Beautiful Boquete.......

Published: March 16th 2012
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At the top of the divideAt the top of the divideAt the top of the divide

So on a clear day you can see the Caribean and the Pacific, as you can wasn't a clear day
Boquete where the howling wind is strong enough to blow you to town and back!!!

Seriously it is strong enough to lift the roofs and it does!!!!!

But enough about the weather.....

At last ..... Settled for a week and a chance to unpack the back pack....

Well maybe not but hey we could have... A) if we had wanted to and B) if we actually needed half of the stuff we'd packed!!!

And after a full on day travelling on the local buses from Panama City to Boquette, which included a good hour queuing for tickets which meant we missed the 9.45am bus and were put on the 11.30am bus...we missed the school 6pm briefing and arrived at our destination in the dark to find the school was in fact 5kms outside of town... (where we'd passed 10 mins ago on the bus)..... So we jumped in a taxi and were a bit taken aback when 3 others jumped in too.. Later learning this is in fact how it's done.... 60 cents each... To anywhere local.... Bargain! Having said that the bus ride was pretty god damn good too... 1 dollar 25 cents for a
The countrysideThe countrysideThe countryside

The dramatic effect did this justice
45 minute journey... Which is pretty funky in the old suped up American School Bus!!!! So when we did arrive at the school we had indeed missed the briefing by about 2 hours!!! But never mind.....There was a Brucie bonus though.... Our £6 per person per night room in the hostel was in fact a double bunk room... Just us.... Perfecto!!!

We couldn't see much on our tour in the dark but the next morning we could really appreciate how lovely the school was... And take our time doing it!!!... Especially as we got up at 7am for our lessons at 8am only to we find out they were at 1pm......

All the classrooms are outside in the garden, which has orange trees, lemon trees, banana plants, goats in the field next door, black squirrels and enough birds to keep even the most avid twitcher happy...... We should know we had one in our group, Jeremy ..... Literally all he had to do was sit in a hammock (oh yes there are hammocks too all round the terrace) and watch the log where we placed any unwanted fruit..... Absolutely stunning, especially the tiny humming birds.

The school's a bit out
A little showerA little showerA little shower

A little wet but always happy
of the town so on the Tuesday we took a taxi to town and had a look round.... 60 cents each.....Boquete has lots of American people living amongst the locals.... They've taken over a bit but it's not spoiled yet and at least they try to speak the lingo and fit in...

The next morning we took the 'divide' hike with a local tour guide/part time local celebrity..... Feliciano.... This 56 year old crazy local had more energy than the whole of our group put together..... The hike was a great bit of exercise and there were some fab birds along the way, highlight being a hummingbirds nest.... The weather was a bit iffy so we learned some great Spanish words .... 'resbaladizo'' slippery and 'lodo' mud and 'empinado' steep, You getting the picture.... Not to mention 'gran vista', which is what we were hoping for at the top of the 3 hour hike to the top... A glorious view of the Caribbean to the left of the divide at the Bocas side and the Pacific to the right on the 'Chirique' side... We saw 'nada'... Check the pic out!!!! Still had great fun though....

On Thursday we
A quick rinse A quick rinse A quick rinse

The clean up after the mud
took a night trip to the beautiful and scorchingly hot natural hot springs down the hill in Caldera.... $2 to get in, so you can imagine they are still totally unspoilt and non commercialised, just lots of natural little and not so little rock pools that vary in depth and temperature, next to the river so you can take a dip to cool off if it gets too much....

We set off at 6.30pm so by the time we got there it was night and a bit eery but thankfully we had Feliciano to guide us again.... Oh and and our head torches.... When we got to the entrance alocally man comes out of the house ( little hut) with his monkey and takes your $2 and if you don't have a guide, points you in the right direction of the pools... We'd been warned to put plenty of bug spray on or we'd be eaten alive and thankfully we had..... Throughout the entire walk to the pools Feliciano kept warning us about the snakes too.... As if the bugs and noises aren't enough to freak you out... So by the time we finally got there... I actually couldn't wait
Volcan Baru from the HostelVolcan Baru from the HostelVolcan Baru from the Hostel

A good day for an early morning walk
to go back to our school but thankfully a dip in the first pool and a chilled out 20 mins of watching the stars, which were amazing due to the lack of light pollution where we were, settled me down and we all survived without a single snake bite!!!! We hit the river to cool off and a different pool, which was even hotter and then headed back around 10pm....Scarily there had been a few fires burning when we arrived and these were still burning on our way back and had spread.... The winds aren't as bad down in the valley away from Boquete but still a bit strange how no one even attempts to put them out and they just spread....

