Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Chagres National Park, Cerro Azul

view of the city on the way up
So I've been wanting to visit Chagres National Park for a while, and I decided that the easiest day trip would be up to Cerro Azul.  Cerro Azul is best known for its chicken barns and private gated community; it also borders on the park.  Cerro Azul is an hour from Panama (after Tocumen, you keep going to 24 de Dicembre, here you turn off at the Super 99--keep a close eye out for the signs because it's easy to miss them and end up in a maze of neighbourhoods).  On the road up, there are some nice views of the city and ocean (you may not want to stop, as people seem to be using these viewpoints as impromptu, garbage dumps).

There are many signs marking out the border of the park (often with chicken barns and big houses behind them), but there was no sign of a park office.  There's a police station, near the entrance to a private gated community, so we stopped to ask directions.  The officer told us that there was no park office, and that the road just ended about a kilometre further (both things totally untrue!).

We decided to head back to a restaurant we'd seen on the way up (it had a pool, so it wouldn't be a total bust for the kids).  While we drank cold beer, munched torrejitas de bacalao (salt cod fritters), and watched the kids in the pool, we talked to the owner.  The owner set us straight on the park office (it's about a kilometre past the police station).  I have no idea why the police officer lied to us--maybe he thought we looked a bit dicey in our SUV with two kids in the back.

After lunch we went to the park office and talked to the ranger.  He directed us to a trail down to a river.

the girls leading the way
pretty in pink
It's always important to look up in the jungle
It was a very pleasant ten minute walk down to a pretty river.

We got into our bathing suits and spent a relaxing couple of hours.

Later we drove further up the road to see what we could see.

a lovely view despite the deforestation
The Chagres River basin provides water for Panama, Colon and the canal.  The Chagres National Park is a huge park/conservation area, and seeing this little corner of it only made me anxious to see more.  I'm hoping we can check out the park by Lake Alajuela in a week or two. 

No comments:

Post a Comment