Categories
Aerial photography Boquete Chiriqui Highlands Driving in Panama Expats in Panama Horses Pan-American Highway Panama firecrackers travel to panama Volcan

Horseback Ride or Hike in Fresh Spring Air the Lush Green Tropical Mountains of Boquete,Panama

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!

Quetzal trail to BoqueteDriving from Volcan to Cerro Punta

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.

Drive to Boquete

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.

watermelons

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.

IMGP1437

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.

Rainbow

The flowers were also blooming and spectacular,with fruit trees lining the streets.

IMGP1467

Our walk in Bouquete

IMGP1472

 

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.

Hike

IMGP1481

This was a beautiful and challenging hike with spectacular vistas and waterfalls.

waterfall

 

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.

IMGP1482

We both have a good fitness level through weights,pilates and yoga, but I have to say this climb put us to the test!

Lost Waterfalls Hike

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.

Bakery

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.

Retrogusto

Italian Restaurant

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.

French restaurant

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.

Panamanian Restaurant

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.

Toques 2toques

We then walked over the Calderas River Bridge breathing in the refreshing spring air.

River

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.

 

 

 

Categories
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!

 

 

 

Categories
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

 

Categories
Boca Chica Bocas Del Toro Boquete David Driving in Panama Expats in Panama Isla Bastásemos Pan-American Highway Renting a car in Panama Roxy's Fishing Club Boca Chica travel to panama

Driving from Serene and Quiet Boca Chica to the Artistic Disorder of David

Country Road Leaving Boca Chica 2

We experienced  tremendous relief after finding the rental car key.The stranded feeling was gone, and the series of problem solving  clutter of strategies was lifted. We were given one key and I tied it to a large and heavy object.

The scenery on the way out of Boca Chica is very beautiful with gently rolling hills and big fields for cattle with shady trees for them to rest.

 

Country roads leaving Boca Chica

We did a quick stop at a local Mini Super outside of Boca Chica on a quiet country road to stock up on water and plantain chips and we were on our way. This was the grocery I wish we had of discovered earlier. There is an archway as you can see in the distance.

Quiet town outside of Boca Chica

Getting lost past David 2

We prepared for our trip by studying the road map we had bought in detail so that we could arrive smoothly at our next destination of David. We looked for ( mostly non existent ) road signs to towns, rivers, streets etc…..then check that against the map to establish where we were. Without signage and the benefit of altitude to spot rivers and towns it can be quite awhile before you get a sign or a clue. We saw a town La Concepcion, and then continued not seeing a David sign.

Getting lost past David

We stopped in Santa Marta and asked for directions at a local beauty parlour, and they redirected us to turn around and go back. Looking at the map a second time we had completely missed David, and if we had continued would have reached the Costa Rica border. We turned back and kept our eyes peeled for a David sign after passing again La Concepcion. We noted that that junction was our important turn to Volcan which was our next stop after David. Still not seeing a David sign, we spotted a large Reys market,and a truck crushed against a hydro pole with wire hanging and police on the road, and decided that this was David. There were directions on Booking.com to Hotel Ciudad in David which I had booked. It looked like a turn of from the main highway, but we could not find a sign with the street name. We stopped at a corner gas station and asked if they knew Hotel Ciudad and bingo! We got directions, and it turned out we were sitting right on the correct turn off.

We headed down the road, however we were not prepared for the quagmire of confusion and bewilderment.

 

You need fast reflexes when driving in a Panamanian city, as it is a kaleidoscope of busy where anything could happen at any given moment, so eyes need to be peeled at several things at once. In driving school they say “keep your eyes moving”, and this puts it to the test. As you can see the driving creatively flows at intersections in David and somehow works. I kept my eyes peeled for the hotel as it had very distinctive appearance with a large square red shape. We pulled over to ask directions from a local man and he did a left right left gesture with his hand, and we were on our way again, discovering a one way street. Glenn handled the drive with expert pilot skills!

