Saturday, May 24, 2014

Some New Discoveries In Panama.......

This past week I was in the mood to get out and do some exploring, so yesterday we jumped in the car and hit the road. As usual I let my daring, adventurous husband come up with a plan as we took off to explore this beautiful country that we call home.

Clyde was on a mission to find Omar Torrijos Herrera National Park, just north of the town of El Cope, in the Province of Cocle, Panama. We stopped for lunch in the scenic little town of La Pintada at a little "fonda," or a simple, little Panamanian style restaurant. Typically at fonda's they offer one or a few menu of the day choices of typical local style food at very low prices. This one followed suit as the waitress explained what she had, "arroz con mariscos y ensalada," or "rice with seafood and salad. What arrived were two plates of yellow, flavored rice with mixed seafood and a few vegetables, alongside some homemade macaroni salad. The seafood was a combination of clams, octopus and some other things I didn't recognize but ate it anyway.  I had to chuckle as we ate because prior to moving to Panama I assuredly never ate anything that included tentacles on the plate, yet here I was eating octopus and clams.  Admittedly I'm still not a fan of octopus or "pulpo" as it's called in Spanish since it tends to be chewy and tough, but in small amounts it's tolerable. And when we eat in these tiny, hole in the wall restaurants that offer only one choice, it's like eating at a friends house.  And it's because of this that I feel a bit guilty not eating what's offered, even if it's less than delicious.  Besides, the frugal side of me knew that this meal would be cheap so we shoveled it into our mouths and paid the $3.50 for each meal before taking off.

Mariscos Arroz con ensalada maccarones
 
a little "chino" store across from the restaurant


 
Cute fountain with sombrero
La Pintada Town Square
 
c
We can see the Park, just how do we get there?
 
 
 

We thought she was pretty

The town of Piedras Gordas
"Fat Rocks"

Had to stop and catch this

Little girls on a bridge over a river

below the bridge, water barely flowing
 


In typical Panamanian fashion the park was not clearly signed and extremely difficult to find. The road into the park was unpaved with rocks, steep inclines and only assessable by 4x4 which we luckily have. Eventually we arrived at the park office operated by ANAM (Autoridad Nacional del Ambiente), paid a few bucks and listened to an explanation of the "sendero's," or trails. Since it was getting late in the day, around 3:30 we opted to do the shorter of the trails.  The first trail we hiked along was well marked out with steps that led us through deep, lush, tropical jungle that seemed to reach out and touch us. The jungle around us really was breathtaking and only could have been made better had we spotted some animals. Since the first trail was so nice we continued on to another 2k trail which turned out to be wet, slippery with leaves and not so nicely laid out.  We did an about face and headed back to the start leaving that trail for another day when we had more time and more dry weather conditions. We drove through picturesque, little mountain villages where many homes had a horse parked in the front as their means of transportation. Skinny cows dotted the landscape as school children waited for buses, or walked alongside the road carrying backpacks.

We finally made it!
Had no idea how rough the roads where past this sign!





Maybe we should have climbed on him
instead of driving the rough roads!

Yep!  We are going up there!

map of the park and it's trails


Cloud Forest

Locked up visitor Center

View from the Mirador (look out point)


Cross at the Mirador

steps into the forest

really pretty nice!

Just some plants I liked

notice the red flowers on the stem



Vegetation
Look closely at the end of each branch,
they seem to curl up

The way to the longer trail
next time we will get there earlier for this one!

Love how all the plants grow on the bark of the trees
A Pretty Fern

pretty flower
 



more views of the clouds blowing across the forest

These Yellow trees were flowering everywhere

View of the Yellow Flowered Trees


Had to drive through this to get out
 

On our way home we stopped in the town of Penonom√© for a pizza at Al Capone's, a rather gringoized looking pizza joint.  Staring at a large photo of Capone on the wall of this restaurant made me wonder what connection, if any, does the gangster have to Panama? Little did we know that we experienced Capone's boat while docked near the Amador Causeway on our friend's yacht last month.  There was this large houseboat type of yacht that turned out to be a late night party boat complete with strobe lights and loud music that played into the early morning hours. Turns out that's the boat that used to be owned by Al Capone and is now used to run tour groups through the Canal along with late night parties near Panama City. Formerly used as a rum-runner, he spared no expense with the 314 foot floating hotel.  It originally contained five luxury bedrooms, a mahogany living room and even a library. It was originally used to smuggle rum and whiskey from the Dominican Republic and Cuba to an inland near Key West, Florida. Eventually Capone was arrested for tax evasion and shipped off to prison.  His boat was commissioned by the US Navy before changing hands a few more times until it was brought back to Panama in the 1960's. 

We arrived home around 8ish, tired after a long day of driving, exploring and delighting in the wonders of nature.....along the gringo trail.



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