Chiriqui Eldorado, Panama
Des forêts luxuriantes de Boquete jusqu'au toit du Panama, prenez de la hauteur avec Baptiste Picard-Deyme.
An authentic yellow bus, similar as those you can find all over the country, is waiting for us on the main place, just a few steps from the Parque Domingo Medica. It is time for us to leave Boquete, its coffee plantations next to its lush and vast forests. Despite its imposing mass and the weight of the years on the clock, this clunker passes through the jungle with the agility of a feline.
If you hoped you’d visit the area, a few days off in the bag and a cup of coffee in the hand, you are wrong: this morning, I can’t feel my legs anymore. I’m not even able to climb the three steps separating the asphalt from the bus door. Recent days were all hikes and daily explorations, to the point where the surroundings of this small Northern town have no more secrets for us. From the waters of the Rio Caldera to the fresh Joguata water falls through the Baru volcano and its 3474 meters of altitude, we’ve been all the way down. Not to forget the highest point of the Talamanca mountains, also known as Panama’s rooftop, from where – after twelve long hours of walking, half at night – you can contemplate the sunrise from both over the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean.
If settlers initially came for gold, it turns out nowadays that revenues come from a completely different commodity. The region is world famous for its top range coffee. This arabica, grown for generations in the highlands of the Chiriqui province, is still riding the wave of success. Great coffee is to Boquete what pure champagne is to Reims, France. It is moreover consumed in jeroboams as well: on the other side of the planet, on the Asian market, where the geisha bag goes at indecent prices.
One thing is sure: if the sublime and fertile lands of Chiriqui are the coffee farmers’ paradise, they’re also one of the greatest place to visit as a traveler, backpacker or hiker in search of a fair dose of exploration and gravel path.