Caldera Petroglyphs and Hike

Main petroglyph at Caldera. Photo from TripAdvisor.com

Caldera is a very small town only about 17 miles from Vista Grande, 35 minutes by car. It is one of the towns that we passed through on the way to Bocas del Toro.

First we stopped off to see some petroglyphs on large rocks. The rocks were thrown out of Volcan Baru at some time in the past. According to this website, the carving was done about 1000 years ago. The area is a national park although there isn’t any really easy access. You have to go through the lower part of a fence (barbed wire above you so crouch carefully) and then walk about 10-15 minutes through a field to get to the park.

There are many, many relatively small boulders from one of the eruptions of Baru and some are quite large. To make the carvings easier to see, they have been painted white.

Petroglyph Sign

After we looked at the petroglyphs, we drove a little farther and then parked. We walked 4 kilometers each way (about 5 miles round trip) to Paraiso Escondido La Abuela Hostel where we looked but did not go into a very nice hot spring pool. The hike was fairly flat and had a mixture of full sun and nice shade along the way.

It would have been a wonderful hike if we had started earlier (we started about 9:45 by the time we arrived after the petroglyphs and Caldera may be close to Boquete but the temperatures are worlds apart. Caldera is only about 814 feet high where as Vista Grande is about 3858′.  Instead of temperatures in the 70’s, they were in the mid 80’s (plus fairly humid). So the town is aptly named since “caldera” translates to “boiler”.

We had brought enough water but didn’t carry all of it with us on the hike. Big mistake. I ran through my water and then Dan’s and finally Lesia’s. Dan went down to the river 3 times to fill the water bottles with river water to pour over my head. Finally Lesia walked ahead and brought the truck back so save me some walking although by then I was within 5-10 minutes of our parking spot…I could have made it but was glad not to have to.

Hot Springs Sign

If we go back again, we will about 7 in the morning and take 2 containers of water for each person with us. That way we will be finished by about 10:30 and have a lovely walk. The 5 miles isn’t the hard part of the hike at all.

Bajo Mono Club de Montana Hike

Bajo Mono Blu de Montana

Today we went with a local group of mostly expats on a nice hike to a beautiful area with gardens and a trout farm. There are a lot of hikers around here but this is the first time that we have done this much of a hike or gone with a group other than the folks at Vista Grande where we are staying.

Much of the hike was uphill however it wasn’t difficult, especially because we still had a normal amount of oxygen. I didn’t have any trouble. I realized that my problem with having to rest a lot in Colorado is due to the thinner air (oxygen), not my hiking abilities. Not altogether a surprise since all of my siblings are on oxygen at essentially sea level. When I had a stress test my oxygen levels stayed within normal so I’m not worried, just frustrated that I will probably continue to have this issue when we get back to Colorado, some day.

In any case, I did fine. Lesia, the owner of Vista Grande felt like the hike was too short but then she does 7-8 mile hikes about once a week. This was 700 meters each way so about 1.5 miles round trip. Then we walked more to get back to where the truck was so a good 2 miles or more today. Certainly not a long hike for Dan and me either. I was able to be towards the front/middle of the pack. Towards the front going uphill but a bit slower coming down since I had to be more careful not to slip going down.

The furthest that we went to was a very lovely area of lots of flowers and a small pond with lots of trout. Here are some pictures from there.

Footbridge with bottle caps

 

Bocas del Toro

View from dock across the street from our hotels. Peaceful and serene.

Bocas del Toro is an archipelago (group of islands) at the northeastern part of Panama, very close to the Costa Rican border. This is an extremely popular tourist destination even though you are seriously warned not to drink the water (which also means not to eat anything that is washed such as raw vegetables and to avoid ice). Unlike other tourist areas like Granada Nicaragua where the nicer restaurants or ones that cater to tourists which use filtered water for drinking and ice, we didn’t see/hear of any in Bocas that did that.

Archipelago of Bocas del Toro

We were extremely careful not to drink unfiltered water and not to use ice or eat raw veggies. I would have thought I got the amoeba infection there anyway except that the incubation period is much longer. (I did try literally a single drop of homemade hot sauce in a restaurant a few hours before I got sick but that wasn’t the cause if it truly was an amoeba infection).

While I didn’t get to enjoy anything other than walking around, Dan went on an all day catamaran ride where he snorkeled and saw starfish (and got sunburned). We had planned to go on a bio-luminescence tour one night but couldn’t because of the diarrhea. By the time I was well enough to consider being on a boat without a restroom for 2 hours, the moon was out again so you wouldn’t be able to see the glow.

