Tag Archives: Panama 2007

Panama to Costa Rica – El cerro de la muerte (the mountain of death)

partlycloudy.gif Well. Temperature cannot exactly be measured today. I have been in lowlands and high high up in the mountains. The temperature has varied from+29C to +7C with all from sunny, wind, rain, misty to cold.

Early in the morning at 7:00am we had to go down to the David bus station to check when the bus to San Jose was scheduled. Office did not open until 7:30 and oups. Bus leaves at 8:30. Jorge Sr had to go back to the house and arrange for Jeniffer to pack the little rest i had to pack and Shayla made me lunch. I was seated in the very back of the bus. My bad luck.

It was sad to say goodbye to my new friends but then again… Maybe Ill be afortunated enough to see them again soon. Bus left on time, amazingly enough, and we spent about 45 minutes to the border where the mess started.
We had to deboard the bus and take all our luggage out to check it. Then we had to go through immigration. They dont work very fast !!! A busload of people … and 2 people to handle it all. We spent about 1,5 hours before all were done. Then we realized… ouf we have to go through it all again with costa rican immigration. All in all we spent 2,5 hours there.
HOT, all were sweating and stressing to find out where the bus were, where the CR immigration office were etc. Finally done. They wanted to check our luggage there as well. NICE. NOT. Finally finished I bought a cold beer. Man, that tasted good.

19.jpgBoarding the bus again the bus driver had moved me all up front. Nice. Better view that way. The passengers he moved were not too happy though. On the road again we noticed a very sudden change in the landscape being in CR from Panama. The standard of the panamerican highway is also lousy in CR compared to Panama.

I had a nice and talkative seat-mate that is one of the National panama football players as well as he plays for Peres Zeledon here in Costa Rica. His name is Luis Gallardo. A nice dude that must have been a little famous sinse he was recognized by several people that wanted to take his photograph. Peres Zeledon is in the southern parts of CR and is about 3 hours from the Panama border.

Straight after Peres Zeledon we started the long way over El cerro de la muerte. In english: the mountain of death.

It is called that way because the road that travels through these mountains is not a good road. The section is a curvy, “two-lane” stretch of road that climbs and falls around mountain cliffs. There were few lines on the road, no guardrails, and few streetlights at night. In addition to this, the road section is located in an altitude often covered by clouds and rain and bus drivers and trailer chofeurs take high risks all the time passing eachother even where the view is poor. An error at any time could send one plunging of a mountain, and cars frequently pass on blind curves.

These factors, combined with the dense high-mountain fog and hordes of tractor-trailers, makes it perfect for car accidents. Another term of why it is called mountain of death is that in the old days before there were too many cars people had to cross the mountain by foot and horses. The temperatures are very cold. Now at summertime temeratures we had +7C at daytime. The temperatures will get down below Zero Celcius degrees at night and people easily froze to death crossing the mountain by foot or by horses.

We arrived Cartago/San Jose at 4pm and avoided most of the bad traffic jam. I got dropped off a little outside Cartago towards San Jose. Francisco, my cousin, picked me up there and we went home to his place.

In the night he went out with his girlfriend, Hazel, to celebrate her birthday. I went out with one of my friends, Christian, and we went to a restaurant in Escazu high up in the mountains where we could enjoy the whole view of San Jose city by night. It was nice to catch up and dinner was great. I was home by midnight that was a little too late concerning the long bus trip with no sleep. hehe.

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David downtown – Panama/Costa Rica frontier

partlycloudy.gif+28C, sunny and lots of wind.

During the morning hours we made breakfast and prepared for the gang to go to work. I went downtown with them and Shayla, Jens mom, made me an easy map around David.

I spent a couple of hours walking around in the stores but I must honestly admit that I felt like a prey with 4 hyenas (the vendors trying to talk me into shopping) following my every step. I did not feel comfortable enough to actually find something to buy for myself. I bought 2 dresses for my little sister Linda. I also did some souvenir shopping before meeting up with Shayla to go home for lunch.

Late afternoon we all went to the Panama/Costa Rican border to do tax free shopping. (It felt magic just knowing I was close to my 2nd country again and I felt like a child. Im going to CR. Im going to costa rica. And that from only having been out of the country 2 week. Not looking too fwd to going home to Norway).

The good thing is that they did not have anyone looking out for shoppers.
It is open for everyone.

If you go home to the same destination you came from, they dont care. Jorge Sr. went to see friends as he dropped Shayla, jorge jr and me off at the tax free zone and we spent a long time at Jerusalem store looking at and trying perfumes.

