I worked out fairly intensively in the room first thing in the morning, doing pushups with my feet elevated on the bed, and lateral shoulder raises with the desk chair. There was a gringa on the hotel computer - first foreigner I´ve seen here in San Vito - so since I couldn't get online, I suggested to Tracy that we go for a hike.
The hotel owner recommended the Jardin Botanico. Took a taxi there, about five kilometers further up into the hills, at 1,200 meters elevation. The air was pure, clear and cool. The Jardin Botanico turned out to be a scientific research station, owned by a consortium of universities based in North Carolina. Sixty years ago this land was clearcut for coffee plantations. An American couple from Florida, founders of something called the Fantastic Gardens in Miami, came here and with the help of a British philanthropist they re-planted the forest. Today there is a healthy secondary growth forest covering many hectares. They also have several areas segregated by species, so for example there is a palm garden with 200 species of palms, a bromeliad garden, etc.
We spoke to the young woman at the reception area for a few minutes. She told us that she had studied tourism in Panama for four years, at the Universidad Latina de Panama. Many of the Ticos I´ve met have either been to Panama or have friends there. Not surprising since this town, San Vito, is only 15 kilometers from the Rio Sereno border crossing in the Panama highlands. That´s not the one we´ll be crossing through on Thursday, unfortunately.
The gardens had a small football (soccer) field surrounded by forest. What a setting for playing football! I went on one of the more difficult jungle hikes while Tracy sat on a bench in the shade. It was incredibly beautiful, deep in the green, with water running and birds everywhere, but the trail was very muddy and my arms were movable feasts for the bugs. I came out of it with several awful bites coming up already on my arms. There was a huge old fig tree which we were told pre-dates the gardens. It was not cut because it provided shade for the cattle that used to be here. Now it´s one of the anchors of the forest, with the figs providing food for hundreds of species of birds and animals. How incredible that one tree could have such an impact. That one tree matters more to more living creatures than many human beings ever do. SubhanAllah.
I realized at some point during the day that I was understanding every word that everyone said. I wondered if my Spanish comprehension had taken a leap forward, but once I began paying attention I realized that the Ticos enunciate much more clearly than the Panamanians. Panamanians tend to drop their s´s and even final consonants. Ticos don´t seem to do this.
Back in town I bought a nice pair of $2 sunglasses at the drugstore. The last pair of cheap sunglasses I bought in Costa Rica survived three years. I hope these will do so well. I have an Ironman watch with a plastic band and the band had broken. I went into a watch shop and in less then two minutes I had a new band, exactly like the old one. Cost: another $2.
A funeral procession came up the street, with young men carrying the coffin on their shoulders. About a hundred people walked behind, mostly women, and only a few wearing black. I guess that is not a requirement here.
There´s more to write about the long real estate tour we got in the evening, but no time now. I have a bus to catch down to Ciudad Neilly. I´ll write more later.
Oh, one more thing. People actually stop their cars here to let you cross the road. That would be unthinkable in Panama. In fact I think you can be stripped of your Panamanian citizenship for such a thing. Also, store clerks come up to you, smile and ask if they can help you find something. Not just in clothing stores, but in large grocery stores! Where am I??? Oh yes, I remember. I´m in the Pura Vida.