Thursday, November 22, 2012

Sights of Linton

I’m trying to stay positive in our current (for the last 2.5 weeks) situation of uncomfortableness, wetness, moldiness, bounciness, tiredness, stuckness and unhappiness here in Portobelo. The weather is the weather (crap) and there is – unfortunately – nowhere else to go near mainland Panama that could improve our situation. We have sleepless nights, need to keep a constant look-out for surrounding boats unpredictably moving with current and lack of wind, and everything is wet and smelly. So, I will focus on something more interesting and enjoyable for the moment.

When we returned from the magnificent San Blas islands the end of October, we stopped at a place called Isla Linton. It is near the shabby town of Puerto Lindo with no facilities and sporadic bus service to Colon, but there are a few things to do and see in the area. In the past, we never explored too much, since we were always on the way to or from somewhere else. This time, with riots going on in Colon and no way to run much needed errands (the Panamanian people burned tires and created road blocks, so you couldn’t get anywhere, buses did not ride for a week and stores were closed), we “surrendered” to some local activities.

There is a cool dinghy ride towards French run Panamarina that brings you through a narrow channel under a mangrove canopy. It is a mysterious, pretty and wonderful experience to weave your way around all the massive roots, listening for the sounds of birds and nothingness. After doing this trip a few times, you can heighten the adrenaline by planing (= driving fast and focused) this flat, constricted and winding “highway”!

Isla Linton itself sports a troop of monkeys. Sometimes they approach the beach and the dock when hearing an engine. You can go to shore to observe them or watch them be silly and funny from your safe spot in the dinghy. They have been known to bite. Once – when the monkeys were hiding – we went ashore to walk through the brush and jungle and found an amazing, long trail of leafcutter ants, transporting pieces of leaves to their nest. It is quite a spectacle to watch these tiny, purposeful creatures do their thing: crawling back and forth, greeting each other and carrying a – for them - massive sized piece of greenery.

When the weather is relatively sunny and calm, one can take the dinghy towards a palm fringed, good-looking island with an interesting reef in front of it. We anchored the dinghy in a sandy spot and dove in to snorkel amongst some reef creatures and coral. It is not as nice as in the San Blas islands, but while being stuck in Linton it is a good distraction from the daily cruising life.

To me, the most interesting excursion in the area is a trip to Isla Grande, about a mile to the northeast. In calm seas the ride is not a problem at all, but when it is choppy a decent engine is recommended so you can plane there and avoid getting soaked. Isla Grande is popular with local tourists and houses a few bars, restaurants and hotels. It was dead quiet when we visited, thanks to it being the low season and the middle of the week. We followed the only path along the waterfront and turned inland to climb the hill. The trail is easy, a bit steep and slippery at times, and brings you either to massive antennas or to an ugly lighthouse (left fork). The door of the lighthouse is open and after climbing a hundred or so winding little steps, you reach the highest viewpoint of the island. The location – though a bit scary on top of a narrow, rusty structure in a third world country – has an amazing view on a clear day. The circling vultures above add to this exhilarating moment!

Channel through the mangroves

Inhabitants of human-free Isla Linton

Trail of leafcutter ants, all the way up the tree...

Local panga on Isla Grande

View from Isla Grande

Beautiful view from the lighthouse on Isla Grande

View of the bay and the town of Isla Grande

Mark, not totally at ease on the rusty structure

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