Boquete is in the highlands of Panamá and reminds me of Monteverde with the low cloud, rain and mountain scenery. It’s also a big ex-pat retiree community with big houses and nice cars and wine bars.
Nadine, LaLa and I endured and enjoyed a full day of activity with hike and bike tours through Mamallena hostel. The morning hike up into the clouds to visit two waterfalls was misty and pretty with the abundance of flowers on the trail – Boquete means bouquet so they’re big on their flower gardens here. It’s been raining so we were slipping and sliding, squelching and squishing and getting smothered in thick rainforest mud. The steps stretched my short legs quite a few times and it was a tough workout. The waterfalls were rushing and roaring into cold pools in which we decided not to swim. Instead we explored a short cave behind the second waterfall, had a mud fight with Dan the guide and watched some others rappel down. The hike back out unveiled views over the valley that had been completed obscured by cloud when we had entered the trail. Again, flowers brightened the landscape with their profusion of colour.
We were quite a sight when we returned to the hotel to get cleaned up…La Casa Abuela on the road out of town was superb, new and modern, very helpful staff and breakfast included. They didn’t look too horrified when we apologized for traipsing mud through their foyer, bless them.
The bike tour started a short distance out of town, Jacob guided up front and Dan was with us again, bringing up the rear. The bikes and helmets were the real deal which should have probably made us twig to what was ahead. We made a stop for views over the valley before a long downhill on paved road with strong intermittent crosswinds to make us feel alive.
Before too long we came to the reason we were on mountain bikes with shock absorbers and soft tires. The gravel roads here are not like gravel roads at home. For a start, I don’t think my car would survive a trip over these roads here…it’s not gravel, it’s a transplanted dried up river bed of rocks and what feels like mini-boulders. Keeping a constant speed, straight direction or your butt on the seat are all a challenge while trying to not fall in a heap. It was the first section of a few to come, including the “gauntlet” which seemed to feature rocks even more obstructionist than all the rest. Sometimes I just had to stop, there was no way through without sticking a pedal on a rock and stopping with something of a surprise. I’ve never done anything that rough before and it was a rush!
A few more speedy downhills on paved road, tasting the fruit that houses cashew nuts – very juicy but powdery, gives you cotton-mouth – and humming along on grass and dirt tracks kept us going past cow pastures, views to the volcano and mountains in the far distance for about 2.5 hours. Interesting was the more than 60 year old bridge, galvanized metal, rusted through in places and rusty all over, welded across a couple of girders and cabled across the wide river. Apparently it’s best to go at speed to have it over and done with fast. So I stopped to take photos. Just after we crossed, a ute creaked across, only just squeezing into the narrow width. Instead of taking a photo of the ute I should have taken photos of all our astonished faces.
We continued onto paved road once more, another thrilling downhill with decent curves and finally arrived, dusty, sore-seated and elated at the mini canyon. Some beers, Cheetos and blissful surroundings with a leap into the canyon water to cool and clean off. Make sure you keep moving though if you don’t want to be slowly eaten alive by the hundreds of little fish. They reminded us of the fish that feed off the dead skin on your feet kept in tanks in front of supermarkets in Kuta. It was like a mini piraña frenzy when a Cheeto was blown into the water…it jigged and zigzagged along the surface, pushed along by the swarm of fish all wanting a nibble. When we threw in another it was snatched from the surface in a flash and sped to the dark depths. It was about then that we all decided we wouldn’t be jumping into the water again.
We had a quiet night of cheap food and wine back at the hotel to farewell Faby who is on her way back to guide the next tour from Mexico City to Panama City again. Thank you Faby for being an amazing person, generous, funny and smart. Best of luck that you get a group as good us ours was for your tour…though I think we will be hard to beat 😉 Travel safe and I know we will meet again xoxo
To think about all that we’ve been through in the past two months it really brought to mind how long we’ve been on the road, how many people we’ve met, how much I wish we could all go back and do it all again right now, it’s an amazing concept in hindsight and a lot to wrap your head around. Most of the people I’ve travelled with and the experiences we’ve shared will be with me forever.