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After the storms came to defeat us last week in Bocas Del Toro, we headed on a ferry and then a 5-hour bus inland towards Boquete. We were hoping to escape the storms or at the very least be in an environment where they didn’t affect the possible adventures like a tropical island.

We checked into Mamallena Hostel, for just $12 a night per person. It would be our base for the next week. It had a free pancake breakfast, free coffee and a front desk lady that I would tirade with questions about hikes, waterfalls and trailheads over the next seven days. I often feel like I leave a hostel knowing more about the hikes in the area than the staff but at Mamallena the ladies have been super helpful.

We did a hike a day for the entire week sometimes two! Josh and I were also running 10km time trials in the morning before the hikes. These were usually with a few hundred meters of incline. It was no surprise that Boquete turned into a boot camp! However, the week was awesome and we got to experience so many beautiful hikes, cloud forests and waterfalls in Boquete and the Chiriqui region.

I have blogged daily this week, which on top of the adventures, running and workouts has been a huge effort. Alas, everything I did this week is documented in detail and with photos. Instead of going over all of the hikes and waterfalls again I will place the links below and maybe you can choose one that sparks your interest and check out my recount of our adventure and see my photos.

Throughout the week I visited more than 7 waterfalls, did 7 hikes, saw poisonous snakes, dart frogs, caterpillars and set a new personal record for the 10k with a 45.11 time with 160m of elevation.

Here are the adventures I got up to this week. You can click any any of them to view the blog post:

The post THE WEEKLY #105: HIKING & WATERFALL HEAVEN IN BOQUETE, PANAMA appeared first on Journey Era.

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La Artilleria hike is a beautiful trail up to one of the most epic viewpoints in all of Boquete. However, it is a strange one. The hike is suggested as a hiking trail on a poster in my hostel but apparently on private property, of which the owner wants no hikers coming onto. We were rejected by the owner of the property but managed to wrangle our way to the top of the viewpoint. My philosophy is always if you are doing anyone or anything harm, there should be no harm in it. If I have to bend the rules a little as long as no-one is negatively impacted in the process. Having said that, you can decide where your morals lay with trespassing!

HOW TO GET TO LA ARTILLERIA HIKE

La Artilleria hike is not common at all. In fact, the lady at the front desk of the hostel told me I couldn’t do it without a guide. However, she was helpful and pointed out on the map where it was. That was all I needed and did the rest with some research and Google Earth. A lot of these hikes I review and share with you guys are not documented at all, not even the trailhead. I will often ask a local how to get to a hike and they will say they’ve never heard of it. It takes a bit of persistence and then some exploration to find and stay on the trail. La Artilleria was no different.

Luckily our taxi-drive, Gonzalo, had heard of the trail and took us to the trail-head. He didn’t tell us much else. He just said it’s not hard to find the way.  The trail-head is just past the turnoff for La Piedra De La India Vieja, another lesser known trail of Boquete.

Below is an image of where the trailhead is. As you can see it is the entrance to someone’s property although you only ever use the driveway you don’t have to go onto the actual land of their house. Like I said, it is trespassing.

I have put the exact map location at the bottom of this blog post. We caught a taxi from town for $7 without haggling. I’m sure you can get lower but that’s up to you. It is a decent little drive up the hills for more than 20 minutes so it’s a bit further than the drop-off to Bajo Mono. Because the trailhead is kind of in the middle of nowhere we asked Gonzalo to come to pick us up 3.5 hours later. This was about the perfect time in my opinion. It ended up taking us just under 1.5 hours to reach the top ( got lost staying on the trail) and we came back down in 45 minutes. This gave us just under an hour to enjoy the views from the top.

If you don’t organize a drive it is a really long walk back or you can call a taxi from there if you have service. You could also walk to a nearby cafe about 1km away and call a taxi from there.

LA ARTILLERIA HIKE

As we made our way up the driveway, all of a sudden a man came running towards us. He was quite friendly and shook our hands but that is where the greeting finished. I believe he was indigenous as he couldn’t speak English and hardly understood much Spanish at all. He spoke in a language that I couldn’t make out. After about 5 minutes and a few phone calls by the man, we had gathered that he didn’t want us on the private property. I wanted to speak to the person on the phone who could speak Spanish just to ask them when it would be open if it all. He didn’t let me.

We turned around out the driveway and he went with us. At first, we thought he was escorting us out but then he just walked off. Out the driveway and up the hill. Josh and I looked at each other and decided it was worth a shot to just head on up the hike hoping the man wouldn’t return.

We quickly scurried up the trail and had to pass through a gate but didn’t need to jump it. We made our way up the very steep driveway towards the house. There were two men but I’m not sure they saw us and we continued on up the trail.

The problem from this point on is that we had no map, no idea where the trail went and we just had to make a decision at several different junctions. I ended up finding on Google Earth, what I thought were the big rocks of the viewpoint. So we tried to head towards that direction. The first main junction we came to was the one pictured below. I suggest screenshotting this or taking a mental note of this junction. If you go right you will follow a trail the entire way and the hike will be relatively easy. I hope you enjoy that. We went left. It was a flip of the coin decision and we got it wrong.

