There is a saying; nothing says romance more than fine dining, wine and a bouquet of flowers. Take the fine dining and wine out of that equation and add a bunch of thickets of flowers and I'm romanced. I was in heaven with appetizers and an Atlas beer at a sidewalk café after an evening stroll in a horticultural heaven coupled with the "bajareque".The fictitious "Shangri-La" has a clone. It sits high in the mountains of Panama and it's real. Lost Horizon the book by James Hilton narrates a tale of plane crash survivors helped by young looking, hundred-year-old Buddhist monks in a place called Shangri-La, which is Chinese for "heaven on earth".
Boquete is also an idyllic place. I didn't crash there; I kept on the go. Boquete has a perfect climate and average temperature of sixty-eighty degrees.I wasn't searching for the fountain of youth, but I buy into the theory.
In part, it must be due to the Bajareche, which contains a lot of moisture, the atmosphere is light, not humid and heavy. Right before my eyes my skin began to regain a youthful suppleness and my energy level electrified. The locals are hospitable, friendly, laid-back and easy to commiserate with even though most speak Spanish.
Literally translated baja means low and bajare means lower. The translation for que is "that". The bajareque refers to the clouds, mist and water that hangs over the valley and hides the mountains, specifically El Volcan Baru, a 3,475 meters (or 11,340 feet) volcano of Boquete, Chirique (province), Panama.
It is said by many that the weather and climate promote longevity. Many natives live well beyond their hundredth birthday.This discovery was not one I made on my own, mind you. My friend Ed from Dunedin, Florida pulled up roots and transplanted himself there; he and many other expats. He was looking for "love" when we met on the Internet. He filled my head full of images of Boquete and since I had no compunction to visit Florida when he lived there and still don't, off I go to Boquete when after a year of Internet talk he finally moved.
I had to see for myself and finally meet Ed.My host Ed awaited my arrival at Enrique Marel Aeorpuerto in David. We took a twenty-five dollar taxi to Boquete about fifty kilometers north. Later I learned I could have taken the bus for just $1.20.
Ed tried very hard to sweep me off my feet the week I spent in Boquete. But, it was Boquete that swept me. As my foot hit the pavement on the streets of Boquete I was instantly rejuvenated. Of course, I was excited to see all the plant life and be in a foreign country.Boquete is nestled in the hills of the tropics at a latitude of 9.1667 (this means it sits above the equator) and longitude of ?82.
2667 (west of the Prime Meridian) where this 500-year-old volcano looms overhead.The Spanish word bouquete means "gap" or "opening" pronounced "bo ket a (long a)". A similar word is bouquet, which is French meaning "thicket".
There were plenty of bouquets (thickets) everywhere I looked. Along the roadways huge Datura plants drooped with large blossoms. Hibiscus was everywhere. An annual flower show in January is held at the Fair Grounds by the Santa Fe Bar and Grill, now known as "the" expat hangout.
The garden at mi Jardin es su Jardin is a continual work in progress. Local Panamanian art dots the premises. Life-size animal casts are molded from steel mesh and covered with a stucco concrete, gaily painted in brilliant colors and further decorated with, you got it, more flowers. The Gonzales family owns the garden property and invites all to visit free of charge. Parts of the house are open to explore. A tower structure for visiting photo buffs seeking panoramic views sits near the residence.
Visitors can tour parts of the house as well. There is also a swimming pool and a chapel on the property.At Boquete's highest point, without climbing Volcan Baru one can see both oceans. Here one is immune from the intense humidity in the rest of the Panamanian Isthmus.
David, for instance, is the inner hub of Central America on the Atlantic side. Just being outside invites instant beads of sweat. Panama City is extremely humid too, but it is cloistered from the full effect of it by the tall city buildings.
Air conditioners are reserved for the City, fans for David, and open windows and a blanket at night for Boquete.According to Richard Livingston, a local tour operator, the week before and week after Father's Day, as a rule of thumb, are as dry as a bone. Otherwise, rain can be expected everyday. Even when the rains and bajareque appear the temperature won't fluctuate much. Water droplets from the fallen clouds are visible even when it is not raining.
Showers will last thirty minutes to an hour and come daily, sometimes heavy, and sometimes light. The heaviest rainfall months are May through November when between eleven and fourteen inches of precipitation fall every month.On my June walk with Ed, we had to catch our breath. The rolling hills of Boquete hit us square on. It was a challenge to pacing myself when we stopped two blocks from the garden for coffee at Café' Ruiz a coffee finca/plantation and factory. As a landscape designer I had difficulty keeping my job boxed up, or temper my excitement to move on up the hill to the garden.
The garden was animated with maroon coleus bushes lining the lane, popping out at passersby. Gigantic allium bobbed their heavy heads in reverence. A bed of purple straw flowers cascaded down tiered beds accompanying the steps, hand-in-hand with a collar of red salvia at the base keeping them at bay. The Stella d' Oro (hemerocallus) stood tall and proud in thick masses, while plate-size hibiscus drooped from their limbs. Many citrus trees covered in lime, orange and grapefruit hide behind fronds of fern and banana leaves.
Two large fishponds teem with life. The bridge over one pond had a dinosaur topiary acting as guard. The shaped and hedged pathways follow in a march through a maze and more topiaries attack. So beware.
There are a two more shaped like cranes lurking about. The shrimp plants dance in yellow dress. Other lanes are lined in large blue and white hydrangeas. A major site and quite a shock is the striking Christmas tree. It is odd to see in a tropical climate a landscape of Christmas design in a tropical climate.
The area is expansive, but lots of benches on the grounds await the weary. Propagating areas are laid out on the northwest side of the property. A makeshift fence grows along the property line comprised of blood red rose bushes heralding thick bunches of aromatic flowers.
After the relaxing stroll in the garden and my incessant naming off all the botanical life my memory could muster, which must have bored Ed to death, we headed to the Bistro Boquete about five blocks away, thankfully, downhill. We ordered curried chicken salad and sipped on a local beer while we sat outside enjoying the rest of the day. The word romance conjures up ideas of falling in love, which I did, with Boquete. I smiled ear-to-ear grateful I made the trip to this "Garden of Eden"..
Linda's writing appears in From Eulogy to Joy, Beischel, Xlibris Press, 2000, http://www.Bootsnall.com, and http://www.
ezinearticles.com She loves to travel, write, design, decorate, and paint. Linda studied writing through Long Ridge Writers Group in Connecticut and painting at the Art Academy in Loveland, Colorado, USA.
By: Linda Vissat