Legendary and medicinal trails at Finca El Rastrojo

Finca El Rastrojo is in Nuevo Emperador which is part of the district of Arraijan. On the way you can stop to see the church built at the beginning of the twentieth century with stone bases. Some houses are made of wood that date from the same time and should be preserved. It is called ‘Nuevo Emperador’ because Emperador was flooded when the Panama Canal was built and they were moved to this place.

There are also the shooting polygons used by the Americans. But the government closed the area that connects directly with the Centenario bridge that could serve as an outlet for traffic. The Americans allowed those who worked in the Canal to plant in those lands. Thus the custom continued and there are still some farms among all the new neighborhoods.

The beginnings of Finca El Rastrojo

This farm in Panama is owned by the Diaz sisters since 1987. But it was not a property to invite anyone, just to go from time to time. It had nothing, no housing, so they sat under the trees. They started with a ranch in the lower part where there was water.

They ventured into agro tourism because of a contest they saw in a newspaper. The government had given a prize of five thousand dollars to a rural tourism farm in Azuero. Xiomara, Placida and Miroslava decided that they would also dabble in the subject. They went to Ampyme (the authority that helps micro and small busineses in Panama) and took a course in 2010.

They are excellent cooks

When we arrived at Finca El Rastrojo they had prepared a tremendous buffet. We were surprised at the amount of food considering that there we were only two people.

The breakfast included carimañolas (yuca with meat), empanadas, pork rinds, bread, eggs with vegetables and to watch our diet, a tray with fruits. In addition to natural fruit juice that vary according to the season, such as nance, lemon, pineapple, soursop, and aromatic herbs tea.

The coffee is totally organic, they use natural fertilizers with dry leaves with joints of fire ash. Fumigation is done with citrus, chilli and natural soaps. Coffee is harvested after it is red and put in trays to dry; then they pick it up, toast it and pulverize it.

Lunch varies; it can be sancocho (chicken soup) with free range chicken, yam and white rice or meats and roasted chicken with rice with beans, coconut or pigeon peas, and plantains. They also cook a delicious achiote pork with sweet banana. Everything is natural from what they produce on the property. They want people to be healthier and for this to happen they should consume healthy food.

Country life in the old days

They have an exhibition that tells how was  life in the country in the times before. The concept is to remind young people how grannies did things.

Although they did not have levels of modernization in the kitchen, they did have plates, glasses, coconut grater and tin cans of sardines that served as a measurement device. They used totumas (from the trees) that were cleaned, boiled and dried for vessels.

They show the garments they used to go dancing with their ‘chácara’ purses, ribbons, and combs. They ironed their clothes with an iron that was put on the stove.

Carla, the daughter of Placida, makes handmade soaps of two types based on glycerine and recycled using remains of soaps like Castilla. She uses raw material from Finca El Rastrojo including organic coffee, mango, roses, cinnamon, cocoa and moringa. Lets it dry and then grinds it diluted in alcohol to mix it with the base soap. She also makes candles with soy wax, which is not from the farm, and exfoliating salts. Her instagram page is @creaciones_isa_camil to place orders or you can buy them on the farm.

Plan your visit

Finca El Rastrojo has seven and a half hectares. The farm has 4 levels: high, medium, intermediate and low, where the stream is. They are fortunate to have a spring that has optimal water for human consumption. In flatter area they have the house, henhouse and infrastructures including the playground and ranch. They have a viewpoint from which you can see Gatun Lake.

To visit you have to make reservations for small groups since they want to receive low impact tourism. The most they have received is 75 people for seminars. Students and retirees are given a discounted rate.

There is no lodging but they plan to do it in the future. At the moment, those who wish can camp and use the bathrooms in the family home.

Medicinal Plant Trail

If you like to go hiking you will enjoy your visit at Finca El Rastrojo. None of the trails we toured was particularly difficult. Next to the house is the Medicinal Plant Trail where Dr. Placida will be your guide.

They have many native species difficult to get and other more common that I did not know they had medicinal properties. As a doctor she believes a lot in natural medicine and if you are interested in the subject (like me) she will be able to recommend alternatives for any health problem you have.

Legends of the trails

The farm is marked with red flags which means you should not go alone and you should be careful to walk because it is a forestal area. They have black howler and white mask monkeys; parrots and toucans; and blue, chocolates, yellow and orange butterflies that vary according to the month.

We went through a fig tree with its monstrous prawns. It is known as the tree of life and likes to be close to moisture. According to the Diaz sisters, it is a 7-star hotel since it houses life of all kinds. They taught us to embrace trees to infect you with good energies.

They have different varieties of palms that are used to make hats, ranches and baskets. From the fruits of some trees you can get natural dyes.

The pirate trail is interesting for students. They want to strengthen the country’s identity so that they learn about history. They had a dog that had a black eye and a white one that could not be found and it turns out that he was on the path and that’s where the name came from.

The legend of the Aguas Aguas trail tells that in the last century there was a princess named Mito who was a mixture of indigenous with Spanish because she had green eyes. She was too clean and had a lot of followers who would carry tulas with water. In the month of October they say that her song is heard on the path because the raindrops fall on the trees. On the trails it is possible to see diurnal and nocturnal birds.

When visiting Finca El Rastrojo you will learn to take care of nature and ourselves.

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