Images in this post are mostly random (some just phone shots) and do not necessarily illustrate specific text.
On the first day in Pedasí: Arrival
Getting to Pedasí from Panama City by bus is fairly straightforward. We took an Uber to the Albrook bus terminal ($4.68), caught the next bus to Las Tablas ($9.70 each + 25 cents to get through the turnstile).
On the bus from Panama City we met a couple from Vernon, Rolph and Nellie), who are building a place near Pedasí. They were heading in for a four-month stay. It was helpful having them around when we arrived in Las Tablas and we were surrounded by immigration officers (no surprise to Nellie). Odd since we came through immigration when we landed in Panama City, but we still had to talk to these fellows and show them our passports. Once they were done with us, though, they helped us find a taxi ($20 because we shared it with an aging German surfer and his board at the last minute) for the 40-minute trip to Pedasí. We had great instructions to follow from our AirBnB host, so easily found our home for the next month.
We arrived early enough to walk into town (a few minutes up a dirt road and around the corner onto the main street) and pick up a few groceries for coffee and breakfast the next day.
On the second day in Pedasí: Music
I worked, most of the time sitting out on our patio under a fan, being entertained by butterflies and hummingbirds darting among the greenery that is our back yard.
Ken wandered through town, scoping out restaurant menus, and bike and car rentals. For bikes, he found Baba’s a couple of blocks back from the main street with bicycles for $7/day or $10/day for two. The one car rental place in town at Pedasí Tours couldn’t provide even estimate pricing because her computer was down. We’ll have to check this one out later since we’ll want to rent a car at least once for a trip around the Azuero Peninsula.
In the evening, we walked to Smiley’s, a common expat hangout, for a drink and Friday-night live music. The menu looked reasonable and the food plentiful and good, so we’ll have to return for a meal.
On the third day in Pedasí: Lost
Time to get to the ocean, 3.4km away from our home. (It wouldn’t be a bad walk if it wasn’t for the 30+ degree temperatures and high humidity.) We walked out to the Terpel gas station, which is right at the top of the road to the beach, to hail a taxi. Chatted with another woman who was standing there and she was also waiting for one and had been for a while. After a bit, we gave up and wandered a few blocks farther into town to the bus stop/taxi stand. We found a driver vacuuming out his cab, all floor mats out of the car. With a little encouragement from another fellow, he returned the mats to the car and off we went to the beach ($2.50).
We found fishing boats, a police building, a large shelter with music blasting through it, and a little pub. We wandered along the beach to find a bit of shade, changed, and hopped in. Heaven! Swimmable waves, warm water, pleasant sand. The upper part of the beach was strewn with human-made waste, which we later found out was typical of this time of year with a beach cleanup planned a week or so hence.
When we were done swimming, we realized we should probably have asked the taxi driver to return for us. We tried calling a couple of Googled taxi numbers with no success. Finally, a taxi arrived, but it was for a couple fellows who were in the pub. We wangled our way into sharing the cab back into town. We were the first dropped off, and the driver charged us the whole amount ($2.50) so our cab mates got a free ride but, more to the point, we made it home.
After showers and sundown when things cool off a little, we headed out for a walk to find another restaurant we had heard about for Mexican food reasonably priced. We couldn’t find Tortuga’s in our offline maps app (maps.me), but Google Maps said it was a 1.3km walk down the beach road. Seemed easy enough, but when we arrived (according to Google), after wandering along a very dark country road guided only by our tiny flashlights, we found nothing resembling a restaurant. We wandered back a little, tried to re-Google, retraced our steps and went a little farther, and then finally gave up when it felt just a bit too creepy. We decided that it must be old info and no longer around, and ended up back at Smiley’s for a good dinner, but not quite what we had planned on.
On the fourth day in Pedasí: Found
We saw a poster advertising Tortuga’s 2nd anniversary celebration – last night. Thank you, Google Maps.
Our host couple. Christine and Wayne, let us know they were going to go out for dinner to a nearby restaurant and asked if we’d like to join. They invited their neighbours, Jim and Abbie, as well. (Jim and Abbie have been here about a year. Wayne built their house as well as the one we are staying in.) The six of us trouped down the road only to find the nearby restaurant closed (and Christine wondering how they could stay in business since they were closed the last time she’d tried to go as well). After a bit of conferring, they decided on another restaurant, Il Grappolo not far from the main square, where we ate a very good margherita pizza (plenty to share between two, $9), shared in a bottle of red wine ($20) and plates of bruschetta ($7). A complementary liqueur (possibly because the owners knew our dining companions) topped off the meal nicely.