I had some orders from my family in CR and some friends in Norway so It looked big, but they were not all for me. I also bought myself an iPod Nano.

When it got closer to 9pm we went to a restaurant to have dinner. And both me and jorgito had Pinto (traditional dish from costa rica containing rice and black beans).

Jeniffer that poor thing did not come with us and waited home. Poor thing forgot her keys and had to wait outside for us. Not like its cold or anything outside. hehe. Since it was my last night we stayed up talking for some hours.

Las Lajas Beach

partlycloudy.gifIn David it was cloudy, but we escaped that and went to the coast where it was +28C and sunny indeed. Mild breeze.

Las Lajas beach.
We woke up late today and had pancakes for breakfast. Christian, Jorge jr and Jeniffers cousin came over to spend time with them.
We also spent the morning watching TV until Jeniffers dad got home and took off for the beach.

Las Lajas beach is located near to the small Las Lajas village, which is one of the oldest villages in Panama.

We stopped a couple of times to fill gasoline on the car (since Panama import gasoline they are dependent on the oil prices.

They buy gasoline and transport it to the petrol stations BUT if the prices are too high the owners don’t buy much because they dont want to loose money on it in case the price can sink any day soon – therefore – many petrol stations actually runs empty on gas until the prices are lower again), buy lunch and beverage and at a restaurant we even got to meet a monkey. He seemed to be intelligent as he in the instant he saw us grabbed a stone and started kicking a door with it.

At first Jen and I thought we had scared the little fellow but he actually warned the owner so that he could come out and attend us !!! Impressive – huh.

Las Lajas beach is a well visited beach and when we got there we found a huge amount of Jorge seniors (Jeniffers dad) brothers and sisters and sat down with them. Christian came with us to the beach but Jorge jr. decided to stay home.
After having completed the presentation-round and the initial chat we changed into our bikinis and went to continue the presentation round in the water where some of the adults were with all the kids.

We played in the water, dove into the waves, walked along the beach and chatted and laughed for hours – until lunchtime.
For lunch there was chicken, rice and BEANS (Happy me :) – being in Panama where they dont eat as much beans as in Costa Rica – I have really missed my beans).

After lunch we brought our cameras to take pictures, walk along the beach – even more… Continued swimming until the lifeguards got off duty at 5pm.
Then they threw everyone out off the water scaring us with fines. We waited half an hour and then got in the wather again to swim even more.

But sun started setting and when I saw this small shark (2 feet) in one of the waves just 10 meters away from us, we decided to actually get out of the water. Sunset is feeding time. None of us wanted to be the food. Ok – It was a tiny shark but they still have sharp teeths (or popularly called razor blades).

Jeniffer and Christian did not see the shark, but we stayed a little while in shallower water to see if we could see him again.
We had to leave dissapointed to get our cameras since the sunset was gorgeous and we wanted to take pictures of that intstead.

We changed clothes and headed home as all the others had left while we were playing in the water. In the car home we almost fell asleep. Arriving home we did some laundry and I stayed up for a couple of hours updating my webpages.

Volcan Baru National Park – Cloud forest

sunny.gifTodays weather has been very different all depending on where in the country I have been. Down in David there was about +27C, sunny and nice. The wind blows up to stormy but hey… at least it was warm.
Then on tour we were around the volcano and it rained about all the time we were there. Back in David it was nice again and then at night when I went to Boquete where it also rained. Boquete and Volcan are highland and the areas are agriculture areas. They also have a lot of rainforest and cloud forest up in the mountains.

barriles.JPGJeny and I had breakfast and since she had to work she had prepared for me to go with her bf, Tony, Tonys cousin, Jose, and her brother Jorge on a road trip. We let Jen of at her work and then headed off for a city called Volcan – named after the nearby volcan Baru.

At Volcan we made a stop because Jose met a friend from school (this friend had a car that had broken down) and to buy something to drink. We saw Guayami indians in their costumes. Oh. Only the women use the traditional dress. It is very colorful and nice. Jose arranged to have his friend tell us where to go to find an archeologic place called “Sitio Barriles“. We went off to this place and veni vidi vici (we came – we conquered – we left). It was a small garden with some rocks that had some archeological value. It was nothing impressing but my travel mates made the trip very worthwhile. They played guides (Not knowing about things – they invented).

