The Finca (the Farm), and Other Interesting Sights

Saturday Jérémy, Lauren (a very recently arrived new expat), Cedo, and I set off to visit the finca. I hadn’t been there in a while so I was interested to see it again. First though, we stopped in Concepción where the government sells food every Saturday. Cedo and I both bought 20 pound bags of rice ($6). They also sell beans and a variety of other food items which I need to investigate at another time.

After the market, we stopped by the dairy cooperative so Cedo could pick up a few things like a large bag of salt for the cows, and then we headed to the finca. It was a very beautiful day. Since we had left fairly early in the morning there were few clouds and the views of Volcan Baru and the mountains were magnificent. I was driving though so I waited to take photos until after we arrived. Don’t worry, there are plenty of photos :D

By the time we were finished at the farm it was close to lunch time and I was hungry. It wasn’t too hard to talk everyone into driving on to Volcan to visit Burricos, the really good Mexican restaurant on the main street. After lunch, we went on to Cerro Punta. Jérémy probably wouldn’t have another opportunity to see this interesting area, and I am always up for a visit. After that, we visited the Jensen’s Coffee Farm on our way back through Volcan.

We finished our day with a visit to Macho de Monte, one of my very favorite places.

This is only part of the canyon and a spot where I don’t usually go. To see a bit of the real magic of the canyon check out some posts I have written in the past like THIS one, and THIS, and THIS last one.  The last one includes some videos by my friend Ryan who actually went down into the canyon and swam in the river. Take a look because it’s really incredible.

After Macho de Monte we took the new cross road over to Dolega, the one with all the steep ups and downs and sharp curves. It would have been easier to go back to the highway but this route was way more interesting.

This was our full Saturday. On Sunday we took off for a few more adventures so that will be coming soon.

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The Adventure Continues

There continues to be a lot going on around here, much of it bicycle related. We had a great young Polish couple stay with us for a couple nights, and it was so interesting to hear about their experiences and life on the road. They only go back to work to save enough for another trip, and have spent most of their adult lives on the road mainly in Europe, North, Central, South America, and the Caribbean Islands.

Our other cyclist friend Jérémy convinced me that I could actually bike from David to Boquete, so that was our objective on Friday. We got off to a great start! I not only made it up the hill to Los Algarrobos, but also the hill coming up to Dolega! That was a first for me. As we continued on up the constant incline, the winds got stronger with each mile. That’s hard work!

We took some rest breaks and I had my first carrot and peanut butter sandwich (which really is quite good). Jérémy kept encouraging me as we biked on, but eventually I was too tired and the winds were so strong it was hard to even walk against them. I was only 3-5 miles from my goal of the tourist center right before you go down into Boquete proper, but it just wasn’t going to happen that day. I was disappointed but also thrilled that I had gone much farther than I ever had before.

The trip down sure was something! When I faced downhill I was afraid to get on my bike with those strong wind pushing me from behind but Jérémy reassured me that it would all work out, and followed well behind just in case. It was a thrilling ride for sure! And, it did all work out. We zoomed down about 40 mph until we reached lower altitudes and the winds calmed, and then we coasted the rest of the way home. We worked for 4 hours to get as far up as we did, and the trip home only took 1 hour.

I really think that if I try it again on a day that isn’t windy I can make it. I know Jérémy is waiting for an email with photo of me and my bike in front of the tourist center, so I will be working on it. He has been here for a more extended stay while waiting to meet his family in Costa Rica and it has been wonderful! He has been so kind and patient – teaching me, working on my bike, riding with me, encouraging me, checking my packing list, and doing anything he can to help me with my travel goals. I never would have made it that far towards Boquete by myself.  He has been equally kind to Cedo (he’s staying at her house) and she is happy as can be to have such a great guy to help her out and keep her company.

I’m happy that after Jérémy’s time in Costa Rica, he and a couple friends will be coming back through here so I’ll see him again before he heads to South America. Check out his blog HERE – http://attrapemaroue.com/  He has news and a lot of great photos, and a really cool map of his route both where he has been and where he plans to go.

This was only the beginning of a very interesting weekend so stay tuned. Other news and photos will be coming soon.

Posted in Exploring the Area, Panama, photography, travel | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments

Bikes, and New Friends, and This and That

I’m in one of those spells where I have been too busy living life to blog about it, and I’ve having too much fun to sit down and write! I have decided to get out there and travel on the bike and my first short trip is planned in a couple weeks. We’ve also had other bikers staying with us, and I have met some really interesting people.

One thing I like, besides riding, is being able to shop and do errands on the bike. I am loving my new equipment!

One of our guests was Guillermo from Argentina. He is biking from the southern tip of Argentina to Alaska, and he was a delightful visitor. He worked on my bike and taught me to change tires and adjust things, washed the dishes, did Tai Chi, had many interesting conversations on a variety of subjects and he loves music, among his many talents. He is also making a book. He stops to visit schools and talk with the children, and they write and draw pictures in his big book. I could have spent all day enjoying the many entries!

