June 12, 2004
We have often talked about the repeated pleasant surprises we have had in Central America at finding high mountain spots that offer a cool climate along with spectacular vistas of volcanoes and valleys. Santa Fe was another such place. We had stopped in Santiago on a whim but once there we learned that it sat at the end of a valley leading straight up into the cordillera and ending at a mountain village called Santa Fe. We determined to visit and so towards the end of our stay drove out of Santiago north toward the continental divide.
We weren't sure what we would find, but hoped to take a hike near the village. Our first goal, however, was to find somewhere safe to leave the car and with that in mind we first looked for the local hotel. There we found the local peace corps volunteer and her great information about where to hike and where to park the car, as well as a decent place for our lunch after the hike.
Our volunteer recommended that we walk from the village up to Altos de Piedra, a small indigenous village right on the continental divide, so we drove out of Santa Fe until the road got a bit too steep for our car and parked it by the roadside, assured that no-one would disturb it.
The dirt road was both wide and steep and we quickly got winded climbing up out of the valley. We also quickly got wonderful views. As we walked we speculated that somebody must have discovered Boquete in a similar way and decided that it was a great place to retire. As we came around one of the bends in the road, we found what we thought would be the perfect place for our retirement homesite. There was a flat spot by the roadside of about a couple of acres that had an unimpeded view across the valley, past Santa Fe, to the other side. The air was clear and clean, traffic minimal, what more could we ask? Well, perhaps a hospital a little closer than Santiago, but with satellite and solar power we thought most of the rest of our needs would be well provided for.
But of course, we weren't really serious, so continued on with our walk meeting another foreigner, a young AFS (American Field Service) volunteer from French Canada, and then a family of indians who told us they had been walking up from the Caribbean coast for the past two days and were on their way to Santa Fe. The map shows clearly that indeed there is no paved road between Santa Fe and the Caribbean coast and so the only way up to and over the divide is by shanks's pony.
And finally to our goal, the village of Altos de Piedra and a brief view of the "other" side of the mountain before retracing our steps to the car and then to Santa Fe for a pleasant lunch of chicken, rice, and beans. Some day Santa Fe will be as popular a place as Boquete and El Valle, but for now it is a very unspoiled, quiet place with some superb mountain views.