 5 hours, and we cannot make it before sunset.

Mira

Mira

The charts of The Pearl Islands are notoriously inaccurate and the entire archipelago is a rough area to navigate, especially at night, with lots of reefs and dangerous rocks in the shallows near the islands. Luckily, we have the Panama Cruising Guide by Eric Bauhaus (fourth edition). It is an essential cruising guide for Panama, San Blas, Bocas del Torro and Las Perlas, which a good cruising friend gave us awhile back in exchange for a few of our old AGM batteries. This book has been our most treasured crew member since we left Cartagena (Colombia) direction Panama a few months ago, a crew member we could count on; who never failed us. Thank you Tina, and thank you Eric!

.

.

We arrive at night with one final squall pushing behind us, navigating in pitch black, paying little attention to the charts and much more attention to The Book, avoiding shallow areas and reefs, until we see the lights of hotels and houses on Contadora.

.

.

There are free mooring balls just off the beach and Ivo orders us to catch one, on sail. We are super close to shore, it’s shallow, it’s dark, there is strong current and we are trying to catch a small mooring ball, without engine! Here is how it’s done: you sail in the direction of the mooring ball but not towards it, so that when you are close enough, the ball remains exactly where the wind is coming from. A few meters away from the ball you turn towards it (and towards the wind) and quickly furl the head sail. The main sail is up, but the wind is against you and the boat slows down super quickly and stops just next to the mooring ball. You catch it and drop the main. You have to consider the current as well when you estimate when and where to turn. If you turn too soon, or if the distance between the boat and the mooring ball after you turn is too big, the boat stops before you reach the ball and starts drifting backwards. In this case, you have to position the boat sideways to wind, spread the headsail again and repeat the operation. Always be aware of the surroundings and other boats in the area, shore, rocks, wind and current. In high winds, at night, and in a crowded unfamiliar anchorage, it is much more difficult to do this operation. In our case, the current is super strong, it is pitch black, we have never been here before, and there are a few small fishing boats on moorings all over the place. Yet, after much yelling and running around- Ivo on the wheel and furling the head sail, Maya with the spot light, and me with the long hook trying to grab the damn thing- we manage to catch one mooring ball without turning the engines on, only after the third attempt… A great exercise.

The sea at sunset

The sea at sunset

The next morning, we wake up in front of a small beach with the hilly island of Contadora rising behind it. A few small hotels and private luxurious mansions are perched on the hill, surrounded by trees and flowers. The island is a little more than one square kilometer in territory with a couple of hundred permanent residents and many hotels and vacation homes. With its small airport and small boat port, Contadora is the most accessible and most popular of all Perl Islands among foreign tourists and weekenders from the capital, attracting visitors with its pristine beaches, and gorgeous resorts built without disturbing the nature.

.

.

After the construction of so many hotels and houses, roads and public spaces in the 1960s and 1970s, the flora here has been successfully preserved with lush tropical vegetation looming over buildings, and roads making sudden illogical turns around large centennial tees. The busy tourist season has not started yet, and there is almost no one. The hotels are deserted, many- abandoned and in ruins. It feels so calm and quiet as if time has stopped. It is also the only island from the archipelago that has streets long enough to run, so Ivo can still train for his marathon.

Cintadora

Cintadora

It is a great relief being here alone, in the calm clean transparent waters teaming with fish, after so many weeks in the polluted rocky and sometimes noisy anchorage at La Playita near the Panama Canal’s entrance. It’s time to relax, snorkel and fish, and once again fully enjoy our cruising way of life. This is exactly what we signed up for. And it gets better.

(To be continued…)

.

Fata Morgana

Mira

Mira

Ivo

Ivo

Maya

Maya

Ivo and Maya

Ivo and Maya

Read about our favorite cruising destination on the Caribbean side of Panama: Paradise at The End of The Sea

Find us on Facebook/The Life Nomadik

Share

Valle de Anton

Ivo, Mira and Maya hiking La India Dormida, Valle de Anton, Panama

Ivo, Mira and Maya hiking La India Dormida, Valle de Anton, Panama

If you are a nature-lover visiting the big busy Panama City, there is a place you can go to escape the hustle and heat of the metropolis, the perfect getaway. Set in a tranquil valley surrounded by mountains, high above the sea, inside the second largest volcano crater in the world, is nestled the small picturesque town of El Valle de Anton, offering much more than a quiet retreat in the beautiful countryside.