Other common activities in the area are bicycling (we did do that-me once and Dan several times), fishing, shopping the locally made tourist items, and the like.

Biking was easy on this part of the island which is fairly flat.
Water taxi

To get to Bocas, you go to Almirante, a small town on the mainland. As you arrive into town, there is often a person on a bike who offers to show you where to park and get the taxi (for whatever you tip the person). You park your car in a gated lot for $3 per day (not 24 hours so if you arrive on Monday and leave on Wednesday, you pay $9). From there it is a short walk to the water taxi that takes you to the island for $7 per trip per person or $10 round trip (if you do a better job of keeping up with your receipt than we did, LOL). That ride is about 30 minutes and the water taxis run every 30 minutes from 6 AM to 6 PM. The ride was fairly calm both ways since you are in a bay area.

Food is pretty good and not outrageously expensive. We had excellent seafood, usually Corvina which is a very mild sea bass.

The weather was mild with afternoon rains most days.

The drive to Almirante was verdant with rural, poor, windy, hilly roads, and was very pleasant. There are places where the road slumps several inches with no warnings. A lovely drive but quite long given the distance is only 180 KM (111 miles). It is supposed to take just over 3 hours but was really closer to 5, including a 30 minute stop for a bite to eat. Not sure why but many of the indigenous Guaymi peoples’ houses in this area are on stilts, in the mountainous area of the drive. (We did see clothes drying under some of the houses but don’t know if that is the reason for the stilts.)

House on stilts on road to Bocas

Volcan Panama

Horse farm outside of Volcan

Volcan is a lovely area about an hour and a half from Boquete. It is known as the Little Switzerland of Panama. It is a little higher altitude than Boquete and about 1/3 fewer people. It is more agriculture related and cheaper to live. The temperatures are similar to Boquete, 60-75 degrees Fahrenheit. We went there on September 15th which is the first day of their fall festival. We didn’t want to be in the crowds of people that would be there the next day for the parade however we did see quite a few float type decorations at various places along the road.

We couldn’t see the top of Volcan Baru, the highest point in Panama (11,401 feet) because as usual it was overcast. Baru is close to Volcan.

Volcan Baru, 11,401 feet, highest point in Panama (photo from TripAdvisor)

Dan is a Softie

Dan and a horse tied up along our quiet neighborhood road so it can graze.

I don’t think Dan has ever met an animal he didn’t like and a flower he didn’t want to take a picture of. He goes right up to all kinds of animals and pets them. They seem to love him, I guess they know he is a kind soul.

Anyway, here are just a few of the pictures of the random animals and flowers we have seen in Panama. We’v seen a ton more plants and trees. It is obvious that Daddy was familiar with the flora from Central America when he planted various plants at the house he had built. Mimosa, hibiscus, oleanders, and much more are common around here.

Small unidentified snake found outside our apartment

 

Signs in Panama

More signs that caught our eyes…

Steep incline although not really as steep as this shows usually

Transportation

Bus stop on the road to Bocas Del Toro

Buses of all types are used extensively in Central America. Everything from small vans to school buses and even modern buses. Taxis in Panama are shared and the taxi drivers are restricted to charging what the bus would cost someone. They are all “yellow” cabs, either compacts or crew cab trucks.

The local buses don’t run on a schedule because they wait to get filled before they head out on the route. Sometimes you pay when you get on, mostly you pay when you get to your stop.

Bus stops can be anything. Some are well constructed with seats and roofs, others are barely anything and may also function as a produce stand at times. As we drove to Bocas Del Toro we saw quite a variety and I took some pictures.

Water taxi between Almirante (mainland) and Bocas Del Toro
Aperture: 2.2
Camera: GT-I9195I
Iso: 50
Orientation: 1

Bikes are also used a lot in various areas and even modified bicycles are used for commerce.

Healthcare in Panama

Invoices from Clinic visit. Note the charge for the “consultation”, $5 to see the doctor.

We’ve had more occasion to check out the Panamanian healthcare system in our travels than we would have preferred. First Dan had allergies or a virus and saw a local doctor who was raised in the USA but got her medical training in Panama. I saw her to see if she had any different suggestions for the chronic insomnia that I have (some help).

