Thursday, February 20, 2014

An Unknown Sweet Treat In Panama......

The Santa Rosa Sugar Refinery was an unknown sweet treat that we discovered yesterday.......or maybe not. Let's back track.....two blog followers Kay and Farouk visiting from Arizona are staying at a local resort.  Since we first met them we've hung out with them several times, showed them around to some of our favorite spots, and had a blast. So we get an email inviting us to join them on a trip to the town of Aguadulce yesterday.  The letter says that they're headed out to find the Ingenio de Azucar Santa Rosa, better known as the sugar refinery.  SWEET.....we thought.....ok so I just had to throw that in there since we're talking about sugar, get it? Actually, we'd never heard of the place but it sounded like something fun to see.

"borrowed" picture
of Sugar Cane in

Immediately I did some research only to discover that tours of the plant had to be booked 24 hours in advance.  Clyde called yesterday but was told, "no more tours," but we took the road trip anyway since Kay said there was also a museum in Aguadulce.  After asking a few locals for directions we managed to find the museum. The small two story building housed rocks from the area on the first floor.  The second floor had a display of art, artifacts and history of Aquadulce and it's people.  The women that showed us around appeared proud of her heritage as she carefully explained in Spanish everything about the assortment of stuff.

Small Museum in Aquadulce

Local Rocks

The women in the museum gave us directions to the refinery so we headed back onto the highway to find it.  In the distance we saw large plumes of black smoke and wondered if they were burning the sugar cane?  We stopped at the guard gate and were asked if we had an appointment, to which I explained no.  The guard sternly told us that we could not enter without one especially since there was a fire today.  While sitting there a fire truck came flying by with sirens blasting, apparently the dark smoke was from a real fire and not a routine burning.  We pulled the car over and attempted to call inside for an appointment, but then realized if the place was on fire it would better be left for another time.  As we drove back toward the highway several more fire trucks headed over to the sugar refinery indicating that this was a real problem.  This time of year in Panama is the dry season and Panamanians love to burn. They burn grass, trash, shrubs, fireworks and more so fire is common around here these days.

Cemetery outside of Aguadulce
You can see black smoke
from the fire in the background

The Santa Rosa Refinery processes 6500 tons of raw sugar cane per day from mid January to mid March each year. Because of the rocky, hilly terrain the cane must be processed by hand with the help of some 4,000 hired hands. They work fast and furious for six days a week, 24 hours a day.  Approximately 300,000 pounds of cane enters the mill each second by a huge conveyor belt that's fed from trucks coming in from the field.  By the end of each day they yield 1.5 million pounds of sugar.
But since we didn't make it past the guard we'll have to try another time before the season ends.

On our way back we stopped to explore the town of Penonomé before heading back to Chame.  Since Farouk loves to cook our new friends invited us to dinner at their place.  We dined on delectable osso buco made with beef shanks instead of veal. This traditional Italian dish is a combination of meat and vegetables braised in white wine, slow cooked until the flavors blend together. Farouk served it with pasta, salad and wine for a delicious end to a wonderful day. An assortment of gourmet ice creams for dessert satisfied our sweet tooth also.

Kay and Farouk

We've made some great friends through this blog and love to meet readers while they're visiting Panama. So if you're out there lurking drop us a line and maybe we'll meet up someday.....along the gringo trail.

Update:  Just got back from our walk around the neighborhood.  Had to stop to let a high school band go by that was marching, instruments and all.  Then the road was taken over by cows that knocked down the fence onto their property.  We didn't know how bulls would react to gringos in their midst, so we thought it best to go the other way. Always an adventure in Panama!

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