Monday, March 4, 2013

Panama City, Panama - Metropolitan National Park and Old Town Casco Viejo

So TexanTreks survived the adventure to Panama!  It was magnificent and aside from a rainforest chigger invasion the trip was a total success.  A few days in Panama City, followed by two days in El Valle de Anton, followed by a few days in Gamboa with a fabulous daytrip to Portobelo mixed in.  Tough to followup the wonderful Peru trip, but Panama held its own quite nicely.

The flights were not a problem at all getting to Panama.  Even navigated the horrid Miami airport as best as possible.  Easily my most hated airport in the world!  We landed in Panama City late night and took a taxi from the airport to our hotel.  Unfortunately it was dark and we were unable to see the wonders of Panama City until the next day.

Up early the next day and it was time to start the adventure.  The plan was to stay around the city opening day and check out Old Town (Casco Viejo) and hike a bit in the Metropolitan Nature Park.  The decision was to hike in the morning before the day heated up.  Good decision for sure.

The Metropolitan Nature Park was really nice.  It is only a few minutes from downtown Panama City and a cheap cab ride.  The park is quite large and it would be easy to spend a whole day back on the trails.  You completely forget you are in the city while you are up and down the trails. 

We took a cab to the visitor center and headed out on what was recommended as a 2-3 hour hike.  It was really nice.  Plenty of wildlife and rainforest foliage to observe.  Plenty of birds and great nature to look at.  The terrain is hilly, but not a difficult hike at all.

We found very interesting termite hives that were suspended in the trees.  The leafcutter ants were also hard at work carrying monster cuts of leaf that were many times their body size.

We made it up to the top where there was a lookout with a wonderful view back to the skyscrapers of Panama City.  Made for some great pictures.

Finishing the hike we grabbed a cab and headed for Old Town (Casco Viejo).  Another short cab ride.  Not easily accessible at all though.  Tons of traffic and easily the most “touristy” place we visited on our entire trip.  I’m not as much for the touristy stuff, much preferring to get out and about, but it wasn’t too bad.

Everything is under construction.  And I mean everything!  It seems the whole of Old Town is under renovation.  It will be wonderful when completed though.  A little bit of shopping.  A lot of walking and wondering what it must have been like back in the 1600 and 1700s!

We finished it off with a wonderful meal at a little Old Town restaurant named Diablicos.  The food was very good.  My fish seemed to smile at me with its sharp teeth!  A little daunting, but as good as any meal that I had in Panama.

The next day we were up early and heading along the coast on the PanAmerican Highway for El Valle de Anton.  El Valle is a small town situated inside an ancient volcano.  Surrounded by high mountains it is basically its own ecosystem with great hiking and beautiful waterfalls down the ancient volcano walls.


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