Recently, I had quite an adventure – a group of us went in 4×4 vehicles to the top of Volcan Baru, the dormant volcano that lies just west of Boquete, to watch the sun rise. Since it’s a rather long and grueling climb, we left at 4 a.m. and made it to the summit about 6:15 a.m. The entire area is a national park, and the road was rough, to put it mildly. It felt like driving over a dry riverbed, rather than a road, with big boulders and places where the rain had washed deep trenches in our path. The drivers were excellent – they sometimes make this two-hour trek five days a week! Here is the view on the way up, in the dark:
We arrived near the top at sunrise, as promised, and fortunately it was a perfectly clear morning. On a clear day, you can see both the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south, which was the hoped-for highlight of the trip – this is the only place in the world where that is possible.
At this high elevation, it was COLD! It was about 40°F colder than it was when we left downtown Boquete. We were told to dress warmly, but one guy apparently didn’t get the memo and wore shorts. He didn’t thaw out until we were halfway down on the return trip! I wore my heavy jacket and leggings under my pants, and borrowed a hat from the tour leaders who provided them, as well as gloves, for their passengers. I wished I had a scarf, because my neck was cold, but I found a solution for that problem.
Our tour guide leader provided coffee, hot chocolate, cookies, and grilled cheese sandwiches for the group, which were very welcome. I hadn’t had anything at all to eat or drink, after my unfortunate experience on the shuttle bus to Bocas del Toro a couple of years ago. We even had a little visitor to our camp, a coatimundi, which is fairly common in Panama. He was obviously accustomed to tourists, and he received a grilled cheese sandwich for his breakfast.
Some of our group hiked to the actual summit a bit above where we parked. I had no intention of hiking, but got a good photo of some of those who made that final ascent. The cross marks the highest point in Panama – 11,400 feet above sea level.
Our parking area was at the base of the communications towers. Locating them here makes a lot of sense!
You can get a better view of the road on our return trip – another two-hour journey. This time, we had to stop and move a tree branch that was projecting into our path. They hooked a strap to it and pulled it out of the way with the vehicle. At another point, our driver got out and filled a deep hole with rocks, so we could pass over it without possibly getting stuck. These guys not only drive this road, they sometimes need to maintain it – they are awesome!
We got back in town about 10:00 a.m. I’m so happy to have gone on this adventure, but I will say that it’s probably a once-in-a-lifetime trip for me. That drive is brutal! But we were blessed with a perfect view of both oceans, which is the icing on the cake of such a trip, so I’m satisfied with the results.