From there on we went back to Volcan and ran into Joses friend again. No help with the car and then we decided to tow him to a “taller” to get his car fixed. Then we went off to an Argentinian restaurant run by a Colombian around Cerro Punta. We had lunch here. Real gourmet food and due to the price we all had half size plates instead of full size plates.

baru.JPGWe took off heading in the direction Cerro Punta and whatever small store we passed they sold Strawberries. We were actually running around with no purpose not knowing where to drive and not using maps. We did manage to end up in the Volcan Baru National Park. This because Jose decided to make a turn to the right and then he said we were going to follow this road till its end. That was before he saw what the road looked like !!! hehe.. But then… there was this other car trying to decide wheather to dare to go or not and I think Jose wanted to show off over this older dude in the other car so he started going up. Most of the way had a 45 to 55 angle. It was no asphalt nor sand. It was huge rocks and smaller stones and heavy rainfalls had washed away the middle of the road. We were all very exited to see the car manage the road and that the other dude actually followed our example. About 1 Km up the road flattened and we found out we had lost “the others”. Soon the road was angling very much again and Jose was not sure that he wanted to go on but both Tony and Jorge was joking him “chicken” – “chicken” – “This is nothing” – “you can do it” – “dont be a whimp” and Jose took off. Slow it went and none of us were sure that the road actually led somewhere, but we did not see anywhere we could turn the car around either. After a long trip we came to a plateu and – the entrance to the national park volcan Baru. Volcan Baru is a cloud forest national park. It is well known for its quetzal population (guatemalas national bird), toucans, hummingbirds and mammals like jaguars, panthers, pumas and tapirs.

Throughout all the uphills I was amazed by the moss growing on the trees. All the trees, not only trees, but fences, houses and everything made out of tree was covered in moss. It looked quite mysterious with the clouds that where at our level and the rain dripping. On the top we payed our entrance fee of 3 US$ for foreigners and 1 US$ for locals. We hiked around in the rain for a little while, but it looks like the Gods were with us today because it cleared up and we got a fantastic view over the valley. There was a nice litte rangers house up in the hills and they do take in travelers for the night if you reserve first. It is a 5 US$ fee for sleeping there.

When descending we brought an extra passenger with us, one of the national park guards that had just ended her 8 days shift and was on her way back home to her family in Volcan. We also stopped to buy strawberries and since it was several hours since lunch and my travel mates were hungry we also stopped at several bakeries on our way back to David.

polleras.JPGWell back Jose let us off at Jeniffers and Jorges house where we watched a movie before having dinner. Back in David the sun was shining and the wind was blowing.

In the night Jennifer, Tony and I went to Boquete where “La feria de las Flores” had just begun. It is a huge flower and coffee festival with lots of vendors of all kinds of artifacts had shown up. There were carousels and discoteques, food shops and traditional dancing in the traditional pollera.

We also saw heaps of Guayami indians and it amazes me. So many of them looked so young!
15 years with 2 kids and a third on the way. My travelmates told my that it is a Guayami tradition to marry the girls just as they are able to produce. Then they have many kids and grow big families. It rained the whole time we were there. The city of Boquete, like the volcano, are located high up in the mountain. Actually Boquete is on the other side of the Volcano Baru than the actual Volcano and Cerro Punto that we were at earlier today. Therefore it is a very humid climate there.
We got back around 1am and went straigt to sleep.

Travelling from Chitre to David

sunny.gifSunny, warm wind and +30C.
I have heard some comments from people that are not that happy about my weather reports hehe… Just for the information. Ill try to behave. Hehe.

Lenny and I went all around the area where they sell traditional pottery and some of the souvenirs this morning. We also were in search for clothes and I found a shorts that only costed me 5 dolars new !. Imagine that. Clothes are cheap in this country. They also say perfume is, but I cant really see that they are THAT cheap.

lennymarianne.JPGAfter having had a session at a nearby internet cafe I finished my packing and waited for Lenny to pick me up. Ismael came an hour later. He was running errands and forgot a little about the time.

He took me around to say goodbye to all the people I have gotten to know and then we went to the Taller where Lenny waited. Well, not directly. Ismael and his friends stopped to salute a lot of friends, but we finally got to the taller.

Then they took off to get some food and brought the lunch. We were already running late for the bus, but they lasted and lasted. Lennys Dad came at 2, but since Ismael was out with the car we were not able to leave before 14:30. Then Lenny and Maximo took me to Davisa where I just missed the bus to David and waited 3 hours before I got to move. That meant 3 more hours with Lenny and that was good. :)

Thank you Lenny, Ismael, Edilma, Maximo, Yimmy and all other citizens of Chitre that has been so nice to me. You have all made my stay a wonderful experience !!! Thank you.