Thermal Spring, Valle de Anton, Panama

Thermal Spring, Valle de Anton, Panama

The first time we visit El Valle is with our new friends here in Panama Milen, Maylen, Ian and Kristo, a mixed Bulgarian-Panamian family, and a young couple: Ana from Costa Rica and Samuel from Panama. We met Milen Bojinov soon after arriving in Panama City and shared many wonderful moments with him and his family. They helped us with the Panama Canal buffer refund, took us to the fruits and vegetables market and all the other best and cheapest places for grocery shopping and for propane, invited us to their house may times, and came to sail with us around the gulf aboard Fata Morgana one afternoon.

Maylen, Ian and Milen, Valle de Anton, Panama

Maylen, Ian and Milen, Valle de Anton, Panama

Milen is an experienced sailor and the epic story of his Atlantic Ocean crossing with his friend Vassil Beyazov aboard an small salvaged sailboat Peterson 25 from Bulgaria to the Caribbean has been described in a book: The Feeling of Freedom, by Vassil Beyazov.

Milen and Maylen’s family just got bigger today, November 11, 2015 with the arrival of a little girl named Mylena at around 0900 a.m.! Congratulations and may your journey in life be the happiest of all, little princess!

****

One Sunday, we start early in the morning with two cars, Milen and his family in one car, Ana, Samuel and our family in the other, driving for over two hours, first on the Inter-American highway for about 1.5 hours and another half an hour on a narrow mountain road winding through a bizarre landscape of pine forests mixed with palm trees. The higher we go, the cooler it gets, and once up in the valley we find ourselves in a climate much different form the suffocating tropical heat of the lowlands. It’s fresh spring in El Valle de Anton, a beautiful sunny day. The town is charming, a preferred destination for everyone from the city, with handsome vacation homes and gorgeous mansions with Tuscan architecture, lush gardens with ponds and exotic plants, belonging to some of Panama’s wealthiest families. It is a main tourist destination too, offering a vast choice of accommodation, from cheap hostels to luxurious boutique hotels and eco lodges with stunning mountain views and renowned restaurants, surrounded by tropical forest and the sounds of birds.

Vacation home, Valle de Anton, Panama

Vacation home, Valle de Anton, Panama

It has been a while since we hiked up a mountain, so the first place we head to is La India Dormida (the Sleeping Indian Girl), a three-hour easy and pleasant hike, passing by a huge boulder with ancient petroglyphs, La Piedra Pintada (the painted rock), a small waterfall, a natural river-pool, and spectacular views of the valley.

Ana, Samuel and Kristo on their way to the India Dormida

Ana, Samuel and Kristo on their way to the India Dormida

The Painted Rock has large pre-Columbian petroglyphs without any archaeological explanation or legend attached to them, so you are welcome to invent your own legend and interpret the drawings and figures using your imagination.

Maya and the petroglyphs, Valle de Anton, Panama

Maya and the petroglyphs, Valle de Anton, Panama

We walk among thick forest in the beginning. By the end only rocky hills covered in thin green grasses enveloped in fog are all around us. Seen from the village below, these desolate naked hills- the rim of a huge inactive volcano crater- look like the contours of the body of a sleeping woman.

Ivo and Maya

Ivo and Maya

.

.

.

.

.

.

Next on the agenda is El Serpentario (the serpent sanctuary). At the end of a narrow muddy path, we find a small building containing a collection of about a dozen local snakes, who are no prisoners in cages, but injured specimens, ex-pets, and temporary visitors, some to be released back in the wild as soon as they are rehabilitated and ready for independent life. The young guy working with the reptiles is a Panamanian who studied biology in United Stated and worked with conservation programs in Florida. He is one of the most important herpetologists and conservationists in Panama with vast knawlage and passion for the reptiles, committed not only to work for the conservation of local snakes, frogs, caimans and others, but also to educate the population about the importance of the reptiles for the ecosystem, as well as to diffuse some Hollywood myths about snakes.

Mira at the serpentario

Mira at the serpentario

You fear what you don’t know. If you get to know the snakes, if you understand and respect them, their needs and behavior, what to do and not to do in their presence, you will find out that they are not your enemy, and that most of the stuff you know about snakes from films and TV is unrealistic and untrue.

