“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination” Jimmy Dean
Mindfulness is the practice of the ability to be in the moment, letting go of any judgement. It has been my experience that horses are highly intuitive and sensitive animals that flow with change and course correction, and live in the moment.
This to me is why I continue to seek knowledge and wisdom from the spirit of the horse. If you can observe objectively, you have the ability to change course and map out your course.Costa Rica presents opportunities to mindfulness practice and meditation, which Glenn and I both did daily with Yoga and Pilates. When my overactive mind is swirling with thought, I return to the cherished images of the beauty and peace that I felt in Costa Rica. I look at my photos like a precious jewels, and have a bowl of pink shell sand collected on our hike to El Chorro Falls in between Montezuma and Tambor, Costa Rica.
The hike is magnificently alive with wildlife, with tropical sounds and brilliantly coloured butterflies. It took us about 6 hours of hiking round trip bordering the reserves, including a lunch stop at Piedra Colorado beach, and a glorious swim at the waterfall.There is horseback riding available to this exquisite destination.
The sand turned from white and pink shell beach, to black sand, to a rich golden colour. The waterfall cascades from the cliff to a tide pool trickling to the ocean. The ocean breeze held an invisible current of happiness and health.
After traveling to Costa Rica, Belize and Panama, Glenn and I have made our course correction to the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica. It is in a Blue Zone which is defined and described by Dan Buettner in his book ”The Blue Zones; Lessons for Living Longer from People Who’ve Lived the Longest”, as “Places in the world where there is a high concentration of persons over age 100, and there is a substantial disability free and disease free life expectancy”. Gilbert Brenes of the Central American Center for Population describes the people of the Nicoya Peninsula as having longer telomeres than the rest of the Costa Ricans. It is described in CNN news as “the longer the telomere the longer the life.” I have experienced rapid healing there, details which I will describe in a future blog. It has proven to us in the years that we have journeyed to this area of the world, how physically and emotionally healing it is to be there. This blog is about our challenging and purposeful journey shifting from a small ranching community in the Cariboo to the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica.I look forward to sharing my next adventure with you!
I am back wearing my gold down jacket in snowy 100 Mile House hauling wood, stoking up the wood stove and making my lentil carrot apple soup.I have been cross country skiing with my good friends Fay and Ann Marie. We enjoyed the comradarie of our last few ski days of the season. On the ranch I can hear the sweet call of the lambs, and can see a calf running and frolicking playfully across the field.I continue to write about our adventures to expat communities in Panama from my notes. Glenn and I are back to work full time, myself in 100 Mile House, and Glenn in Vancouver. Below are my Cariboo March 13/16 photos.
Now back to the panoramic vistas,mountains and serene valleys blanketed by lush rain forests of Volcan Panama!
We left Volcan in the morning after a beautiful breakfast at the Volcan Bed and Breakfast. Our destination next was Boquete. We knew at this point after previously getting lost looking for David that we needed to go back toward the Pan-American Highway at La Concession turn left and seek out the turn off to Bouquet. Along the way we saw another car with a flopping mattress on top of it’s hood, as well as chaos with police after a truck went off the road. Glenn was careful to go the speed limit, and let the speeders pass us one after the other. There was a very low speed limit posted, however cars and mini buses were going 3 times as fast as the limit. The turn off from the highway to Boquete was a little strange for me. Glenn turned at the Boquete sign and then with no signs for any guidance he twisted and turned around a subdivision and then ended up on an overpass. “Trust me I have a feeling this is it, even if it does not make sense,” he said. I responded with “It seems like it could be it,as there is a well paved highway going in the direction of Boquete,but I will believe it,when I see signs”. After driving for a period of time we saw Boquete signs and we were launched! It took some detective work, but we were on the right track. We had discovered that what might appear relatively easy on the map may not be.
