We are now about 10km outside of Boquete, at the Boquete River Inn, where our view is across a ravine to the verdant slopes of Volcan Barú. When we wake up in the morning, the sun is just kissing the top of the volcano, the sky is clear, and the entire volcano presents itself to our admiring gaze. Through the day, the clouds build, partially or fully obscuring the peak, but leaving exposed the forest below.
Getting here from Pedasí
The trip from Pedasí involved (prices are USD, for two people)
- Racetruck ride from our lodging to the bus in town.
- Small van bus from Pedasí to Las Tablas (we asked to be dropped off at the bus to Chitré since it leaves from a different part of town than where the Pedasí bus comes in) ($4.50).
- Bus from Las Tablas to Chitré ($3).
- Bus from Chitré to Santiago ($6).
- Bus from Santiago to David (this bus comes from Panama City and stops in Santiago for a 30-minute lunch break–there were only a few seats left) ($25).
- Cab from David to Boquete River Inn ($25). You can take a bus ($1.70/person) but a) they are not suitable for luggage, b) we didn’t know where to get off, and c) the road in to our accommodation from the highway we knew was about 300m, rough, and hilly.
When we arrived by cab, our driver could not open the trunk and our host was not home. We were able to get into our cabina, but had to wait the half hour or so for our host to see if he had tools that the driver could use, and another hour while he removed the back seat to try to access the trunk from inside.
Feria de las Flores y del Café
The flower and coffee festival had just started the day before we arrived in Boquete, and it continued until the end of the following weekend. We visited on our second day in Boquete. Entry fee: $2 each. In addition to the flower displays, there was everything you’d expect from a community fair: food, entertainment, hawkers, artisans, and animals.
It was fun to see the impact on the town, where people come from far and wide to attend, but also a bit of a challenge. The town of Boquete runs along a narrow valley with one main road in. The traffic clogged this artery for hours on the weekends, the buses were stuffed to the gills, and taxis didn’t want to take people out of town (we’re guessing that they couldn’t make as much on a 10km trip for $5-7 as they could make running around town with multiple $1-2 trips, and they probably were worried about the traffic blocking their way back in).
On our way into town for groceries on our first day, we waited for the bus for a while before a very kind local couple pulled over and offered us a ride into town. Even though they were stuck in the traffic, they persisted until they had dropped us off right in front of the grocery store. I have no idea how far out of their way that took them, but at the pace the traffic was moving, they probably added at least an hour to their trip.
On the way out of town that same day, laden with grocery bags, we wandered the streets trying to get onto crowded buses (they wouldn’t take us–possibly because of our bags, and possibly because we weren’t sure where to tell them we were going), and taxis. It probably took us an hour to find a driver who didn’t know the area well enough to decline our request.
When we found out that the music and fireworks carried on in town until the wee hours every morning, we were quite happy to be so far away where only the buzzing cicadas and various bird calls keep us awake.
Getting in and out of town
There are no restaurants or stores within walking distance from where we’re staying (there might be one about 4km away, but we haven’t gone looking for it yet), but there are buses that go down the main highway between Boquete and David. We just have to walk about 300m and up a steep hill to get out to the highway. Going into town, there’s a bus shelter we stand at and just wave when the bus comes near to let the driver know we want on. A trip into town costs 80 cents from our location. To get home, we’ve been watching our GPS so we know when we’re near, and then hollering, “parada … a la roca amarilla” so the driver knows to let us off at the yellow rock.
We can also take the same bus the other direction to go into David, a bigger town than Boquete. We caught a ride there with our host one day and tried out a grocery store there, but we’ll probably take the bus the next time so we can explore a little more.
Taxis are also an option and cost $6-7, but the drivers don’t know where we want to go when we give them the name of our inn, and when they see the hill they have to drive down they either utter an oath (our experience) or want another dollar fare (our neighbors’ experience). We had to encourage our driver on that difficult first day, and assure him that he would be able to get back up the hill. We didn’t find him stranded the next morning, so assumed we were correct.
Since we are living in this beautiful area, we wanted to start exploring the trails a little (keeping in mind that down hills, especially if the ground is loose/slippery/rocky, are still a bit challenging for my knee). We followed instructions we found for an easy 1- to 2-hour walk to an aqueduct. We took the bus into town, walked over the bridge to the fairgrounds side, but turned right and began walking away from the craziness of the feria.
The road was easy enough to follow with the map provided and GPS. We climbed and climbed, and enjoyed beautiful views. (Note: We brought the camera, but discovered I’d left the SD card in the laptop, so all photos are phone camera shots.)
We finally got to where we thought the aqueduct should be. I was envisioning something like the Brooks aqueduct. But this is what we found (see red circle on the photo).
The trail back down was mostly paved and stairs, so wasn’t too difficult, and very picturesque.
We are living in the forest and, naturally, bugs are all around. The wind helps to keep them down outside, but in the first few days we both acquired some nasty bites that, for me, blistered and grew quite red, and for Ken were just itchy. We looked up the bite and found it comes from what we would call noseeums and here they call coffee flies.
Our home is a cabin that is fully screened, except where the roof meets the walls. During the day, it’s not a problem to leave the (unscreened) door open, but we discovered that leaving the lights on once it’s dark (around 6:30 every night), is an invitation for moths, noseeums, flies, and many other varieties to come on in. The geckos probably help, but they don’t go after the ones flying around the lights. So we’ve been trying to cook a bit earlier, turn on the garage light (right outside our kitchen window) and leave the inside lights off, offering a counter invitation to stay the heck out of our house. If we turn our computer screens, tablets or kobos down low, we can entertain ourselves without also entertaining uninvited guests.
We will be hoping for rain now and again, as our first one yesterday afternoon really dropped the bug volume. We cooked late with the lights on and felt emancipated!
We are learning to shake out clothing and check shoes before putting anything on. I didn’t take this far enough, though. While drying myself after a shower I felt a sting, shrieked, looked at my towel and saw a dark splotch (no glasses), shrieked again until Ken came running and took my towel away, while I nursed my burning finger. A scorpion had found comfort in my neatly hanging towel and was none too happy when I disturbed it (no pics – Ken squished it in my towel before he thought to photograph it!). Our highly scientific internet research informed us that I wasn’t going to die, but I oiled off my wedding ring just in case my finger was going to swell up too much.
Now I shake everything and creep through the house carrying with me a very large dose of suspicion, sure that I will find unwanted critters on every wall, under every piece of fabric, behind every door.
Natural art offered to us by the trees around the grounds here