Samuel at the serpentarium

Samuel at the serpentarium

Ivo has been terrified by snakes all his life. Ever since he was a little boy and saw Indiana Johns Raiders of the Lost Ark snakes have been his biggest nightmare. But only after a few minutes in the serpentarium his new best friend is a sleepy very friendly boa. An unwanted pet, she became one of the sanctuary’s permanent residents. She doesn’t mind being held by visitors, and when Ivo places her on his freshly shaved head, she coils around tightly and comfortably, and prepares for an afternoon nap.

Ivo....

Ivo….

A month later, we go back to show El Valle to our Aruban friends who came to visit us in Panama and this time we check out the Thermal Hot Waters and Mud Baths. Set amidst lush tropical vegetation are a few small pools with yellow waters coming from underground volcanic thermal springs.

Maya at the Hot Springs Batsh

Maya at the Hot Springs Batsh

Mira and Patrizia putting therapeutic mud on their faces

Mira and Patrizia putting therapeutic mud on their faces

Ivo

Ivo

This could have become the most awesome and fun experience and our very favorite spot in all of El Valle, if it weren’t for e small nervous guy who was constantly monitoring us, telling us what we can do and what we cannot do, like a prison guard. He wouldn’t let Maya, who quickly jumped in the kid’s pool, to come out of the pool and put therapeutic volcanic mud on her face like the rest of us, just because according to the rules, you have to do the mud first, and then, after you wash the mud off your face, you can go to the pools. But once in the pool, you have no right to come out, do the mud, wash it off, and go back in the pool.

.

.

– Why? I want to know. What is the logic behind this strange rule? And if Maya made a mistake and went in the pool first, why don’t you let her go out, dry herself with a towel, and put some mud on her face?
– No, no and no! the small guy is raving, ready to arrest us if we break the rule!
– Then, can we go out of the Thermal Baths, and then comeback after ten minutes, pay the entrance fee again ($3), and do the procedure the correct way this time?
– No, no and no! She (Maya) cannot use the mud and that’s that!

I am absolutely frustrated at this point, I start screaming at the guy and the entire experience is ruined…

I generally hate most rules, but rules that don’t make sense and people who are idiots just make me crazy. Unfortunately, the world is populated by idiots who make and follow stupid rules.

****

There is a lot more to see and do in El Valle de Anton. Besides hiking in the mountains, relaxing in the thermal baths, and meeting the snakes, you can rent a bike or a horse, visit a tropical zoo, do the zipline adventure or simply relax and watch the variety of birds. One day is not enough and once you visit this enchanted place, you will want to return again.

Ivo and Mira (Maya could have been in the picture too...)

Ivo and Mira (Maya could have been in the picture too…)

Ivo and MIra (Maya could have been in the picture too...)

Ivo and Mira (Maya could have been in the picture too…)

Ivo

Ivo

Ivo

Ivo

Ivo and Mira

Ivo and Mira

Like us and follow us on Facebook/ The Life Nomadik

 

Share

Project Green Tent

Project Green Tent

by Mira Nencheva

The beach at Punta Chame (Panama) where Ivo goes to kitesurf with Rado is a beautiful sight at low tide. A vast wet landscape painted with black-and-yellow sand patterns formed by wind and sea, sparkling in the light of the setting sun. Here and there, large driftwood sculptures break the monotony of the mile-long sand strip. Little sandpipers run in groups on the edge of the sea searching for small crabs as the waves recede, frigates like dark kites ride the high air currents above, and black vultures roam the shores scavenging for anything dead that comes out of the ocean.

Punta Chame (Panama)

Punta Chame (Panama)

Isolated, at the end of a long narrow peninsula, this beach is not very popular with tourists or locals; only kitesurfers visit as the winds here are the strongest in the entire region. It is one of the wildest most desolate beaches in continental Panama. It is also the dirtiest. No one cleans the incredible amount of plastic trash that comes out of the sea here every day.

The first time we see the amount of garbage in Punta Chame we are shocked. At the edge of the sand strip just before the grassy shore begins, there is a pile of plastic bottles and cans, lots of flip-flops and crocs of all sizes, broken foam containers and all sort of other non-degradable trash stretching accross the entire length of the beach. As if a garbage trucks has been dumping its contents here every day for months. There are a few hotels and a few private residencies facing the sea, but no one cleans or maintains the public beach.

