In a last ditch attempt to see some more of the interior, we drove into the Azuro Peninsula on a quest for the quintisential Panama hat! Failed to find any that you could be proud to wear, just farmer's hats made of rough palm leaves
. Grotty little towns with one shop, 3 cows and the odd cowboy was not enough reason to stay there so we carried on until we got the rich mountain resort of El Valle de Anton. All ex presidents and famous people have a weekend pad here. Came up trumps as it is the rainy (low) season, so have a fantastic suite for next to nothing. Didn't know how much I missed a sofa until i fell asleep on one! Waited on continuously, and enjoying it. Drove the car back to Panama City, so we can relax and take our time... found the sort of place we were looking for - about time!!
Today's highlight was a zip-wire through the jungle canopy, 30m up. A little scarry on the steep runs but fantastic fun!
Recovering from today's escapade over the mountains on mules. Emma was given one without a bridle as the guide said it didn't need it but soon afterwards had to hand his bridle over so she could stop the stubborn mule going where it wanted. After ½ hour my butt started to feel sore but I just had to put it out of my mind! We were with two dutch girls, one of whom had been thrown by a horse 3 weeks ago. She had a look of terror on her face for the first 2 hours until I swapped mules, having trained mine to obey the stupid tourist. I then had a more challenging one but soon got him under control. Their sure-footedness was amazing, sliding down muddy 45 degree slopes putting hardly a foot wrong, apart from diving for weeds or palm leaves whenever they felt they deserved some.
Lunch was taken on a summit with a Buena Vista of the Pacific, extinct craters and scattered palm roofed huts. On a more clear day we would have been able to see the Caribbean Sea too but one ocean will suffice
! Back in the saddle after ½ hour of joking about our sore butts and another 4 to go - aarrrggghhhh!!! The afternoon saw us pass though breathtaking scenery, down ravines, up ridiculously steep paths with little to stop you falling off the side but the mules were great and plodded along, knowing their role perfectly. We crossed several rivers, passed several villagers on mules returning from town with another mule full of goodies. The last hour became painful and I resorted to getting off and walking for stages but the cold beer at the end tasted heavenly. The mules are tied up on the lawn, we bought them some food and they will return across the mountains tomorrow, as we have a lie-in, lazing breakfast and pondering heading to Panama City - it is Friday night after all!!
Left the Chiquiri Highlands late in the day, in the pouring rain and drove east towards the capital for 4 hours, as far as we dared. One cheap motel later we are set to explore further... bought provisions for camping, hoping the rain will not be all day every day and drove up one of the valleys to the little untouched town of Santa Fe. A lovely area with rolling hills, walks, falls and more rain. Sat on our porch at the only hotel in town and thought, "what the hell are we doing here?" Bailed out early the next day, even though the scenery was lovely, we couldn't see any of it. Unfortunately, this means that we'll have to spend at least 7 days on some tropical pacific island before returning home!