Our first holiday season in Panama has come and gone, and what a memorable time it was. With the loss of Maggie so fresh and painful, we found solace in nature and in the loving embrace of our wonderful friends here in Boquete. That meant hiking, hiking, and more hiking, with plenty of eating and merriment thrown in.
First, a shout-out to Jere McCormick, leader of Boquete Nature Hikes. John has been doing Jere’s Wednesday hikes religiously ever since we got here, and I’ve joined in on a few occasions when I could tear myself away from work. On Dec. 23, we partook of Jere’s hike on the Familia Quiel Finca, a hillside property that has been owned and farmed by the Quiel family for almost a century. A short trek through a flower-filled rainforest leads to a lovely waterfall, El Tatica.
The next day, Christmas Eve, we joined Jere’s group again. No hiking this time, but a drive out to Caldera and up a very bumpy road to a wonderfully refreshing swimming hole on the Rio Chiriqui Nuevo. After splashing and playing in the river for a while, we bumped up the road another half-mile or so to the warm springs resort of La Abuela. This little gem is tucked way off the beaten path, but it offers a lovely soaking pool and a very nice headquarters building complete with dining/lounging area and showers. After getting our soak on, we all enjoyed a sumptuous Christmas Eve potluck that included yummy braised lamb supplied by the La Abuela owners. And we finally got to break in our new bocci ball set on the La Abuela lawn.
Getting home on Christmas Eve turned out to be quite the adventure when first one, then another one of our vehicles ran into problems. How many seriously chilled middle-agers does it take to change a flat tire? Not enough, as we found out, since the spare for the truck in question was also flat. We ended up leaving that truck and ferrying its passengers in other cars, only to have the car we were riding in overheat. After discovering a leaky radiator (did I mention the road was SERIOUSLY rough?) we nursed the car home by stopping periodically to pour in the water we could scavenge from melted ice in coolers and random water bottles.
Fast-forward to New Year’s Eve, and we joined another group of friends to hike the Lost Waterfalls of Boquete. For serious hiking buffs this is not to be missed, and the reward for the seriously rugged half-climb, half-hike is three fabulous waterfalls – each one more spectacular than the last. The orchids! The wild heliconia! The views! And yes, a few of us (ahem) did take a swim.
Later that day, we mustered what little strength we had left to join our friends Holly and Scott, who are building a home on a mountainside overlooking Boquete, for an amazing New Year’s Eve dinner complete with fireworks. For us, 2016 started with a bang!