Friday, January 18, 2019

The green and cool mountains of Boquete, Panama

It was time to leave our beach casita to move across the country to the mountains, so we were up early to go back to the highway and wait for a bus to come along that would take us to David, the larger city nearer to our destination. We flagged one down and drove about 5 hours on a very comfortable bus. We then were pushed on to a very crowded, standing room only school bus for another hour’s ride up the mountain to our next stop, a town called Boquete.

Here are some pics of our ride that day...



The buses were quite comfortable with ice cold air conditioning, most people had on hats and were covered in blankets.



Some newer subdivisions we passed...



We could see the mountains in the distance as we passed through lots of farms and ranches, lots of cowboys here...



And unfortunately lots of garbage everywhere...



We also began to see some of the people in traditional clothing...



Only seven of the native tribes that inhabited Panama prior to the early 14th century arrival of the Spanish still survive to this day. The indigenous people of this area are called Ngobe Bugle. The women wear colourful dresses that they make themselves and we saw them quite often in Boquete.

I decided to book an AirBnB outside town and up further in the mountains and it was a good choice. We were hosted by a Panamanian-Slovakian couple who owned a huge house with beautiful gardens...






Many types of fruit trees...

We were fortunate enough to be given a studio in the loft with fresh mountain air keeping us cool...





The neighbourhood was quite pretty...



It was around 30 mins walk downhill to the centre of town and the views were awesome.






The river Caldera runs down from the mountains through the town...


This is coffee country so neat little places to enjoy a cup...



Beautiful houses and landscaping...







Boquete still feels like a Panamanian town but over the years it has attracted a lot of ex pats who have settled here either full or part time, and as a result it has a lot of infrastructure which appeals to visitors. In particular there are so many great places to eat...



Italian...



Panamanian...

There was Peruvian,Argentinian,Mexican and lots of American style cafes, our favourite was Sugar and Spice...



Here you can see how windy it was there as this time of the year it is windy season according to the locals. 

Here I am enjoying a pina smoothie, so many good fruits...





This was on our plate every morning with the round one being a tree tomato, first time we ever tasted it...



The annual Flower Show was in town...






It was located on what appeared to be a large fair ground so there were lots of activities as well....

Pony rides...




Lots to buy...






 Some scenes around town...



In the town square

The fish seller...



The tailor...




Enjoying the shade...






Typical house...



Boquete is also known for outdoor adventures so there are many tour operators offering all kinds of activities...



We decided to do some hiking so chose a moderate trail high up in the mountains...



It was on private land so we had to sign in and out as well as a 3 dollar entrance fee...this is the gatekeeper...



The trail follows the pipeline which brings water to the town from the mountains...


The trees were tall...





And old!

Lots of bridges to cross...





The higher up we went the steeper and narrower the trail became...



But at the end we were rewarded with a waterfall, not overly large because it is dry season now...



Many people hike the trails in search of the elusive quetzal...



The resplendent quetzal is an aptly named bird that many consider among the world's most beautiful. These vibrantly colored animals live in the mountainous, tropical forests of Central America where they eat fruit, insects, lizards, and other small creatures. The bird was sacred to the ancient Maya and Aztec peoples, and royalty and priests wore its feathers during ceremonies.  

Unfortunately we did not spot one but If we did it would look like this...



It was a great hike, little tough getting started but a great way to experience the cloud forests of Panama...almost finished...



Boquete was a great stop on our way around Panama. 

Monday, January 14, 2019

A Relaxing Week in Playa Coronado, Panama


We left Panama City for a week at the beach in Playa Coronado, it was a colourful ride...



Most of the buses are old school buses which are individually painted, some have pictures of celebrities while others are honouring family members that have died. Using public transportation here is easy and cheap, it cost us 3 dollars each from the city to the beach. 

It was a only an hour or so by bus with some glimpses of Panama outside of the city...



Brightly coloured houses...



Small roadside towns...



And lovely green farms with mountains in the background.

Playa Coronado is a gated community which was established in the 1940s by a wealthy Panamanian named Robert Eisenmann. Near the beach there are mansions which are used on weekends and holidays by families from the city....





And this is not a hotel, but a family home...




All through the community are beautiful homes owned by locals as well as a large number of expats including Canadians and Americans....





We stayed at Panama Sarah’s Casitas, a property owned by a Canadian woman and it was a lovely place to pass the week. I don’t think we moved more than a few Kms from the place the whole week...



Don spent lots of time in the pool entertaining the other guests...

The gardens were lovely...





The main house had an awesome patio where the guests gathered to socialize and sometimes share a meal...one night we were treated to jambalaya by our neighbour from Louisiana.



The Coronado area is very modern with all the amenities you would need,lots of shopping and services...




Large grocery stores...



Apple, anyone?

Variety of seafood...



And lots of choice of beverage...



We found the wine we drink at home here for 9 USD while at home we pay 24 CAD.
Even with our very poor exchange rate still about half price, one of the only bargains here.

The currency in Panama is the American dollar, a bit wierd for a sovereign state. However there is a bit of history to this...

Officially, the Balboa is the currency of Panama which are minted coins with the same weight and dimensions as their U.S. counterparts.

However, in practice, the U.S. Dollar is the currency that everyone uses because Panama has no paper currency. Panama is the first country in Latin America to adopt the U.S. Dollar, having done so since 1904.

When Panama separated from Colombia in 1903, it was a weak, disorganized country. Panama was created out of American interest to build a canal that unites the Atlantic with the Pacific so naturally, it adopted many things from the United States, including its currency.

Therefore we find Panama to be an expensive country, not only because of the use of the US dollar but also the prices are so much higher here than other Central American countries we have visited. However there are many foreign investors here because of the safety and security they find in Panama. 

Don and I actually went on an International House Hunting excursion on behalf of a friend of a friend who saw I was in Panama in an area where she is looking at buying property. She had already made her contacts and asked if we would take a look. The real estate agent picked us up and brought us on a tour of a newly constructed condo development just down the beach from Coronado and it was very lovely...



The lobby...




The building...



One of the many beautiful views and the price is right! Hope she buys as she offered a free week! 

In every ex pat place we have visited there is a local hangout and in Coronado it is Picasso’s...



We went on Saturday night with our new friends from the Casitas and it was hopping with a great band and a very energetic singer...



She didn’t stay in one place to get a clear picture!

Great food too...sea bass and chips...




There was time for a 5 dollar buzz cut, the shortest hair Don has had in many years...




Lots of great meals prepared in our casita...



Great neighbours and hosts...




All in all a wonderful week in Playa Coronado and certainly a taste of why so many Canadians call it home!