We ended up following a trail for about ten minutes until it got so thick we decided it wasn’t the best idea to continue. We backtracked and then jumped a fence and continued up the hill eventually joining back up with the trail we would have been on had we turned right. If you do make the same mistake us just follow the fence pictured below back to the main trail.

We were stoked to be back on some kind of trail and felt determined to find our way to the top. At this stage, we were fine and headed in the right direction but we didn’t know that. The path began to look amazing with vines growing on the trees and plants spread on either side of the trail.

We continued in the direction we thought was leading us to the rock viewpoint but it wasn’t until the trail opened up next to a field of cows that we knew we were on the right track. Here the trail looks right up towards the rocks. It is a little intimidating because you can see exactly how far you have left. It may look like a long way up but you only have 10-15 minutes left till you reach the top from this point. We were stoked we had made it and were on the right track. In the picture below you can see the rocks right at the top of that mountain, which is where you are heading.

The path headed deep into the jungle for the next ten minutes and then finally spat us out at a gate that said no trespassing in Spanish. We had come this far and it was literally an empty grass field. We didn’t even bother to discuss going on or not and up we went to the viewpoint. Remember this hike is listed as one of the seven official hikes of Boquete. I didn’t set out at the start of the day to trespass but it really is just a normal hike and you never go near anyone’s house or mess with their areas.

It was five more minutes from this gate and we made it to the top of La Artilleria hike. We scrambled up the rocks and watched the clouds part to show us an amazing view of Boquete! It was definitely the best view we had during our hiking in Boquete and something I will never forget. In the opposite direction, we had rolling mountains with several layers and even a rainbow appeared. It was a day where everything seemed to turn out perfectly!

We stayed up at the top for just under an hour before heading back down in 40 minutes. The man who had spoken to us at the start of the hike was in the house on our way down and came out to the balcony on his phone. He didn’t come to speak to us and we just continued on our way down. Gonzalo arrived just as we reached the front gate and we caught our taxi home for $7 to end a great day in Boquete!

The post LA ARTILLERIA HIKE IN BOQUETE, PANAMA appeared first on Journey Era.

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The Sony Action Cam is a great tool for filming adventure sports, travel and underwater activities. Becuase of its small size, durability and various mounts and wearable straps, it allows you to create some epic video from unique angles and perspectives. In this blog post, I want to give you a few tips that might help strengthen your next action sports or travel video.

TIPS FOR CREATING MORE ENGAGING TRAVEL AND ADVENTURE VIDEOS ANGLES

The most important part of the filming process with the Sony Action Cam is the angles you to choose to shoot from. When you are filming you need to be able to put yourself in the position of the audience and envision how they are going to view the clip and understand how it will be portrayed.

If you shoot POV, which is essentially how you view the world, the audience will feel like they are the ones swimming or holding items. A great way to achieve this is with a mouth mount. The Sony Action Cam then films from the perspective of your eyes and it is a transformative feeling for the audience who take on your movements.

If you shoot from down low the audience will see the objects, people and surroundings as much larger than they are. You can also focus in on details. In my San Blas video, I have a couple of clips focusing on the feet filming from ground level. I was literally on my stomach filming one of the scenes as someone walks past. This allowed me to show the texture of the sand, the grass and the palm tree that were being walked on.

By shooting from up high you can give a greater perspective of the scene. I will often climb a tree on an island and get the initial shot to show the setting. Holding a selfie stick up high with the camera pointing back down is also another great method.

FRAMING

Find unique ways to frame your shots. Can you film from within a cave, a window or doorway to give the shot more depth like I did below? By adding an element to the foreground you can help to show what the scene is like rather than just focusing on the action. Here is an example below. Instead of shooting the backflip directly, I shot it from within the cave. This way I was able to show the scene of the caves but still focusing on the backflip.

MOUNTS

Mounts are a great way to generate cool angles like I mentioned before. Mounting the Sony Action Cam. There are tons of mounts available such as suction mounts that suck onto car bonnets, wings of light plans and surfboards. You are only limited by your imagination. Just think how epic it would be to mount the Sony Action Cam in so many unique spots like the end of a wing on a plane looking back towards the plane as it soars through the sky.

LIGHTING

Sony Action Cam generates great quality footage. However, lighting is what makes the footage from a 7/10 to a 10/10. You need to put in the effort to shoot in the golden hour of the day or when the sun is shining if possible. If you do shoot at golden hour think about how you want to involve the sun and the lighting. Can you have the person walking through the sun as you shoot directly towards it giving off sun flares while the person blocks the majority of the sun? Can you play with the shadows the lighting is creating? The lighting in the golden hour is often the softest and most visually pleasing with fewer shadows.

TRANSITIONS

One of the best ways to make sure your video is engaging is to plan for transitions. Whether it is as simple as a water transition, which is essentially filming someone jumping into the water and then cutting to them already swimming underwater. This is incredibly easy but very engaging. Other transitions will involve multiple cuts from the same scene. For example in my San Blas video below, I film a person walking from head height and their feet and then into the distance. These three cuts transition well together and help to tell the story.

