Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Day 13: Boquete Back to Panama City

Ok, I am sad. It's hard to say goodbye to such a serene and lovely place. For the past four days, it has felt like we have been living at the home of a long lost friend. We have been welcomed with open arms and much generosity here at Manana Madera Coffee Estate. For anyone who would like an exquisite and relaxing experience, I would highly recommend this little slice of heaven.
I just can't resist a comfortable hammock...this time in the Ranchito.

Yesterday we took a little day trip over to Los Lojas Beach on the Pacific side....6 miles of unspoiled beach. Since it was a Monday, we were the only ones there, free to pick up beautiful shells and enjoy the low tide where we could walk out 1/4 mile before putting our feet in the water.
Today we fly back to Panama City for one last night there before our return home.
This is the sunset we experienced last night...a beautiful sendoff. They call it "Pinky"....

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Day 10: Made In The Shade

Boquete is coffee country, but as you look around and scan the hillsides, all you see are shady trees, particularly oranges. If it is a coffee farm, you'll see tall shrubs below and around the trees...coffee.
Here is Randy and Jamies house, surrounded by lush fruit trees (banana, orange, lemon, avocado) and tons of coffee...
We got a first hand tour and education today from Randy about the whole process from growing to bagging. The coffee here is Arabica and Randy has a blend of four types. He harvests from November to February, and he only picks them when they turn purple.

They are then sun-dried and he stores them in large burlap bags for up to 7 months. At different stages, he takes them out, puts them thru a separater, then roasts them. The formula he uses for roasting is an exact science, making all the difference in a great or not-so-great coffee. He receives this formula from professional "cuppers", who he pays every year to come out and rate the coffee.
Here's Randy happily explaining his passion...
As true coffee connoisseurs in Boquete will point out, dark roasts are often used to mask low-quatity coffee. Gourmet coffees tend to get a lighter roast, allowing as they say here is Boquete, to "taste the coffee, not the roast".

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Day 9: Bocas del Toro to Boquete

After leaving Isla Popa, we spent one night on Bocas del Toro so we could get an early start the next morning to our next destination...Boquete.
Here is our goodbye to Bocas:
And Hello to Boquete...known as the city of eternal spring, this gorgeous highland destination enjoys an enviably scenic location on the eastern flank of Volcan Baru, Panama's only volcano, long extinct. Roads lined with every imaginable flowering shrub hearld a world of exquisite beauty. Coffee estates abound due to the high elevation and perfect year round climate temperatures of 68 to 78 degrees. We are spending our time here at the Manana Madera Coffee Estate, where they grow and process a small specialty reserve coffee...one of the most delicious coffees I've tasted yet.
It is owned by a wonderful American couple, Randy & Jamie, who said goodbye to the corporate life in Texas four years ago, moved here, bought this gorgeous piece of heaven, built their home for $28.00 per square foot and became coffee farmers. Part of their house includes this guest house where we are staying for 4 nights. It has its own entrance, a luxurious bedroom, bath and living/dining area with all the amenities and an incredible view of their property. This is our view as we dine each morning on chef Randy's fabulous breakfast....

....And we are always in the company of the ever present "Chubs" their sad-eyed, very large pup.
They also have a beautiful "Ranchita" where we can sit and enjoy sunrises and the view.
It has been cloudy and drizzling rain, but where else can you be at 5000 feet, with rain forest, tropical flowers, pine trees and a minimum temp of 68 degrees!!
Tomorrow Randy is going to give us a start-to-finish tour of the whole plantation and process, so that will be my next blog.
See you then....

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Day 7: Still here on Isla Popa

It’s Wednesday and we’re still on the Island of Popa…..R&R has never been better! We are finally sharing this paradise with other guests and have been hanging out with a couple gals from San Diego and a family from Zurich, Switzerland.
Yesterday we took the boat with our new friends over to the Island of Zapatilla loaded with a picnic lunch, snorkels and beach chairs. It was a beautiful day spent with good company.
We will be here until Friday morning, at which time we head for the town of Boquete, which is Panama’s best coffee growing region. See you there…..

