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    Is This the Isthmus? Tour – Panama Part 5

    Thursday, July 20, 2017
    Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama

    A t-shirt seat cover in a taxi in Panama City, Panama.
    A t-shirt seat cover in a taxi in Panama City, Panama.

    Twin trees at the Parque Natural Metropolitano in Panama City, Panama.
    Twin trees at the Parque Natural Metropolitano in Panama City, Panama.

    Around noon, I inhaled, I mean hailed a taxi cab, paid the $5.00 fare and got whisked a few miles north up to the Parque Natural Metropolitano, a nature preserve in the middle of Panama City. On the way there, as we tooled through a bunch of high-density slums, I noticed the driver was using a t-shirt as a seat cover, which I thought was pretty funny, not to mention thrifty. She and her aunt, who was riding shotgun, never stopped talking the whole time. As the driver dumped me out at my destination around 1:00 pm, she asked what time I was going to leave. I said 5:00 pm, and she said she’d return at 4:45 pm to pick me up for the return trip to the hostel. Sweet deal.

    A thick jungle scene at the Parque Natural Metropolitano in Panama City, Panama.
    A thick jungle scene at the Parque Natural Metropolitano in Panama City, Panama.

    After I paid the $4.00 entry fee, a guide pointed me toward the trailhead, which was behind some buildings. There are two trail loops, one big and one small, with a total length of just a few kilometers, so you can hike the whole thing in two or three hours, including stops to rest and take photos. As soon as I entered the woods, I was enveloped by the raspy drone of cicadas. I wanted to record them, but there was too much traffic noise from a nearby road, so I decided to wait until later.

    A tree and vine do the tango at the Parque Natural Metropolitano in Panama City, Panama.
    A tree and vine do the tango at the Parque Natural Metropolitano in Panama City, Panama.

    A few minutes up the trail, I encountered a small ranger station, where another guide showed me the way to approach the large loop. Then he walked me over to a clearing, where he showed me a sloth napping way up in the top of a tree. It was so far up, I’ll bet the Hubble space telescope could not snap a detailed photo of it. Next, I made my way up the trail. The heat was stifling, which made me pour sweat the way a Chia Pet emits foliage–from everywhere.

    Woody the Woodpecker was here at the Parque Natural Metropolitano in Panama City, Panama.
    Woody the Woodpecker was here at the Parque Natural Metropolitano in Panama City, Panama.

    The jungle scenery was pretty nice, but not nearly as beautiful and dramatic as Bukit Lawang in Sumatra, which is an actual jungle out in the wilderness, not just a preserve in a city. I didn’t see much wildlife, either. It’s not like I expected Toucan Sam himself to fly up, land on my shoulder, shove a cigar in my mouth and a fedora on my head and yell, “Welcome to Panama!” but still you’d think I’d see more than the one little critter I spotted. But, at least up at a higher elevation, the traffic noise was much more faint, which made it better to record the raspy drones emitted by the cicadas.

    Stairway to Heaven, or at least the tip top of the highest hill at the Parque Natural Metropolitano in Panama City, Panama.
    Stairway to Heaven, or at least the tip top of the highest hill at the Parque Natural Metropolitano in Panama City, Panama.

    Near the top of the summit were two viewpoints. The first supposedly overlooks the Miraflores Locks of the Panama Canal, but I could maybe only make out a tiny sliver of it off in the distance. The second offered a great view of the skyline of Panama City. Near that viewpoint was a small stairway with stone steps of irregular shape and height, which made for quite a strenuous little climb. From up there was a great view to the southwest toward Casco Viejo. I could even faintly see the Amador Causeway I had biked down a couple of days before.

    A splendid view of part of Panama City from the top of Parque Natural Metropolitano, Panama.
    A splendid view of part of Panama City from the top of Parque Natural Metropolitano, Panama.

    Heading back down the hills was, of course, much easier and less sweaty. By the time I got back down to the bottom, I realized I had plenty of time to do the small loop, too. Although, it featured a bit less of elevation gain, it was, due to a large amount of stairs, almost as strenuous as the big loop. The small loop was more scenic, as well, with numerous rustic wooden staircases, railings, a thatched roof hut, etc. dotted around its up-and-down topography.

    You know that armored dinosaur Ankylosaurus? Well, here's a similarly armored tree at the Parque Natural Metropolitano in Panama City, Panama.
    You know that armored dinosaur Ankylosaurus? Well, here’s a similarly armored tree at the Parque Natural Metropolitano in Panama City, Panama.

    By the time I arrived back at the ranger station, it was 4:00 pm, so I relaxed for a while on a chair inside and typed up some of this journal entry. A taxi cab driver offered me a ride; but I told him I had a pick-up on the way. Sure enough, at 4:45 pm on the nose, the same taxi lady showed up, as promised, and whisked me back to Luna’s Castle.

    A scenic scene at the Parque Natural Metropolitano in Panama City, Panama.
    A scenic scene at the Parque Natural Metropolitano in Panama City, Panama.

    Words and photos ©2017 Arcane Candy.

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