Today is a leisure day, but I expect people would want me to do something more than stay at the hotel watching foreign television. To some people, just being away from home is the vacation, even if you stay in bed all day. There’s no rule that you have to go out and do something exotic or eat where all the locals eat. You don’t have to immerse yourself in the culture and history of wherever you are. To satisfy those who think I should do something different, we are heading to the Gamboa Rainforest. Upon waking up, it is raining outside, leaving a mist in the air, like a fog layer, but hot.
Housekeeping comes by wanting to do something, but I wave them off. I don’t need new sheets and towels every day, though I was told that since we’re paying for the service, to take it. By the time we leave, it is shortly after 10:00am and the rain has slowed to a drizzle. The drive takes us through a nice canopy of trees lining the roadway, which has many potholes, as evidenced by the many cars in both lanes swerving into the oncoming traffic lane and off the sides of the road to avoid the holes. The Gamboa Resort is placed above Gatun Lake, a wide lake surrounded with tree-covered hills dusted with more mist. You half expect gorillas to start walking out of the forest. The whole area is withing the Soberania National Park. I took the requisite photos and video, then we drove down to the restaurant for breakfast, but it was the fancier of the two hotel eateries, being down by the marina, so we drove back to the resort, which apparently also had a restaurant. The prices were not much better, so we decided to finish our time here soon and leave for breakfast, as Luis was hungry by now.
I also ran out of battery power for my camera while walking around the resort the second time, and the spare rechargeables I brought were also empty. The gift shop had just closed for lunch and wouldn’t reopen for 30 minutes. Good thing I had my computer and the new Energizer Duo, so I could charge the batteries through the USB port on the computer for however long the notebook battery lasts, probably just under one hour. Luis found some free batteries he got as a giveaway, but those lasted only for 30 minutes of use, no wonder they were free. While those free junk batteries were still good, I was to recharge the batteries for around an hour, on the drive back to the city, before the laptop battery died. Some power is better than none, and I was able to use however much juice was in them as we stopped at a small zoo, in an area originally called Summit. The zoo was mainly just local animals in cages, like parrots, ocelots, jaguars, capuchin monkeys, turtles, etc. It was a rather run-down affair, and the 25-cent admission fee surely can’t support the upkeep.
Afterwards, Luis thinks to go to McDonald’s for breakfast (now past 2:00pm). Since we are on the toll roads, we stay on them and go to the Amador Causeway, which is a road to a newly redeveloped area of upscale shops, restaurants, and still under construction condominiums, on a former US military base. The shops and so forth are actually on three small islands, connected to each other and the mainland by this road. The main reason is to go to the Duty Free shop to look for gifts to bring home, even though there are no target recipients. I have a few items like this from previous trips, all kept in one place as emergency or backup gifts, for when one may be needed. They tend to be on the exotic side, being from overseas, which makes the gift seem more special, relatively speaking, even though it sits in a cabinet until called upon. I get a couple of things and check out the watches for myself, primarily the Citizen Eco-Drive timepieces. They seem like a good price, compared to full retail, but it’s pretty easy to get them for under retail price. While I find two models I like, I elect to save the $100+ for now until I am sure I can use it, which may be after my current leaky, creaky, and gunky watch finally dies.
This place is full of not-cheap food places, but when driving away, we end up at his house. We were coming here eventually for dinner, and since we haven’t eaten, it’s too late to go out for breakfast now (past 4:00pm). We have a cheese sandwich in the meantime, and I do a little email and visit just a few websites, mainly to keep up to date on forum discussions.
For dinner, we leave and go back on the Causeway to Acqua, a Mediterranean restaurant, “specializing” in Italian and Greek cuisine. An appetizer of garlic bread had lots of oil on it, and many of the clams in the clam plate were still closed, meaning we couldn’t eat them and it wasn’t a good deal. The minestrone soup and Spaghetti Bolognese were much different from what I expected. The soup was on the salty side, with chunks of beef, potato, and carrots inside a beef broth. Minestrones I’ve enjoyed in the past were more tomato-based, with pasta and a larger variety of vegetables in the soup. I’ve had Bolognese only a few times before, but the best one was in Tahiti (the Moorea hotel restaurant), of all places. Apparently the French can do Italian food better than Panamanians. The meat sauce was oily and salty (a seemingly common theme), the meat was mealy rather than firm, and the noodles were a bit soft for my preference in this dish. They tell me some stories and we get a phone call from faraway relatives, they all want me to come back soon. No dessert, and we take a few pictures outside of the restaurant before leaving back to the hotel.
Upon checking in on the first day, we were given a ticket good for two drinks at the hotel bar, Memories. Since this is the last night, we have to use it now or lose it. I set up all my electronics to recharge for the trip home and Luis plays on his computer before going down to the ground floor. We ask if we can bring the drinks to the room, which is acceptable, but can only choose from a small selection of choices – Luis takes a beer, I get a fruit punch with no hit of alcohol. It’s not bad, but I notice a lot of the juices in this country taste like they come from a powder mix. I don’t know if that’s actually true, but that’s what they remind me of from back home (think Tang or thick concentrates). We finish a package of chocolate cookies donated from Luis’s mom, technically my cousin, as more computer, television, and packing continues. I give Luis my Energizer Duo device, as it would be difficult, if not impossible, to find here, even though they have Office Depot shops. Online might be the only bet, and eBay only lists a unit from the UK, which is actually a different, older product with the same name. I hope I can find it again at my local Office Depot when I get back home.