Monday, January 4, 2010

GETTING THE LAY OF THE LAND

January 4

Today I awoke in no hurry to do anything. The feel of this country is settling in. I enjoyed a second cup of Finca de la Luna coffee from my host’s farm. Venturing into town for a late lunch, I found most of the restaurants closed – a common occurrence on Mondays, I’m told.

So I went back to the supermercado to buy some food that could be eaten with microwaving or straight out of the package. I was pleased to find some familiar things, including frozen pancakes. I also bought an unknown local delicacy called “Mañola de Carne” that resembled meat dumplings. I have no idea what kind of meat the “carne” is. That is a generic word for meat. Horse? Monkey? It’s probably better not to know. I’ll cook some tomorrow:





Once home, I took the pancakes out of their box, only to find them completely covered with mold:



Rather than risk a possible confrontation with my unworkable Spanish, I chalked them off to a learning experience. I later learned that most of the gringos go to the big box stores in David for food.  But I'd prefer to support the local merchants, so long as they don't spread food poisoning.

After a satisfying lunch, I took a long ride to see more of the countryside. I crossed over the Rio Caldera, which runs through town (and flooded last November), and started up the mountain road to Jaramillo. Jaramillo is not really a town, more like a series of hamlets (Bajo (Lower) Jaramillo, Jaramillo Centro, Alto (Upper) Jaramillo, etc). The drive was spectacular. I passed several coffee fincas with their red berries ready to harvest.  Here is a composite of the view of Volcan Barú, the local dormant volcano and the highest point in the country with its cloud forest on the top, taken by the side of the road:




If you look carefully, you can see the remains of ancient terraces in the foreground to the left. 

I continued along the mountain road, which had been washed out by mud- and rockslides in several places but is now open at least one lane all the way. Over the crest of the hill, there was a lovely modern town in the valley ahead of me.

“That town looks lovely – maybe I’ll live there,” I said to myself. Upon arriving at the outskirts, I realized it was Boquete! Without knowing it, I had come full circle. Later another American friend told me over a glass of wine that this road is the “Jaramillo Loop”.

I highly recommend the Jaramillo Loop to anyone, if you can avoid the parts that are falling off the side of the mountain. No doubt it will be eventually repaired, hopefully by the time you get here.

-bjd

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