On Our Way Back to the USA, We Met Some Aliens!

It’s been a long time since we posted anything about our Mexico and Central America trip and that’s because we have been busy doing a lot of driving heading back home to the states.  We stopped at a few places to say hi to some friends throughout the countries we visited and then finally crossed the Mexican/US border at Mc Allen, TX before heading up through there to visit some family.

On our way back toward California, we stopped at Roswell, NM to see if we could find some aliens.  Roswell is pretty dead and there were lots of places closed or out of business, but it still had a few things to offer for the UFO buffs out there.

One of the first places we visited was a little gift shop/black light museum which had a lot of chintzy little things to buy and a small little walk through “museum” filled with paintings and black light sculptures.  It was cool to walk through and talk with the shop owner afterwards.

We were then on our way to check out the official UFO Museum, but after reading reviews online about how people saw better displays at 4th grade science fairs and wishing they would have gotten that hour of their life back, we decided to skip it and head to another gift shop.

This particular shop had a bizarre 50′s style diner with some alien manaquins set up inside.  It was pretty creepy but great for some photos.

Overall Roswell was at least interesting to check out.  I don’t think we would have chosen to go there on our own, but just decided to see what it was all about since we were passing through on our way toward California.  If you want a true UFO experience, you might want to look into some other places, but if you have an hour or so if you are passing through, check it out.

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    Panama City and the Panama Canal

    After Santa Catalina, it was a long drive to Panama City, but well worth it.  The city itself was massive, extremely well developed and has tons of potential.

    We stayed in a part of the city called Casco Viejo which is known as Panama City’s old town.  Apparently it is where Panama was originally established back in the 1500′s.  There are tons of old buildings and the area is currently under some heavy renovation and construction.  They are trying to build up the tourism in the area with lots of posh restaurants, shops, and hotels.  It is right up against an extremely dangerous and impoverished part of town which it is squeezing out little by little.  It was a bit annoying to get around with all the construction, especially while driving, but it was fun to walk around and see the old buildings.

    The main attraction for us in Panama City was the Panama Canal and the Miraflores Locks.  We got a cab to the locks and paid $8 a person for a view of the canal as ships were passing through on the observation deck, a pass through the fantastic 4 story museum they had set up there, and a ticket to see a 10 minute mini-documentary on the history of the canal.  What a great deal!  We arrived just in time to see a few large ships passing through the locks and even a small sail boat.

    The canal has these small carts that help pull the ship through the locks and hold them in place to prevent damage to the walls.  For smaller ships, they just use a couple of guys and some rope.

    You can see the grey carts pulling the huge ship through the canal above, and below the guys helping the sail boat along with some rope.

    It was fascinating to watch as the water levels lowered and rose to help the boats traverse the canal.  In total it can take anywhere from 8-10 hours for a boat to get entirely through the canal and it’s 3 locks all the way from one ocean to the other.

    They are currently working on expanding the canal and building more locks that can help larger ships traverse through the canal as there is currently a limit on the size of ship that can pass through.  The new locks should be ready by 2014.

    Panama City was great.  If you love seeing unique cities while traveling, definitely check out Panama.

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      The Shell Beaches of Santa Catalina, Panama

      Before going to Panama City to see the canal, we made one more stop at the beach town of Santa Catalina.  We stayed on a farm just outside of town called Hibiscus Garden.  It was a beautiful place right on the beach and had a restaurant and bar.  They also had lots of animals like dogs, cats, chickens, horses, cows, etc.  It was really relaxing to wake up, have a light breakfast and then go beach combing.  We had a small house with rooms and a kitchen all to ourselves.

      We pretty much just hung out for a few days and relaxed by the beach.  We made quick friends with the dogs and a little kitten.  The dog came with us every morning to the beach and loved playing fetch.

      Here is a picture of some of the treasure we found.  They had some HUGE shells on the beach.  I made sure to grab at least a few big ones.

      Hibiscus Garden was a wonderful place to stay.  We did make it into Santa Catalina, but the town itself wasn’t really anything to write home about.  There were a handful of dive shops which we visited, but found out there were no whale sharks in season there so we passed on it.

      Next up is Panama City and the canal!

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        Boquete, Panama and White Water Rafting

        After visiting Bocas del Toro we traveled south toward the city of David.  David is a nice little city, but doesn’t really have a whole lot going on there.  It is however a great jumping off point to other nearby locations and activities.  We stopped over for the night at the Purple House Hostel before continuing onward toward the small town of Boquete, about an hour north of David.

        Boquete was very nice, small, and had lots of great people.  There is some fantastic coffee too with lots of local coffee plantations nearby.  Plenty of hostels and hotels and lots of retirees who had set up a base camp there.  Apparently after a US magazine published an article about the top 10 places in the world to retire with Boquete listed, it had a small boom of new residents with tourism sweeping through and is still being developed to this day.  It still manages to maintain it’s small town charm however, and was a treat to visit.

        We decided to visit Boquete to do some white water rafting, an activity we hadn’t experienced before on our trip.  We booked the excursion through our hostel and had a blast.  We went with another couple who had also never tried white water rafting before and we all got along great.  There were up to level 3 rapids and Steve even got knocked out of the raft once!  It was so much fun.

         

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