Hasta Pronto, Panama!
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Our first visit to Panama is nearly over, but we will definitely be back to see more of this beautiful country!
La India Dormida
We returned to El Valle, this time to climb La India Dormida (The Sleeping Indian Woman). This hike is named for the fact that it looks like, shockingly, a sleeping Indian woman. It is one of the more popular hikes in the area.
Despite being shrouded in clouds, the views were still incredible. For no reason other than where the bus dropped us off, we did this hike in the reverse order to what I had intended. This meant that we started with waterfalls rather than end at them. Given the cooler temperatures, I wasn’t too concerned. However, on a hot day it would be nice to end with a refreshing dip.
It’s a fairly strenuous uphill trek to start with a couple of tricky spots to the trail. Luckily we came across a cute little old man right after one fork in the trail. Hiking along with a giant bag of who-knows-what (I’m guessing a crop or firewood…) he sussed us for the unknowingly lost tourists we were and told us that we needed to cross over to the other trail. Perfect timing!
Once at the summit, we stopped for a chance to take in the view. I caught my breath while Terry lost his due to the sheer drop. From here, the hike continues along the caldera’s ridge with stunning views in all directions, at least when the clouds cleared. A descent and climb for the neck, another for the navel and it was time to descend back to town.
The rain held off until we reached the town for which we were thankful as it would have been an incredibly slippery trail otherwise. It is easy to understand why a group hike had been postponed earlier in the week.
Walking through town, an American expat drove by us then put on the brakes and rolled down his window. He saw two gringos walking, assumed we were heading to the hot springs and asked if we needed a ride. Apparently this is quite normal around here. Just more evidence of how incredibly friendly and welcoming the expat community is in Panama! We had a chat and, after politely declining the offer, continued on our way.
Panama City – Canals and Causeways
For our return to Panama City we figured we had to go to the canal. Admittedly I wasn’t particularly interested in this item but are you even allowed to visit Panama and not see the canal?? It is best not to go until after 2pm (or before 11am but that wasn’t happening!) so we had to decide between the causeway or Parque Metropolitano for the morning. We figured the causeway was more unique to Panama and so made sense to win the debate!
We hopped off the bus early to walk the length of the Amador Causeway first. This was built using debris from the digging of the canal and connects three islands to the mainland. We began in rain but the skies cleared by the time we reached the end. With views of the city skyline on one side and canal traffic on the other, it’s a very pretty walk. At the end is a marina and duty free shop that was host to a large of number of probably the most expensive yachts we have ever seen. Terry may have been drooling a little…
It was now time for us to figure out the Metro Bus system. We hopped on a bus from the causeway back to Albrook, the main terminal and waited for a bus to take us to the Miraflores Locks. Surprisingly painless, the bus dropped us right at the entrance to the visitor centre.
The $15 charge for foreigners is a bit steep but I guess you’d pay that for any museum. However, I was pleasantly surprised by this one. Upon entry a staff member told us that a ship was currently passing through the locks and to go straight to the fourth floor viewing platform. We watched this, followed by another even larger ship pass through the locks, marvelling at the size. I’ll add a video we took of the process once I have it edited but we didn’t have the time this week.
Also included in the price is a short video and a museum. The museum actually covers four floors and goes through the history, the flora and fauna of the region, the current day functioning and the new super locks that just opened last year, built to host ships that are much, much larger than the already massive ones going through the regular locks. There was even a little cultural dance presentation happening on the viewing deck while we were there.
Our Last Panamanian Adventure – Parque Metropolitano
We ended our time in Panama with a final visit to Panama City. This time we chose to hike in the Parque Metropolitano. Between the canal and downtown, there is a huge area of rainforest that has been left completely untouched by development. Other cities have a lot to learn from this place!
The park is a short walk or ride from the Albrook bus station so we figured it made no sense to take a taxi to a hike. We paid the entry fee then headed off to the trail that takes us to a lookout over the city. The trail winds through forest, past some old ruins, a nursery and a turtle pond. I’ve quite literally never seen so many turtles!
From here, it heads steeply uphill to the lookout point. The first lookout has a great view to the northwest towards the canal and beyond the city. We walked up some steps to the second lookout and were rewarded with an amazing view of the city skyline.
We figured while we were at it we may as well cover all the other trails in the park. It’s easy to forget you’re in the middle of the capital city! I read many a blog post that talked of sloth and monkey sightings but we didn’t get so lucky. I guess visiting a city park on a hot, sunny Sunday at midday probably isn’t the best time for animal activity.
Bonfire Night at the Tiki Bar
Being our last weekend here, we figured Saturday night would be a good time to head down to the Tiki Bar. It was supposed to be bonfire night but by the time we got down there (around 8pm) it was apparently already done… The two-for-one Caiphirinas made up for it a little bit though!
We are definitely going to miss this place, but I am excited to see Quito.
Tuesday Travel Day
Tuesday was time to head to the airport and the Southern Hemisphere for the first time. Being the bus experts we now are, we figured we could save the $100 for shuttle services and take the public bus to the airport. We got rather unlucky with wait times for two of the buses, with a lot of roadside sweating. It took us four hours and three buses but the grand total of the trip totalled $3.55 each!
The two hour flight was uneventful if bumpy. At one point, the attendants made an announcement to remain in our seats as we were going to be hitting some turbulence. I’m not sure what plane they were on for the first hour or so…
Arriving in Quito after dark, advice leaned toward taking a taxi into the old town where we were staying. Pretty painless, other than having to bang on the door for a while before being let into our hotel. We are staying in a small but cute place with an awesome view of the city. With just three days in Quito, we hit the ground running. We dropped our bags and turned right back out the front door.
Have you ever been to Quito, or Ecuador? What tips do you have? Where should we visit? Let us know in the comments below!
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