After checking out the price for app-ordered taxis to take me to Soberanía National Park, I decide to ask the hotel and then walk out into the street and hail a taxi. To my surprise, the driver asks less than what my app suggested, and when I ask him for half the price, he agrees. I get in, and we quickly engage in a lively discussion about girlfriends, children, corruption, traveling the world. My new friend has never left his country, yet shows an intelligent understanding of man. At the same time, he is very curious about other countries and continues to ask me questions. When we arrive at the start of the Camino de Plantación, I give him what I would have paid the app driver, put my backpack on, and hit the trail. It is already hot, and sweat starts running down my spine. I walk in a tunnel of trees where light trickles through thick vegetation above me. Wind does not have a chance to cool me off here.
At first, I hear the sound of traffic behind me, but soon enough, the outside noise is absorbed by the forest of Soberanía National Park, and I only hear the birds and animals. And, at times, big white flowers falling down the tall trees, landing with a plop next to me on the trail. I hear howler monkeys, but they are too far away to spot. I hear so many birds, but they are well hidden in the green roof above my head. The Plantation trail runs alongside a creek, and I am slowly gaining altitude. I start seeing butterflies, small and big, and even spot several agouti who seem to stand still for a couple of seconds, before they dash into the jungle. I am surprised to find markers indicating the distance. There is an open stretch where I find plantations (after which the trail is named) and spot several Blue morpho, among the most beautiful and biggest butterflies I have ever seen. My initial plan was to walk the entire length of the Plantation trail, turn right on the Camino de Cruces, and walk out to the main road. But I want to see more, and when I reach the intersection, I turn left on the Camino de Cruces. It will add another 12km to my total distance of the day.
Soon after the turn, I hear a lot of noise coming from the right, and it is then easy to spot a group of white-nosed coatis, who even stop for a few seconds so I can see them. The trail gets smaller, and is a little harder to walk: sometimes, it is covered by branches, and at other times, it has old cobble stones. In fact, this trail was originally constructed by the Spanish colonisers in the 16th century, in order to facilitate the transportation of gold through Panama. I now start to realize that the half litre of water I have taken, is not nearly enough for these hours in the tropical forest, and I take a few sips every hour. Trying not to kill ants on their highways on the forest floor, I reach the end of the trail, where I have a look at the Chagres river. I cannot find the ruins that are supposed to be here, so I turn back for the 10km hike to the main road. I still hear howler monkeys without seeing them, see more butterflies, beautiful flowers and leaves, before I finally reach the road where I wait for a bus to take me back to Panama. First thing I do is to drink lots of water to replenish all the sweat I have left behind on the trails of the Soberanía National Park trails.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Soberanía National Park (Panama). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Soberanía National Park. Read more about this site.