Monday, March 7, 2016

Boquete, Chiriquí

Boquete (meaning gap in Spanish) is known as the highlands of Panama. It is a small town, roughly a population of 19,000 people. It lies about 60km from the Costa Rican border. It is 1,200m above sea level. Days are hot & evenings are cold, with a sharp breeze wafting through. We flew from Panama City (check out my other posts on that) to David and took a yellow school bus for less than $2 to Boquete which was an hour away. It was evening, the sun was going down but we decided to walk to our lodgings, an Airbnb at Valle Escondido (a gated community with tennis courts, pitch n putt, a spa, we found out later that both Mel Gibson & Sean Connery stay there. I'd rather meet one than the other. I'll let you guess which.) I didn't exactly know how far it would be but we chanced it, backpacks and all, but when we saw the hill, I knew I was dead. Poor Farah, every few minutes she would think the next sign was ours & then you'd hear the sigh. Her exacts words were, she was demoralized over & over again.

After settling in and popping on some jumpers, we headed into town. It was hard to find true Panamanian food in Boquete because we hit the town on a national holiday & there are so many American Retirees here that there is a lot of western restaurants.

Boquete is known for it's coffee, probably some of the best in the world so of course our first stop would be to a Finca. Finca La Milagrosa (miracle farm) is an organic, pesticide free, 7 acre coffee farm. The owner made all of the equipment from old car parts. The soil, altitude & climate in this farm is unique, it helps with the flavour & because of that helps to produce some of the worlds finest coffee beans including the most expensive bean, The Gesha. A 50lb bag of Gesha will sell for $35,000, Taiwan being one of the biggest buyers of that raw bean. This farm exports all of its coffee, it cannot be bought in Panama, except on the farm. We learned a few tidbits at the farm, light/American roast is roasted for 6-7mins & it has the most caffeine. medium/French roast 8-10mins & finally dark/Italian roast is roasted for 13mins & has the least amount of caffeine. We saw the entire process from branch to pick to pulp to dry to roast. There are 37 other farms in the area.

Valle Escondido

The following day was jam packed between hikes, waterfalls, horse riding and hot springs. We hiked the Three Hidden Waterfalls trail with our guide Patrick (& his dog coco) from Pathfinders, who is amazing by the way. I highly recommend using them while you are there, he is a gas ticket who is incredibly knowledgeable about the local politics & plants. The hike isn't too severe, if you are any bit in shape, you'll be fine. The first climb is the hardest. Coming from Kerry where we have Torc, these waterfalls were pretty small but if you want to enjoy greenery in its most natural habitat, then it is beautiful. That evening we went horse riding at Caldera Ranch, part of the lowlands. I was worried because I didn't bring a pants, so I'm going to get scratched by this cowboy leather saddle & I usually get the worst horse of the bunch. I was told if Jañero took off running to not put my hand in the air for help. Jañero used to be a rope horse at rodeo's & that sign meant for him to swoop around in the opposite direction. I'm thinking great, here we go. To my surprise, Jañero was a great horse, he only tried to kill me twice, kidding. He was a naughty thing though, being the youngest of the group, he snaps, bites, chews, on the other horses arses when he comes near them. Farah's horse was Alejandra, now she was a good thing. She rode at the back of the pack, likes her space but is known to kick if someone like Jañero messes with her.

We finished the evening at Caldera hot springs. It is a river than runs through a farmer's land. You pay a few bucks to go in & have access to all the pools & the river. The pools were fierce hot, literally burn my skin off hot so I went down to the river. Here, with some patience you could find the perfect spot. Hot spring hot water mixed with cold river water creating the best combo. I got to soak in here for 45mins, it felt great as my legs were sore from coming off the horse.

The next morning we left for Bocas Del Toro. Back to the beach.

To see our past travels click Panama's American Trade Hotel