It’s a good start to the new year for five ladies from the Saanich Peninsula who are on a hiking trip for ther next two weeks in Panama.
The women met through the Peninsula Newcomers Club, a non-profit organization looking to build friendships among women.
Four years ago, Estlle Crews took a group of women on a trip to Arizona, a trip that would be the first of many. She did this outside of the Club, gathering people interested in outdoor activities, particularly hiking. She also took other women to Utah and then Panama.
This year, Crews has the travelling bug once again and will take a new group of five ladies on a trip to Panama, which just so happens to be where she is from.
“I heard Estlle talk about it and (I) said if she ever went again I’d be interested, but more because Estlle was raised there and so she knows the country and so it’s a very personal tour,” said Brenda Jensen, who will be one of the five.
After hearing about Crews’ trips at one of the Friday walking groups, she decided to travel there and hear about the people, history, architecture and the culture.
“So to me it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. It was definitely not on my bucket list.”
Also going on the trip is Vivian Bramwell, JoAnn Steinke and Monica Hopkins.
“I had never been to Central or South America and so when I first heard about it I had the same thought; It would just be a real opportunity to go with Estlle who was born and raised there and knows where to take us to see all the things we should see and do,” said Hopkins.
Crews said when they went to Panama last year, she wanted to incorporate cultural components, not just spend time hiking.
“My big thing is sharing the country and the people and the culture with them,” said Crews.
Some of the activities planned include a partial transit of the Panama Canal on a private yacht, a trip to Barrel Colorado Island, run by the Smithsonian Institute, a visit to an Embera tribal village and a few hikes.
The group, which left Tuesday, will be gone for two weeks. What Crews said she likes most about the trips, is that they started off as all strangers.
“For me with these ladies … none of us knew each other and they just signed up under blind faith which I took to be a wonderful compliment to me because they didn’t know me!”
The women who went to Panama last year met with those going this year last week and talked about their time there.
For Lynda McKieve who went last year, it was experiencing Panama through Crews, and her perceptions, connections and vision that made it special for her. For Helen Tremaine it was the people.
“Everybody we met down there was so proud of their country. They were so pleased to show us, to welcome us to be a part of our lives,” said Tremaine.
“They’re very warm people. They’re just so friendly. You feel safe down there too, which is great,” added fellow traveller Christine Cooper.