A Wild Monkey Grabbed My Pant Leg - Caldera, Panama

Published: May 31st 2012
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Total Distance: 0 miles / 0 kmMouse: 0,0

We thought we didn’t do much since the last time we wrote, but in retrospect we did quite a bit!

Wednesday we hiked Sendero El Pianista (Pianist Trail). El Pianista is “a pleasant day hike through dairy land and into humid cloud forest”. There was just one thing keeping us from the hike and that was crossing a small river. It had to be pretty easy; there was a whole family that lived on the other side. When we got to the river, there was an old man trying to fix a bridge. His idea of a bridge and mine differed vastly! While my idea had at least two pieces of wood tied together with rope, he was installing a too-short “I” beam and rocks. He helped me along for a couple of steps, then I was on my own, doing my best Olga Korbut (I just dated myself!) impersonation – luckily it wasn’t very long!

The rest of the trail was pretty uneventful. The terrain was rough and I was getting bitten by horseflies every time we took a water break; I still have bites on my legs almost a week later! Because of the terrain, horseflies and impending rain, we did not hike into the cloud forest. There was an old truck that carried three old men and about 50 baby coffee plants that came barreling up the trail. My Saturn could never make it up!

Speaking of cars, our car’s “permit” is only good for one month. We can extend it for a couple of months in the town of David, about 40 minutes down the hill from Boquete. Our only map of David was in Lonely Planet, so with book in hand, we took off for the Immigration Office. After getting lost (yet again) we finally found the Immigration Office. We weren’t sure what to do next once we were there. A lady asked if she could help us. When we explained what we were trying to do, she said we were in the wrong place, that we would have to go to the Customs Office or Aduana. When we finally got to the Aduana, we were told that they could only renew our visa when it had one day until it expired. So, while most would consider the day a failure, we had to look on it as a success. We found Immigration, found the Aduana, and discovered when they could do our work. We’ll probably come back the day before we leave for Panama City.

Yesterday we went to the town of Caldera. Caldera is a town of about 500 people with a church, police station, and soccer field; in other words, blink and you’ll miss it! What we went for is the hot springs. The hot springs had been advertised all around Boquete in both hostels and tour guides. We knew we were going the right way when we passed six people walking to the springs. Apparently, they caught a bus going to Caldera and walked from there. We drove our car until the road got too difficult to pass. We parked at a man-made waterway and proceeded to walk to the springs. And walk. And walk. The springs were on private property. We realized we were there when we came upon a woman charging us $2 per person.

We walked around the area looking for the hot springs. According to the things we read, there was a total of four springs – two out in the open and two enclosed. We only found three. The first one was, albeit small, out in the open. The temperature was about 95 – 100 degrees. We didn’t bring our bathing suits, but I had to get my feet wet! I was just about to dunk my feet in the water when I heard a female start talking excitedly. It was one of the people that we had passed walking down. I didn’t think any more of it and proceeded to soak my feet. The six people that we had seen walking came walking up the path, along with a monkey! It was wild and they said he just started following him. The man was from Spokane and we traded “mini” travel stories. The people thought that the spring was too hot and left after a little while to go swimming in the stream, leaving the monkey up in a tree. I probably would have done the same thing if I had walked as far as they did! I started to “talk” to the monkey, feeling not unlike Dr. Doolittle! He came down from his perch and into the water, all the while looking at me. Upon closer examination, I noticed that the monkey was older than I first thought. I’m sure he wanted some food, but my new-found Dr. Doolittle skills only went as far as talking, not listening. He seemed to be enjoying the springs! Soon, after many pictures and no food, he disappeared into the jungle. We then decided to check out the bridge over the river.

The view of the metal footbridge looked down upon the river where the people were swimming. I was gazing at the people in the water and wondering which came first – the hot springs or the hydro-electric plant (I later found out it was the hot springs), when I heard David call my name. I looked up to see what he wanted and it was the monkey! Okay, my Dr. Doolittle skills went out the window! I’m on this footbridge; I couldn’t even turn and run because that side of the bridge was padlocked. The 8-foot-tall monkey (okay, maybe I exaggerated a bit!) slowly walked up to me and then grabbed my pant leg. I did what any red-blooded American would do – I let out a yelp! I know I‘m supposed to move slowly and not make any sudden movements that would scare the monkey, but HE GRABBED MY PANT LEG! Luckily, he didn’t do anything more than walk away; I guess he was used to this kind of reaction. The monkey walked toward David, who, thankfully, had his camera. He took a lot of pictures!

On the way back to our car, we came upon a guide who had showed another couple the trail to the hot springs. We had a very pleasant conversation with him and as we parted ways, he stopped in his truck and gave us a bag of avocadoes. They were huge, at least five times the average avocado size!

We only have about two more weeks in Boquete and then we travel on to Panama City. While we’re not sure what else there is to do here, I’ll always have the memory of a wild monkey grabbing my pant leg!

Additional photos below
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16th December 2012

Cool pix - request info re Caldera
There are 7 of us and we don't plan to rent a car for many days. Per your journal, people take a bus from Boquete to Caldera for the mineral spring. Was it worth the trip? Were there other spots hotter than the one you mentioned? And do you think it is reasonable to take a bus and walk, given your knowledge of the area? We are going in January and really looking forward to this. If you have other tips for Boquete, please let me know. We are planning to visit Finca Lerida, the Quetzales trail, Finca Suiza (northeast of Boquete off the beaten path) for hiking, and possibly the Pianista trail (per our guide's suggestion.) We like to hike and want to see birds. Thanks so much, Cathy
17th December 2012

The hot springs, to be honest, were pretty disappointing. While we were there several other groups arrived and I did not see anyone use them. It is run by totally local people and is not really very developed. I liked the idea of using local attractions, but this one wasn't very good. If you took a bus there, it is a very long way from where the bus drops you off (maybe 2 miles or more). Finca Lerida was nice, but kind of expensive. Pianista trail was OK but really not a very interesting trail after the first 1/2 mile and we didn't really see any birds that we couldn't have seen on the road. The quetzal trail was very nice but parts were closed when we went so you couldn't hike the entire route. If you like birds, Boquete is full of them (everywhere, literally) and you will see colors and types you have never seen before for sure. Enjoy your trip.

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