The protests had started early. A full two weeks before the family and I were scheduled to head to Panama. A cold, determined rain fell upon the coast, and the kids and i were home alone, chilling.
"Yeeeeeeessss beautiful" I said, looking up from the pages of a favorite Travis McGee novel.
My twelve year old daughter Soleille had entered the room with a purpose. A picture of adolescent perfection. But do not let the crossed ankles, shy posture, nervous fiddling hands, or the sweet, Daddy-do-you-love-me voice, the bashful glances from behind thick lashes, or the pursing of those innocent little lips mislead you. There is simply no other creature capable of such calculated manipulation than a twelve year old girl, particularly my daughter. The birds suddenly went eerily quiet, something was not right in the forest.
"Daaaaady, i love you. I love you and i was thinking. I was thinking that, well, i'm twelve years old now, and i should probably be allowed to stay with Verne and Moa or Arlene while you and Mom and Kalum go to Panama."
"Yeah, Dad. I mean COME ON. Panama? I have a talent show coming up, i want to spend some more time with Tango (her horse), and, you know, Trish and Hanna want me to help them pick out some new clothes and (sigh...) god you wouldn't understand. Anyway, about Panama...."
"I thought you wanted to go to Panama?"
"Well, Dad. Yeah, i SAID i wanted to go to Panama but.... Anyway, look. I've just got a bunch of stuff coming up, GIRL STUFF, you probably wouldn't understand...So, yeah."
She likes to use that phrase with me lately - GIRL STUFF. As if i don't know what THAT means.
"Soleille, there's no discussion here. Panama is a family trip and we are all going."
She gasped and noticeably twitched, my words had done a good job of knocking the wind out of her.
"Daaaaaaaaddddddyyyyy....PLEASE!" More wriggling and eye lash batting.
"Soleille, you and your boyfriend will make it through the ten days while we are gone. If he can't live without you for ten days then he's certainly not the man for you." And i realized my mistake as soon as i'd said it.
Like a prehistoric volcano awakening from a ten thousand year slumber i watched her little body tremble, shake, and then outright convulse as she stood up to her full height, rocked forward to her tiptoes and with fists clenched at her side erupt with the force of Mount St. Helens.
"I DON'T CARE WHAT YOU SAY!!! I AM NOT GOING TO PANAMA!!!! AND JESSE LOVES MEEEEEE!!!"
The force of the blast flipped a few pages over in the book i was reading, the ash cloud billowing skywayrd as she bolted from the room, lava flowing down her cheeks as she ran. I cast a cautious glance around the room for what surely would have been a secondary explosion if my wife Catherine would have been home.
Kalum, my ten year old son who up until this point had remained silent as he flipped through a surf mag on the adjacent couch, looked up at me over the magazine and deadpanned a "Nice work Dad" as only a kid can. Then, staying one step ahead, asked "Hey, if Soleille isn't coming can i bring one of my friends instead?"
I looked up at the sky through the skylight, cold dark clouds drifting overhead. I thought about a lot of things in the next five minutes. The only sounds in the house a faint crying, a splattering of rain, and a ten year old lazily flipping pages in a magazine. All of a sudden i burst out and sang the first few lines of "PA-NA-MA!!!!" by Van Halen, at the top of my lungs and with almost zealot fervor.
"I HATE PANAMA!!!!", came the cry from the bedroom. "AND I LOVE JESSE TOO!!!"
"Boy is Mom going to be pissed at you when she gets home!!!" from the ten year old wiseass doing a very poor job of minding his own business on the next couch.
Two weeks later it was a miracle i didn't have to drag my daughter kicking and screaming onto that airplane. It eventually took a new iPod touch, the commitment of several hundred dollars of shopping allowance in Panama City, and the promise that I wouldn't ever, EVER bug her about her boyfriend again. EVER.
Goddamnit they certainly learn early.
When Mexicana airlines finally belched us into Panama City after two and a half days of non-stop travel the Temple family was exhausted i assure you. We spent the night at a hotel near the airport, enjoyed a wonderful dinner, a much needed dip in the pool, and an early bedtime. Four countries, three time zones, and one hell of a beating on the credit card later, i finally rested my head. Soleille was Facebooking with her boyfriend on the wifi network, and as Cath and Kalum talked surf strategy as the lights went out i allowed myself an exhausted sigh of relief, thinking as i drifted off, that maybe, just maybe, this trip would turn out OK.
