Tuesday, February 26, 2013

First Trip to Panama - Part III - Volcán, then Home to Costa Rica

Her friend the King - Barriles Pre-Colombian site
On the map, it looks like Volcán should be a short drive from Boquete, since they are only about 20 kilometers apart as the Sarjento flies. However, there is no drivable road between them, though one has been "in the works" for several years. So, from Boquete, it's back to Davíd, drive a little west on the Interamericana, then take a right to reach Volcán. It's probably a drive of about 90 minutes, but we didn't keep track, since we took the opportunity stop and do some more shopping in Davíd before heading back to the cooler mountains.

Il Forno restaurant in Volcan Panama
Restaurante Il Forno, Volcán, Panama
Don't take my word for it, since we were in Volcán less than 24 hours, but it didn't seem like there was much to it, and I'm sure the locals like it that way. To our delight, there was a very decent restaurant there, dubbed Il Forno, which specializes in Italian food, but has a more general menu. Prices and service were just right, as was the food. If they have a lunch rush, we missed it, so we pretty much had the place to ourselves.


Dos Rios Hotel in Volcán Panama
Dos Rios Hotel - Volcán Panama

After satiating our hunger, we drove further down the road in pursuit of a hotel. If we'd done any research before we left home, we probably wouldn't have landed at Dos Rios Hotel. Trip Advisor doesn't give it a top rating, which looks about right to me. The eating area and the grounds are lovely, but the rooms are cheap and cramped. Since it was also the most expensive of the three hotels we stayed at, we won't be returning. Next time, I think we'd choose Mount Totumas Cloud Forest hotel.

A personal highlight of Volcán, for me, was meeting Jay Mills, callsign HP3AK, a fellow ex-pat radio operator and blogger. We chatted over a beer at Dos Rios as he related to me most of his experiences as an ex-pat in that locale. Perhaps he'll stop by our place for a visit the next time he's through Costa Rica.

Volcan, Panama, Sitio Barriles, pre-colombian site
Sitio Barriles, Volcán, Panamá
The most interesting thing we discovered in Volcán during our short visit was the Barriles Pre-Colombian archeological site several kilometers out of town. The entrance takes you into a private homesite, which has many artifacts placed around the yard. The official guide was not there, but the housekeeper let us walk around the site on our own, charging just three dollars for parking the car.

clay pot uncovered in excavation
A pot in the wall
Very close to the house, is a spiral staircase that passes through an eight foot deep excavation from which various discarded pots protrude out of the walls. The entire area had been populated by indigenous people for thousands of years. The evidence suggests the population peaked at over a thousand inhabitants around 1000-1200 A.D. By the time the Spanish arrived, no one was living there. No one knows why they vanished, but perhaps it was due to a volcanic eruption around 1400 A.D.

Note the prominent sign at Panamanian Customs
After Barriles, we headed again for Río Sereno, hoping the border guard would be there this time. We followed an extremely serpentine road for about an hour. Once in Río Sereno there are no signs telling you where the border station is, and in fact, you could drive right into Costa Rica without ever seeing a gate. We found the official entrance, the guard was there, and the line was short. We arrived at the guard's desk just before his noon-time lunch break. Passports in order, we made a short stop at the Customs (Aduana) shack another 50 meters down the street to register the exit of the car. From there, it's a hundred meters to the Costa Rican Migración station.
Rio Sereno border cafe' manager, Tony
Our gracious host, Tony, at the border soda

Since we gained an hour upon entry to Costa Rica, it was now 11 AM, so we'd have plenty of time to catch the officials on this side of the frontier. We thought.

Turns out the guards on each side of the border synchronize their lunch hours, so we had an hour to kill. It was just as well, since we could take lunch at the nearby soda, which turned out to be a gem. The manager, Tony, who is only visiting from Florida for a few months, knows the meaning of friendly customer service and the fried chicken was some of the best I've had down here. After lunch, we wandered amongst the street shops on a street that straddles the border. Literally, you can step in, step out, step in, step out of Costa Rica into Panama.
video

Then, it was time to head home. From Río Sereno, you can't miss the 100 foot ceibol tree showing you the turn into Sabalito. From there, via San Vito, it's about 2 to 3 hours drive home through the pineapple fields south of Buenos Aires.
Huge Ceibol tree near Sabalito

I didn't even mind the bumpier roads, and getting stuck for half an hour behind an overloaded sugar cane truck, which is a common sight in Costa Rica during the summer months. It was good to be back to the "home" country, and better yet to sleep in our own beds again that night.




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5 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing this post. Those are some beautiful pictures. The beaches in Costa Rica are pristine. I have been wanting to travel there for some time now. My wife and I are finally planning a vacation there and I have been looking into a jaco costa rica vacation package. They have amazing deals and I will be able to save some money. I cant wait!

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  2. Pretty informative post for a country I know so little... but then again, now I do know more :)

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  3. nice blog.....your post is very informative as well interesting. I like your way of posting.thanks....

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  4. Thanks for share the blog!!!interesting and informative blog also!!Best Food in Panama

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Thanks so much for your comment! - Casey

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