Having not made it to the beach as planned the day before, we drove on the last few hours that morning to arrive at Guanico in the early afternoon. The restaurant were incredibly welcoming, letting us park in their parking lot on the beach for free and offering us water, wifi and showers. Guanico is a popular surf spot and at the end of the afternoon the carpark filled up with surfboards of all sizes. The waves were pretty big and we sat watching them, through a torrential downpour. Luckily we had just bought a new tarpaulin, rainy season was on us again.
We now only had a few days left before we needed to be in Panama City. The container loading day had been moved one day forward and there was a lot of things that we needed to sort before we left the country. My birthday was also rapidly approaching and my only requirement was that I didn’t spend it all driving. With this in mind, we left Guanico the next day after a failed surfing attempt where I spent more time under the water than on it. As I coughed up half the sea, Lee got talking to the other lone surfer. They were from Switzerland and had bought a piece of beach front land where they were currently living in their camper. They planned to sell the van and build a house there in the future. With the friendly locals and the lone hostel, this place is relatively untouched by tourism. Having a beautiful surfable beach on your doorstep and access to a freshwater river just behind, I could see why they had chosen this spot.
We wished we had got more time to spend here too, but if we wanted to visit Anton Valley, we needed to leave. We spent one night at Playa Venao to break up what would have been a very long drive. Even so, it was around 5 hours the following day to reach the mountains. This was somewhat drawn out by the repeated problem with our gearstick falling out of place. As I put the gearstick back for the millionth time, Lizzie made a bid for freedom and Lee fell down a hill in her pursuit. It was going well.
At least despite the annoying gearstick, Ruby was driving well. It was pleasant to turn the engine on in the morning and not be greeted by a cloud of blue smoke. I also enjoyed not having to put a litre of oil in it on a daily basis. The new fans were definitely pulling their weight as we cruised into Anton Valle that afternoon.
Our friend from Boquete, had another VW enthusiast friend here who ran a hostel. We hoped we might get lucky and get a free night if we turned up in the van. It turned out that he was currently off in Costa Rica, buying his own camper and the guy currently in charge wanted $16 a night. That’s too expensive for us, but when he gave us a night free as it was my birthday the next day, we couldn’t complain. It was a pleasant place to camp, in a large garden with good access to the town and surrounding hikes.
They even had a pool table. The were a few reviews of the place mentioning that this is not a quiet hostel and that they play music all day, every day until 10pm. The fact that they continued to play music well past midnight might have irritated me, but it was drowned out by the incredibly loud screaming sermon that the church behind us delivered until around 4am. I have no idea why it had to be; a) so loud b) so late or c) so incredibly angry, but we had little chance of sleeping though it.
This meant I awoke rather grumpy on my birthday from very little sleep. My mood then worsened as I realised that we had managed to drive off and leave four pairs of our shoes on the beach at Guanico. I had put them under the van to dry out, still sodden from our Santa Fe hike, and had forgotten about it. After some searching, I found the restaurant on instagram and got a WhatsApp number. I messaged them and asked them if they found our shoes. This was only the first part, as even if they had them we needed to be in Panama City tomorrow, with no time to return to Guanico, a 5 hour drive back. Anyway, they replied they hadn’t got them. I thanked them anyway, stupid of me to leave them under the van like that. Then the replied again, actually they had found them. Still on the beach where we had been parked. Happily for us the lady I was messaging was coming to Panama City in two days, she agreed to bring them with her. Now that was sorted and I’d had some coffee, I enjoyed my birthday buck fizz rather more. Lee made some fancy smoked salmon and scrambled egg brunch, and we got ready to go for a nice hike.
It’s a ten minute stroll through the town to access the trail named La India Dormida. Vendors line the path, all adamant that our hike would be far more enjoyable if we did it while carry one of their large potted plants or a ceramic bowl.
It was pretty busy being a Sunday. We climbed steadily up through the trees, stopping occasionally to admire the waterfalls we walked besides. After a little while we emerged on the ridge at the top and were rewarded with a fantastic view of the valley. We enjoyed it for a few minutes before it became enveloped in cloud, never to be seen again. We quickly flew Steve before the rain came, as ever we had horrible timing. We should know by know that in rainy season you have to do things in the morning. As we walked along the ridge, the heavens opened.
The rest of our hike we slid along the hillside in the fog, the path now a decent sized river. Fortunately it wasn’t cold, even when soaked to the skin. We slopped our way back down to the beginning and realised that if we had started the hike this side, it would also have been free rather than the other entrance where we had needed to pay.
Back at the hostel, we jumped into the cold shower, wishing it was a heated one, before getting changed. Lee went away to the kitchen to cook birthday things emerging several hours later with a rather fantastic lemon, thyme and courgette cake. We drank fancy champagne (not the cheapest bottle in the supermarket), ate a lovely dinner and rounded it off with cake. Despite a soggy afternoon, it was an infinitely better birthday than the one I had had last year, broken down in San Cristobal. It would have been perfect to have finished with a good nights sleep, but that was just not meant to be here as the church got back into the swing of things for the second night. Tomorrow, we would head to our final destination, the famous Panama city, after what had felt like a whistestop tour of Panama.