barry.levine at barry.levine at
Thu Feb 28 14:26:00 PST 2002

A too short (8 day) trip to Panama was enough to let us know that we
would like very much to return at a future date. We didn't cover very
much territory, but what we did see we enjoyed very much. The areas that
we were able to get to were: Campana, Cerro Jefe/Cerro Azul, Pipeline
Road, Achiote Road and Canopy Tower. We received great assistance in
planning the trip from Bill Porteus, with lots of help from Darien
Montanez, Guido Berguido, Allan Chartier, Jim Turner and other Chatters.

Birds that were notable included,
Tiny Hawk Cerro Azul area
Fasciated Tiger-Heron Frijoles River (Pipeline)
Sunbittern Frijoles River (Pipeline)
Zone-tailed Hawk Pipeline Road
Rufous Nightjar Chorrera
White-headed Wren Achiote
Green Shrike-Vireo Canopy Tower
Great Potoo Canopy Tower
Collared Forest-Falcon Canopy Tower
Blue Cotinga Canopy Tower
Balck and White Owl Plantation Road
Some impressions of Panama:
Beautiful country- Spent part of a day shopping. Found the Artesians
Mercado at the ruins to be quite good (for molas)as well as the market
that is along the road that goes from Balboa out to Gamboa (for
baskets). Had a beautiful half day out on the beach at Coronado (west of
the city about 1 hour).
Campana and Cerro Jefe were lovely places to hike and enjoy the quiet.
For Campana you need a 4 wheel drive vehicle. As for Cerro Jefe, we
bucked convention and drove up it in a 2 wheel-drive low clearance
vehicle. A little hairy in spots, but fairly easily done.
Pipeline Road was just about all it was advertised to be. We had about
100 seen species that day. The road can only be driven to the third
bridge (Frijoles). Be aware that there are no trails along the Frijoles
and you will need to walk directly in the river. Pretty refreshing, but
you'll get plenty of little pebbles in your shoes.
Achiote Road- very birdy from 6:45-9:00 am. Directions to Achiote are
like many sites in Panama-very sketchy at best. Signs for and to roads
are often missing in Panama. This can create havoc if you're trying to
get somewhere at a certain time. It is imperative to get to Achiote at
the dawns early light. So leave extra time to cover any mistakes. We
ended up going into Colon before we got ourselves turned around. If you
are going there, make sure you turn left off the highway at the Rey
Supermarket. There are no signs there for Gatun, so be wary.
Canopy Tower- a gorgeous place to stay with great birds!!!. For budget
travelers like ourselves, it was a stretch. Be aware that if you are a
couple, the guide rooms have a single bed in them and that you will be
sharing a bathroom with as many as 4 other people. It seemed like a lot
at $120 each, though it is a great place and we loved the day we were
As for rental cars, we used Hertz (via the Internet). The cost was $161
per week with extra days at $28 dollars. We were then charged $21 per
day (ouch) in insurance. That included some non mandatory stuff. You can
go with collision only ($12), but we could have been liable to the tune
of $1500 for other indiscretions that might have occured, so we bit the
bullet.There's a 10% tax to boot. The 8 days turned into a $390 bill.
Thrifty has similar rates on the net and if you purchase your insurance
through them (via the net) it's about $8 a day less.
Driving in Panama City is very difficult at best. There are zero to no
road signs, so get explicit directions before you go. The good news we
found was that people were extremely helpful. A few times drivers that
we asked when we were stopped at lights told us to follow them and at
the very least pointed us in the right direction. It's a place that is
not for the timid driver. At times you have to force yourself into 2
lines of traffic coming from the other direction. Not bad once you get
the handle of it, or if you like that sort of thing. Gasoline costs
$1.60 US or Panamian (the same unit of currency). Panama City is the
most cosmopolitan of the Central American cities we've visited. We liked
it quite a lot. Anything you need is easily accessible. We found it to
be safe and friendly. We did heed warnings about not going into parts of
the city, but we do that anywhere we go. We did stay away from Colon,
except for our detour mentioned earlier. If anyone is interested in more
specific information, feel free to E-mail me.

Barry Levine

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