We enjoyed a spectacular early morning entrance into the historical Spanish fortification of Portobelo, which is tucked into the only protected area east of the Panama Canal on the northern Isthmian coast. Discovered by Cristopher Columbus in 1502, the area eventually became a famous Spanish port. Most of the Peruvian gold and silver arrived on the Pacific shores of Panama and was then transported overland by mules to Portobelo and transship back to Spain.
We departed the ship on our first leg to enjoy a historical tour of this colorful Caribbean town surrounded by three main forts, a customs house, and the famous church of Black Christ. Recently, devotees made the legendary four-day pilgrimage to pay respect to Jesus of Nazareth. They walk from many regions of Panama and Central America for the annual tradition that takes place on the 21st of October.
We enjoyed our time mingling with these friendly people and admiring the work of exquisite local artisans. Portobelo was a wonderful start to our Caribbean expedition of the coast of Panama and Colombia.
Our afternoon was equally eventful. We enjoyed a performance by dazzling Congo dancers as they depicted a time of African slavery. The songs and dances of a people who survived those brutal times made up the heartbeat of our visit to Portobelo.
We also took advantage of the spectacular bay to enjoy late afternoon Zodiac rides through the rivers and mangrove that surround these forts. We saw many herons, ibises, and two- and three-toed sloths. Today was an epic day.