Panama and Colombia - Winter 2010 travel blog















I'm finishing up my second week of Spanish classes in Boquete.

So what do coffee and beach have in common? Nothing really, except that last week-end I spent an afternoon learning about coffee production and the other on a beach in the Golfo de Chiriqui. I'm hoping to post the pictures on Saturday.

The coffee tour was very educational as we went from the coffee plantation to the coffee shop via the processing plant and roasting facility, learning all the steps of coffee production along the way. There are 17 steps! They are, in order (I hope I can remember them all): picking (by hand), floating, squeezing the grains out of the outer envelope, fermenting, washing, pre-drying, drying, aging, removing one skin, removing another skin, sorting by size, sorting by shape, sorting by density, sorting by colour, roasting, grinding, adding water. Something like that anyway. Think about it next time you have a cup of coffee!

Panama is the smallest of the coffee producing countries but has won the most prices for its coffee. All the producers are independent. There are 1600 in Panama (did I get that right?) and 25 just in Boquete. The coffee company I did the tour with is called Casa Ruiz. Their coffee shop is exactly half way between the house where I am staying and the school. Funny, given that my favourite coffee shop in Toronto is also half way between my home and my work. Except in the first case it takes me 37 minutes to walk, and in the second only 3 minutes!

On Sunday I went on an excursion organized by the school to the Golfo de Chiriqui, on the Pacific side of Panama, just down from the mountains where Boquete is located. We left very early (6 am), got down to Boca Chica on the coast for breakfast 90 minutes later, and took a boat to an island called Bolaños. We spent about 4 hours on an isolated beach, backed by forest. There were no facilities on the island, and beside our small group, we only saw two other tourists. The water was bath warm. It was hot, it was humid and the beer didn't stay cold for more than 5 minutes after coming out of the ice box! I swam and chatted with this guy, Mike, who seems to have taken a liking to me. Too bad he isn't 20 years younger (he's 59 I think). After sitting under a tree for 2 hours, we realized that Mike had put his towel right beneath a branch where a little boa constrictor was sleeping. He almost had a heart attack! We also heard some howler monkeys. They sound like something out of Jurassic Park. Very eerie.

We took the boat back around 2:15 pm and had a late lunch back in Boca Chica. I had lobster for $10. Food is pretty cheap here in Panama. My lunch usually costs me between $2 and $4, including a fresh fruit juice.

The week has just flown by. I'll be staying in Boquete until Wednesday. From Friday night until Tuesday is Carnaval (a national holiday period) and I couldn't find a hostel, so the lady where I'm staying said I could stay with her for the extra 4 days. I'll finally have time to do some hiking and explore more of the local restaurants, gardens, and other sights.

Stay posted for the pictures coming up this week-end!

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