The Kalu Yala Blog

First Impressions

September 20, 2012

by Lara Willis
Posted In: Adventures in the Tropics, Voices of Kalu Yala

First impressions can often be deceiving, judgements made before they should. I think a lot of people, myself included, would judge Panama before they have had the time to look around and get to know all that it has to offer. With this in mind I was intent on not critiquing the country before I should, if at all! So far juxtaposition is my word of choice for the city. On the one side we have Casco Viejo the older part of town with shops and street vendors galore. The other has a skyline of skyscrapers obstructing the view the Pacific Ocean.Do you see what I mean?Casco ViejoDowntown

Let me now take you on a journey from the city all the way to the valley. In order to get to the valley the luxury, yes luxury, of a metro bus is needed to take you to the bustling town of Viente Cuatro de Deciembre. You read that right, it is named the 24th of December. Whoever named it is obviously a big Christmas fan! Whilst there people watching had to be my past time of choice. The eclectic mix of people and animals running across the road, selling fruit and vegetables and buying phones (there was a phone store every other shop or so it seemed). From Viente Cuatro we got on a ‘Diablo Rojo’ which literally translates to the red devil, you can now see why the metro bus was luxurious! These are no ordinary buses, oh no, these are old school buses that have been painted, had stickers stuck on and speakers added – a sort of ‘pimp my bus’! Music blaring and school kids squished into every part of the bus we set on the hour journey to the quaint but thriving town of San Miguel. If anyone reading this has ever been to Fiji or a similar country picture the smallest town that you remember and think of that to imagine San Miguel. It is basically a very rural road with a few houses here and there, two mini grocery stores that you do not go in but instead talk through the grate to the bored looking chinese lady who orders her kids to get what you want, as well as most importantly a ‘Taverna’ in the middle where the locals will sit and drink from 12pm until well whenever they feel like it, that’s them and how it is. After an excruciatingly painful trek for 2hours battling with the heat, the constant vertical hills, running low on water and a few tears I made it into the heart of the Panamanian jungle. I am so proud of myself. For someone that does not do well with hiking this was a challenge but one that I will be doing again just to experience all that the jungle offers, besides the hike out is all downhill! The valley is incredible, beautiful, a blank canvas and so much more. For what is essentially a camping site until the eco-town starts construction this is of upper class with water filtration systems and toilets (cleaner than some dunnies I’ve dealt with in on my travels). Words cannot do it justice, it is best to come out and experience it for yourselves. The people, the atmosphere, the Abuelo rum has made my time not only in the valley but in Panama that much more of an awesome beginning to what I can only imagine to be a fabulous internship.

Final thought…is everyone in Panama overly friendly or are they just gawping at the gringos? So far I believe it unfortunately to be the latter. Lynette Andrews and I have decided that the way to get around it is to tell them we’re famous and they can only have one picture of us!

Thats all from me, a valley food blog will be coming shortly! For more information about me check out my bio and/or my facebook!

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