Just finished our few days in the mountain town of El Valle. We planned to spend time at the beach, but decided the mountains were more for us. After the beach town of Santa Catalina was a bust, we studied our travel book and found El Valle. It didn't have a lot of hype, but it sounded like it had a few nice things to offer ie.. artisan handicraft market, waterfall hike, hot springs, and cooler temps. We hopped back on a nice hot, sweaty "coaster" (a mini bus) and started to make our way toward El lValle. We stopped over in Santiago, a larger city along the interamericana highway. The next morning, we got in another 2 buses and finally made it to El Valle.
As we were speeding through the winding mountain roads, holding onto our big backpacks on our lap, we were greeted by beautiful green mountain landscape views in evey direction. We hopped off our coaster and walked off the main road to find our lodging, Los Capitanes. It was on a quiet road about 1/3 mile off the main road. What a great place it was, set on a beautiful lot with lush landscaping and magnificent views of the mountains. We were greeted by the owner, Manfred. He is a retired German sea captain who is spending his retirement running his hotel and restaurant. When he first met us, he thought were Dutch. Funny, because that is not the first time Sonia and I have been mistaken for Dutch girls on this trip. It was the third time! Strange... Manfred was a nice man with lots if interesting life experiences to talk about.
We walked alot while in El Valle, exploring the surrounding areas. There are several really expensive, large homes there as it is a weekend retreat for wealthy Panamans and home to many expats. Yesterday we hiked to El Churro Macho waterfall. There were several Tarzan-like bridges scattered throughout the forest. One trail ended at a natural spring pool where we took a dip. We made our way back to town and had lunch at our favorite little coffee shop. After lunch we wandered the handicraft market, where Kuna Indians sold handcrafted Molas, which are pieces of cloth with hand sewn,brightly-colored intricate designs.
Sonia and I have been fascinated by the many Expats we have met here in Panama. While we have enjoyed this country over the past 2 weeks, we both could not imagine moving here permanently. A quality we noticed that they all seem to share is an entrepreneurial spirit. They have tapped into the underdeloped tourism industry here, We met Jim, a 30-something guy from Colorado who runs Boquete Outdoor Adventures that runs rafting, hiking and other adventures tours. We met Manfred, a retired German sea captain who now runs a hotel and restaurant. We met a Russian man who runs the cute European-like coffee shop with good chocolates and food. Last but certainly not least, we met Michelle and Steven Walker who own and run a Howler monkey rescue center in the Chiriqui jungle called Alouatta Lodge. They welcome tourists to come and offer lodging for overnights. They are originally from New Zealand and have lived all over ther world. They have chosen to settle in Panama and raise their 2 teenage chidren. We have thoroughly enjoyed meeting and learning about all of these fascinating people.
Now we will make our way back to Panama City to conclude our whirlwind adventure in Panama....until next time, hasta luego.