How Others Live on the Island

Today felt like three days rolled up into one.  After having spent the past week not venturing out for more than 100 yards of the house, I had a chance to see some of the other parts of the island.  The weather cooperated with our outing by being overcast and cool, at times drizzling a little.  I would have completely fried otherwise…  I said my thanks to Mother Nature multiple times throughout the day.

Leaving the house to see the “outside” world…

IMG_7427We set off around 10AM and our first stop was P & K’s house.  They live quite close to the start of the 5km private road (that much closer to civilization), as opposed to S & E who live at the very secluded end of the same rocky dirt path (adding ~20 more minutes or so to the long trip into town/outside world).  Even though P & K are on the same side of the island, their shoreline looked and felt very different.  It was a lot calmer and less “wild” than what I was used to at S & E’s place.  P & K are a retired couple from Texas who moved down here about 5 years ago and now they spent most of the year on the island.  As avid bird watchers and surfers, they seemed to really enjoy their life here.  Unlike S & E’s house, their place was built up vertically, allowing for a garage downstairs and a main living space on the second floor.  Sitting in their open living room made me feel as if we were in a giant tree house.  Over a steaming cup of mint tea I took advantage of their wifi connection to check my e-mail and take care of some of my admin stuff.  Somehow it felt “wrong” to be online and tapping into the outside world with so much nature around me, so I quickly folded my laptop down and spent the rest of the time with their rescued parrot named Shay.

P & K’s “tree house” in the Panamanian rainforest overlooking the Caribbean.

IMG_7441We left their house sometime past noon and drove across the island to reach the Bluff.  This part of the island had an unpaved road right up against the shoreline and at least two dozen houses, restaurants, hostels, and surf shops all along the shore.  There was music playing through the speakers, “Gringo” vacationers sipping bottles of Panamanian beer, and people riding around in scooters.  I knew we weren’t “in town” yet but already it seemed all together too loud and crowded.

We decided to have lunch in town at a place that served typical Panamanian food.  Following E’s recommendation I had some coconut rice (and beans) and chicken in curry sauce.  They had this bottle of homemade hot sauce with a delicious vinegary kick that I really liked.  I think I must have polished off half a bottle!  It was good stuff…

After lunch, we picked up some avocados and other veggies here.

IMG_7443After running a few errands (vegetable store, hardware store, liquor shop, bakery, etc) in Bocas, we called for our ride to A’s house.  We had been invited to dine with S & E’s Canadian friend A who, with her husband, just finished building a mansion over some mangroves not far away from the town of Bocas.  The only issue though, if we want to call it an issue, was that their house is only accessible by boat.  But it turns out they have their own boat and a boat guy, so we just called and asked him to come and pick us up.

This part of the island felt yet again completely different from the wild waves at S & E’s, calmer vibes at P & K’s, and even from the waters at the Bluff.  This side and the property where we headed to seemed like a big lake.  There was hardly a ripple on the surface of the water…

IMG_7447Here comes our ride.

IMG_7449 IMG_7448S & E had told me a bit about this mansion but what I saw was more than what I could have possibly imagined.  From our boat several miles away I could make out an outline of a three storied structure with a wrap-around deck that stretched far out onto the ocean.  It turned out to be 10,000 sq ft. of indoor and 6,000 sq ft. of outdoor space, all constructed from local teak.  One side of the house had a walkway that extended over the mangroves and out to solid ground, but the main house appeared to be floating on water.  It was spectacular.

From one side of the outdoor deck… no neighbors to be found anywhere.

IMG_7450One of seven (?) bedrooms.

IMG_7455View from the second floor.

IMG_7506A long walkway over water connects the main house to the rest of the property, which included the staff’s quarters and a compound development that was as large as Disney’s Epot Center (or  Auroville’s Matrimandir).  Really.  They were in the process of building a whole eco-system of replanted vegetation, a bird sanctuary, an island within the island with sea water currents flowing through, etc.  I think they called it “Earth Works(?)”  The plan was to have a resort/retreat/conference facility a few years down the line.

IMG_7453 IMG_7452We sat outside to enjoy the last light of the day and watched the moon light up night sky.  It was a beautiful evening.  I could understand why S & E end up spending the night there so often, as it was definitely a drag getting back on the boat and driving an hour to return to their house on the other side of the island.

IMG_7457A. is a restauranteur and an event planner.  There were multiples of everything and you could just tell she does everything BIG!

IMG_7462The steel bar & steps on the left is where we climbed aboard from the boat to the floating mansion.  The steel bar poking out on the right is part of the outdoor shower set up.

IMG_7459By 9PM I was exhausted.  It really felt as if I lived three days in 12 hours.  We called A’s boat guy to take us back to Bocas town and soon enough, we were on the bumpy road back to S & E’s.  I got to see everything from a house perched up in the jungle to concrete boxes some of the locals live in, to a floating McMansion all in one day.  For the rest of my time here, I’d like to just stay put where I am and hope to have another toucan sighting…

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