Isla Bona and Cerro Cara Iguana

Tags: Cerro Cara Iguana, El Valle, Isla Bona, Panama, sailing

Date: February 27, 2023

After a good time in the Islas Perlas, it was time to move on and head west. We stopped for a few days at an island called Isla Bona:

Interestingly, there are some old remains of industrial equipment on the island. On the outside is a fairly large crane:

Inside the bay where we anchored, some structures become visible at low tide:

It turns out that the island was used as a storage area for black sand in the early 1970s. A Japanese company built a station there and collected black sand off a nearby beach and transported the sand in small boats to the island. The sand was then loaded on large ships for Japan. The reason for collecting the black sand is that it contains a lot of iron and Japan imported iron ore from all over the world to facilitate the large industrial expansion from the 1950s to the 1970s.

The island was visited in 2009 and 2010 by some sailors like us, except two of them were Fellows of the Institution of Mining and Metallurgy. So they knew all about this type of operation and pieced together the intersting story of the island (see "The Island of Dr No: The Industrial Heritage of BonĂ¡ Island, Panama" by Stewart D. Redwood).

After Isla Bona, we sailed to a marina called Vista Mar. About 25 km inland from the marine, there is an old volcano with a town called El Valle in the middle of the crater. We went there to spend a few days hiking and relaxing.

It was very windy in the mountains and the elevation helped keep us cool (the town is at around 600 m). The town is surrounded by very large crater walls and our first hike was on the south side. Here we are getting up into the hills:

Here is the view into the crater where the town is:

You can see the other crater wall in the distance. The highest peak the is Cerro Gaital which we will get back to later. We were not particularly concerned about being inside a volcano crater because the last large eruption was at least 200,000 years ago.

It was quite dry on this side of the town:

The main peak has a buttress called Cara Iguana (the face of the iguana):

Looking back at Felicie making her way out there:

A view back on the way we came:

Heading down, we go through a pine forest:

And finally down a steep dirt road: