Cyprus to Panama – Anita’s Diary
Part 2 – Las Lajas
Introduction by Margaret Sheard….
Anita is continuing her wonderful reflections of a new life in a new country and this is the second chapter of what I will be calling Anita’s diary. I am following the experiences of Anita and Mal with great interest and for the people who knew the couple in the TRNC I am sure you will enjoy reading these accounts.
By Anita Green….
Our base for the two weeks was at a small B & B. There are no large hotels in this area. Residence Las Lajas, is owned and run by Paolo and Ramona. Paolo is Italian and Ramona is from Romania. They are a lovely couple who do everything they possibly can to make you welcome. Paolo speaks Italian and Spanish (he won’t admit it, but he also has a few words of English), Ramona speaks Romanian, Italian, Spanish and English. They arrived in Panama two years ago and built the property, which includes an Italian restaurant. They work exceptionally hard, and like in the TRNC, running a business as a foreigner is challenging.
The views in this area are breathtaking, especially the beach. Everything is very low key, small hotels and bars. Beachside there are a few small bars, Nelly’s is a surf bar with a few cabins to rent. Further down the beach is Las Lamas Playa hotel, small and with a Latin feel. We got day passes here and for just $7.50 each, you get to use the pool, sun loungers, bohos and even get towels. It has direct access to the beach and great views.
The beach at Las Lajas is one of the best I’ve ever seen. The journey through the village and down to the sea is through lush fields and countryside on a well made road. When you get to the junction at the end it becomes a track both ways. After parking the car the scene that awaits you is a surprising contrast to the road down. The beach is wide and golden, the sea is shallow for a long way out and warm. It runs for miles, with a river estuary at one end and no end in sight the other, and is backed by coconut trees and palms and has a Caribbean feel. The first day we went, the local lifeguards were training all day. Malcolm would have dearly loved to have put his CESV trainer’s hat on and joined in the CPR.
The capital of Chiriquí province is David. It’s a small town with an airport, malls etc. Up the mountain from David and about an hour’s drive is Boquete. This has a large ex pat community and actually doesn’t feel like Panama. It was one place to take off our list as a place to live.
We were here for Mothers’ Day. They really celebrate, there were children singing in the school, a special mass in church, and much music and partying at the cantinas. In fact Panamanians love nothing better than celebrating. There was a big fiesta in the village the day before we left, with music, horns, cheering (they had bulls I was told), however the rain stopped it fairly early, which might have been a good thing, since I encountered several drunken cowboys on horseback and manic drivers, even early on and the police were out stopping and checking people, although not sure about the law relating to drunk horse riding.
Another day we went to Nancito. Up a mountain, not good for my vertigo yet again. Why is everything always up a mountain? It is a really pretty village, with a museum. This museum houses some pottery and in the grounds there are large rocks with carvings. 3 ladies were here and one kindly showed us around outside. We will perhaps have to read up on the history as only Spanish was spoken and mine isn’t good enough to get technical.
Speaking of languages, it is very obvious that if you make an effort to converse in someone’s native tongue, it pays dividends. In 2 weeks in Las Lajas, I put my limited Spanish, Italian, French, and even Greek to the test.
Another great thing here is the food. So, so, so much food. However there is a very limited number of restaurants. Residence has an Italian restaurant with Paolo cooking mainly sea food, but they kindly made dishes just for me (I don’t eat fish). Across the road there is Naturelemente, another Italian chef, they do pizza, pasta and specials of the day, and have wonderful soups. The Panamanian waitress here taught Malcolm a phrase that he uses often, ‘Bueno, Bueno’ for something better than good. Another great eating place is Chiriquicream and, you guessed it, another Italian. This is a homemade ice cream shop, with coffee as well. My favourite is the ‘pina’ (pineapple). They also make magnum type lollies and ice cream sandwiches (made with cookies).
I can’t finish this episode without mentioning the earthquakes. We had 2 in 3 days. I’ve never really felt one before but at 6.0 and 6.7 they were very strong, especially as we were close to the epicentre, the furniture even moved back here in Anton apparently, and it’s a 5 hour drive from Las Lajas. The second one was the strongest and hit at 4am. It shook us all awake, and we stumbled out of our rooms to the patios to sit it out, before finally going back to bed. It did seem that the family from the indigenous tribe next door weren’t bothered by it, maybe it’s not as obvious in their corrugated tin homes. Interestingly, they had bought the land and built their homes with lottery winnings.
So we spent an interesting two weeks. We also had a mystery detour when they closed part of the pan Americano, an off road trip in a 4 x 4, to a thermal spring that had lost its water (maybe the earthquake shook the plug loose). We also waited for pharmacy opening time, but gave up after 45 minutes the first time, but only waited about 10 minutes when we tried again the next day. Being next to the local doctor, we now know the fee to see the doctor is just $5, but that medication is quite expensive and that tablets are bought by tablet, not packet. That shows the poverty level in Panama, as they cannot afford a whole packet.
To round off our stay we arranged to meet a couple of American ladies in Santiago to go and see a new community being built in Los Islotes. Beautiful setting but as always, up, up, up. This was followed by the subsiding pan Americano nightmare trip back to Anton. I will be really glad when they have finished all the works, and if they could flatten a few hills and mountains I would be even more grateful.
To be continued…
To see Part 1 click here