We left bright and early for Coronado. Again, we were told to turn right at the Shell station. Again, we didn’t and found ourselves in the same happy barrio from the day before. Eventually we made it out of the labyrinth and onto the Bridge of the Americas, which goes over the entryway to the canal. According to our maps (all of them), we were now on the road that would take us all the way to our next destination. It was a very nice road. But not long into our journey, there appeared a little hiccup – a detour. No problem, we thought. It will just go around the block and we’ll be back on this beautiful cross-country highway. But the new route did not lead back to our beautiful road that was clear and direct. We continued passing colorful houses with chickens in the front yard and surrounded with jungle. Were we getting lost somewhere in rural Panama? Were we still on the accepted detour path? How could we tell, since we knew by then that the maps were totally unreliable?
And so we continued happily on as a family, recognizing that we might be heading in the absolute wrong direction. Maybe we were on that tiny parallel road that appeared on some of the maps we had. Hopefully. If not, it was a good thing we had a full tank of gas.
We passed through a town for which there were no signs about the time when the guidebooks said we should be passing through the largest city between Panama City and Coronado. It looked like a… not very large place.
Eventually we did make it back to the highway and to the place we were staying in Coronado. Surrounded by mango trees, the hotel was beautiful. There was a pool by the restaurant in the main area, and hot tubs peppered throughout the grounds. We put our things in our room, put on our bathing suits, and headed straight for the shuttle that took us to the beach.
We spent the next few days hanging out by the pool and playing water volleyball. We searched unsuccessfully for surf. The ocean was flat as a pancake. My dad, sister and I spent hours looking, and never found it. We did find an American couple who had lived in Panama for most of their lives and were already drinking rum and cokes at 10:30 in the morning or something like that.
Another day we headed to the other side of the highway and up the hill to a village called El Viaje, where we expected to find little touristy knickknacks and good coffee. We came upon a sad little open market and not-so-great coffee, and an Asian woman who spoke to us in English. She led us to a family that did horse riding tours of the area – on the smallest horses I’ve ever seen. No worries, it didn’t break when I sat on it. Mine was named Mantequilla (butter in Spanish), sweet little beautiful thing that she was.
The minute we headed out, it started to rain. Panama is on the equator so it was warm and the rain just added to the special atmosphere. We went up the road and into the jungle. We forded a stream and went onto a little trail, surrounded by every shade of green there is. As we returned to our starting location, our guide (aged about 15) got our horses to gallop to the end. It hurt my bum. But it was fun!
Coronado was beautiful and restful, but after a few days it was time to move on. And you will read about it in chapter 3 of this story…