Thursday, July 31, 2008

Thar she...flips

After leaving Isla Chapera, we circled Isla Mogo Mogo, then headed off to Isla Chitre for a quick swim. Shortly after leaving Isla Chitre heading back to Contadora, a whale's flipper broke the surface. Wow! She was swimming with her calf.

Isla Chapera

On our last day on Isla Contadora, we hired a local boatman who took us out to Isla Chapera for a swim off this lovely beach.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Playa Ejecutiva

Another lovely Contadora Island beach, this time Playa Ejecutiva!

"Hawaii Beach," Isla Contadora

The white sands of Playa Cacique ("Hawaii Beach") were our favorite on Contadora. When the tide was out, the waters were as calm as a pool, but when the tide came in, it looked more like Oahu's North Shore!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


The perfect end to a perfect day on the beach. Watching the day draw to a close with a Panamanian beer on the silky sands of Playa Cacique.

Playa Galeon, Isla Contadora

The high tide created pounding surf at Playa Cacique so we moved to the other side of the island where we found the calm waters of Playa Galeon. Ahh!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Playa Cacique at the Villa Romantica

On our first evening on Isla Contadora, we walked to the Playa Cacique as the sun was going down. Dinner was at the Villa Romantica which you can see under the palm trees.

Aeroperlas Twin Otter at Contadora Airport

Here's the little airplane that ferried us to Isla Contadora. Its registration number is HP-747APP but a 747 it's not!

Casco Viejo de Panama

A street in Panama City's "Casco Viejo" (aka San Felipe). The Casco Viejo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We had a fabulous, multi-course lunch at Manolo Caracol in the Casco Viejo. Something not to be missed if you're in Panama City.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Rain, rain and more rain!

This lovely waterfall on the way to the Finca Lerida was a gift of the weather. It rained like crazy during our stay in Boquete! Surprisingly, the summit of nearby Volcan Baru was frequently clearly visible despite the drenching.

Cafe de Boquete

Cappuccino at the Bistro Boquete made with famous Boquete coffee!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

"To the Pacific in a jiffy"

The Iver Expert enters the Miraflores Locks on the Panama Canal! Seeing the Panama Canal was a bigger thrill than any of us expected. To finally see it after knowing about it for all these felt like reaching a goal that you never knew you had. We had a wonderful lunch in the lockside restaurant and ended up spending half the day here. The words from the Animaniacs "Panama Canal" song kept running through our heads, "You can sail a cargo ship from sea to shining sea through the Panama Canal for a nominal fee." The "nominal fee" averages about $80,000, cash only, no credit cards!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

From a distance

A view of Panama's highest mountain, Volcán Barú, as seen from Isla Carenero (42 miles distant as the crow flies)! When you look at this picture, it's hard to believe that Barú rises to 11,400 feet making it taller than our own "backyard volcano," Mount Hood in Oregon!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The best beach in Bocas!

A view from Red Frog Beach on Isla Bastimentos, Bocas del Toro. We hired a local boatman to do a private transfer for us from Isla Carenero to Red Frog Beach at $20 per person. We zipped through mangrove-lined waterways to a small dock, paid a $1.00 entrance fee (you have to cross private land to access Red Frog Beach) and walked for 10 minutes through the jungle to the beach. Wow! What a beach! When we got hungry it was red beans and rice plus a cold Balboa beer at the beachside Flip Flop cafe. A spectacular day in Bocas (except we never saw the red frogs)!

Desayuno completo!

Breakfast at the Dona Mara B&B. Fresh fruit and a great cup of coffee! Great way to start the day!

Bocas del Toro!

A morning view from the beach at the Dona Mara B&B on Isla Carenero. You can actually see Volcan Baru (the tallest mountain in Panama at over 11,000 feet) from here!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Panama Skies

Flying over Gatun Lake en route to touchdown at Tocumen Airport, Panama City.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Maritime Alps: Lac des Barbarottes

The alpenrose were in bloom along the shores of Lac des Barbarottes. We were en route to the Crete des Barbarottes from where we would drop into the Vallon de Clai to loop back to our starting point at the Lacs de Vens trailhead.

Maritime Alps: Lacs de Vens

The Lacs de Vens basin is one of the gems of the Haute Tinee. Here we are hiking past the smallest of the four principal lakes in the basin on the way to Lac des Barbarottes.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Maritime Alps: Meadows of Piagu

The ridgetop meadows of Piagu offer one of the most scenic hiking opportunities in the French Maritime Alps! Three hundred sixty degree panoramas await the hiker on this ridge between the Boreon and the Fenestre valleys.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Maritime Alps: Lac Negre

Another stunning day greeted us in the French Maritime Alps. Today we hike to Lac Negre. Cupped in its rocky bowl, Lac Negre always presents a sublime scene!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Maritime Alps: Beyond Lac des Adus

Since the day was so beautiful, we decided to press on from Lac des Adus, ascending to the pass called the Col de la Vallette des Adus. The views northward toward the Pas de Prefouns and the peaks surrounding Lac Negre were remarkable!

Maritime Alps: Lac des Adus

Lovely, larch and alpenrose-fringed Lac des Adus in the French Maritime Alps. The alpenrose were not yet in full bloom during our visit this year on the Fourth of July.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Maritime Alps: The Gourd

The Refuge Cougourde and its namesake peak (in the right background). The name "cougourde" derives from the name for "gourd."

Maritime Alps: Lacs Bessons

The Lacs Bessons were still icebound on July 3 this year! Normally, the lakes are ice-free and cobalt blue at this time of year!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Maritime Alps: En route to the Colle di Finestra

Rest stop near the Rifugio Soria-Ellena en route to the Colle di Finestra ("Col de Fenestre" in French). This hike follows part of the old Route du Sel ("Salt Route") across the Alps.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Maritime Alps: Lunch with a View, Passo della Mena

A fifteen minute hike beyond the Palanfre Lakes is the Passo della Mena. The grassy pass is a great spot for enjoying views of the high peaks of the Maritime Alps!

Maritime Alps: Piccolo Cervino

The peak of Monte Frisson (also known as Piccolo Cervino, "the little Matterhorn") rises above the lower Palanfre Lake. The two small lakes at the base of Monte Frisson are known collectively as "the Mirrors of Frisson."

Hiking from Palanfre

Hiking to the alpine tarns at the base of Monte Frisson. Alpenrose lends a rosy tinge to the mountainsides.