The Enchantment of the Beautiful Mountains of El Valle

El Valle I am told is one of the best places in Panama for watching tropical birds found in the valley and in the cloud forest.With 350 species of birds that have been registered in El Valle and the surrounding area, it has me excited to wake up at the crack of dawn at the first sound of morning birds!DSC02048El Valle is an approximate 45 minutes drive from Coronado and is a beautiful town high in the mountains of Panama, on the floor of the largest inhabited volcano crater in the world.The road is curvy and narrow and caution should be taken driving towards El Valle with Panamanians driving fast. Once a crater lake, this quiet village became home to Indians from the surrounding mountains who have been there for thousands of years.It is an extremely scenic drive up the mountain, and you can feel the temperature become cooler than the intense heat of Coronado.


We left to go to El Valle from Coronado for 4 days to Cabanas Potosi which is a beautiful jungle location with beautiful gardens.Dennis Wenthold and his wife Mireya greeted us with relaxed and accurate directions on how to get to the local waterfalls, rivers and restaurants. They gave us fresh mango juice,very extensive recommendations and offered us a ride into town. The room was beautifully decorated and they made sure we had everything that we needed including many ripe grapefruits from their trees.


Mireya prepared a special herbal tea blend from her mint tree for my very sore throat which was now getting very painful.

We then walked to a beautiful river and waterfall about 30 minutes away and hiked up the river.It was Chorro Las Mosas Waterfalls along Rio Anton. There are natural swimming areas where local youth venture very dangerous jumps in to the pool below.There is a danger to slipping and falling on the rocks hidden under the water and ending up in one of the caves below.There were several beautiful cascading waterfalls near a slippery rock face.We went for a wonderful hike and I took many beautiful pictures with my Sony camera. I was reaching over to get a great shot of the river at an angle, while climbing on rocks and to my shock and dismay the camera fell in the river. I think you can see from this picture how it could be fumbled. I am constantly humbled and learning!


I retrieved it floating quickly down the river, but even after such a short soak in the water it was not to be resuscitated. Glenn tried by drying it out with rice in a bag but it remains sadly quiet and unresponsive to this day. I loved the quality of the pictures it took, however it was not hardy enough.As careful as I am with a camera the constant danger of sand, rain and dampness after swimming in the ocean demands a waterproof camera.Last year in Costa Rica my favourite Panasonic quit after a light splash of a wave while hiking.

In town near a small grocery store we saw what looked like the local method of transportation. They all climbed into the vehicles shown, and the corner store appeared to be a waiting area.


There are many sloths is El Valle,so many that we saw a sloth crossing sign. We were told by the owner that a baby sloth was hanging from their door.The evening birds had an absolutely  amazing chorus. Later that evening I realized that I was going to have to seek medical treatment for the sore throat, as it was not improving with various other  herbal remedies that I had brought. We sadly had to cancel the rest of our trip in El Valle so I could go and see a Doctor. I had not at all seen enough of this beautiful country area.

Dennis offered to drive us to Coronado so I could see a doctor.I was very grateful. We went to a clinic near the shopping mall in Coronado. After a very short wait in the air conditioned office I saw the doctor on call, Dr. Levy who spoke English very well. He was knowledgable and friendly. He confirmed after taking my vital signs that it was indeed a nasty local flu that had been going around Coronado and prescribed antibiotics,probiotics and pain medicine. After my visit I paid $15.00 US to the office. Getting the prescriptions was also very efficient. Everyone lines up along the counter and the prescription is filled quickly as you move down the line sideways from speaking to the pharmacist(no English) to the check out. Of course I looked up the medication and it was nowhere near anything that I felt comfortable taking.I continued to take the oregano and echanesia and ASA that I had brought.At least I had medication on hand in just case. In our travels, I must say that was the worst sore throat and fever I have ever experienced. Glenn bought me a new camera which was a challenging feat to say the least. It is a Pentax, very hardy and destruction proof. It did not have the battery in the box we discovered after we travelled back so we had to return and wait in line at the Coronado department store. We are learning to maintain a sense of humour and be relaxed grateful and lighthearted.

After two more restful incredible days in Coronado at one of Sarah’s great beach front accommodations, we travelled to Playa Venao (45 minutes outside of Pedasi).We had planned to take the bus there, however there was conflicting evidence and no accurate schedules.”Just stand at the bus stop” did not work for us at this point as the story about how to get there changed. There was a couple from Sweden who had a challenge with the bus to Bouquet and ended up back in Coronado. We hired Pedro to drive us from Coronado to Playa Veneo, which is approximately a 5 hour drive and it was thoroughly entertaining! Pedro loves the land and had a variety of anecdotes, history and stories. The highway turned into vast and wide country with incredible trees, farm and rangeland. There was an opportunity to get lost driving in towns along the way such as Las Tablas, but he expertly navigated us to our remote destination in Venao with charm and ease.