Dead sea turtle in a pile of trash. Punta Chame (Panama)

Dead sea turtle in a pile of trash. Punta Chame (Panama)

Current and waves dump all that trash coming from the Gulf of Panama, where thousands of big cargo ships sit at anchor waiting for days for their turn to transit the Panama Canal. The ships, as well as people living near the shore dump illegally their waist in the sea and some of it ends up back on land, on the beach. The rest remains in the ocean, largely unnoticed, harming irreparably the sea life and the entire marine eco-system.

As Maya and I are just sitting around while Ivo and Rado are kitesurfing, we decide to clean up the beach a little. There is a broken green tent in the dump at the kitesurf shack- perfect to collect trash in, as we don’t have any garbage bags. Maya is excited. She is not simply collecting plastic bottles in an old tent; she is working on a whole new project: to clean the Planet’s environment, to reduce plastic pollution, to help the Ocean and all the creatures in it.

Maya cleaning the beach. Punta Chame (Panama)

Maya cleaning the beach. Punta Chame (Panama)

Maya is doing a great deed and it is not just cleaning a few square meters of beach but learning and teaching a lesson; giving an example. She is also working hard for a prize. If she fills the tent to the brim with beach trash she can have a chocolate of her choice at the end of the day, I promise! What kid wouldn’t spend an hour or two picking up garbage for a nice big chocolate?

The job is not as easy as it might seem. To clean this particular beach just the two of us, we would need much more than a couple of hours and many more than one green tent. The garbage has accumulated beneath the sand, packed in layers, and we only pick up the top one. It seems to me, that if we start digging and take all the plastic bottles under the sand, the entire place will collapse and disappear, as when you remove the foundation of a building…

.

.

The tent is full but only a small area of the beach looks cleaner. Yet, it feels like a tremendous achievement and Maya is super excited and proud of herself. Some people passing-by noticed what we are doing, and people noticing is probably more important than what we actually did.

It is not the first time we have been cleaning dirty beaches and Maya decided to keep doing it in the future as part of our newly initiated Project Green Tent.

Project Green Tent

Project Green Tent

Plastic Pollution Facts

• Over 220 million tons of plastic are produced each year.

• The average American throws away approximately 35 billion plastic water bottles and 185 pounds of plastic per year.

• There are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic trash in the world’s oceans.

• Each year, 8 million tons of plastic are added to the count.

• Each year, 26 million pounds of plastic travel hundreds of miles from inland areas to our oceans, contributing to massive floating garbage patches, and killing one million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals.

• The level of waste is starting to reach a crisis point.

• Plastic breaks down into small pieces that look like plankton and is eaten by everyone from plankton to whales, acting as a poison pill.

• China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam contribute more than half of the oceans’ plastic since their waste infrastructure hasn’t kept up with rapid industrialization.

• 80% of pollution enters the ocean from the land.

• The Great Pacific garbage patch, also known as the Pacific trash vortex, is a gyre of marine debris particles in the central North Pacific Ocean not easily visible, because it consists of very small pieces that are almost invisible to the naked eye.

• 46 percent of plastics float and it can drift for years before eventually concentrating in the ocean gyres.

• Unlike organic debris, which biodegrades, the photodegraded plastic disintegrates into ever smaller pieces while remaining a polymer. As it disintegrates, the plastic ultimately becomes small enough to be ingested by aquatic organisms that reside near the ocean’s surface becoming part of the food chain.

• Some of these plastics end up in the stomachs of marine birds and animals and their young, including sea turtles and the black-footed albatross. Many albatross chicks die due to being fed plastic from their parents.

• By expanding garbage collection systems and plugging up their leakage points, plastics leakage could be cut by 50% by 2020.

In order to make Maya’s initiative a success, there are a few things you can do to help:

1. Read the facts above and learn more about Ocean Pollution.

2. Try to buy, use and throw away less plastic. Recycle.

3. LIKE and SHARE this article so that it reaches more readers. Not many people like to read about garbage and to look at pictures of dead sea turtles, so this article, like so many of its kind, will most probably remain unnoticed, unless YOU help us share it with a larger audience.

4. Clean up a beach.

Maya and the Green Tent

Maya and the Green Tent

Related articles from the blog:

Follow our adventures and LIKE us on Facebook/The Life Nomadik

Share