The Camino Real is the most famous trail you’ve never heard of
500 years ago, there was no Panama Canal. Still, the Spanish needed a way to transport their booty of gold and silver from inland to the Caribbean coast. To do this, the Conquistadors built a cobblestone path, not much wider than the breadth of a mule, from Panama City all the way to Portobello. This route, called “The Kings Road” or Camino Real, was used until the mid 18th century and helped the Spanish state grow into a world superpower.
Today, the cobblestone path is hardly discernable, so having a knowledgeable guide is a must. With his assistance, you will trek through the jungle during the day, visiting hidden waterfalls, beaches and villages; and sleep in jungle hammocks at night. He will teach you about the history of the Camino and your expedition group will search out its ruins. Your guide will lead you across the Boqueron river multiple times. It isn’t unusual to stop for a dip in the cool pools that form along the river. Doing so helps battle the humidity and heat.
But you will be rewarded two fold. First with the knowledge and history of the Camino Real and secondly with an achievement you can be proud of. Actually three fold. The celebratory beer you have at the end of your jungle adventure will be one of the most refreshing you’ve ever had!
This is chance to see the remote jungle of panama in a way that very few travelers experience - by foot.
Cool off in the natural pools and rivers that you will visit along your trek.
A note on Wildlife - Although animal life is abundant (jaguars, monkeys and toucans are here), the main purpose of the trip is not wildlife viewing. Trekking through the jungle requires different skills than animal watching. Generally, you need to be very quiet and remain still to have the best chance of seeing them. With being on the move and the resulting noise, it may not happen that you see much wildlife. Of course, if animals are seen, time will be taken to take pictures.
The Camino Real slices it’s way 100km from Panama City on the Pacific to Portobello in the Caribbean north. The jungle is dense, however there are numerous peasant villages located in the region. Chargres National Park is located here as well, which contains 329,000 acres of rainforest. Weather in the jungle is often sunny in the morning and cloudy in the afternoon; being wet is a fact of life.
Due to urbanization, sections of the Camino have been lost forever. Several initiatives have been undertaken to preserve the area, however the future of the Camino is unknown.
Jungle hammock photo by Fran Tapia
Early this afternoon we board our private van headed for the village of Boqueron Arriba, north of Madden Lake, located in one of the most important areas of the Panama Canal Watershed. Travel time is about two hours and the road conditions go from asphalt to dirt road until the path becomes unpassable for vehicles. Here we get acquainted with our jungle camping equipment and spend the night, ready for your jungle adventure the next day!
On day 2 we begin our journey on foot, at first hiking through farmland and along some scattered households. Slowly the farms give way to less developed areas until we reach the pristine rainforest of the Chagres National Park.
We cross the Boqueron River a myriad times, and take rest stops to enjoy and interpret the natural landscapes as well as the history, especially where there is archeological evidence of the Camino Real. These stops also allow us to adjust to the heat and humidity of the tropical jungle. It is not unusual to take a dip in some of the crystal-like pools that form along the river bends. The weather is typically sunny in the morning and cloudy in the afternoon with rain showers that last only a few minutes. So being wet is a fact of life in these realms.
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Pygmy Miles Total
For every 1$ you spend with us, you earn 1 Pygmy Mile.
Miles Traveled by Foot
We multiply the number of miles traveled on foot by 10. You earn a total of 620 miles for trekking 62 miles to the coast. With the exception of cooking equipment and some gear carried by porters, everything you’ll need for 8 days will be carried on your back.
Completing a challenge
We give you an extra 462 miles for making it all the way from point A to point B without the assistance of a back up vehicle. That's a 25% bonus on base miles.
Minimize impact on environment
You will be practicing the leave no trace philosophy to minimise your impact on the environment. Furthermore, your carbon footprint is extremely low for the 7 days in the jungle - there are no vehicles used and camping in the jungle requires little energy expenditure.
Total Pygmy Miles
In the jungle, all sorts of creepy crawlies line the jungle floor. Add on twigs, branches and twisted root systems, it’s much better to hover above the ground than on it. Enter the jungle hammock. It keeps you dry, clean and comfortable. The hammocks used by our expedition partner were designed by them, and especially for the heat and humidity of the rain forrest. You simply can’t find anything as well designed on the market. They setup in minutes and provide maximum airflow to keep you ventilated.
8 days / 7 Nights (no single supplement): $1,850
4 days / 3 Nights (no single supplement): $510
|This trip includes:
||This trip does not include:
- What you will need to bring:
A backpack, a good pair of boots, trekking poles and good physical conditioning.
Consult & Book
We help you understand the product offering, book the trip with our partner and guide you through the preparation process.
Pygmy Elephant provides:
- Transfer arrangements: from Panama City on to other locations in Central America
- Pre-departure support: what to pack, arranging travel insurance and informing on travel advisories
- 24 hour customer service: if something goes wrong, we have your back
- Pygmy Miles: receive discounts off future travel
Current Trip Dates:
February 13th – 20th, 2016! || 8 days / 7 nights || 4 days / 3 nights
Scheduled Guided Tour
Join a guided tour
You will join a group of between 6 and 12 adventurous souls on this expedition.
If you have 4 or more friends, this trip can be privately guided. Prices are the same as scheduled tour starting with 6 participants.
Level : Low
Level : High
Level : High
What makes this journey so rewarding is the combination of history, rugged nature and physical endurance needed to complete it. You will need to be in good physical and mental condition to make it to Portobello. You will also need to be able to deal with insects and snakes, which often make an appearance along the way.
How about the food?
Your guide has significant experience with cooking in the jungle. He has been experimenting with food dehydration for years, so that he could transport the taste of homemade food into the wilderness. He prepares elaborate local food, pasta dishes, meats and fruits and lays them out to dry and then rehydrates them on the trail. To him, one of the greatest joys on the trail is to gulp jungle coffee and a plate of rice and beans with a piece of smoked tasajo.
Further Points to Consider
Some further points to consider (from our partner):
- How medical emergencies are handled in the jungle: Before the beginning of each expedition, every participant must have a valid travel insurance that covers everything up to medical evacuations and repatriation. We have Wilderness First Responder training obtained from NOLS and are able to handle accidents and illness to a reasonable extent. In case of an evacuation, we have a remote emergency coordinator who monitors the progress of each expedition 24/7, and facilitates any extraction operations with the professional agencies in charge. That way we in the field can concentrate our efforts on the patient and let our coordinator handle the extraction procedures. All medical costs will be covered by the participant or his/her insurance company.
- On Snakes: There certainly are snakes in the places where we trek. Some of them are venomous. Big snakes are easy to see, but very rare. The little ones however can be so tiny and well camouflaged that you seldom notice them when you walk by. The real danger lies in stepping on them inadvertently, and having it strike back. This is why we ask that trekkers to wear high boots instead of trail shoes, and to wear thick gaiters, preferably snake-proof. We do this for insurance and piece of mind. We’ve never had an incident with snakes. But just like we have never tipped a boat, yet still wear the life jacket, we wear snake protection when going to the jungle. Having said all this, if you have a phobia toward snakes or any other kind of wild creature, we recommend that you consider joining a trip in more controlled environments than our destinations.
- On Ranger Stations: We sleep in hammocks in the middle of the jungle, usually by a river. Although in small communities where there are other types of accommodation we may take up the opportunity and stay there if the beds and sheets are clean. Churches and school buildings in remote villages provide excellent hammock shelters.Park ranger and field stations on the other hand, are usually non-existent or in a sad state of disrepair in some of our countries. So accommodations are marginal at best. In such cases we camp in the backwoods.