I saw the beautiful sight of the red square building in the distance! We pulled over again to look at it, which was not an easy maneuver. The building looked like a department store with no hotel sign.We asked an expat where the hotel was and he said “It’s right here! “He explained that it looked like a department store with the mannequins but it was the hotel. The expat was a Canadian and Glenn had a nice long chat with him. We found it had underground parking by guessing, and drove under, and security guided us to a perfect parking spot. Glenn checked us in, and a staff took our bags and showed us to a beautiful hotel room with down pillows and comfortable mattress. We had spent many nights with sparse foam pillows, and made extras by stuffing tea shirts with our clothing. We took a moment to breathe and have complete gratitude for arriving safely. There was a spectacular breakfast included in the room price of 95 USD. It felt extremely safe, and it was a gloriously comfortable nights sleep. From the hotel there is a view of the University.

 

David university

Glenn patiently went shopping with me to buy a light cotton dress and sandals. My sandals broke, we glued them and they kept breaking.The bounce and rattle of the city was upbeat, and the Panamanians were friendly and welcoming. The journey into the shops was a delightful fun adventure.

We thoroughly enjoyed our one night stop in David before our trip to Volcan,Boquete Isla Bastistomos and Colon in Bocas Del Toro. The next morning we were headed to Volcan, and we already knew exactly where our turn was!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
Aerial photography Boca Chica Chiriqui Marine Park and Archipelago Driving in Panama Expats in Panama Go Pro video on island in Panama Howler Monkeys Isla Boca Brava Renting a car in Panama Roxy's Fishing Club Boca Chica snorkling in Panama travel to panama White sand beaches Panama

Chiriqui Marine Park and Archipelago,Losing the Car Rental Key and other stories

It was time to pack up from our beautiful location on Isla Boca Brava. We took our last hike said our goodbyes to our wonderful hosts on the island,and watched a huge troop of howler monkeys hop from trees immediately in front of our cabin.Glenn said he had misplaced the keys to our rental vehicle. We had driven from Pedasi to Las Lajas, then  to Boca Chica(Parked for 3 days while on Isla Boca Brava) and were on our way driving to  Volcan and Boquete.The plan then was to bus to Bocas Del Toro, after dropping the vehicle off in Boquete. The beautiful vistas were put on hold , and we looked in every possible place taking our packs apart, with no luck. We were given one key with no spare in Pedasi. After a final search we found the key that Glenn had carefully put in the “special” place of my camera cover.

Sunset Boca Chica

 

We journeyed by boat back to the mainland Boca Chica, and stayed in a rustic hostel that was cleaned and well maintained. Here are some town photos that we took during our walk.

 

Our hostel was clean and friendly and close to the dock.The little fan in the room with little ventilation made it difficult to sleep.The owners were very courteous and helpful. Our next location that we booked was “Roxy’s Fishing Club”, a family run hotel close by. Glenn did  aerial photography for them as you can see in the video below.Their hotel’s staff will take very good care of you when touring the neighbouring white sand islands.

 

We took a small boat with one other couple who travelled from David. They were from Germany. The boat took us to three snorkelling spots away from the white sand beach. It was a bit daunting as while everyone was jumping into the depths of the ocean from the boat that was rocking full of waves, I was awkwardly putting my flippers on backwards and gingerly dipping my toes then flopping in limbs flailing.. I am not at this point at all embarrassed, just grateful ! Although I did did snorkel in Costa Rica and Belize in previous years,my expertise was still at beginner level.I did notice however  I swam faster once in the water and did not swallow sea water as often. It was a colourful beautiful sight once underwater, and flowing with the turquoise blue, incredible colourful fish.

The exquisite island  that we had the privilege of visiting is located inside Panama’s Gulf of Chiriqui National Marine Park and part of the Paridas Archipielago, a scattering of over 25 nationally protected tropical islands, 19 coral reefs, and abundant wildlife that is 12 miles off the Pacific coast. A one hour boat ride from Boca Chica brought us to this beautiful uninhabited island with a white sand. It is either Isla Ladrones and Islas Secas or Isla Montuosa.

