Looking for pretzels

Trip Start Sep 28, 2007
Trip End Jun 25, 2008

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Flag of Panama  ,
Thursday, November 22, 2007

After Bocas we approached Boquete with hesitation as we had heard horror stories from people on a GAP tour going the other way of disgustingly dirty linen and endless rain.  What we found was a hotel that was just a little musty and a nice little mountain village with long dry spells between rain showers.

The three main occupations in Boquete are growing coffee, oranges and selling real estate. I stand by my earlier statement that practically all of Panama is up for sale.

After a tasty Peruvian meal (oddly  there are two high-end Peruvian restaurants in town) we retired and were serenaded to sleep by the croaking frogs and barking dogs. (This happened each of the three nights we were there, with some howls thrown in on the last night by the dogs in honour of the full moon.)

The next morning we went in search of waterfalls and the famous bird called the resplendent quetzal. It(apparently) is green in colour with some red feathers and really long jade-coloured tail feathers that were used by the Maya to make headdresses .

But of course we didn't see any quetzals. It was the wrong time of year and they had gone to lower altitudes in search of food.

I proposed we change our quest from seeing quetzals to pretzels, to improve the odds. Sure enough we found  an empty packet of pretzels, but that was as close as we got.

We also failed to find two of the three waterfalls on the trail, but the poison ivy found Mark and I. Even through my trousers and shirt, it burned like a chemical burn where the hairy stems had brushed and our skin came up in red welts almost immediately. Amazing for a little plant that looks like a wild strawberry. All signs of irritation was gone by evening though.

It was a beautiful walk back down the river valley to the town, with many combined coffee and orange plantations. I have read that the coffee is better and less bothered by pests if grown in the shade of bigger trees.

There were twisted outcrops of rocks along the way. I forget the name of the type of rock but it forms piles of slabs, many in a pentagon shape. In one place it looked like the hull of a sailing ship, numerous slabs bent into a deep curve, and then there was a sharp corner, with ends of other slabs butting out.

Further down the river we saw the ruins of a grand home. Called the castillo by locals, it is like a mini castle set in a beautiful spot on the riverbank . We all agreed there must be a story behind it, but didn't find  out.

Getting back into town I found a beautiful gift shop with large standing frog decorations at the door with beautiful sarongs and scarves inside... danger territory for me.

The next day we took a guided walk into the park International Amistad. The trail we did a part of leads all the way back to our last destination, Bocas del Toro.  It takes about a week to do that but we just walked up to  the lookout where you are supposed to be able to see both the Pacific and Caribbean. We didn't though, the cloud just closed in on the peak. But we did see a fresh puma footprint and the giant caterpillar of the morpho butterfly. Bright green and nearly bursting his skin, we decided he was the caterpillar meant in the book 'The Hungry Caterpillar'. He must have weighed 100 grams or more. And unlike all the other caterpillars we had seen, he wasn't poisonous.

I showed our guide a photo of the caterpillar we had seen the day before which was black with a ball of white fluff like wool around him, and he shuddered and shook his head while telling us how poisonous it was.
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