Sunday, November 24, 2013

Monkeying Around In The Mountains.......

The phone rang early on Saturday morning as I was in the middle of cooking up some healthy oatmeal pancakes.  It was friends inviting us to join them on a day trip to the mountain town of El Valle de Anton.  And for those of you that have never eaten a tortilla (tor-tee-yah) and think that Valle is pronounced as "valley" let me explain.  In Spanish when you see a double letter L like "ll" it is pronounced like a "y."  Occasionally, and most recently we met some folks that said they were going to "El Valley," and we just cringed.  When I corrected the poor dear she asked me, "where are you getting the Y sound from?" so I had to explain it to her.  Really now, have some people never eaten a "tortilla" chip?  Or maybe they call those "tor-tila" chips? And then to further complicate things some Latin cultures pronounce the "ll" sound as a "g" or "j" sound instead of a "y" but for now we'll leave well enough alone. Oh, and yes Panama does happen to use the later, although we do hear of mix of both here.

Anyway, getting back to my story now so we take off into the mountains with friends to see the Nispero Zoo in El Valle.  The small zoo is named after the "nispero" tree that bears a round, brownish fuzzy fruit that looks similar to a kiwi.  We have one in our backyard and when ripe this fruit has a slightly gritty texture like a pear yet tastes sweet like vanilla and cinnamon when scooped out with a spoon. A strange but magical delight to the taste buds that we enjoy when they're in season. 

On our way up to El Valle we stopped to check in on Fred and Cynthia who are building a house out of four shipping containers. This courageous, determined couple has been working on their dream home for over three years now.  We first came to know Fred from a blog he writes on a regular basis documenting his challenges of being American and building in a foreign country. But he's not just building an ordinary cement block house here, instead he has FOUR shipping containers that he's crafting into a dream home. It's been over a year since we last dropped in for an impromptu, unscheduled, and uninvited visit.  But this charming couple is always gracious and welcoming and gave us and our friends the full tour. If you'd like to read his full story please check out his blog at:

Fred And Cynthia's Shipping Container House In Progress
Finally we made our way to the Nispero Zoo, home of the illusive "golden frog." The golden frog  despite it's name is actually an extremely rare, very endangered species of toad that lives ONLY in Panama. For more information on this little critter check out:

Entrance To Nispero Zoo, El Valle Panama

The Famous Golden Frog Of Panama

The zoo is a great place to see some of the common creatures that hide out in the jungles, swamps and waters of Panama. Along with the frogs they had snakes, lizards and cayman (a smaller version of a crocodile) common to the area. Panama is home to many species of monkeys including white-faced capuchins, squirrel monkeys, spider monkeys and howlers, the largest of the bunch.  The smallest is the tamarin that weighs less than a pound and looks something like a rat with a long tail.

White-Faced Capuchin Monkey

Big cats like jaguars, ocelots, pumas and margays that are also native to the area were nicely displayed at the zoo too. And since Panama is home to some 940 species of birds the zoo also has an expansive array of these feathered marvels. Colorful toucans, macaws, parrots, parakeets, amazons, quetzals and more. The weather was great and we had just a slight sprinkle of rain cooling us off mid-day that went by quickly.

A Decorative Bench Inside The Zoo Grounds
Next stop was to fill our bellies with some lunch at Ty's Sports Bar and Grill.  The restaurant is home to the famous and adorable Mona the Mono, a white-faced capuchin that wears diapers and clothes. Mona sits perched atop a counter inside the restaurant, leashed up to keep her from annoying the customers by stealing their food or sitting on their heads.
Mona, the "mono" or in English monkey

She just loves to climb up on patrons to groom their heads for bugs, or nibble on hair clips and pony tail holders. Even though she is adorable and I enjoyed seeing Mona up close and personal, I unlike my friends and hubby didn't feel the need to have her climb on my head. Perhaps living with one monkey, oh uh I mean one husband, in the jungles of Panama 24 hours a day is more than enough....along the gringo trail.


  1. Thanks to you, I know what nispero tastes like, and I love them! Yummy.

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