There always seems to be some bit of scenery, even on my familiar routes that I have to photograph because it’s just so beautiful. It’s summer now which is dry season so it is interesting to see how things change. Plants and grass are more brown, but different trees are flowering and fruiting. Skies tend to be more clear and very blue, and sometimes have wonderful cloud formations as well.

Another cyclist, Jeremy, arrived when we were gone so he ended up staying with Cedo. He is from France and has biked east from there through Russia and Asia, then through Australia, and is now biking from Alaska to Argentina. He took a short trip to New York and now he is back waiting to bike to Costa Rica for a visit with his family. After that, he will be coming through again on his way south. I think he has been on his bike for 2 1/2 years and Cedo says she is adopting him.

Jeremy and Cedo

Jeremy and Cedo

Jeremy and I have had a couple great bike excursions together. The first was the 45 mile round trip to the beach and I was thrilled to see that it was much easier this time than it had been before. I am getting more strength and endurance. The next day we biked by the airport to Pedregal, about a 25 mile round trip. Friday he thinks we are biking to Boquete. So far I haven’t managed even half of that difficult trip, so we shall see. Whatever happens though I am having fun and also learning a lot by biking with an experienced cyclist, so it’s all good.

Right now, we have two young cyclists from Poland staying with us. They have been all over Europe, North, and South America. From here they are headed to Bocas del Toro where they plan to catch a boat to Jamaica.

Relaxing, chatting, and eating sweet watermelon.

Relaxing, chatting, and eating sweet watermelon. (Jeremy, on the right, had also stopped by for a chat)

Last, but hardly least, there is a gorgeous full moon. The days are hot and the sun is intense, but in the evenings it is blissful to be outside enjoying the soft, warm breezes. Life is busy, but life is good in Panama!

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Depth

Weekly Photo Challenge: Depth Click here to see the details of this photo challenge.

“Depth” immediately made me think of our flight over Cuba on our trip to the US. The clear, blue, Caribbean water is really beautiful, and you can see through the depths of the water to the sand below.

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The River, Revisited

The river behind our neighborhood is one of my favorite places, but sometimes I don’t go there as often as I should. That’s the nice thing about house guests. As you show them interesting things you get to visit your favorite places yourself!

The river is always beautiful but it changes with the seasons, and with who is there at the moment, the time of day, the weather conditions….  that is my excuse for taking a million photos. Yesterday’s photos don’t work for today because it is different in this moment.

I have to post river photos once in a while even though you all have already seen it quite a few times. We are so fortunate to have this literally in our backyard. It is only a short walk down there, and so close that we can hear the water from the house.

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Cyclists and Warmshowers

Warmshowers.org is a website that helps people traveling on bicycles connect with people willing to give them a place to sleep and a warm shower (and other amenities that you are able to provide like a kitchen or washing machine).

It started with the two young women who cycled from Mexico City to Panama City. They stayed with us for a couple days and it was fun and very inspirational. (Their story is HERE) Ever since, I have been thinking about bicycle traveling myself.

We got to bike together! (just into town, but it was still really cool). If they had been biking on from here, I probably would have gone an hour or two down the road with them.

We got to bike together! (just into town, but it was still really cool). If they had been biking on from here, I probably would have gone an hour or two down the road with them.

Then, recently, I just happened to bump into three other cyclists traveling through the area, and their story is HERE. I became even more inspired! I figure if I am seriously interested it would be helpful to meet others doing similar travels, there are hardly any warmshowers hosts in Panama, so I signed up.

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A couple days ago I got a call from Bala who needed a place to stay. He is from India, lives in the UK, and started his travels in June in Alaska. His goal is to bike all the way down to the tip of Argentina. He spent Saturday and Sunday night here which gave us time to talk quite a bit, and he makes some fantastic curry! He said he has been staying with Warmshowers people all along his journey. He has met a variety of interesting people and never has had a problem with anyone he has stayed with.

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Jeremy is expected in on Thursday. He was here while I was gone so he stayed with my friend Cedo. It sounds like they had a good time and she is looking forward to his return. He went to New York for a while and is snowed in at the moment, but hopes to make it out tomorrow  night and return here to pick up his bike and continue his travels. He is from France and is biking around the world.

Tomorrow, Guillermo is expected to arrive here. He is from Argentina and is biking north to Alaska.

It is very interesting to learn about the community of bikers on the road. Jeremy spent Christmas in El Salvador with Bala. Bala knows the three who I ran into and has been talking with them on line. He says you meet other travelers all the time. Everyone talks to each other, shares information, and sometimes travels together for a while. That’s how the other three met, just out there on the road and they continued to travel together until Mike stayed in Panama City, and then Alain headed south in Colombia and Elif went east.

Who would have thought that there are so many people out there traveling on their bikes, or bicycle touring?! It is only a matter of time before I join them. I am working on getting stronger and getting my gear together every day. Meanwhile we sure are meeting some interesting people! I’m sure this will continue since there are only a few hosts in Panama, and only one other in Chiriqui.