My next posts will be on Playa Venao,Pedasi,driving the Pan-American Highway, Isla Boca Brava and Boca Chica.We are on our way in the morning to a far away island snorkelling. I am taking my SPOT!





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Coronado Beach Town with Black and White Shimmering Sand

Panama Sarah’s driver, Pedro picked us up as scheduled at 11 am from our apartment in Panama City. He is an engaging man, great storyteller and extremely knowledgable about Panamanian history. Pedro was born in Panama, then moved to Ontario for over 25 years working as a jockey and horse trainer at a race tracks. Each year he visited Panama he bought a piece of property and he now proudly owns 18 properties which he rents out. He presently lives in his beautiful house in a rural area outside of Coronado where he has built a spa. He works as a driver occasionally as he enjoys meeting new and interesting people. Along the highway to Coronado we spotted the peculiar sight of a rather large mattress loosely tied with one rope to the top of a car going down the highway at top speed. As we pulled up to Coronado the streets looked clean, neat and well cared for. He drove us to Sarah’s Casitas in Coronado which is a couple short blocks from the beach.. They were nicely decorated and had an attached kitchen that was fully equipped. There was a refreshing pool among beautiful palm trees in her back garden where we spent much of our time. Sarah was welcoming and extremely knowledgable about the Coronado area and expat life. She has a wonderful sense of humour and is very helpful and engaging. That evening she hosted a wonderful and friendly barbecue at her home where we met Canadians and Americans that have moved to Coronado area. They shared their unique and interesting experiences with us regarding moving and living in the area. One couple had just been to Columbia and another to Boquete. We met neighbours and friends that had been in Coronado for many years and moved there for different reasons. Common amongst them was the attraction to the beach lifestyle, lower cost of living, many business opportunities and great real estate values.


We went for several long walks on the black and white glimmering sand beaches. The beaches were very quiet and the temperature was extremely hot. With the tide coming up and back tracking a long hot ways not being an attractive option we decided to take a short cut. We got off the beach onto an old construction site and climbed a concrete wall that looked like a fairly easy hop to the road behind it. It seemed like a good idea at the time.Somehow in the escapade my hand found a piece of hidden wire slicing my palm in a long cut. Glenn cleaned it and we wrapped it in a cloth we had and kept walking. We had walked all the way from Coronado to Gorgona. We just missed a little white local bus which does frequent rounds in the area for about 35 cents, depending how far you are going. We found a taxi for a very reasonable $3 back to Coronado to get groceries. There are two main groceries in Coronado the Super 99 and Reys. After shopping in both stores we found we preferred Reys for better selection, organization and fresh vegetables.

Every Tuesday the Bluwater Grill in Gorgona has a business networking meeting. There were approximately 20 expats to sharing ideas and presenting their businesses. People also endorse other business’s they have tried and enjoyed. There is a featured speaker at each meeting who gives a longer presentation. After the speaker each person had 45 seconds to stand up and speak about their business or idea to the meeting. Everyone present gave eloquent and entertaining presentations. Glenn’s ad-lib speech was surprisingly confident and entertaining. When it came to my turn, I was a a bundle of nerves and broke out into a sweat. I had a 10 minute powerpoint prepared and found out that it needed to be reduced to 45 seconds.Despite the fact that the microphone did not work I was my genuine,authentic self and got my message across.


Coronado is a beautiful network of friendly welcoming people in a well organized community with beautiful beaches.

My next posts will be on El Valle, medical treatment in Coronado,Playa Venao, Pedasi and Boca Chica.

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Casco Viejo;I Know My Horse Could Find Her Way Down These Charming,Narrow Cobblestone Streets,But Can We?

I am writing at 4:30 am in the beautiful beach community of Pedasi. For me this is the most beautiful and serene time of day to practice yoga. The roosters are crowing,with cattle mooing and horses are grazing.Many jungle and bird sounds filter through the big open air windows in our country vacation rental home  close to the town and beach. I can hear howler monkeys in the distance, as they echo several miles away. You have to be listening from here, but they are near rivers close to our location. Writing the blog has been challenging with quickly moving travel plans, internet connection, and  an illness that needed medical attention…more on that later.

