Trip Start Dec 14, 2011
Trip End Jan 05, 2012

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Where I stayed

Flag of Panama  ,
Monday, January 2, 2012

And I thought I was going to get through this trip without getting sick, which given how sick we both were during our South American adventure last year would have been a nice change. My first indication that I was on my way to getting a cold was when I started losing my voice last night while having dinner with Stephen and Debbie. I had to get up last night and take a Sudafed because I couldn't sleep. This morning I have nearly no voice and it hasn’t improved any this afternoon.

It is now 5:30 PM and I am sitting on the outdoor terrace of Los Mandarinos Hotel in El Valle. I almost had to use hand motions to order my beer!

Last night Stephen and Debbie joined us at the hotel bar at Finisterre Suites. We had a drink there before venturing out to try to find a place to eat. We settled on the dining room of the Le Meridien Hotel at the end of Calle Uruguay. The meal was fine, but the service was very slow; we suspected due to the fact there was so little staff for the slow night. On our return trip up Calle Uruguay after eating, we noted that Habibi’s (the place that serves Steak Tartare) was open and the outdoor bar looked enticing; we decided to have a nightcap there.

We had a great time and great conversations with Stephen and Debbie. They are a lot of fun and we mesh well with them. Like most these encounters, it is unlikely we will see each other again, but maybe! We finally trudged home after midnight.

Our drive to El Valle from Panama City started at 10:30 AM this morning and ended around 1 PM. It was an easy drive. We have not seen roads that good since leaving Seattle. The Pan-American was a divided four-lane highway the whole way and the 30 km of side road leading up the mountain to El Valle was a very nice, narrow two-lane paved road. It was a hot and clear day.

Officially known as El Valle de Anton, this picturesque town is nestled inside the crater of a giant extinct volcano and is ringed by verdant forests and ragged peaks. The crater is 5 km across, and you clearly see peaks rising at all points of the compass around you. I sure hope they are right about this being an extinct volcano!

We had to wait for our room to get ready at Los Mandarinos, so we took advantage and went to explore the region. We first drove 3 or 4 miles to Chorro El Macho (“manly falls”) and walked the short distance on a rustic trail to view them. Then we drove another 3 miles to see Chorro de Las Mozas (“young women’s falls”), but decided not to pay the one-dollar fare to see them; the manly falls weren’t that spectacular and I wasn’t feeling all that great. We also drove to the site of the hot springs and mud bath, but again, it all sounded a little hokey and I wasn’t up to it.

We did spend a half hour walking through the little artisan market, but found the stuff unappealing---did I say I wasn’t feeling well? God, I sound like a grump. We went back to the hotel, got our room and I lay down and tried to nap for a couple of hours. I might have slept a little, but not enough. I still feel like hell.

We made arrangements to eat at La Casa de Lourdes, which neighbors our hotel. I can look out the window and see it thirty yards away, and Linda wants to drive there. Our car, not visible from here, is fifty yards away. During my nap period, the wind came up and started gusting, which is why Linda wants to drive. It is true that when it gusts, it really blows, but I am still unable to do the math and come to Linda's conclusion that walking fifty yards to the car makes more sense than walking thirty yards to the restaurant. Damn I am grumpy!

On our drive from Panama City today, we drove through the hometown of Raul, the manager of Republik who we met our first night in Panama. The town is Arraijan, pronounced “ah rye han” with the “r” rolled. Raul said that few knew the origin of the town name. He says the town was founded during the construction of the canal and was home to a specific trade needed in the construction. The men from this trade would convene on the right side of the road where the town now sits. Whenever workers from that trade were needed, foremen would be sent to collect workers from the right hand side of the road, thus, Arraijan.  Who cares whether it is true? It is a great story!
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