I left the Carribean sun and made my way to the cloud forests of Chiriqui and Boquete in particular. Not sure what the fuss ragarding this place is all about but it was the entrance to the Sendero de los Quetzales – the most beautiful hike in Panama. At least that´s what they said.
Boquete itself is situated amongs the mountains and is pretty, there are many coffee plantation, great fruit and veg, as well as many Western retirees. The property market is booming there.
So, I spent the first day hanging about and visited a beautiful private garden. Mi Jardin es Su Jardin is a gorgeous garden owned by a rich local family. The owner – an elder gentleman – has been maintaining it for 4o years and letting people see it for free. He is now living alone (after the dath of his wife) in their huge mansion aided by 4 gardeners, 5 maids, and a driver. I think he named the house after his wife (so romantic) – Villa Maria – and it is very sad and touching that she is no longer alive.
The visit to the garden was followed by a nice, hot cup of cappuccino at a local coffee farm. A nice, relaxing day. I then dedicated myself to updating my blog and uploading photos. Hard work.
The day after me and a fellow traveller from Holland (imagine that!) took a minibus to th entrance of the trail. The first kilometer or so was indeed very pretty – Swiss Alps-like. But then we got into the forest itself and couldn´t see anything but green, green, and green again! We were surrounded by vegetation and there were no views. I was disappointed and didn´t think it was that spectacular. I guess I had something completely different in mind. I imagined we would be walking on the edge on the mountains overlooking the hills.
Anyhow, we hiked and hiked, taking short breaks on the way until we got to a lookout point higher up on the hill – El Mirrador. It took us a while to figure out where it was as the place was run-down and overgrown with knee-high grass and fallen trees. Big trees! As for the views, well, hardly any. We wondered whether that really was IT. Eventually, we found out that there was a narrow path leading to the actual mirrador. Another horrible run-down spot. I wondered when the decaying boards are gonna fall apart under my feet. I liked it though – it was very Indiana Jones-like.
That was the spot where we had to decide whether we go back or continue walking. We had been told at the start of the track that it has been destroyed by a landslide and one couldn´t walk through unless they were trying to get lost. Well, I couldn´t go back knowing I was so close to the end (2.5km). Not before I had gone to the ruined spot and made sure myself that it really was the end of the path. I would have then gladly gone back. We were taking a risk as this would increase the time we needed to go back and we couldn´t walk in the dark. We took our chances!
Soon after we left the viewing point we reached the landslide. It was indeed bad. The place was covered in fallen trees and branches making the path hard to follow. I thought it was probably better to go back and not take any unnecessary risk just before I saw the path on the other side of the landslide. It was nice and clear, 100% visible. Like you wouldn´t notice th wooden fence running along its length. From here there was only one way to follow. Straight ahead. We did cross the landslide using a path others have already made and carried on on our way to the end of the treck. People and guides had told us that the land slide can´t be crossed and the path wasn´t visible. They really should have checked better. They had closed the trail (on one side) because of that and it really wasn´t the case. It was perfectly managable.
Anyhow, we did make it to the end of the trail on the Cerro Punta side. But we now had to walk the 6-8km to the nearby village where we could take a bus back to Boquete. It is funny how the two villages are only 8km away from each other (the length of the trail) but not connected by a paved road hence making the bus trip between the two nearly 4h long. Back to Cerro Punta. The reason I had wanted to complete the trail so badly. I had heard that it is very beautiful up there because of its elevation (25oom or more?). Well, the hike up was well worth it. It was exactly what I wanted, what I had imagind the actual trail would be. Going from Boquete to Cerro Punta was harder than doing it the other way around because of the elevation. Most of the trail was uphill. Still I thought it pretty easy, moderate at most.
We made our way to the village while enjoying the surrounding views. It did rain on us but it was nice nevertheless. By the time we got to the bus we were pretty tired and our legs were hurting. Still I got the views I wanted!
The next day we were leaving for Panama City but had some time in the morning to explore another garden and have some strawberry fondue. My first fondue ever! It was delicious and very chocolatey. As for the garden – I wasn´t impressed with it at first and thought the one I had seen the day before had been better. It did grow on me as we walked on though. There were many quirky displays and many insirational messages. It also turned out to be a lot bigger than I thought. It was fun and very different to the first garden. I am glad we went there.