I’ve been filming with the Sony Action Cam for over a year now and have put together the following videos throughout that time.

 

SAN BLAS ADVENTURES TOUR - COLOMBIA TO PANAMA BY BOAT (SONY ACTION CAM) - YouTube

KODING KODING POINT CLIFF JUMP ON CARABAO - SONY ACTION CAM - YouTube

UNDERWATER WORLD OF CORON - SONY ACTION CAM - YouTube

MY FAVORITE PLACE IN THE WORLD - Sony Action Cam FDR-X3000 - YouTube

The post 5 TIPS FOR CREATING SHORT FILMS WITH THE SONY ACTION CAM appeared first on Journey Era.

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It may be one of the shortest hikes in Boquete distance wise but La Piedra De Lino it will hurt your legs the most! This hike was a grueling 434 meters in elevation over just 1.3km. That means for every three meters you walk forward, you walk up one meter. However, the view of Boquete from the top rock is worth the climb.

HOW TO GET TO LA PIEDRA DE LINO

La Piedra De Lino means the rock of Lino. Lino is a small section of Boquete only about four kilometers from the center of Boquete town. From Boquete town center, you can either walk the four kilometers to the trailhead or catch a taxi/colectivo van. There were two of us and it cost $4 so for $2 each we decided to just get the taxi. It is often handy to get a taxi when you don’t know the exact trailhead also. The taxi drivers are usually local gurus and when you tell them the trail you want to hike they just know straight away where to drop you and point you in the right direction.

This is one of the easier trailheads to find in Boquete. There is a big sign pointing exactly where to start hiking. If only the rest of the hikes were this easy to find! You head up this driveway and then continue along the path the whole way and there isn’t much chance to get lost or junctions with multiple options. You can organize your taxi to pick you up 2 hours later. It took us 30 minutes up and 30 minutes down. But if you take longer to hike the La Piedra De Lino you just need to plan out that time. We normally don’t ask for a pick-up and hope someone picks us up on our way back to town. Worst case scenario it is a 4km walk back to the town.

Below are the images of the trailhead to help you find your way and I have put the trailhead map for La Piedra De Lino at the bottom of this blog post.

LA PIEDRA DE LINO (ROCK OF LINO) HIKE

Our taxi dropped us at the sign and we began our way up the driveway. We were expecting some incline but boy did it hit us! The steep paths begin right away and never really even out. We were in for a calf burner on the way up.

As we made our way up the first driveway a dog decided to join us and he stuck with us the whole way and even hung out at the top of the hike with us for an hour.

You will pass by a small house that seemed to be abandoned or at least empty. From here the hike gets quite slippery. If you have hiking shoes definitely wear them. We just had running sneakers and survived but we both hit the deck a few times.

There were lots to see on the way up with flowers, berries, and glimpses of the view as we made our way to the top of the rock. Every time I turned back to look at the incline was an epic little view. There was no-one else on the trail at all and we felt like we were out in the jungle even though we had views back towards Boquete town!

It was only 30 minutes to reach the top despite people telling us it would take 1.5 hours. I guess it depends on your fitness but we really didn’t sprint up and as you can see I was distracted taking photos for at least 10 minutes or more on the way up to snap all these shots. Once you reach the top of the incline it flattens out a little bit and you head left along the trail for a minute or so. Then you clamber up the rocks, still with a defined trail, and the trees clear in front of the big rock and you have made it!

Our puppy was still with us and chilled out with us on the big rock for an entire hour.

The cool part about La Piedra De Lino is that you have views in multiple directions. You can look out to Volcan Baru, back into Bajo Mono or up to the east of Boquete. There were tons to look at. It would be a great sunset spot but unfortunately, we only head stormy weather. It was still a great adventure and one I would plan to do with a possibility of a sunset if you have the chance.

MAP LOCATION OF LA PIEDRA DE LINO

Just above the Alto Lino text is the green dotted line for La Piedra De Lino trail.

 

The post LA PIEDRA DE LINO (THE ROCK OF LINO) HIKE IN BOQUETE, PANAMA appeared first on Journey Era.

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Choclon Waterfall is a beautiful twin falls at the end of a small gorge. The tiny amphitheater is the perfect place for a short hike and to hang out in the afternoon with friends on a sunny day. The water has a beautiful blue tinge to it and vines growing all around the walls of the waterfalls giving this spot a magical atmosphere.

CHOCLON WATERFALL

We set off from Boquete in the pick-up trick, laying low as we cruised past the police stop. I felt like I was back on Oahu, Hawaii while cruising in the back tray! It took us about 40 minutes to reach the entrance to Choclon Waterfall. There was no sign just a gate and a fence that we walked beside. From here we made our way through some open fields before entering the real jungle trail.

The trail itself was quite short. It followed the river the whole way and only took about 15-20 minutes before we reached the falls. We had to cross the stream a few times but never got wet. There were lots of cool plants and wildflowers along the way that all seemed so unique compared to other places around the world. We even encountered a green and black, poison dart frog. It was hiding under a rock but was placid as I took a few photographs from close range.

