Tuesday July 9, 2013– Ojo de Agua y Loma Bonita

Two Peace Corps Volunteers begin the hike to the cascadas (waterfalls) in Ojo de Agua

Two Peace Corps Volunteers begin the hike to the cascadas (waterfalls) in Ojo de Agua

Ojo de Agua:

Tuesday morning I joined Chelsea, the Peace Corps volunteer from Lago Bayono, and a local Panamanian tour guide, Briant, to explore potential new sites to bring tourists to in the province of Coclé. This time it was a little bit easier getting there as Briant was our chauffeur for the day. We drove about 3 hours south from Panama City to meet 2 more Peace Corps volunteers in a small community outside Colpé  called Ojo de Agua. The local peace corps volunteer and a group of about 5 community members led us back on a half an hour hike to some of the most fun waterfalls on our trip.

Chelsea doesn't think twice and strikes an awesome pose on her jump into the refreshing swimming hole.

Chelsea doesn’t think twice and strikes an awesome pose on her jump into the refreshing swimming hole.

I leap out into the water and am so glad I did!

I leap out into the water and am so glad I did!

The first and biggest falls that we came to, called Chorro Grande, was hidden, and was a powerful, tall waterfall. It had a classic boulder, the kind you see in movies, from which to jump into the cold swimming hole below. At first the jump looked a little higher than any jump that I’d done before, but after someone asked me to join, I decided to just go for it. I nervously hiked over to the boulder and it began raining. Standing above the falls and looking down was such a rush. Like so many other things in life after standing around and thinking about it for too long, I began to have second thoughts. Something inside of me told me to go for it anyways, so the group counted me down and I leapt into the water. The experience is one I will never forget. With the adrenaline rush, the new experiences of the day, and the beauty of the secluded green forest around us, I was grateful to be there and reminded how great things can happen when you have the courage to take that leap.  It began to rain harder so we waited below a slanted tall boulder for the rain to pass before moving onto the next two falls.

Next was Higo, a waterfall about 10 minutes away. It had a different, not as tall but a more risky climb to a launching point into the water below. The swimming hole was large and perfect for the hot and humid day.

Chelsea rides the waterfall down like a rollercoaster!

Chelsea rides Posa Azul down like a roller coaster!

The last waterfall, Posa Azul, was more spread out and became a mini natural water park. We watched as one of the members of the community hopped in the water and was pushed down the fall as if he was on a waterslide. Since it had just rained we cut our time short as I learned from the group that a large rain can create a sort of debris avalanche, pushing down rocks, branches and even big logs from the top of the mountain and into the river beds.

We hiked back to the house of one of the members of the community and enjoyed a lunch of stew and rice with two new Panamanian vegetables that I had never heard of before. Delicious, just as most things are after a good hike! It was fun to eat something new, and it only cost us $3 per person. There are no restaurants or markets within the community. If you would attempt to adventure here, your best bet for lunch would be a member of the community’s home or a mini market in Colpé, about a 25-minute drive from the community. Ojo de Agua does not have official tours yet but they are interested in starting some.

Loma Bonita:

Our local guide, machete in hand to clear away brush, brought us to the Loma Bonita falls

Our local guide, machete in hand to clear away brush, brought us to the Loma Bonita falls

Following our guide down the muddy, slippery incline

Following our guide down the muddy, slippery incline

Next up was Loma Bonita, just a community or so away from Ojo de Agua. Since we had our chauffeur, we were able to quickly head over for an afternoon hike. We hiked down a well-traveled path down to a very steep and muddy incline (it is the rainy season, and it had rained earlier that day). This time I was smart enough to wear my hiking boots, and so happy I did. Many locals wear rain boots to get through these muddy areas, but the soles of the rain boots can also be dangerous when walking on the slippery rocks near the water – so choose your instrument wisely!

Our local guide had a machete and was able to create some semblance of a path, and we wove our way towards the falls. Once there, we saw a graceful, almost more dainty but tall waterfall that was so different than the ones we had seen earlier. I hadn’t thought about it before this trip, but there are so many different types of falls. They all have their unique rhythm and style. This one didn’t have as much water, so the falls trickled down close to the rock instead of bursting out as we had seen earlier that day.

The view from the main street in Colpé

The view from the main street in Colpé

Having spent a long day hiking in the heat, our chauffeur dropped us in Colpé on his way back to the Panama City and we purchased a few things to make dinner with the Peace Corps volunteer in Loma Bonita. Luckily, the market had the number for a local cab driver, and we got an inexpensive ride (maybe for $2, I can’t remember) back to our place for the night. We stayed in an empty room of one of the community members’ home for $4 a person. No electricity, no hot water, no cell service, but it’s amazing how you don’t need any of this to enjoy a nice meal with good people. I fell asleep content and tired out from the day’s hikes.

 Notes about traveling in Ojo de Agua and Loma Bonita:

The eco-lodge is not yet open in Loma Bonita as is still without beds. However, the community has constructed this nice building that may be open in the future.

The eco-lodge is not yet open in Loma Bonita as is still without beds. However, the community has constructed this nice building that should be open in the near future.

Loma Bonita does have a great start to an eco lodge, which they built with an ecotourism grant, but it does not have beds and is not up and running yet.

The local woman who I stayed with made beautiful woven hats and of course I had to get one. These beautifully woven hats can take weeks or months to make and are worn by many Panamanian men.

Currently, Ojo de Agua doesn’t have any official hotel or place to stay either. If you rent a car, it would be a good idea to rent a SUV with four wheel drive as some of the smaller roads are not paved, are quite steep, and can get slippery after it rains. Penonome is a much larger city and is not too far away. It may be the best option for nearby accommodations.