The drive was smooth and easy, and we were very happy and excited to see Boquete. We had heard many positive things about this popular beautiful mountain town. We were not sure how to find the accommodation that we booked so we parked in front of the bank. Glenn went into a real estate office and not only found help the realtor offered to follow him and he will show us the way. He showed us to an entrance to the gated community and then waved a cheerful goodbye. To make a long story short, we got lost in a maze unable to find our accommodation.When we did find it, the maid was cleaning and we noticed the house house did not have any water.We had difficulty tracking down the owner. We found her by phone after e-mailing and calling for a period of time. She apologized, and said the problem could take days to fix. We cancelled our reservation and launched a search for a new home in Boquete.
We parked in front of a cafe that had internet so we could search for accommodation and hopefully find something else. We stopped at Cafe Central coffee shop with free wireless internet at Hotel Central. We had a great conversation with the owner Timothy, who is an expat who said he was a cowboy and a surgeon before he started his new life in Panama. We searched on Booking.com and found Villa Marita and booked it instantly.We then got in our rental car to drive find our new home.By the photos,it looked like a quiet place in the mountains away from the bustle of town, but not too far away.
We went up a winding road near coffee plantations to find a beautiful location with a spectacular view. It had a kingsize comfortable bed, and a large deck. I was ecstatically happy that it had a little kitchenette with a fridge and a sink. We went to the large deck and breathed in the incredible beauty before us and the musical sound of the birds!I watched the weather change from a cloud forest mist to bright and sunny in a matter of minutes. Sitting on the deck I saw an incredible sight of a Peruvian Paso and rider coming through the green of the coffee plantation, and with much “Brio” and salsa, they did a fast running walk up the road.They were going so fast, I missed it with my camera.
After we settled in, we went for a walk in the neighbourhood. There was a light mist of refreshing rain, and then the sun came out like spring. We saw several beautiful rainbows during our stay, as well as many hummingbirds and butterflies.
The flowers were also blooming and spectacular,with fruit trees lining the streets.
The next day we decided to find the Lost Waterfalls. This was a hike to 3 waterfalls close to Boquete.We packed our snacks and our hydration packs as well as extra clothing.I took my Spot of course which is a safety device that can track your location. Glenn packed his camera equipment in order to get aerial photography at the waterfall locations.
This was a beautiful and challenging hike with spectacular vistas and waterfalls.
Some of the areas were very steep and we had to use both hands to climb. I was grateful to have my hydration pack of 2 litres of water and my sturdy hiking boots. I think when I do this over some day I would wear long light pants instead of my hiking shorts,or shorts that you can zip on leggings.
We both have a good fitness level through weights,pilates and yoga, but I have to say this climb put us to the test!
We were sweating bullets by the end and certainly felt it the next day. We had a relaxing evening on our lovely deck at Villa Marita, watching the sunset and basking in the feeling that we were on our second honeymoon.
One of the things I researched that we did not end up doing was horseback riding. Boquete Mountain Safari can take you through lush coffee growing regions on horseback in Caldera about 20 minutes from Boquete.This rural countryside has volcanic stone walls, golden fields and green rolling hills. There are miles and miles of open plains which are ideal for galloping or strolling looking at the scenery. The temperature is also a little less cool than in Boquete and it tends to be a bit drier giving you the opportunity to appreciate a different panorama.With this horseback riding tour you will cross rivers and small streams, encounter beautiful landscapes and admire the Volcan Baru . At the end of the trip you will arrive to a look out point with panoramic vistas of the surrounding mountains and serene valleys blanketed by lush rain forests. From here you will be able to observe the Pacific Ocean, Chiriqui’s lowlands and the Baru Volcano, all at the same time. Some say the scenery is the main attraction of the horseback riding tour in Caldera. Boquete has an equestrian organization called The Chiriqui Saddle Club. It organizes and promotes group trail riding in the pristine natural tranquil setting of the rural mountains. Members and guests are required to follow the principles of nature conservation, and avoid littering, damaging, or polluting the natural environment. All perimeter fences and gates they state must be returned to their original position after use, and all private property rights observed to the letter. I love this!
