Friday, February 15, 2013

First Trip to Panama - Part II - Boquete

Boquete View
Boquete View (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
As we meandered through the detours along the new 4-lane stretch of highway on our way from Davíd to Boquete, we remarked on how dry the valley was. The sparseness of the stubby plants hinted that perhaps this area didn't enjoy much rain even in the wet season. On both sides of the highway, spaced by miles and far from Davíd were clustered houses that looked like mini-versions of suburbs in New Mexico or Arizona. Small lots, faux adobe, all painted in desert pastels.

Until nearly in Boquete, the road climbs gradually, but noticeably. Though I'd heard many times of this Panamanian gringo oasis, I don't think I'd ever seen a photo of it. My first view of the town was plainly not congruent with my brain's contrived image. Somehow, I'd pictured it larger and spread out across a mountain top. In reality, it's laid out lengthwise in a narrow, rising valley, steep peaks on all three sides. My first thought was of a "theme town", such as Park City, Utah, or Ashland, Oregon, though I'd be surprised if the founders planned it that way. There's a queer uniqueness and hazy similarity between each building and block along the two main thoroughfares that merge into one further up the valley.


church in boquete
A church that looks like a fold-up from the back of a cereal box
Just as the northern end of the town seemed to peter out, we spotted a coffee shop; a gringo at every table. Thank goodness, some real coffee, espresso no less! The cool wind and my cappuccino put me in a relaxed mood as we pondered our next move, which was to take a long stroll through town.

old train station in boquete panama
The former railroad station, elevation 1085 meters
The central point of interest seemed to be the former train station cum city hall and its companion, a shaded park with fountain. How I wished the train was still in operation! The sign on the side of the old station announced that we were at an elevation of 1085 meters, about 200 meters lower than our finca back home.

frog sculpture in boquete panama town square
A rock-hugging frog
There are a lot of nice shops and restaurants, especially for a town this small, but not a lot else to do if you're a stranger in town. There were sidewalk boards on most blocks advertising various out-of-town excursions, but we had neither the time nor money this trip to take advantage of them. 

boquete panama children's park riverview
View upriver along the children's park
Eventually, we exhausted the in-town sights and turned our efforts to finding shelter. We stayed in a very tranquil, roomy hotel with fast Internet, just across the street from the children's park by the river. Sorry, I've totally forgotten the name of it and Travel Advisor is no help at all. Of the three places we stayed on this trip, it was assuredly the best. 

Boquete off-street café
Our delightful breakfast café
red fruit smoothie whipped
Strawberry smoothie
Dinner was at The Monkey Bar. The food was quite good and reasonably priced. They advertise that they also serve breakfast, but the next morning it was shut up tight. This was doubly unlucky as we'd hoped to get a picture of the vintage mural covering one wall inside, now that we had the camera. 

After a bit of wandering we came across a tidy café, set 20 meters off a side street. We met a congenial couple at the next table from our home state of Oregon and had a nice chat. The cook/waitress brought us a couple of stylish smoothies, along with brewed coffee, pancakes, french toast and sides of fruit. Breakfast over, we took our time re-packing and checking e-mail back at the hotel before loading up and heading out for our next stop, Volcán.

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