I have been thinking about taking a drive to the Chiriquí Grande area since I had learned of the humanitarian work that the US was doing in that area. I had met Col. Jones and several of his team in David and had told him I would be interested in seeing what they were doing. It was a week or two later that I saw the news, of the traffic accident killing two of the solders, on local TV.
I had been so impressed with the professionalism of the people I had met that I felt a connection and a loss when I learned of their deaths. I felt an even stronger impetus to photograph the important work that they had been involved in. Prior to the trip, I called Col. Jones and asked if there would be any problem in my visiting the work site on Sunday. He had said it wouldn’t be a problem and told me approximately where they were working. With that conformation, I scheduled my trip.
Taking off from David, I drove about 13 kilometers on the InterAmerican Highway toward Panama City and come to a large Texaco station. At this intersection you will see a sign indicating that Chiriquí Grande is to the left. I had no idea of the weather changes I would encounter on the drive. It has been hot and dry in David and this drive was going to take me through several different microclimates before the day was over.
I took the following photo while I was driving through Guaglaca. These flowering trees were everywhere on the drive, but with the wind it looked like all the blooms would be gone in a couple of days.
I got away from David later than I had planned and didn’t take any photos on the drive to Chiriquí Grande. I have made this drive one other time and knew that the drive through the stretch of mountains can be pretty exciting. I didn’t want to be rushed on the return side of the trip in case I got into bad weather or darkness. Also this road is highly traveled by large 18-wheelers.
I will have some photos of the drive from the return perspective, so let me just jump ahead to where I was at my destination. I missed a couple of my landmarks and wound up driving into the city of Chiriquí Grande. I stayed there just long enough to ask a couple locals for direction to where the Norte Americanos were working. Chiriquí Grande is not a town that I would want to spend much time in. It is dirty and the people are very poor and you feel like a foreigner pretty quick.
After getting driving instructions, I turned around and headed to Rambala. When I got close, I stopped at a large Texaco station and another local in a car said he was going toward the work area.
Sure enough he brought me to this site. I learned that this is where they were filling trucks with dirt that was needed to level some of the construction areas.
While I had followed the local, I knew I wasn’t close to the base camp. I wanted to stop by and tell Col. Jones thanks allowing my visit. I talked with a couple of the solders at this site and they radioed the Colonel and then gave me directions.
Unfortunately I missed the Colonel, but I will take the time to say “Thanks Col. Jones” here in the blog. As I mentioned, I left later than I had intended and when I was at the base camp I was ready to eat. I was told that there was a small restaurant that many of the soldiers ate at so I figured if it was good enough for them, it was good enough for me.
This is the little Kiosko with the name that translates to “Divine Child’ in English. Sure enough there were several soldiers there when I arrived. I asked what they recommended and the recommendation was fried chicken. Being an Oklahoma farm boy, that sounded like it would hit the spot.
The chicken was great and was only missing a little cream gravy on the French fries to make it perfect.
I got to talk to several of the soldiers who were enjoying the Panama weather. Many were from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Illinois and the northern states. I also met several from Alabama. I expressed my thanks for what they were doing and my regrets for the recent traffic accident.
This is a photo of the daughter of the Kiosk owner. She was a favorite with the troops and why not. Who couldn’t be captured and conquered by those eyes.
With my belly filled and daylight burning, I decided it was time to see what I could see at the sites. This next photo is on the way and you can see that the day was a little overcast.
Around the bend and it cleared up a little.
This is an example of many of the houses of the locals in this area. It is typical for them to be built above ground.
Here are a couple more similar photos.
After passing the dirt excavation area again, I eventually came upon the development site.
I took this photo just after I had parked in front of a long line of trucks.
Here are the trucks. While the road looks pretty good here, when the trucks are rolling this area can become pretty congested and when you are in a small car it can be pretty intimidating.
This shows a little church and the building is going on to the right.
In this photo all the work is going on to the left.
This is one of the trucks getting ready to dump a load of dirt from the excavation site.
I guess, there aren’t many people that come out here with a camera.
I considered driving to the next site, but I was told I would see pretty much the same thing, and I decided it would be better to head back to David.
Thanks to all the people I talked to. Thanks for being so cordial and taking the time to talk to me. Thanks also for the great work you are doing. The people in this area will benefit from your efforts. I understand that two schools and two clinics will be built in these areas.
Here is another photo of some family housing.
I wasn’t on the road for very long when I ran into a pretty thick fog and rain.
In one part of the drive you cross a large hydroelectric dam.
This was taken from the car as I crossed the dam.
This is a photo I took to show one of the ways they protect against huge rains causing erosion. They build these rock walls and they are encased in a wire mesh. It allows the water to go through, but slows the water flow and stops the erosion.
This is a photo looking back to the dam I just crossed.
The first time I made this drive (3 ½ years ago), there were some small stands on the road selling things. It looks like they have moved to the other side of the road and the quality of the buildings had greatly improved. I didn’t stop.
The following photos will give you an idea of the general country in this area.
Some entrepreneurial person has built this house for rent. It has quite a nice view. I wonder how much it is being rented for.
Well that is the end of yesterday’s photos. Hope you enjoyed the trip. Remember to support the members of the US armed services. I don’t think they get enough credit and thanks for all the good that they do.