Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Because it’s There...

[Kyle]Actually, that is not technically my reason for climbing a hill. My reason is to see what it looks like from up there.

With only the vaguest rumor that there was a path somewhere that led to the top of at least one of the several peaks on Taboga, we struck out to find it and see for ourselves.

Taboga is swamped by the residents of Panama City at the weekends, but we were hoping for a little more peace during the week - climbing a hill meant we had the place to our selves, I suspect ANY day!

Of course, by the time the expedition was all loaded with water and provisions and loaded into the dinghy for the trip ashore, the sun was getting pretty high in the sky. As soon as we left the beach and stepped into the windbreak of the island’s tiny roads, sheltered by buildings and trees on either side, the airless heat became instantly oppressive. The town was very pretty, though so we didn’t mind having a look around too much. The Catholic Church on the island is supposed to be the second oldest in the New World, dating from 1542, but we were unable to go inside and have a look.

After a couple of false leads, we finally found a map of the island in the unoccupied lobby of one of the island’s hotels. It directed us out of town onto a road with no shade that gradually started climbing along a line of telephone poles that were headed toward the summit. The effort of lifting our weight up the hill in the tropical sun quickly turned a nice stroll on a warm day into an almost unbearable, sweaty slog. Every time we rounded a corner and saw more unrelenting hill waiting for us, we would groan, put our heads down and keep climbing. Every time we had a chance to walk through ten feet of shade or a breeze would make it down to us, it would briefly feel as if we were a hundred pounds lighter.

Oh yes, the top, we were there for the views I recall...

When we finally made it to the viewpoint at the top, we were staggering like shipwreck victims in the movies. The viewpoint was part WWII lookout post, part abandoned radio tower foundation. We could see Begonia and all of the other boats anchored below. Even the big ships looked like bathtub toys. We could see the anchorage at a Playita with The skyline of Panamá City behind. In the distance were the mountains of the Continental Divide, separating East from West.

Closer examination revealed that we were about ten feet below the highest point on the island, which lay a short walk away at the adjacent VOR station (a type of aviation navigation aid). We made our way over there and found 360° views of the Gulf Of Panamá. We interrupted a group of about fifty vultures that must have been waiting for two exhausted sailors to show up.

We disturbed an awful lot of these fellas as we approached the VOR

So that’s what it looks like from up here. With no more up left, we started heading back down. What a different character down has vs. up. We were suddenly back to having a pleasant stroll, albeit a warm one. Maryanne found a trail that looked a little more worn than a lot of the Leaf Cutter ant highways we had seen earlier. We followed it and descended into a pleasant, shady jungle. Vines draped off all of the trees and all of the tropical plants we pay a fortune for in the U.S. were just growing everywhere. Philodendrons carpeted the jungle floor.

In short order, we found ourselves on the town’s narrow roads surrounded by dogs and chickens. We found a restaurant on the beach where we were able to stuff ourselves complete with two ice-cold beers each for $15.

A jungle trail led us back down to the water - and more Catholic shrines

The very minute we got back to Begonia, I was in for a refreshing swim that almost instantly removed all of the excess heat I had been carrying around all day. Time for a siesta, some food from the resident chef and sundowners with the pelicans.

1 comment:

kate rodenhouse said...

It just wouldn't be complete without that trek to the top, which suddenly seems worth it - especially on the walk down when you suddenly have enough breath left over to talk about it! Beautiful views, guys.