Friday, November 13, 2009

How did we decide on Panama?

During the years we traveled, we found several places where we felt we would like to “retire”. These included Bali, Indonesia (probably at the top of our list) Chiang Mai, Thailand and the Western Cape in South Africa, to name a few. The problem is that these places are half way around the world! We would be a long way from family (grandkids, in particular) and it would be expensive to travel back and forth. Although we had never traveled to Central America, we kept hearing about Belize, Costa Rica and Panama. We also thought seriously about Mexico. These countries were closer to Central Florida (Panama 3 hours) and so we started doing our research.

Eventually, in May 2007 we decided to see why Panama was creating so much excitement. We spent 2 weeks touring the country and returned to the US feeling that we could live very happily there. We were very fortunate to have traveling with us a native born Panamanian who had recently “retired” from the US Marine Corps. He enlisted the help of his cousin and the four of us drove from Panama City to Boquete, stopping along the way to get a sense of the soul of this country.

We explored the beaches of Coronado, stopped for a snack at the bustling town of Penanome and drove on to Las Tablas in the Azueros Peninsular. That evening we walked to the town square which was filled with families buying ice cream for the kids, people entering the pretty little church and others using the internet café. We enjoyed a cervesa at a small café/store and retired for the night at a very basic hotel. The next day we saw a very nice looking hotel which we decided we’d book when we return!

We spent a couple of nights at the lovely Hotel Guayacanes in Chitre and from there explored the area, looking at properties and “fincas” for sale and enjoying a wonderful evening at the Chitre Fair. This annual event attracts people from all over Panama. We bought an excellent (and very inexpensive) meal at one of the stalls and sat at a table around a dance floor to enjoy the food, the beer, entertainment and dancing! We were the only “gringos” but, since our companions knew, or were related to, many of the people there, we soon felt at home and had a wonderful evening. We do remember that it was extremely hot and yet everyone was wearing jeans! Only gringos wear shorts in Panama!

It was now time to drive west to Boquete, a beautiful town in the mountains close to the Costa Rica border. The journey takes you through cattle ranches, rice and sugar cane fields and, as you start to climb, the landscape becomes more lush and forested. The road we traveled on is the Pan American Highway which runs from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to the lower reaches of South America. A 54 mile stretch, known at the Darien Gap, between the Colombian border and the rainforest of the province of Darien in Panama keeps the highway from being connected the entire way. If the word “highway” brings to mind a four lane, paved road, think again!! The stretch we traveled in Panama was a two lane road, 13 miles of which were REALLY bad! Traffic consists of large trucks as well as a variety of vehicles, all trying to reach their destination as quickly as possible! All of a sudden you come across crews patching the roads – no warning signs at all – and you have to jam on the breaks or beat the oncoming traffic. Quite hair-raising to say the least and definitely not a road you want to travel after dark!

1 comment:

BGrace said...

Enjoying your blog! please keep posting. I am considering moving there too! Barbara