Hola Amigos! I went on a small spontaneous adventure recently, so thought I'd share the story and try to get back into the bloggin groove. I wanted to take advantage of having two days off in a row (something that doesn't happen too often) so I decided to leave El Valle for a little change in scenery.
|Hasta luego El Valle, you beautiful place.|
|*Cue Pirates of the Caribbean theme song*|
|Rough outline of the journey (took much longer than 3 hours)|
|Regular water bottles are for sissies.|
I asked about the bus next, and they told me they were going to Portobelo as well - they'd show me the way! (A Scout is Helpful). Seconds later a brightly painted school bus pulled up, aka a Diablo Rojo (Red Devil) as they are affectionately called here. Supposedly these are old U.S. school buses that have failed inspection, and have passed on through to the other side where they can show their true colors...
|This is what a School bus drop-out looks like|
|Up, Up y Arriba!|
While crammed together at the back of the bus, I chatted with their leader about my time in Scouts and told him I was an Eagle Scout, but mostly I listened intently to him tell me about the Scouting program down here (A Scout is Friendly). He told me about the different events he has taken their troop on recently, showed me photos from past Court of Honor ceremonies, etc. Since these months are the equivalent of summer break (kids are off school here from Dec - March) - they have been making lots of trips recently.
While chatting with him, I couldn't help but think about how incredibly thankful I am that I have been speaking Spanish on a daily basis since I arrived down here in October. By this point I am able to converse and comprehend much much more than I was able to a few months ago. Without this key to the culture, this interaction would have been very different.
By the time he had gone through his entire phone gallery of scouting photos, the bus started to thin out a bit - and we found empty seats in different parts of the bus. He let me take the first seat that came open (A Scout is Courteous) and later went towards the front of the bus for another open seat. The scouts got off the bus a bit before we got to town, with the intention of hiking in while picking up trash. Litter is a huge problem down here, so this was an awesome service. (A Scout is Clean)
|Arriving in Portobelo|
|Primary form of transportation|
|Happiness is a cold beer|
I eventually clued Captain Jack in to the fact that I planned to stay the night, and when time allowed he had one of his kitchen workers (who turned out to just be a traveler that hung around long enough to get put to work) show me a bunk below deck. It legitimately felt a bit like the belly of an old pirate ship down there, with clothes and bags strewn about the bunks, dim lights coming in through small portholes, and faint urine smells coming from the bathroom. It's all good, I was only planning to crash there for a night, not move in. So I dropped off my bag, slathered sunscreen on my neck, and headed out to explore the town.
My first mission was to check in with the 2Oceans Dive shop that I would be diving with tomorrow. I wanted to meet the divemasters and figure out what time I needed to show up, how to pay, etc. This turned out to be a longer task than expected since I had to walk about 30 min down the road to get there. I would have taken a taxi, but none passed by me. The divemasters were very nice, and were pretty happy when they discovered I could speak Spanish. So I arranged to meet them at 7 am for breakfast in town, and then they'd drive me back to the shop. Sweet deal! After a bit more chatting, I happily told them chao and walked back to town.
|Proud to be a Scout!|
The kids gave me a hat to wear for the photo, and then after a couple calls of "Uno mas!" we let the poor woman off the hook. She seemed to find the whole spectacle quite entertaining. Then their leader had the kids split into patrol groups and give their respective Patrol yells. If this wasn't awesome enough, they then lined up as a whole troop and gave a series of cheers specifically to honor me. (A Scout is Cheerful) I don't think I could possibly have had a bigger smile on my face. (Scouts are Awesome!)
They told me to keep the hat I wore for the photo, which instantly became one of my favorite souvenirs. I invited them to come to El Valle to see the frogs I work with, and all the kids were begging their leader to plan a trip. He seemed pretty keen on it, and we exchanged numbers before splitting ways - so hopefully I'll see these kids again on familiar turf.
|Searching for Pirates from the ancient watchtower|
|Largest fort built in Portobelo|
|An ancient outlook on life|
As an already nearly empty bottle dwindled, I moseyed on and sat in one of the old gun ports for a spell - letting the inner warmth from the satisfaction of interacting with locals (and the rum) wash over me while watching the sunset. Life is good.
Later on, back at Captain Jack's I had a fun evening sitting at the bar and exchanging stories with fellow travelers - a favorite past time of mine. Cold beer and good stories, is there really anything else you need?? This local in particular is chock full of folks with fascinating tales, since it tends to cater towards sailors, many of which seemed to be on a journey around the world. Lots of the sailors were just stopping in Portobelo for a bit before heading on through the Canal to continue their journeys in the Pacific. As much as I love a good yarn, I didn't stick around the bar too late since I had an underwater date the next day bright and early.
|Local watering hole and hostel|
|Fun fact: This ancient cannon was found off-shore in the same waters where I'd be diving|
|Cuando manjea, no toma (Don't drink and drive!)|
We did 2 dives, both very relaxed reef dives, not too deep (~60 ft max), with plenty of tiny critters to see. Sadly I do not own a GoPro or a camera that can be taken to these depths, so I have no underwater photos to share. Take my word for it, it was pretty. Not the most amazing diving I've ever done, but any day spent diving is a damn good day. "Life is better, down where it's wetter!"
|Amateur sketch of wildlife seen while diving ;)|
Diving along, I spied a blue tang laying on it's side on the reef, breathing heavily but not moving. I thought, "Woah, am I watching a fish die?" I swam a bit closer to get a better look. As I got next to him, the fish suddenly wiggled violently and darted off, swimming far away. Hmm. Suddenly from a hole beneath where the fish was resting, a small spotted Moray eel poked his menacing face out - searching for who was responsible for his lost dinner. Felt slightly bad for the little guy, but was pretty stoked that I got to see him. Eels are some of my favorite creatures to spot while UNDA DA SEA.
While doing our safety decompression stop at the end of the dive, a little remora playfully swam around us, which was really neat. Soon enough it was time to surface. Between dives we cruised over to a nearby playa (beach) to wait out our required surface interval while muching on some snacks and drinking fresh fruit juice. It was nice to soak up some sun while the excess Nitrogen left our bodies.
|Relaxing by a local beach between dives|
|Life is good, mon|
|Next post Preview : Partying with Primos !!|