In July 2013 I was given an opportunity to move from Playa Del Carmen, Mexico to start working in Panama City, Panamá with my current company!
It was an offer I could not refuse, although it did take me away from my daughter for a period until we could work out arrangements for long term visits. Between being focused on my new job role and making time for vacations, we managed to work out a good routine, and with the blessing of Skype Calls we manage to keep in touch regularly.
After approximately 18 months I officially received my “Panama Papers”, I became a resident of Panama!
In all the places I have lived & worked, I have always taken the time to explore, and Panama would be no exception. Besides, my work is in Travel & Tourism, so it is important for me to get know the country I am living right?
Working 6 days per week for over 5 years did not give much time to explore, however, I made time whenever I could to make road trips, or long treks, just to gain some knowledge of Panama. Of course, when vacation time came around then it was time to make plans and visit this wonderful country!
Where I lived in Panama Pacific there where many opportunities to walk around the area, experience lots of wildlife in their natural habitat. For anybody who has been to the tropical jungles of Central America will know there is much fauna around if you know where to look!
On my walks within an urban environment I have encountered Cayman & Turtles in the local streams, wild boar & deer in the surrounding woodlands, and occasional Capuchin & Spider Monkeys. Never one day was the same whenever I was out walking during my day off, and this is what enjoyment I reached whenever I was exploring.
My first real vacation in Panama I decided I would take a road trip up to Chiriquí in the North of Panama!
My first day on the road I realized just how small the country of Panama was compared to my home country of United Kingdom, or the vast size of Mexico where I spent the last 11 years living. It was not difficult to get lost, with only one major highway serving the country from Costa Rica to Colombia.
The drive however provided some amazing mountain views as I made way through Arraijan & La Chorrera in what is classed has West Panama. Spectacular mountain ranges with cloud cover obscuring the peaks, and the dense rain forest surrounding the area below. You truly get to understand why the areas are so lush with greenery, especially with the amount of rainfall the country receives.
This trip was taken in September which meant the weather was very hot & humid, without much chance of rain for this time of year.
My drive took me past the tourist beach zone of Playa Blanca in El Farallon, with the high mountains of Anton to the West. And onwards to the major city of Santiago, which is approximately 4 hours with a stop for fuel & coffee. My aim was to get to the city of David in Chiriquí before nightfall, and I would book a cheap hotel for the night.
The journey in total was 6 hours driving, and I finally found a little hotel in the centre of David. Nothing very special about the accommodation, it was clean, and the location was suitable to be back on the road in the morning.
Before I left Panama Pacific, I researched an Eco-Hotel at the foot of Volcán Barú which is close to the picturesque area of Boquete. The place I was heading was a small village called Guadalupe!
I had pre-reserved a wonderful log cabin at Los Quetzales Ecolodge & Spa, which had their accommodation set in the valley which runs parallel with the Rio Chiriquí Viejo. The cabins are fully equipped with kitchen, utensils, gas cooker & crockery, the only thing you need to bring is your own food & drink supplies.
The cabins are also fitted with log fires to warm up the accommodation during the chilly evenings, and plenty of cut log firewood to keep them stoked.
I set off early after breakfast from David and made the journey through the valley, taking in the wonderful scenery around. This part of the journey was approximately 90 minutes’ drive once I had negotiated the early morning trucks through David making their routine routes from Costa Rica to the centre of Panama!
Once checked in, I was asked to leave my car in the secure parking of the main hotel, and I boarded the free shuttle to my cabin. This was in the form of an Agricultural Tractor & Trailer kitted out with passenger seats for comfort.
We negotiated the steep climb past a couple of other cabins, and finally arrived at mine. I was shown around and given instructions concerning the use of the log fire and gas cooker. I was also given a rechargeable light & two-way radio. If I needed the “taxi shuttle service”, I could just message the reception and they would come to collect me.
The restaurant & bar are located in the main hotel, and the walk from the cabin would be around 1 kilometre down the rough track. Thankfully, I had brought enough provisions to see me through the 4 nights I would be at the Los Quitzales Ecolodge.
I got settled into the cabin, made a welcome cup of coffee, and setup the log fire ready for the evening. There was adequate WIFI coverage to all the cabins too, so I was blessed with internet coverage to while the hours away in the evenings.
After an early night´s sleep I was awoken with the sounds of birds singing in the forest, lots of them, and different songs from many different varieties!
I made my customary cup of coffee & some breakfast (toast & marmalade) and sat on the porch enjoying the truly tranquil atmosphere. This was what the doctor had ordered after a long stint of 6 day working weeks, and the pressures of work long in the back of my mind has I soaked up the energy of my surroundings.
The first day I wanted to go and explore, just enjoying the clean air & countryside, and follow the river flow coming down the mountain past the cabin. I was back where I belong, among nature, the fauna & flora, and just enjoying life!
With my small picnic packed in my day pack, a flask of coffee to keep me hydrated (I cannot drink water on it´s own, so the flavour for me is always sweet coffee). I walked for maybe 4 hours on the first day, just taking in the surroundings, searching for wildlife along the way.
There was nothing special to observe on my first venture, but not to say the day was wasted. I enjoyed every minute of it, and tomorrow was going to be another adventure!
The following day I walked down the track to the main hotel, checking out the surroundings, and observing the locals going about their day. This particular part of Chiriquí is very agricultural, and that can be observed by the main crops cultivated into the hillsides. It is almost like looking at a patchwork quilt of colours from different planted crops.
Once at the hotel I ordered brunch from the restaurant, which is amazingly set out overlooking the grounds, with a small lake to one side, a small camp site for any campers looking to stay the night. There was a huge sitting room with bar set off from the restaurant, which really made this place very “homely” and a very relaxing environment for a weekend or extended retreat.
The first 3 days here have been very enjoyable & relaxing so far, and the following day I had arranged to meet up with the Los Quitzales ground keeper & local guide. He was to take me on a trek along the trail through the rainforest, hoping to catch some wildlife along the way.
We set off the next morning up into the high mountain along the mountain trail for about 2 kilometres, which to be honest where quite hard due to elevation & humidity. I realized now what many months sitting in an office can do to the body without regular exercise! We checked a couple of night vision cameras he has set along the route, where he showed me photographs of wild boar, a couple of Pumas, Wild Turkey, and many Coatis & Racoons. Of course, many of the animals are nocturnal so the chance of catching any of them during our walk would be a bonus.
We did manage to catch a view of the elusive Resplendent Quetzal, the bird in which the hotel gets it´s name! Beautiful colours of turquoise green & red, and the distinctive long flowing tail. Managing to catch a couple of photographs I did not consider my day wasted, and we left the trail quite happy!
It was a good few hour we spent high in the mountain, and eventually made it back to the cabin just before dusk. A quick download of the daily photographs and I was ready for a nice dinner. Tonight´s menu will be Pasta Bolognese with Beef and a desert of homemade Rice Pudding!
The next day I will check out and make my way back to Panama City, so I have an early night sleep ready for the long drive!
It has been a great relaxing few day, and good just to get away from the concrete jungle of the city, but it was not long enough! I have vowed to return to Chiriquí once more, but with more time to enjoy this wonderful state in Panamá. Probably extending my journey over to Bocas Del Toro province, where I can enjoy the turquoise water of the Caribbean!
Until my next post, thank you for taking the time to read, I really appreciate it.
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