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Published: December 13th 2018
Tues 11-Wed 12 December - Day 46 to 47 – Boquete, Panama but day 56 of our travels including Colombia
The day was beautiful as we went back to the Panama mainland by boat. We then travelled by minivan onto the highlands and the charming mountain village of Boquete. The 3 hour drive was beautiful through the heavily vegetated highlands. Roads were windy with the occasional bad patched needing repair. One the way we stopped to view the massive dam and hydro electric syste, the biggest in Panama.
Located on the eastern slopes of the Volcan Barú, Boquete is quickly becoming a destination for those who wish to bask in the cooler climate and marvel at the exquisite vistas. The climate was very different to the island we had just come from. There was misty rain when we arrived at our Hotel La Casa de la Abuela. After checking into the very comfortable hotel, which had all that you would want in a hotel (except hairdryer!), we all walked into town (10 minutes which is longer than usual with Tucan Travel) and ended up in a lovely restaurant with black squirrels running up trees as
well as great food. Some of our group even had cocktails but Tom and I have either beer or diet coke at lunch, even though it was a 2.30pm lunch. A beautiful rainbow was formed and made a very special back drop on the town.
We then walked further around this little town, admiring the Christmas lights during the day, noting to ourselves that we would come back that night to see the lights – which we did. There was a river that flowed the whole length of the town which lent itself to some wonderful landscaping. At one of the bridges there was an amazing garden display with little windmills, statues of animals and colourful plants and seating all along the banks of the river. Unfortunately, as we discovered at night that it wasn’t lit up at night. We discovered this when Tom decided he wanted a banana split (rather than dinner as we had such a late lunch) from the gelati shop which was at the entrance to the bridge (which was lit up).
The next day we decided to go for a trek up the mountain which ended up being 6kms.
It was a tough walk at times as nothing is on the ‘flat’ except along the river. The scenery was beautiful and it gave us an opportunity to walk through some of the local indigenous villages. Have a look at the photos at their dress. It is compulsory for the women to wear traditional dress, even to the extent that the school children can wear this rather than the set school uniforms.
We found a little restaurant back at the bridge with the garden and had some local vegetable and beef soup before going back to our hotel to meet our driver/guide for our “scenic jeep and coffee tour”.
Boquete is known to produce some of the sweetest oranges and richest coffees in all of Panama as the surrounding hills and slopes are covered in shade-grown coffee plantations known for their sustainable farming practices. These farms are recognised the world over by conservationists and are home to an abundance of birds equal to those found in the cloud forests higher on the mountain.
Coffee is primarily picked by the indigenous Guaymi during the months of October through February. This is considered
a festive time and colourfully clad Indian families come from various parts of the province to harvest the coffee cherries. Tours through some of the coffee ‘fincas’ of Boquete are prevalent for those interested in seeing this spectacle along with wide variety of bird life.
We hopped into the back of the locally modified Landcruiser jeep and headed for the mountains. We stopped at many spots along the way to ‘ogle’ at the beautiful, mountainous scenery. The guide was full of local information. Half way around we stopped at a coffee plantation which supplied Japan, USA and China with its boutique coffee which included geisha coffee, one of the best coffee available. The gentleman who started the plantation is in his 50s and bought the land when he was only 18. We planted 11 varieties of coffee in not set order, throughout his property. He also made the machinery to prepare the coffee beans up to the roasting stage. He equipment was made out of parts from cars, bikes, motor bikes and other items. He was an interesting inventor. There was no computerisation on the machinery, unlike some of the larger coffee outlets. Mostly he sells the
coffee bean before the roasting stage, so his clients can roast their own, the way their market likes it. However, be roasts some of his beans on site, for the local market.
We saw some being roasted by our guide. Light, medium and dark roasted beans became available for us to crunch on. All were very different in taste. We of course had a hot coffee of the medium roast beans. The whole experience was very interesting.
After we continued our scenic drive along the base of the Volcano Baru, the highest point in Panama. We loved the whole day.
Being dropped back at our hotel, we enjoyed the last of our bottle of red wine, again, chatting to our fellow travellers who had all done other activities. That night was a wonderful dinner which we shared more stories, and another bottle of malbec from Argentina. Someone has to do it!!!!
Boquete is a village in Chiriqui province, in the Pacific West of Panama. The main features of Boquete include:
<li style="margin: 0px 0px 10.66px; color: line-height: normal; font-family: 'Calibri',sans-serif; font-size: 11pt; font-style: normal;
font-weight: 400;">A year-round temperature in the low 20s.A significant North American expat community and tourist destination, which brings with it a wide range of amenities from which to choose, ranging from hostels to luxury, health spas, reliable infrastructure, with English very widely spoken.Fresh mountain air.A small town, with a small town atmosphere, surrounded by relatively untouched natural beauty.The ability, if you choose to venture away from the town, to visit rural, traditional Panama.An abundance of outdoor activities, including zip lining, bird watching, rafting (certain times of year), hiking, and limited golf.World famous coffee plantations.<li style="margin: 0px 0px 10.66px; color: line-height: normal; font-family: 'Calibri',sans-serif;
font-size: 11pt; font-style: normal; font-weight: 400;">Lots of spas and other health-related facilities.
Up until the early 2000’s, Boquete was a sleepy, almost completely unknown and unremarkable agriculture-based mountain village with almost zero tourism and very few people living in the area whose families hadn’t been there for generations. That changed with a series of events starting with the creation of Valle Escondido, a large residential development aimed at expats. Right around the same time, several magazines devoted to people considering becoming expats began to flourish, with one of the most popular very regularly touting Boquete as “the land of eternal springtime”, just like today's Medellin - Colombia (la ciudad de la eterna primavera) which is known as the land of eternal springtime throughout the world.
As a result of the publicity and the natural beauty and temperate climate of Boquete, it became, arguably, the best known North American expat destination in the world (25% of todays population), as a large expat community developed.
There are plenty of other optional excursions on offer; in fact Boquete is already building up quite a reputation as an 'adrenalin town' with world class rafting
facilities, mountain biking, rock climbing and rappelling at nearby Los Ladrillos in Bajo Mono.
Boquete is a very cosy mountain village so we didn't have problems exploring the city on foot. The central plaza, in the middle of town on Main Street, is where the David-Boquete bus drops off incoming visitors and locals. The council building was also there and was were most of the Christmas decorations were. The night we visited them, there were many locals enjoying the Christmas activities. The local church was heavily decorated with commercial Christmas decorations and religious Christmas decorations.
All in all, it was a locally change to be a little cooler and experience many other different environments. We were up at 5.00am to drive to David to catch a 9.00am flight to Panama City. We only have 3 nights left of our Central America and Colombian travels which has been an amazing 60 days away. We are REALLY starting to get excited about going home.
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