Well. On my way I actually had to make a stop in Santiago. The bus I got just got to Santiago but at least this is where all the David buses from Panama city stops and I got to go with the first bus that was there. In Panama – unlike Costa Rica – they normally do not fill up the buses with more people than what there are seats for. That means no standing passangers. But we had 3 passengers that were seated on plastic barrels in the walk way. hehe.

Aircondition might be a good thing IF you have a possibility to preset the temperature to a temperature you decide to. WHEN you cant do that… and the bus is freezing cold – Aircondition is NOT fun. I froze so I had goose bums and breathed into the t-shirt to keep warm. I even thought of different ways to use my cap to heat my elbow or knee, but decided to put it on the head where it belongs. Also from living in a winter country I learned that you loose 60% heat from the head. Ergo cover head and the rest wont be as bad.

I got in to David around 9pm and sat down to wait for Jeniffer. I called to tell I was here several times, but got the answare machine. Finally at 9:40pm I got a hold of her and she came to pick me up. Her mom and brother was home so I got to meet them. I also got to meet the 2 dogs. Luna and Terry. Terry is a german shepherd and Luna is a poudel. Luna has nice red ribbons on her ears and a red collar. But coolest of all. Red toe-nails !
We watched TV and chatted for a while before calling the day to an end :)

Sarigua – the Chitre desert

sunny.gifSunny, warm wind and +30C.

I spent the morning downtown and running arrands. In the afternoon Edilma, Ismael and Lenny took me to Sarigua National park. It is partly a desert and partly mangrove rain forest. Sarigua is the only desert in Panama.

CIMG4285.JPGIt was really cool to go there. I have never been to a desert before. It was dry with cracks in the earth and the wind was howling around us.

It was really fun to walk on it because the cracks were hard as rocks, but where there was sand the earth was so smooth that you easily sunk 10 cm down.

There was a lot of cotton growing in the area and bushes. The told me the desert every year grows in aera. In the distance we could see the mangrove forest. We did not enter that one though. We watched the sun set before leaving.

The strange thing is that in the middle of the desert (OK, it is SMALL. You can see from the start till the end and maybe walk the distance within 1 hour) there was a shrimp farm. They import water from a nearby beach with the tide. And even stranger, when leaving the national park the guard comes up to us asking if the pictures are for public use. Because it is prohibited to take pictures of the desert. Something dodgy is going on in the desert that they do not want to show the public.

On our way back to the house we went over to the next province, Los Santos, to a restaurant called “El Ciruelo”. They serve typical panamenian food and gooooood as well. It was really good. I had some rice and chicken with a special corn cake that they fry. I also had a tiny piece of pork steak just to try it. Delicious.

When we got home to the house Lenny and I watched the old photos from when she lived in Arendal in 94/95. It was a lot of fun to see the pictures and we remembered a lot of long forgotten stuff. hehe.

My encounter with Panamenian postal services

sunny.gif+30C Sunny and smooth wind. Chitre is a nice city with warm dry weather every day.
It hardly rains here and this is the region with less rain in the whole country of Panama.

I spent the morning reading and then Lennys friend Yimmy picked me up around noon to take me around the city while Lenny and Ismael are working.
They have been so wonderfully nice to me, taking me everywhere and making sure I havent had time to be bored for even a second.

Yimmy took me to the post office where I learned that stupidity does not prohitit someone employing you in Panama.

I was trying to send my nativity set that I bought 2 days ago in the mail so that I wouldnt have to drag it all over central america. The box weighs 20 KGS so its not exactly easy to carry.

First the lady argued heavily with me because they could only send packages up to 2000Kgs.
Then she argued because kgs was not the short term she knew on kilograms and then she denied sending my 20 kgs package because her weight could only weigh packages up to 2 kgs.

Hence despite the weight being printed on the box, she could not weigh the package to see that my package actually weighed 20 kgs or more or less.

The funniest part of this stupidity was that she actually insisted on me buying another box so I could split the package into 2 boxes and send it in 2 different packages… NOT that I ever heard of 20 kgs divided in 2 makes 4kgs.

We left and took the box with us. At least I know that in San Jose,CR, there will be no problem sending the box home.

We also went to the Kodak store, the internet and toured chitre a bit. Then went off to Lenny and Ismaels “taller” (bilverksted in norsk) where we waited for them to get off work.
There are lots of traditional pottery shops in that area and I bought with me some souvenirs.
In the night we did some shopping and went early to bed.