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Panama 2022 blog

This blog will be updated with pictures and student writing each evening.  Internet in Panama can be unpredictable, but we will do our best to update the blog every 24 hours.  The most efficient form of contact with our group is email (timatticus@mac.com) or text (423-605-6163).  Trip information is at the bottom of this page.

Friday - March 25

From Kate and Emily:

Hi! Today was our first travel day in Panama. We arrived in Panama City around 12:30 PM and made our way through customs with only a few speed bumps along the way. We got to Tim’s house at 8:00 P.M. after a long car ride. This is my first time out of the country (Emily). It’s weird to be in a place where I don’t speak the native language. Not knowing what’s going on around me is definitely a way to get a little uncomfortable. As we drove from the airport, we got to see a beautiful sunset followed by a sky full of stars.

When we arrived in Santa Fe, we parked on the street near the entrance to the trail that leads to Tim’s home. Little did we know, we would come across wild horses, cross a swinging bridge, and meet locals who guided us to the house, including Toby (the dog). Soon, we were greeted with a meal cooked by our chefs Rosa and Iris. We then explored the upstairs where we all sleep in bunk beds. It’s an open room where we can feel the breeze and hear the river running.

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Saturday - March 26

From Lucy:

We really couldn’t have asked for a better first adventure in Santa Fe!

Despite a long day yesterday, we woke up naturally with the sun for a beautiful, misty, morning and yummy toast made perfect with some of Rosa and Iris’s homemade pineapple jam. Having not seen TW’s house in the daylight, we had a special first look with a rainbow in the morning sunlight.

Around 9:30, we all hopped in the back to TW’s truck to embark on our first adventure: a hike down a dirt path to a massive waterfall surrounded by lush, green jungle. It seriously looked like a scene out of Jurassic World and smelled like a florist’s shop. For about two hours, we played around the waterfall, jumping in pools and swimming just close enough to the falls to feel its power. When the sun peeks through the clouds and lot up the gorge, I, for one, had one of those moments where just living feels surreal.

Eventually, we started on our way back, and just when we got going on the trail, the TW and TL pulled another trick out of their sleeves and took us trailblazing down a small creek to a lower section of the river and into a wide, grassy field. We passed a boulder (which Reade, Emily, Hannah, and TW successfully climbed!), saw ancient carvings scratched into the stone walls, walked through a cow pen, and made it back to the road, which led us back to the truck.

We were welcomed back with yummy chicken and rice and freshly grilled plantains for lunch and comfy hammocks where everyone took a nice long nap and/or enjoyed a good book. A few of us woke up and carried some kayaks down to the swimming hole on TW’s property to paddle around. Georgia, Ella, and I even took a turn on the small rapid on the creek. Dinner was pizza with fresh mango juice, and the rest of the night will likely include games, fits of laughter, and some more reading before an early night to bed.

Today was an action packed, restful, and overall very fulfilling day. I can’t wait for what’s in store tomorrow!

Buenos noches y hasta mañana!


P.S. Mom, Dad, Charlie, and Fin, I love and miss you all! :)

Sunday - March 27

Hiking the Rio Lajas

From Hannah:

This morning, the girls and I woke up around 7:15 am to find a delicious pancake breakfast on the table prepared by Rosa and Iris. We left the house an hour later in the back of TW’s truck to head to El Rio Lajas where we hiked for 4 hours. One may think 4 hours is too long to hike, but where we were I could have stayed for days.

We hopped out of the truck on a dusty path that eventually turned rocky. When the trees opened up above us, we discovered we were walking on a large rock formation (used to be lava) with rivers, waterfalls, and small streams running throughout. TW took the first plunge and the rest of us followed. Once we had all taken a swim and slipped around on the algae covered rocks, TW led us through another body of water where TL suggested we should “surrender to the wetness,” and he was right. Our entire bodies were submerged except for our heads, TW carrying his camera and other gear in a waterproof bag that floated on the surface behind him. As the hike continued, we enjoyed multiple natural water parks—as well as frantically picking leeches off of our bodies, although harmless.

After lots of climbing around, TW told us to turn around, and there we found one of the most beautiful views of the mountains. Once we reached the top of the rock formations, we walked on a narrow dusty path along a mountainside. The land had been cleared of trees so we had an even better view of the mountains, covered with greenery, agricultural land plots, and a few houses. We ate lunch in the town of El Salto which is a small village area where a few families reside. Egberto and his family prepared us chicken soup with rice. We tried to get their parrot to repeat my “Hola, soy Dora,” and we did manage to get an “hola” out of him. We visited a 200 foot waterfall and discovered a ring of rainbow circling perfectly around the sun. We hiked back on the road, taking in the views again and soaking our tired feet in the occasional streams.

Once we reached the truck, TL and TW graciously bought us all popsicles, and when we reached the house, some napped, waded in the river, and read books. We ate a delicious dinner of hamburger patties, rice, cooked cabbage, and a special surprise form Rosa and Iris: cake!

Monday - March 28

Hike to the upper Rio Santa Maria

From Ellie:

Our last full day in Santa Fe was an exciting one! We started the day off with hojaldre (essentially fried breakfast bread), hot chocolate, and fruit. The food here has been so great, so it was just another great meal!

