Travel report 12: Halfway, Panama.
At this time I´m about halfway my journey, as well about the time I´ve left, but also geographical seen. In this report I will close my story about Costa Rica and enter Panama.
From the outskirts of San Jose, to the outskirts of Costa Rica, the Caribbean. With all over the Caribbean coast (except from Mexico) her own way of living. "Don´t get upset, take it easy and if you don´t want to do it today, just do it tomorrow", are some of the ingredients of the Caribbean live(style). O, I almost forgot Bob Marley, how could I...
My first destination is the village Cahuita and its Nacional Park. I found the village boring, but the park offers a nice half day trip (if it´s not raining). Only during my walk in this park, I experienced the results of feeding wild animals. People like to think that they become tame, but in fact even the opposite can happen... When I refused to feed a White face Monkey, he got angry with me and attacked my plastic bag! I have to say that I was impressed by its sharp and even some big teeth next to my bare legs...
Vamos a le Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, surfers paradise. Although the best beach (best waves) are 2km further east. This is one of the few places where I´ve really seen some very good surfing. I would almost like to learn it my own... But at this moment it was for me more fun to rent a bike and to cycle the scenery route toward Manzanillo. During this trip you can enjoy the surrounding and I also saw a lot of colourful birds, including the big toucan. If you want some more exercise, like I wanted, you can also cycle the nice route around the mountain, across a big banana plantation, towards Margarita.
The beaches of Puerto Viejo are not very much, one small one and one bigger black beach (the beach is better to the east and in Manzanillo), but it´s a lively place with a good night-live.
To cross the border with Panama, I had to walk over an old iron bridge across a river. The bridge was, at most of the place, not wide enough to have a sidewalk also, so we had to walk in front of some big American trucks over an old wooden road surface... The border formalities however, were the easiest I´ve ever had.
Panama, most known from its Canal, but that´s not very fair. The Canal didn´t even belong to Panama until 31 Dec. 1999 and the country has much more to offer, for example a variation of history, culture, nice beaches, tropical(rain)forest and some highlands with great opportunities to hike.
Here are a few things about Panama I already found out myself: The roads and bus services (a little more expensive) are very good, nice change after Costa Rica...
The food is cheap, but to find a cheap place to sleep can be difficult.
I also noticed that you will see less tourists in the streets, but more different looking locals. Latin look, Indians, black people, white people even Chinese. Sometimes you will see a mix, but most of the time they live their own live(style).
There was only one thing I found Cynical; The Indian population is the poorest in Panama and sometimes they´re treat like second citizens, especially the women. But these same women, who still, for their belief and men, every day have to wear their traditional dress (pollerra), you see on many pictures in (luxury) guide-books to attract (rich) tourists. And what do they get in return? They deserve at least a little more respect...
My first stay in Panama is, on advice, on the Caribbean Island Bastimentos, situated in Archipelago de Bocas del Toro. The only "village" there is not much bigger than one street, but it´s a quite and friendly street. The biggest attractions of the island are its nice golden beaches on the east side and its nature reserve that covers most of the south side. If you look careful you will be able to spot some very small colourful frogs, but my biggest surprise was to find a strange fort? Later I found out that it was build by and for the shooting of the Russian and Argentine edition of the program Survivor!?
Isla Colon, with the capital(village) of the archipelago, Bocas del Toro. My advice: "Don´t spend there more than one nice day and night." Rent a bicycle and cycle across the island on a nice road (I saw 2 sloths, one even crossing the road?!) and/or visit some of the beaches. Have a party in the evening and night and go next day to Boquete, which has more to offer.
Boquete, a friendly town, situated on a higher altitude (cooler) in a green valley. Surrounded by lots of colourful flowers, coffee plantations and fruit trees, which even grown along some roads, it looks very picturesque. And when I arrived it was even more colourful, because there was a festival of flowers and cafe going (Feria de Las Flores y del Cafe). The surrounding of Boquete also offers different trails and good possibilities to hike
around by yourself. The 2 most known trails are up to the top of Volcan Baru and Sendero Los Quetzals. The first I didn´t walked, because it would only be the 3e highest point in Central America, to low ;-) The second trail was a nice day-hike about which I can also recommend to start from the village Cerro Punta and than walk all the way down to Boquete. If you do t hat it´s a little easier and you will also pass some coffee plantations and Mi Jardin es Su Jardin, which can offer you some ideas about the organize of your garden.
One more thing, don´t forget to taste the cafe in this village!
David is not much more than a small city and a place to change busses. But It´s also a cheap place to spend the night and do some shopping.
Boca Brava Island, an island in an archipelago at the Pacific Coast of the province Chiriqui. The first thing that came to my mind when I was walking on one of the small beaches, was a comparison to Corcovado, it´s only a little more dry and less tropical. The snorkelling around these islands I found not very impressive, but during the boat trip between the islands, which most belong to N.P. Marino Golfo, I was treat with a beautiful view of the various small and rocky islands and their inhabitants. Some of the islands have palm trees and white beaches and if you look at those islands with on the background the coastline and further away, the mountains with their clouds, it looked even more special!
Chitre and surrounding. I was hoping to find here some culture, but I found not much more than a nice church and some, exposed for sale, pottery.
El Valle (I would almost call it Frog-village. Spend here one night and you know why...), is a favourite destination of the citizens of Panama City. It has a nice climate, is surrounded by green (forest)hills and has a fertile soil which results in results in a surrounding rich in trees, plants, flowers and even fruit trees. It´s a little like Boquete, without the cafe.
The village is wide spread and at, most of, the lovely houses, with big nice gardens, you can see that´s wealthy.
El Valle is also known for its Sunday Market and Golden frogs. However, after Guatemala and Nicaragua, I found this market not very impressive and the Golden frogs, these you can only see in the zoo and on private property...
No, I liked El Valle most for its surrounding that invites you to walk/hike around.
Breaking news! I´ve just heard that the female president of Panama has lost her mind, according to most of the people around here. She wants to build a big highway from the Pacific to the Caribbean Coast, but across the nice landscape of Boquete.
I, think that I agree with the people around here and hope that it will not happen.