The dark blue tones which surround the mangroves near the shore blend to shades of turquoise and emerald wrapping white-sand beaches on islands lined with coconut palms.

 

We later took an evening walk and there were horses at the gas station, with one horse bucking out of control. There is no need for movies here, the entertainment is right out the front door!

Two HorsesGas station

Our next stops, we will be driving our rental car(now that we found the keys!) to David,Volcan, Cerro Punta,Boquete and surrounding area. We then drop the car off in Boquete at Thrifty’s and we will be taking a bus to Bocas Del Toro, both Colon and Isla Bastimentos. We have decided not to plan the rest of our journey after that.

Categories
Aerial photography Boca Chica Driving in Panama Howler Monkeys Isla Boca Brava travel to panama

Boca Chica,Isla Boca Brava and Beyond

We left the small town of Las Lajas early the next morning. We gazed, pondered and smiled at the size of the turtle shown on the mural wall of the quiet family run motel room. There are certainly large turtles here in the Chiriqui !

IMGP0472

 
Rugged beautiful green mountains, banana plantations, sugar cane, cascading rivers, green pastureland, and many parrots darting is what I saw on the drive toward Boca Chica. The Chiriqui drive to Boca Chica for me was a sight to behold. Chiriqui is an ancient word meaning “Valley of the Moon”. There are many remote villages, many who live in a comarca or a reserve. The Highway from Las Lajas turn off to Boca Chica was a beautiful smooth wide piece of highway compared to what we drove the night before. There were no signs that said Boca Chica. I followed the small town turn off signs. The turn off to Boca Chica was actually was a left at Horconcitos which was a small town but the road looked like it was going to Boca Chica on the map.I followed the map and looked for clues, as the road was going down to the water. There did not seem to be any other road to go off the highway.Boca Chica is a fishing village 18 miles south of the highway. Hornconcitos,where you turn left.It is a small town known for its saddle makers.

Man on horse 2 The road used to very rough, but is now paved. It was a very scenic drive and we saw a cattle round up on the road,and many horses grazing in lush green fields

IMGP0484

We were awestruck at the beautiful scenic views.We arrived at a fork in the road without signs that said Boca Chica, however there were restaurant and accommodation signs and we decided that that must be the turn!

IMGP0474

We arrived at another small town.We knew that Boca Chica was on the water,so we kept going,following our nose from the map. We arrived at a boat dock where there were many small boats and a local man. There was one restaurant but it was inaccessible to get any information.I asked the Panamanian standing near the boat about how to get to Isla Boca Brava.He said he could take us there for 3 dollars each. I asked about where we could park the rental car.He told us for 3 dollars a day we could leave our rental car with a lady just up the road. Her son just happened to be riding his bike to the dock, and the boatman asked the boy in Spanish to lead Glenn to the house. I waited near the boat with our belongings. Glenn came back and he tucked away our vehicle key in a special spot, as we would be leaving the car on the mainland for three days.

 

 

We were on our way! We took a very scenic boat ride through islands. We arrived at a dock.Howler monkeys hollered their beautiful basal jungle sound as we pulled up to the island.

IMGP0505

We pulled our packs on to the dock and Glenn said”Wait here with our packs, I will go find out where our place is”. I thought that sounded reasonable. I waited on the dock with a fisherman shown here.

Fisherman

I waited, listening to the howler monkeys happily, and watched big fish jumping up out of the water. Then I started to sweat profusely in the hot sun with no shade as it was about an hour and Glenn had not returned. I had water with me, and entertained my self by having a conversation with the gentleman shown who did not know English and found me to be an amusing crazy Gringo. Finally Glenn returned. “I am sorry you had to wait so long,but I had to climb the stairs from hell and then at the top of the stairs is a guys house. I thought it was our place, instead it was a very agitated angry Panamanian. He pointed to our Howler monkey place down the trail, which goes right through his place. I found our place and met the manager,but be prepared for these stairs.”