The next morning we drove from Panama City to Chad's Paradise Lodge, enjoying a beautiful tour of the Panamanian countryside. I've spent a lot of time looking at Panama from the water, and thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to see more of the country via land. Lush tropical forests and rich, fertile farmland filled the landscape. Deep, vivid greens and vibrant flora permeate the land. The whole country has a very Caribbean feel to it. The people and their lifestyle jostle along to a jovial rhythm, the cadence of the language begging you to groove when you speak. Far from the mumbling Spanish i'm used to, or the arid, dust filled days of Mexican winters, Panama promises an infusion of more vibrant rhythms, something, of late, that i'm more oft to seek.
Below: Sexy Sashimi
We arrived at Chad's Paradise Lodge http://www.paradise-fishing-lodge.com/ around lunchtime, just in time to watch the sun crawl out from behind some low level clouds and illuminate the billion dollar view in front of Chad's place. Curtis and Chad were waiting with an ample supply of ice cold beers and we all exchanged greetings and stories while the kids and Cath dove for the pool.
Chad has spent several years carving out a niche in the Panamanian countryside, the fruits of his obviously backbreaking efforts are glorious. His lodge sprawls over several hectares of rolling hillside, offering a nearly three hundred degree waterfront view. From his massive dining and lounge area it's possible to see Islas Coiba, Secas, Ladrones and an infinite number of nearshore islands and inlets as well. The possibilities, as they say, are endless.
We soaked in the view, enjoying Chad's hospitality until the hour of the day forced us to start thinking about making our way over to Vida Nueva with Curtis, meeting Kevin and his crew shortly before a feast hit the table that was quite literally fit for a king. Just down the road from Chad's place, Vida Nueva http://www.vidanuevapanama.com/home.html# is Kevin's commitment to the future and viability of this resource and region. Vida is a sprawling 500 acre development that will soon boast marinas, private home sites, equestrian centers, public parks and recreation areas, and access to some of the planets best fishing grounds. World famous Hannibal bank, Islas Montuosa, Coiba, and the myriad of other hot spots are only a stone's throw away. With Chad's place and Vida Nueva putting this kind of effort and infrastructure into the local area it won't be long before this place goes richter. My head gets to thinking in situations like this.
Below: A young breed of surfers
After an excellent dinner at Kevin's house Curtis took us all up to see the property and some more of the surrounding area. Curtis' property lies in the heart of the Vida development, a very fortunate location, and enjoys incredible views and access to the adjacent amenities. In five years this is going to be THE place to be in Panama amigos, remember you heard it here first!!!
The next morning Curtis arranged for a surf trip for Cath and the kids while Kevin, Curtis, Chad, and I boarded one of Chad's CC's for a trip offshore. Barely in the country for twenty four hours and we're already fishing and surfing, giddy up!!!
We blasted off from the dock fully stocked with provisions and one hell of a head full of steam. The bite was wide open on tunas out there and when you're roaring offshore towards the Hannibal bank and Coiba island first thing in the morning life just doesn't get any better than this.
Coiba Island loomed in the distance and the first massive bird school came into view. Battle stations!!!
Below: A large Rooster is taken off Panama
Kevin, Curtis and I dove for the popper rods as a school of tunas detonated on a bait ball under some floating debris. First, second, and third popper to hit the water meant HOOK-UP!!! as 50 - 150# tunas annihilated our topwater gear and tore ass for the deep. Three hundred and sixty degrees around the boat the tunas went crazy, wild eyed, frantic pandemonium on all fronts. Each cast created chaos as fish literally catapulted over themselves in psychotic madness for our poppers. Chad's other boats homed in on our position and went bendo within seconds. MADNESS MADNESS MADNESS!!!!
We spent three exhausting hours battling tunas before our arms, backs, and rotator cuffs gave out. At one point i looked up from behind the camera and said - "HEY, WE'VE ONLY BEEN FISHING FOR THREE HOURS AND NONE OF US HAVE ANYTHING LEFT!!!!"
