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Published: April 22nd 2012
We stumbled upon more wonderful places in Panama. The hiking trails in the other countries of Central America were riddled with tales of robberies and muggings, and guides were always being recommended. We wanted the independence of not having a guide and enjoying the trails and nature at our own pace - Panama has allowed us this. Thanks Panama! It is never too late to get in a hike or two and we both needed the exercise! We pretty much spent all of our days hiking. It was perfect!
The Santa Fe region has some awesome hiking trails. We hiked to many waterfalls, through thick cloud forests and farmland and enjoyed the very fresh mountain air. We were accompanied by wildlife on all of our hikes in the area. The scenery was gorgeous.
We rocked up in El Cope without a whole lot of info on the place. There was only one place to stay in town and we were the only two there. We were told by a local man who spoke English to walk up the dirt road to a building with a sign and ask for Pablo. An
old man greeted us in Spanish and showed us to our room. "No aqua ahora". There was no water that day due to some road construction. He had filled up his laundry sinks and water bottles so we could wash. We used the outhouse instead of his flush toilet. We treated some water with our Pristine drops for drinking water. And we were still grateful for the electricity as we had a fan to keep us cool whilst sleeping.
We ventured up the steep hill to the Park office in the blistering heat. It was closed, "On an official mission" the sign on the door read. So we sat in the shade and had a juice to cool off. We had hoped to stay in the Omar Torrijos National Park, but found out it was closed for Semana Santa (Holy Week). El Cope, a very small town, did not have a great deal going on (i.e., nothing). Although, it was rather entertaining to watch some teenage girls giggle amongst themselves after saying "Hello" in English to Dave as Dave attempted to engage them in English conversation. But all they knew was a few salutations.
Just when we thought
the one-day stay in El Cope would be rather quiet, we met John from Calgary. John and his wife Cathy were house-sitting for an American couple whom they happenstanced upon, and were enjoying living in the middle of the Panamanian mountains. John was kind enough to take us for a drive through some small communities via the backroads. He chatted about Panama and how it has all the money in the world to get things done - but doesn´t have the workforce to do it. Judging by what we have seen thus far in Panama, they definitely have money to build bridges as there´s hardly a road you can travel without some sort of bridge being built. After touring us around he took us to the house they were taking care of, we picked up Cathy, and then the four of us drove to the coast for a fish supper... Thanks you two!
There weren´t many buses from El Cope to El Valle making the journey rather annoyingly frustrating. But as we waited at an intersection bus stop, a couple of American guys swung in by car asking us for directions. It serendipitously ended up that
Mountains and Cloud
Santa Fe National Park.
we were all going to the same destination so they offered us a ride. What a treat! As we chatted, we discovered that they were avid birders and had stayed at the same lodge as us in Crooked Tree, Belize, at the same time! So cool, when that happens. (In fact, upon reflection of our entire trip, whenever we were at a junction during our travels hoping for some form of transportation before we ran out of water and dehydrated, a truck or car would pull up to help us - it was magical).
We enjoyed the town of El Valle. It is situated in a giant crater of an extinct volcano. The views were stunning! The climate was very pleasant too, making for yet more wonderful hikes in the forests and meadows. On a different note, we are still contemplating the zoo in El Valle. While the educational value is there by learning about different species, we would like to see the standards improve for some of the animals. We would like to pursue more knowledge on this subject...
Hasta la proxima... D y T
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