Panama, the only country I have been to that has everything – Ultra modern skyline, dense jungles, beaches, global trade, multi culture, deep rooted tribes and bad local food. Panama does not have a good local food scene, except fresh grilled fish with lime at few little coastal towns. Food was not the reason I was in Panama, but to experience the jungle and culture.
After spending few days, experiencing the City, visiting the Canal and Soberania Parque Nacional, understanding the vibe of the City, we headed north, in the Chiriqui highlands of Panama to a town called Boquete. The drive was hindered by numerous police checkpoints on the way making sure, we had coca only in the form of Coca-Cola. Renting a Toyota Hilux, 4X4 Diesel truck, boosted the journey, not that the roads were rough to Boquete, but because driving this vehicle added a feeling of being prepared for any road conditions in the jungles up north, when we head to the famous Los Quetzales trail. I have driven at few places in the interiors of Central America on the roughest roads with Toyota Hilux and it is The Vehicle to use there.
Boquete is different, away from the airless double humidity of 2 oceans and garnished cement-glass high rises; it is situated in the highlands with cool breeze, whistling cloud forest, Ngöbe–Buglé people and small traditional homes; a refresher after spending some time in the humid south. Although it does have a touristy side to it too, on Avenida Central, with souvenir shops, loud pop bars, traditional hotels and wooden hostels. Boquete is also famous for it’s strawberries and coffee plantations nearby, and it has some amazing resort and hacienda type hotels situated in numerous nearby low valleys among the Chiriqui highlands; and one of them is Valle Escondido – elaborate, great outdoor covered bar, lush green manicured picturesque landscape, situated on one of the tributaries of the main Caldera River, Quebrada Bajo Grande.