Meandering along the Inter-American highway in Panama from the city of David to Boca Chica, the closest port village to Isla Palenque, one has the opportunity to take in the ambiance of the Chiriqui Province. There are always street vendors selling red snapper, oranges in large bags and other produce from nearby markets. Some local campesinos sell parakeets near the edge of the road, at times painting a yellow line from their beak to their forehead to represent a more intelligent species of parakeet worth more money.
One of the more stunning views in this area is of an 800-meter tall waterfall that descends from the mesa de la chorcha, a steppe located to the north of the Inter-American highway. Ascending the plateau is moderately taxing; an hour-and-a-half climb up steep terrain is alleviated by the presence of a rustic gravel road used for transiting cattle and some machinery. Walking up the mountain, a hiker gets an ever-improving view of the Pacific coastline, including many estuaries within the Gulf of Chiriqui. Glancing to the west on a clear day, one can just barely make out the Peninsula of Puerto Armuelles marking the border with Costa Rica. Directly south from the waterfall, one can see Isla Boca Brava and Isla Palenque.
The steep descent allows for a 180-degree view of the coastline and a perspective unlike any other. Hawks, eagles and vultures buzz along the edges of the cliff, taking advantage of the wind that rises as it meets the edge of the plateau to rest their wings in flight while seeking prey.
Standing on the edge of the cliff and watching the water fall freely to the earth below, the climber has a chance to take in the province from a privileged location that is not often visited. What tectonic movements could have possibly allowed this plateau to rise and render such incredible views? Moving closer to the edge, one can feel the rush of nerves while pondering how far 800 meters exactly is, only to turn away and descend the mountain with a greater sense of the power of nature and precisely how small each of us really is.
I’m sure it pales in comparison to the views from Volcan Baru to the west, from which I’m told on a clear day one can see both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans… but the Chorcha waterfall offers a spectacular day trip within half an hour of Isla Palenque.