Excitement and Danger on Our Panama Family Vacation

fire danger in Boquete Panama family travel

Travel is supposed to be exhilarating, and this last trip certainly did offer some exciting experiences. The following was written while on our recent Panama family vacation. At the time, I chose not to publish because I didn’t want anyone back at home to worry about us unduly. We’re obviously just fine, home safe and sound now, but I thought I would share this now that we know we weren’t in any mortal peril. Here goes.

What could go wrong during “rainbow season”?

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So far on this trip we’ve had some “exciting” experiences.

First, while in El Valle, I was carrying a sleeping Z in my arms while walking alongside a road, and stepped off onto the side to let a car pass. Surprise! It was actually a big gully covered by dead leaves and my leg went right through. I threw Z up on the pavement and caught myself hard with my other knee, gashing it open on the edge of the pavement. After making sure Z (still sleeping peacefully) was pulled to safety, Gare pulled my dangling self up onto the road, where we collected our senses again and let the adrenaline die down before continuing on our trek to find the Arboles Quadratos (square trees).

quadratos arboles el valle de anton Panama family vacation

Aside from my bleeding and banged up knee, and the intense heart rate I experienced for the next little while, everyone came out of the experience just fine.

The second adrenaline-filled happenstance occurred when we came home after dinner out in Boquete to find a scorpion in our casita. Now that was a shock! Mr. G captured it with the old cup and paper trick, and took it outside to throw over a bank down the mountain.


While it turned out to be that these scorpions would likely to cause nothing more than what’s similar to a bee sting, we didn’t know that at the time. I’m still cautious about every dark nook and cranny and am not interested in testing the “you’ll be fine” theory. Apparently the scorpions hide in dark places until it’s dark, and try to enter homes in the dry season in search of water sources. I’ll be shaking out all our clothes and blankets from now on.

Then another fear-inducing experience came today. Driving out of Boquete to check out the Caldera hot springs, we drove through a fire on both sides of the road. On our way back, it had definitely progressed, but beyond the same police truck sitting next to the blazing brush, no one seemed concerned. There were still people inside their homes where the fire was burning in their yards, close to their vehicles, and nothing going on as far as panic or evacuation.

On the drive into town for dinner, we noticed the hillside (not exactly a far ways away from where we are staying) ablaze as well. While the only little tidbits of information online we can find seem to tell us that this is normal and a part of the culture here (the farmers apparently set fires on purpose?), we can’t help but be slightly alarmed. The winds are incredible here, and it surprises us that fires would be set on purpose in these dry, hot, windy conditions. And of course, being outside of our over-protective country where everyone seems to have the impression that their safety is the job of someone else (where is my emergency pod to update us if we need to evacuate??), there is the sinking realization that we are actually the only ones who will be responsible for us if anything were to happen.

This crumby low-light shot on my iPhone doesn’t do justice to how alarming the quick-traveling flames were for us, staying on the hill next to this one.

And so, here we are. Exciting times, my friends. Let’s hope it’s all just a part of the cultural experience.

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Ah, yes. Exciting times indeed. Boquete was certainly an exciting place for us, as the next day we added yet another terrifying experience to the roster.

We went into town for a delicious breakfast at Sugar and Spice (which I highly recommend, should you find yourself in Boquete). After our meal we packed up the kid and headed up into the mountains, in search of the Pipeline Trail and the promise of quetzal-spotting opportunities. When we got out of the car for a quick pit-stop, Hubby G realized that the camera bag – carrying the Nikon and all our expensive equipment, my diamond engagement ring (better take this off and keep it safe where people can’t see it), and all of our passports and identification – was not with us.

Boquete Panama family vacation

We panic-drove back to town and the cafe, sweating and praying the whole way that the good in the world should prevail.

Luckily, the very sweet server who had been trying to engage our little Z in some Spanish practice at breakfast, had seen the bag under the table and kept it safe for us. I could have kissed that angel as a wept tears of relief that we would be able to go home. (Missing passports and ID in a foreign country is not a welcome thought.)

panama family vacation
We made it to the Pipeline Trail. No quetzals spotted, but this proud little lady hiked the whole 6km herself!

So there you have it. The rest of our Panama family vacation went off without too much of a hitch (barring some sickness on the last couple days) and I can’t wait to share it all with you. I’m still trying to find the time to work through the many amazing pictures from our trip, and when I do you can bet I’ll be posting them here. (In the mean time, you can take a peek at my Instagram page and keep an eye out for new photos as they slowly become ready.)

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