06-Apr-2006 -- Visiting this confluence took a day of planning and another day to execute. Although the confluence is close to the city of Panama, the actual location might as well be on another planet.
I initially thought I'd be able to do this in a day but soon realized that getting there was going to take some effort. On Day 1 we stopped by the Panama Map Institute (Tommy Guardia) in Panama City and picked up a 1:50,000 topo map. From there we headed down the Inter-American highway to the town of Chepo. From Chepo we turned on to a smaller but well paved road until we reached Puerto de Coquira. At Puerto de Coquira we encoutered the most significant obstacle to our destination- the Rio Bayano. The river was at least a 100 meters wide and deep enough to allow the passage of large fishing trawlers. Our first thought was to look for a ferry to get our rental 4WD across but we soon decided against that.
There is no regular ferry and there was the possibility that we might actually lose the vehicle to the river. After consulting with some of the locals we hitched a ride in a powered canoe and crossed the river. The dirt road on the other side of the river is only passable in the dry season. A few of the locals run cargo hauling services to support the cattle ranching in the area. There were probably only 2 or 3 vehicles, brought in by barge, on the far side of the river and they all looked like candidates for the junk yard. Once on the other side of the river we hired a driver to transport us as close as he could to the confluence. Since it was getting late in the day we decided that we would meet him the next day at 7 a.m.
Day 2: We had to get up at 4 a.m. to make the long drive from where we were staying back to Puerto de Coquira but things went smoothly. Traffic was light and we were able to get a ride across the river immediately. Once on the other side we were disappointed to see the truck we were supposed to be using up on blocks with a tire removed and no sign of the driver. Happily, we soon spotted him crossing the river carrying another tire. After a short delay we were off. The drive can only be described as very bouncy.
After an hour and a half of going up and down one steep hill after another we arrived at our walking point. One of the locals who knew the area agreed to guide us to the general location. Things were kept interesting because, while our guide knew the area like the back of his hand, we had a challenging time keeping him headed in right direction. It turned out that he thought we wanted to go somewhere else and that he used different names than what the map used to describe various locations. Between my map, compass and GPS we managed to stay on course more or less. The walk to the site although only 2.5 kilometers took about 90 minutes. The confluence itself is located on the side of a steep hill. Upon arrival I'm sure our guide wondered what all the fuss was about. We spent about 30 minutes at the confluence taking photos, eating lunch and drying our soggy feet out from the frequent stream crossings. The walk out only took an hour since the guide, now knowing exactly where we were, took advantage of every short cut to get us back in short order. We now had the long bumpy ride back to the river. It seemed to take forever. Our 4 a.m. wake up was catching up with us but sleeping during the drive out was pretty much impossible. Once we got back to the river and had crossed it we celebrated our return to paved roads by purchasing some freshly caught fish and the biggest prawns I have ever seen. That, along with the produce we picked up from roadside stands on the way home, made for a tasty seafood soup later that night.