Monday, April 13, 2015

Peru...Wait, no. Panama!!!

We had a brief entry into Peru, where we struggled to get the right paperwork for leaving the van while we flew to Panama.  That unfortunately took enough time, we didn't get to do any sightseeing and flew right from Juliaca, Peru to Panama - but we did experience the Peruvian version of the mototaxi and eating cuy (guinea pig).  A delicacy widely accepted as normal fare throughout Peru and Ecuador.

Yep.  Head, limbs, and all....Whew!
Thankfully there was great local music to give some atmosphere around the cuy experience!
After that welcoming to Peru, we flew to Panama to to meet up with Emily, Kyle, Andiee, and Hudson!  HOORAY!  So excited to have our family come and visit us down in Latin America!
THEY'RE HERE!!!!!  (Hudson wasn't too sure about Mike!)
Lots of "firsts" for these guys - visiting a Central American country, palm trees everywhere, CrossFit workouts in HOT humidity at CrossFit PTY, family-style bicycling, rides in true yellow taxis, watching HUGE ships go through the Panama Canal, experiencing new foods, rides in tiny prop planes to remote islands, boat rides to go snorkeling, learning about indigenous cultures and their beliefs and ways of living, seeing and holding sloths (our favorite!), and zip lining through the tropical rain forest!  It was a BIG trip and we loved every minute of it!

Andiee will have awesome memories of her first trip to a foreign country!  She also had a lot of dreaming time. Every time we got into a boat, she zonked out within seconds.  Mom and Dad were constantly holding her head up!  ;-)

Expanded canals are currently being built for even larger ships and increasing amounts of traffic.  The ships that went through while we watched were certainly huge!

Some facts about the canal:
  • Excavation of the Canal was equal to digging a 10 feet trench deep by 55 wide from California to New York. 
  • The locks of the Panama Canal are seven feet thick.
  • Ships traveling between New York and San Francisco save 7,872 miles by using the Panama Canal instead of going around Cape Horn.
  • Time of passage through locks 3 hours
  • Tide on the Pacific side 20 feet
  • Tide on the Atlantic side 2.5 feet
  • Average rainfall on Atlantic side 130 inches
  • Average rainfall on Pacific side 70 inches

Family fun in Panama!
San Blas Islands, here we come!  The San Blas are an archipelago of islands along the Carribean side of Panama.  Emily was a great travel agent and set us up with a really nice place on Yandup island where we stayed in open air cabañas over the water, snorkeled, met the local Kuna people and were taught about their beliefs and ways of life.  The Kuna Indians, who run all the islands as an autonomous province with minimal interference from the national government, have maintained their own economic system, language, customs and culture, with distinctive dress, legends, music and dance and thus have avoided traditional tourism development. The economy of the islands is based on coconut sales, fishing and tourism, and they offer travelers good snorkeling and swimming. The lodging facilities are very simple and there is small availability.  The food is also simple but was delicious! The area is surrounded by reefs, some of the oldest in the world.  It was a beautiful 3 days out there! (info on Kuna from

Local Kuna women create their traditional "molas" - rainbow colored fabrics hand stitched with fish, birds, jungle animals and geometric designs.
Andiee gets a traditional women's bracelet tied around her ankle by a Kuna woman.

Hudson loved the local ladies as much as they loved him!!!

Prop plane flight over the islands.
From the islands we headed up to the mountains to visit El Valle del Antón, where there are lots of fun adventure activities like ziplining and a butterfly haven, rainforest hikes, and holding and learning about sloths!  Our B&B was really special in that the owners are animal lovers and provide a rescue for injured and orphaned sloths.  They currently had a baby 2-toed sloth and 2 teenage 3-toed sloths rescued from the highways where their mothers were killed.  Super cool to interact with these creatures!  Your life simply slows down in order to be with them.  It was a good thing!

From El Valle, we went to the Pacific side of Panama and visited the beach town of Santa Clara, where we were able to relax and recover from some gastro-intestinal distress some of the group suffered from new water exposure!
It was SUCH a great trip and we loved having everyone come and visit!  I am off to Ohio for a meeting while Mike gets to finish the last few days with Emily and Kyle, then he joins me in Chicago for a few days!
Since I had to leave early, Andiee made a "Lisa" head card so I could still be with them at the end of the trip in "spirit"!  A perfect likeness!
Family Visit to Panama Photo Album HERE