We left Panama City and headed to David, a 6 hour bus ride through the countryside. Our 6 hour ride turned into 8 hours as the highways are under construction which reduced 4 lanes to 2 and then to 1 lane at certain places. However, we were comfortable and enjoyed watching the scenery go by. Once we reached David, we took a taxi to the town of Bouquete, which is in the mountain regions and much cooler. Our hotel was situated in Palo Alto, a 40 minute walk to Boquete - easy to walk down hill, but definitely a taxi ride back up. While eating breakfast, we sat back and watched the clouds move slowly across the tops of the volcano. The roosters who lived next door woke us up each morning and continued making their presence known all day until the sun went down.
Carter and I travelled to Panama at the end of April and, before heading to the mountains, spent a day in Panama City. We paid a visit to the Miraflores Lock, one of three lock systems which make up the Panama Canal. There is a very impressive museum at the locks which tells the story of the building of the canal and we had a fantastic view of one of the ocean going vessels travelling through the lock from the fourth floor viewing platform. Our guide for the day took us to the Bridge of the Americas, which joins South and North America. We also had a quick tour of the old City of Panama. Many of the centuries old buildings are being renovated and converted into luxury hotels in order to create a tourist destination. Very beautiful architecture. The City of Panama is investing heavily in its infrastructure hoping to attract businesses into making the city their base in Central America.
Coffee Farm Tours
The first coffee farm we toured was Finca dos Jefes (farm of two bosses), in Boquete, a small mountain village located in the highlands of Chiriqui, a province of Panama; known for it’s flower festival and the coffee that grows on its mountainsides. The 7 acre, sustainable coffee farm is placed at 1,400 meters above sea level, located in the El Salto region of Boquete, on the road to Volcan Baru. Finca Dos Jefes is proudly owned by Dee Harris and Richard Lipner who purchased this abandoned coffee farm in 2003. It had been abandoned because of the low coffee prices in the 1990’s. At that time, farmers could not continue farming and selling to the global market. Originally planted in 1986, the farm took a great deal of work to bring back to production quality. While Panama is known for producing high grade Gesha coffee beans, Finca Dos Jefes is now planted in 7 varieties of Arabica (Pacamara, Heirloom Bourbon, Gesha and its original Caturra, Catuai, Criollo and Catimor).
After being hand-picked during harvesting season, the coffee cherries are dried with the skin and fruit intact on raised drying beds for “natural” processing. The sun preserves the natural flavors of the coffee. The cherries are dried to 11% moisture content and then placed in repose for a minimum of 3 months before they are peeled and the green beans are ready for shipping. The workers are proud of continuing the traditional ways of growing premium coffee.
Finca Dos Jefes is proud to support the children of the Comarca Ngäbe Bugle. On their first visit to the Comarca in 2007 they were made aware of the plight of 12 children in the 6th through 9th grade who wanted to continue their education, but were faced with a daily commute of 3+ hours walking in each direction. Teachers at the magnet school in Hato Chami, had begun the process of reclaiming an abandoned copper mine building.
They were turning the building into a dormitory for the students to sleep, during the school week. The next task was to find a way to feed these students. Finca dos Jefes are pleased to be able to provide the financial support for this food program. The program now has 38 participants and continues to grow.
On the tour Carter and I were introduced to a tea, called Cascara, made from the dried coffee skins. As the sale of coffee beans is important to the farm, the farmers typically do not drink coffee, but will drink Cascara. The tea was has a lovely sweet, fruity taste with notes of hibiscus and cherries.
The second farm we toured was Finca la Milagrosa (the farm of the miracles). Tito, the owner has built all the machinery on the plantation himself using parts of old cars or pieces of equipment that were being discarded. While we were not in Panama during harvest season, (which finishes at the beginnig of April), the coffee plants were beginning to bloom in preparation for the second harvest. The beautiful smell of Jasmine was everywhere as we walked around the plantation. Many of the farms have chickens wandering freely, which help to keep the pests down and fertilize the ground - aside from providing fresh eggs.
The Beauty of Panama
As we wandered around Panama, Carter was able to photograph many of the beautiful flowers, mountain views and, of course, the dogs. Here are some of Carter's favourite shots: