Since moving here to Boquete I’ve told you about all the really great people we have met and are becoming friends with. I know I’ve mentioned our realtor, Lyn. She is the one who , in my mind , is a renaissance woman! I’m certain she will humbly deny this description of herself but too bad ,That’s my story and I’m sticking to it! Lyn and her Husband Eric started a Jungle lodge in Bocas Mainland, (the Caribbean side of Panama). They bought the land about six years ago and have been slowly working on developing it into a self-sustaining eco tourism destination for about the last three years. We were invited to be their guests this past weekend and I want to tell you about out experience there.
I feel so fortunate to have been invited to spend time at Rambala Jungle lodge with Eric and Lyn. Let me try to describe this magical place… Rambala is the name of the town nearby. We drove to Rambala from Boquete and it took us about 2 1/2 hours to get there. We were so anxious to get on the road and be there with Lyn & Eric on Friday night because they were already there that we were tempted to take off after Scott got done with school at 5;00. But, we decided to be safe and wait until early sat morning to take off. Much of the road to get there is rather rough, lots of pot-holes and not recommended in the dark which it would have been had we acted impulsively and gotten on the road on Friday night . But aside from the minor detail of possible danger, we would have missed out on the beautiful scenery on the drive over the mountains. It is truly a breathtaking drive across the Continental Divide and onto the Caribbean side of Panama. It’s amazing how much the landscape changes from one side to the other. On the Pacific side there are lots of Pine trees and green rolling hills and then almost suddenly after you cross over to the Caribbean side, the flora and fauna are much more tropical, lots of ferns and palms and much much more lush and thick jungle like scenery all around you. There are a few waterfalls along the roadsides that just add to that tropical feel as you drive along and spy the Caribbean Sea in the distance. I’m really glad we decided to wait and drive over early Saturday morning.
I have to share with you the direction we got from them…
( I just love directions here, you will see no addresses or street names, only landmarks…)
From David through Gualaca over and up the mountains past Fortuna Dam – very interesting stop off there.
Continue up and past the Continental Divide – the landscape will be changing to Caribbean views here.
Continue your descent through a small Indian village called Mali from Mali it is 10.5 km to our turn at Rambala. Along the way you will pass, a small town of Punta Pena marked by a walkway across the road for the school on the left. Proceed slowly through Punta Pena and Rambala as the police do watch for speeders.
You will next come to Rambala and there will be a Police Station on the right and a Chino store on the left.
Continue past that to the next store called Felicidad Fang – on the left with a chicken restaurant in the left side of the building and the airport road on the right.
You will see a small park on the right on the corner.
Turn right here at the park toward the small airport stay to the right on this road.
Call from here so we can have enough time to come down to greet you.
(If you miss this turn you will find about 2 km past it on the left is a Texaco gas station/restaurant/ bus stop – turn around and return the 2 km).
Follow this road bearing right at the baseball field/concrete wall. The paved road will come to an end at a wood supply yard on the left. Continue straight past this on the dirt/gravel road for approx 3.5 km until you come to a river.
Park there under the tree on the left and enter the field on the right through the gate.
Proceed at a 45 degree angle up the hill (there is a small footpath) to a gate on your left – enter our property here.
Note: Checkpoint up in the mountains and police station in Rambala often check licenses/ passports or seatbelts. )
As instructed by Lyn & Eric, we gave them a call as soon as we got into the little village of Rambala (the Jungle lodge is aptly named for the nearby village). Here in Panama when we are following directions to some remote and unknown (to us) location I almost always find myself thinking , (in my head) “Oh no, this can’t be right” Because we will find ourselves traveling on a path that is soooo not a “road” or what we are accustomed to think of as a “Proper road”. It will be either gravel (if we are lucky) or just dirt and rocks and lot’s of deep pot holes, clearly , to my unaccustomed mind, not an actual “road” at all. Following these instructions we once again find ourselves driving very gingerly up a very un-road looking road , and I am silently thinking, ” Oh my, can this be right?” Mind you, Scott is very confidently and very happily switching into 4WD in his brand new truck , very happy indeed to be off-roading to the jungle! No hesitation whatsoever! Of course, we almost always end up where we belong and I’m always glad I have kept my nervous , pessimistic thoughts to myself. Up ahead we see our friend Eric waiting for us , he has opened up his barbed-wire fence and with a big smile on his face tells us to “drive on up and you’ll see our truck, go ahead and park, I’ll be right up”. Again, more un-road-like-road….up, up, up, Geesh, There I go again! Ha!Ha!Ha!
