There was one last place that I had to go at least which was Soberania Parque Nacional. It was this huge rainforest preserve with hiking trails that are also good for those who wish to go mountain biking as well. There were kilometers of trails that people can walk all over as well as being highly recommended that people stay on these trails so they don’t get lost. Also, ensure that you bring water to starve off thirst (since you are in the jungle and it’s hot!) and go with someone else in case something happens. Well, I did the first two (stay on trails and brought water) but not the latter as nobody wanted to go (I did meet some other guys at my hotel but they had no interest) and possibly spot some wild monkeys, snakes, frogs, or whatever was out there, but yet again, I’m on my own. No one wanted to do any crazy stuff. Juan came by to pick me up again at my hotel and poof! We were off! It took roughly about 30-40 minutes of driving to get there and I already knew that I would be sweating while hiking these trails due to the jungle heat not because I did not have any whiny companions or on my possession a map or compass. I just had to stay on the trail, hike, and enjoy myself. Juan recommended that I hike all the way to Sendero Camino de Cruces which means in English, hiking trail of crosses or intersection, which should take me 2 hours of walking 4 kilometers just to get to there and 2 hours of walking 4 kilometers to get back.
I figured that was the best way to do that route, unless I was going farther than that, meant that I would probably need more gear like a raincoat, more food, and more water. But no, I was going to do this easy hike and see what I can take sight of.
The hike started off as going uphill and it was a little annoying that I didn’t see much at first since my eyes were trained to find and hunt deer in the forest and plains, not looking for jungle animals. I think I crept past the ½ kilometer mark before I started to see anything of interest such as a few birds (such as a red-headed woodpecker), butterflies (I saw some blue ones flying around but I couldn’t get a photo quick enough), and even some leaf-cutter ants. I think the leaf-cutter ants were the only interesting thing I saw during that initial hike.
I tried to look for any movement or hear any animals calling or making sounds which I heard frogs croaking, birds calling, and seen some plants bouncing around when the wind was not blowing, but it was difficult. It was hard to get a lock on any of these animals by sight through that thick brush. Nevertheless, it was still a fun hike to do and had I hiked that trail a few more times, I’m pretty sure I would have seen more especially since a guide could point more out with ease because most of the time I just hiked like it was a normal trail back home except this one was hotter, more humid, and I was alone in a foreign country. And no, I have never felt scared in any way, shape or form. I’ve gone night scuba diving before (on my own one time, not a smart thing to do!) so this was nothing to me. I’ve been through worse when I attended survival school when I was told to spend 2 days by myself, no human contact or any kind of light at night whatsoever.
There was one interesting spot during the hike which was going right into the open. It felt like walking onto Jurassic Park or something where raptors or other carnivorous dinosaurs would come out of nowhere just to take a bite out of me…
After getting to the intersection within about 2 hours, I rested for a few minutes and headed back. It was nice just resting there and doing nothing.
The trail leading back was much easier as I could push myself to go faster since it was going downhill most of the time. The walk back only took about 1 ½ hours and I didn’t stop at all because I didn’t see anything that I wanted to stop and observe.
Once back to the beginning, I met up with Juan and jumped right back in the car. I immediately stated that I wanted to eat lunch because I did not eat much at all that day except a small breakfast back at the hotel and some small snacks during the hike. Juan told me that it was no problem and he took me to a place back in Panama City to a place called Niko’s Café. It was a very modernized place reminding me of those Chinese takeout places where you point to which foods you wanted to eat and they plopped it on your plate. Juan then suggested that I should get another Panamanian dish which was called Mondongo.
Mondongo is basically the inside parts (also known as the guts) of a cow served with some sauce and is generally served with a side of rice and some sweet plantain. As an adventurous eater, I was willing to give it a try unlike this Western family nearby who only ordered burgers and fries and completely disregard any new flavors for the human tongue. It was actually very good to eat despite its stringiness and weird, rubbery-like texture; it actually filled me up. So if you ever come down to Panama, try some because you might actually like it. Don’t be a pussy like that one family or a lot of other travelers I’ve met over the years. Like Andrew Zimmern says, “If it looks good, eat it!” Well, it looked good to me so I ate it!
As we were driving off what was would be the end of the taxi ride, Juan directed my attention to the front part of the Panama Canal government building where this huge “white thing” was sticking out. It was a memorial to George Washington Goethals, the chief engineer in charge of creating the Panama Canal. This “white thing” was just so big and out there that I had to take a picture.
And that music kept blasting away from Carnival…