18 km, a bus, a train, a confusing chat with a half-drunk half-sleeping forest ranger and eight hours later we completed a long hike through the jungle. I had thought I wanted to see animals – I heard there were jaguar, puma, ocelot, jaguarundi, and margay – but at the first faintest sound of a growl and rustling in the bushes we decided it would be best to just get through our hike without seeing a (hungry) carnivore.
We had wanted to go hiking in the jungle. We made our way to Albrook Bus Station for a local bus to the entrance of Soberania National Park, looking for the Camino del Oleoducto – the original trail built to transverse the continent from the Atlantic to Pacific Ocean. Unfortunately, we got off the bus much too early (take the bus past Gamboa). After asking everyone we saw for directions to a nearby hiking trail we finally found the Camino de Plantaciones near the Canape Tower Resort. We decided to walk that trail to the next Camino de Cruzes to make a triangle back to the main road, where we were told we could catch a cab (we failed then too and ended up hitching a ride back to the city).
The trails were beautiful. The first – Camino de Plantaciones – was well-kept and we met a lot of friendly cyclists on the path. We found a nice spot in the stream to take a dip and cool off. When we reached Camino de Cruzes, we found a trail that has not been kept up in over a year, it was overgrown and difficult to follow. Since we had a late start, we had felt pressured to walk quickly to bet the sunset and were afraid of taking a wrong turn. The plants were up to our ankles and we were expecting an encounter with a snake under the foliage. We met no one on this trail, rationed our water and held our breath in anticipation for the next trail marker.
Thankfully we survived with just a few mosquito bits and scratches. Our reward was an incredibly exhilarating and exhausting hike in the jungle.