Our next destination after Panama City was Boquete. We had heard wonderful things about all the hikes in the area and we were also keen to visit an animal sanctuary. Unfortunately, this time round the gods were definitely working against us…
The first problem we encountered was actually getting there. It should have been a simple case of jumping on a bus and off we would toddle – they normally go every hour during the day. We arrived at the bus terminal and saw a massive queue of about 50-60 people and, we walked around desperately hoping that wasn’t our queue – but it was! There was a protest on the outskirts of David, a town we needed to get to in order to catch our onwards transport, and no buses were going in that direction. The Chiriqui province in which David (and Boquete) sits is rich in copper. Unfortunately, the local indigenous people have been fed misinformation about the mining and the situation had got ugly. So no buses were running into town. We thought about missing Boquete, but we needed to get a bus to David to get to Bocas del Toro, our alternative destination, so that option wouldn’t work either.
Next plan was to head to the airport and look into either hiring a car or flying. Hiring a car is not too expensive, about US$50 a day with insurance on top. What is expensive was the cost of having the car returned to Panama City, US$180. So another dead end.
Finally we looked at flights and were able to buy two tickets at just over US$100 each. I suppose we could have waited in Panama City for the strike to be over, but that would have cost us extra nights in accommodation and food, and we wanted to keep going. The finish line, Guatemala City on the 18th of April, is now in sight.
So we arrived in David and were going to look for a bus out (buses running north of the city still worked because the strike was only in the south). But putting a silver lining on our day, we were offered a lift with a retired American lady, Felice, who had been visiting Panama City and was returning to her home. We even got dropped right to our door.
Next problem… It was raining when we arrived which we were informed is very unusual for this time of year. It is the dry season for the Chiriqui province but they have been having a lot of unseasonal weather. This remained true for our time in Boquete and it rained pretty much constantly, which was unfortunate as pretty much everything to do in and around Boquete involves being outside. We had imagined going on lovely hikes in the beautiful hills, but this wasn’t to be. Just as soon as we had decided to bite the bullet and go out in the rain anyway, it started raining even harder.
The final nail in the coffin for our time in Boquete was our visit to the Animal Sanctuary. We headed down the road from our hotel and started looking for the entrance. After walking forwards and backwards up the stretch of road where it should have been, we asked in a local shop who informed us it had been closed for over a year. Totally frustrated, as the most recent edition of the Lonely Plant (out in October 2010 and delivered to us in South Africa) had it in, and this was one of our key reasons for coming to Boquete. On returning to our accommodation I checked with the owner and the place had definitely been shut nearly a year. Score one to the guide books for stuffing up, again…
So for us Boquete was a bit of a dud. Getting there cost us an exorbitant amount, once there we couldn’t do any activities because the weather was so miserable and the only other thing for us to do was closed-down. That being said I can see why Boquete is appealing – the countryside is beautiful and in better weather would be a great place to visit, it was just that for us it didn’t happen so in light of the ever-deteriorating weather we decided to cut our losses and head to the sunnier climes of Bocas del Toro.