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Voyage to the Isthmus of Panama, Day Zehn

My mother said there would be cannibals

sunny 28 °C

Day Zehn, or ten to those of you using the English parlance, began with a howl and a bang. No, my inner werewolf was not stirred by having consumed massive quantities of cooked German-style meat products the night before, nor was it stirred by the absolute overconsumption of Warsteiner beer. No, the howling belonged to the "light breeze" that enveloped El Valle every ten minutes, much like a wet blanket thrown over someone who is barely treading water, and rattled the windows of our delightful second-story suite. The bang was also caused by the wind. The metal-framed patio furniture on our sizable balcony was being whipped against the glass door with some considerable force. We had taken great pains the night before to secure said furniture in a neat little pile at the corner of the balcony, hoping that by stacking it neatly all together, the force of the light breeze would be negated. Silly us, foolish mammals. The winds blew with such ferocity that they bounced the hapless furniture all about, and especially so against the glass door. Few things can wake me faster than what sounded like a large gorilla slamming a Nissan against glass. Taking care of my modesty by putting on a pair of shorts, I gathered up my senses (which I had effortlessly placed into 14 empty bottles of beer the night before) and slowly crept toward the glass door. SLAM, came another gust of wind. SLAM, went my brain into the back of my skull. Oh, this was going to be fun. I donned the mountaineering gear, placed in the closet by hotel management for just such occasions, and bravely, dare I say adventurously, slid open the door. A light gust of breeze threw me back into the room, through the back wall, and into the bathroom. Brushing bits of broken tile work off my face, I steeled myself for another attempt. The wind had died down to nothing, so I took the chance and clamored onto the balcony, crawling over the twisted steel and plastic puzzle that was our furniture. There was extra rope included with the mountaineering gear, so I used that and a few well placed pitons driven into the deck to lash down the lounges. Visions of the famous last scene of "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea" (the one with Kirk Douglas) flashed through my slightly fuzzy subconscious. The giant squid was about to sink the Nautilus, it's tentacles grasping at and clutching any poor soul unlucky enough to not be wearing mountaineering gear. The wind breathed back to life, and it's tentacles grabbed at me as I swung the last hammer strike of a piton into the cement decking. My only salvation was to crab-walk back into the suite, staying low to avoid being lifted by the squid and hurled into oblivion. I gently slid the door shut, and all was again quiet, save for the sound of a splash of seco being poured into two glasses. My Love, you simply read my mind......a cocktail would be lovely to start the day. My Dearest was ravishing in her pink shorts, her hair gently tossed about by a night of slumber. Do be so kind as to remove the mountaineering gear my Sweet, then we can make plans for the day. At your command my Love. And notice how the banging has ceased. Yes Dearest, wonderful job on lashing the furniture, perhaps you can trek to the kitchen next and get us some coffee. Sarcasm oozed from every pore on her body. Say my little Pumpkin, there's a loft over the bedroom....

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Several hours later, and having removed my mountaineering gear, we sat at the small coffee table in the room and began poring over piles of maps and guide books. What sort of misadventure can we get into today? Hmmm, this looks interesting....a Farmers Market. Oooh look, ziplining too. That would be fun, as long as it only zips 10 feet off the ground. Something tells me though that "Forest Canopy Zipline Tours" runs a bit higher than 10 feet. Forest canopies tend to be high up, that's just their nature. Haha....nature joke. Well, we're going to need fortification for this adventure. So off to the restaurant we ambled, eager for a new day. The light breeze had kicked up again, knocking us against the banister of the stairs. Nearly horizontal to the ground, we gripped along much as one would a rope thrown to a drowning person. The wind died down just as we reached the bottom of the stairs, so as a precaution, we crab-walked into the restaurant. The waitress saw us and reached out and grabbed us with one of her tentacles, placing us surprisingly upright at the nearest table while simultaneously placing two cups of coffee in front of us with the other tentacle. We could tell she was a local, someone who had grown up with and learned the ways of howling winds. Quisieran desayuno, she asked politely, whisking away a few stray bits of seaweed with her cavernous beak? Si gracias, breakfast would be good, what is on the menu today? Well, today we have a lovely whole cow, basted with delicate German sauces, a 300 kg whale steak basted with delicate German sauces, on the diet menu we have a small 75 kg campesino basted with delicate German sauces, and eggs, delicately basted with sausage and bacon, served German style. And beer. I had always dreamed of visiting Munich, if for nothing else than the exquisite cuisine of cooked meat products and beer. And I had to go no further than Panama to achieve my dream. I think we'll stick to the eggs and beer.....two please.