Then last week when we went to Bocas Del Toro on the Caribbean coast I got “amoeba”. The water in Bocas is notorious but from what I can tell, the incubation period for amoeba is 1-2 weeks so I can’t blame it on Bocas. Amoeba seems to be the underlying problem causing dysentery. Gross bloody mucus stools, intense cramping. It came on quickly and I went to the Bocas clinic the next morning.

The clinic is in a large old building. Staff was professional but not overly friendly. The wait for care wasn’t long. I saw a doctor with a face mask on who asked me about symptoms and allergies. She ordered basic blood work, two IV antibiotics, and medications to take home.

It is obvious that sanitation is not a very high priority in this area. While we didn’t encounter mosquitoes in spite of some standing water in some ditches and the doctor wearing the mask, the rest was cursory. Not a single restroom was fully functioning with paper, soap, and flushing toilets. There was some combination of those things in the various restrooms but the only soap was in the treatment room.

The prep of my arm prior to the blood draw or IV insertion was a very quick swipe with a piece of cotton that had alcohol on it. It must have been adequate though.

I went home with two oral antibiotics, antacid, and probiotics. I was shocked (and grateful) that the doctor ordered the probiotics. The IV antibiotics started working within a couple of hours and I am now back to normal.

The entire cost of my test and treatment? $37 which included the medications. I would have gladly paid more to have more sanitary conditions but I know many of the locals couldn’t have afforded that.

Aside from these “adventures”, Dan has seen a skin doctor and will see her again this coming week. The office visit was $40 and the skin biopsies will be about $150 each. I plan to see a dentist locally in the next week or two for cleaning. My understanding is that the dentist himself/herself does the cleaning and that the cost is in the neighborhood of $50.

And in case you are wondering, I really have no idea how I got the amoeba. We have been really careful and use the reverse osmosis water to drink, brush our teeth, rinse many of the dishes, wash veggies/fruits. I had gotten a little lax and drank water in a restaurant in David but so did Dan and he didn’t get sick. We have gotten stricter again, just to be sure.

A Willingness To Try New Things

I receive an email each morning from the Daily Word. It is a brief thought for the day. Here is today’s Daily Word:

Willingness
A willingness to try new things brings freshness to my life.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

There is great wisdom in the conventional saying, “You won’t know unless you try.” Countless opportunities appear in a lifetime, but without willingness to try new things, those experiences will be left undiscovered.

When I stretch myself to try something new, I discover adventures, communities, foods, or interests I wouldn’t have ever known. Deep joy may result from my willing action to do something unfamiliar. Even if I decide that what I’ve tried is not for me, I gain experience and knowledge in the process of expanding beyond my usual activities.

Today I purposely choose to do something new. With a willing heart and an open mind, I experience the freshness of life.

Our travels are about our willingness to try new things. Sometimes it is a bit scary, mostly exciting. I’ve been trying a few new foods. We try to find a new fruit or vegetable when we go to the market. It is a conundrum for me because I want to do this but I am hesitant. We have bought some fruits and tried them. Most of them haven’t been very interesting to me.

I plan to post some examples with our thoughts soon. Stay tuned…

Handicapped Parking In Panama

Quickie wheelchair.

If you have been following our blogs, you may remember that handicapped parking spaces in Costa Rica often have a removable barrier so I wasn’t sure how folks actually used them if no one was around who could remove the barrier.

I’m happy to report that Panama doesn’t have those barriers. I haven’t seen them but I read that people with disabilities can get a handicapped parking permit. They had to submit 2 pictures along with other information; it is a card be something that they put on their dash when they park. It is vehicle specific.

That said, the website I went to said:

Travel and Parking

Getting around Panama can be challenging for people with disabilities. Compliance with access requirements can be very inconsistent. Businesses are increasingly installing ramps; however these can be steep. Many roads do not have pavements. Where there are sidewalks, they are often in disrepair, with many potholes or overgrown tree roots.

Panama’s public transport can also be difficult to access for people with disabilities. Buses in Panama City are currently inaccessible for wheelchairs. At the time of writing, projects to enable people who use wheelchairs to board Panama City buses are due to be completed in 2013.

It is very true that sidewalks are often in very bad shape. When we walk to town, I keep my trekking pole out for a while because there are gaps in the sidewalk, at least one or two of which require you to go onto the side of the road because they are impassible by pedestrians and several additional places would be impassible by wheelchair. There are a few ramps especially at newer buildings.