This past week in Boquete has had us experiencing a myriad of fun and interesting adventures while learning about the area. We met so many people that before we left, we began writing down names and how we met each person so we could remember them for future reference. It took the two of us plus our host to get the names straightened out. We’re pretty sure that we forgot some of them!
Everyone was so friendly and helpful in Boquete, locals and expats alike. The minute we walked into town, the energy of the area and people felt good, and it remained that way the whole visit. Several times we just sat and chilled in the park in the center of town, watching people with smiles on our faces. One time there were several teens in the gazebo practicing and challenging each other with their break dancing skills. Even here in this remote town, boys are the same. Made my neck hurt just watching them!
Saturday Penny, our host, invited us for breakfast with her friends at a local restaurant. It was served family style for this group and extremely delicious. It was so fun meeting these women and getting all kinds of tips on living there. They do a lot of volunteer work, something most of the expats do here to give back to community that has welcomed them in so warmly. We followed Penny and her friend after breakfast to pick up a young woman with CP to take her to the Disability Center. What a bright light this girl is. She lives alone since her mother died so Penny and her friend are like second moms to her. She learned English from Penny and on that day told Penny her brain was old and that was why she couldn’t remember things. Funny girl, too!
The Disability place was packed with all kinds of people with disabilities and their families. They have programs and meals for them there. We were greeted with a smile by the official door opener, a friendly young man who gave us hugs as we got out of the car. We met another young man in a wheelchair who had limited use of one hand and was the official “911” operator. The only one actually. He spoke excellent English and was superb at his job. Apparently he sleeps with the phone as he is on call all the time. Wow. Impressive.
We left there, and since we had rented a car for a couple of days, we took off and explored the back roads that wound around town. The first road took us on a steep road up the side of the mountain. The road became very narrow in parts and the drop off to the right made us nervous. Debbie spent the drive gripping the door and trying not to freak out. Not sure how we would have managed had we met someone coming down and as you can imagine, I drove very slowly. The view was spectacular but there was no place to stop and get a picture. As soon as we realised the road wasn’t getting any better, we began looking for a place to turn around. That took some time but finally we managed to return to town.
Then we went up the road going out of town in the opposite direction, also uphill. That road was better and we got to see coffee farms and restaurants out in the middle of nowhere. Just when we wondered if we should turn around, we started to see buildings and more houses so Debbie convinced me to continue on into the next town before we turned back. I saw a restaurant and said, Hey, that must be a chain restaurant! That looks like the one in Boquete! Things began to look very familiar to me. It was then I realised we were in Boquete. Unbeknownst to us, we had gone full circle! Well, color our cheeks red! LOL. At least we didn’t turn around and make the long drive back on the same windy road.
The final road we chose to drive up was the one that ran past our host’s place. There wasn’t much up there but coffee plants and men wielding the machetes they use to cut down vegetation next to the roads and on the farms. After a bit of exploring up that direction, we turned back and came back into town so we could return the car to the rental place in time.
The car rental place, called Cowboy Dave’s, was unique and came recommended by expats. It looked like a big junkyard to me and he looked like a biker dude from the States. He was very accommodating though and extremely reasonable. Plus we got a nice red car to drive. He wasn’t there when we arrived to return it, but his wife was, so we checked out her side business making jewelry and we talked for quite a bit about her work and got some more tips for living in Boquete.
We then caught a bus back into town which you can do by standing by the side of the road anywhere on that main road. In town we found something to eat and sat in the park again, soaking up the sunshine and good vibes before heading back to our rooms. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay there with Penny, our host. Her surroundings were beautiful, plus she has three dogs we got to love on for a week. We had free run of the kitchen and our own shelf in the fridge as well as our own bath and two rooms for the price of one. Was a great deal.
Sunday, which was supposed to be our last day, we went with Penny to pick up a dog from her employee. The macho culture here is hard to convince to spay their male dogs but he finally agreed to let her take the dog to the free spay and neuter clinic. There are very few stray or starving dogs in Boquete anymore, unlike the rest of Panama, due to this monthly program begun by North American volunteers. It was a very busy place, with over two hundred animals waiting to go in for their procedures.
Afterwards, we went to lunch to another great restaurant near the clinic, this one run by an American and his Thai wife. They serve an international cuisine. We have found the restaurants here run by expats to be expensive so if we move there, those won’t be our normal eateries. Instead we loved the ones run by locals, the food is delicious and filling and the prices won’t break the bank. For example, rice with chicken and vegetables, 1.20 for a huge helping. Really?? Dinner! Oh, on a side note, the burgers in Panama are nothing like ours so I learned not to eat them. They are quite hard. Anyhow we got the least expensive thing on the menu there and split it because it was huge. But very good.
We decided to stay an extra day so we could do the Coffee Farm tour we had missed out on so far. That was worth staying an extra day for, and I found many similarities between running a coffee farm and running a vineyard like our family did for twenty years. But that’s for another post.
Until next time.