Glenn on stairs

We did the gigantic feat of carrying our packs up the stairs,sweating bullets, tiptoed around the angry Panamanian, had to go down his porch, and found our cabin which was the most beautiful spot imaginable on Isla Boca Brava.

Better hammock photo

 

There was a gorgeous open air cabin with a hammock and a deck open to a spectacular view! Inside was a bed with a private bathroom.It is called Howlers Bay Hotel with 2 gorgeous private open cabins to a view and tents are available.There was a shared kitchen and common area where we met two women from Sweden who were scientists working on a project for climate change.

We could hear parrots and howler monkeys close by. You could see for miles with many jungle filled islands in the background.

Isla Boca Brava view

We went for many hikes around the island on the island’s jungle trail, and heard an incredible chorus of tropical birds.

Hike through Brava

We saw many, many beautiful colourful butterflies, all different shapes and brilliant colours.

Butterfly clip

Earthy, isolated, beautiful rustic beaches, dot this exquisite island,and there are several on the island to hike to. It was quiet even though it was Christmas season. Glenn did beautiful ariel photography  of the island and surrounding area. I will post clips of this when we have a good internet connection.

Glenn on Isla Boca Brava

We saw a family of howler monkeys while on one of our many hikes.It is always a beautiful experience to see and hear them in their natural environment!

Monkey clip 2

Monkey Boca Chica

There is a restaurant on the island called Isla Boca Brava Restaurant which makes a great big green salad. Most of our meals which we made ourselves have been vegetarian with rice, chick peas and black beans with curry and hot spices.

My next post will be about our accommodation on the mainland of Boca Brava and the beaches there, as well as the spectacular snorkelling and island adventure, a one hour small speed boat ride off the coast of Boca Brava. This was the highlight of our trip to Panama!

IMGP0911

 

 

 

 

Categories
Driving in Panama Expats in Panama Las Lajas Las Tablas Pan-American Highway Panama buses Pedasi Renting a car in Panama travel to panama

The Indy 500 Pan-American Highway

It was time to take the plunge into driving in Panama after much research.We asked local expats about taking the bus to Las LaJas in Chirquiri and then on to Boca Chica. It appeared to be a tricky and complicated event for a bus journey, with long waits in the hot sun, and possibly not making it to our destination in time. We rented from Thriftys and purchased the extra insurance policy,paying a drop off fee in Boquete. We had a nice compact vehicle with air bags and air conditioning.

At 8:30 am we left our beautiful breezy and comfortable home in Pedasi and said our goodbyes to Christine and Wayne. The country drive out from Pedasi was very scenic with beautiful pastureland,cattle and rolling hills. This is Panama’s dry area with the sun beating down as hard as a hammer in the summer. One knowledgable expat said there may be very little rain until about June.Once a lush paradise,Azuero was deforested in the course of two centuries to make way for cattle.The peninsula is cowboy country, and we saw many cowboys on Paso Fino type horses with lassos. It feels western, and very spacious.

