November 14, 2007

Today was our long bus journey to El Valle de Anton. So we got up quite early and went out for breakfast at a place quite close by called Punto del Encuentro. We had looked for it before, but had not seen it because we had looked on the wrong side of the street. What a delightful little café! It was set in a lovely garden beside the owner’s house, with birds flitting in and out. Both of us had French toast and orange juice, Paul had coffee and Rosemary had tea.

Shortly after we were seated an American couple who we had met in the David airport arrived. They were in the process of buying and developing property in the area. After finishing our meal we chatted briefly with them, then headed out. Back at the pension, we finished packing and went to check out. The owner told us that the bus to David went right there, and we didn’t have to go up to the bus station. So we stood at the end of the driveway to wait for it. Within about 5 minutes along came the old yellow school bus and off we went to David.

It was the kind of bus we think of as a school bus, and indeed it had a plaque above the door identifying it as a “Canadian Blue Bird”. However it had been fitted with an intimidating truck horn. We trundled down to David, dropping off and picking up people as we went, and arrived there after about an hour. At one end of the bus terminal stood the big David-Panama bus. Before buying our tickets we found a place to buy bottled water and some pastries.

We didn’t have to wait for too long before our bus left, right on schedule at 10 am. As it rolled out onto the Pan-American Highway, there was a man in the aisle selling gold-coloured jewellery and such, but he got off at the first stop after a few minutes. Our trip lasted about five and a half hours. The scenery was quite interesting along the route, passing by farms and through small towns. There were also a number of huts along the way where the poorest people lived, similar to huts we had seen in Africa. The conductor played DVD movies for us. One was a Mexican shoot-em-up where (for example) four men with automatic weapons shoot at the hero and miss, then the hero shoots at them with a handgun and doesn’t miss. The other was a horror movie which, we found from the credits, had been filmed in Saskatchewan.

We made a half-hour lunch stop in Santiago de Veraguas, then when we got close to the El Valle intersection, Paul went and spoke to the conductor to ensure the bus would stop and let us off. Once off, we crossed the highway on the pedestrian walkway and waited for the El Valle bus. The first one arrived very quickly but it was too full, so we waited for the next one. Shortly we were boarding a 20-seater minibus on the way to El Valle which was full but not quite as full as the first one. The journey took about an hour, picking up and dropping off local workers and school children through some beautiful houses and estates, and about 4:30 pm it dropped us right in the town centre.

Immediately across the street were the two places we had considered staying in, right next to each other. We chose Residencial El Valle for no particular reason and went in to find a room. We were shown Room 114 and it looked good enough, so we stowed our packs there and went downstairs to sign the register. Most of the first floor was a large gift shop, and who did we find there but Charlie from Eastend, buying things for his granddaughter! The GAP group was staying directly next door at Don Pepé’s.

The lady at the reception gave us a map, so we headed out to explore the town. We walked one way in town, then when we had our bearings, turned around and retraced our steps. Finally we ended up at El Nispero, where there are said to be golden frogs. By this time of course the zoo was closed; we heard some frogs but they could have been anything. But there was a variety of interesting birds along the road.

Back in town it was starting to get dark, and the mountain called La India Dormida was prettily silhouetted against some clouds. We had a brief look at the handicraft market, then went out for dinner. We chose Restaurant Santa Librada, which was just down the road. Once again we both chose a chicken dish, Rosemary’s pollo a la plancha (grilled) and Paul’s pollo aijillo (in garlic sauce). Both were very large servings, and we both decided to have chocolate sundaes for dessert, which made us very full.

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