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Published: December 4th 2017
Sloth on the move
Morning stroll in the trees
(5:45 p.m.) This evening I am sitting on the patio of our set of four rooms, relishing the warm air and tropical view of palms in this all-inclusive resort on Playa Panama. The waterfalls in the swimming pools create their peaceful sounds, while the house band plays Elvis songs, sung in a light tenor voice.
Our morning started in rain. The rain had fallen all night in torrents. For the first time I took my umbrella to breakfast. The sloth seemed to be in a languidly perky mood as it climbed down one large branch and up the trunk of its favourite tree by the spa.
We all agreed to forego our visit in the mud and rain to the adjacent touristy Dino Park
. As replacement, Ollie drove us into a resort that was so new the first official guests wouldn’t come for two more weeks. He worked for the owner twenty years ago, and he considered him one of the pioneers of tourism in Costa Rica. We were invited to drive through the property, which had been meticulously groomed into green lawns dotted by trees and vibrant flowering bushes. At the end of the private road was a large
multipurpose building overlooking an enlarged lake that encouraged swimming and kayaking. To start, the resort will be for day excursions from the relatively nearby beaches (2 hours by bus), before a hotel will be built for more extensive holidays. When we stopped for Ollie to greet more friends with great gusto, I spotted a folk-art chicken hanging on the porch of a staff house. Rather than interrupt to ask, I just got out of our vehicle and investigated how it was made. Astonishingly, it was made from an old tire, cleverly cut and painted with white dots and a red cockscomb. One of the staff told me that these are being made in the surrounding district for the tourist trade.
Some ways down the wet, eroded road we stopped at a local art coop shop. We were quite delighted to shop for original souvenirs, and Ollie was delighted to support the local artists. They had a lot of wood painted in local themes (toucans, parrots, flowers, etc.); polished carvings, wood bowls, and hot-mats; woven and fabric bags; and, my favourite, ceramic wind chimes featuring birds, butterflies or frogs, with appropriate leaves.
Eventually we came to the end of
the dirt road and rejoiced at the smoothness of asphalt! Our way was taking us across the Central Volcanic Range, from the Caribbean side of the country to the Pacific side. The clouds were marginally lighter towards our westerly destination. Rain was falling off and on, but the sun did penetrate for a few minutes at a time. The landscape was gradually losing the towering trees and gigantic houseplants; now the scenes were green with thick copses of more isolated trees and tall grasses. In this part of the country, the main agricultural activities were a prosperous cattle industry, coffee (basis of the economy), pineapple (for export) and rice (for domestic consumption).
The small city of this area was Liberia
, about 60,000 population. Ollie drove us through the residential area, filled with modest homes featuring front porches protected by grills. A few shops offered the variety of goods householders want close-by.
In the centre of town (all single or two storey buildings), we parked right at the central park, where Ollie was greeted by yet another acquaintance. Except this was Esteban, the regular driver for larger groups. His services will be needed Monday when we take an early
morning flight while he transports the luggage and the vehicle to San Jose. We walked about a block to a bustling modern grocery store to use the washrooms and buy water. Then, free time for wandering the streets, peering at clothing shops and small businesses. Judi and I came across Iglesia de la Inmaculada Concepción, a stunningly designed Roman Catholic basilica; the design was based on the imaginative uses of triangles, executed in white on the walls and in warm wood on the pews.
Back on the road, with Esteban driving and Ollie telling ever more tall tales in the back of the vehicle, we passed the small international airport and got stuck in roadworks for about twenty minutes. At last liberated, we drove for under an hour to Casa Conde Beach Resort
, a fabulous place on Playa Panama. After lunch, I sat by one of the two pools and read Gorky Park
(strange contrast of content and context), swam across the pool to and from the waterfall in my usual pattern of strokes, took a dip in the protected bay of the Pacific Ocean, read some more, swam some more, and as the sun set returned to my generously sized room for
a hot shower. A destination wedding was underway on the beach as I tripped through the single gate to the sea; I may have crossed the procession of the mother and father of the bride! Never have I felt so naked! Judi and I watched from a distance until the bride walked down the sandy aisle. Now their dinner is underway, accompanied by romantic music from a live group, while I relax on my patio with a free beer – excellent!
Dinner: fish ceviche, sea bass in tomato and hearts of palm sauce, red wine
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