Once we made it to the falls it was almost 1.5 hours after originally leaving Boquete. However, the beauty of this little amphitheater made the journey worth it. The soft blue water shone under the warm sun as we stripped down into swimming gear and jumped into the water. The water was a little chilly but it is the winter!

I loved how the vines covered the entire walls of the amphitheater. It gave a magical vibe to the place. With two waterfalls, the rock walls and the jungle behind us this was an adventure paradise.

My favorite spot at this waterfall was actually on the other side of the pool. I swam my camera over here and it was a great angle to shoot behind both waterfalls. You can actually swim and stand behind both, which is a really cool feeling. There is also a little spot for some very small cliff jumping. Although at 1-2 meters high it wasn’t too extreme!

The post CHOCLON WATERFALL IN CHIRIQUI, PANAMA appeared first on Journey Era.

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When the destination of the day is ‘Thunder Waterfall (Cascada Del Trueno) you know the crew is heading somewhere aggressive, powerful and possibly a little bit extreme! Bundled into the back of a pickup truck, we wound our way through Chiriqui to Cordillera to begin the short trail. The 30-minute hike led us down into the amphitheater of dreams as the Thunder Waterall lived up to its name, slapping a rage of spray at anything that came within a 20m radius with pure fury.

CASCADA DEL TRUENO (THUNDER WATERFALL)

We parked the pick-up truck on the side of the road. We were deep in the countryside of Cordillera and right next to the Rio Bregue River. A small sign told us not to go any further, this marked the start of the trail as we descended down into the dense jungle.

It was quite a steep start to the hike and it’s good to have some rope in case the muddy path gets too slippery and dangerous. We managed to slowly make our down out of the short but very steep descent without any issues. After the initial scaling of the steep path, the trail evens out and you are able to relax and enjoy the jungle surroundings. We could begin to hear the river and before too long we were walking beside the river. After hiking for about 20 minutes we had to take our shoes off to cross the river. It wasn’t too strong and the cross was relatively easy.

Once you have crossed this river you are right on the doorstep of The Thunder Falls or Cascada Del Trueno. We rounded the last part of the jungle path and there she was in her glory. Booming down from high above, this waterfall was aggressive. It crashed into the pool below with such ferocity that the spray would hit you from 50 meters away. Up close and personal with this waterfall was bound to be an experience that left you drenched and battered.

There were three sections to enjoy this waterfall from. The first section was the chill-out zone. From here you could look to the waterfall but not get sprayed or pelted by the thunderous falls!

The second spot was actually swimming in the pool at the bottom of the falls. This should be done with serious care as the force of the Thunder Falls is immense and not to be messed with.

Finally, the third spot to enjoy Cascada Del Trueno, my favorite spot was up on the hill behind the waterfall. We needed to walk through an epic field of tropical plants to make it to the waterfall and then slip behind it. From here we could really appreciate the pure power of the waterfall and also see the cascading rock formations behind the main part of the waterfall. It was a great spot to photograph and a natural formation I will never forget.

HOW TO GET TO THUNDER WATERFALL (CASCADA DEL TRUENO)

The Thunder Waterfall (Cascada Del Trueno) isn’t incredibly easy to find and I can’t give too many detailed directions. I was with some local friends who drove us there but I can tell you the location is in Cordillera on the Rio Bregue river.

The post CASCADA DEL TRUENO (THUNDER WATERFALL) IN CHIRIQUI, PANAMA appeared first on Journey Era.

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I’m standing behind a waterfall, watching the droplets majestically float down right before my eyes. I feel like I am inside the earth, inside a chamber watching the raw power of mother nature from the inside out. I am within the heart of Kiki Waterfall in the Ngäbe-Buglé region, Chiriqui. It was the second waterfall of the day after visiting Romelio Falls earlier with two local tour guides and a group of new friends.

The boys from Hiking Panama had been talking to me on Instagram and had driven all the way up from Panama City overnight to adventure in Chiriqui. With no sleep, they picked us up from our hostel in Boquete and drove us all the way down to David and eventually into the Ngäbe-Buglé region. Amazing hospitality from these generous Panamanians!

HOW TO GET TO ROMELIO WATERFALL AND KIKI WATERFALL

The crew picked us up in Boquete in the morning and we made the 45-minute drive to the nearby town of David. From there we met up with more friends and we convoyed into the Ngäbe-Buglé region for another hour or so. The drive was quite scenic as we cruised through the hill regions of Chiriqui.

We then met up with Juan Carlos and the Kiki Waterfall Tour team. With two additional crew members, Juan Carlos would be leading us to both waterfalls. We bundled into the back of the pick-up truck. This truck is necessary because we made several river crossings and the road was incredibly bumpy. It took about 20 minutes in the pickup truck until we reached a small wooden house inside a lot marked off by a little-fenced area. This would be the base for both waterfall journeys, which were actually both nearby.

The walk to Romelio Falls from the house took about ten minutes and the same amount of time to reach Kiki after returning to the house. The pickup was parked at the house and we returned the same way we came.

ENTRANCE FEES AND TOUR COSTS

I have added the contact details and prices for Juan Carlos’ tour company. (No official name I was told) It was three local guys, all super nice and we ate at their local restaurant after the hike for $2. These are the tour companies we should be supporting.

