Monday, September 26, 2011

Panama Road Trip

Panama is a beautiful country and there is much to see here. It is time for us to button up our boat and do some sightseeing. Our plan is to head up into the mountains for a cooler climate, hiking, relaxing (oh yeah, we really need that :) ) and a change of scenery. We love our boat but getting a little "land time" is nice. We are leaving the Bocas del Torro Archipielago heading across the Talamanca Mts. to the town of David. Here we will rent a car and drive up to Volcan Baru. And after that who knows?

Leaving Bocas del Torro takes a bit of planning. We are leaving our boat at the Red Frog Marina on the island of Bastimentos. From here we take a water taxi to the next island of Isla Colon and the main town of Bocas del Toro. Another water taxi ride will take us to the mainland Panama town of Almirante. We are splurging on a cab for the 3.5 hour trip across the mountains. We are lucky our friends Liz and Craig are heading in the same direction and we split the cab fare of $120 US. Ouch! But, hey, we are on vacation.

We try to travel light but still end up with two heavy bags. No wheels!
We catch the first water taxi of the day. He is bringing workers to the island and will take us back the other way. Nice day!

All aboard

Waiting for the next taxi.

Steve, Liz and Craig enjoying a cup of java at the dock.

An hour and half out of Almirante our taxi driver stops for a break. Chicken for breakfast? Sounds fantastic. That stuff hanging above the chickens is pork skin/fat. Just think about it, great way to baste the birds. YUM!

Ah, up high the scenery is fantastic.

In David Steve and I rent a car. Liz and Craig take off to visit friends. See ya later!

We have booked a room with a kitchenette at a small bed and breakfast in the quaint little town of Boquete. Our room is on the right and we overlook a river, soccer field and the mountains. Over the next week we spend every morning and evening out on our balcony enjoying the cool mountain air. We go to bed early every night because the local neighborhood rooster wakes us up at 5am. Otherwise it is perfect.

Mountain view from our room.

The river below our room. It is the rainy season here and there is lots of water coming out of the mountains.

Every day we drive around enjoying the scenery.

Boquete has been named by well known retirement guru's to be in the top 5 foreign destinations you might want to consider retiring to. Boquete was founded in 1911 primarily as a place for the American and European Panama Canal workers to come to and relax, get some cool fresh air and just enjoy a pleasant holiday. There is a sizable group of American, Canadian and European ex-pats here. There is lots of property for sale here. And like the rest of the world, right now you can get a real good deal! Living in a foreign country may have some financial perks but we are still big fans of the USA! Just visiting!

Steve thinking about lunch. There are lots of great places to eat here!

Wildlife all around

Tree tomatoes not ripe yet. They will turn red when ready to pick. The flavor is like an under-ripe tomato. It is a staple in the local cuisine but we have not found the fruit to our liking :(

There are many coffee farms (fincas) in these mountains. The coffee berry will turn reddish in color when ripe.

It rains almost every afternoon and there is no shortage of moving streams to admire.

Like other Caribbean islands and Latin countries, you will see unfinished houses just about everywhere. You never know if they are abandoned or perhaps the owners are just taking a break from construction. If you leave a house unattended here you will most likely have squatters to deal with when you return home. House sitting is a popular non-paid occupation here.

A glimpse of past volcanic activity.

Delicious red bananas

Malay Apple Tree (mountain apple). A bit tart otherwise very tasty.

Hydrangeas can grow here almost year round.

Mi Jardin Tu Jardin is a popular tourist attraction in Boquete. The property is owned by a local gentleman, rumored to be in his 90's. The gardens are beautiful but we were really impressed by the colorful livestock.

A spot of purple

The Panamonte Inn is a Boquete icon. Built in 1914 for the Panama Canal crowd, it has survived with few renovations and conveys an ambiance of past splendor and gaiety.

Imagine arriving here in the early 1900's. What a welcoming sight.

The grounds are immaculate

And there are many inviting cozy areas to sit and just be.

We find a few other gems around town. This local bar is very popular and serves up good drinks at very reasonable prices. They sponsor some good jazz music during the high season and the interior decor is worth coming all this way just to see. Sorry, can't show you...must come see for yourself.

The road to the top of the Volcano is long and mean. We decide not to go.

Another long road to where? We try it out in our rental car but not for long. No tow trucks in this town.

Instead we venture out on foot. We park the car on the road and put on our hiking boots.

The bridge sways a bit as we cross but it is very solid. The hiking trail is maintained by the local Indians and we are soon stopped for a "hiking fee", they want $10 but we only have $ problem, $9 will do. The local sign in book tells us there has not been many hikers here recently. They are happy to see us.

The trail is not bad but we are at about 4500' elevation, recovering from colds so the going is a bit slow with lots of rest stops. There are many many animal noises all around but we can never see anything! Everything is camouflouged.

Our destination is this nice waterfall. The water temperature is tempting for a swim but it is beginning to rain and we have some serious downhill trekking to return to the car. No swimming today.

Looking up but seeing very little other than green foilage. Wishing we had a guide.

Back towards the car is a beautiful vista.

Enormous elephant ears

Back in town one of our favorite eateries is.....

They make a great margarita with a chili salt mix around the rim. It is not rum but he is still smiling.

The owners are very friendly and are eager to show us their expansion plans. We love the local hardwood here. The decking is beautiful.

The bar top is Mango wood.

After our week in Boquete we head back to David and our friends Liz and Craig tell us about a great little resort they discovered on the Pacific Ocean side of Panama. We still have our rental car so why not? A short 1.5 hours later we arrive.

On a very isolated stretch of beach, neighbored by small primitive surf camps, is this very quaint little resort.

Miles and miles of dark sand to walk on.

There is a nice bar/restaurant on site, which is good because there is no other place to eat.


Bochy ball

Sitting around

Contemplating the Pacific

Thinking about it

Next door neighbors

The end of our trip brings us back to David. We spend the day shopping for things we cannot find in Bocas. We buy way too much stuff and there is no way we can bring it back with us since we are taking the local bus over the mountains. Lucky for us there is a local service to help us out. Toby is from Texas, now living in Panama with her family. When we finish shopping in a store we call her. She shows up in her car, takes our stuff back to her house and puts cold stuff in the refrigerator, frozen stuff in her freezer and the rest in boxes with our name written on everything. We buy buy buy and she picks up up up. In a few days she will drive our stuff over the mountains in her truck. The truck will be transported via ferry from the mainland to Bocas Town, Isla Colon. There, among many others, we will show up to claim our stuff. We are a bit worried but it is needless. Service like this for $25!
After a day of shopping in David we head to the bus station where we see this great chick display....hope you are not disappointed!

The bus trip is great. There is much to see out the window

Local school kids. Lots ride the bus but some very lucky kids have bikes.

We arrive back at our boat and love sleeping in our own bed again.
Where to now? Not sure. We'll let you know.

Adios from Panama,

Anne and Steve
S/V Fine Line