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Bambito Barrilles Site Panama Cerro Pando Chiriqui Highlands Driving in Panama Expats in Panama Horses Nuevo California,Panama Pan-American Highway Panama firecrackers Renting a car in Panama travel to panama Volcan

Beautiful Horses in Panama and The Rich and Rolling Green Panama Valleys of Bambito,Nueva California,and Cerro Pando Mountain

Driving in Panama in the Chiriqui Highlands was an adventure with the largest capital A conceivable. Despite my previous post about gripping the map and hiding under the seat while on the Pan-American Highway, having the flexibility with a car to journey to these magical parts of the country is a top notch way to travel. Looking at our map, we started out from our bed and breakfast in Volcan.We drove through the busy flurry of Volcan town, and headed through the quiet and quaint town of Nueva California. The Barrilles site petrogliphs was shown on the map this way. We were told that it was family run farm. German settlers while farming found pottery and statues and stone artifacts like the barrel stone forms Barrilles in Spanish. These barrel stones were also found in Costa Rica. Many of these artifacts were moved to Panama city.We missed the turn to the Barrilles site and went on a different adventure!

Rio Sereno

I had Glenn stop as I saw the most beautiful Peruvian palomino horse. She radiated a warm,spongy,calm serenity and we bonded immediately. We locked eyes and I was in love! One day, I thought I am going to knock on the ranch door and see if she is for sale.Her eyes were soft,and it was a soothing balm for the heart and soul.

Palomino near Volcan

When I looked at the map it appeared we were headed in the direction of Santa Clara.The map which we had purchased at a family run hotel in Cerro Punta told us about a great place to visit in Santa Clara called Finca Hartmann. It is a family run private property dedicated to cultivation of highland coffee.They have identified more than 260 species of birds there. It is found in the area of La Amistad International Park.

The roads were winding with spectacular views. There were vehicles passing us dangerously and a motorcyclist came barreling around a corner in our lane, and Glenn swerved to miss him with fast reflexes. Glenn asked me to please stop gasping in horrer. I realized that was becoming a bad habit, so instead I shut my eyes when Panamanians were tailgating and going to pass.

IMGP1544

 

This picture is of a stuffed “person”called a muneco that the Panamanians put firecrackers in. They were everywhere in preparation for New Years. We spent New Years Eve in Volcan. You can imagine how many of these exploded on New Years Eve. We knew it was going to be a zany evening so we stayed at home at our cozy B and B and had a nice dinner. Ruthie and her husband came home after their potluck with other expats. Her and I talked long into the night with soulful conversation.I have always felt firecrackers  frighten animals and can be reckless in the hands of people not using them safely. Fireworks can be seen and heard in Panama at any time of year. A meneco shown below is a Panamanian tradition to make the doll represents a bad memory of the previous year, and then of course it becomes an explosive. It might be  fuzzy logic, but if you are trying to see someone else’s viewpoint on firecrackers, I can see how this may be therapeutic, and perhaps this could be seen as therapy throughout the year.

 

Volcan North(check town)Firecracker for New Years

We continued to climb and with the curvy road, with a massive rolling green panorama. It was so incredibly stunning, my eyes could not take it all in…when they were open that is!

Volcan-windy road to Santa Clara

If you look at the local map it is incredible.According to the map we were headed toward Cerro Pando a 4683 ft mountain peak.It ranks as the 18th highest mountain peak in Chiriqui  and the 32nd highest mountain in Panama. It was winding and twisting extremely on a paved but narrow road. We said almost at the same time “I think we should turn around” when we saw a broken guard rail that looked like someone had gone over the edge. I don’t know how Glenn did it but he managed to find a place to turn around. He knows when I can hear the thunder of my own pulse and am squeezing my eyes shut that it is a good sign to change the scenery.We headed back towards Volcan to create a new plan for the rest of the day. Here are  pictures after getting down from the mountain on the way back.

 

We stopped in Volcan and went to the park to evaluate our next adventure for the afternoon. The park had an exquisite pattern of benches we had never seen before.

