Living In A Volcano Crater – [Video] El Valle de Anton

What do you think it’d be like to live in a volcano crater? If someone would’ve have asked me that a few weeks ago, I’d have responded with impossible!

It’s hot, like rock-melting-hot…or if the volcano has already blown it’s top, the crater is a lake! So unless you’re a fish, there’s not much for ya. Surely it’s impossible?

You know where this is going, don’t you?

It’s going all the way to Panama, about 2 hours outside Panama City to a very small town called El Valle de Anton. Or affectionately, El Valle.

This teeny town is located in the second largest inhabited dormant volcano in the world. Can we just remind ourselves what a dormant volcano actually is? 

A dormant volcano would then be one that hasn’t erupted in the past 10,000 years, but which is expected to erupt again – Thank you Oregon State University for that definition. 

EXPECTED TO ERUPT. WHEN!?! That’s what I want to know.

Okay so I’m actually unclear as to whether this is an extinct or dormant volcano because different sources say different things. The Smithsonian Institute says there’s currently “a geothermal exploration program…underway to evaluate the energy potential of the caldera.” (Read more here.) That doesn’t mean much to me, but maybe it means something to you? 

Who cares, it’s still freaking cool and the entire time we were there, I was hoping El Valle wouldn’t blow it’s top — and us — into the heavens.

When Matt and I were there, we stayed in the belly of the beast, by which I mean in town but in the outskirts at Kare Lodge in a safari tent that was imported from South Africa. Oh ya, Glamping in a freaking volcano in Panama!

  
It was AMAZING! In fact, I really think that staying at Kare Lodge made our experience in El Valle even better.

It was pretty special waking up in the morning, stepping outside, having a teapot of coffee on the deck and looking up at the caldera of the volcano. We felt a deep connection to nature.

When we arrived, we didn’t really know that much about El Valle or what there was to do so we followed Conrad’s advice about things to do. (Conrad owned and operated the lodge.) 

He suggested hiking India Dormida (The Sleeping Indian) — we did that and loved it.

  
   It was about 1.5 hours up and 1 hour down, steep at times but thankfully never too muddy. The view at the top was incredible of course, but even better were the sounds.
On one side of the path you overlooked nothing but forest and it was completely silent. On the other side of the path,you overlook the town and you can hear trucks and dogs barking. I found that really incredible — one path, two completely different worlds. 

Matt managed to catch our hike and our dip in the hot springs on film. Here they are!

Other things that are totally worth doing:

  • Wandering about town
  • Eating bruschetta at Bruschetta
  • Visiting the butterfly sanctuary
  • Stopping by the little museum beside the church

  
There’s tons of outdoor activities in El Valle, including hikes to waterfalls and around the caldera at various places. With the beauty of the landscapes, the freshness of the air, and all the adventures to be had, it’s easy to see why it’s such a hot weekend destination for Panamanians and travellers alike.
— Cyn and Matt

Thanks for the Banana, But Whose Livingroom Are We In?

We didn’t know what bus to take so we started asking. Bus drivers kept pointing us in different directions. It felt like we were ping pong balls, going back and forth, back and forth. Or maybe we were hot potatoes!

When we finally found the mini-bus that had “Parita” very clearly painted on the front windshield, we took our seat. Easy breezy. Not breezy at all actually, it was very hot.

As we were sweating it out in the back seat of the mini-bus, and as Matt was downing his Coke (for the caffeine, we weren’t successful finding breakfast) a woman started talking jibberish — I mean Spanish — to us.

I guess we looked like we didn’t belong. Or that we were lost. Or confused. She was asking us where we were going and when we told her Parita, she asked if we didn’t mean Las Tablas (a beach nearby).

No, no we reassured her. We were going to Parita.

A look of surprise and genuine curiosity appeared on her face, as if to say “What could Parita — a teeny tiny town basically unknown to outsiders and Panamanians alike — have for them? Surely, they should be going to the beach.”

In our best Spanish, we explained that we’re going to Parita first, and then to Sarigua National Park.

She told us we needed to take a taxi once we got to Parita. We knew that and agreed with her. 

“Si”, yes, as if those two letters, that one syllable could convey everything we wanted to say. 

Thank you so much for your help! We know we need a taxi but we don’t know where to get one. Could you let us know? Also, how much should it be? Sometimes people try to rip us off and we don’t have a lot of money. Where do we get off the bus? We’ve never been here before.

But, Si would have to suffice.

Even though we were able to get our point across, our best Spanish is pretty horrific. And as a result, I think the woman we were “talking” to was a little concerned for us.

When we got to Parita, she took us under her wing.

First she had us sit in an outdoor living room type thing. It seemed to be attached to her house. She told us how she had a student from Quebec living with her, so she must’ve been used to wildly rubbish Spanish (hopefully the student didn’t come equipped with a full Spanish vocabulary)…and also trustworthy…

She was really nice to us, and patient as we said “si” a million times to what I’m sure were not yes or no questions.

I have even more respect for people who’ve moved to Canada and are trying to learn English. It’s really hard to learn another language. And it’s really lonely and frustrating when you can’t get your point across – thankfully Matt and I have each other because a man oh man, if I was going at this alone…yikes!

As the woman arranged a taxi for us, she bought me a banana. How nice! 

