The start of another New Year for us, here in Panama, began with our little community of expats gathering for a scrumptious brunch, hosted by Smitty and Rochelle. These events are filled with opportunities to visit and catch up with friends we had not seen since last year. The food was great as well, lots of bacon!
In the afternoon, we were invited on a little expedition to visit a four hectare finca (farm) of friends who live here full-time. The finca is further up in the hills than our community and requires a serious four-wheel drive vehicle and someone with the knowledge of how to use it, to get you there safely. The finca is for sale and they go up every week or so to check on things with their caretaker family. We agreed to tag along on the trip.
It takes 45 minutes to an hour of slowly pounding the suspension of the Toyota Hilux diesel four by four up a road that was more like a stream bed in some places. The first big hill was littered with two-wheel drive cars with no clearance trying to claw and scratch their way up the heavy gravel. Panamanian drivers seem not to understand that there are many places regular street cars just can’t go! All they knew was that it was a holiday and a perfect time to take the wife and kids on a drive into the back country. The first hill disposed of the cars and we were able to creep, lurch and bump around them to continue to our destination.
The terrain here is often along the ridge of the mountains. There is a wind farm in the process of being built up here but in true Panamanian style the road probably won’t be improved until after it is completed. We forded a couple of rivers and passed by some beautiful large estates. Views from up here would be spectacular if it wasn’t for the mist.
We arrived at the finca and let ourselves through the closed gate. The long entrance driveway was lined by dark red shrubs, defining the road. We pulled up to a nicely kept small house that was about 20 years old. The construction was wood and cement. All the wood was sour cedar which is a local hardwood that termites and other bugs leave alone. We were told that all the pine that had been used in construction had been eaten by the bugs.
The finca is no longer a working farm but there are remnants of when it was. There are many orange, lime, mango and macadamia nut trees as well as lots of Caribbean pines. The grounds are immaculately kept. You would almost think you were at a golf course. We picked oranges and limes from some of the trees and enjoyed the Oriole nests. They look like a leg of a pantyhose with a softball in it. Just hang it in a tree!
This is truly living off the grid. If you want electricity here, you have to make it yourself. The kitchen sports a propane stove and fridge. I didn’t know they made propane fridges until this trip. There are solar panels on the roof of the house and an inverter with a couple of batteries in the control room. They can even get an Internet connection via cell phone here if they boost the signal. It is fascinating that way out here in the middle of nowhere you can have all the comforts of home.
On the trip back we stopped to return a borrowed rifle that the caretaker had used for hunting. The place we stopped was unbelievable. It was like a miniature Spruce Meadows only a little further south. A large bar and restaurant that nobody had ever used were flanked by cement horse stalls. This complex was in front of a fenced open air horse arena performance field. The field was packed sand and there was a cement control tower at one end of the field. There was also a cement barn housing a number of horses. Apparently this facility was built to attract competitive horse competitions but it never got off the ground. Maybe part of the problem is the road you have to use to get there!