Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Panama and Costa Rica

Well after the Inca Trail we said goodbye to South America and boarded a plane to Panama. While we were in the city we went to see the Panama Canal. The whole set-up there was very impressive. We went to the Miraflores locks nearest the city. There's 2 lanes and both have 4 gates and 3 separate sections to change the water level. We got to see 2 big boats passing through them and were surprised how quickly they got from the first gate out to the ocean at the other side, only took about half an hour. Most boats pass through the whole canal in less than 24 hours.

You can see how the water changes level here.

After that we headed to a little town called Boquete in the Panamanian highlands. Apparently it grows the best coffee in the world (since the gold medal for coffee has been won by Boquete coffee farms for the last number of years.) We couldn't miss the chance to do a coffee tour there. We were both surprised by how interesting it was to learn about and see the whole process from picking the coffee fruit to grinding and packaging the beans. Needless to say we're both coffee experts now ( though I still take mine with milk and sugar, much to our guide's disappointment), so there'll be no more No-es-Cafe for us. (No-es-Cafe is the nickname for Nescafe, it literally means 'it's not coffee', they use the reject beans for that.)

Next it was on to San Jose (Costa Rica), obviously humming Do You Know the Way to San Jose all the way there. Didn't get up to too much there, just had a bit of a wander around the city.

From there we got a bus to La Fortuna to see the Arenal Volcano. It's the most active volcano in Costa Rica, a land full of them. But of course the night we went to see it it was too cloudy to catch a glimpse of anything, not to mind see lava pouring froming the crater like it had been the night before. At least we got to see some wildlife and nice plants on the way there.

See it smoking?

Part of that tour was to visit hot springs in the area too. Our tour company took the cheap option though, so we actually ended up in a hot river. It was something else altogether. In the darkness we made our way down to the river's edge, waded under a bridge and ended up beneath the canopy of trees with lightening flashing overhead, while we sat in the hot water of the river. It was such an unusual experience. All the more unusual when one girl shone her torch around and I spotted something on the tree trunk that had fallen over into the river. I very calmly got up and moved away (although Foss says my face dropped.) But when she screamed SNAKE Fossie was out of there like a shot - the fastest he moved since we've been away. Anyway the rest of us stayed there a while more, feeling a bit more reassured when the guide explained that snakes being cold blooded meant they wouldn't come into the hot water of the river.

From Fortuna we made our way across the lake to Monteverde, a town known for its cloud forest reserves. Last night we did a guided night tour through one of the forests. Unfortunately we didn't see all that much wildlife, I think the heavy rain scared them all away. We did get to see an Orange-Kneed Tarantula though.

We were told they sell for $100 as pets. As if that would be enough to make me put my hand into a hole like that and try to catch one!

This morning we headed to a different forest to do a Canopy Tour. This was sooo much fun. It's basically a series of ziplines through the tree tops. There were 12 cables altogether, the longest one was 1km, the highest 540ft, and there was a 90ft rappel too. We were like Tarzan flying through the forest.

Because we only have 5 weeks in Central America to get from Panama city to Mexico city we're moving quite fast. Tomorrow we have a bus to Granada in Nicaragua. Let's hope the roads aren't too bad.

Jan and Fossie.


  1. hi paul and jan.
    all i want to say is thats great photo shop. theres no way paul went up that high on a rope. haha.
    all well here. 38 days days 2 go. yipee
    talk soon
    caroline, mum and mo
    no dad cause he in portugal golfing

  2. I know you said that you are under time pressure to get to Mexico City....but are you going to swing from tree to tree all the way.....is that the fastest method of travel.....
    Anyway, back to the coffee....didn't think either of you were fans...are you converted....you better bring home some of those magic beans for your dad....not long now....
    Micheal, Mags & Matthew