I awoke to a lady shouting at around 5 a.m. and fell back asleep. At 7 a.m., we got up. Fortunately packing up didn’t take any time.
We walked to the border and after waiting in line, realized that we were at the Panama entry point and didn’t get our Costa Rican exit stamp. Some police pointed us to where we came from and after backtracking a bit, we found that the bus had already passed the Costa Rican immigration and dropped us off in the so called “dead zone” between countries!
Costa Rican immigration was fairly simple. We lined up and filled in an entry form (not sure why this was necessary, but maybe they didn’t have exit forms?) and got our passport stamped.
Back to the original Panama immigration line we waited for our turn at one of two windows. Meanwhile we paid a man who was collecting ministry tourist tax ($1) from the people in line. This was probably a scam, in which case we purchased a cool little stamp to add to our passport’s collection.
At the window, a grumpy immigration officer took my passport, checked my ongoing flight and confirmed I had a credit card for proof of financial support. Then he stamped my passport.
Panama, country 49, I have arrived!
The whole border crossing took about an hour.
On the other side, we boarded a minibus headed for David ($2.10). It made frequent stops and took an hour and a half. Driving through David, the town looked quite developed. On arrival, we picked up some ice teas and caught the next bus to Boquete from the same station.
The ride to Boquete was about an hour, which should soon be shorter, judging from the construction of a new highway.
The minibus dropped us off in the town center, which was a square with shops on all sides. On our search for a ride to our hotel, we came across a nice eatery, Bistro Boquete so we decided to have lunch first. Connecting to the wifi of the restaurant is how we found out that Panama is an hour ahead of Costa Rica. So it was already 1:10 p.m. We were going to miss the coffee tour!
I left the restaurant and found a phone in a jewelry shop to call Finca Lerida, which was our hotel that also offered a coffee plantation tour. They confirmed that they would hold the 1:30 p.m. tour for us.
After lunch we found a cab and sped 8 km into the mountains.
On arrival we checked in and joined our tour group, consisting of a Dutch couple and us, led by Ronaldo.
The Coffee Plantation Tour started with an in-depth explanation on the history of coffee, the history of the Boquete region and the estate, the story of the founder and current situation of Finca Lerida. And of course why their prize-winning Geisha coffee is considered the best in the world.
Next we hiked up to see the fields and coffee plants. We learned about the indigenous people they hire and how the make money working on the plantation. It was impressive how much detail and information was given. If I were interested in starting a coffee plantation, this tour is an excellent introduction!
We tasted a bean and then saw the compost process of recycling the pulp and garden waste into soil with California red earthworms.
We then walked back to see the fermentation process with water and how they separate the coffee beams into different levels.
Then the coup de grace, a coffee tasting. I ignorantly thought we would now be served different coffees perhaps with some sugar on the side, but this was a coffee connoisseur’s tour.
We went through the whole process from how to roast (French roast is the best for a balance of caffeine and flavor) to sampling three different types of beans, gulado (lavado), honey, and natural. The sampling process started with the smell of the beans, smell of the ground beans, then releasing it’s flavor with hot water, “breaking” coffee with the silver spoon, and finally tasting (by quick slurp of course) where you really can sense all the different complex flavors.
The tour ended with a sample of their regular coffee with cake at the cafe (this time there was milk and sugar).
After sipping and enjoying the coffee, Ronaldo explained a hiking route around the property and how to spot the famed quetzal.
We headed out on our 3 to 4 hour hike as dusk approached. We hiked passed the coffee field to a view point of the property before setting down a trail to a waterfall looking for exotic birds. Unfortunately we couldn’t find the quetzal but we did hear it thanks to Ronaldo’s imitation of the bird’s call. Then we jogged back from the waterfall as it was getting very dark and we didn’t have flashlights.
Arriving back in the room we showered and headed to dinner at the Monniche Restaurant. It was quite empty, besides two whispering couples, so we didn’t know what to expect. When the food arrived, we were astonished. I can’t describe how mouthwatering it was. Bill got a steak with a sweet onion sauce and I ordered the roasted chicken with a sweet orange and ginger sauce.
Back in our room we researched a bit on what to do tomorrow at Bocas, but the large comfy queen beds were beckoning so we called it a night.
Off to Bocas tomorrow!