IMGP0300

When we looked at real estate with Mark Heilbron we were told that a cattle rancher just bought a big piece of property in Pedasi. We continued our country drive out. As we headed out of the quiet country town we realized quickly that the driver needs to stay very alert to the situation and keep eyes moving all of the time, and the passenger needs to be mentally sharp and be reading the map for reference points at all time. There may be little or no signage or it may be worn or covered. Looking for the small towns as a reference point was the key for me as my job as a navigator. I had tuned us into an audiobook, and turned it off, as our complete attention was needed. I observed dangerous passing and tailgating as well as vehicles backing into the road without looking or stopping suddenly to pick someone up. Las Tables the provincial capital and is the heartland of Panama’s folk tradition and is known for it’s festivals. Each July it hosts “The Festival de la Pollera”. A poller is a beautiful national costume ,an exquisite short sleeved rushed blouse and a two tiered full length skirt. made of fine linen. Flowers, birds or native designs are woven into the fabric with a large matching pom pom or “mota” entered at chest and back with 4 matching graceful streamers “galardetes” hang from the waist at the front and back. Five chains of gold coins “cabestrillos” hang from the neck to waist. A gold cross or medallion on a black velvet ribbon is worn as a choker. A silk purse is fastened to the waistline with gold brooches. To complete the outfit,she has on satin slippers,hair in a bun held in place by 3 large gold combs adorned with pearls and worn like a crown. Also worn are “quivering pins” patterned after flowers or butterflies, which shimmer with her every move, and the earrings are gold or coral.

We got lost in the chaos of this lively town, and pulled over to ask directions several times to Chitre. People were kind and cheerful, and helpful. One gentleman was too helpful in fact,jumping in the back seat to show us how to get back to the highway.Glenn asked which way, and the gentleman was pointing and gesturing. I found it very unsettling that he was in the back seat. Note to self to lock our doors while driving.I have had disturbing experiences in the past in my youth trusting people who seemed like good samaritans. Glenn very skillfully gave hime the message that although he was very kind it was unnecessary . He then called his son on the phone who spoke English, we got directions to the highway, and he then understood that we were not going to drive him anywhere and left the vehicle (on Panama time). With my adrenaline in check, we were on our way….but not quite. We took a wrong turn again and ended up in a Panamanian subdivision. We got directions in Spanish from a friendly elderly couple wearing traditional Panama dress, and were understanding now what left and right meant in Spanish.

The double lane freeway was a welcome sight, and it was clear sailing with both of us on high alert, and me clutching the map with eyes peeled for Chitre signs.

Frame-11-01-2016-07-22-13Highway

There were absolutely no Chitre  signs, only one that said La Arena, so we kept going and ended up in the heart of absolute madness in downtown Chitre. What we should have done is stayed on the highway turn off that had the sign La Arena sign before Chitre, but who knew? La Arena is a tidy colonial village,lined with artisan stores famous for ceramic workshops using traditional spinning wheels and ovens.
Glenn was gripping the steering wheel pilot eyes moving, people were backing out, pedestrians holding babies crossing the road at the last minute. We went up a one way, actually and did not know it until a Panamanian driver flagged us and gestured and pointed.Glenn backed up despite complete chaos behind us and we turned around and pulled over and took a breath.This provided us with valuable learning opportunities!

Big trucks backing out into the street, everyone passing at once,it was like a video game Glenn said that was continual. The best was yet to come. We have been sheltered a little bit by taking buses and taxis through Costa Rica in previous years(even though I felt like hiding under the seat many times), but this was a completely different survival experience. We got ourselves routed out of the confusion of Chitre with direction from friendly Panamanians in Spanish and were back onto the highway toward Santiago. We were preparing ourselves as on the map the highway 1 looked like it was tangled in a big traffic circle, and taking the wrong turn could lead you into an insanely different direction. It was a yellow circle with the University on one side,an airport, several small towns in the mix. I had my eyes peeled as all Glenn needed to do was focus and drive, the signs were my job. At what appeared to be the Highway 1 near Santiago there was a stop check with a traffic jam. We had our passports ready, and checked through. Once the traffic after Santiago was moving we checked for David signs-still none.It appeared we were in the right direction and kept going-it had to be the main highway. I looked at my map and saw clues..Los Castillos, Ok we are good!

The piece between Santiago and Las Lajas turn off in my opinion takes someone with sharp and extreme sharpness,experience and mental toughness as a driver.

