In Santa Fe, Veraguas and ready for a dip in the river or a float in a tube? Downhill (going there, definitely not going back – if you’ve seen that hill, you know what I’m talking about) from the hotel is one of the prettiest lazy swimming holes, surrounded by tall trees and a nice river. It is a bit rocky, so I wear my flip flops in the water.
How to get there?
Go downhill from our hotel about 400m until you hit the Bulaba bridge. Cross it, and on the other side to the right, make your way down to the river. The swimming hole is downstream about 100m
Be careful and aware
Who would I be without cautionary words. While the river is calm in this area much of the year, there are times that the water and velocity is high. Use common sense – if it looks dangerous – don’t do it.
UPDATE: naming of the Charco
Since originally writing this post last week, I’ve learned of two background stories about Charco Piedra del Pato. See which one you like the best. The first is from Nathali who says she read the story in a book of legends of the area, the second from her mom, Villa.
1) From Nathali: The swimming hole is located on the Bulaba River, named for an indian cacique Bulaba. Bulaba had a beautiful daughter who fell in love with a man from a neighboring tribe. They would meet at night at this pool. After realizing that his daughter was sneaking out at night to meet with her love interest, Bulaba was not happy and wanted to put a stop to the romance. He went to see a warlock who turned the boyfriend into a duck (pato). The daughter went at night to wait for her boyfriend, sitting on the big rock in the middle of the second photo – she sat and sat, he never came. Thus, the area was named the Pool of Duck Rock (Charco Piedra del Pato)
2) From Villa: There used to be a lady named Sra Inez who lived on the river. She had many ducks and the ducks used to perch themselves on the rock. Thus, the area was named the Pool of Duck Rock (Charco Piedro del Pato).
How did I end up looking for petroglyphs in Santa Fe?
When I was fifteen, my mom decided to take a six hour detour through the desert of Utah (in the summer) down dirt roads to look for these reported petroglyps. After bouncing down the sandy road in our minivan, miles from no where, dust in my mouth, hot wind in my eyes, we came to a large rock pile. It was well over 100 outside, I was fifteen, and underwhelmed would have been a kind word to describe my emotion at seeing a series of blurry etchings on rocks.
So, how the heck did I end up bouncing down a dirt road years later, miles from nowhere, on the road from Santa Fe to Calovebora in search of petroglyps? And how did I enjoy it?
A little history is key
I think the drive through the rainforest had a lot to do with it. Who would not enjoy a drive down dirt roads, where each turn in the road gives a new view, and clouds hang on surrounding hills. Next, I read a bit about it before going.
According to Granger’s 1969 Review, the Carib people, carved these etchings roughly 1000 years ago, and the petroglyphs themeselves generally are carved on a rock facing water, and furthermore many are angled upstream or towards a mountain range from where the water comes. I know that was true for this one, though I did hear a rumor that the rock was moved a bit to the side of the road with the construction of the new road. Regardless, there is something magical about tracing the indentations with your hand, and wondering who else’s hands have passed there.
How did I get there?
We took the road from Santa Fe to Calovebora on the West Entrance to the Park. There are a couple of sites where petroglyphs can be explored. The round trip took about 2 hours, and yes, I would recommend a four wheel drive for access.
What did I enjoy most?
I am an ecologist at heart, and I loved feeling very Indiana Jonesish going through these quiet rainforest backroads, the petroglyphs are an added bonus.
Rio Narices, Santa Fe National Park – Stories from Cele
Rio Narices is an amazingly clear river that flows down the Pacific side of Santa Fe National Park, joining the Santa Maria River about 2 miles to the north east of Santa Fe, one of the 10 largest rivers in Panama. There is clear, still water, some neat geologic formations, forested slopes, and about 3 miles in, a little palm rancho that ANAM built.
Cele’s hiking recommendations
We wore rubber knee high boots when hiking up the river. There were some places where we had to cross from bank to bank to continue walking, and in places the water was pretty deep. Bring food if you want to hike up, I didn’t and was hitting on empty when we got back. The going is slow. We walked in maybe 3 miles to the ANAM rancho. The term rancho makes it sound bigger than it is.
Philosophical question for this hike
Indigenous groups have lived in Veraguas for centuries if not millenium, living in small communities. Santa Fe National Park was finally formed in 2001, and encompasses some villages. Up Rio Narices, and over the cordillera central, and going down the river on the other side of the continental divide, there are three communities: numero uno (number one), numero 2 (number 2) and Guazaro, accessible by foot, a total of 12 hours hiking one way.
So, think about it. You’re living in an isolated community, not much entertainment, except the communities down the way. I’m sure they get together for festivals, make life interesting. Do you think the villagers debate which town is number one and which is number 2? Ah, we are number one because we are closer to the ocean, your town is number two. No no no, we are number one since we’re closer to Santa Fe, you live in number 2. How about your psyche. Would you grow up feeling inferior if you grew up in number 2?
I have watched youtube videos of places to go and things to do, and have been impressed by those of hikers going up Cerro Tute. Young hikers out of breath, hiking for hours to see the panaromic views from the Cerro which hovers protectingly at 1061m over Santa Fe, Veraguas with its sister hill Cerro Mariposa, known for its birding. Unlike Cerro Mariposa, Cerro Tute is deforested and known for —well rebels like you and me.
But it is known for rebel hideouts, first indian caciques lanced some of their resistance against the Spaniards from the cerro, and more recently in the 1950s a group of Fidel Castro inspired Panamanian university student rebels hid from the pursuing governmental forces in Cerro Tute. The government eventually lured them down with rumors of gun shipments, or so I hear. Many were killed, others escaped.
Today the Cerro hugs the edge of Santa Fe National Park. Country folk live in its hill sides. And, it has great views.
How we got there
Cele and I decided to check it out, but in our 4X4 rather than walking, to see how far we could get. They’ve been working on the road, and we saw our tax dollars at work with the new tourism authority signs for the cerro. So we followed them. We took the red route on the map below – starting point – the inn of course! We followed the signs south of town to the Cerro. 20 minute drive-up hill with some great views of town. We didn’t go all the way to the top I don’t even think we used the 4×4.
How was it, well it was nice. (6.5/10). The problem with Santa Fe is that there are so many places with sweeping views. Was it fun, yeah. Were there great views, yup- looking out towards Santiago But it wasn’t forested, no fantastic rivers, and the drive wasn’t as interesting say as going to Alto Gonzales to the north, or the road to Guabal. There is an alternate route (blue), which is supposedly rougher.
Recommendation: Go up with a car for a picnic lunch or to watch the sun rise/sun set.