The construction project has kept us out of trouble, for the most part, but we are looking for a break. Enter our friends, Pam and Brian, from around Lethbridge Alberta, who will be visiting Panama for about three weeks! Pam is a fellow blogger and the author of the travel blog http://PamBrownsAdventures.com. She is also a fellow Canadian Red Crosser.
We have arranged to pick them up from the airport and overnight them up the mountain so they can see the scenery on the trip to Coronado the next day. They have rented a two-bedroom suite in a modern 20 some story tower right on the beach there and we will visit them on weekends to tour them around Panama. This will give us a chance to visit and get a break from our routine as the workers are off on Saturday and Sunday anyways.
We headed out to Coronado on Saturday, 10 January, a two and a half hour drive from Cerro Azul. After ordering a set of prescription sunglasses, we met up for a day trip to el Valle, which is inland, a little further than Coronado. From the turnoff on the inter-American Highway, it is another 26 km north up to the el Valle town site.
El Valle is a popular agricultural community and tourist destination on weekends due to a bustling local market, which sells cut flowers, plants, vegetables, crafts and tourist stuff. Saturday and Sunday, you will find the place very busy as there are many tour buses from Panama City and other resorts hauling people up to the market. It is a beautiful small town set on the floor of an extinct volcano. It is highly scenic and somewhat cooler than the beach communities due to its elevation.
This is one of a very few locations in Panama where you will find fireplaces. Many of the homes are huge million dollar estates. Property prices in this area are some of the highest in the country.
When we were last in el Valle, we visited an orchid sanctuary, which had been funded by the Japanese Government for years. The object of the operation was to cut the rampant desecration of wild orchids in the jungle and to keep and propagate some of the more than 1,000 species of orchids in Panama. Unfortunately, the Japanese had terminated their funding and recalled their staff.
We were glad to see that the operation continues to run, but under local control. It actually looks better now than the last time we were here. Here are a few pictures of some of the orchids in their garden. There are a number of quite rare ones.
We stopped at one of our favorite restaurants on the way back to Coronado. It is in a resort called Vista Mar, a huge development that will probably continue to be under construction for another 10 years but it has a beautiful restaurant right on the ocean.
After a restful nigh in Coronado, we decided to try something that might or might not work! There has been a favorite little restaurant in a small town called la Pintada, which we have enjoyed many times. To get there, you travel west on the inter-American Highway to a city called Penonome. Turn north and stay left at the Catholic Church. You will enjoy a beautiful scenic drive for about a half hour until you come to la Pintada. This is a typical small Spanish town. The town square has a Catholic Church on one side and opposite that church is a restaurant.
We have had mixed luck with this place. Sometimes it is open; sometimes it is for sale; sometimes it is for rent. We even got serenaded by the Argentinean Elvis one time at this place. This time it was for rent! Not to waste the trip, we decided to explore further north of la Pintada.
We followed the nicely paved road until we came upon a sign that advertised a Bed and Breakfast called the River Inn. Thinking we would have lunch there, we continued until we found it. They have a pool and about six rooms. It is completely in the middle of nowhere! If you are running from the police, this is your perfect destination. No one would ever think to find you here! Lunch was not available here but the owner directed us to a restaurant that he said was “worthy of our money”.
We are back in the hills, way off the beaten track. Google Earth does not even have detail of this part of Panama. There is a large copper mine and a gold mine back in these hills somewhere.
Eventually, we found the restaurant. It was a Panamanian truck stop as there were three big rig empty flat decks parked at the side of the road and the drivers were using the restaurant. They were probably from one of the mines. The restaurant was a flat open platform with tables under a large palapa roof. Two Panamanian women welcomed us to their restaurant and took our order, then served us a delicious hot chicken lunch. Lunch for four, with drinks… $14.00. For desert, Andrea used the wooden ladder leaning against a orange tree right next to the restaurant, and picked fresh juicy oranges out of the tree to the laughter of the restaurant owners. It was a great visit and one of those special things that happen when you go exploring.
On the way back, we stopped at the side of the road to take pictures of this beautiful finca (farm) and a river down the road a little further had a crowd of locals having a swim.
Well, back to the grind at our construction site until next week.