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getting around Panama

PANAMA | Saturday, 11 January 2014 | Views [559] | Comments [3]

Getting around in Panama takes a bit of getting used to. We haven't gone very far but things take time here when you're on a bit of a budget, as we are. But we've got plenty of time and this way we get to travel as the locals do from time to time. I had my first experience of a 'chicken bus' (in this case one of those American school buses used in the 50`s) on our way to Soberania National Park, about 40 minutes outside of Panama City. Supposedly world famous for its bird watching, and yes indeed there were some serious looking twitchers clad entirely in camo, with their own local bird expert and lugging massive binoculars and cameras. Still, we didn't do so badly ourselves though more so on the mammals than on the birds due to the fact that we got there late as we were on a chicken bus.

We seriously took one foot into the national park before we spotted our first animal. we spend about 10 minutes looking at a giant anteater glide gently down a palm front and onto the ground near us, casually strolling away. There were also monkeys, capuchin and howler monkeys.  Hearing the latter was possibly even more impressive then seeing it, though it was funny to look into its bearded brown face and we stared at each other for a bit, then it scratched its head and climbed on. Arnold tells me he does't know of any national park so easy to get to where you get such pristine rainforest and wildlife experiences anywhere in Central or South America.  Of course it is only because of the Canal, as the park is part of the Canal Zone which the Americans managed with the rest of the Canal. Hurray to the canal zone I say!  Oh yes and we did also see several other animals but I haven't got Arnold next to me to tell me (yet again) what they were called. It is very good to have my own private guide I must say! 

Anyway I am getting side tracked, this is the problem having so many new experiences every single day that it's hard to keep up. Buses are the way to go here, as the only passenger train in the country is (surprise surprise) along the lenght of the Canal. So buses it is. But they are not the dull things we take in Sydney, every single one comes as it's own little dance party blasting salsa/merengue/dancehall/ hiphop/reggea, depending on the taste of the driver. The little bus we took to the mountain village of Santa Fe was the most amazing so far. Apart from a few  4WD-ers and utes, most people here are too poor to own a car, so everyone there just takes the bus. The buses take anything, people with boxed chickens, backpacks on the roof (pray for no rain), even a whole washing machine got its own seat and the driver did a little detour to drop it off at the ladies house. Then there's the people. It is most amazing to see how many people you can actually fit into a bus. Elbows heads bums arms legs everyone all squashed in everywhere, but no one grumbles. The  bus doors stay open all during the ride, and this is where the driver's assistence stands to deals with getting people on and off, and fare payments when people get off.  On the Santa Fe bus the assistant had his child along with him, and whomever was lucky enough to get the font seat near him,  got handed this child to mind. Whenever this person left the bus he just got another passenger to take that seat and take his child. Presumably on this local route everyone knows everyone. 

In Santa Fe itself the locals got around on horse, mostly. Small, dapper little horses, ridden by small dapper cowboys.  And now I'm going to say the mostoverused holiday phrase ever: all the locals were SO friendly!! I mean it too! It is only a small village, with only a few tourists, and the locals look at you intently and interestedly before saying buenas dias. Every single person, every single time. They offer us lifts in while we struggle up a steep hill during a hike to a local waterfall and then continue to be helpful by giving us the directions after they drop us of to the nearest point. Though people aren't well off, no one has offered to sell us anything or begged for money. The surroundings were quite beautiful and the mountain weather nice and cool (though rather rainy) after the sweltering heat in the city.


Arnold's impression so far (and he's in the know) is that Panama is still quite undeveloped and untouristy compared to say Costa Rica and other places he's travelled. All I can say is I'm enjoying it and am taking it day by day. Australia seems like a different world, far far away, but my friends come back to me most nights in my dreams. 






Hello Kirsten & Arnold.
Its been great to read your blog posts. Almost feels like we are there too. Unfortunately not in body, but definitely in spirit!
Miss you guys already.
Chris and Danielle.

  Chris Jan 14, 2014 5:36 PM


Hej Kirst and Arnold, thank you for your lovely blog post, and birthday wishes too. I loved your descriptions, you made me feel like I was there too. I look forward to the next installment. Buen viaje, nik.

  Nicole Jan 15, 2014 2:05 PM


Great to see you guys are enjoying the sights, people, wild life and transport!! xx

  Miranda Jan 22, 2014 3:08 PM

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