My best girl, Julie, was spending some quality time in Central America so I couldn't resist the opportunity to join her (plus we've never travelled together, whaaa?). We met at the surprisingly elegant hostel Casa Colon in San José, Costa Rica. After a quick beer and sleep that felt more like a nap we headed straight for Panamá. The bus ride took most of the day, and after a rain-soaked border crossing, there is nothing more that I wanted to do than jump into the pool at the Bambú Hostel in David. Frequented by a mix of friendly backpackers and slightly shady American ex-pats, the hostel was a decent stopping off point before we headed into the mountains.
Our destination was Boquete in the shade of Volcán Barú. A quiet town, forever crowned by low-hung clouds and temperate climate. Though the area has recently become a destination for North American retirees, there is plenty to be discovered away from the polished main street.
We had the good fortune of meeting a local guide, Patricio really early on. He works for the tour company Panama Pathfinders but quickly became a friend who just happened to have a life-long knowledge of the area. With Pat leading the way we saw the surrounding hills on horseback while Julie and her female horse fended off advances from a frisky stallion. This equine romance was not to be, or at least not on our watch. We concluded our ride with a dip in the hot springs that feed into the Caldera river. The next day we headed for a hike in the jungle, to see the area’s most famous feathered resident—the quetzal. I got pretty good at spotting the green bird among the green foliage (years of colour-training my designer eye, I guess).
On our last night in the mountains we were in for a surprise. Patricio took us to Monniche Restaurant at Finca Lerida coffee plantation (founded by a Norwegian, one of the original engineers of the Panama Canal). The place was beautiful but eerily empty. Armed with a delicious meal and bottle of wine it didn’t take long for us to fill it with laughter.
Through the blog I also had the pleasure of meeting Mary Beth a little while back, and she happened to live in Boquete, just a stone's throw from our cozy lodge, Casa de la Abuela. We shared an excellent tapas meal with her at Black & White and chatted about her transformative experience of moving Panamá. You can read about her work on her blog. On Mary Beth's recommendation, we also had dinner at La Posada—a real Argentinian feast! Gracias, MB.
With photos by Julie Gélinas