We spent the morning relaxing at home and then soon after lunch we drove first to a friend of Lyn’s who had made a Lemon Meringue Pie for us. The suburb which we visited used to be the area where many wealthy Chilean citizens used to live but many have moved to the city and use these as holiday homes. Gradually many retired Americans have moved in as well because, for them Panama is a very good place to move to as it offers retirees many special discounts and has great weather, especially for those who come from the Northern States.
Entrance to the estate directly from the main hishway
A fruit stall on the highway
After having a look around the area which had lovely homes but very poor roads, Lyn told us that the whole area belonged to one man. The system is that it is the owner’s responsibility to maintain the roads but he does that using the levies that the individual home-owners are expected to pay. If they don’t all pay the roads are left. We then took a drive around of the town of Coronado. The town is divided by the Interamericana, the only highway in the country. The shops and malls, as well as homes, line the highway.Heavy vehicles travel up and down the highway 24/7 making it very noisy at night. At various places there is what is known as a Returno, a gap where a car can cross over, drive through a road on the other side to be facing the correct way to join the traffic. We have a couple of similar opportunities in Durban but not to the extent that we saw in this small town.
Coronado Mall where church is situated (see 2nd sign from right)
The next morning we drove inland to the town of El Valle (pronounced El Vahay). It is settled in the middle of a crater of a now extinct volcano and to get there was a beautiful drive of about 45 mins. The road was narrow and, the further we went, it became more and more winding. Around lamp posts on the sharpest corners were yellow steel protective barriers. It was while driving along that we learnt some things about Panama and its people.
The road to El Valle
Protected lamp post
Houses were mostly very simple, single storeyed with, what I described them as, half A-frame roofs. Most of them were painted in bright colours of yellow, orange, blue and green. A village did not necessarily mean a group of homes close together but it seemed as if one built a house wherever one chose to do so. Almost every home had a vegetable garden.
A Panamanian Orange house. This was the design of most homes
An upgraded pink house
As the majority of the people worked in a town such as Coronado and few had cars they rely on public transport. There are 2 types of buses from which to choose – a white minibus which is considered the safer of the two; The other is a bus usually brightly coloured with flowing tassels and often including flashing lights. These travelled at high speed and were not usually well maintained. As it is generally safe in Panama, people waited alone at bus stops, sometimes for up to an hour.
We passed 3 or 4 schools and noticed that they were all painted white and blue with the blue at the bottom. We learnt later that ALL public buildings were painted like this. We didn’t see any children about on the way to El Valle but they were all over on our return as school was clearly finished for the day.
We also passed a number of Fondas. These were home-based restaurants where the owner would cook a certain amount of different meals and sell at very reasonable prices. As one of the dishes sold out it was simply deleted from the menu for that day. We even passed one called Fonda Vicky!
Outside Fonda Vicky
On the way up we stopped at a view site from which one could see a mountain with an outline which resembled a sleeping Indian girl known by locals as “La India Dormida”. Even though it was a bit hazy the view was spectacular. There was a high pillar with a sculpted golden frog on the top. This frog was found in the forests of the mountains on this side of Panama but actually be extinct now.
Sitting at the base of the pillar with the Green Frog
Very hazy but one can just make out the shape of the Sleeping Indian
Just getting to El Valle was an interesting journey so in my next blog I shall tell you about our visit to the town itself.