Volcan Benches

We decided to go hiking in Bambito, as there was an intriguing area behind the Casa Grande Hotel.Bambito is dotted with farms and houses with roadside stands abundant with vegetables and fruit.It winds along the Rio Chiriqui Viego Valley on the western slope of Volcan Baru. The turn off is on the left between Volcan and Cerro Punta and it was difficult to see the sign. We had lunch there, and then trekked on an amazing hike.We started along the river, listening to the musical sound of the birds and feeling spring fresh air and sun. The temperature was perfect!

Volcan Bambito

The rocky trail road went up into a jungle area, and we thought we heard the unique sound of the Quetzal bird. The echo of tropical birds was intoxicating to the senses. Any challenge or difficulty in life melts away here, surrounded by beauty.We saw lush green jungle along a boulder strewn river, with dense forest,massive trees, and wildflowers.

Quetzal trail to Boquete

Then we heard the wild galloping of horse hooves and in a flurry of horse foam and boyish attitude headed somewhere fast blurred past us.

Bambito Trail riding home (1)

Soon after was another man with a big caring gentle smile on a Pinto that was his faithful steed. Glenn asked him where he was going. He said he was going home after work where he lived.He wore gumboots that had been hard at work, and his belongings were held strong and steady in a bag. A man honest and true, from the earth.If a few moments in time could be captured and frozen to remember forever, this would be one of them.

Bambito Rider going to river (1)

The Chiriqui Highlands was beautiful, living magnificent poetry, and a rich cultural experience that I will never forget. I will leave you with a poem by Robert Frost.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

 

My next journeys will be on our travels from Volcan to Boquete, and then our travel from Boquete to Bocas Del Toro on Isla Bastisimos and Colon. We then flew from Bocas to Gamboa then travelled to Panama City and then back to Canada.    Bye for now!

 

 

 

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Aerial photography Boquete Driving in Panama Expats in Panama Las Lajas Pan-American Highway Panama buses Pedasi Playa Veneo Renting a car in Panama travel to panama

Chiriqui Highlands a Panama Fairytale…Volcan,Bambito and Cerro Punta

“We all have one foot in a fairy tale and the other in the abyss.”  Paulo Coelho

Me in purple flowers 2

I like to think of myself as a resilient and adaptable person,however the contrast coming back from hot to freezing weather was surprisingly challenging. My fairytale is Cerro Punta, and  my abyss is a long and snowy winter. Here, in snowy 100 Mile House,B.C., I am continuing to post the blogs from my notes on our adventure in Panama for December and January . I am starting with the drive from David to Volcan. We are driving a Thrifty rental car that we rented in Pedasi. It had airbags,and was a very reliable vehicle.I am told that most Panama rental vehicles don’t have airbags. We drove from Pedasi down the Pan-American highway to Las Lajas then to Boca Chica and Isla Boca Brava,then on to David. Previous to renting a car we were in Playa Venao, Coronado and Panama City where we relied on public transportation and taxis. Renting a car offered us  convenience,flexibility and greatly increased the amount of area we could explore.It also offered us seatbelt which was not supplied in my experience with taxis and public transportation. As I mentioned in my previous blog about driving the Pan American highway,it does have it’s “heads up” or as a very good friend of mine says “eyes wide open hair straight back.”

Cerro Punta me in purple flowers

We left the maze of traffic in David,Panama and navigated our way back to the main highway. From there it was a 20 minute drive to La Concepcion . We knew where this was, as we breezed by it previously looking for David, and saw the Volcan turn off. From La Concepcion we turned right at the Volcan sign. It was a beautiful scenic 40 minute drive toward the town. It was a winding narrow road, that was well paved. People were passing on corners, with 2 cars passing at once on a curve. They seemed to be going at top speed and in a hurry. There were deep ditches without a shoulder to pull over for them to pass,so driving caution was needed.No pictures were taken due to the fast and furious passing us. We easily found our bed and breakfast Casa Volcan as it was on the main road leading to town. We were received by very wonderful hosts who gave us our private room with it’s own bathroom. They both made sure we had a map and directions to hiking, restaurants and other places to see in Volcan and surrounding areas. We organized our belongings and headed out to explore.