After breakfast, we had a short ride down a rocky dirt road to the Upper Santa Maria river. After arriving, we hiked upstream alongside the river for about 2 km before we got to jump in. We began our journey downstream by sliding down a natural waterslide. We encountered a couple more tiny leeches, but nothing too bad. We spent the time going downstream swimming though still pools, stumbling over slippery rocks, and floating on our backs like we were going down a lazy river. There were lots of cliffs to jump off into deep pools, slides to slide down, and currents to make swimming much easier. Parts of the river were very shallow at only about a foot deep and others were over twenty feet deep. We were under a canopy of green leafy trees for the majority of the time. Luckily, it was fairly cloudy and no new sunburns were made. Overall, we all had a great time hiking up alongside the river and then swimming down.

Starving after our adventure but also soaking wet, we stopped in Santa Fe at a local restaurant for lunch. We were quite the sight as a group of eleven soaking Americans. Our lunch consisted of rice, beans, salad, and chicken, and it was great!

After making it back to the house, we enjoyed a relaxing afternoon reading and napping in our hammocks. Lucy, Ella, and Emily went kayaking with the Tims while the rest of us stayed behind playing Bananagrams (a trip favorite) and got to meet some of Rosa’s family when they came to the house. Our dinner was vegetable and meat lasagna that we all enjoyed. We had another surprise of more cake! This time it was fruity and really good! Desserts are the BEST surprises after a long tiring day.

Overall, it was a busy morning with a more relaxing afternoon and a great dinner. We’re all sad to be leaving Santa Fe tomorrow, but so excited to get to Santa Catalina tomorrow to surf!

P.S. Mom, Dad, Katy and Hunter: I love you guys so much! Excited to see y’all and tell you all about the trip :) Having a great time!!!

Tuesday - March 29

drive to Santa Catalina

From Georgia:

Today we woke up to rain on the tin roof of Tim’s house in Santa Fe. We packed up all of our belongings, played Bananagrams, and enjoyed our last few hours in Santa Fe. For our last breakfast, Rosa mad a group favorite: pancakes. After breakfast, we took a short walk over the Bulaba river in the drizzle and headed for the van. During the ride, we made bracelets, read books, and drifted off to sleep listening to TL’s interesting taste in music. For lunch we stopped at a cafe style rest area. After lunch, we headed out through the country roads of Panama south toward Santa Catalina. Once we arrived, we were greeted with a change in temperature and a very welcoming staff. We all quickly changed and headed out to the beach. Once we grew accustomed to the salt water and body surfed for a while, we switched to actual surfing. Some had more luck than others on the waves, but we all had fun. In the evening, we returned to the beach for a breathtaking sunset where the sky changed from blue to orange to purple. Once we were all showered, we played cards, ate dinner, and enjoyed the sound of the ocean.

Wednesday - March 30

surfing - Santa Catalina

From Ella:

Today was full of surfing and salt water in my eyes. After successfully standing about two times yesterday, I got over confident this morning in the big waves, and me and Lucy took a pretty nasty joint spill. After taking a break and then trying again, I finally had a breakthrough moment and got to surf a couple of waves (almost) into shore, which was super exciting. I also have avoided getting sun burned, which was also pretty great.

After some more surfing and wipeouts, Reade and I went on a hunt for a coconut that had fallen from a tree. We found one and decided to crack it open with a rock we found nearby. We were successful! Today was a super fun day, and I am super tired and about to eat dinner. Very excited to break out the kayak tomorrow and get more solid with my surfing confidence!

Thursday - March 31

surfing - Santa Catalina

From Reade:

Today has been a pretty short day for me. I surfed too close to the sun yesterday. I did not put sunscreen on the backs of my legs. I have lost the ability to walk normally and also to sit, to the an excruciating one-sided burn. But things could be worse. I could have a crab in my toilet. I do not have a crab in my toilet, but there is a crab in Lucy, Georgia, Ellie, Kate, Emily, and Hannah’s. They’ve battled it all day. It’s made a home in that toilet, despite all efforts. It did not climb onto Kate’s frisbee and it clung to the sides against the flush. Aside from the unsolved dilemmas of the day, today’s highlights include: Georgia finishing her book, really good dinner tacos, the strongest sideways current I have ever experienced, and no new sunburns(as of now).

Thursday - April 1

surfing - Santa Catalina - drive to Panama City

From Emily:

Over the past four years, my weekends and breaks have been filled with more Walkabout trips than I can count. I’ve grown to love exploration and have found a deep affinity towards the outdoors. This trip though, has been the ultimate adventure. I got to surf, kayak, hike, and swim in seemingly undisturbed corners of Panama, while also getting glimpse into lives much different than my own. I live every day with so much more than I need. I have too many clothes, too many nick-nacks, really too many distractions. We got to meet so many people who live off their land, in quaint colorful homes, where they took us in for meals and conversation.  We are driving back to Panama City today with enough friendship bracelets to wrap around the whole country of Panama. Personally, I am leaving with a new love of Panama and a fear of sand crabs in my toilet, but I would not trade it for anything.

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25 - depart USA - drive to Santa Fe

26 - hike to Bermejo cascada

27 - hike the Rio Lajas

28 - kayak Rio Santa Maria

29 - drive to Santa Catalina - surf

30 - surf

31 - surf

1 - surf - drive to Panama City

2 - fly to USA

Flight Schedule:

March 25

depart Chattanooga 5:35 AM (Delta 2079)

arrive Atlanta 6:24 AM

depart Atlanta 9:45 AM (Delta 1811)

arrive Panama City 12:44 PM

April 2

depart Panama City 8:00 AM (Delta 1904)

arrive Atlanta 1:15 PM

depart Atlanta 7:59 PM (Delta 2084)

arrive Chattanooga 8:48 PM

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