Published: February 12th 2013February 12th 2013
BOQUETE: Yesterday Nico, a tour guide at the L&F, took us to the Caldera River and hot springs. He's lived in Panama for over six years, starting out in the Peace Core, and owns his own car. I was so excited to take something other than a cramped bus; at least until he crowded 4 of us in the back seat of his small Hyundai Sedan! It was a cozy hour and a half ride to say the least.
The first place he took us was to the ancient petroglyphs, carved in lava rock. The locals that preserve the sight chalk in the carvings so they definitely don't look thousands of years old. Legend has it that the drawings are actually a treasure map that leads to gold buried with a very powerful chief. There are a lot of rumors about what actually happened to this ruler, so the truth of his death is unknown and body undiscovered. The lost and found used these drawings as inspiration for the treasure hunt. They are depicted on the walls in the bar and reveal the final riddle to discover the gold (or rum in our case). It was a decent hike to get to the hot springs but once we reached the house where you pay $2 to use their land, it looked like we were in a fairy tale. It reminded me of Snow White's cottage, lush and grassy, with geese, goats and turkeys roaming the property; and a small creek running through their land. The only think missing was a water wheel mill. Ok clearly I'm a Disney freak! The hot springs almost looked like a really wide well with rocks stacked up like short walls around the perimeter. It was pretty but the water levels were disappointing, the guys sat in about a foot of 106 degree water. Probably because we saw six Panamanians leaving with gallon jugs of it! They believe the water has healing powers...that or they thought it was the fountain of youth. Honestly at that point we were so hot from the hike that the river sounded more appealing anyways. The water was a short walk from the springs and as we were headed there, the infamous spider monkey came strolling out of the jungle. We had already heard stories about her being a kleptomaniac so kept a close eye on our camera. She literally steals people's drinks while they're wadding or sunbathing, opens the cap and drinks right out of the bottle! She's a lot bigger than cloud, our Capuchin at the lodge, so I was thrown off at first. A lady told me that she enjoys throwing people's cell phones in the river. Evil monkey #2. She stole these Canadians mixers the other day, so they had to drink their rum straight! We spent a few hours riding the currents down the river and headed for Boquete. After getting dressed Nico had asked me where my purse was. Apparently he had put his car key in my purse, which I then put in the trunk. I'm actually glad we didn't think about this dilemma until we were leaving because it would've negatively affected our time at the river. The guys were confident they could MacGyver the situation so we acquired a hanger from the locals and proceeded to break into the car. After about five minutes of trying to plunge the wire into the car and cutting away the window trim, a tour bus showed up. Fortunately for us the driver was a mechanic and was confident he could pry the door open in five minutes. It literally took him six! We were beyond hungry and exhausted when we got to this beautiful lookout point before heading down the hill into Boquete. There was a coffee shop on the hill that is the equivalent of Panama's Starbucks. Me and Kevin shared a chocolate mint frappe that tasted like heaven. I felt like a teenager again (since that's literally the last time I had that blended deliciousness). We ate at Big Daddy's, I ordered some amazing fish tacos. It's so nice to have a little diversity of food since we've been cooking the same ingredients for the last three weeks. The only fish I've had in Chiriqui is tuna out of the can so I was beyond stoked to have some fresh tacos. We're staying at the Music Boutique hostel a little outside of town, but an easy ten minute walk to the center. The layout of Boquete kind of reminds me of Healdsburg, with a park in the center and restaurants and shops around the plaza. We rented a scooter today and had an amazing experience cruising through the mountains, coffee plantations, along the river and past waterfalls. It was a beautiful drive and felt so good to be mobil again. We couldn't ask for better weather. That was probably the most fun money could buy, only $25 for 4 hours! Topping the gas off after three straight hours of driving only cost us $2.75! We need to get our hands on one of those when we come back home! Tonight we're going to have dinner at Mike's International Grill, an "ex pat" restaurant and bar. I'm not entirely sure what that term means but I'm guessing it's an overseas hangout for non locals. Especially because it was recommended to us by an American retiree in David. Oh well, a little home comfort food never hurts. Maybe we'll hit the billiards after or checkout the bar at mamallenas, another backpacker hostel. Our "weekend" is over and we only have two more shifts left at L&F. I guess our trip to Bocas will be a little vacation before we start volunteering again. It's bittersweet leaving because its been such an amazing experience and the people are awesome but it's time to press on.