ParqueMetropolitanoI didn’t plan much of my journey through Panama. I had a list of places to visit and a hotel for the first night. I figured I’d meet other travelers and go along with them. I managed to find a few in Panama City and Gamboa, but no one to accompany me between destination. Things still worked out though.

Before I settled on Sierra Llorona and Gamboa as destinations, I didn’t think I’d hike in a rainforest. Not wanting to visit Panama without a stop in a rainforest, my Canadian friends and I decided to walk through Parque Natural Metropolitano. I figured it must be more interesting than the city rainforest in Kuala Lumpur (and I was correct).

This 655-acre park is in the northern part of the city, between Casco Viejo and the new highrises of the downtown financial district. The park is maintained by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, which has a large presence in Panama (I saw a few of their vehicles around Gamboa as well). There are guided tours of the park, but we arrived late in the afternoon when there were none. We were given a trail map and set up a time and place to meet our taxi driver for a ride back to Casco Viejo.

It’s a surreal experience walking through Parque Natural Metropolitano.MetropolitanoView There’s a fairly busy road that runs near most of the trail, and a little farther off on the southern end of the park is Corredor Norte, which is a main road in and out of Panama City. For the first half of the hike, the traffic noise is ever-present but unseen. As the trek progressed toward the lookout point, all evidence of traffic disappeared and was replaced by the rustling of branches and leaves in the breeze.

We didn’t see much wildlife, though we caught sight of a coatimundi (the tail of it anyway) and a couple agouti that scampered off before we could get close enough for a photograph. Prior to reaching the quiet area of the park, we only came across Jesus lizards by a pond and plenty of leaf-cutter ants blazing their own trails.DowntownView

The views from the lookout were beautiful, but much of it was obscured by the trees.DowntownView2

As we waited by our meet-up point for our driver, we found giant ant hills (it’s difficult to see just how large these are from the photo because there’s no reference point, but they were close to knee height).anthills_metropolitano

When we returned to our bed and breakfast in Casco Viejo, we picked up some bananas, snacks, and beer at nearby grocery store and relaxed before heading out for a late dinner at Casablanca on a recommendation. Dinner was followed by drinks at RELIC, which happened to be just around the corner from our bed and breakfast.

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