TOUR COST: The cost of the tour depends on how many people you come with. The guides cost is roughly $30 and the transport is roughly $60 from what I gathered. We each paid $11 and we were 9 people. There didn’t seem to be a set fee but I would bargain for about $80-$100 split between up to ten people. Moral of the story is getting a group together and the cost is low.

CONTACT DETAILS:  Juan Carlos: +507 6638 0944

ROMELIO WATERFALL

Once we had rolled out of the back of the pick-up truck we made our way down the hill towards the first waterfall of the day, Romelio Falls. It took only a 10-15 minute walk through the field un we met the cliff-edge. As we neared the edge the view opened up in the valley below and there before us was the epic, twin waterfall known as Romelio Falls. The waterfall had to be at least several hundred feet with multiple pools at the top of the falls. We only observed Romelio Falls from this grassy viewpoint, although some groups do venture around the cliff to go on top of the waterfall. From on top you have a new vantage point but can’t see much of the waterfall anyway.

I love how the cliff just drops out of nowhere and there are two starkly different levels of land. It makes you wonder how the land was formed in such a dramatic fashion. This was a great first taste of waterfalls for the day but we knew the big drawcard of the day was yet to come.

KIKI WATERFALL

We trekked it back up the house and then began the descent into Kiki Waterfall. Luckily it hadn’t been raining to crazy in the days prior to our adventure. It was the middle of winter and the rains were here but if you do this trek in the rain you will be in for a slipper and slightly dangerous time. For us, however, it wasn’t too bad. The ropes and railing helped us slowly navigate down into the amphitheater of Kiki Waterfall. It’s really only 100-200m of walking down into the waterfall area but it is very slippery and takes about 10-15 minutes.

It will take you much longer if you are anything like us. We were blown away from the first minute of setting our eyes on the massive, powerful waterfall before us. We stopped to take photos at multiple points along the trail. The raw power of this waterfall is just insane. The cascading water seems to fall into a soft sheet but when you look at the base of the falls it is just pure carnage in the pool below.

There are a few cool rocks to explore at the base of the falls. However, the conditions down there can get quite crazy. Trying to take photos meant saturating the camera and having to wipe the lens between every shot.

The most epic part about Kiki waterfall is that you can actually get behind the falls. There is a narrow path that leads up the cliff and behind the falls. There aren’t many waterfalls in the world like this and it is truly an amazing feeling to watch the waterfall from within the heart of the waterfall.

ROMELIO WATERFALL AND KIKI WATERFALL MAP LOCATION

Below is a map, which shows the Cerro Banco and Ngäbe-Buglé region (Comarca). You will struggle to find the location of the waterfalls and I think at this stage I would only recommend doing this with a guide. Therefore it would need to be organized beforehand. I wouldn’t be comfortable recommending this as a DIY activity because of the road conditions and also because this is land owned by the tribe and visitors need to go through them. At this stage that is how the situation is so we need to respect that. They are not charging much at all, were really nice and helpful. Your guide will give you directions on where to meet them to get into the pick-up when you organize your tour. If tourism opens up and the roads improve this may change and access by the public may be granted. As of 2018, this is the system I will be happy to endorse.

 

The post ROMELIO & KIKI WATERFALL IN NGÄBE-BUGLÉ REGION, CHIRIQUI appeared first on Journey Era.

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El Pianista Trail fast became my favorite jungle adventure in Boquete with its narrow canyon-esque path. The trail is just 4km out of Boquete town and is a 3-4 hour out and back trail with more than 2000 feet of elevation. The trail leads you into a cloud forest, which essentially means at least half of the trail is inside the clouds. This turns the scenery into a dripping rainforest, where life is buzzing, water droplets are falling to the floor from every leaf and wildflowers and birds are plentiful.

HOW TO GET TO EL PIANISTA TRAILHEAD

Unlike the hikes in the Bajo Mono area, El Pianista trailhead is much closer to town and very easy to find. Simply head to the IL Pianista restaurant and the hiking trailhead is another 50 yards down the road to the left as you can see on the map at the bottom of this blog post where the trail is marked with a green dotted line next to IL Pianista restaurant.

To get to the IL Pianista restaurant you can either catch the ‘Colectivo’, which will come through the main street. An alternative is to catch a local taxi. There were three of us so it was more convenient to grab a taxi. The public bus cost us 70 cents per person and the taxi cost us $4.

There is a sign out the front of a small housing complex that states the regulations and such of El Pianista Trail. It actually says no hiking, which is strange but maybe it is outdated. Needless to say, we carried on up the driveway to the right of the sign to kick off the hike. The pictures below will help you identify the driveway where the trail begins. There was no entrance fee for El Pianista Trail as of 2018.

EL PIANISTA TRAIL

El Pianista Trail is one of the moodiest cloud forests I have ever adventured into. I have a new favorite type of trail. Take me to the cloud forests because I love them. Rain droplets falling to the ground from every leaf and branch while mist floats through dramatically.