On the fifth day in Pedasí: FIVE GOLDEN …
Actually, nothing golden but the sun. I worked. Perhaps a good time to explain the grocery situation here in Pedasí.
This is a small town with one main street. On said street are two small supermarkets, one at each end of town (about 1km apart), and a mini-super (even smaller than the other two) that is attached to the Terpel gas station (there is one other gas station at the other end of town). In addition to these three stores, there are a handful of tiendas (tiny shops similar to what we would have called corner stores growing up) scattered among the houses and restaurants on side streets.
Each of the three larger stores has a small meat and poultry counter, and they each carry a bit of produce (root vegetables, bananas) on display plus a couple of refrigerator units holding more perishable produce (including, unfortunately, tomatoes, which really shouldn’t be refrigerated but probably need to be in this climate). Apples are sold individually, not by the pound or kilogram. Carrots are packaged in plastic bags of two or three. We tried a couple of corn cobs similarly plastic wrapped and they were dry, mealy, and a bit brown.
We can find many other supplies that we need, or at least make do with what we find, but the produce is very disappointing. We are not aware of any weekly markets. It seems that most people drive to Las Tablas (40 minutes for one large supermarket) or even farther to Chitre where there are several grocery stores to choose from. Not having a car limits us here, and renting a car ($67/day we have now learned) is only an option when we want to make a day of it, definitely not just for a grocery run. We might try to take the bus back to Las Tablas ($1.70) one of these days to see if the produce there is any better.
On the 8th day in Pedasí: Christmas baking
With pride (and a touch of jealousy), I’ve been hearing about and seeing pictures of our son Kyle flawlessly baking up the traditional family recipes for fattigman (deep fried cookie), jule kake (Christmas bread), shortbread, and fruitcake. Surely, I could manage at least one treat here in Pedasí? Since shortbread has the fewest ingredients, it seemed like a good choice, but I couldn’t find cornstarch at any of the stores. I moaned about this Christine, our host, and she kindly offered up her large container.
No cookie press for fancy shapes, and no decorations, but I did pull off a half recipe of shortbread, baked almost perfectly in our little easy bake oven.
We tried another swim today, cabbing to the beach (being sure to get a number to call for a return ride). A little ways into the water I started feeling like little sticks were banging into me, all over. I couldn’t get away fast enough. Ken tried to figure out what was causing this sensation, but couldn’t see anything, and though I couldn’t stand it, there were no obvious marks on our skin.
When we were done, we called our driver back. He said, no, he couldn’t come, as he was eating dinner. I tried another number I’d been given for the taxi stand. I thought (hoped) the person who answered said he would be down in about 10 minutes. Thankfully, he was.
On the 9th day in Pedasí: Work and missing out
Our hosts planned a trip to Isla Iguana, where you book a boat, grab a cooler, and head out to the nearby island for a day of swimming and snorkelling. Unfortunately for me, she planned it on one of my workdays, and I couldn’t switch due to other people taking days off for Christmas travel.
They had a wonderful day, but while talking with them about it we asked about our swimming experience the day before. Tiny jellyfish, we were told, and they were also out by Isla Iguana. Dang! That was a planned day trip, but now I’m not so sure.
On the 10th, 11th, and 12th days in Pedasí: Christmas
Christmastime in Pedasí. We booked a Christmas Eve dinner and caroling at Smiley’s (roast chicken, ham, mashed potatoes, stuffing and gravy, and a bit o’ waldorf salad). We were seated with two couples (parents, daughter and son-in-law) who were also from Calgary (go figure). Through the evening we realized that the daughter-in-law had worked at Red Cross during the 2013 flood and her husband had volunteered, and we had definitely spoken and otherwise crossed paths. What a small world it truly is.
In contrast with Christmas at home, where the city shuts down and everyone hunkers down to celebrate with family, friends and feast, here the town sponsors an afternoon of fun for the kids, complete with bouncy castles, popcorn, and goodies. This is followed by a parade down the main street and around the square. Though there are a few floats, the majority of the parade comprises other modes of transport wrapped in lights, including babies in little push buggies, wearing flashing santa hats and red T-shirts, bicycles, ATVs (Santa atop a camo-painted one), and tractors. Following the parade, everyone (many dressed at least partially in red) congregates at the town square. Hot dog, shaved ice and ice cream sellers do a brisk business as the band belts out popular Spanish tunes from the glowing gazebo.
As we walk home at about 10:00, fireworks explode nearby and light up the sky. Here, Christmas is for families and the communities in which they live.