On our fifth day in Panama, after spending the day visiting the locals with our neighbours, we sat around the patio table after dinner and planned our day trip for the following morning.
Erin pulls out a wrinkled clipping from a Panama travel magazine that she’d been saving for a year. “Hey, John, have you heard of this place? We’re going to try to find it tomorrow…” Erin passes the clipping titled, MACHO DE MONTE, across the table to John.
“No, but it looks awesome, mind if we join you? How does 8 am work?”
8 am rolls around and the six of us pile into the chilled 20-year old Suburban that’s still sandy from its recent trip to Zancudo, Costa Rica. The A/C is a welcome feeling that helps ease our sunburns. I slipped into the back with the spilled bag of peanuts from our earlier trip to feed the macaws.
Macho de Monte is near Volcán so we got to drive through the highlands region. John and Colleen have traveled this road to Volcán many times before and John is one of those guys that knows the area, all the cool spots and is happy to stop. They were originally going to purchase a home in the highlands area and John pointed out a few properties they considered. However, it gets cold up here…think 10-15 degrees, which is quite the drop from routine 30 down by the beach. With Colleen’s sensitivity to the cold, due to her suffering from two paralyzing strokes, the area just wasn’t a fit. “Besides,” John says, “I knew she wanted a beach house.” I can see Colleen smile in the side-view mirror.
After stopping at a few points along the way, including a rickety footbridge that inspires images of inspirational quotes about tough times or courage splattered over the image of a worn down bridge with green pastures on the other side.
The scenic drive through the hills leads us to a spot where Erin notices a large rock and on the right, just before we take a sharp turn up towards a big hill. The large sign with a cow’s head and “Finca” is directly to the left of us. If you blink you’ll miss it. “I think we just passed it!” Sure enough, we get out of the ‘burban and the rock clearly has Macho de Monte written on it.
We get out of the car and all peer over the small bridge that looks down about 20-feet into the river canyon. Alright, we found it. Now how do we get down…
On a side note: I’m thinking to myself that this is all great, but what I can’t help but notice is the little palomino “caballo” tied to the fence at the farm. This entire trip all I’ve wanted to do was go riding.
Luckily a few locals were down in the canyon and pointed for us to go around to the left and follow the path along the river. From there we went down a gravel hill and scoot across the rocks to where the waterfall entrance is to the canyon. The locals were even so kind as to show us, not once, but twice, how to use “stairs” down into the canyon. Yes, quite literally, the river has perfectly carved out rock steps down beside the waterfall. Gringos, am I right?
Side note, again: my favourite memory is having them show us how to get down and then Brian proceeding to straddle the rock just before the steps and have a small panic attack because he thought he was stuck with no way out.
Anyway, it ended up not being as hard as we initially thought and really enjoyed being down in the canyon in the frigid water, which was huge relief to our sunburns. The pool of water you sink into as you as you descend is quite deep, even at this time of year.
Walking up and down the canyon, you’ll see foliage growing in the rock crevasses also with water seeping out of pinholes. After spending some time with the locals, one of who happened to be a firefighter, down in the canyon, Leigh, Erin and Brian continued to explore and discuss random firefighting stuff and invited the gang over to the beach house for dinner and to do the customary exchange of firefighting t-shirts.
I returned to the top to see how John and Colleen were doing. On my way back to the ‘burban, I felt an itch on my foot and looked down to see ants. The ants were all in a straight line following a warn path from a tree to an ant hill carrying large pieces of leaves. I thought this was the coolest thing so I grabbed my camera. “Colleen, I found the coolest ant hill, I’ll take some picture and show you…” It was quite the procession the ants had lined up to the tree.
After that excitement was over, saw that another fella had joined the two who were standing near the horse, he was obviously the owner due to his clothing. I sauntered over to the gate and they all greeted me. John and I talked to the owner for a little bit, John more so than I. After some confusion, John’s help and my attempts to turn French words into Spanish (Cheval-o? Hey it’s pretty close), I found out the horse’s name is Palomino, yes the colour, which is something different in Spanish. Somehow, I managed to ask if I can the horse, “si”, really? “Si”. Alright! So I hopped on, after the farm hand brought the horse to me, trying to look as professional as possible and reined the horse up the hill a little ways and then back down. It was somewhat odd, which is why I didn’t go too far, but still fun and now I can say I rode a horse in Panama. A little palomino named, Palomino.
The rest of the gang joined us back up top and we proceeded back up the hill for a scenic drive on our way back to the beach and we grabbed a $3.25 meal from a little open-air restaurant on the side of the road. We also stopped for shaved ice in town and grabbed pizza stuff for us and our new friends who were joining us that night. Another great day.