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Deb & Roger’s YB Travel Adventures to Panama 1997
When we traveled in the ’90′s we also were traveling with an eye towards finding a place to build a healing center. Though we loved Asia Roger’s children live near us in the States and wanted us closer to home. We spent six weeks three separate times in Costa Rica. And though it was beautiful, it was dangerous, especially San Jose. All the expats said that Costa Rica wasn’t what it used to be, and told us that many had already moved to Panama. So we decided to check it out.
We flew into Panama City spending a few days doing exploring the city, visiting the canal and doing a canopy tour through the jungle. There’s an island you can drive to called Casco Viejo that we really liked but it was just starting to be redeveloped and too dangerous to walk around after dark. So that wasn’t an option.
We then flew to Bocas Del Toro, a beautiful province in the Caribbean of Panama. And we thought we had found the place. Tropical, laid back, water everywhere, out of the hurricane belt so we stayed about 3 weeks with a retired Canadian couple that ran a bed and breakfast. They had not had a break in years so we offered to take over for a few days, they accepted and we got a real taste of having no freedom or flexibility. But a great experience.
Bocal Del Toro seemed to be the ideal place for our holistic healing spa which would include fasting, colema’s, fresh, natural high energy food, yoga, massage, horse back rides and more. So we stayed on and continued to do our research. We found out there was a water issue.
While we have no problem with water catcment you have to have water to catch. Running even a small project like we had in mind needed a minimal amount of water. Then there was the issue with who owned the land. The people that worked for Chiquita Banana left the island years ago when the company moved to the mainland. The realtors there (all Western) and others were selling land that didn’t have a clear title. The mayor of the region came to a meeting and said yes you can buy, but if challenged in court you will lose. We said no, while others continued to sell things they had no right to.
If you did find land with a clear title (which apparently doesn’t exist) then you had the issue of squatters. Anyone could set up on your land and 24 hours later it would be their’s. You as a foreigner had no rights, so would have to hire people to secure this and we wanted no part of this kind of living.
Lastly, at the time, there was only one boat a week coming from the mainland. When I saw how few supplies were on the boat and how the few businesses there were fighting for a stalk of broccoli, it was a place we enjoyed, and may visit again (or not, there are sand fleas and they hurt) but there was no way we wanted any part of all the difficulties, and drama. Years later Roger went back, 2003 I believe, and he said it was depressing. Places had closed, people divorced…..adventure, taking risks, putting it out there, all good. But sometimes people want something new or different so badly, or get greedy they don’t take calculated risks.
We left Bocas del Toro knowing we wouldn’t be doing anything in Panama other than enjoying it. We took the ferry boat to the mainland, a beautiful ride. In Chiriqui Grande we got a bus for Boquete. It is one of the top places to retire, with many saying it is reminiscient of the Swiss Alps, but after traveling Asia, with people usually doing the right thing because they believe in Karma, this part of the world is more dangerous. We don’t want to deal with that. We stayed there a few days, and yes, while beautiful, there are so many other places we feel are better. But this was in ’97, and it could be a lot different now.
From there we took a bus to David to catch another one to Guadalupe, then Los Quetzales which is tucked away in the highland cloud forest. It’s a great way to get away from the hustle and bustle of modern living. And just our cup of tea. At 7260 feet above sea level (2,200 meters), the reserve has the highest lodging facilities in the country, and lies inside the primary cloud forest of Volcan Baru National Park, which was established in 1976. The Volcan is adjacent to the 407,000 acre Parque Internacional La Amistad, which straddles Costa Rica and Panama. Their 400 hectare reserve has been protected by the private efforts of its founders in 1970. And is one of the only eco-vacation resorts in Panama or Costa Rica that offers overnight accommodations inside a national park.
The climate varies from 75 degrees F (23 degrees Celcius) during a sunny day to 45 degrees F (7 degrees Celcius). on our chilliest winter night. But the one thing about the ambiance is the absence of biting insects – no mosquitoes, no chiggers, not even a stray no-see-um! Fortunately our area also lacks venomous snake species. They provide access on a rocked road via a 4-wheel drive or horseback. We opted for the latter. You can also walk to the cabin area, a gentle 30 minute climb featuring mountain scenery quilted with small vegetable patches and colorful gardens in the town of 400 inhabitants. Higher up, on the way to the cabins, you’ll walk past simple friendly homes of Guaymi indians.
If you don’t want to go the way we went, you can choose a 50 minute flight from Panama City to David, or San Jose, Costa Rica to David, Chiriqui. From David, the lodge can arrange transportation. The drive to Guadalupe takes about one hour and thirty minutes. This is a great alternative to a hotel in Boquete, a hotel in David or a hotel in Volcan.
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