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Voyage to the Isthmus of Panama Day 5

My mother said there would be cannibals

semi-overcast 23 °C

Day 5. Dawn broke several hours before we managed to crack open our eyes, and there still seemed to be remnants of the previous nights' music humming in our ears. No wait, that's a cricket. Still, sounded the same. Bleary eyed, we looked at each other and knew instantly what we must do: Sex. No, make that coffee. The walls were far too thin for sex, but just right for coffee. Our extraordinarily charming $13/night room nigh spoke to us...."get your asses up gringos and smell the cooked meat products". This sounded odd, coming from four reasonably barren walls, but we heeded the advice as sound. Clean the teeth, splash refreshingly cold water on the faces, and put on clothing. This was again the stuff of true adventure. Mostly because brushing one's teeth in water slightly above freezing is an adventure unto itself. But the cold water did the trick, and we were soon seated in the restaurant ready for some of the finest coffee in the world. The waitress recognized us immediately as the Alcoholic Butchers of the Language, and was kind enough to simply set two cups in front of us, filled with life-giving nectar, and smile. "Mas jueves y jabon?", she slyly chided. Funny girl. It seems everyone is a comedian. "Si Senorita, y dobles", I felt compelled to reply. While she giggled her way back to the kitchen, we sipped the dark brew and gazed upon the gardens, keenly sensing that the mental fog would soon lift. The gardens were again stunning, and the bougainvillia heavily scented the air, clearing our minds. Or maybe it was the caffeine. Nonetheless, we had purpose anew. Food....damn this was good soap. And the Thursdays were prepared perfectly over easy.

What seemed like several days passed before we made it back to the room. The botanists were on the terrace sorting and bagging their most recent booty. "Nice orchids, I'd bet they would go good in an umbrella drink." The boys were unimpressed with our humor, but did go on to explain that these particular orchids were quite rare and required the utmost care to make it back to Florida alive for propagation and survival. Orchids were suffering in the tropics due to climate change, and they must be preserved. Fair enough, but still, those boat drinks....

The boys regaled us with a story of their attempted climb up Death Hill in their SUV, which coincidentally, matched ours but in color. We couldn't help but notice the excessive amount of red clay that had attached itself to every surface of the car. "Couldn't make it up the hill, eh?" No, they couldn't, and save for the assistance of a kind local in a very strong 4-wheel drive truck, their lives had been spared an ignominious death. This bode well, as it's always handy to have a local nearby in possession of a very strong 4-wheel drive when negotiating Death Hill. Where the hell was he yesterday at the great River Muluba Challenge? Ha, we didn't need him for that as we are true adventurers.

We bid the boys farewell and checked out of the hotel. Doctor Gary came out to chat, inquire as to our next destination, and say goodbye. We told him we were headed to Boquete, which brought a smile to his face as he was also soon to be there, but not today. Perhaps we would see each other again.

We artfully packed our 2 metric tons of baggage back into the Nissan and headed down the road. Oh look Dear, the vacas have come to see us off and protect us from the precipitous drop-off!! Funny boy.....hey, you have to make fun, if not of yourselves, something else.


Santiago was a quick drive, mostly for the 60-degree angle of the road down the mountain. Ah, to have the fresh air again blowing through our hair. Even more refreshing in Santiago itself, where the heat and humidity had returned with a vengeance. Oh, look, another muebleria. Y una carniceria. Not to be deterred from our task, we stopped at the next petrol station for a full tank, such that we could make it to out next destination without needing the blessings of a delightful woman and her 300 children. Tank filled to the brim, we sped out onto the CA1 in search of David. The town, not a person. We whisked through one small town after another, breathing in the scenery, which was not difficult to do as the air was thick with moisture. Several hours of scenery breathing later, we arrived in David, a bustling city of 125,000 or so. Oh look Dear, another muebleria. Enough with the store jargon, please. But Dear, it's an educational experience....fine then, we'll move onto animals. No, look for signs. From above? No, for Boquete, that road has to be around here somewhere. And so it was, we found the road with considerably less difficulty than trying to get out of Panama City. We again climbed high into the mountains, passing such sights as the Volcan Baru, a thankfully extinct volcano. Nothing can ruin a good adventure like rivers of molten lava burying one's hotel. Puts one quite off an afternoon martini. And shortly, Boquete was in sight. Boquete is a quiet little town of 20,000 or so that has been beset by expatriates from the North, most of whom have barricaded themselves in gated communities at the edge of town. So much for soaking in the richness of the country. Granted, Panama is not exactly rich, which is why these expats now call it home.....it's cheap by American standards. But there is more to the country than economic riches.

Driving through town, we spotted the internet cafe, several potentially good restaurants, and the grocery store, perfect for stocking up on seco and cheesy poofs. The streets were quite crowded with both locals and new locals going about the day. And dogs. There were lots of dogs. Seemingly too many for a town of this size, but they too were simply going about their days' business. Oh look Dear, the LP guide says the Hotel Panamonte is quite nice. And $65/night....not too bad. We parked in the lot and bravely sauntered into the lobby. Si Senor, tenemos cuartos. Dos noches? Oh Senor, we only have cabana suites left, but they are very nice. Only $75/night. Sold. The bearers effortlessly unloaded our baggage and brought it to our new abode. Wow, you're not kidding....this is a great room. And a little seating area outside.


Oh look Dear, the TV Guide says Steve Irwin is on at 9. No, we have to explore, be adventurous. OK, no TV, so where do we go? Where else but to the river? Made sense, this woman of mine was both wily and correct. So off we charged to the Rio Caldera. Say Dear, you do know that a caldera is the leftovers of a volcanic eruption? Yes, of course I do, but do you smell sulfur and see lava flowing in the streets? No, true enough, no lava and no sulfur. A short hike over the garbage and through the ruts and we were there.


At 3200 feet, we were nigh gasping for oxygen, the air thick with an omnipresent mist. During a smoke break, we spotted the lifeless bodies of 2 rafting guides and five tourists. Damn, nothing in their pockets. Oh well, no harm in trying. For the ID's of course. Beautiful river, even with the masses of detritus borne by the currents to the shores. Funny thing about Panama, as with many Central American countries, garbage is ever-present. It would be a fine place for an enterprising garbage collector.

A short hike back into town found us at the Supermecado Ruiz, the grocery store we had spied from the road. Time to stock up on supplies, as adventurers are apt to do given the opportunity. Seco, some limes, a tin of peanuts, and cheesy poofs, this would tide us over. Securing our repast, we made for the hotel. It was now that we must record our adventures to date.


Few things in life are more satisfying than booze and cheesy poofs. And Panamanian limes are most curious. They look like regular limes on the outside, but on the inside they have bright orange flesh and are obscenely sweet. Perfect for logging the past few days in the land of cannibals. Many hours passed until it was time for a proper dinner. The hotel restaurant was ready for us. Ah, fresh fish. Not us, it was on the menu. My sweet devoured a piquant chicken with vegetables whilst I opted for seafood. See food, eat food, I always say. We could bear no more by cocktail time, so a few adult beverages by the stone fireplace and it was time to retire. Oh look Dear, Steve Irwin is still on....must be a marathon. With the cool mist blowing seductively through the open windows and casting a light fog throughout the room, we bundled up and drifted off to a most pleasant sleep, no longer gasping for oxygen. And so endeth Day 5 of our adventures.

Stay tuned for a second riveting day in the highlands, wherein we again meet Doctor Gary and find that the hills are indeed alive with the smell of coffee plantations.

Posted by beerman 07:40 Archived in Panama Tagged family_travel

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