Panama’s most spectacular and least-seen natural wonder.
By Manolo Morales.
Macho de Monte Canyon is located in Cuesta de Piedra, near the mountain town of Volcán, 20 minutes drive North of the town of Concepcion in the province of Chiriquí. The Macho de Monte gorge is approximately 800 feet long, 164 feet deep and in some places as narrow as 20 feet wide. To enter this geological wonder is to be transported to another world. As you eyes gaze upward at the high basalt walls filled with cracks and fissures you see myriads of fountain-like jets of water gushing from the high canyon walls. This cathedral of stone is an unforgettable place, sadly few of the foreign and national visitors will get to experience its true awesome beauty because access is dificult and at times dangerous.

Manolo Morales, Volcan’s, resident and professional guide, led Jay Mills professional photographer from Nashville TN, USA on a tour. Jay had taken some stunning pictures of other waterfalls in Chiriqui and wanted to add this to his already impressive portfolio.

It was a fresh ,warm, Spring day in the highlands of Chiriqui. Jay Mills, professional photographer based in our area, hired me to take him to explore the Macho de Monte River. My way of seeing the River is not from the bridge, but rather from the river down below, for this I have professional equipment. For the descent we use ropes (rappeling), which I attach from the bridge that crosses the River. I dressed Jay in the obligatory gloves helmet harness and checked them carefully as Jay tried to convince himself of the wisdom of what he was about to do. Rechecked again, Jay took his place and was launched from the bridge in a controlled descent, the drop is about 65 to 70 feet. Jay stopped a few times to take pictures and eventually reached the level of the river. After safely reaching the bottom Jay gave me an OK signal and released the rope that moments before had held his life. I recovered the rope and prepared my own descent. Macho de Monte Canyon makes you wonder how many centuries must have passed for the currents of cold water to so masterfully sculpt these rock walls.

While we continued down stream on our left and right different waterfalls emerged from tributaries of the River. Jay took many photographs of the canyon , while I ensured that he was walking safely and had placed his tripod on as safe and secure places as we could find. When we arrived at the limit of the river, marked by another waterfall, we had to return upstream, fighting against the currents. We passed under the bridge where we had made the descent, and saw the faces of the onlookers perhaps wondering what had led us to risk our lives hanging from a rope then go and fight the river. With the area of the bridge behind us, we found a small cave where bats are hidden from sunlight and like we had done moments ago, the bats hang their fragile lives from the rock. We encountered more water falls then we reached another obstacle. This one a bit more difficult to overcome. To get out of the canyon we had to cross a pool 6 or 8 feet deep, which had a very strong current fed by a waterfall of about 16 feet in height and 3.5 feet wide. So I started to swim against the current, with a rope attached to my back, once I reached the other shore I sent the end of the rope back to Jay to avoid any problems, but Jay was an excellent swimmer who had no problems to reach the shore.

After several photographs of the area, we headed back to the trail and returned safely to our starting point. Jay had taken some stunning pictures that he planned to publish on the Internet while I – I had to plan another adventure.

Facts: The rappel area is about 70 to 80 feet from the bridge. The route following the flow of the river is about 800 feet long. This is an activity that should be carried out only in the dry (Spring) season. During Panama’s rainy season the water flow would make this extremely dangerous. The highest waterfall from where you can rappel is about 30 meters tall.

Tui Na or Chinese Medical Massage is one of the four main branches of TMC (Traditional Chinese Medicine ) the other three are Acupuncture Herbal Medicine and Qi Gong (the Art of healing utilizing the body's own energy power). Tui Na is relatively new to the west but its roots in China and Asia are ancient.

Archeological studies have dated it back to around 2700 BC, making it the forefather of all forms of massage and body work that exist today, from shiatsu to osteopathy. Throughout its history, tui na has been developed, refined and systemized by doctors in colleges and hospitals of Traditional Chinese Medicine all over Asia.

Tui Na differs from other forms of massage in that it is used to treat specific illnesses of an internal nature as well as musculoskeletal ailments, it is also the first choice of treatment for infants and children in the East.

