Tuesday, November 25, 2008

El Valle - I´ve got some decisions to make

I woke up in Santa Clara and had breakfast with the crazy family, then hopped on a few salsa busses to El Valle. El Valle is a volcano crater, a small, sleepy little misty town up in the mountains. Supposedly it´s what Boquete was like 10, 20 years ago. The bus stopped to drop me off, and I said oh, I need to go to the CENTER of town, thinking we were on the edge. They said, this is the center of town.. haha. It´s small. It´s absolutely beautiful and I just walked around town, had lunch at a place that had a bowl of Halls cough drops instead of candy, saw the hot springs, went to a bizarre little zoo and laid in a hammock on the roof. There are only faint sounds of roosters, faded salsa music, and a few cars. That´s it.
This town doesn´t even have a coffee shop but it has a zoo out on the edge of town. I went there around sunset, when it was dark and misty. They had a crocodile, tropical birds, an ostrich, a few raccoons, pigeons and turtles. I was the ONLY person at the zoo (which was in the woods) so it was really spooky.
For dinner I had about three choices, since the town gets really dark at sunset and I don´t have a car. I could go to the lunch place, where all the gringos were sitting, or I could go to the Panamanian place near my hotel. I decided to go to the cute little Panamanian place, and what a good decision that was. I asked the waitress, an abuela type, what the especiale was, and she brought me this chicken stew with fried plantians which was fantastic, smoky, just delicious. I could rhapsodise about it forever. And it was only $3.50! For dinner. With this whole ATM card not working thing, I´m really trying to see how much money I can save. Today my lunch of chicken neck soup with bizarre squashes in it and rice was $2, then I treated myself to a 25 cent banana cupcake with merange on top. I didn´t eat the neck, but I didn´t even know what was in the soup until it came to my table. I just went to the place next to the laundromat because it looked cheap and local. And that was the only thing on the menu.
My room comes with a TV so last night I watched the news. Uh oh. I knew there was some flooding in Boquete and Bocas del toro, where I´ve been planning to go (pretty much my whole reason for coming here) and it´s BAD. Roads washed away, thousands lost their homes and businesses. Other travellers are getting e-mails saying their reservations have been cancelled. This situation is all too familiar, since I was in Thailand during the tsunami.. That´s how I discovered Laos, which was great. I´m going to David tomorrow, then to the lost and found hostel, check it out lostandfoundlodge.com. Cool, isn´t it? One very smart thing I did was bring my cellphone, which actually works here. I called them and they are open and will pick me up from David and the guy said we can talk about beaches when I get there. Luckily I have two weeks, so I still have some time. Though not much. These are my choices:
1. Go to the San Blas. I researched this a ton before I came here. Pros: nice beaches. Cons: the cheaper places have toilets that empty into the ocean, it´s sorta expensive (have to fly there), two people have told me they were bored there after 2 days. I´ve been calling and some of the places are booked up. And I can´t afford $150 a night or anything like that.
2. Go to Costa Rica. Pros: possible nice beaches in the Corcovado-Osa penninsula area. Plus I love taking busses. Really, I do. Cons: I have no guidebook, I have already been to Costa Rica, I wanted to go to PANAMA. Costa Rican food is also kind of..meh.
3. Find another beach in Panama. But it can´t be deserted, I am travelling solo and for safetý´s sake I need other gringos around. When I get to David, I´m going to poll people at the hostel.
David itself isn´t supposed to be anything to write home about, but I can go to a real bank to cash my travellers checks and go to that cool eco lodge from there.
Maybe I won´t even see many beaches. I really came here to see Panama. And that´s what Í´ve been doing. I didnt´want this trip to be stressful (see Asia 04-05), so I´m going to try not to stress. The whole ATM not working thing isn´t helping.. but I´ll get through it! At least I´m not home in the cold. Panama or Costa Rica? What a problem to have. boo hoo poor me, right? I mean, I hiked to some beautiful waterfalls this morning. Life is good in El Valle (when it´s not pouring rain like it is now..). I totally dig this little town.
Coworkers, if you are reading, comment and sign your name. Guess where I´m going for dinner tonight? Yeah that´s right, the chicken stew place!


Kate C. said...

How about a canal tour? It would be like Sioux St. Marie, but hotter :-) Ha!

You should just play it by ear, chat it up at the Lost and Found over Foosball and see what Panama has to offer. It looks like there are nice islands on the Pacific side and little beaches closer to Columbia.

Good luck with the ATM. Let me know if you need any money wired from the currency exchange.

Anonymous said...

Living vicariously through your stories. You're not missing anything, so don't even think about work. Have fun. MB

Trisha said...

I like the Halls reference. I've definitely been offered Halls by Latinos on more than 1 occasion - when I didn't have a cough or a sore throat. Coincidence, I think not!

Do whatever you want! Bus trip to Colombia?? :) Anyway, you hit it right on the nail - at least you're not here in the cold! Disfrute!

sara said...

i'm off to the lost and found lodge tomorrow after a funny day taking a bus across most of the country. Will have to blog about it in a few days..

So I got a tip about a great beach in Colombia and an easy way to get there. I know a few people who went to colombia and liked it. It would literally be right across the border with little or no travel, just a quick flight and a boat ride. And remember that Columbia gets a bad reputation but Anthony Bourdain went there on the travel channel and loved it.

So when I get back from the jungle, I'm headed back down to Panama City and it's either San Blas, Isla Grande (yes they have one here too!) or.... perhaps Colombia?

Trisha said...


Kate C. said...

Oooh go to Columbia. You and Shakira can become bff. I bet it's gorgeous.