Hiking in Boquete, Panama…..are you ready??

Blog by: Debra Harwood

Hiking in Boquete, Panama with Casa de Montaña’s expert guide Israel

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We are pleased to have joined forces with Israel to offer our guests the opportunity to explore the nature around us with someone who has the training and knowledge to ensure you have a great experience.

A little bit about Israel.  He was born in David and raised here in Boquete.  He graduated from College with a degree in Science and Tourism.  Not only is he certified in first aid and is bi-lingual he also spent 3 months in 2015 in Japan taking an intense course on survival and rescue.  So you know you are in good hands while out on an adventure with Israel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xsgb_fANRuM

 

When we asked about the most challenging hike he has taken here he replied the “Camino Culebra” aka Snake Trail.   It is a 4 day hike over the continental divide which takes you to Bocas del Toro.  Don’t worry he understands not many people want to sign up for this hike!!

Taking a qualified guide like Israel to hike here is important as the trails split many times, some are just animal trails, and one may get disoriented and unsure if they are 2really on the trail they believed to be on.   It gets dark here around 6pm and even faster when under the canopy of the cloud forest.

People always ask Israel what kind of animals they may see on the trails here.  Well from small ants, bugs and frogs too many different species of birds to even possibly a panther or jaguar.  Again making it a good choice to take a guide along.  If you are out alone and it gets dark the jungle can become a very scary place.  You are unable to even see your hand in front of your face and the temperature drops many degrees. Chances of survival depends on you keeping  calm and remember if you are near a river or small stream follow the direction it is flowing and  it will eventually lead you to safety.  3

When scheduling a hike with Israel he will make sure you know what to bring as in a rain jacket, closed toe shoes, extra clothing in case you get wet but you can be confidant that he will have along all the necessary emergency supplies that may be needed.

He offers many different hikes for all levels of hikers ( put in link to all the trails here) so we are sure you will find one that suits you.   When booking more than 3 nights with us at Casa de Montana you will receive 15% off of the cost of hikes with Israel that you choose. ( scroll down in the link to Boquete Outdoor Encounters to see all the available hikes). http://www.casademontana.com/specials-savings/5

So come and stay with us at Casa de Montana and spend some quality time hiking and learning about the cloud forest, animals, birds and the Eco-system Boquete is so well known for.

What you may see, smell or hear in Boquete, Panama, that you most likely won’t anywhere else!

Blog by Terry Richmeier

So, I was sitting in the office today and heard the sound of hoofs clanging! I paid no attention as this is a normal and frequent ritual that happens in front of Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast. Then it occurred to me that this is NOT a normal daily occurrence in most people’s lives. So, I thought I would write about the different things you may encounter here in Boquete, Panama.

Now that I’ve heard the hoofs of the horse coming down the road, I jumped up and headed directly for the door to snap a photo. Darn it, too late!  I will have to be ready tomorrow and try again. Several days have passed before I could capture the horse and rider but here they are:

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In Boquete, Panama, horses are a way of life and owners seem to take great pride and care for their horses. It’s not unusual to see horses riding up and down in front of the bed & breakfast. Nor is it difficult to spot riders downtown either. In fact once a year, there is a horse parade of over three hundred horses and this takes place in downtown Boquete, Panama. And you can see little ponies every weekend for kids to ride.

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Another bit unusual item in Boquete neighborhoods is the sounds of Rooster’s starting their serenade all hours of the morning! Once you w4are here for a while, you become immune to the sound.  Many people in town raise roosters and hens in order to have food on their table. The roosters can be sold for $9.00 a rooster and the sounds can be heard from near and far throughout the valley!  Roosters are a source of income as well as a way to fertilize the hens and are a major part of the ambiance of Boquete!

Then there is the indigenous butterfly that has see-through wings. An amazing creature that is small in stature and is quite w5unusual.  An amazing snapshot to capture with your cell phone or camera! In order to see these butterflies, you may have to walk up a mountain or two but you will find it all to be worth it.

