A couple of days ago, Mikkel and I went on an exploration trip. Now that we have finally settled in our home, we decided it was time we start exploring some more of Panama, especially the little towns we pass between Pedasí and Las Tablas. Since Nelly, our housekeeper, would be cleaning our home that day, it would be a good day to not be underfoot, take Bella, and do go on a day trip to see some places nearby we haven’t seen before.
First we drove through Mariabé, this first town we come to from Pedasí. Quaint little Panamanian town with a town-square and church, as most of the towns have. We continued to drive out from there to the ocean, Playa Rincon. There was a road that followed the coastline both ways from the main road. There we discovered many open cabañas and small casitas lining the road, along with very few houses, some that seemed to be kept up and lived in possibly, some that seemed to be abandoned. I found out later that this beach is where people come for the day or a few days, camping out under the cabañas or living in the casitas. We then walked out to the beach and waded in the water while Bella romped around, jumping over the waves and rolling in the sand. The beach is her old stomping grounds and she loves running around free when she can; she was a beach rescue. Afterwards, we left and followed a road that was supposed to follow the coastline for awhile and then take us to El Purio across the highway. There was some construction going on, repaving and building ditches. We continued past the tractors, but when the road turned left, it was completely blocked by a large mound of dirt. Oh well, we turned around and returned to the highway. In the past, even in the United States, when we went on road trips, sometimes we would take roads we had not driven on before, but always believed that we could always turn around and go back if we couldn’t go any further or got lost. Today, unknown to us at the time, we would have to use this philosophy more than once.
Continuing on our journey, we took off for the next town of Purio. Again, it was very similar to Mariabé, but you must turn opposite from the highway, away from the ocean. Looking at our GPS map (WAZE seems to have the best up-to-date road map right now.), I saw that it showed a road from Purio to Lajamina, the next town we wanted to explore. So we took this road, thinking we would not have to go back to Carreta Nacional, the main highway. We drove through the countryside, discovering lots of fincas (ranches) and farms of sugar cane, corn, banana trees, and cows. We came upon a very small town, Buenos Aires; then just beyond, a river that had washed out the road to Lajamina. Mikkel decided not to venture through the river; if we had a larger 4-wheel drive such as a Toyota Helix truck, he would have crossed it. But we have a small Honda CRV; so he didn’t want to take a chance.
So we back-tracked through Buenos Aires and Purio to the highway, and then continued on to the turn-off to Lajamina in LaLaguna. Again we drove through the countryside and a few kilometers down the road, we came to Lajamina. We found this town to be a little larger than the others with some bigger homes. Looking again at the GPS, WAZE showed two road heading out of town, one Peritilla, and one to La Palma, both of which we wanted to see. So taking what I thought was the road to Peritilla, we continued on our adventure. The road was well-maintained and took us through more grassy rolling hills and fincas. But suddenly I looked at our GPS map and we were off the grid. It showed the road I thought we were following was parallel to us, but maybe a kilometer away. This has happened before, so I wasn’t to worried. I saw that we would eventually come to a road where we could turn right, and that would take us to Peritilla. So we continued on this road, but there was no road to turn right on, and now we were totally of grid. Thinking that eventually this would take us to La Palma, and wanting to see more of this beautiful countryside, we drove on. The road was no longer paved, but seemed to be well-used. Electricity poles and cables lined the road; occasionally we pass a few small homes and unnamed villages with about a half dozen or so homes. We started climbing and finally realized we were way up on top of the hills, stopping to look down over miles of very beautiful country. We drove through creeks crossing the road and passed more homes, coming to a few “Y’s” in the road, and deciding which way to go. Eventually I looked at the GPS map at a wider range and realized we had circled back around through the hills past Pedasí toward Los Asientos. Thinking that this off-the-grid road would finally get us there, we ventured on. When we went left at a “Y” in the road, we came to another “Y”. Seeing that electric poles were still alongside, we continued left, but this time it just circled back to where we came from. So then we took the road toward the right, only to find that it was a driveway to a couple of small homes. So back we went to the last “Y” and took the other way. This time the road started to get rougher and eventually overgrown by tall grass and weeds. That was it, no more; we were sort of lost. Mikkel would not go any further. We would just have to go back from where we came. So back we drove over the hills, through the creeks, returning to Lajamina and back to the main highway, then onto Las Tablas to buy some groceries and have a late lunch. Skipped the turn-offs to Paritilla and La Palma; we will have to explore them another time.
We actually enjoyed this adventure, even if we had to back-track a few times. Discovering new towns and different areas through the Azuero is interesting and fun. Some would say we are crazy driving through unknown territory where there is no phone signal to contact anyone if we had car trouble, etc. and where we don’t know what to expect. But in some ways, the more at home I feel living here in Panama, the safer I feel and less nervous about exploring. I feel comfortable knowing our way back if necessary. I never felt this way when we were just visiting Panama in February, 2012 and last January; in fact, I was nervous just driving on the main roads. Mikkel says he would never drive these country roads in the rental cars we had then anyway. But now we live here, and we want to see as much as we can when we are able. So even though we did not see everything we set out to see this day, and we had to turn around a few times, we had a great time and we will be exploring more in the future. God is watching out for us, although I don’t take for granted that something bad wouldn’t happen. But if we lived in fear, we would probably still be in Auburn, California trying to make ends meet, working two jobs each to pay the high mortgage on our condo. Who knows? Moving from the US to Panama is certainly not for the timid, less-adventurous and it is not for everyone. And it hasn’t always been perfect and gone well as expected. I think it has to do a lot with attitude. As I have written before, we have chosen to live outside our comfort zone, wherever God takes us. And for that, we are experiencing a new and exciting “Third Life” together here in Pedasí.
Playa Rincon-Bella Frolicking in the Ocean