Panama is a long thin country with the Caribbean on one side and the Pacific on the other. It is very hot here and after a number of months in hot countries we were looking to escape some of the heat. The Pan American highway runs right through the country and to get anywhere you pretty much have to go along this highway and then take a road leading off. To get to your next spot you need to go back down the road and then along the highway. After leaving Boquete we headed back to David and along the Pan American highway to a turn off that took us to the beach at Las Lajas. As it was mid week the beach was deserted. We found a spot to camp and went for a swim in the sea. The beach here stretches for miles and there was hardly a soul on it.
As we had arrived in the late afternoon it was not too hot. However the next morning it soon heated up and as it was forecast to reach 37 degrees we decided to leave and search out some slightly cooler weather in the hills. So we set off back down the Pan American until the turn off to Santa Fe. We drove into the small village of Santa Fe but there was not much to do and nowhere to really camp so we drove out and around to Lake Yeguada National Park which was set around a lake. We had heard of a campsite here but on arriving found that it had been fully reserved and a company was busy setting up a lot of tents on the site. We drove further into the reserve and were stopped by some Forestery officials. They explained there was another campsite nearby.
Whilst it was not on the lake it was in a lovely setting and it was slightly strange to see pine trees and palm trees in the same place. There were also beautiful eucalyptus trees in the campground. As we were in the hills the weather was much cooler, 27 degrees, and there were hardly any bugs so we decided to stay for a few nights.
The next day we set out on some hikes. We found a large waterfall.
We also hiked to the lake.
And then found a small swimming hole next to a small waterfall which the girls enjoyed swimming in.
The next day it was back to the Pan American. We drove to Santa Clara and stayed at a real RV park, this is a rarity in Central America. It was hot again although they did have a pool to cool off in. It also had all the facilities ie water, wifi and and sewage dump so was pretty useful but after one night we decided to head back up into the hills.
We headed to El Valle and camped in the grounds of a hostel, Hostel Windmill, which is still been built. This was a great spot to stay as it is right in town on a lovely grassy area. However, we were not the first to find it as our friends the Dutchies, Betti and John and Petra were already there so it was another overlanding gathering. As most of us are getting ready to ship to South America we are all coming together as we are all on the same ship.
El Valle is a pleasant place to spend a few days, especially as we have time to kill before the shipping. We went to some local thermal pools to enjoy the warm water and for the mud facial!
We also spent time just lazing around, watching movies, doing jobs etc as it was very relaxing and enjoyed a couple of meals out with our friends including a fantastic pizza cooked at a tiny restaurant that was part of an Italian couple's house.
On our last day we hiked up the hillside with Betti, Petra and John to a viewpoint over the town. From here we could see how the town was nestled in the caldera of an ancient volcano. We could also see the weather systems coming over from the Caribbean side as we were sitting atop the continental divide.
That evening we held a party for the Dutchies. They are returning home after spending more than a year driving around North America. As with any overlanding gathering this meant each vehicle making some food and then we all would share it together with a few drinks. This time the girls also wanted to make some decorations for the party and a present for Dunya the Dutchies dog. A good evening was had by all.