Prior to the jungle adventure previously posted we journeyed through Casco Viejo.This historical part of Panama City was a short but fast and furious taxi ride away from our apartment. Although I vowed never to get into a taxi without a seatbelt after a harrowing near miss with a bus on  a previous trip at a traffic circle,I found myself without a seatbelt once again.To distract myself,I opened and shut my eyes intermittently looking at the view,and practiced my meditation and breathing. There is no place for panic on a romantic outing! Chaos is a word, however here it seems the meaning takes on a whole new order. It is confusion that bounces and rattles in a vast melting pot of honking.


Entering the colonial part of the city was a sight that was astounding and impressive. Many buildings have been restored to their colonial glory. the presidential palace is there with many armed guards, and it feels like an extremely safe place to be.Foreign and Panamanian residents have moved into high priced apartments,shops and restaurants are prospering, and tourists are enjoying the beautiful city squares,churches and architecture.It offers a unique feeling of transition, as well as tradition, with old stone,three and four story buildings with red tile roofs,rough iron railings around balconies decorated with potted plants, surrounded by impressive squares and ruins.We stopped at a local square to have a refreshing local Panamanian beer.Close by was a church with an artist painting. Concerts of classical music opera, ballet are held here as well as jazz….there is a spectacular jazz festival each January.

The presidential palace(Palace of the Herons or Palacio de las Garzas) stands along the waterfront overlooking Panama Bay, with many armed guards, in elegant uniforms.My Palace picture  will not download right now,but I will add it later.

Of course I had to take Glenn to traditional clothing shops. I had a loose pair of light cotton pants in mind, however the cotton was either really thick, or if it looked like it could work , a wrap around that was a science project as it was sewed together or the legs were extremely short. The Panamanian shop owner was of great assistance, and between my sign language and her intelligence, we understood each other. She was abrupt and then smiled and looked at me with amusement.





On the way home to the apartment we took a taxi to the local “Super”. I offered to go in while Glenn waited in the taxi. Now, what I had in mind was chickpeas, salad,the crackers we like and toothpaste  ….keeping it nice and simple. The store appeared to be small from the outside, and I had visioned a quick shop. What looked small from the outside was a huge version of the smaller stores with a larger version of chaos.A quick trip can easily be a long one I realized, and focused on my list. As soon as I took my cart in the middle of it all and the wheel failed in the isle next to a stack of eggs that were not refrigerated next to the white bread isle, I knew I was in trouble. Getting a new cart took some time and I started a fresh expedition. Glenn found me studying labels and brought to my attention that I had been gone for an extremely long time.To my surprise after waiting in line our 50 dollar US bill was to be documented with a passport, name and we waited  for the manager to come to the till for his signature and close study of the bill. A hummingbird, I quickly move to and from, and am now willing to finally slow down, take a poetic perspective, and go with the slower pace here. After all, it will get done. I have quickly learned to use the best non verbal communication of all;a joyful genuine smile.This is universal in all languages.

“Perfection is attained by slow degrees;it requires the hand of time” Voltaire

My next posts will be on Coronado,El Valle,Playa Veneo and Pedasi. I will catch up in a local bakery and cafe. Our adventure has just begun! After taking the bus and assessing the amount of time it will take,we are going to rent a car.



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Wounaan Indian Tribe,Chagres River and Soberania National Park near Gamboa,Panama

We had an excellent jungle boat tour with “Barefoot Panama Tours” on Lake Gatun near Gamboa, Panama. This is part of the Panama Canal water complex. The Panama Canal is only 30 minutes north of Panama City. The canal requires a vast rainforest watershed to feed water to its lock system, which uses millions of gallons each day. For this reason the canal has to preserve its watersheds, making for plentiful pristine rainforests. Our guide Ross was a knowledgeable and engaging gentleman. He has a love of nature, culture and the history of the country of which he shares in a very enthusiastic and entertaining manner. He picked us up early in the morning from our apartment in Panama City and before long we were in the rainforest amongst the sights and sounds of the jungle. A Capuchin monkey tribe was all around us in the trees, some carrying their clinging babies. On prominent display in the foreground, amongst the constant chattering and shrieks from his family as they leaped and climbed the vine-covered jungle forest, was a large dominant male. Each group is usually between 15-30 monkeys.

Continuing our peaceful boat trip, we wound our way through grassy reeds, the strong sun rays seeping through the many layers of jungle foliage.

We stopped again to marvel at a large troop of tiny Geoffrey’s Tamarin Monkeys found in Panama and Columbia. They are black and white with a red, brownish nape with a white triangle shape patch on their forehead. They excitedly chattered and danced in an enormous tree next to our boat on the water, some coming for a brief visit on board.

We saw many beautiful multicoloured iguanas both large and small while howler monkeys made their low basal calls close by.

