Tony The Guide:
I arrived in Boquete in the morning and was greeted by Tony, a guide who was born in Panama City, but lived in Texas for many years and speaks perfect English. Tony was a nice guy; age 30-something, acts 19, but knows a lot about the area. His Tacoma is parked at the central park area of Boquete and he charges $20-$60 for various hikes around Boquete.
Problem with Tony is that he drinks, and he does it well – so reliable is not a word I would use to describe Tony.
The earthquake was a 4.6, enough to scare two guides out of taking me to the top of the Volcano – but Tony was up for it. We set the hike up for the following night, leaving around 2AM (his recommendation).
The day before the hike, I went white-water rafting, with the intent of eating dinner afterward and then going to sleep before waking up at 2AM for the hike. When I returned from the white-water rafting trip at 3PM, I called Tony from the pay phones in the town square to verify the time – no answer.
I went and ate, and gave Tony another call around 4PM – no answer. I went back to my hostel and packed my bag for the hike, I killed some more time talking with some locals, then I called Tony again at 5PM – no answer.
Starting To Worry
My schedule didn’t allow for wiggle room for this hike – so I started to get a little nervous. There was no way that the excuse of "the guide wouldn’t answer the phone" was going to fly with my friends back home – I had to do this hike, come on Tony, where are you?!?!
Finally, at 7PM, Tony answered his phone. He was in David, would be in Boquete in 40 minutes, and would come to my hostel. Tony showed up 75 minutes later and told me that a lightning storm was rolling in from Bocas del Toro and he wasn’t going to do the hike that night. Disappointed, I agreed that it wouldn’t be done and went up to my room to read and try to decide what I would do instead the next day.
At about 9PM, I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t scared of a little electricity – besides, how many more opportunities would I have to hike up a volcano and capture both the Pacific and Atlantic in one panorama picture? I’ve forgotten to shut the breaker off when changing out a light switch… voltage doesn’t scare me!
I called Tony back and told him that I was going to do the hike myself, and asked him for a ride to the entrance at 11:30 – he warned against it, but agreed to give me the ride. With only 2.5 hours till the hike, and with the adrenaline starting to pump, I couldn’t sleep, so I just stayed up and read.
11:30 came… 11:40… dangit Tony! I called again and it immediately when to his voicemail – I am sure that Tony was passed out, with his phone turned off. I politely stated exactly what I thought about Tony to the wall and then looked around for a ride.
Boquete is the most beautiful, peaceful, quiet place at midnight - there was no one… I mean no one. I walked to the local supermarket (which was surprisingly still open) and saw a cab! I found the driver and asked for a ride to the entrance, he agreed but said he needed to give two girls a ride home first.
Feeling sorry for me, the girls said I could ride with them and even told the driver to drop me off first (probably cause I stunk). We drove for 10 minutes up a winding, paved road that turned to dirt and after a few more minutes the driver stopped and happily said "ok!"
I looked out up the dirt road, pointed and said "aqui?" – "si, si" he said. So I got out, checked my flashlight, waved, and started my journey up Volcan Baru, looking back once at the dimming taillights of the taxi.