And so the beginning of the end is here, in Panama. Where the southern part of one continent funnels down into a tip and touches another huge land mass, South America.
Panama for some time did not hold a very flattering reputation, but that era is long over and tourists are starting to feed off the luscious landscape and the peaceful lifestyles of the Panamanians. Although only 1% of the original tree growth survives and many of the mountains which are treeless and are more like lumps, are still vivid green and none the less picturesque. The floppy-eared cows groom the hills and many of the cowboys spend more time on their horse than driving their trucks. All in all, Panama is still far less developed than it’s neighbor to the north, but it’s definitely a safe place with a heap of untouched, pristine beaches but sadly much of the land is already subdivided and selling like hot cakes. Big Plans are in the Whitemans hands….
The first town we had a chance to visit was Boquette. A fairly small mountain town with the best award winning coffee in Panama. It has become a popular retiree destination for Americans but pure Panamanian life still exists. We took a Finca Coffee Farm tour which was not the typical mass Producing farm but exactly the opposite. The owner had constructed all his funky coffee peeling, soaking and roasting machines himself….just by using old car parts and other inexpensive materials!!! Each and every single coffee bean has one hell of a story to tell!
A couple of days later we were scooting along the Pot-holed Pan American Highway to seek out some more surf spots.
In Santa Catalina we had a fun little surf session with our friend Mirka who was heading back to Czech after spending two weeks with us.
Then we checked out Playa Venao. The place is busting at the seams with huge development plans, but for now it’s still pretty close to paradise. Considering that Playa Venao is a beach break, it’s been one of the best so far on this trip! Turquoise water in a horseshoe shaped bay with gentle waves. It would have not been to hard to set up camp for a while….But things changed when a wasp-bee-fly thing stung Kamil! Within 15min. his entire body was covered in bubbling hives, even his face! It was such a serious allergic reaction that we had to get the syringe out and inject a dose of some allergy-soothing-body-curing solution into his swollen butt cheek! If he hadn’t blown up like a balloon, I would have thought he’s pulling the ‘sick card’ on me to get me back in the van and on the road!!
After beach-bumming it for a while we drove up into the mountains to El Valle. A small town in the middle of a 5km volcano crater where a huge lake once existed. But at one point some part of the crater cracked and all the water drained out to sea. Now there are 2 waterfalls, some petroglyphs, square trees, some hiking trails with gorgeous views and some Posas Termales (Hot springs) where they offer a free cleansing mud facial! But unfortunately a few of the sights are over-rated and are just good’ol tourist traps!
And not far over the horizon there are the glowing lights of the capital city, Panama City! This is where the week of horror begins……all the paperwork involved with shipping a vehicle in a container from Panama to Columbia…..