Fourteen hours later, having once again gorged ourselves, we made for the trusty Nissan. I pulled away the protective shrubbery and in we climbed, heading for parts unknown, in only the most adventurous of moods. Four blocks later, we parked near the famous Farmers Market, or Farmers Mercado as it was known locally. The Market occupied a full square block, and was teeming with people from the town and suburbs, or "countryside", in the local dialect.

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Folks were milling around shopping, bartering, arguing, and generally having a swell time. This place had everything, quite astonishing for a town of 137 people. There were stalls filled to the brim with vegetables, meats (cooked and otherwise), baskets, handicrafts, fruits, and the odd prostitute. Kidding, they were not prostitutes, but there were a lot of chickens, something which aroused my keen sense of travel deficit disorder. It took many hours of walking shoulder to shoulder with the other patrons, but we finally found the one item, that singular piece of souvenir that we had searched for: a straw wind chime, decorated with colored feathers to simulate actual bird life. Now you may ask yourself, what good is a straw wind chime? Its finest quality lay not in the magnificently woven pattern, but in irony. A wind chime that made no noise, this was for us. We also found a very nice set of gourd marakas, filled with dried bits of whale meat from the restaurant, that made a wonderful rattling noise. It took the vendor several hours to pry one of the marakas from my right hand so that I could reach into my pocket for some change. I was in the midst of a classic Led Zeppelin riff when he succeeded. OK, I'll take these, I told the man. Paying the slightly disgruntled gourd-maker/musician-inspirer, we made for the Nissan.

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Now that we have scored our booty, what say we really up this adventure game to another level my Darling? Sure, as long as the road is paved, we can go there, she coyly replied. Fresh from the encounter with chickens, and the Led Zeppelin solo, my navigational senses were humming. That way, we'll go that way. Um, Dearest, that's a dead end. Yes, of course, I knew that. I was looking beyond the dead end, past time and space altogether, to a point just 2 km past the dead end. Ah, yes, of course. And on we drove, past time, to the left of space, and around the bend from reality. Oh look, there's the sign for the Forest Canopy Zipline Tours. 3 km ahead. Which would have been fine, except that the 3 km was a hike through the jungle - there was no road, just a narrow path, and it was not paved. Therefore, we could not go there. Rats, I so wanted to imagine flying along on a string between two trees 300 feet above the forest floor. This would have to be put on the back burner of dreams and hallucinations. As well, true adventure does not include walking 3 km through dense jungle in flip-flops. And so on we drove, our dreams on hold, sightseeing through the suburbs of El Valle. Oh look, another chicken.....

Several hours later, we were back at Los Capitanos. Parking at the edge of the property, we carefully covered the Nissan again with shrubbery so as to disguise the "parking incident" from the day before. A soft cooing sound filled the air - the winds had just died down. "Cocktails.......cocktails........" sighed the air. Making our way to the bar, we stopped briefly in the lobby to observe the contingent of Spanish and Portuguese tourists that were wholly engrossed in a soccer match on the TV. Highly entertaining these soccer fans were, as will be seen in a future episode of this blog (back in Panama City). It only took a few drinks for us to steel ourselves into ordering the whole cow and 300 kg whale steak, basted delicately in German style sauces. The restaurant itself was a marvel in human interaction, as people would move from table to table discussing whatever came to their minds with the people around them. When in Rome, as the saying goes, so we also moved around to a few different tables and mingled with the visiting folk, nibbling a bit at their whale steaks and quaffing some of their beers. This was absolutely entertaining, and we met some wonderful people from various parts of the world. And they all seemed to speak German. Curious. Hours later, our stomachs again bulging at the seams and our faces sore from laughter and conversation, we made our way back to the suite, bringing a couple Warsteiners back with us just for good measure. Sleep came quickly, which was fortunate as the giant squid was again making an appearance at our balcony door. Two highly accurate harpoon throws and the squid vanished. We drifted off to sleep, dreaming of wienerschnitzel and Old Europe.

Stay tuned for the next installment (that would be Day 11), wherein we travel along the Panama Canal, through the dense jungle along the highway, and find ourselves amidst what was quite possibly the scariest moment of our 14 day adventure, complete with buzzards on garbage piles, children extorting money from drivers along "their road", and a well-armed wayward Police Commandante speaking far too quickly.

Posted by beerman 10:58 Archived in Panama

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