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Panama Travelogue, January 2006

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Ripe cherry in the bag- Carlos pays by weight, and for ripe red cherry only. The quality of this picking shows that he is getting very good results.
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I took some pictures of the Red Catuai which might misrepresent the production on the farm this year. It is down from last year due to unusual rains that came in October.
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Carlos has a few Yellow Catuai interspersed with the red, but these are not planted on purpose.
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Once again, a tree that does not represent the scarcity of coffee at Carmen Estate. Farms are always at the mercy of weather, and coffee needs a distinct dry season, and colder weather too. Damage from wind, frost, hale or hard rain always poses a threat too. Or simply unseasonable weather, like this past year, can ruin production.
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Bob looks across the valley at the Baru volcano.
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Washing clothes by the roadside at Carmen Estate. Carlos said they built a special facility to wash clothes, but the seasonal workers, mostly Ngobe people, prefer the same spigot they used in years past ...
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The flat and the steep terrain of Carmen Estate, with Carlos and the 3 gringos.
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There is a new schoolhouse at Carmen and some pretty fine artwork on the walls.
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My favorite...
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Yet another amazing view of the Paso Ancho, which is between the town of Volcan and Bambito.
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Workers at Carmen, always curious about visitors but not quite ready to come out and say hello. I was embarassed on one trip of a couple roasters who made pickers pose with them. You could tell they are curious but shy. I even felt a little guilty snapping this picture.
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Next we visited the farm of Rafael Amar, a beautiful place called Bambito Estate. He has an interesting mix of traditional cultivars in a garden-like setting. The coffee is planted in an old style (read as disorganized) with citrus trees. Here the pickers are weighing out the coffee brought down to the patio from the days harvest. His varietals are Caturra, Yellow Catuai and bronze-tip Typica.
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Across the patio at Bambito Estate, a workers house.
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We had a fantastic meal that evening in honor of Carlos' birthday. The restaurant, on a little dirt road outside of Volcan, would be a sensation in the Bay Area. In Panama, it is a bit pricey, but Mahi Mahi for a person with a US salary. The salads were amazing, the spicey dressing so complex; anise, dill, cumen, black pepper, in perfect balance.
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Next day, we had time for a walk in the national park area around the Volcan Baru. Panama and Costa Rica both have parks that abut eachother, called La Amistad. We didn't have time for a real hike, jsut enough to get a feel for the dense forest canopy. Here a fern tendril ...
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... massive leaves filtering the sun and creating some nice light.
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Back in David, waiting for the plane and walking around the central shopping district. I like commercial paintings a lot. I tried to find a Panama National Team futbol-soccer jersey. No luck. They didn't make it to Germany so they are off the shelves in all the stores. Panama is still a baseball country, but soccer is gaining a bit. I guess the local Chirqui team, based in David, plays a mean defensive game, and is well worth the ticket.

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