We stopped in Volcan town for water and snacks before finding our hiking spots. It is a smaller version of the artistic chaos that requires your full attention and eyes moving at all times.People pulling out randomly making their own rules,pedestrians crossing,similar to…and very close in chaos to 100 Mile House,B.C. ! The intersection where you turn to Bambito and Cerro Punta(right) is especially busy. If you stay left at the intersection you go to Nueva California, and Rio Cereno and other scenic places that I will mention later. Volcan has cool, springlike temperatures, and we saw a Panamanian selling toques! The place to buy all of your produce is at roadside stands between Bambito and Cerro Punta. You can get a massive bag of veggies for 3-6 dollars.Vendors sell sacks of vegetables, known as puercas.

Volcan town

We followed the map Ruthie gave us and turned right at the intersection toward Cerro Punta in search of hiking trails.

Driving from Volcan to Cerro Punta

The areas of Volcan and Cerro Punta in the province of Chiriqui is known as the Highlands  and are in the District of Bugaba which are 1000 meters above sea level. They have fertile lands of volcanic origin and producing the majority of produce for the country of Panama. Volcan has a beautiful view of Volcan Baru. Volcan is also known as “The Small Switzerland”,since many immigrants of Central European countries, as well as people from Yugoslavia and North America established themselves here in this beautiful area.The protected areas that are found in the Highlands maintain the forest and water resources of the province protecting important endangered species.

Cerro Punta view

The green valleys,forests and brilliant flowers reminded me of the Scottish Fairy Tale “The Land of Green Mountains”.It was like going back in time. We saw a beautiful sight of a Panamanian plowing his field with his horse.

Close up Horse plow

We were in search of the The Los Quetzales Trail. It can be hiked in either direction—from Boquete to Cerro Punta or from Cerro Punta to Boquete. The hike from Boquete is mostly uphill, while the route from Cerro Punta is downhill nearly all the way. It draws adventure minded people who love hiking and bird watching. The Quetzal is an exotic bird, and it was the season for sightings when we were here. It is a pigeon sized bird with emerald plumage. The male has brilliant crimson and trailing feathers.The Quetzal is found at elevations of 3500 feet in the cloud forest The Maya worshipped it as a sacred bird.It loves the avocado like fruit of the aguacatillo. In our search for the trail head we crossed a bridge over a river toward a very scenic and rustic country road. From there I was in celery heaven. You will see why when you look at these pictures of celery fields!

Cerro Punta Celery best shot

We decided to stop and take a hike up the quaint cobblestone road. The weather was like spring, misting,and then turning sunny and warm. Farmers were working harvesting and sowing crops on the steep hills. It reminded me of the Grimms fairy tale “The Elves and the Shoemaker”. I filled my lungs with the incredibly fresh air.

Cerro Punta Purple Flower pic 3

The weather misted and then went back to sunny again in a matter of minutes. Glenn brought his equipment and did aerial  photography that was excellent.I will post the videos he has done later separately.Glenn Cerro Punta

On the way back in Cerro Punta town we saw beautiful flowers and horses being walked by their owner.

Flower 2

 

 

 

Flower 1

Cerro Punta is home to two very important horse breeding centers. Haras Cerro Punta and Haras Carinthia are both located here and are well known for their thoroughbreds. We saw many different breeds of horses here. I fell in love with a Palomino Peruvian the next day, more on that later.

We then went to a good Italian restaurant recommended by Ruthie on her map and had a fantastic dinner at La Carbonera!

Volcan favourite restaurant

I had a huge dark green salad with a beautiful piece of salmon and house red wine that was full bodied and high quality. Glenn had a delicious pizza with a thin crust with many fresh vegetables. The next day  we planned to continue to look for the Quetzales Trail as well as explore other areas such as Rio Sereno. We were not far from our new comfortable home at Casa Volcan. We looked forward to sharing our adventures with our delightful and enthusiastic hosts.They are Canadians that moved from the cold of Canada’s east coast years ago to a warmer climate and a different way of life in a small town.This was a spectacular day for me as you can tell from the pictures at the beginning!

My next posts will be on Rio Sereno (close to Volcan), Boquete, a bus ride from Boquete to Bocas Del Toro, boating to Isla Bastimentos,Red Frog beach, our stay on Isla Colon, Bluff Beach,Drago Beach,and our flight from Bocas Del Toro with a finale of a stay at Gamboa prior to us going to Panama City and then flying back to Canada.

 

Valley