This post is part of a Panama Trip series.


Jack and I belly-up to the bar, Stacy asks us about the catamaran trip.

“We loved Dieter!” I reply.

The Frauleins, The Froggers and The Spaniards (sounds like an opening to a joke) join us on the deck, in addition to some Locals, including Erwin and his daughter.

Stacy had already raved to us about Erwin, a Belgian naturalist who leads private tours in Bocas. Erwin strolls the deck with confidence and converses easily with our fellow deckflies, who he has guided this week. We’ve booked him for tomorrow.

Stacy introduces him to us. OMG he looks just like Brad Pitt. I should have done something with my hair.


Erwin explains that he’s thankful the two of us have booked him for tomorrow: The Spaniards had asked him to take them on a grueling, eight-hour hike on a remote island and we provided him with a legitimate excuse for declining the request.

“Are they masochists?” I ask?

“No,” he replies guilelessly, “they’re Spaniards.”

BEST line of the week!

Erwin invites us to join him, his daughter, and assorted La Coralina characters on a walk to Bluff Beach in hopes of spotting sea turtles (it’s spawning season). Jack accepts and I retire to my room, tired out from today’s swimming.


La Coralina Deck

Jack fills me in on last evening’s events. No turtles were spotted, although Erwin caught a live caiman with his hands. Regardless, The Froggers were pissed that he failed to magically produce turtles (even though they were invited guests on the walk).

On Erwin, Per Jack: he joined the Belgian army at age 15, served for 17 years. Former sniper. Previously married to the daughter of a voodoo chieftan in an African village. Wanted by the Belgian government for leaving the country without signing the appropriate paperwork. Built his own house in Bocas (it cannot be reached by car; only boat). Had run a butterfly farm until his partner swindled him. Etcetera, etcetera — your typical life.

After breakfast, Rick drives us to Erwin’s boat, describing the multiple struggles (a tree falling through the roof, odd local customs, vandalism, etc.) that Stacy overcame while transforming La Coralina from near-ruins to a functioning, charming home-away-from-home: I admire her spirit and gumption. He informs us — crossing his fingers — that the local government promises to repair the road “next week,” words they’ve heard before.

Read the entire Panama Trip series.

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