We stopped at a small island where Glenn did aerial drone photography for Ross’s company. He took off from the front of a pontoon boat with a compact space cleared out at the front. Our guide Ross proved to have very steady nerves and hands as he agreed to hand catch the drone on its return. We then made our way through the Panama Canal for several miles to reach the Gamboa Rainforest Resort. We then transferred to a narrow, flat-bottomed boat for the quick trip to visit a Wounaan Indigenous tribe’s nearby village.This incredible adventure can be see by video on the link below.

A young boy from the tribe picked us up at a unique spot. We got on the boat, and a could feel the heat, mist and steam from the forest amidst tropical bird sounds. A toucan flying with it’s significant long beak caught my eye. We arrived at the village for an extremely educational experience!

The Wounaan are a Panamanian group based originally in the Darien region. They are also known as the Wounana, Wound Meu, Noenama and by the homogenizing name Choco used to group together numerous Indigenous groups. They are a sub group of the Embera-Wounaan people, have a population of approximately 6,800 and speak Wounaan dialects originating from languages of the Chocoan family. Most Wounaan specifically inhabit villages within or just outside two Embera-Wounaan Comarcas. A Comarcas according to the dictionary, is an administrative region for an area with a substantial Indian population. Outside of these Comarcas some still live along the Darien rivers.Traditionally the Wounaan are/were semi nomadic people and lived by hunting, gathering and practicing swidden agriculture to grow bananas, corn and roots amongst other crops. Wounaan people are particularly well known for their bowl haircuts and elaborate body painting achieved using woodblocks. The Wounaan are also famed crafts people, creating intricate basket work and carvings. The goods produced by these talented artisans provide an important source of economic income. We had a detailed explanation with translation from Ross about their traditional life.

We then did a hike through the jungle with a knowledgable explanation of tree,plants and medicinal herbs from the chief of the tribe with Ross expertly translating.Shown with me is the water tree.

I bought a beautiful colourful hand dyed sarong purple and pink and turquoise and a basket which I will always cherish.

My next blog will be about the expat beach town Coronado. From there we will go to El Valle, and then continue to travel the expat communities in Panama.

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Arrived in Panama City!

When I woke up I had the same feeling of bewilderment and unreality that Alice must have had at the mad tea party. I am now looking out this morning at the most amazing view with the unfading  wonderment of a growing child. The first thing I did when I got up was toss my down jacket to one side and found my sandals at the bottom of my pack. I resisted the temptation to press my nose against the window of Panama Sara’s apartment to look out. What an incredible city! I grinned from ear to ear as I know there are howler monkeys close by. The jungle is on one side and the ocean on the other, with a mix of historic buildings and skyscrapers. It is classy,elegant and wild. There  is a beautiful tropical breeze with birds outside the many windows.Numerous small cars are honking and quickly passing each other. There are a variety of scenarios to watch out the front window. I see a massive blue butterfly painted on a roof, 3 teenage boys slowly  jogging in a schoolyard as if in detention, and palm trees gently swaying in the breeze. Glenn and I are having our coffee on the comfortable couch and gazing out the window. It was very grounding to do yoga and make my greens shake at 5am our time(8 am Panama time),with the blender provided in this well equipped kitchen.

Sarah Booth’s driver Diego picked us up at the airport. He was holding a sign with our names on it, just as promised. He had to wait for close to an hour as our plane was late pulling in.The entire trip went very smoothly. We flew with American Airlines from Vancouver to Dallas which was three and a half hours. It was late so we rushed to our connecting flight.From Dallas to Panama City it was 4 hours. We were very happy with how comfortable and smooth the flight was. Cheerful, helpful, conversational and informative, Diego then gave us an impressive tour  of the city.We cruised through Casco Viejo and Puente Marino(marine bridge) also called Corridor Sur. He then drove us to Super 99 where I shopped while Glenn and Diego had an animated conversation about soccer and a variety of subjects. I gathered groceries and ingredients for a fish dinner.I was astounded at how low the prices were! I bought a massive papaya for 1.60 USD.A big bag of coffee was 3.00, and a rich broad shouldered red Malbec  6.00, and a huge piece of white fish was 3.00.I bought a substantial amount of groceries for under 50.00. The Panamanian staff looked at me in amusement at my attempts at Spanish and sign language. I could not help but notice how high the security was with many policemen at the door. A staff member cheerfully carried the groceries out to Diego’s car. Diego then took us to the apartment and gave us an orientation with details. A cell phone was given to us as well as instructions for Wi Fi which works extremely well.We were extremely happy with Diego’s courteous service!

Panama Sarah’s apartment has more than everything we need.It has a full kitchen, 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms,excellent views, is safe and secure, and in to walking distance of the historic part of the city.

So for now till my next post “Hasta la proxima mis amigos” Until next time my friends!            Kim