Since our objective was to check out the El Valle area, we decided to drive out and find a place to stay. We picked up our rent car - a brand new Hundi SUV - at Allbrook, the domestic airport, at around 1pm and headed out towards the Pan American Highway. We had our Garmin working so we could relax and enjoy the scenery.
At 2:45pm we stopped for lunch at a roadside cafe and met an American who was living nearby. He told us that instead of considering living in Panama we should check out Colombia which was much safer and much cheaper! The only reason he was in Panama was because he had a son there. He said that if we wanted to live in Panama we should check out Chiriqui Province. In fact, we had visited Boquete in Chiriqui on our last trip and really liked it. We are sure we will get a lot of different advice during this trip!
Once we turned off the Highway towards El Valle, we got the sense that the hustle and bustle was behind us. We passed well kept homes surrounded by attractive gardens and we noticed there was no trash lying around! The landscape was lush and the road switched back and forth as we climbed steadily, our ears popping every now and then! Clouds started to cover the tops of the mountains as we dipped down in to the caldera.
We arrived in the town of El Valle and drove through it in a couple of minutes! It is a little different from what we had been expecting! We had booked a night in a "downtown" hotel which is basic, clean and has wifi! We sat for a while watching the town close down at 6pm - school kids walking home, workers riding their bikes home and dogs managing to avoid the cars while crossing the road.
Tomorrow we'll explore the area and hopefully meet up with Expats living here so we can get a feel for the place.