Hiking Cariguana in El Valle de Anton
The second largest inhabited volcano crater in the world where the Anton Valley, or El Valle de Anton how they call it in Spanish is situated, is definitely one of the hotspots for mid-hikers in Panama. The three most important trekking routes are India Dormida, Gaital (or at least half-way hike to the viewpoint at Caracoral) and hiking Cariguana mount.
I can proudly say that I managed to hike all three of them and I can only recommend you to do so too if you have enough time in the Valley as each mount is unique when it comes to both the fauna and flora, and also the view.
One morning I hiked to Caracoral with the most-known local guide, nicknamed El Chakal, who then guided me to the top of Cariguana mountain too.
I spent a week just down there staying at Cariguana Spa and taking a sunset walk along the streets of the town overlooking the Cariguana mount.
And now I was going to do the complete opposite – to get to see the town from the top of the same mountain.
On the way to Cariguana mountain we passed a cross dedicated to a man who was killed at the very same place by accident when 2 rocks falling off from the mountain hit him.
Trying to catch the breath with sun burning our faces, El Chakal pointed at the Cariguana trying to draw something. I just shrugged my shoulders.
”Look, Cariguana is derived from two words – Cara Iguana, which means iguana’s face. The shape of the mountain does resemble an iguana if you look closer.”
El Chakal was so right. It did not cross my mind until I focused my gaze at the mountain.
Chakal also explained me where the name of the whole valley came from. Behind the Cariguana mountain a river rises which had no name until a certain incident. A Spanish guy called Anton Rio almost died in the river when the current started taking him away. The native people saw the accident, helped him out and then named the river after him – Anton River – el rio de Anton from which originated El Valle de Anton as the name of the town.
Hiking Cariguana was different than the other 2 mounts in El Valle. First, you walk up a steep rocky curvy road under the sun, then when you finally cross where the entrance once used to be, you get to an open space with dry grass.
Not many trees are there to hide under, and very strong wind makes it difficult to walk at times.
”Sometimes the wind is so strong on top of Cariguana that it can sweep you off your feet, so be careful, especially when walking at the edge.” I remembered the words of Doctor Colastra, the owner of Cariguana Spa he told me on the first day we met.
It did not make sense to me until I could feel the power of the wind when trekking against it. At one point Chakal’s hat flew away and he began to run to catch it.
The wind, burning sun at mid-day, tall grass and no shade did make it harder to get to the top of Cariguana but I think I enjoyed the view from up there more than from India Dormida and even more than from the Caracoral viewpoint. It felt very magical, something similar to the energy at Teotihuacan ruins.
We took a bunch of different photos with El Chakal on top of Cariguana but almost did not speak at all and just seized the moment.