The road was surprisingly good in some spots and then seemed to disappear into a winding goat trail with small cars and buses passing two to three cars at once, large semi trucks passing semi trucks just barely getting into the lane ahead. We saw a bad crash with a dump truck, and then shortly afterward someone tailgating us in a threatening and aggressive manner. Glenn tried to let him pass but he would not as though playing a cruel game. Apparently if you tailgate you can save fuel that way.It has a name for it. Although I marvelled at how a highway could appear in the jungle in the middle of no where, I remembered what a Coronado car rental place said to me “Kim you don’t want to do that drive. If you break down and are on the highway overnight it is unsafe. In the dark with a break down it would not be good”. I now know what he was talking about. What was good about this is that we had an excellent vehicle from the Thrifty Car Rental in Pedasi, a full tank of fuel as there are no gas stations on the windy challenging highway between Santiago and Las LaJas. You are basically on your own, and stopping on that narrow road is not an option with Indie 500 top speed Panamanian drivers, reckless vehicles sharing the road with families with children that all want to stay safe. Ultimately the section of highway from Santiago to Las LaJas turn off in Chiriqui takes about 5-5 1/2 hours is winding one lane in each direction with construction, and irrational drivers. It has been said to drive this with caution and do not drive this section at night.The curves in the road are not to code and you can find yourself too close to speeding traffic in the opposite direction. The other disturbing part to me is that  repeatedly,buses and several cars would pass at once and I did not think they could make it back in their lane in time.

Frame-11-01-2016-07-40-35Highway

For me I felt bladder shrivelling fear, and could feel my pulse the entire drive.Glenn, being a pilot was completely focused on our safety, alert and leaning to see the oncoming traffic which was coming at us with lightening speed with of course people passing. There were big potholes in the road in places where people are dodging at top speed.

We thought we would see a sign that said Las Lajas as it is a significant town on the beach, so all I can say is watch for a store on the right and a big ranch like structure on the left that is faded and says Las LaJas .I could not see any signs.For reference it as a left after the bridge with a corner store on the right. There was a small sign with a different town name…I can’t see the town on the map even now. If you are not paying attention you could easily breeze right through to David. We took the country turn off to Las Lajas and drove a lovely country road dotted with pastureland, trees and cattle, and arrived to a quiet family sanctuary on the beach. We were here for one night, arriving at about 4 pm, and saw an incredible sunset.The beach is a very quiet earth toned sandy beach 7 miles long, and very gentle and easy to swim. Off in the distance you could see far away islands.

IMG_6783

 

Categories
Boquete David Driving in Panama Expats in Panama Isla Bastásemos Las Lajas Panama buses Pedasi Playa Venao travel to panama

Pedasi… Vast and Untouched Land and Beaches,Reassuring to the Soul

The bus picked us up at the corner at Venao Cove as we waited with the couple from Hungary. We had a scenic journey in the small local bus, that picked us up on the corner. The back seat was small so I had to sit sideways, but I was grateful to have transportation. It made several stops along told the bus driver that we were looking for the Terpel gas station. Christine, the home owner of our vacation rental said her house was just up the road from there. We went to a local cafe and called her and she picked us up from the cafe. The one bedroom house among her flower garden was beautiful!

IMGP0437

 

Her dogs were there to greet us.It had a large kitchen,many fans, and big windows that opened up into farmland with fields with cattle grazing, and chorus of birds singing, with the breeze flowing through the house . We organized ourselves first walking to the Chinese grocery close to our new accommodation,and bought food and a cell phone. The cell phone was 25.00 US the sim card was 3.00 and we bought 15.00 worth of minutes for local calls, this has lasted us a long time. We noticed that the temperature was extremely hot, dropped our groceries in our well equipped kitchen,and took a taxi to the beach. This particular beach was where the fishing boats come in. Fish we are told can be bought locally, however most of the fish at this time of year is sold to restaurants.

