A Panamanian Party to remember

Lily and her family live aboard S/Y Delphinus. They first met Oyster at the Oyster regatta in Antigua in 2016 where they were crew on Oyster 56, Britican. Lily stayed in touch with us and was going to be in Panama at the same time as the Oyster World Rally participants so we invited her and her family along to join the event held at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Fort San Lorenzo on 9th March 2016. Lily takes up the story…


The day started off with buses picking the event guests up from Shelter Bay Marina and driving to Fort San Lorenzo, the ruins of a fort overlooking the Chagres River.  The river was charted by Christopher Columbus on his final voyage to South America. The bus journey took us through lush green jungle filled with strange noises. I think I might've seen a howler monkey up in a tree.

The inside of the bus was blinding, with bright colours everywhere. The reason for this is because the clothing theme for the meet-up was "carnival". There is something called a "carnival season" in Panama, and the country was just getting to the time where people dress up in funky outfits. So that's what we did in the event. There were people in glitter-coated hats, behind shiny face masks, dressed in bright and frilly outfits.

We arrived at the fort late morning, and wandered around the ruins. According to history, the fort was built to defend Las Cruces Trail against English pirates, who attacked the Panama coast in the mid-fifteen century for their Inca gold. The fort was demolished by an attack set up in the late sixteenth century by Henry Morgan, who afterwards used the fort as his base of operations while invading Panama City.

We took a group photo before lunch, standing atop the fort ruins with our colourful display lit up in the bright sun.

Around midday, we had a lunch buffet consisting of a variety of delicious food, like curry, wontons and shrimp cocktails. I had second helpings of the passionfruit mousse. Thanks to the amazing chefs who prepared the buffet!

Soon after the plates were cleared, we heard the twiit, twiit of a whistle, the boom, boom of ngomas (traditional congo drums), and looked around to see a curious sight: there was a man waving a huge black-and-white flag and blowing into a metallic whistle. He was leading a band of three devil-drummers, five congo-dancers (the congo is a traditional Panamanian dance where ladies wear flowers in their hair and long, colourful, patchwork dresses, in which they sway their hips), two devils (these devils have sort of the faces of a Chinese dragon, and their costumes are from another traditional Panamanian dance known as the "devil dance"), a guy dressed up like a traffic warden and carrying a Gandalf-like stick, and another guy wearing two Pooh-Bear soft toys around his waist. It looked weirdly natural, though that's probably because we'd seen this a thousand times back at the Grenada Carnival. The bongo-players sat on chairs and rapped their palms against the drums while the congo-dancers sang and danced along to the music. At least two people in the audience were dragged up during each song to dance, including me. Now, I'm not a huge fan of dancing, but it was actually really fun, even if I might've looked a bit daft.

After the dancers took the final curtain call and headed off, we all headed back up to the fort to get group photographs taken with a drone. We didn't stay up there long afterwards; the afternoon sun was scorching above our heads. We went back to the buffet marquee, and sat and chatted. I learned from a group of young rally participators about the standard route of the world rally. It sounds like these people are going to some amazing places! I'm very jealous. Maybe one day in the future I'll do a world rally as well.

We caught the bus back to Shelter Bay Marina at four in the afternoon. This bus was really cool, because it had a kind of Thailand style to it: it had tassels on the royal-blue curtains, and golden embroidery on the crimson seat covers. Even the driver's steering wheel and gear stick were decorated with white dots and bright colours.

Everyone on the bus was windswept and some a little burnt from the blazing sun, but we all had a fantastic time, a unique experience and great memories.


To read more about Lily’s adventures, search for “Sailing the Globe Delphinus” on Facebook.

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