We had been pre-warned by Lyn to pack light as the horses that are normally there to carry guests belongings up into the jungle are off for the weekend. No problema for us, I am prepared to be “Jungle Woman” for the weekend so there’s no Blow dryer or really any hair products at all , and “Make-up?” What Make-up? Naaa! I got this!! A bathing suit,a change of clothes, hiking boots and socks and thats just about it, well….Ok, you know I had to bring my Kindle….OH, and I may be able to live without my blow dryer but you know my Ipad was not to be left behind!! Have Ipad will travel to jungle!! YEP!! The hike into the lodge really gets you in the mood to soak up the beauty around you. Each step brings you deeper and deeper into the pristine Jungle where the lodge is situated along a peaceful stream surrounded by endless flora and fauna. Birdsong welcomes you as you spy the first little cabin, Named Kinkajou. They named it this because early on they had a little kinkajou who visited that cabin and gave himself a tour of the interior before they installed screens.
Our cabin is extreme in it’s minimalistic construction but it’s strangely clean and has amenities you wouldn’t expect to find deep in the jungle. The main room in the cabin has a little sitting area with a few chairs and a little table adorned with a pretty little arrangement of flowers cut from exotic plants found right outside the door. (I know for a fact that if my florist friend in Los Altos had made that arrangement it would have cost a pretty penny!) Near the sitting area there is, of course two nice hammocks calling our names! This little area has no walls really, just a wood frame and screens all around . It feels like your outside ,only you have a bit of protection from pesky flying insects at night (not that there are many insects, oddly , I have been to other areas with much more pesky mosquitos than there are here). There are two little bedrooms in this cabin and each room has its own mosquito net over the bed and a little toilet for your convenience. I must tell you a bit about this very special toilet, Where to begin. Please try to Imagine Eric very proudly introducing us to our lovable loo (this is what it’s called, google it, I cant make this stuff up) . It is an eco-potty for permanent indoor household use. There is No water,electricity,venting,plumbing,or chemicals required. It is Odor-free (True!) It is basically a wooden box with a lid that has a real toilet seat attached to it , and inside the box , directly under the toilet seat is a 5 gallon bucket containing fresh sawdust, next to the lovable loo is another bucket full of fresh new sawdust chips or shavings, and a big scoop. You simply do your business and then scoop a bit of sawdust on top and voila! no smell at all! After it becomes full they empty it into the compost pile and add fresh sawdust and it’s good to go. It is soooo much different and entirely odorless! nothing like a common outhouse type bathroom that we all cringe when we have to use. I will admit, I was skeptical but it was totally odorless. Eric is very proud of this little gem, as he should be, it is a marvelous little loo!
After giving us the grand tour of our cabin, oh! I almost forgot to tell you one more quick little thing that I loved about our stay in our little cabin, Lyn makes handcrafted organic soaps her business is called, “Earth Mama!” They provide complimentary body soap and shampoo as well as “bug-blaster” (totally organic insect repellant) . Did I tell you about the shower? NO? Well, It’s outside on the side of the cabin, surrounded by blooming Passion flowers ! Hey, your in the jungle , there’s plenty of privacy and the water may not be heated but it’s warmed by the sun and feels refreshing and clean. A more elegant shower I have never seen, especially with “Earth MaMa organic soaps to suds up with. Mother Nature really knows how to decorate, all the beautiful colors and textures are soooo soothing, you feel as though you are in an expensive spa, but…. NO YOUR OUT IN NATURE!!!