If you want to meet some really interesting travelers, sign up for warmshowers.org.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Express Yourself

Children are so expressive. They wear their emotions on their faces, and when they are delighted it is impossible not to smile. My grandson loves bubbles, and he was playing outdoors with his dad one afternoon.

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xx

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This is the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Express Yourself. Click on the link to learn more, or on the thumbnails below to see other excellent entries.

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Traveling Back to the USA

We’ve been here over two years now, and it’s interesting the different thoughts that come to mind when I return to the USA. It’s the same trip back to the same country, but different things seem to strike me as noteworthy.

Of course there is the main thing that never changes. It’s wonderful to see my daughters and families in person. Email, Facebook, and video chats are great and keep us in touch but there is no substitute for actually being there. We all enjoy each others company and have a wonderful time anytime we are together. Now that they are in the workforce, and becoming homeowners and parents, it is even more exciting to see where their lives are going.

But, as for being in the country, I notice the transition takes a little longer every time. Everyone is still very tall. I am so used to walking out into a Spanish speaking world that I had to remind myself for the first 2-3 days to speak English. It’s cold! (duh, it is winter up there). I was better prepared this time though with layers, fuzzy socks, hiking boots, and my winter coat so I was much more comfortable.

This time I was especially struck by stuff. There are big stores everywhere, and they are all so full of things to buy. How many people does it take to buy all this stuff, and how much does each person or household buy? The stores are all new and shiny and clean and everything is labeled and beautifully displayed. Even the potatoes are scrubbed before they are put on the shelf, and the greens get misted regularily.

The cost of things is always a shock, and this time was no exception.. We have seen prices rising here, but I was surprised to see many things that we consider expensive and imported here are just as much there, and sometimes more. An ordinary trip to the supermarket for 2-3 days worth of food for 4 can easily run over $100. I have now had my reality shock and will not complain about the price of anything here! (at least until I forget prices there and have to go back for a refresher shock treatment).

The above are Safeway prices. The more upscale stores are even farther out of reach.

Everything is very clean and orderly. Grass is manicured. Streets are clean. There are road signs, cross walks, bike lanes, and smooth streets. With this, however, go all the rules. If you are building something, you can’t dump the pile of sand and block in the street in front of the house. If the neighbors are running an auto body shop in the front yard, someone will be over PDQ to shut that down. I know we give up a lot of that orderly life to live here, but I have come to love the free attitude. You do what you need to do and nobody fusses. And, in truth, very little of what your neighbors do is actually a bother.

One of the more main streets near my daughter's home. No one is out. We did see a number of people at the nearby park though on a sunny weekend afternoon, and the kids were enjoying the playground.

One of the more main streets near my daughter’s home. No one is out. We did see a number of people at the nearby park though on a sunny weekend afternoon, and the kids were enjoying the playground. Most of the time though, you are the only ones out and about except for the cars. 

People are IN their houses. There are some people out for exercise or walking dogs, but in general there aren’t people on the streets and front doors are closed. Here, always, there are people walking, biking, chatting, and playing in the streets. People often have their front doors open or are socializing on the front terrace or in the yard under a tree. So much of life is lived outdoors here, and dropping in to visit someone any old time is perfectly normal. In the USA everyone is so busy it can take days to arrange a time to visit a friend.

I did see some birds and flowers that we don’t usually see.

It definitely isn’t spring in much of the US, but since California has a more temperate climate it was nice to see some of the things I associated with spring as a kid.

I also have a shopping list every time I return, and it’s always something different. Often it is shoes or clothes (hard for a big gringa to buy in this land of smaller people), or some spice or little thing I don’t find here. This time it was bike gear (I want to go traveling, so a rack, panniers, tent, sleeping mattress, gloves, a solar charger for my iPad, and a new pair of shorts). My MP3 player bit the dust, so I bought another. I must have two on hand because I can’t live without my audio books. Oh, and fabric dye for my badly faded biking shirts, and another new shirt. Most of this was ebay or other on line purchases bought ahead of time for pickup at my daughter’s house.

My husband bought guitar strings because his spares had rusted through in the tropical humidity, and some other miscellaneous music related things. He bought a number of LED lights to cut down on our electricity use, and the light they put out is also much softer and more pleasant than our former florescent bulbs. We bought a timer for the fridge so it won’t be using power during the night, a new cable for an iPad charger… I think that’s about it.

There are things you just can’t predict. Everyone has stuff they ended up not using, and other things they wished they had brought. Everyone seems to have some thought about the transition to and from the USA that they weren’t expecting. It’s all part of the experience and certainly keeps life interesting!

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An Outing With the Grandson

We went to Spring Lake (Santa Rosa) for a walk and some scenery suitable for this week’s photo challenge, and of course I couldn’t resist pointing the camera at my grandson as well. It has been a beautiful day and it was so fun watching him enjoy himself.

We are having a great time! We keep in touch a lot on line but there is nothing like being here.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Serenity

Toddlers and Serenity? You wouldn’t think they would go together, but we took the toddler for an outing at Spring Lake in Santa Rosa. It is a beautiful setting where it is possible to take many photos of serene scenes.

Pictures of the toddler will be in another post :D

 

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