While this is a cloud forest trail, the hike begins near the IL Pianista restaurant and begins down a massively long driveway. The early stages of the hike are open fields, with mountains on all sides. You can already see the clouds hugging the summit of the mountain. You know what you are heading into. I enjoyed the early parts of this hike with the beautiful hills on either side and the sounds of the river cascades to the right.

After about 15 minutes you will have made your way to the entrance of the forest. Here you will begin the ascent of more than 2000 feet over the next three kilometers. The trail was very muddy but would have been much worse had the rains been stronger in the previous days. Definitely try and do this hike on a dryer day or after a few days of smaller rains if possible.

Almost immediately after entering the forest, we were engulfed by the lush greenery on all sides. We walked through the tunnel of vines and trees, keeping an eye out for Quetzals, snakes, howler monkeys, wildflowers and strange bugs and critters.

There is a small junction where you will need to make a decision whether to go left or right. The trail to the left goes uphill and the train to the right goes downhill towards the stream, which you can hear. Head down the stream. Luckily for us, a local walked past at that very moment and I asked him which way to go and he pointed across the stream. He was the only person we saw all day on the trail. Below is the photo, you can see both directions of the trail. Josh is on the right trail going in the correct direction, heading down towards the stream.

Once we reached the stream it was such a magical little spot. We had a drink break and Pema decided to take things a little to far with an outfit change (not my idea). This was the final result from this epic little location.

Enough with the photoshoots, it was on with the hike and as we ascended higher and higher the mood and the atmosphere began to change. The fog and the wet conditions added an element of mystery to the surroundings. I really got into looking for unique flowers from this part of the trail onwards as they are truly strange and look amazing in the damp conditions.

The fog was really rolling in now after we were two-thirds of the way up the trail. We felt like our path was leading us through an undiscovered island. It was a truly immersive hike and being in the cloud forest was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. I’m sure there are plenty around the world but I will really be seeking them out from this point onwards.


We were now in the thick of the clouds and near the summit of the trail. The sides of the trail began to rise and before we knew it we were being dwarfed by the trail. We were inside it. It must have been carved out because there is a definitive trail through the earth. It’s quite remarkable and at times it was above head height, which is a strange feeling hiking beneath the surface of the earth. Once you reach these mini-canyons you are within reach of the summit. It should about 4.2kms to the top according to our tracking as it was an 8.4km return trip.

After a few hours (slow photographer pace) we made it to the summit. Not surprisingly we were completely ‘socked in’ as they say. Otherwise known as inside the cloud and cannot see a damn thing. The funny part about this trail is that you enjoy all of the trees, vines, flowers, canyons, critters, and scenes on the trail and the viewpoint is just expected to be a blanket of white cloud. Normally on a hike, you hustle through the trail for the reward, which is the viewpoint. On El Pianista you enjoy the trail and have a quick break at the viewpoint before getting back into the trail. It is said to be very lucky to get a clear view of Boquete from the top of the El Pianista trail, although when you do it is supposedly one of the best views in the region.

This trail harbors some dark secrets. In 2014, two Dutch girls in their early 20’s made it to the summit and then went missing. There was no sign of the girls until a few weeks later. There are huge holes in the story of what happened and how the investigation unfolded. The girls’ backpack was found 8 weeks later, bones including a foot still inside a boot were also found weeks later. The girls had hiked down past the summit into the continental divide. The area between Costa Rica and Panama. The Ngobe tribe were the people to discover the backpack and would have been the first contact for the girls had they come into trouble and looking for a way out according to the reports.

The conclusion from local police was that it was a hiking accident. However, some locals and sources think there was a third person involved and the girls were met with foul-play out in the jungle. There is now a memorial for the girls at the top of the summit.

You can read all about the investigation of  ‘The Lost Girls of Panama‘” in this article as I did the night before trekking the El Pianista.

The trail is considered safe now but it is suggested to stop at the summit. The trail gets knee-deep in mud very quickly and can be a treacherous area. I generally listen to advice and then make my own decisions. In this case I took one look at the mud and having heard from other hikers and blogs not to go past the summit for a variety of reasons we headed back on down the same way we came out.

I hope you enjoy this trail as it truly is amazing. Below this map are some other photos from our time on El Pianista Trail.

EL PIANISTA TRAILHEAD MAP LOCATION

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The Pipeline Trail is another great hike in the Bajo Mono region just outside of Boquete Town. Walk alongside a river through the jungle until you reach a massive yet slow-descending cascade at the end of the trail. On the way, you will discover a thousand-year-old trail and some unique wildlife. The trail takes about two hours and is a great way to spend a morning or afternoon when you are staying in Boquete town.

HOW TO GET TO THE PIPELINE HIKE TRAILHEAD

We were staying at Mamallena Hostel in Boquete town. They have lots of offers for waterfall tours and guided excursions. Luckily, you can save yourself the money and make this a DIY adventure because it isn’t very hard at all to organize the logistics. These are the following steps for how to reach the Trailhead of the Pipeline Hike in Boquete.

