Robert L. Peters

12 February 2010

Greetings from… Panama


Panama City, Panama

Well, it seems brother Jim has made it to his intended destination…

“I’m sitting on the 3rd floor balcony of our hotel at the entrance to the Panama Canal, watching ships leaving and arriving from/for their passage through the canal. Beautiful & interesting. It’s been a few days since we’ve reported in. That’s because we’re kind of in recovery mode right now (see my earlier note to Bonny below). We made it to Panama City (our intended destination) and are now waiting for Bonny & Joanne to join us tomorrow. We’ll spend a day exploring the Panama Canal before heading up to the islands of Boca Del Toro for 2 days, then start our trek back through Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and finally to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. We’ve seen lots, learned lots, eaten great food, met wonderful people and are anticipating some great days yet to come.

(Note from February 9 to “Blondie” below…)

Our 5 hour whitewater rafting trip down the Rio Chiriqui Viejo (it straddles the border between Costa Rica and Panama) was spectacular, but we’re both hurting quite a bit right now. We did a 2-hour van ride from Boquete to the entry point of the river. It was amazing that the howling, beat-up van with grinding gears even got there. Then all the rafts and our gear was transferred to a 4-wheel-drive truck for the steepest part of the road. We all climbed into the back of the truck on top of all the equipment. We then met several local girls with donkeys. The rafts and equipment were loaded on the “burros;” we each carried our helmets, paddles and water bottles. The 25-minute trek down the trail was treacherous in itself—we didn’t know whether the burros could even keep their footing. It was a track that was as narrow as 8 to 10 inches in places, muddy and slippery and steep. Eventually we emerged from the jungle at the river where the rafts had to be inflated and readied for the rapid run. Many of us had slipped and fallen into the muddy path on the hike, so it was good to get to some water to clean up a bit.

We managed to ride the biggest Class IV and Class III rapids successfully. About 3.5 hours (75% of the way) both Bob and I got thrown from the raft (and it happened to us again just a few minutes later) at a big rapid section. Bob hit his hip bone big time, so he’s hurting quite a bit. It’ll take him some recovery days. I banged up my tailbone and knee pretty good, but managed to keep my head above water and safe. It was pretty scary, because you’re being flung down this wild river, over and into big rocks, trying to get back to the raft which is also riding the rapids. It was an amazing ride through deep jungle and on a wild river (22 km in total). Absolutely beautiful, but probably a ride meant for a younger and a somewhat experienced crowd. We were in a raft with a Swedish couple and a Panamanian rafting guide named Freddy. The other raft had a French Canadian couple, a single adventurer from Germany, and an American rafting guide named Micah. Great folks—all of them. Half way down the run, we pulled to the shore and had a picnic meal that was included in the trip.

I lost my wedding ring in the bottom of the river somewhere… lucky it wasn’t the one you bought me a couple of years ago. We’re back at the hotel, drugged up with pain killers, and heading downstairs for a meal. VERY HUNGRY right now. (Sorry, don’t have pics of the rafting trip because there was no way of taking a camera along on the wild ride).”

Photo: “Crazy old guys in the river,” Bob Banman and Jim Peters preparing to board whitewater rafts on the Rio Chiriqui Viejo, Panama.

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