While you are out climbing the mountain, keep an eye out for the resplendent Quetzal and a sloth or two. There is also the Cotamundi  and a Howler Monkey that you may encounter. In fact the country of Panama is home to 218 mammal species, 226 species of reptile, 164 amphibian species and 125 animal species found nowhere else in the world. Panama also boasts 940 avian species, which is the largest number in Central America.
Read more: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/panama/wildlife/animals#ixzz45F9MnZX4

 

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Now, I want to tell you about the smells in the morning and afternoon here in Boquete and at Casa de Montana Bed & Breakfast. As the bed & breakfast is located just 6 houses away from the roasting plant of Café Ruiz, you will come across the smell of fresh roasted coffee w7twice a day. Once in the morning and once in the afternoon. I’ve been around a lot of people who tell me that they don’t like coffee but love the smell of coffee being roasted! It is an amazing smell and for myself, I find that I’m drooling from the smell of the roast. This makes me want to have another cup of the rich coffee that we serve for breakfast!

Another smell that we get here at Casa de Montana Bed & Breakfast is the smell of wood burning in the evenings around dinner time. Many people here in Boquete, Panama, do not have a stove or even electricity and so they start a bonfire and get to cooking up their dinners. The smell is never too strong but just a slight reminder of times of camping and sleeping out w8under the stars! I get nostalgic about days gone by of my childhood in Colorado.

We have never lived in a place (or even visited one) where there are huge rainbows on a daily basis! Boquete is one of those places. Usually the day starts out bright and sunny. Suddenly a light misty rain develops (called Bajareque by the locals) and it sweeps the whole valley. The rain is so soft and misty that one can walk out in it and not get wet! Shortly afterwards a rainbow (sometimes two!) starts to develop across the valley. Within half an hour there is a huge rainbow with beautiful vibrant colors visible across town from all different vantage points. I have taken dozens and dozens of photos of the rainbows over the years and I never get tired of them. Our guests find this phenomenon mesmerizing. One day my partner was driving along the Bajo Mono loop and saw that there was a rainbow very close to him. Before he knew it, HE WAS DRIVING THROUGH THE RAINBOW! This kind of stuff doesn’t happen every day. And no, in case you are wondering, he did not find a pot of gold!

 

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You will also hear many different sounds of birds that you don’t normally hear elsewhere. One of my favorites, and at first most confusing, is a bird that sounds like he is whistling at you because you are so gorgeous! You know that sound your loved ones makes when you dress up really nice and they are stunned at how nice you look?!  For me, at first, I thought someone was whistling at me. I would look out the bedroom door and window and wonder who the heck that is. Not seeing anyone. It took me a couple of days before I knew that it was a bird!

Have you ever watched a couple of great big ox’s walk in front of your home with a farmer behind them taking them to the field to work? Or have a hen run across the road, jump your fence and end up walking right into your bedroom? Well, we have! And it’s a joyous thing to get these extra sights, smells and sounds along with the usual, daily, neighborhood children playing and people just stopping by to say hi!

We really look forward to you coming and staying with us at Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast to experience these extra sights, smells and sounds for yourselves!

 

 

105 years of Boquete, Panama: An Incredible Anniversary Celebration!

Blog by Maria Isabel Zapata

Having lived only two months and a half here in Boquete, it was a joy for us to be at the celebration of the 105 years foundation of the district of Boquete.medellin

When I found out there was going to be a horse parade I got really exited! I grew up in Medellin Colombia, and we also have a horse parade there every year  for  “ La feria de las Flores”.( I think I will have to talk about that in another blog. ) So obviously I love horses and I love parades, it’s a tradition for me, and since we don’t live in Medellin, it was wonderful for me to be able to show  my kids a little bit of my traditions in another country!