  1. Catch a public bus, known as a ‘Colectivo’, which will come through the main street. They don’t come incredibly regularly and the fee is $3 one-way. An alternative is to catch a local taxi. Carlos, a local driver convinced us to come with him in his taxi for $8. There were three of us so it was actually cheaper than the bus. The advantage of the taxi is that they will drop you much closer to the trailhead than the bus.
  2. Once you arrive in the Bajo Mono area, you will drive past the Basalt climbing wall and the old castle. There will be a sign that says waterfall this way. Don’t go that way. Turn right at this sign and continue along the road.
  3. You will see a blue wooden waterfalls sign. Stop here. (This is where the Colectivo will stop anyway and where you will wait to be picked up by the Colectivo)
  4. There is a wooden sign with the trail marked. Keep walking and there are a few houses. The locals will pop out and ask for the $3 Pipeline Trail entrance fee.

THE PIPELINE TRAIL

Once you arrive in Bajo Mono to the junction of hikes you begin to see just how many trail options you have. Signs point in all directions towards waterfall hikes and wildlife trails. We were heading out on the Pipeline Trail, which is a 2-3 hour out and back trail. The trail begins at the Cascada Escondida sign. However, ‘PIPELINE TRAIL’ is also painted on the left pole of the sign as you can see above.

From here you can’t get lost at any point as there is only one defined path the whole way. About three minutes after the sign you will come across a few houses. A local lady and two kids came out to collect the $3 Pipeline Trail entrance fee.

As we started the trail, we were alert and on the lookout for howler monkeys, snakes, the elusive Quetzal and any cool signs of life after not finding much wildlife on the Lost Waterfalls Hike.

The path is flat with relatively no incline. This is a very relaxing stroll through the jungle suitable for all ages and hiking abilities.

The trail has lots of cool little bridge crossings, some of which are made from tree trunks while others are man-made. There is another key feature of this hike, which is man-made. It is, of course, the pipeline that runs from the waterfall all the way to the start of the trek. In some parts, it is hidden under the luscious greenery. However, it is often exposed and is a bit of an eyesore at times. There is nothing more enjoyable than feeling entirely immersed in nature and the pipeline is a bit of a reminder that you aren’t that far away from Boquete.

One thing I loved about Boquete was the jungle setting. In one scene you can have bamboo and small tropical plants and then looming in the background is a 1,000-year-old tree with an enormous trunk. You just get a huge variety and it swallows you as you make your journey along the trail. Watch out for the wildflowers of all different colors as you adventure in Boquete!

There is an awesome tree about halfway into the Pipeline Trail. The sign says it is approximately 1000 years old. This tree manages to make you feel insignificant twice. Once by dwarfing you and twice by being 50 times older than you. The roots were just twisted and intertwined in a way that only years of growth can create. Not that we would ever want it to happen but this would just be the most epic treehouse tree ever!

After about an hour of very slow-paced hiking (we take way to many photos and stare at caterpillars for 20 minutes), we made it to the open corridor that leads to the waterfall. It had been raining for many days before we did the Pipeline Trail so we thought the waterfall might have been flowing. If it was flowing hard it would have been insane. It tumbles over the edge of a cliff and there is a huge gap behind the fall. It would essentially, freefall of the cliff as if it were being poured out of a bottle. I’d love to see that!

The waterfall was flowing but it was just a light stream of water cascading down the cliff onto the ground, hardly making a pool of water at all! On our way back to the start of the hike we came across some wildlife. Finally, our Nat Geo moment had arrived. We had found a sleek looking black snake and a poisonous caterpillar. Panama has some awesome wildlife and we had seen sloths and vine snakes in Bocas Del Toro and now snakes and… caterpillars in Boquete. Hopefully, we will catch the Quetzal on our next hike!

Hope you guys enjoy the hike! Stay safe and leave the trail as it was. Take photos, not souvenirs. Lots of photos…

PIPELINE TRAIL MAP LOCATION

 

The post THE PIPELINE TRAIL IN BOQUETE, PANAMA appeared first on Journey Era.

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On one of the most stunning jungle trails in the world, we looked for the lost waterfalls of Boquete. Through luscious jungle, we trekked. Over muddy paths, we slipped and stumbled. From one patch of wildflowers to the next we discovered. Until we reached three, breathtakingly powerful and mind-blowingly beautiful waterfalls. The Lost Waterfall Trail Hike is one of the best hikes to do in Boquete and even in the whole of Panama.

HOW TO GET TO THE LOST WATERFALLS TRAILHEAD

We were staying at Mamallena Hostel in Boquete town. They have lots of offers for waterfall tours and guided excursions. Luckily, you can save yourself the money and make this a DIY adventure because it isn’t very hard at all to organize the logistics. These are the following steps for how to reach the Trailhead of the Lost Waterfalls Hike in Boquete.

