I arrived in Boquete for the final weekend of the famous Flower and Coffee Festival. The small town was awash with colour and crowds.
Panama’s adventure capital is in the north of country and lies in a valley high up in the mountains. Hence its name – Boquete means gap in Spanish. The town’s altitude gives it a very different climate to the rest of Panama. After enjoying the heat of Bocas del Toro and Panama City, I was shocked to find myself wearing two jumpers during the mornings and evenings. Although the sun often shines, it is regularly accompanied by light drizzle so rainbows are an almost daily occurrence.
I had four hours of group classes in the afternoon, so I was keen to explore the hiking trails in the mornings. I had heard about the Three Hidden Waterfalls trail and set off to find them at the first opportunity. Unfortunately, I was dropped off at the start point of the path to The Hidden Waterfall, also known as the Pipeline Trail. I walked for quite some time on a path adjacent to a pipeline, without seeing a waterfall, before I realised my mistake. Still it was a beautiful trek that passed an imposing 1,000-year-old tree.
Eager to learn from my mistake, the next day I found the Three Hidden Waterfalls. In the dappled sunlight of the early morning, it was one of the most beautiful walks I’ve been on. I didn’t see a soul in the forest until 10.30am, by which point I had been hiking for two hours and was on my way back. It’s possible to swim in the final two waterfalls, but the fresh morning air made me think twice. Instead I walked behind the final one – and got just as wet in the process!
For something a little different, I ventured out to the outskirts of Boquete to visit El Explorador. My curiosity had been piqued by intriguing reviews, and it didn’t disappoint. Essentially, it’s a house with two hectares of garden dedicated to promoting recycling and sharing ideas to live your life by.
The mottos, which included pearls of wisdom such as ‘Nadie sabe de lo que es capaz hasta que lo intenta’ (No one knows what they are capable of until they try) were all written in Spanish. This made it a great place to practise my comprehension skills.
As I didn’t have Spanish lessons at the weekend, I took the opportunity to enjoy Boquete’s most famous one-day hike: The Quetzal Trail. The route gained its name due to the opportunities it provides to spot the elusive Resplendent Quetzal. Sadly I, like everyone else I spoke to, failed in our twitching ambitions. The cloud forest lived up to its reputation though. Again, I hardly saw anyone as I waded through rivers and heavy mud to reach 2,500m.
As I neared the finish line, the weather finally closed in. Even though I was quickly drenched, it gave me the chance to take this photo as I descended back to civilisation.
At school I spent the week consolidating my understanding of Spanish grammar rules. You can see how I’m progressing in my latest video. In the hostel I spent my time working for the school and studying. I fear this made me appear rather intense to my fellow travellers. One day a woman in her mid-30s strode over and told me she had met the perfect 36-year-old girlfriend for me. I politely declined, telling her I already had a girlfriend and I’m 28.
I still don’t know what surprised her more. It must be the beard.