 

First I would like to share with you about the foundation of Boquete!  In Spanish, the word Boquete means ‘gap or opening’. It was through this gap that curious gold seekers trekked, looking for a cheaper and quicker way to the Pacific. Farmers began settling in the region near the end of the nineteenth Century. By the early twentieth century, several villages had been populated: Lino, Quiel, Bajo Mono, Los Naranjos, and Bajo Boquete, which now is the town center of the district.

boquete viejo

Boquete was founded on April 11, 1911. Initially, the head of the district was Lino, but it was moved soon after to Bajo Boquete. For many years, the district had three “corregimientos” (townships): Bajo Boquete, Caldera, and Palmira. In 1998, the “corregimientos” of Alto Boquete, Jaramillo, and Los Naranjos were created.

The creation of the District of Boquete was decreed by the Law 20, dated January 17, 1911. This law was sanctioned by Pablo Grosemena, then President of Panama. The first municipal authorities settled on April 11, 1911 and their names were:

  • Felipe Gonzales (Mayor)
  • Maximo Santamaria (Magistrate)
  • Camilo Castillo ( President of the Council)
  • Domingo Turner ( Secretary)
  • Paulino Ruiz (Treasurer)

In addition to tourism, Boquete’s main industry remains agriculture, especially the growing of coffee beans. Boquete is well known for its coffee, judged to be among the finest in the world, which I love too, I mean, do you know any Colombian who doesn’t love coffee?!

So now, on April 11, 2016 we celebrated the foundation of this beautiful town.

reina abanderarotraje de fantasia

The celebration lasted for three days, starting on Friday with the election of the beauty queen, where the girls showed to the public beautiful fantasy dresses. The election of “el abanderado” and a wonderful folklore dance where the women were dressed with “la pollerapollera”. La pollera is the costume typical of Panama. It consists of a long skirt, sometimes with a colorful and beautiful embroidery that pairs with a blouse of the same color as the skirt, “las peinetas” which is a golden hair accessory and “tembleques” which were originally made of fish scales and pearls.

 

 

On Saturday morning the little kids in town had a lot of fun with a “cabalgata’ on their own with toy horses. It was both really cute and funny to see them walking on their little toy horses.  They also had games and “pinta caritas” (girls painting the kids faces) for them.

cabalgata niños

And so it was time for the big cabalgata! I was so excited and also worried I wasn’t going to make it to the cabalgata in time to watch it. All the signs said they would start at 1 pm. It was getting closer to 3 pm and I was still at home trying to make all my family to jump in the car and get going. Try to do that with two babies and two dogs!

When we got there I saw all the horses near their trunks and I thought I had missed it. My husband kept telling me that the parade wasn’t going to be at 1 pm and I didn’t want to believe him – I really am a kid when it comes to horses!IMG_2712

So we walked around town and we saw these little cute ponies and my son immediately fell in love with it and wanted to ride it. Oh it’s times like these I wish I was a kid too so I could ride it as well!  He was so happy he could ride the pony that I am pretty sure he wanted to take the pony home with us (I kind of did too!)

 

There were so many things at the fair, from food, drinks, popcorn and “raspao” which is a traditional treat. It’s a cold beverage made out of ice, liquid flavor and condensed milk, not so healthy but so good for those hot days! We stopped and had some at the kiosk of a very nice gentleman who gave me extra condensed milk because I took a picture of him.  IMG_2717 IMG_2715

 

The people started to gather on the sides of the streets and got ready to see the horses pass by.  I heard some familiar music that made me think about my dad and I started looking toward where it was coming from. I saw this guy playing an Andean flute, so off course it was familiar to me – my dad loves that music and I grew up with it.

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As I listened the music, in the background the horses started to appear and I was starting to get excited! The parade started with the “abanderado” or representative of the celebration, followed by the rest of the horses and some cars with music bands. God were they pretty!