We walked along the isolated beach…the heat was extreme. I went down to the water. The beauty of it was breathtaking, with the beach continuing on for miles and miles. The water had many powerful waves, and I stayed along the outskirts. As we strolled along I saw a bug about one and a half inches long with a curled tail approach my leg. I screeched loudly as it bit me feeling like a wasp bite x 20. Pain in the hand of nature was sculpting me to stay in touch with my highest self. Swelling and red, the pain was searing and lasted for a long time. At least with a wasp you know what it is. Once we reached the road, there was a policeman, and I  tried to ask him in English with sign language as to what the insect was. He shrugged and walked away. It had a curly tail and was very aggressive in the manner that it bit my leg. Are there scorpions on the beach? No one seemed to know. I decided it was just going to get better, and put on polysporin that I had in my bag.There was a local area where the fisherman were drinking beer, so we had a Balboa for 1.00, and I used it to ice my leg.Here is some information I got from the internet on biting insects on the beach in Central America. Apparently the best treatment is to put vaseline and then a bandaid,and use deodorant for the itching.It was about an inch and a half long with a curled tail..that is what I know for sure, and I thought for sure it had wings.If anyone can what bit me was actually a large type of sand flea please let me know for my research.All I can find is what I have below.

Tungiasis: Tungiasis is caused by the burrowing wingless flea Tunga penetrans(Tunga penetrans is also known by the following names: chigoe flea, sand flea, nigua, chigger flea, jigger flea, bicho de pé, pico, sikka, kuti, and piqui, ) which is endemic to certain areas of the world including Central and South America, the Caribbean Islands, Africa, Pakistan, and India. The impregnated female burrows into the upper dermis resulting in a lesion resembling an abscess. If secondary infection does not occur, the lesion usually resolves without treatment following discharge of the eggs and the death of the female. Complications can include secondary infection and rarely tetanus and gangrene.

We eventually got a taxi by spotting one and running down to the road. It was driven by a Panamanian man who looked 80 and he wore a cute hat with the front curled up.

IMGP0386

I was getting hungry, and needed to have nutrition at this point. We asked to go to Smilies which is a local restaurant that is owned by an expat, and is a popular place that expats go and listen to music. I ordered a big salad with fish. Glenn had a great conversation with John the owner of the restaurant. John loves music and plays music with his friends and comrades in the band. John has an amazing history of the events that led to him and his wife becoming expats and settling in Pedasi.The town is quiet and clean with friendly local people and expats. Fresh vegetables are difficult to get in the Azuero Peninsula, and I am told that expats shop for them in David. Eighty percent of produce comes from the Chiriqui Province in Panama.

IMGP0426

IMGP0335

The next morning we woke up with the intention of looking at real estate, and connected with Mark Heilbron who gave us an incredible safari tour of properties for sale. There were some amazing properties in the area, and Mark gave us some insights of the land in his four wheel drive that were very thorough and well informed of years of them first visiting the area and renting and then living in it for many years. We went in his four when drive to many areas of Pedasi and had honest local details and accounts of people, places and possibilities.There is a prince and an ex president that have chosen this beautiful Azuero Peninsula to live.We saw cattle round ups,horses grazing in lush grass and stunning rolling pastureland with rivers running through it, with many large beautiful tree.Howler monkeys are living in this area along the river.

IMGP0300

IMGP0292

After much research we decided to rent a car to travel across Panama.We asked local expats how to bus to Las Lajas in Chiquiri and then onto Boca Chica and they were not sure of the logistics. We researched buses online, and although they do travel between Panama City and David ,It was tricky to travel from Pedasi to Boca Chica. We would first need to find our way to Las Tablas, transfer to Chitra and then Santiago and then hope that our connection could get us there all in one day. At this point in our trip driving was the only reasonable option. Glenn rented a car from Thrifty’s in Pedasi, and they provided us with a nice compact vehicle for a reasonable price with good seatbelt and airbags. We were happy to have the freedom of the vehicle, but were aware there could be challenges with driving in Panama. We packed and were on on way to the Chiriqui Province.

