Since Kyler and I got married in our love celebration fiesta last July, Ellie has been holding off on her present, awaiting our traveling times together.
A couple nights ago, while Kyler and I were watching the last couple football games before the Superbowl, she came bursting with excitement into the pub. The present had been decided on and was to take place here – in Boquete! The following night, the gift was revealed: We were to scale Volcano Baru, Panama’s highest peak, not by foot, but by a specially outfitted Jeep the very next morning! What-a-Whaaaat?
4:30 am the next morning, the alarm goes off and four excited travelers rise to the adventure! Our only previous four wheel drive experience was 90 mile beach in New Zealand. Even though that was fun, this was about to blow our minds.
As is obvious from the picture above (as well as the early start), it was dark for awhile after departure. The very first part of the trip was on paved road. As we neared the volcano, the speed came to an abrupt halt and the adventure began. What had been a road turned into what I would consider a poor path for hiking on. I did not believe that any vehicle could make it’s way up there. I was wrong…
The Jeep been through a few minor modifications in order to perform like the star it did. I wish I could say I rembered the details, but I don’t. Mainly, it has some higher clearance than original, as well as different tires with only 20 psi to really grab hold of the rocks. Steven, our great guide and a Canadian expat, told us that the off roading up to the volcano is challenging because it consists of several different types of off roading. There are (many and massive) rocks, there is potentially very slippery mud (especially in the rainy season), it is steep and tight. Occasionally, one must use a winch to get make it up. Let me tell you, I am happy I was not driving!
After a couple hours making our way up (while passing some hikers on our way – Ouch – we were the assholes today!), we eventually got to the top of Panama! 3475 meters above sea level in a car. Mind blowing! (However, I am happy most hikes cannot be driven…!)
The summit of Volcano Baru is one of few (if not the only one?) places where one can see both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean sea. When we first got up, it was rather cloudy on the Caribbean side, but after a bit of hiking around, a warm coffee and some jumping photos, Bocas del Toro started peeking out from underneath the clouds!
By now you might have thought to yourself: What the heck is on Kyler’s head??! Some of you might be familiar with this longtime favourite of his, the moque. For the rest of you, let me introduce the mask-toque, the moque. Kyler found unique piece of accesorie in a market in Ecuador a few years ago. It is a mask on side and a toque (Canadian word for a beanie, hat, lue) on the other. In addition to these two qualities, it has two handles for easy carrying purposes, it keeps the neck warm, and it is of course, very stylish. Hopefully that would have answered your questions.
The road down was no less bumpy than the way up, except we could really see the lack of road we were on! I have huge respect for 4WD vehicles and their operators. It obviously takes a lot of concentration, skill and focus. It does happen that vehicles tip over on this trail, and appearently four vehicles have driven completely off the trail! Luckily that was not us!
Todays adventure was unlike any other heart beating adventure I have done in the past. It was a blast! Thank you for the wedding present, Ellie!