We finished our first week of Spanish on Friday at 5pm and celebrated with the whole school (about 8 of us!!!!) by walking up the hill to the German Cafe who make the most amazing Carrot cake.... So it was coffees and cakes all round and then a Barbecue that Fernando (one of the teachers from the school) arranges every Friday for all to celebrate earning your first accreditation in Spanish.... Not for us, Lisa, Andrea or Holly though..... We
First signs of lightFirst signs of lightFirst signs of light

As we started the approach to the summit
were in bed for 8pm as we had a really early start.... We were being picked up at 1am for our 5 hour trek to the top of Volcan Baru... 3475 meters high... This is the highest point in Panama and it's only volcano and we couldn't wait to climb it!!! And hopefully again fingers crossed see the great view of the Caribbean Sea to one side and the Pacific to the other and as we would be so high... We'd get to see all this from above the clouds... Oh and get to the top just in time for the sun to rise and see some pretty awesome colours in the sky, come what may with the view.....

We started walking with our sticks and head torches at about 1.50am and made really good time up the steep rocky way to the top... Thank God for my walking boots or my already iffy ankles would have collapsed on me after about 20 meters...It was about 6am when we arrived at a little hut a couple of hundred metres from the summit and you have to wait there as long as you can really as the temperature is so cold

This was stunning, as I hope you'd agree
at the top you can't stay too long.... How bad would it be if you arrived at the top in the dark and couldn't stand the cold long enough to wait and see the sun rise and the clouds clear and get the view you set off for...

We all started off in T Shirts and by the end we were well wrapped up in vests, thermals, fleece, jacket, gloves, hat... And we were still bloody freezing!!!!!Feliciano kept us fed and watered as we went up and bought out his home brew at the little hut.... (his coffee) ... We'd already munched bananas from his garden which were so nice.... Other than that we'd shared each others snacks apart from our Carrot cake, which we'd bought from the German cafe as a special treat when we all made it to the top.... And we were nearly there....

At 6.30am we set off for the summit as the sun was coming up... The views were out of this world and when we got to the top across a very narrow rocky traverse at the end .... Not the best when the altitude sickness has kicked in, but despite that you
A Happy MorningA Happy MorningA Happy Morning

With the sun on our faces and the Pacific to our back
just want to stay forever and take a pic from every angle!!!!! It was breathtaking and definitely one of the best things we've done do far....

The Pacific was so clear you could see Santa Catalina, Coiba, David.... As for the Caribbean that was still cloudy but you could just see the sea creeping through .... Just a very special place....We managed about 30 mins at the top and then headed down, now feeling a bit more acclimatised to the altitude having spent some time there and thanks to the special little sweets the lovely Austrian lady gave me at the top (huge thank you, you were a life saver)..

The layers came off as they went on .... One at a time until about 9am when the sun was out in all it's glory... And as this isn't the type of hike you can rush down, we we're well and truly baking by the time we hit the jeep at the bottom at around 11.30am. Highlight on the way down was hearing the mystical sound of two Quetzals, which are the native birds to this area and their song is mesmerising.... We did catch a fleeting glance
Above the cloudsAbove the cloudsAbove the clouds

So many pictures but none do it justice
but not enough to get a good pic and a Tucanita, which is a tiny tucan.... Really cute....

It was actually loads tougher on the way down and our knees and ankles certainly felt it....Had to pick a girl up on the way who'd had a fall and really damaged her knee, she'd been left by her group... Not great..... Bless her...

So what do you do after a highlight like that??....

Well, a well earned chilled out afternoon catching a few rays and a celebratory meal to top off a lovely week in this sleepy mountain town where we learned a bit of Spanish, hiked a few great trails and appreciated everything natural and unspoilt .....

Now ready to hit the beeches of the Caribbean!!!


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