Hi Fellow Travellers,
Today, we leave the beauty of Cerro Azul and the perfect climate we have experienced for the last couple of weeks. We have decided to move a little further west to El Valle, a beautiful small mountain town that is a popular day trip destination for locals and tourists. It tends to be cooler than the city, at 800M elevation, and there is always a pleasant breeze. There is a popular farmers and craft market here that bustles with activity on the weekends. During the week, this sleepy little mountain town is slow-moving and enjoyable. There are lots of walkers on the street and bicycles are a popular method of transpiration.
We have one last stop to make so I can get a couple of shots of, what I think is a spectacular property here. It’s an old property that l think was built in 1985 and is supposed to have won an architectural award. It is beautifully sited on six almost totally level lots and provides an unobstructed 180 degree view from the wrap around deck that includes the City. There are two apartments in a separate building and one other out building. It has been well maintained and includes beautiful heavy wood furnishings. Apparently it has been on the market for a long time and we think the price is at about $235K. Amazing value if its true!
As we pack up our little Toyota and say good-bye to our now quite large group of friends, I would like to leave you with a few of our impressions of this area.
1. It is an area that many, unjustly, consider to be quite remote, even though it is only about 45 minutes drive from Tocumen airport. It will take you longer to driver across the city than to drive here;
2. If you are going to visit here, you need to have a car and be comfortable driving mountain roads;
3. Remember that you are in a National Park and conduct yourself accordingly;
4. Accommodation here is difficult to find before coming to Panama. There are no hotels except a hostel that we found in our Moon travel guide but it is outside the park and it looked closed when we drove by it. Try the Canada Panama Realty website, as they have rentals available (See the Business we Support list at the bottom of the right column of this blog for a link). You can also contact Antonio, who has a couple of suites available in his home with Internet (See the post called “Another Place to Stay in Cerro Azul” in this blog for information);
5. Be ready to cook most of your meals while in Cerro Azul. The only restaurant (of sorts) is at the Club, but it closes at four PM daily and is not open on Monday. You can pick up lots of supplies at the Super 99 or Super Extra markets at the bottom of the hill before you come up. Of course, you could drive the road into town for dinner but the road is not good to drive in the dark. It is narrow, hilly and curvy and there are very few street lights. Locals walk on the side of the road and they don’t seem to be aware of the need for light-colored clothes to be able to be seen at night. Drivers here tend to drive in the center of the narrow road and are slow to move back into their own lane when they approach traffic going in the other direction. Be careful;
6. Don’t come here if you are looking for a partying infrastructure. There are no clubs. If you want to party, bring it with you. This place will appeal mostly to people who love the outdoors and those that enjoy nature and hiking;
7. Take a few moments and get to know some locals. We found them to be extremely friendly and helpful in providing information about the area and suggestions of things to do. There are lots of Expat Canadian and Americans here so English-speaking people are relatively easy to find;
8. If you need an Internet connection, there is one available at the restaurant in the Club. It works great when it is working but has been subject to a bit of down time;
9. Do take advantage of the beautiful big pool in the Club area. It is quite cool, as Panamanian pools go, due to the elevation here; and
10. We have seen many places in Panama and this one is our favorite! Partly because it is a well-kept secret and is not busy and partly for the perfect climate. Be sure not to miss it when you come to Panama.
Our trip to El Valle takes us down the mountain and across Panama City to the Pan American Highway. This is the highway that runs from here all the way to Canada! We met some people here that drove down from Quebec… 9,700K. We cross the canal on the newest and only other bridge, the beautiful Centennial Bridge and head west on the recently improved modern four lane divided highway. Be careful of semis hauling containers. We passed two along the way where the container tipped off the chassis on a curve. Its 175K to our destination but it takes us about three hours due to traffic and a lunch break in Coronado at one of our favorite restaurants. We left the Pan American Highway and headed up the newly paved two lane road for 25K to El Valle.
Andrea booked our accommodation over the Internet. It’s a place called Cabanas Potosi and the rate was $44.50 per night. Oh, and you also get the seventh night free when you book a week. Now I don’t know about you but that rate made me nervous until we read the client reviews and found that almost all of them raved about the place. After finally locating it and turning through the main gate, you could tell the place would be fine. The gardens are elaborately planted and manicured perfectly. There are four units arranged in two buildings. The grounds are massive and there are little round concrete tables and benches scattered around the property, each set in a perfect place such as sheltered in the shade under a tree, nestled in the center of ring of tropical plantings, out in the open or secluded. There is a covered patio with a ping-pong table and hammocks are stretched between trees in groups or singly. The place is neatly painted and the rooms, although not elaborate, are neat and clean and contain a fridge. The place is casual and everything you see suggests relaxation! I love it all ready. What do you think?