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Friday, April 04, 2008

Potholes, Pedestrians and Public Buses

From Panama's Chiriqui Highlands, visitors can see both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, from a lookout on the Baru Volcano, which rises 11,400 feet above sea level (Panama's highest point). We haven't seen much since it's been raining on and off today (as expected in a rainforest). But, interestingly enough, the countryside reminds me a lot of what I've seen of Ireland in pictures.

We arrived in David this morning on an hour-long puddle jumper flight from Panama City (and yes, I had my backpack with me, thank goodness). Chris and I decided we'd take a stab at driving here. I was a little nervous at first, but driving out in the countryside isn't too bad at all, compared to the crazy drivers in the big city. Potholes, pedestrians and public buses seem to be the only threat. The Panamerican Highway that stretches throughout Central and South America skirts the city of David. And the speed limit through this section anyway is 45mph.

I drove only a few minutes on the highway before taking a turnoff toward the town of Volcan, where we dined at the Restaurante Izel, which only served one meal. The "comida corriente" is typical of most local joints in Panama (and other places in Latin America). The meal generally consists of beef soup followed by a plate with either beef, chicken or fish, rice, beans, and plantains. Except, we didn't have the beans. We had tomato and broccoli instead. I don't think I've ever had broccoli in Latin America!

From there, we headed up the volcano, passing dairy farms and Swiss chalets that seem way out of place here. After eating broccoli, though, nothing surprises me. We passed a trout farm that advertises "Pesque y pague" (fish and pay). The guidebook says you can fish 5 kilos of trout for $5.

A little further along the road is an Argentinian grill on the side of the road, and then the strawberry stands began cropping up. Apparently, strawberries are a major staple of the region, and they are always in season. Roadside stands offer snacks of strawberries in cream...yum.

We finally arrived at Cielito Sur B&B, and were greeted by the three resident chihuahuas--Honey, Onyx and Tinkerbell. The B&B is perfectly suited for birdwatchers (although we are not). Many different kinds of hummingbirds were buzzing about, including a Violet Sabrewing, with a slightly curved beak, a large, mostly purple body and a white-tipped tail. A birding group from Florida told us stories about all the specimens they had spotted over the last few days, including the famous quetzal. Apparently, a guide named Narino knows where the nests are located. Maybe tomorrow he can show us!

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