Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Panama: The Good

Panama started out as two things for us, a new country to explore and also our portal to South America. We knew from the start that most of our time in this country would revolve around making plans to get us and our car to Colombia, but unfortunately we prepared very little for this ahead of time. It is hard to explain because on one hand we should, and we do, have all the time in the world. But when it comes down to business, like actually sitting down and researching or writing, it is hard to find the time, or wifi.

We arrived to our first, and our only known destination in Panama...the upland town of Boquete (N 8°46.423 W 82°25.915). Boquete greeted us with cool crisp mountain air, and a perfect sweet little town to mosey around. We wandered the streets eating fresh baked treats, barely able to articulate how thankful we were for the break from the scorching temperatures and humidity we had just left! We found a gem of a hostal, that had parking on the lawn... So its like staying at a nice place with wifi, electricity, kitchen, and bathroom, but getting to still set up "camp" and sleep in our own bed. And even though all we wanted to do in Boquete was hike, we had lots of business to tend to!

Before we begin researching and emailing, a pleasant surprise sends us in the right direction. Some overlanding friends, Michael and Veronika from Germany that we met back in Nicaragua, unexpectedly appeared at the same hostal. They had already been in contact with one of the shipping agencies and had a ton of advice/knowledge on how the process works. (They have also shipped their car across oceans a few times, so they were way on top of how things should work!) Before long we were booking a place for Lola on the same ship as their vehicle, with SCLines. Glad that the stress and agony of starting our paperwork and locating a shipping company was under wraps, we were free to spend our days enjoying Boquete. We frequented our favorite bakery deli, Sugar & Spice, for the best fresh bread and sandwiches ever, indulged in the highly uncommon craft beer from Boquete Brewing Company, hiked, prepped the car for shipping, and cooked up some super delicious dinners while going back in forth with emails for our southward journey.

6.9% dark and tasty!!
Cutting the side panels to lock up the sleeping platform during shipping
Our first and favorite hike in Boquete was called "the lost waterfalls" trail. The three waterfalls along the trail are far from lost, but rather difficult to get to on the steep and very muddy path to them. The scenery along the way was lush and vibrant, so lucky for us that the mud made us go quite a bit slower than our usual pace, allowing ample time to soak up the scenery! Being out in nature so much has seemingly only added to both of our loves for it, because the more we are in it, the more we appreciate the smallest of things along the way!
A selfie in front of each of the 3 waterfalls
Sugar & Spice picnic lunch.pastrami on rye never tasted so good!
Some kind of orchid Smaller than half the size of my pinkie fingernail
Flowers that look like floating goldfish

Lola hit a vehicle milestone in Boquete, proving that you do not need to buy new to get reliability...just buy an old Toyota. It seems that now at 200k she is just breaking in. We gave her an oil change with a view as a treat, and are now crossing our fingers that this post doesn't jinx us and we don't break down anytime soon!! ;)

On our last day in Boquete we decided to hike a trail called "Pipeline", and once again let ourselves get excited about seeing a particular animal on this trail, this time was the Resplendent Quetzal. This was our last place to see this near-threatened bird whose habitat is becoming lost. We had heard from some locals that they were in the area right now, and although our attempts at spotting this rare and majestic looking bird have been feeble in the past, we couldn't help but still want to catch a glimpse. On our way in we got lucky and spotted a female Quetzal. She was cool, but what we (and every other hiker in Quetzal territory) really wants to see is the male. The male has incredibly long irredescent greenish blue wings and tailfeathers that can be up to three feet long, a bright red chest, and a strange babyface. We marked the area of the trail where we saw the female, hoping on the return we might see the male in the same area, and continued up towards a misty waterfall and enjoyed the day. On our way back down we stopped at the spot we marked, and she was still hanging around that area. Not two minutes after we arrive does a wonderfully bright male Quetzal swoop down from nowhere and land on a branch right in front of us, holding a big ol' caterpillar in his mouth to impress the lady. The two birds kept a few branches apart, talking back and forth with each other as the male bobbed and flicked his long tail around. They didnt seem to care that we were there, so we quietly watched the Quetzal courting process, took some videos, and eventually left pumped that after looking for one in the past four countries we finally saw one!
Hard to really grasp how huge this tree is in a pic!
The moment we realized we need a better camera!
The female to the left and the male on the right
Driving around the mountains above Boquete surprised us with some of the most idylic farmlands, pastures and orchards we have seen. We took the long way and the wrong way once or twice, but merely driving around the flower lined curvy roads was enjoyable. We stumbled upon a random deserted castle and a unique looking basalt rock formation that is supposedly one of two like it in the world. Intrigued, we went home to find out that when a thick lava flow cools, it contracts vertically but cracks perpendicular to its directional flow with remarkable geometric regularity, and in this case forming a grid of extrusions that almost appear to be manmade.
Abandoned castle
With shipping plans locked down, plenty of rest, and a mission to get to Panama City for the next steps, we depart from Boquete. Leaving here is almost depressing, goodbye good foods and cool air, and hello rice and beans and sweltering heat. That night was spent beach camping, hopefully an ocean breeze will mitigate the effects of being back down in the tropical weather. Arriving at Las Lajas wasn't quite a knockout, but we were pleasantly surprised by scenic free camping, cheap beers, miles of mostly unspoiled beaches and great views of an offshore lightning storm that seemed to last all night. Seriously, who needs a TV and couch when you've got mother natures best entertainment and a few broken camp chairs?!? (N 8°10.037 W 81°51.696).
We had no idea at the time, but the rain and storms will haunt us for the next two weeks :(
So there it is, "Panama the Good." Next comes the bad, the ugly, and the sailing trip that was somewhere in between good bad and ugly...






  1. Panama "the good" seemed very good. A little afraid to read about the bad and ugly. Take care, Carol & Lou

  2. What was the mileage on Lola when the trip started?

    1. She started around 191k and some change.