Maybe you’re tired of hearing about my adventures in Panama, but I have one last post that I really wanted to share. We took a day trip across the isthmus to the Atlantic side of the country and went along the coast to Portobelo. This town and Nombre de Dios are the towns the Spanish which would receive the Incan gold that had been brought down the Pacific Coast and crossed the isthmus. From here they would be bound by galleon back to Spain. As such they were huge targets for pirates and privateers. Raids are the reason Nombre de Dios was abandoned in favor of the more defensible Portobelo.
The drive across the isthmus was very pleasant with lots of open jungle to observe. We avoided Colon which is known as a rough town and headed East (the canal actually runs north-south counter to most people’s idea) along the coast. A beautiful drive and the location of many of the best dive locations since the water is less turbulent than on the Pacific side.
We stopped at my friend’s favorite dive shop, but the water was too choppy to get in a good dive. We also had lunch at a great place that is both a restaurant, hotel and dive shop. Las Anelas is not hard to miss as long as you keep your eyes open, but watch out as no one slows down in Panama and crossing the road can be hazardous to your health.
We finally got to Portobelo (about three hours from Panama City) and were amazed by the ruins. Most of the cannons are still where the Spanish left them two hundred years ago. Some preservation work has been done, but not a lot. The ruins mainly seem to survive just because of their remote location.
You’ll first encounter Battery Santiago a mile up the road from Portobelo and you can see a like battery on the other shore. I would not have wanted to run this gauntlet, but apparently several pirate raids did succeed.
Fort Lorenzo guarded Portobelo and fought off many raids. However, the two fell to a combined English-French party that landed on the other shore and snuck up behind the town after three days of marching. The band of 200 attacked by surprise and the Spanish, not realizing there were so few, fled.
The rest of Portbelo has its charms too. The marketplace had some of the best prices on handicrafts according to my friend. We enjoyed the old Catholic Church. A great day trip, but you can spend the night at any of the little boutique hotels along the way.
Final picture is of my wife with her new Panama hat she bought for $20. She looks pretty good in it, don’t you think?