Panama Highlands

We flew from Panama City to David, capital of Chiriqui Province, (35 min flight) and then a bus ride to Boquete (another 35 min) where we would be staying the next three nights. Chiriqui means “Valley of the Moon.”  With its more moderate temperatures it is an agricultural province.  Boquete means “sinkhole” and is located in the hole of a volcano that last erupted 400 years ago.  Eighty percent of Panama is at sea level to 500 feet.  The highest point is the edge of the volcano at 11,400 feet which is the highest point in Central America.  We could see this point from our hotel.  Since this is higher ground, many of the residents of Boquete are retirees.  It was definitely a much cooler place than Panama City!  (We also celebrated Ron’s birthday!)

We visited a honey bee farm and had a honey tasting.  They have about 40 different flavors—depending on the floral source to various infusions. Ginger, cinnamon, cocoa, etc.  They teach how to care for the bees and the variety of forage.

Since this is higher elevation than most of the rest of the country, 80% of the vegetable crops of Panama are grown here.  We saw large vegetable fields, orange groves.  The biggest exports for Panama are bananas, pineapples, and watermelons.  Farmers sometimes join cooperatives so that it is easier to sell their products.  They often will make “puercas” – large plastic bags filled with a variety of vegetables.  A family can buy one of these and get a variety of vegetables cheaper than buying the individual items in a supermarket. We stopped at a cooperative where farmers can take their produce which is then sold as “puercas” or individually.  We bought two bags and delivered them to a family farther down the road that our tour leader knew and said could use them.

One day we drove higher up in the highlands (close to 7000 ft).  Along the way we stopped to see a deep gorge created by the volcano.  We also saw “leaf carrying ants.”  We could follow them down the tree trunk, across a long stretch of ground, to their hole.  Fascinating.  We visited the “Finca Dracula” Orchard Nursery.  Beautiful area with some 2,000 species of orchids (some rare species) along with cloud forest type vegetation.  We also walked through their beautiful cloud forest.

We visited the small rural town of Cerro Punta where we climbed a hill to look out over the valleys.  We found the use of old tires in making steps for the trail interesting.  We saw the horse farm which we later visited.  They breed highly prized thoroughbreds who have gone on to win some of the top racing prizes in Central and South America.

On our last morning in the highlands, we opted to do the Canopy Walk – on hanging bridges.  We hiked up through the “cloud forest” and walked over 6 hanging bridges—some of which were quite long and very high above ground in the forest.  We saw a sloth curled up in one tree.  The path was quite steep at times and somewhat slippery with big steps.  It was heart-pounding going up because of exertion and altitude and heart-pounding going down because of fear of slipping!  It was a beautiful area.

Before leaving Boquete we stopped at the flower and coffee fair.  It had opened the night before and would run for about 10 days.  It felt much like our county fairs in the U.S.


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