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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...

Baby-Boom Town

PANAMA | Sunday, 7 November 2010 | Views [1542] | Comments [1]

Pitch-black, raining, and at 11:00 PM or so, I was finally in Boquete. It's the first stop of my Panamanian journey (other than getting my entry stamp). Ellen advised me not to try to get to her place because there were absolutely no lights out there. So I checked into the cheapest possible hostel in town and then headed to Supermercado Romero for a cuppa tasty coffee! Ultimately it would be the best coffee I've had on this journey. Almost nothing else was open except for a little cafeteria selling mainly chicken, rice, ropa vieja, and the like, so I feasted for a bit before I took my tired self to the hostel and fell asleep.

It's raining again this morning! I've been in Central America for six days now and I haven't even seen the sun yet! The weather has been so foul. Today I really wanted to send out some postcards but it's Sunday; therefore the post office is closed. There wasn't a whole lot to do today with the rain, but I walked up to this place called Cafe Ruiz, which is a coffee plantation but their coffee is terrible! Boquete is a perfect example of a "baby-boom town". The baby boomers are now reaching retirement age and many can't afford to retire in the U.S. and are moving overseas to retire. Boquete existed long before that but many discovered the beauty of Boquete and decided to move here. There are disadvantages to that; it often drives up the costs of land and housing, making it more expensive for locals. It is quite beautiful! One of my guidebooks states that it looks like a town pulled straight out of the Swiss Alps. The most colourful and fascinating people in town though, are the Ngöbe-Buglé people. They dress very beautifully and colourfully.

The rain sure made for sheer misery today! At a gift shop I got some postcards but the owner didn't sell stamps. Since I wasn't sure if I was coming up to Boquete tomorrow I asked him if I could leave the cost of postage for him and then put them in the post, so he agreed to that. It's been so foggy and rainy it's like I haven't even seen Boquete yet, even though I'm physically here! At around 3:00 PM or so it was time to go to Ellen's house. Options are either take the bus to Potrerillos for one balboa (US$) or hitchhike. As I walked out of town I discovered that hitching isn't as easy in Panama as in Cuba or Nicaragua, so I took the bus to Dolega or "the fork" as Ellen calls it. There's Potrerillos Arriba and Potrerillos Abajo, and Ellen lives in Abajo. With my thumb out I was picked up by a very nice local family. It turned out to be a bit of a mission trying to find Ellen's house. The father let me borrow his mobile to call Ellen; she gave me instructions in English and then she spoke with him in Spanish. It turned out we went too far. As we turned back around, we found an "A-shaped" house with yellow gates that she mentioned, and then drove down a road with mud seemingly two feet deep. Upon getting out of the car, the family presented me with a little flag of Panama, and Ellen greeted me with a warm hug. What a day! What a day! With an abundance of food and lots of good chatter to top it off. I'm in PANAMA!!! Filled with joy! As for food I brought home hot dogs, fruit, and all that. Ellen is originally from Texas but she moved here to escape the American lifestyle. Who wants to get caught up in all that? Up until a few days ago, Ellen was on a long journey around Panama, visiting Archipelago San Blas, the Darien, and Panama City. There was some tattoo and piercing convention that she was all jazzed up about. If I could describe Ellen in one word, it's "interesting." Definitely she's a unique character. As we shared a light dinner we just talked about life in Panama and the like. She seems really intrigued by WorldNomads. On CS her place is called the "Tranquilo Lodge" and when I showed up earlier I was expecting to easily find it and there be a number of other guests. However, she told me that it's not properly set up to be paying accommodation. As a result of what I thought I expected there to be a big sign out front and an elaborate youth-hostel-like setting, but it's far from it so it's much better this way. Tonight I got reply from a local in Chitre who said I could CouchSurf with her, so that's where I'll probably head after a few days in Boquete. After a long shower I was ready to hit the hay, so let's hope the weather is better tomorrow...

Well, the weather was better today but the sun wasn't out. As Ellen and I talked last night we saw our fair share of large insects, but: Welcome to the Tropics! Ellen said last night that she was going to go to Boquete with me, so I waited around for her as I sipped a cuppa but she said she wasn't going because she wasn't feeling well. As I made my way in jandals through the mud, along the road, and toward "the fork" I got a ride from a local to Dolega where I then hitched up to Boquete. I was picked up by a Brazilian lady of about 60 or so who now lives in Boquete. We had to stop by her house first so we could get her laundry. Hitchhiking in Panama isn't easy but it requires some patience; you'll eventually get a ride. As I was dropped off in town I stopped at Romero's and got a cup of coffee. It's surprising that the little coffee in a paper cup from the grocery store can be the best coffee around. The owner of the gift shop didn't take my postcards to the post office yet so I went and got them and took them to the post office myself. With my postcard project I've received postcards from 88 countries, and some of those include really far-off places (Pitcairn Island, Chad, North Korea, Tristan da Cunha, etc.), so I'm mailing myself No. 89. Panama's flag is red, white, and blue with two stars and two bars; blue on the left, red on the right, blue star surrounded by white on the upper-left, red star surrounded by white on the lower-right, blue bar on the lower-left, red bar on the upper-right. Panama has a beautiful flag, and the other day when I was wondering why there are flags everywhere; Independence Day was only three days ago. Panama actually has two Independence Days: independence from Colombia on 3 November (1903) and independence from Spain on 28 November (1821). Panamanians sure seem to celebrate and party hard. They're a very proud culture. When I was having another cup of coffee I asked about where I could see a toucan. Just then I was told there are some caged toucans at a hotel called Villa Marita, good walk away. Figuring I wasn't up for walking all the way to the hotel, I walked up the road about a block or two before I got a ride from a retired American lady. She told me she really loves it here in Boquete. It definitely is beautiful, that's for sure! A pretty lady opened the toucan cage so I could get some good photos.

Even better would be for the toucans to fly out a little but she said they're only let out in the morning. Finally I had seen a toucan, and I got a heap of photos, but my camera battery died shortly after. It started to rain and I was fortunate to get a ride back to Boquete. What makes Boquete different to many other retirement towns is that you don't see all the corporate stuff around. There's no McDonald's or Pizza Hut along the main road. Anyways, at the store I got some eggs, bread, syrup, and cinnamon because I wanted "breakfast for dinner." Back at Ellen's house she whipped up a concoction of french toast with loads of syrup and brown sugar; in her words it would "put a diabetic into shock." It's not something I'd eat everyday but it was tasty tasty! It gets pitch black out here and there is very little traffic even during the day, but Ellen said that the road is being built to link a heap of other towns, and as a result property values are going up and it's going to get busier, so I'm learning to enjoy the quaintness while it's here. Since I've been in Central America (for six days now) I haven't yet seen the sun and the only blue sky I've seen is bits and pieces through the clouds. Time to soak up the sun! Let's see what unfolds tomorrow!



Fortunately we got the road fixed.. and wouldn't you know, 2 weeks later, the rain stopped, road dried up, and we're making signs:).. but no, it won't be a hopping backpacker scene for a while. Still a nice quiet place to watch the mountain (when it's not rainy season that is!)

  Ellen Ring Dec 29, 2010 5:15 PM

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