IMG_2765 cabalgata

 

The horses looked so healthy, beautiful and the riders looked so proud!  I would be very proud too! I specially loved the paso fino horses since some of them were even dancing to the music and they looked so gorgeous.  I was so amazed by the fact that several kids were riding their own big horses like a professional!

The parade lasted for three hours and it was so worth watching! Every time they passed by they would be doing something different, between dancing to the music or showing their beautiful pasos finos.  I was so in love. One of the horses lost a shoe in the middle of the street and so my husband insisted on taking the shoe. So I took the shoe and brought it home with me, it was a memento for me. My husband says it brings good luck.  I just hope it would bring a horse too!

 

What I really loved about the fair is that they did a great job in including everyone in the family to enjoy the celebration. There was dancing and traditional music presentations, the kids parade, the big horse parade and they even had a disco!  On Sunday they had a special morning for the furry members of the house. They had a dog and cat parade, custom competition and a lot of games. My two little furry babies were so happy to make new friends!

IMG_2684 pets day

It was time to celebrate and give thanks to God for the foundation of the town. The people of Boquete attended a thanksgiving mass where they prayed for Boquete and celebrated the anniversary.

church day

The experience of the fair was really magical for me and my family. We could see how proud the Boqueteños are of their culture and even the expats looked proud.  It made me proud too of belonging here now. I just wish there would be more fairs like this one!

Come and stay with us at Casa de Montaña Bed and Breakfast and enjoy the beauty of Boquete – our people, horses, coffee, flowers and birds!

 

Bird species of Panama – Boquete seems to have all 978 of them!

Blog by Manzar Lari

The picture below is taken in the back of Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast!

1We live in such an amazing part of the world! One of the most important things that makes this small Central American country of Panama truly amazing is the incredible varieties of birds – big, small and colorful, we have them all!

Recently, we had some guests stay with us at Casa de Montaña who came especially to check out the birds in this area. Allan (our guest) had a camera that had lenses that spanned about two feet in length! I had never seen anything like that before. You could tell by talking to him that he was a real bird enthusiast and he already had a lot of knowledge about several of the bird species of Panama and Costa Rica. Allan informed me one morning that there were probably more species of birds around the back part of our home, by the breakfast terrace, than any other place around Boquete! I was surprised to hear that. As a bird enthusiast I am sure he is much more keenly aware of the surroundings and I am sure the zoom lenses on his camera really help him spot and identify these birds. I offered to have him borrow our book on “Birds of Mexico and Central America”, which he finally did on their last day at our Bed & Breakfast. He probably didn’t even need to borrow the book and did so just to make me happy?!

2Allan promised to send us some of the photos of the birds once he returned home to International Falls, Minnesota, USA. He did exactly that today. I am truly blown away by the images of these beautiful and majestic birds of Boquete area. As I am writing this blog, one of these amazing birds is tapping on the office window. It has been doing that for a while today. Wondering if it is looking for a job as an office assistant?! By the way, we are still looking to replace our former employee Andres who worked for us for almost two years. We think we have found the right person but she is moving to Boquete from Panama City, hopefully soon! But I digress! Back to the topic at hand – birds!

So what do some of these birds look like? Check out the following link from a blog written by blogger Jim O’Donnell who is also an amazing photographer:

http://www.aroundtheworldineightyyears.com/birds-of-panama/

As Jim writes, “Panama is literally the bridge between North and South America. That puts it in a very special place being THE meeting point of species from both continents. Not to mention the Caribbean and the Pacific ecosystem.”

Here are some more photos that Allan shared with us of birds he captured through the lenses:

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6Each day at Casa de Montaña is a brand new day of appreciating our 7surroundings and learning things we never learned before. Bird watching as a hobby has been around for centuries but it is totally new to us. We appreciate what knowledge, experience and passion each of our guests brings to the Bed & Breakfast and we are open to embracing it all! What is your passion? Are you ready to come down and tell us your story? We would love to host you this year. Now I better go and “study” the birding book before Allan comes back to visit again!

 

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