My next blogs will be about driving the Pan American Highway from Pedasi to Boquete, Las Lajas,Isla Boca Brava,Boca Chica,David, Boquete,Isla Bastisimos,Colon in Bocas Del Toro Panama.

 

Categories
Aerial photography Boca Chica Bocas Del Toro Boquete David Expats in Panama Isla Bastásemos Las Lajas Pedasi Playa Venao travel to panama

Playa Venao or Never!

This post finds us in Volcan,Panama. I am back tracking as internet connections have been challenging. We did an entertaining jaunt with Pedro from Coronado to Playa Venao. We went through Chitre and Las Tablas as well as other small towns. We should have been taking notes on Pedro’s expertise with the one ways in Chitra as we rented a car later and ended up in a chaotic one way(more later!) The land opened up into beautiful vast range land and farms,trees and jungle along the way. I am very excited at how different the land is here toward Playa Venao.It is isolated beauty, and can feel the beach approaching. We got lost and asked where Venao Cove Hostel was at a local beachside hotel. We needed to travel further. We pulled up to the location, and I could hear howler monkeys close by. We made sure we had our room, and then said our goodbyes to Pedro. One of the staff showed us to our room. It was two shared rooms and bathroom with a big kitchen and an outdoor shared area.We met the people that we shared the kitchen and bathroom with. She looked like Halle Berry, and worked in the fashion industry in Germany, and he was a surfer. We quickly changed to go to the beach.As you can see in the pictures the beach was astounding, with not a soul on the beach, and I ran down to the water dramatically tossing my hat and sandals.

IMGP0148

 

The drive from Pedasi was at least 5 hours with one quick grocery stop, and it felt fantastic to be on the beach. The water was warm, and the waves very gentle and easy for swimming.

IMGP0140.jpg

 

We hiked along the beautiful isolated beach.As you can see I found a beautiful set of lime green glasses at a local store.

IMGP0165.jpg

Glenn found a spot to do an aerial video. See below the pictures for his video.

We spent 2 nights at Venao Cove waking up to the sound of ocean waves,howler monkeys and tropical beach. I woke up early and decided to do yoga on the bed listening to the tropical sounds outside the window. I stretched up doing a sun salutation and put my left hand right into the low ceiling fan in the dim light.I screeched loudly looking at my bloodied and contused hand.Glenn had a fully equipped first aid kit with him, and cleaned and bandaged my hand.That was quite a lot of pain for a moment of not thinking. I was grateful that nothing was broken, and it gave me an opportunity to have a caring conversation with a Hungarian woman who offered us assistence. A lifetime of learning!

Wisdom comes from life experience; life experience is the result of repeatedly taking corrective action while courageously learning from mistakes.”
― Ken Poirot

I love quotes that are just honest and state the obvious!

The next morning at 9 am we took the local bus to Pedasi for 35 cents each,for another incredible adventure.

Next blogs will be about Pedasi,renting a car ,driving through Las Tablas, Chitre,Santiago, driving the Pan American Highway, Las LaJas Chiqiri,Isla Boca Brava,Boca Chica, David,Volcan,Bambito,Cerro Punta, Boquete, Bocas Del Toro(Colon) and Isla Bastisimos. I have a feeling that internet will improve once we leave Volcan and go to Boquete.

Categories
Coronado El Valle Expats in Panama Panama City Pedasi Playa Veneo travel to panama

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.

IMG_4423

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.

IMG_4415

IMG_4416

IMG_4417

 

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.

 

 

Categories
Expats in Panama Panama City travel to panama

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

IMG_4954

 

 

 

Categories
Boca Chica Bocas Del Toro Bouquet Cariboo Stories Coronado David El Valle Expats in Panama Golfito Horses Isla Bastásemos Las Lajas Panama City Pedasi Puerto Jimenez Santa Fe travel to Costa Rica travel to panama

Our Strategy for Adventure to Panama and Costa Rica

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.