We arrived safe at Mount Totuma and have now spend just over a week here. We flew to Panama City via Madrid and spend our first night in a balmy Panama City for an early morning flight to Davíd. There, meet by Mr Dilvio we started our two hour car journey up to mount Totuma. We stopped in Volcan for supplies and not knowing when we would be able to come back down again we bought most of the store. Except alcohol, that is… At check out we were advised that there is a rule in Panama saying you can’t buy alcohol until after 12:30. We had filled a trolley with beer and wine and rum (who knew how much our guest would want to drink)?! and had to unload it all since it was merely ten in the morning…
-No te preocupes, said Mr Dilvio. He took us to the Chinese supermarket where they weren’t so diligent about rules. The variety was limited (a $5 or $9 bottle of wine) but never the less we had alcohol and they even let me buy a large bottle of rum.
After stocking up in Volcán, the journey continued up a bumpy, steep dirt track for another hour before we finally arrived at mount Totuma. It looked just the same as last time I was here; peaceful pristine forests with clouds moving in from down below the valley. The clouds roll gently towards you until you are enveloped in mist and cloud, feel the wetness on your skin and in your breath.
One of the things I had been looking forward to was to see the what edibles was growing in the vegetable garden and around the lodge. We found kale and cabbage, purple pease, fennel, lettuce, carrots, broccoli, spring onions, beets and herbs… We made a great find in arbol de tomate – a delicious tomatoe variety that tastes of passion fruit! We picked some naranjilla too, another tomato variety that tastes like a sour plum. The locals mix the pulp with sugar and water an drink it int he morning but I like to use it in salsas and salad dressings. This all made great base for our first lunch at the lodge.
We go for a treks most days. Nick climbed mount Totuma few days ago with our guide Reinaldo. They saw tapir tracks and could smell in the air that the Puma had recently been. So far we have seen coatis, monkeys and an oncilla on our walks.
A couple of days in we did a trek to a waterfall and the hot springs after lunch. It was a beautiful walk through the Mount Totuma coffee and oranjilla plantation following the river down hill through cow pastures, beautiful hill sides and ancient old trees. In the weekends the hot springs gather local people from around Volcán but it has been empty all three times I have been there. We all took our clothes off and slipped into the perfectly bath temperatured hot spring. On the walk back we saw a family of spider monkey in a tree and the most magical rainbow. At one point there were two rainbows, one above the other.
It’s challenging to home school 3 children, run a lodge and work at the same time. Home school starts at 8 each morning, weekends too. We do one hour of maths and one of English and one hour of home work or biology or self studies. We try to incorporate and learn about what’s found around us. By now we have all learned to recognise puma and tapir tracks although we have not seen the actual animals… Yet! We have studied orchids and bromeliads that grow in abundance here, we have learned about volcanoes and hot springs and all about giant butterflies and moths. On mount Totuma roams a puma and the next mountain roams a jaguar. We will go looking for him too…
A few days ago we ventured out to Rio Sereno, a border town to Costa Rica. I had been there before with my dad when we went by bus and crossed the border on foot. We made it down the dirt track and ten minutes on the road our hire car broke down. Me and the kids hauled down a bus to Rio Sereno whilst Nick waited 3 hours on the road for the tow truck and a new car replacement. Rio Sereno is a sleepy border town with two restaurants, a rickety hotel, a tiny bank and many supermarkets and tiny stalls selling Chinese imports. Me and the boys mooched around, had lunch and played football in the park until Nick came to pick us up.
Unfortunately the replacement car wasn’t a 4X4, we could get as far home as to the dirt track and there we had to park up the car by the mouth of the track, hope that it wouldn’t get stolen and start walking the 10k up the hill. In the rain. We estimated that it would take us at least 3 hours. It was going to get dark before we would get home. Never mind! There would be fire flies and it’s not like we haven’t walked in the rain and mud in the dark in foreign countries before! We walked for an hour before a car came.
-Hola! Por favor, pueden ayudarnos? Nuestro carro se rompió. Hablas Englés? Of course he did! It was the minister of agriculture of Panama, Jorge Arango! He took us to his house, gave us water and juice to drink and handed us the keys to one of his cars. -Here! Take this, just bring it back tomorrow. I won’t need it, I have a meeting with the president of Panama and the president of Costa Rica. Hasta luego! Que te vaya bien!
We couldn’t believe our luck! We invited Jorge and his wife over to the lodge for dinner but they haven’t taken us up on our offer yet. We’re still waiting patiently!
And that was nearly the end to our first week here! Yesterday our wonderful Eden-Beden-from-Sweden turned 8! Happy birthday little man! And there’s no update on my suitcase. I still walk around in the same clothes as I arrived to Panama in. Found a pair of wellies that I have made my jungle walking boots. Who needs fashion?! Now I’m off to prepare lunch for our new 5 guest arriving shortly! Nos vemos!