The Other Side of The Mountain

Quick orientation . . . Volcan Baru is the dominant feature of the landscape in Western Panama.  It’s a non-active volcano and the highest point in Panama at 11,500 feet.  It looms above Boquete and our little town of Palmira which is actually on the slope of the mountain.  It’s last really big blow was around 500 AD, and it probably had a minor eruption around the time Ann Boleyn was having her head chopped off.   Where we live in Boquete and Palmira is on the eastern flank of the Volcano, and on the other side of the mountain is Volcan and a string of tiny towns called Nuevo Suiza, Bambito,  Cerro Punta and Guadalupe.

The only more-or-less direct way to get from Boquete on our side of the mountain to Volcan on the other side of the mountain is the Quetzal Trail which is a 6 hour hike around the mountain through spectacular rain forest.   Other than that you have to drive down to David, then up the Pan American Highway to Concepcion, then drive back up the mountain to Volcan.  2 hours to go what should be 30 minutes!  The new Ruta Sur will run along the southern flank of the mountain joining Volcan and Boquete and, when finished, the trip will take about 30 minutes.   The first section of Ruta Sur, from Alto Boquete to Palmira, where I live, is finished, and work is well underway on the second section.

The drive from Cocepcion to Volcan is really quite spectacular, winding your way up through dairy farms and beautiful scenery.  Volcan itself is really a nothing sort of town with not much to commend it.  Sorry Volcan!  It always reminds my wife and I of Fairplay, Colorado.  One of the highlights of our past visits to Volcan was to eat at the Acropolis, a Greek restaurant run by a retired Greek sea captain who married a Panamanian.  I said it’s been a while since we were in Volcan, and unfortunately the restaurant has closed and is nothing now but Greek ruins.

But once you drive out of Volcan, on up the mountain you get into some absolutely spectacular country!

Beside the river in Nuevo Suiss . . .

V Nikki and Monkey Nuevo

Volcan Nuevo Suiss

Most of the produce for Panama is grown in the area around Cerro Punta, mostly on small farms that stretch high up on the hillsides . . .

Volcan Cabbage

So no trip to Cerro Punta and Nuevo Suiza is complete without bringing home some fresh  produce.

Volcan Veggie Stand

People come from all over the world to buy horses at several large farms along the road from Concepcion to Guadalupe.  One of the free lance tour guides that the company Holland America uses in Panama told me that he was hired by three sheiks from Sauda Arabia to take them up to Guadalupe to look for horses . . . which they then load onto their private 757s to take back to Arabia.

Volcan Horse Farm