There is a horse festival in Bugaba called the Calvagata.It is described in the local news ; “The parade becomes a crowd pleasing mass of equine movement with happy and rowdy horsemen and horsewomen showing off some of the finest horseflesh in Chiriqui.” There is of course, at this event,fireworks! Panama fireworks are traditional for many events large and small.
I am going to talk for a moment about the places we went to eat in Boquete town.I mentioned previously the coffee shop who’s owner Tomothy was a cowboy and surgeon before he started his new life in Boquete. There are many more expats who have set up business’s here.Big Daddy’s Grill was one of our favourites. They have large portions and serve their fish fresh from the boats of Boca Chica. We both had huge salads sitting outdoors with fresh dark green vegetables.
We stopped at the local bakery and sat outside,taking in the ambience of the town.
We liked Retro Gusto Italian Restaurant. It is owned by a Canadian, and is friendly and spacious with a good atmosphere. The cook came to our table to make sure we got exactly what we ordered.
Boquete Art Cafe on the main street.I felt at home in this uniquely decorated restaurant where the owners are very friendly and welcoming and the French based cuisine is delicious. The owner spoke to us for a generous period of time and touched on many subjects, including good tips on how to discover real estate through word of mouth and for sale by owner.
You can also eat as the Panamanians do in a restaurant with delicious and inexpensive meals. This place was very popular; Restaurant El Sabroson on the main street.
One great place to visit if you like beer is The Boquete Brewing Company. They brew their own beer and have a fairly large selections of beer. They do not serve food, but they do not mind at all if you grab food from nearby restaurants and bring it in. They serve popcorn with your beer, have high speed internet, and are very friendly and conversational. As we walked through town we could see a Panamanian selling toques! Note the traditional and colourful green dress in the picture below.
We then walked over the Calderas River Bridge breathing in the refreshing spring air.
We had the privilege to be invited to look at real estate with a couple who were seeking to become expats from their snowy location and lifestyle.The four of us left in the realtors car from our Villa Marita. I don’t have photos but I can tell you this- WOW to outdoor living space and classy well designed outdoor showers! The really interesting part is that the realtor explained the differences in micro climates.
In Bouquet town it is like spring, not too hot or too cold, the temperature about 68. For many, this is perfect weather with breezes and ceiling fans a solution. Some enjoy the warmth of indoor or outdoor fireplaces in the evening. There is no heating needed, and most homes don’t have air conditioning.
As you travel further into the mountains to areas like Volcancito, Jaramillo, Alto Quiel and Bajo Mano, there are those who find some evenings cold or chilly and and need of heat. We saw a young indian girl with a puffy down jacket on.
Descending from Boquete through Alto Boquete towards David, the air steadily warms with some hot afternoons.It is all very interesting research. If you are not careful about choosing your microclimate, you could find yourself in clouds and rain. Our villa Marita had the perfect climate!
Next I will post the last legs of our amazing adventure.We leave the rental car and take a bus through the Continental Divide from Boquete to Bocas Del Toro. We then travelled to Isla Colon,Isla Bastimentos and then flew to the Gamboa area, to Panama City, and then back to Canada.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
“We all have one foot in a fairy tale and the other in the abyss.” Paulo Coelho
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.”
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.
We followed the map Ruthie gave us and turned right at the intersection toward Cerro Punta in search of hiking trails.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
On the way back in Cerro Punta town we saw beautiful flowers and horses being walked by their owner.
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!
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.
Trip planning to Panama was a kaleidoscope of many incredible possibilities. I have had ideas rattling around in my mind for 6 months! Although it was no where near like planning the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, this had it’s challenges.With not knowing a country it was a chess board of information with different squares that needed piecing together.The biggest piece missing in the puzzle is transportation. I did stumble across a site called thebusschedules.com which has Panama bus routes. What I do know is Panamanians take the bus often and there is a bus I am told to just about anywhere, as well as shuttles. We will know more about this once we are there.