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The week of the Saints with escape to Puerto Armuelles

This was a quiet week in Boquete Panama, it was the week of the Saints, the week before Easter, the celebration of resurrection. For some reason unclear to me it was also the weekend of the Boquete Orchid fair. Coming from a secular society and not having any religious beliefs, the week of the saints as a public holiday is a bit new for me. I know it has happened before I arrived on these shores and for the years I have lived here, I just don’t recall noticing.

If you are not Catholic the tradition in Panama may seem a bit peculiar. To some non Panamanian Catholics who commented to me, it is equally different. On Thursday all alcohol sales stopped, as did public events with music. Until last night you could not buy a beer, a bottle of wine or dance in a public venue in all of Panama, with one exception, churches. Churches had music and wine, guess that might increase attendance? That all changed last night, Saturday night, with fireworks from the church and the beginning of celebration.

The Boquete Orchid Fair was a desolate affair, fairs in Panama center on food and debauchery. Debauchery without alcohol is difficult in public, therefore none of the massive discos were in Boquete, few vendors and because I joined the masses who did not go, I am not even sure if the Orchids showed up. The local radio news announced it was not worth attending and that became the consensus. That however did not prevent masses of internal tourists from Panama City from flooding Boquete. They came in droves and clogged the streets but not the fair grounds. I stayed on the mountain until Saturday.

On Saturday Mayra and I decided to visit Puerto Armuelles, a place close to the frontier with Costa Rica. I have never visited Puerto Armuelles and she has not seen it for ten years. Puerto Armuelles is part of the Baru district of Panama near the border of Costa Rica, the road as seen in this map from Wikipedia, follows the Costa Rica border for some time before moving away into Panama. The map shows railroad tracks and Mayra mentioned when she was a child there was indeed a railroad as shown on the map. It ran from Boquete through David to the Frontier and down to Puerto Armuelles. It is a shame it is gone, but there are some remnants in Bugaba and along the roadside.
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At one time Puerto Armuelles was a thriving banana town, now with the exit of United Fruit it is a poverty stricken part of Panama.

We drove from the Frontier south into the city and then with the help of a local man found our way to Chrco Azul the oil port. You can see some remains of the Banana years in some old wooden housing and virtually abandoned buildings.
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The end of the road is marked by this gate and the oil terminal.
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Just a bit before the end is this very primitive restaurant.
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That stop provided a fried fish, some patacones and a cold beer long before sunset. Cheap, two beers and a fish with patacones $5.60.
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The public beach area seems small but that does not seem to be bothering investors and there are signs of increasing development along the road. For some reason I do not understand people from North America seems want to buy beach front property. I prefer to cool mountains but to each their own. The area is beautiful, it is close to David and certainly a more interesting ride the ride to Las Lajas for a beach. We will return next time we have guests in town.

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