Screen-Shot-2018-03-11-at-3.41.21-PM-270x300 Two Day Hikes in Chiriqui Province, Panama Chiriqui Hiking in Panama The Great Outdoors
Our neighborhood – the little blue dot is our house. The houses on the outer edges are the ones that ring the canyon.

In preparation for our big trek on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in October, John and I have started pushing ourselves to get in shape for the three big hikes, at altitude, that we’ll have to face on that trip. Last Sunday and yesterday, we completed two 8-mile hikes in Chiriqui Province, both of which started right out of our neighborhood but ended in two separate areas. We also got a first-hand look at a huge road construction project that’s the talk of the area and will soon link Alto Boquete, Panama with the towns of Palmira and Potrerillos.

To set the stage, we live in a neighborhood called Brisas Boqueteñas, just down the hill from Boquete, that sits on the edge of a beautiful canyon with our local volcano, Barú, as the backdrop. Although our own casa isn’t a canyon house (we’re in the cheap seats!), several houses in our neighborhood are right on the edge. There are a couple of trails down into the canyon from here that we’d been wanting to try, and we knew that it’s possible to come up the other side and walk all the way to Palmira or Potrerillos from there. It would also give us a chance to get a good first-hand look at the road construction, which is now highly visible as a huge and ugly brown scar across the canyon from our neighborhood mirador (lookout).

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We got lucky for the ride home from Potrerillos. The bus had air conditioning, music videos, and these lovely bordello-inspired curtains!

For both Chiriqui hikes, we were able to cart our weary butts home on buses (two buses today, but the last was air conditioned and had some interesting interior decorating!). One of the great advantages of living so close to the Boquete highway is that it’s extremely easy to get to our house via bus or taxi.

Last Sunday, we ended up in the little burg of Palmira Abajo after a hot and dusty slog that also included one of the prettiest little riverside trails we’ve ever seen, in a beautiful hidden valley. Sadly, that lovely place might be just a memory if the new road to Palmira takes the course that we think it will.

Yesterday we started at the same point – from our house down into the canyon –  but veered left at the other side and ended up in Potrerillos. This segment of the new road is a lot more advanced, and we got to see the fevered construction progress as they try to finish the thing, together with THREE new river bridges, before rainy season sets in.

So is the new road a bad thing? It’s heartbreaking to see how much lush cloud-forest landscape they’ve destroyed, and they’ve made an absolute mess of those river crossings across three very beautiful and pristine rivers. But somewhere in the back of my mind I can hear someone saying “You can’t stop progress.” Since there’s absolutely nothing I can do to stop this particular example of progress, I’m trying to look on the bright side. The new road really will take a lot of time off the trip from Boquete to the town of Volcán, on the other side of Barú. It might open up that area of Chiriqui to big improvements in infrastructure with better water and more reliable power for the residents, many of whom are very poor farm workers. And maybe, just maybe, some little Ngäbe kids will have a fighting chance to lift themselves out of poverty, if the new road makes it easier for them to get to school. The cockeyed optimist has spoken!

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An indigenous family walks up the canyon road behind our neighborhood
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The stunning view of Volcán Barú from across the canyon
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Heading down into the canyon on a very steep trail
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Lots of happy cattle grazing on the canyon floor. This one was getting a little impatient with her almost-grown calf, still trying to suckle.
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We were glad to find a footbridge over the Rio Quisiga, which had a lot more water than expected (for dry season)
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The path on the other side of the canyon opens up into a wider country lane
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It was good to see these tiny wild orchids hanging on during dry season
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Looking back across the canyon at our own neighborhood
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The path gets shadier and more traveled
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I wonder if this fellow is one of those noisy locusts we heard in the trees overhead? He sure has interesting lacy wings.
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This little church was strangely locked up and deserted on a Sunday morning.
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Looking through the barred door to the inside
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Hmm. I guess Panamanian children are also taught that Columbus “discovered” the new world.
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Heading down the new road bed to Palmira, in ankle-deep dust
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The new roadbed played out and we found ourselves in this beautiful valley, on a country track that follows the Rio Quisiga
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So pretty!
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Up on the other side of the canyon, we could look across and see the road bed we had just come down. Off in the distance, we could barely make out Brisas Boquetenas, our neighborhood.
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We finally made it to the little crossroads burg of Palmira Abajo. We were soo glad to find a tienda with cold water! After 8 miles, the bus was waiting to take us home.
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ONE WEEK LATER, and we’re headed up the other segment of the new road to Potrerillos.
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Ugh. They’ve really torn up the landscape to build this bridge over the creek.
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Another view of the bridge construction.

 

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This section of the new road (where the green sign is on the left) comes out in the town of Potrerillos.

11 Comments

  1. Mary Lea (Mimi) Reply

    How great that you have hiking trails so close to your home! Loved your word pictures.

  2. Wonderful way to prepare for the Inca Trail. We sure have the same passion for travel and go to many of the same places. The second day on the trail is the hardest. You will cross Dead Woman’s Pass, then it is down hill most of the way to the entrance. It was a life altering hike for me. Just keep a pouch of chewed coco leaves in you cheek to help with the altitude, take one step at a time, and marvel at the scenery and orchids along the trail and you will do just fine.

  3. John and Susan Pazera Reply

    Thank you for the great advice, Debbie! Yes, we are kindred spirits in many ways, and I have a feeling our paths will cross one of these days. I have been dreaming of seeing Machu Picchu all my life, so this trip will be another dream come true. BTW – we love your Montevideo Facebook posts! You’re making us want to go back there 🙂

  4. John and Susan Pazera Reply

    Thank you for your kind words, Mimi! We really are blessed to be living here.

  5. What a great idea to prepare the hiking to Machu Pichu! Looks like you are going to be ready soon 🙂 Are you planning to do it on monthly basis until leaving to Peru?

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Yes, at least once a month – hopefully more often!

  6. Love the magnificent views of Volcán Barú and the bridge over the Rio Quisiga! And the bus interior had me roaring! How I would love to join you when you hike the Inca Trail!

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