Trip Start Jul 12, 2009
Trip End Aug 18, 2010

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Flag of Panama  ,
Tuesday, April 27, 2010

We were fairly isolated at the Finca and a little annoyed that we had just been dumped here without any form of transportation. This is a real shame as the area is worth exploring especially the Volcan Baru National Park and if you don't want to see it on tours the only other way is hiring a car, which we decided to do today after a horse riding tour.  Quite honestly Panama is a great country to drive around and had we known this we would have preferred the independence of 'going alone’ and explored at our own pace. 

 This morning we were going on what was described as the most popular horse riding tour up into the mountains and then a visit to Caldera Hot Springs.  We have been spoiled with our horse riding excursions and therefore for us it did not rate as our most popular but the views were interesting. What was exciting was that Ian and I went for a long gallop over the mountains, pretty hairy in fact.

It was interesting that before we mounted we had to sign away our life.  All through South America we did not have to sign one disclaimer but here we were back in ‘insurance’ influence country.    The disclaimer did not mean that the equipment was of a high standard, in fact it is rare anywhere you ride in South America that there are saddles for children, the stirrups fit or that they have riding hat and this place with was no exception. 

We were dripping with sweat when we finished the ride as it was so humid and close.  We went to the hot springs but quite honestly we all just wanted to dive into the cold river beside and it was not long before we got our way and just soaked in the blend of cold and hot stream from the springs. 

It was back to Boquete.  Boquete is a baffling place.  Not the place itself but the PR we had read about it.  In a variety of magazines left around the Finca we had read some very positive reviews on Boquete.  Apparently it was selected by Fortune Magazine as "one of the top four places to live outside America".  A “Panamanian Shangri-La”, “ the picturesque village of Boquete..”  Now you cannot deny that the town is surrounded by steep slopes of lush vegetation, flowers of every colour and design, rain forests with puffs of white clouds and coffee farms.  But what you cannot say is that the town is ‘picturesque’.  If you are standing up in the mountains looking down at a distance the town looks picturesque but when you are there it is a mess.  Shabby, disjointed with absolutely no character.   We nicknamed it “Bucket’ (one with a hole in) which also was apt with the amount of rain at this time of the year.  We can only surmise that the journalists writing some of these articles had a) never been to the town b) blind or c) on a hefty commission from the Boquete council.  We will never know (unless someone writes!).

 Driving back from the ranch to the town centre we drove past some of the houses purchased by the recent retirees from North America and Europe.  The most amazing place was a gated community.  Why on earth would you move all the way here to isolate yourself from the local community?  We can understand why so many people take advantage of all the tax-perks of moving to this country but wouldn’t you want to have a place up in the mountains, by the beach or renovating one of the historic houses, but to be with hundred of other Americans or Brits – well why move?

By now we are itching to explore further out but we discovered that Ian’s driving licence was out of date.  We couldn’t believe it.  We found out that driving licenses have to be update every ten years with a picture.  We had not even stopped to think to check whether it would expiry whilst we were away.  Why should we? Not one piece of “before your holiday advice” gives you a hint to “check your driving license!”.  I didn’t have my license so we thought “lets rent out some DVDs”.  So keeping with the Panama theme we rented ‘Quantum of Solace’ which was filmed in Panama city and “Nacho Libre” (a Mexican film as we couldn’t find another Panamanian film).
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