David Dell

By David Dell

It seemed like an opportunity I couldn’t miss. There were caves near Volcan that had Stalagmites (grow upwards) and Stalactites (grow downwards) and there were ancient cave paintings. “Wow” I thought could this be Chiriqui’s version of France’s famous Lascaux caves with drawings of bison, deer and other creatures. I enlisted the aid of my good friend Wally Ewen (actually it was Wally who first heard of this so I was obliged to bring him.) Our fearless leader was local explorer Juan Esquivel. Juan has walked throughout Chiriqui through miles of jungle and mountain trails in search of the fabled “Lost Estrella Gold Mine.”

We didn’t expect that we would find gold at Porton (we didn’t) our only hope was that we could come away with some stunning pictures of the reported large cathedral type caverns there. Juan had told us the only safe time to explore the caves was in the dry season. The cave could be flooded in the wet season and a mixture of bat droppings and wet weather can cause a fatal condition known as Cryptospirosis. I had heard a story about two men who had taken refuge from a rainstorm in a cave near Boquete. One died that night and his companion died two days later. With this rather disturbing knowledge tucked away in my head, we set out.

Cave Mouth

To reach the Porton cave you head toward the border at Paso Canoa. About a mile after you pass through the Customs checkpoint look to your right for a large white arrow with the words; REFORESTAL AL TECAL, written on it. Follow the paved road for 8.6 miles until you reach the FERTICA “calica” quarry and here you park your vehicle. The cave is just a few hundred yards from here but first you should ask the people at FERTICA for permission to cross the land. They are a decent company and if you promise not to dump trash or damage anything, permission is usually given. Walk to the right of the factory and descend along a dry riverbed toward the nearby hill. Follow the riverbed and soon you will reach a large boulder wall and climbing to the top you will get your first view of the cave.

Cave explorer

The mouth is 30 feet or so across and 20 feet high. The cave winds into the darkness to your right along a wide sandy floor. For a hundred yards the headroom is about 4 feet, but don’t worry you don’t have to crawl through any wormholes. Then you reach the first wide chamber. From here you have to clamber up a small rise and then you enter the first cathedral-type chamber. This about 50 feet across and 30 to 40 feet high. We were dive-bombed by a dozen or so bats that flew within inches of our face. I think they were excited by our lights, nobody was bitten.

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