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Saturday, April 05, 2008

So that's why it's called a rainforest...

Big surprise. It's raining in the rainforest.

We had a pretty clear morning for a hike in the Parque Nacional Volcan Baru on the Sendero los Quetzales (The Quetzal Trail), so named for it's most famous inhabitant--the resplendent quetzal. The famous bird, known for it's long green plumage, even has an Aztec god named after it (Quetzalcoatl). More endangered species are native to the protected area.

Getting to the trailhead requires a steep, 30-minute uphill climb to a ranger station, where we could rest before heading out on the actual path. The trail itself is the most popular in Panama, but not today. We were the first to arrive at 10 a.m. this morning, and we had the next two hours completely to ourselves.

The trail cuts a path alongside the extinct volcano from the village of Cerro Punta, where we started, and Boquete, a town on the other side of the volcano. The guidebooks all recommended that hikers start at Cerro Punta because the trail is mostly downhill. Ha! What a total lie!!!

We didn't take the trail all the way to Boquete because returning to Cerro Punta would require nearly two hours on public transportation, and two bus changes to get back. So, we hiked only to El Mirador Las Rocas, a lookout point that is about a third of the way to Boquete.

The trail to that point was never flat...either a steep climb or a steep decline, often requiring some maneuvering to prevent slipping....still managed to fall a couple times, nonetheless.

We finally arrived at the look out, exhausted and ready for lunch, which the owners of our B&B packed for us in the morning. The look out platform was well past its prime, with wet, rotting boards.

But oh, what a view! By the time we arrived there, clouds had enveloped the volcano. Nothing to see. And it looked like it might rain at any minute. So, we quickly ate and headed back to the entrance of the park.

About one kilometer from the trailhead, we ran into the only other person on the trail--a German hiker who had bused over from Boquete to do the entire trail downhill (yeah right!) back to Boquete. Moments later, the rain began, light at first. Then much harder.

We were drenched by the time we reached the ranger station and we tried to wait out the storm under a canopy. It wasn't stopping, so we braved the elements for the next 30 minutes until we reached the car. My raincoat was anything but waterproof, and somehow all my clothes underneath it were soaked through.

I took a nice hot shower upon our return to the B&B, and now here we sit--I am on the computer, and Chris is on the covered porch reading a book.

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