We let the captain and crew nail a few and then decided to head inshore for some roosters and pargos. Because this is Panama we don't say we're going to go look for some inshore species, no. We say, who want's the next one?!?!?!?
After a few hours of inshore fun we were DONE. DONE DONE DONE. Take me back to the lodge, give me a bucket of beer, and a swim in the pool. There is only so much madness a man can take.
Below: A large Yellowfin hits the deck
Another spectacular sunset, feast at the Casa, and an early departure for bed. Cath and the kids were overly sunburnt and happy, not a word from Soleille about the boyfriend all day.
I remember turning to Curtis at one point at dinner and asking him if he thought we should do something exciting tomorrow instead. HA! Touche said Curto and up the coast we went on a surf safari the following day. Cath and Kalum were in heaven. Miles of pristine punchy beach breaks to play with and feasts in oceanfront restaurants all day. Back to the Vida house later that night and another wonderfully exhausted sleep.
The next morning we took of for Boquete, a quaint mountain village two hours inland from the Chiriqui region where Curtis promised Soleille would find some of the best horseback riding around. By this time in the trip the kids were warming up to Uncle Curtis, and Uncle Curtis was quickly realizing he had more than his hands full dealing with the two of them. By the time we'd reached Boquete and checked into the hotel Uncle Curtis became Fanty Curtis after a two hour marathon of pre-teenage sarcastic shenanigans at their best. Curtis has a baby on the way in June, so i kept reminding him that his Jedi training was well underway.
Fanty Curtis became the ultimate tour guide, scoring us the best hotel in Boquete, booking Soleille and everyone on a horseback ride, pointing out notable landmarks and history, and taking the abuse from the kids like a champ. Cath and I almost felt like we were on vacation, something we've needed together for years.
Two days in Boquete and we started our way back to the coast, and eventually to Panama City where i had a promise to keep. Soleille had done a good job up until this point in the trip, only asking "when are we going shopping?" and "when are we going home?" about 999,999 times. Fanty Curtis was even getting excited about the prospect of shopping in one of Panama Cities massive malls, so off we eventually went.
At some point during the drive back to the city Fanty relented the wheel, and no sooner had i started driving then a Panamanian policeman decided JT was flying a little too fast. I pulled the rental truck over while Curtis coached me on Panamanian roadside police stop etiquette. "It's not Mexico!" he started off saying, "don't go for the billfold just yet!"
The cop was stern at first, but i soon had him smiling. Take pity on the stupid gringo, i pleaded. At which point my daughter rolled down her window in the back seat.
"Should i give your dad a ticket?" he said to her in spanish.
"BOOK HIM DANO!!!" she told him fluently right back.
Below: A nice Pargo
It was so funny he had no choice but to let us go. Still, i took twenty dollars off Soleille's shopping allowance nonetheless.
On we went towards Panama City, where i turned two pre-teens and their mother loose with fist-fulls of Balboas while Fanty Curtis and i tried in earnest to keep up. Nothing like contributing to the local economic stimulus package, secretly hoping that my credit cards would mysteriously shut off. Oh but the joys of being a father and husband, and the sense of togetherness a day in the mall can bring to a family. I've come a long way in the last few years i tell you. Happy, happy...joy, joy...cha-ching! ROTFL!!!
Below: Great Family fun...
With our financial security all but exhausted we decided to head up the coast again for our final day. Fanty Curtis knew of a secret little river mouth break that failed to disappoint the next morning. There's something special about pulling up the truck to the beach, hopping out, looking up and down in each direction for several miles, not seeing another soul around, shrugging your shoulders, scratching your head, then reaching for your surf board and paddling out into perfect left handers all morning long.
Sonofabitch people if it gets any better than this....
Thanks to Chad and his crew at Paradise Lodge, Kevin and his team and Vida Nueva, and the unwavering professionalism and performance of Fanty himself.
One for the record books amigo, trips like these, while full of fishing, and surfing, and adventures, mean so much else.
Panama will be in our very near future, so stay tuned......
For more information on fishing with Captain Josh Temple, go to Primetimeadv.com or click below...