Well, I’m not exactly sure it was a taxi she had arranged…after all, a silver car eventually pulled up and taxis in Panama are yellow with black and white checks.

This was more like someone she knew who had a car. 

Despite the very evident un-taxi taxi, we hopped in. The guy took us to Sarigua National Park after he dropped the woman at her home (whose outdoor livingroom had we been in?!).

Our driver was jabbering away at us like we could understand him. And maybe if we’d been studying our Spanish and practising like we were supposed to, we could’ve understood more than just his body language and laughter.

At any rate, I just kept repeating that I don’t understand. And he’d laugh either out of actual amusement or frustration.

I eventually just pretended like I couldn’t hear him.

– Cyn

How Does a Butterfly Eat? [Video]

When you travel, you get all kinds of answers to questions you never knew you had. Just keep you mind open, say yes a lot and they’ll appear!

To be honest, I never in my life considered how a butterfly eats or even what it eats for that matter, until I actually saw it with my own eyes at Butterfly Haven in El Valle de Anton.

Pretty cool, eh?

— Cyn

The Bees, The Beans, and The Horses [Video] – Boquete, Panama

Get yo mind outta the gutter! We haven’t made a birds and the bees video!

The Bees, The Beans, and The Horses is a little montage of the awesome things that we did in Boquete, Panama. I’d never heard of Boquete before Matt discovered it in Lonely Planet, but apparently it’s an extremely well-known place. In fact, it was rated as one the best places in the world to retire by International Living Magazine. Is 29 too young to retire?

Oh…in addition to that, Boquete is the place for growing coffee in Panama. The world’s most expensive (and best) coffee comes from here. It’s called Geisha coffee and we’ve tried it. Hehehe.

  
While we were in Panama’s coffee region, we just HAD to go on another coffee tour. This time, we wanted to see a big coffee farm so we went with Carlos to visit one of the Cafe Ruiz farms. Mr. Ruiz started his business a thousand years ago and at the ripe old age of 92, he still goes to his 11 farms EVERY DAY to check in on things. 
You go, Mr. Ruiz!

I thought that the Cafe Ruiz farm was going to be quite the juxtaposition to Don Cune’s small organic coffee farm. But to be honest, the set up wasn’t SO different — it was just massive at the Ruiz farm. There were still fruit trees all throughout the coffee trees, providing shade for optimal growing conditions, and putting nutrients back into the soil. They still didn’t want to use pesticides (though they did if they had to). And there was still a huge respect for the caffeined bean and what it needed thrive naturally.

That seems to be a common theme here. We felt the same respect and appreciation at Boquete Bees as well.

  
Look, I’m the first person to run like my ass is on fire if there’s a bee near me. But I love honey and don’t know that much about it’s producers.

Same with Matt.

So when we saw that we could tour a bee farm/honey farm in Boquete, we jumped on the opportunity. We’re so glad that we did! Emily, the bee keeper at Boquete Bees, was so informative both about bees and honey, as well as life in Boquete as an expat. Plus she introduced us to putting honey in your coffee, something that up until then, I figured was either misguided or hipster. 

Possibly both.

It’s definintely not misguided and I don’t care if it’s hipster. It’s something we will continue to do because it’s SO good (whenever we have honey, which so far hasn’t been often). Go on, try it!

  
Emily’s farm is completely set up for her bees. I’m not sure her bees know how good they have it but they’ve got all kinds of different flowers and fruit trees to feast on. 

You might not know this, but bees are super organized in the way they eat — they’ll finish one food source before they move on to the next. The diversity of food options on the farm means that the bees produce loads of different kinds/flavours of honey. And since Emily is amazing at the honey business, she uses this to her advantage and sells lots of unique raw honeys. Sweet!

And we enjoyed ALL of them at the honey tasting. Even sweeter!

  
Boquete is known for its eternal spring weather and fresh mountain air and gorgeous views. And what better way to enjoy all of that than on horseback?!

On one of our last days in Boquete, we saddled up and went on a trail ride through Marisella’s family farm. The views of Volcano Baru were amazing and the horses were darling. I grew up horseback riding and this ride was a great experience. It was Matt’s first time and he really liked it — I think he’s a natural! Matt and his horse looked like best buddies by the end of the ride.

  
Enough jibber-jabbering. Watch the video now, I know that’s what you came here for.

— Cyn and Matt

There’s a (sort of) Desert in Panama and We Had To Go

– There’s a desert in Panama?

– Well ya. Something like that. It’s called a semi-desert. I want to see it. Want to go?

– Sure!

And a few days later, off we went in search of Panama’s unpopular Sarigua National Park.

 
That’s one of my favourite things about travelling: hearing of a place, wanting to go, and just doing it! No need to wait till the weekend.

I love deserts so much that sitting in the dry lake bed in Las Vegas was one of my favourite things about that trip! And Matt loves physical geography. So off we went on a mad mission to see this desert thing.

  

But we weren’t going to Sarigua National Park simply because I love deserts and Matt loves landscapes. Oh no.

We wanted to see deforestation firsthand.  

  

It was a learning opportunity that I wish we never had, to be honest.

   
 It’s just so sad to think that people did this.

  
And even worse, that people continue to do this to forests and rain forests everywhere. And for what?  

— Cyn

#SaveTheTrees