Early Monday morning we began what would be a very long day of travel. The morning started with a vehicular taxi, followed by a water taxi back to the main land, followed by yet another vehicular taxi, before finally boarding a cross-country bus to El Valle de Anton. It was here at the bus stop where learned that plastic face shields are actually required on public transportation in Panama. Fortunately we’d been carrying ours around since the airport. So, rocking our face masks and face shields, we sat on a bus for the next eight hours. The bus dropped us off on the side of the Pan-American highway in a neighboring city, meaning we had to wait for another means of public transportation to bring us to our final destination. After passing on numerous vans that seemed like they’d be taking us in a roundabout way, we ended up finally taking one and arrived in El Valle de Anton, a small mountain town located in the crater of an extinct volcano. In total our trip consumed over 9 hours of our day, but we made it.
The following day we signed up for a day trip to Pozo Azul, an area local to Valle. The trip was meant to be a visit to a canyon of waterfalls and pools filled with crystal clear, bright blue water. Recent rains apparently turned the water brown and murky instead of bright blue, but we decided to go anyway. We rode in the back of a pickup truck up through the mountains, and got absolutely soaked in the rain on the way. One of the coolest spots on the tour was a watering hole surrounded by huge boulders where you could jump off. Going heavily against my nature, I followed our guide to the jumping point and launched myself into the water. Don’t worry, it was impossible to see if there were any hazards lying beneath the waters surface… super safe!
The above photos are courtesy of Avic Producciones, run by a couple who happened to be on the day trip with us. They had a super legit drone and took awesome videos and photos of each location that we stopped at, including my jump into the swimming hole.
From that swimming hole we continued on and stopped at another waterfall, this time much taller and with a really shallow pool. The water here was absolutely freezing but that didn’t stop us from jumping in. After hanging there for a while we stopped at one final viewpoint overlooking the jungle.
We finished our day with a cheap lunch at a Colombian restaurant before catching a bus to Panama City. In truth our journey was made up of a small van (packed), a bus, and then a taxi finally to our hostel. Once we arrived at the hostel we took some very cold showers and had takeout for dinner.
The next day we set out to explore Panama City, starting with a walk along the waterfront and then through Casco Viejo, the historic neighborhood in the city. We stopped for drinks and some lunch at a place run by an Expat from Mississippi. In the afternoon we hiked up to the top of Cerro Ancon, a hill which overlooked the city. There were a few mango trees atop the hill flush with fruit, including tons of mangos of that had recently dropped. Without doing much research we picked some mangos from the ground, which tuned out to be partially fermented by that time. After carrying them all the way back to our hostel we decided it was best not to eat them, but a lesson learned. In better news, we did spot two sloths in the mango trees, sleeping their afternoons away.
We took an unexpected trip to the Panama Canal the next day, courtesy of our Uber driver turned tour guide. After our driver picked us up at our hostel, we first stopped at Puente de Las America’s, a very-tourist-trap-y place overlooking one end of the canal. Our Uber driver said (as politely as possible) “… are you staying here?”. Picking up on his tone and seeing that there wasn’t much to see here, we all laughed and struck up a conversation with him.
He told us of a better location to potentially see some ships and offered to drive us to the Pedro Miguel Locks. Here we were fortunate enough to time our stop perfectly and see a huge cargo ship progressing through the canal locks.
After spending some time watching the ships and learning a great deal of Panama Canal facts from our driver, he drove us back into town. We enjoyed a beer and had lunch at a local cafe, where interestingly enough saw a person from our hostel in Bocas del Toro (all the way across the country). It’s a small world.
With our time in Panama coming to a close, we spent some time hanging out at our hostel and planning for our next few stops on the trip. Then, off to the airport and to our next country.