Eric & Lyn have built themselves a very nice cabin just up the hill from the guest cabin where we stayed. And when I say,”built themselves”, I mean, found an already dead tree, a HUGE dead tree, and hired local wood cutters who have the know-how to do this type of work, and they actually harvested the lumber right there on the property! They found the fallen the tree, cut it up and “made” the boards to build the house!! Eric, single-handedly built it, with his own two hands!! Is this Scott’s kind of man or what!! HaH! And you guys thought Scott was a Renaissance Man! We have met his match! Eric has not missed his calling, this man belongs here in Panama. A more passionate person I have never met. When he was guiding us through the jungle I could literally “feel” his passion for the jungle and all that surrounds him just seeping into me! It’s truly contagious! If you don’t want to fall in love with all that the jungle has to offer you had better steer clear of Eric!! 🙂 And at one point when we were hiking, suddenly an enormous branch from a tree came crashing down through the canopy making a very scary sound, we all stopped and looked to see what it was , and Eric says,”It’s a JUNGLE out there!” Ahr!Ahr!Ahr!! He’s full of inspirational and goofy quotes to live by!
Lyn and Eric proudly embrace the fact that their jungle lodge is self sustaining and has a very low impact on the environment. Eric has spent a lot of time studying and researching his current
project, a Micro Hydro electric generator. He plans to harness the energy from the nearby stream to create electricity for the lodge. He studied and survyed how much flow & fall the water provides/ Flow has about 80 gallons a minute and the fall is 125 ft . All this tells him precisely how much power he will be able to draw from the energy of the water. He has learned that he will have more than enough water to generate the minimal amount of electricity they will need to run refrigeration and a washing machine. Right now they have to carry in all their supplies and take linens home to clean. They even have to bring up ice to keep food from spoiling. Yep, harnessing some power from Mother Nature will make life a bit easier for them.
I think one of my favorite parts of the weekend was relaxing in the swimming hole after our hike. There are lots of little swimming holes all up and down the river/stream but they both agree that this one is so far the best one they have found. It is about 10 feet deep and you can jump off one of the big rocks surrounding the pool which Eric gladly demonstrated. Lyn showed me how to get a great massage by positioning myself just right under the waterfall. Ahhhhh….that’s a massage to write home about, or in this case, to blog about! Yes, a relaxing float in a pristine ,crystal clear swimming hole , with good people at the end of a hot hike in the jungle isn’t a bad way to go. If that was my favorite activity, then my second favorite has to be our scrumptious grilled tuna dinner prepared by Lyn and then a fun evening of games!! And boy do they love their games!! We started the evening with Corn-hole, we had never played this game , I had heard of it but was thrilled to learn from pros! After a rousing game of corn-hole and a few “happy dances” joyously performed by Eric, we enjoyed our dinner followed by a dice game called Farkle, again too much fun to properly express , ya, really had to be there! All in All as you can see… fun was had by all at Rambala. I honestly don’t think it would be possible to spend time with Lyn & Eric and not have a great time. Oh! just when you thought I might be done telling you about out time I cant end this post without telling you about our sloth sighting! Just outside Lyn’s (glass-less) kitchen window is a huge Cecropia tree where a Three Toed sloth lives. I was thrilled to be able to actually watch him climb down the tree! It’s not common , as you know, to witness a sloth on the move! Apparently what I witnessed was a potty break! We were told that the sloth climb down the tree about once every week to do his business. His “lovable loo” is the dirt at the bottom of the tree. I don’t think I’ve ever been so impressed with witnessing a bathroom break,(I didn’t actually see him using his loo, don’t worry! This Adventure is progressing just beautifully as you can see! I have had people suggest that I may need to edit the title of my blog but honestly, I feel like everyday is a New and Exciting Adventure! Yes, it may have begun, but with each new day it begins Again! Soooo Let’s Let this Adventure continue!! ).