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Almost two years into our life in Panama, we’re still discovering new things about our chosen home. This year we’re making an effort to branch out and explore areas we keep hearing about, but haven’t had a chance to visit yet.

A few weeks ago we got to tick another one off our Panama bucket list when we visited the Azuero Peninsula – the big land mass that sticks down into the Pacific west of Panama City. The Azuero is the true the heartland of Panama, a vast agricultural district where the pace of life moves a little slower, at least when people aren’t partying. Las Tablas is one of the biggest towns in the eastern Azuero, playing host to one festival after another throughout the year – the two biggest being Carnival (one of Panama’s largest) and the wonderous Desifile de las Mil Polleras (Parade of a Thousand Polleras).

I’ve been captivated by Volcán Barú since the first time I laid eyes on her on our first trip to Boquete in 2010. Even then, the idea to climb Barú someday got stuck in my brain and she landed on our bucket list.

Finally last weekend, after almost two years of living here, I got my wish. (John wisely took a pass on this one because, to paraphrase him, he’s saving his knees for Machu Picchu!) The “road” to the top is mostly a horrible, rutted, and rocky dirt track that can only be managed by extremely tough, high-clearance 4WD vehicles with huge tires. It took us about 7.5 hours to hike the 9.2 miles with a total elevation gain of 5,500 feet. I can honestly say the hike was one of the most physically challenging things I’ve ever done, and also one of the most rewarding.

Heavens to Murgatroyd – where did November go? And December, for that matter. With 2017 staring us in the face, it’s a good time to look back on some of our best moments this year. So many of those moments have been about spending time with friends and our fur kids in the cloud forest paradise known as the western Panama highlands. Every time we get out, it’s like re-discovering our wonderful home all over again.

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