Monday, July 9, 2018

Panama Trip - Day 7: It's Closing Time

In late May, 2017 I embarked on a trip of a lifetime to Central America. Specifically, I visited Panama's steamy rainforest province of Bocas del Toro, a place I had never heard of before, but of which I had read many encouraging accounts.

But first, if you wish to read up on what has transpired before, click on the links below:

Day 1: Here There Be Balboas!
Day 2: Honor Among Thieves. Sorta (But No, Not Really).
Day 3: Making the Best of Things.
Day 4: We Have Fun and Games.
Day 5: Making Friends and Fighting Dragons.
Day 6: To the Bat Cave!

And now for the continuation ...

DAY 7: It's Closing Time.

I had been in Bocas del Toro for almost a week now, and yet not one of these days had been a washout.

Until today, the day I had to leave.

The morning actually started out pretty and sunny. Because it was our last day at the lodge, and because we would have to leave in the early afternoon, our hosts suggested that we all participate in a tour of the actual farm we were staying on. In particular, to finding out more about the chocolate making process.

Hey, you don't have to twist my arm where chocolate is involved!

Dragonfly watching us with about a hundred eyes!

Of course, somewhere in the middle of the tour when we were deep afield where the cacao was being grown, dark clouds rolled in and the skies opened up. A trickle at first, and then the veritable deluge. A non-stop, hard pounding rain that would let up only later in the day when we reached the airport back in Bocas Town.

So those of us on the tour agreed to continue on with it. We were already packed, after all; our bags wrapped in protective plastic and lined up at the dock waiting to go. And we all had our ponchos with us, too, just for the inevitability of rain that had been forecast for the day. So, once again I found myself repeating the mantra: When in Rome, eh? Except in this case Rome was a rainforest, and tropical downpours came with the territory.

Seeing the chocolate made was fascinating! Not only did we get to harvest the cacao, but we even had a chance to work it into actual nibs first, and then finally the chocolate syrup that would go into making actual, honest to goodness chocolate bars. What fun!

But alas, as with all good things, this too must come to an end. The time arrived to settle my bill and head for the boat that would take me back across the bay and into town. I truly was not ready to leave. Usually on vacations to such far away places, by the end of my stay I'm itching to return back to my comfort zone and resume my normal routine. But not this time. I felt as if I had not even begun to scratch the surface of all there was to do in Bocas del Toro.

On the soggy speedboat ride across the choppy surf of Bahia Honda that afternoon, I couldn't help but feel that I should've extended my stay somehow, some way. If not back at La Loma, then at least at another resort perhaps on another island nearby. It was just so terribly unfair!

Ahh, such is the regret of the truly privileged. Those with the luxury of time and income of a disposable nature to enjoy exploring other far off places and cultures. I knew I was blessed to have had such an experience as the one I just had in Bocas del Toro. And as I waited for the plane to liftoff that would take me back to the capital, and then onward to the States, I sat back in my seat and closed my eyes remembering my cabin up in the trees of the jungle. The damp humidity, yes; the smells, sure -- and, oh, the wonderful sounds of so much life around me!

If I left my mind to wander, there I was again. Relaxed and happy, reading my book, letting it all sink in and infuse my very soul with the music of the verdant jungle. This is an image that even to this day refuses to leave me. I can close my eyes at any time and see it. It's there now, and it's unmistakable.

It's simply me, and I'm happy.

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