The Tui Na doctor must have a thorough understanding of the rationale of traditional Chinese Medicine in order to make a good diagnosis according to its principles Dr. Mayuly Len explains and she adds “this is essential before treatment can begin”. The treatment itself involves the use of a wide range of specific manual techniques , all of which have particular effects and areas of influnce. Traditional Chinese medicine has become increasingly popular in the west over the last thirty years as a growing number of individuals seek alternatives to conventional drugs. More and more research into the effects of acupuncture, Chinese herbal formulas, Tui Na and Qi Gong is already taking place, and the minds of western doctors are beginning to open as their patients consistently report back the curatives effects of traditional Chinese treatments.

I believe we will see an integration of TMC and other forms of complementary medicine like Homeopathy with allopathic medicine. This would provide people with a health system that takes the best aspects from all forms of medicine resulting in a greater choice of treatments and minimizing side effects and costs, Dr, Len states. Already in many European and Asian countries their public health system had integrated this practice, further, most insurance companies accept these therapies in their health plans because they have proved its long term effectiveness and are lees expensive, continues Dr. Len.

Dr. Len finished by saying as allopathic and complementary therapies doctors come to work together the overall health and well- being of the public at large can only benefit, resulting in a better society

Dr. Mayuly Len is a licensed Massage therapist and traditional Chinese medicine doctor, she specializes in Oriental Bodywork utilizing different therapies such as Tui Na, Shiatsu, Lymphatic Drainage, Swedish massage, among others.

She may be reached at 771-45-44 or 6746-9765 in Volcán town at her own clinic Centro de Jade de medicina tradicional China y homeopática. She is fully bilingual in English and Spanish


Sonia Jones ND from The Haven Spa and Health Clinic, Boquete, Chiriqui.

Fresh mountain air is full of ‘negative ions’. Though they are called negative, they have a positive effect on our whole body. Health Shops in the US , Canada , and Europe sell electrical ionizer you plug in to create ‘negative ions’. No need here in Chiriqui the air is full of them, due to flowing rivers and abundance of waterfalls.

The perfect temperature all year round means we don’t have to live in an artificial (unnatural) atmosphere of either air-conditioning or central heating. Good for our health and our pocket.

The pace of life. Don’t be fooled into thinking it could be boring! There seems to be a balance between socializing, nature, tranquillity, and pursuits like white water rafting. The newly opened Boquete Events Center is full of activities. Life here is as fast or as slow as you want to make it. Finding like minded people, making friends and having fun is easy. As we all know having ‘a laugh’ is really healthy.
Back in the US, Canada, and Europe, there is a growing movement back to naturally reared grass-fed beef. At a premium price of course, and places like Trader Joe just can’t get enough. Grass-fed beef here is easy to find, and is generally higher in vital nutrients and lower in saturated fats.

Alternative therapies are abundant – several acupuncturists in Volcan and Boquete, naturopaths (nutrition specialists), reflexologists, chiropractors, masseurs, yoga teachers, plus a huge wealth of others – join the very newly formed to contribute or find the latest health information in Chiriqui.

Fresh fruit and vegetables An abundance if you go to the local market stalls in David.
Enzyme rich papaya and pineapple are always available and extremely cheap.
Pineapple contains an enzyme known as bromelain, it’s anti-inflammatory and helps to ease joint aches, as well as enhancing digestion.
Papaya contains papain, an enzyme that helps to break down protein, so it will help with digestion. Some fresh papaya mashed and used as a face mask is fantastic as the enzymes digest the dead surface cells, revealing a glowing skin.

There are good doctors (speaking English) and good surgeons at the local hospitals in this area of Panama, plus medical insurance is cheap. A helicopter service has been introduced and they are going to build a small emergency hospital in Boquete.

The organic movement in Panama is growing, more and more farmers are growing organic produce and even getting certified. A local friend of mine is working tirelessly with various organizations.

Last but not least the altitude is very healthy for us, as I am sure you have read many times before. A higher altitude seems to encourage a longer healthier life. However, too high is not good, but that would mean living way up in the Andes, Alps, Rockies, or Himalayas.