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!