We have been stumped by something recently. Every time we go to a fast-food restaurant, a manager has come to the cash register and enters a code. The total price goes down a little bit. At first, we thought we might be doing something wrong when we placed our orders. But, how can we be doing something wrong every time? Most recently, we went to the McDonalds near our marina. Please do not judge us based on the fact every once in a while we eat fast food. Nobody was ever harmed by the “occasional” Big-Mac and fries. Again on this visit, after we placed our order the young lady at the cash register called the manager over. He smiled and said something in Spanish that blew completely by us and entered his code. Panamanian people are ever so polite. We thanked him and smiled back. The price went down. It finally dawned on us, the cashier thinks we are old people and is giving us the retiree discount. In Panama by law, retirees are entitled to 15% off fast food. Oh crap! We’re old people.
We finally solved this mystery because of our previous post to this blog about expats in Panama where I wrote about some of the benefits of living here. Cindy was proofreading it. The little light above her head came on. I must admit, I do like getting discounts. But, getting a discount because someone thinks I’m old …. well… it’s sort of haunting. Oh well, I guess I’m going the have to learn to live with this getting old thing. Bring on the discounts!
Speaking of getting old, a few minutes ago we’re planning a road trip. We have a rental car again and have decided to go on an excursion. Cindy, the Entertainment Director, suggested we go to a town called Boquete. A picturesque town about a 5-6 hour drive away. Her thought being, we could stay there for a couple of nights. I asked her what there is to do in Boquete. As it turns out, there is a lot to do there. Besides being another USA expat region, it is a destination for eco-tourists because of the mountains. According to Wikipedia Boquote is “a scenic location, temperature, and natural environment make it popular with Panamanians and attracts tourists and retirees from all over the world”. Cindy said we can tour a coffee plantation, zip line, white water raft or perhaps hike up to the top of a volcano to an elevation of 11,400 feet (3,475 meters). Let’s take a look at these activities one by one.
A tour of a coffee plantation
I am a tea drinker. I guess this is sort of like being a cat person to a dog person. I might enjoy a tour of a coffee plantation but truly can’t even imagine how the most thorough extensive detailed tour could possibly be more than three minutes long. I envision it would go something like this: Here’s a coffee bush, here’s the bean thing, this is what we grow here and then we sell it to Starbucks. Please exit via the gift shop.
You know the rest of the story: Starbucks marks it up about ten thousand percent and calls it something really fancy. The coffee aficionados think it is awesome, add all sorts of crap to it and then pay exorbitant prices for something sounding like a foreign language to us Dunkin Donut people. Full disclosure, I said the same thing about touring a cocoa plantation in Grenada. It turned out the tour of the cocoa plantation was super interesting and I learned a lot. It was a great day. I wonder if coffee has an interesting side story. I’m skeptical.
In all honesty, I think I might enjoy this. It is something I have never done. Dangling from a wire while screaming down a mountain towards a fixed object at twice the speed of sound might be exhilarating. I mean, what could possibly go wrong? However, for me it really depends on the scale of the zip line facility. I have seen pictures of people zip lining in Costa Rico through and over the rain forest tree canopies. It looks incredible. I imagine this would feel like a bird.
I used to laugh hard when we kept Cream Puff in Florida. I saw billboard signs for zip lining. Florida is full of billboards. They’re up and down all the major roads. Most are lawyers wanting you to sue somebody for massive amounts of money so they keep it and get rich. The rest are pro-life messages. Keep in mind the average age of a Floridian is 86. Assuming they can see, there is a very good chance the people reading these Pro-Life messages are a little bit past the childbearing years and the potential worries of birth control. In between all these billboards, I happened to notice an ad for a zip line park. Do you know how flat Florida is? The highest elevation is six inches above sea-level. So regarding zip lining in Florida, I have to ask, what is the point? I think I can stand on a chair and get the same view as the person atop the zip-line platform. In Boquete, if it turns out the zip line thing is through a forest and offers fabulous views as I scream down a hill, I’m in. If it’s in someone’s back yard, I’ll pass. I’ll put this activity in the undecided column.
White water rafting
We lived in Georgia and frequently white water rafted on rivers with various grades of rapid difficulties in the Georgia mountains. We started out on the class I rapids and worked up to the class IV. Class V is as bad as it gets and is considered extreme. One of the more challenging parts was the Tallulah Gorge on the Chattooga River which was used in the film “Deliverance” (yeah, the one with the Banjo’s that painted such a wonderful picture of Georgia). It was the scene where Burt Reynolds fell out and broke his leg. I have white water rafted class IV rapids in the raft, under the raft, behind the raft and without the raft. I think I am rafted out.
A hike up the Volcano
Apparently, from this vantage point, it is possible to see both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. It is the highest point in Panama. Looking at pictures, the view from the top is magnificent. People are dressed in jackets or coats. They are looking down on the clouds. I find the idea of cool temperatures very appealing. I honestly don’t remember the last time I wore long pants. One of the guided hikes leaves at midnight. For six hours people hike in the dark and arrive at the top of the volcano just in time to see the sunrise over the Caribbean. I did the fancy mathematics on this and very quickly calculated the hike is over 12 hours long. While this might sound awesome to some people, I have questions. What is the point of hiking in the dark? Is there a sunrise do-over if I get there a few minutes late? Are their nocturnal animals that might eat me on the trail? Is there a McDonalds at the top where I can get an Egg McMuffin with my 15% old person discount?
So, please note here, most of these activities have an element of danger. Okay, the coffee plantation tour, not so much. But the others… well, bad stuff can happen. So again, I have questions. Should we take our satellite phone so we can get evacuated should something bad happen? I have learned the older I get, the more precious life has become. I have also learned I am not invincible and if someone was going to fall into the volcano, there’s a possibility it might be me. I’d probably fall in while taking an awesome picture to post on this blog. Does Boquote have a hospital with a trauma center? I never worried about this stuff in my younger years. I figured I could always call a billboard lawyer if I was hurt and that’d make everything better. Does anyone know the number you dial Panama for an emergency? Is the person on the other end going to be able to understand me? No hablo español!
We kept Googleing and reading and made a rather nice discovery. Perhaps we should have first Googled, “Old and frail people tours in Boquote”. Anyway, we found there are tour guides with Jeeps who will drive us up to the top of the volcano. This is more my cup of tea (no offense intended to the coffee people). Cindy and I both worked hard in life and feel every now and then it is good to have a little luxury. The guides with Jeeps will pick us up at our hotel, stop by McDonald’s (I can only dream) and drive us up the mountain. Along the trail, we can wave at the rather tired looking hikers as we zoom past with our supersized combo meals. This is starting to sound like it might be a really fun excursion. I’ll let you know how it goes.