Sunday, 27 June
Like little kids in a candy store, we didn't know where to start our explorations of Panama City. We drove out to the Tucomen International airport, 20 km east of the city, a modern facility hosting Continental, Delta and American Airlines, as well as Iberia and KLM. Halfway back to the city we stopped at Playa del Este, a high-rise condo project, finding a new way to pack people in nice and tight so you can hear the neighbor's kids without straining your ears.
The general aviation airport had a flight school, closed on Sundays, with lots of hangers and lots of planes. Lots, in this case, means something like 30 or 40, the total for all of Panama. Their guard had a gun and no sense of humor, so we put off our impromptu tour of the flight ramp.
Monday, 28 June
Got started on getting the car shipped to Ecuador... Here's how it got underway, in English, as it actually transpired:
"I want to ship a car to Ecuador by boat."
In the end, we found we can get a 20 foot container (with a Jeep inside) to Ecuador for $900.00. Departures are on Tuesday and Thursday every week and take 5 to 6 days en route. We can have 6 days of free storage on the Panama end, giving us 12 days to get to the Galapagos and back to Guayaquil.
Tuesday, 29 June
The Casa de Cambio offered us little hope of a good return on the Nicaraguan currency I didn't have the foresight to exchange at the border as we left. "No demand," he said. I accepted half of what I thought it should have been worth, a loss of maybe $20, knowing that its value would decline even more as we got farther afield.
Looked at a 3000 square foot, 3-bedroom, 3-bath condo on the 17th floor of a 45 story high-rise overlooking the marina on Balboa Boulevard, the main drag running along the bay. They thought they were worth $420,000. Others must have, as well, since the year-old building had only 10 of the 50 units remaining. Construction was top-notch, with tile through-out and lots of windows. We were cautioned about buying, as the rate of new construction is outpacing demand; tomorrow's resale price may be lower than today's purchase price. That is not true for more conventional homes in the suburbs. Much of the close-in housing is on former US military land now being sold by the Panamanian government. People buy the concrete-floor, concrete-wall buildings (Fort Clayton, Howard AFB) for 75K to $125K and do a total remodeling job for an additional $80K. Inventory was nil.
Wednesday, 30 June
Jackie, a Century 21 agent in Panama City, encouraged us to visit El Valle, a two hour drive west back toward Costa Rica, and call their local office to meet another agent who could show us a property they had listed. El Valle, a community nestled high in the mountains in the filled-in center of an extinct volcano, has no Century 21 office. Nobody there knows anything about what is for sale. We were told to drive around and look for signs. Incredulous at the low level of local knowledge, we stopped at the police station for a more astute view. In the end, we got the chief of police to drive around with us, looking for signs...
Thursday, 1 July
Dana Pohl, a realtor introduced to us by Allan Templeton, a fellow abuser of Hotel Ejecutivo's free Happy Hour every evening, took us to see some nicer places, including Quarry Heights, buildings constructed for canal administrators almost 100 years ago. There is only one home available; if the termites stop holding hands, the roof will cave in.
Friday, 2 July
The heights of Alto Cerro Azul beckoned. We were driven out east of the city to what seemed to be the end of the earth, mainly because the road got narrower and bumpier as we went. Our quest ended at a small home with smaller windows and a leaky roof, but an unending 360 degree view, a marvelous location for a hamster to plant an antenna farm.
Saturday, 3 July
Our social lives are getting busier than they ever were at home. Contacts we have made have resulted in invitations to the local pilot's monthly meeting, the local ham-radio club's weekly meeting, the Newcomer's Club for Elsa, as well as local homes.