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Trip Report Glover's ongoing Panama trip report - Finca La Suissa, Finca Hartmann, Boquete

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We made great connections from Posada La Vieja in Chirigui Arriba to David - a 45 min cab ride took us from lodge to bus stop in Penonome where we immediately hopped on a bus for Santiago. About another 1 1/2 to 2 hours we were in Santiago where the bus for David was just loading. Both buses were pretty comfortable and cost us about $12 total each. Our hostess at La Posada Vieja had given us very specific instructions how and where to make the various bus connections. From David bus station we caught a quick $2 cab to the airport to pick up rental car from Budget. That all went smoothly. Stopped at Super Baru market for a few things and then got on Interamericano to go to Finca Suissa - on the road to Changuinola/bocas etc.

Finca Suissa is a lovely one story home that sits high up with a gorgeous view of David in distance, mountains, and Panama's Pacific islands. House has 4 bedrooms and baths (3 for guests), a paneled common area with big fireplace,and a kitchen in back. Surrounded by lovely bougainvillea. Swiss owners Herbert and Monica advertise their 20 hours of jungle trails. They also have a terrific garden - so the food here was wonderful!

We stayed here for 3 nights - spent one whole beautiful day on the trails - 9am till about 5. Forest was quiet that day - but wow was it beautiful. The trails are well maintained -but hilly and pretty challenging. Beautiful miradors. Some cloud forest. Fabulous trees.
Gave ourselves a break next day and drove some of the lovely mountain road that goes toward Bocas. Stopped occasionally for some bird watching.

In the eves we enjoyed the great cozy dinners with other guests and hosts. Lots of good conversation re travels, nature, conservation, global warming. . .

After 2 full days at Suissa it was time to head out again. We packed two carless guests into our 4 x 4 and drove them (via scenic drive thru Caldera) to their next stop in Boquete. Stopped for some birdwatching on way. Bid them farewell in Boquete and headed down to Super Baru in David again. Major grocery buyiing there as we'd be doing our own cooking at our next stop: Finca Hartmann.

We had wanted to visit this place ever since we got lost on the road to Rio Sereno Costa Rica on our first trip to Panama a couple years ago. How we missed the turn in Concepcion to go to Volcan and Los Quetzales was hard to imagine. But we kept going ending up on an amazingly beautiful mountain road which we finally realized was taking us to Costa Rica. Had to double back, but made mental note to check out that area some time.

So when we realized that Finca Hartmann - a coffee estate that has good birdwatching - was up in that neck of woods, we arranged to rent their small cabin (they've got one small one and one large one).

In fact it was a gorgeous drive up there - to the "town" of Santa Clara about 5 miles? from Rio Sereno and CR border. Finca Hartmann has an interesting history - founded by the Hungarian Alois Hartmann back in the early 1900s. Finca remains family run today. We met Ratibor, his wife, and daughter Alissa. Alissa takes care of the tourist part of their biz, so we had lots of conversation with her. She led us (in her big truck) over bumpy farm roads to our cabin (3 km from main farm). Wow, we were out there by ourselves for sure. Cabin is surrounded by bubbling stream. No electricity - gas for use with cook top and for hot showers. No refrigeration. Candles and oil lamp. Such a beautiful farm, rolling hills all planted with coffee trees, some bananas, and old forest providing for shade grown coffee. We hiked one trail (there are 4 or so there), but mostly just walked the farm roads. Saw lots and lots of birds. White faced monkeys came through trees one am. Alissa warned us of peccaries she'd been surprised by on trail the day before. Fortunately we didn't run into them.

We did run into something else she warned us about though - red chiggers. OMG. I was horrified by number of red bites when I got ready for bed that night. Husband had about half as many. We'll be itchin for awhile so I understand. The finca had the perfect environment for them I guess, long dry grass and dead dry leaves. Nevertheless it was a great time. One night was super clear with great crescent moon and bright stars. Frogs came out first followed by slow mo fireflies. . .
Plus it was really interesting to see and hear about the Hartmann's family biz. Lovely people.

After 2 whole days at Hartmann's we did the scenic drive back to David. Cooled our heels at airport for 45 min waiting for Budget to return from lunch to change from 4 x 4 car to Yaris. Made another stop at Super Baru and drove to Boquete.

We're now lodged for the next 4 weeks at Cabanas Momentum - just off main road about 5 miles from Boquete. Canadian property owner has 4 cabanas, guest house, and pool on property that looks across at Volcan Baru and down into a deep canyon cut by Rio Cochea. Another lovely spot. Very windy here now.
Yesterday we drove as far as we could on the "Bajo Mono" loop and to the entrance for the sendero de los quetzales. The road loop is still broken in one place and the trail still closed due to damage created by late November flooding. Nevertheless it's still possible to drive alot up there and quite beautiful. We stopped for lunch at Finca Lerida - a fancified version of Hartmann's. We'll try to stay up there one night perhaps - as it's also a fabulous bird watching spot - excellent chance of seeing quetzals, etc.

We'll wrap up our Panama trip the first couple days of March at another B&B at Cerro Azul just outside Panama City and not far from airport.

Meanwhile, back in DC it's 38 degrees today . . . .

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