Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Day Trip to Volcan, Panama

Yesterday we decided to take a day trip to a little town called Volcan. It's not much of a tourist destination and I wouldn't really recommend going out of your way, but it was a nice trip.

From Boquete, it's about 1.5 hours driving each way (even though it's only 7 km and a popular day hike) but there's no direct road there. However, the drive is beautiful and at times, vertical, since you're going around a volcano (hence the name of the town).

Driving in Panama is crazy because you'll be out in the middle of nowhere and you'll just see an old man walking along the side of the road. I'm talking miles from anywhere.

Or you'll see a teenager sitting on a tree stump along side the road (again out in the middle of nowhere) and he's talking on a cell phone!

At one point we passed a cow that was running down the middle of the road and got caught behind a herd of cattle on the way back.

When we finally arrived there, we went to an organic restaurant/commune called, "Valle de la Luna" (Valley of the Moon).

It's run by an American couple and it's absolutely beautiful (although hard to find--you have to turn left at the big red octoganal restaurant, then bear right and turn onto the gravel road and it will be half a block down on the left).

There isn't a menu because everything's made fresh that day so they use what's in season. I ordered coffee and they brought out a mini-French press accompanied by a mini alarm clock timer so I'd know when to press the coffee down. So cute.

We both ordered vegetable soup and salad. However, when the soup came it tasted like warm honey or caramel--it was that sweet. It was inedible, so I asked the waitress who asked the cook. The cook came out and said it was sweet because of the carrots and that they never put sugar in their soup (it tasted like someone dumped a 5 lb bag of sugar in it).

She must not taste her own food, but we were like whatever, it's fine.

10 minutes later (nothing happens fast in Panama), the waitress comes out with 2 new bowls of squash and pumpkin soup and told us she tried the other soup and didn't like it either, lol.

Overall, a really cute restaurant and I hope they succeed. If they do, it will only be because of the small ex-pat community there, since the vast majority of Panamanians can't afford organic food.

Which is sad, because this area is known as the bread basket of Panama and we could see all the farmers in the fields (they farm about 50 feet up the side of the volcano) and you could smell all the chemicals they use on the produce. The smell literally turns your stomach. It was worse (although not as pungent) as a dairy farm if that helps give you an idea.

Speaking of the ex-pat community, it's not nearly as big as Boquete, and according to my Mom, since there's nothing else to do, there's a lot of infighting and back biting. There's only 1 main street and it's not that exciting.

In fact, one ex-pat got in a huge fight with everyone else, and wrote this scathing 5-part expose on everyone in town and posted it on the Internet. It caused quite the scandal apparently. I searched for it, but couldn't find it.

It really is a beautiful area though and there's even a small town they call "Nueva Suiza" (New Switzerland) which has A-frame houses and thick foliage. It's like you stepped onto the set of Heidi or something.

Since it was raining, this was typical of the shots I got, so I stole one from the Internet to give you an idea how pretty it can be (in the dry season of course).


  1. Little trips like that are so great, even if there's nothing particularly exciting at the destination.

    The in-fighting and the exposé made me laugh. Oh, those feisty retirees!

    Hopefully the rain lets up soon! Also, tomorrow is one month until I meet you in Argentina! :D :D

  2. Wow! 1 month already? Time is flying. I haven't been keeping track of the dates much. Although tomorrow I go to volunteer orientation (I think I'm going to teach ESL) and then my first day of class. I was supposed to go last week but there was a mix-up.

    I really really wish I could have found that expose! Apparently, he posted it on some local Yahoo chat rooms and my guess is it got deleted long ago. Sux. Did you pick a song for Alex yet?

  3. As always, a lot of fun to read what you share, and I too laughed about the exposé! Even without the actual internet article, what you've shared was good enough ;-) Wishing you further a great time on your trip!

  4. I had to laugh at the retiree antics too. But, I imagine it's that way in many small retiree communities. Another promise to self--no retirement communities for that reason and a host of others. Volcan looks lovely and I hope the organic restaurant does well. Your description of the smell of the chemicals is going to have me running to our Bio store for sure.

  5. Thanks everyone! And trust me, I will continue searching for that scathing expose! lol