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Lobster Tacos

Need I say more?
Without a doubt, these are by far one of the best things I have ever eaten! They catch the lobster fresh each day and this has been our lunch the past two days. I'm truly in food heaven....sigh

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Day 4 and 5: Popa Paradise Beach

After arriving on the Island of Bocas del Toro, we had a nice breakfast at the Popa's sister hotel on Bocas while awaiting our water transit over to Popa. There are many little islands in this area and we chose Popa for its beauty, solitude and natural preserve. We were not disappointed.
The first thing I did was take a nap in the most inviting and comfortable hammock ever (we had to get up at 4:00 AM for our early morning flight over).
This place is remote and beautiful, and as it turns out, we are currently the only guests. They are expecting more in a couple days but in the meantime, they feed us when we want and what we want...the ultimate relaxation.
It is a bit overcast with possible rain coming. Panama does not have four seasons as we know them. They have only a wet season and a dry season. Otherwise the temperature stays constant pretty much all year. It is currently the rainy season. They have not seen rain however in two weeks so will welcome it any day.
Our bungalow is lovely and private, where we can see and not be seen. It has a beautiful view of the beach and ocean from the lanai out the back.
In the middle of the night, the rains did come...thunder and lightening like I've never seen. In the morning it was still raining, but not hot or humid, which was nice. We ate breakfast outside on the patio, just us.
Time to sign off for the day and do some exploring...till next time.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Day 3: Panama Canal Cruise

The Panama Canal, nearing its 100th year anniversary was quite something to experience. We cruised aboard the "Pacific Queen" and had the unique opportunity to see the Canal up close in operation. We transitted with the big ships and experienced the process up close and personal.
There are three locks and we experienced two of them. This is the Miraflores Lock where our vessel was raised 18 meters in two distinct steps.

There are two chambers for each set of locks (Northbound and Southbound). As we approach the first lock you can see the other chamber to the right.
Each time the chamber fills, it uses 26 million gallons of fresh lake water. We were in the chamber by ourselves, but they often try to double up if possible to conserve water. When a big container ship goes through, there is only two feet to spare all around.
These next two pictures show how the water has risen-it only takes 8 minutes-and the gates are now opening. We then travel across the large Lake Milaflores to the next set of locks, the Pedro Miguel Locks (on the Pacific side), which raise us again to the level of the next Lake-Lake Gatun.
After traveling through this lake, we enter the Gaillard Cut, which was carved throuth the Continental Divide. This is where our trip ends.
We passed many other ships on their way through. If we were to have continued, there would be one more set of locks which would then lower us back down to sea level on the other side.
Since this was built nearly 100 years ago, it is unable to accomodate today's supertankers, so they are currently working on the 6 billion dollar expansion project, which will be done in 2114.
This was amazing!!
Tomorrow, an early morning flight will land us on the Island of Bocas del Toro and then we'll ferry over to the Isla Popa. It's now R&R time on the Carribean side tropical islands of Panama (where several International Survivor shows have taken place). Stay tuned....

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Day 2: We made it...Now in Panama!!

After our red-eye flight out of LAX (left at 2:00 AM), we are now in Panama City. We are staying at the Country Inn Suites right on the Isthumus to the Panama Canal. A steady stream of container and cruise ships travel thru going North and South. This is a picture from the balcony of our room.
In the distance is the "Bridge of the Americas" which is the Pan American highway that connects all of the Americas-North, South and Central.
The weather here is a "pleasant" 86 degrees with about 70-80% humidity....ouch, I think I miss my dry heat back home!

Today we visited the Old Panama City "Casco Viejo" , which was the heart of the city during the first decades of the 20th century. Declared a World Heritage Site in 1997, it is a city within the city and great for a walking tour.
That's me with my new Panama hat...can't go home without one when you come to Panama.
Ok, so tomorrow we take a one day cruise of the canal and locks....should be beautiful and interesting. See you afterward!
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