  1. Catch a public bus, known as a ‘Colectivo’, which will come through the main street. They don’t come incredibly regularly and the fee is $3 one-way. An alternative is to catch a local taxi. Carlos, a local driver convinced us to come with him in his taxi for $8. There were three of us so it was actually cheaper than the bus. The advantage of the taxi is that they will drop you much closer to the trailhead than the bus.
  2. Once you arrive in the Bajo Mono area, you will drive past the Basalt climbing wall and the old castle. There will be a sign that says waterfall this way. Don’t go that way. Turn right at this sign and continue along the road.
  3. You will see a blue wooden waterfalls sign. Stop here. Now cross the small suspension bridge across the river and follow the signs up the hill.
  4. After 10 minutes of hiking, you will reach the cabin. Here you will pay the Lost Waterfalls entrance fee of $7 USD. You will sign the book and they expect you to sign it on the way out so everyone is accounted for, which is a nice thought from the owners.

Below is a graphic to help you understand how to get to the Lost Waterfalls Trailhead. Credit for the image is to the Lost Waterfalls Accommodation.

THE LOST WATERFALLS TRAIL HIKE IN BOQUETE

While waiting for the bus, a friendly local named Carlos convinced us to take a cab ride with him instead of waiting for the bus. Because there were three of us it turned out to be cheaper. I also got a free Spanish lesson with Carlos on the drive to the waterfall as we both tried to understand each other. We discussed the Quetzal, football and that he has lived in Boquete for 55 years. That’s local knowledge right there! Carlos dropped us right at the suspension bridge, which was super handy.

After the suspension bridge, things are quite simple. There are signs the whole way directing you to the entrance cabin. From the suspension, it takes less than 10 minutes up the hill. At the cabin, there was a man who took our $7 USD. He also had us fill in your info so we could check in and out of the hike. Old mate also told us about the hike and in my limited Spanish we determined it was 2-3 hours out and back. The three waterfalls were open but he warned us to be careful between waterfall two and three. We checked out his map and we were good to go. Hasta Luego.

The trail led us through some awesome jungle scenes. From the moment we left the cabin, we were immersed in hanging vines, luscious trees, and huge leaves. Soon we were beneath the canopy of the jungle and in full adventure mode. Although we were only 20 minutes away from Boquete town we could have been hours gone. All we could here was the sound of waterfalls in the distance and the chirp of birds. Was it a Quetzal?

For some reason, the consensus in the guides I read and from the man at the cabin is to visit the second waterfall first, the third waterfall second and the first waterfall last. I like to think I am a pretty logical thinker. I can’t come up with any reason to do so. It’s an out and back trail and all three waterfalls are epic. Hit them in any order you prefer!

We walked past waterfall one and made our way directly to waterfall two. Within the first few minutes of the walk, our shoes were already smeared in mud. By now they had been engulfed and their cleanliness was lost to the wrath of The Lost Waterfall Trail.

Waterfall two was a simple spill, but a powerful cascade. Pouring over the edge of the cliff into a small pool, the first waterfall of our day had us mesmerized. Thanks, Panama for the memories, we knew this was going to be an epic day.

After hanging out the second waterfall til we were freezing cold, we continued on up the trail to the third waterfall. One last shot as we found an awesome little tree tunnel that looked back towards waterfall two.

The trek to waterfall three was my favorite part of the hike. It reminded me of the Daintree Rainforest in Australia. Around each bend was a stunning little scene with crystal clear water beneath hanging vines and exotic leaves. A few others were on the trail but we were only with others for a handful of minutes throughout the day.

From waterfall two to waterfall three the hike does get a little steep but for most it won’t be any trouble. However, if you are an elderly hiker or not too confident with uneven ground maybe just enjoy the first two waterfalls. If not, get ready for waterfall three.

A huge corridor shoots straight above the river and runs directly into a wall of force cascading down the cliff. Congratulations you have reached waterfall three. It was my favorite waterfall of the three and I just fell in love with this area.

After an epic time enjoying waterfall three we headed back to waterfall one.  This stretch when walked directly takes only about 20-30 minutes if you don’t stop for photos as we did on the way there. We assumed waterfall one was just a little puddle after being told to visit it last by multiple people. When we arrived, we were in fact incredibly mistaken.

Waterfall one was massive. It was the biggest waterfall of all three. However, you cannot reach the bottom pool and it can only be enjoyed from a viewing platform for your safety. Even the viewing platform is a little ominous with huge drops and no fences. We hung out here for a little while, taking in our last bit of waterfall magic for the day.

Now to get home was the hard part. There was no-one at the cabin to sign out with so I hope they didn’t send a search party for us! We walked back out to the road after crossing the suspension bridge and began to look for any sign of a taxi or a bus. No sign. We kept walking. A huge truck came around the corner at an aggressive speed. Josh instinctively threw out a thumb for a hitchhike ride and the truck screeched to a halt. We yelled at a loud ‘Gracias’ in unison as we bundled onto the back tray of the truck. The driver ended up taking us all the way back into town, where we disembarked like cattle being taken to the market. It was a handy finish to the day and saved us about an hour. What a friendly local!

What a great day it was and all up it cost us $3 each for the taxi and $7 for the entrance fee. If you do make it to Boquete you need to do The Lost Waterfalls Trail and I hope you have an amazing time just as we did!

THE LOST WATERFALLS TRAIL MAP  

The post THE LOST WATERFALLS TRAIL HIKE IN BOQUETE, PANAMA appeared first on Journey Era.

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