Monday, October 7, 2013

Worshipping Pines and Eucalyptus

I'm not going to be able to move tomorrow.  Not because I did some strenuous hike up Volcan Baru, but because I rented a bike today and took a long ride meandering through the mountains of Boquete.  It might sound like an idyllic, relaxing Sunday afternoon activity, however, Boquete is full of hills; hamlets built into mountains.  There's some work involved, some sweat and sore legs will surely follow.  Where ever you bike down, you must bike back up or vice versa.  I have to tell you, I really, really miss going on bike rides.  There was basically one road in Puerto Viejo so my bike rides were slightly limited.  Had I wanted to go up into the jungle on a dirt road I probably could have but I lacked the correct bike for such an excursion.  I biked in Tulum all the time with my little bike side kick that I lovingly named Chonchito (Spanish for piglet).  That was also mainly on flat surfaces as well.  There was one incline on the road to the beach.  Puerto Viejo and Tulum were both places where I learned how to take my time biking, to slow down, to not try to get to my destination as quick as possible which is what I was wont to do back home.

Today the sun was finally peeking out from the theatrical curtain of clouds that is habitual in this season in Panama.  There aren't too many days here without rain so I thought to rent a bike and get up in the mountains.  I had hopes of maybe biking to a trailhead, going hiking and then returning to Boquete all within the four hour allotted rental time I was supposed to have the bike for.  Twenty minutes into my ride uphill I realized I was perhaps a bit overzealous with wanting to bike into the mountains, go hiking and then bike back down all within four hours.  It was only $12 for four hours and after that the price went up to $20.  I was trying to keep costs down.

I slowly made my way up outside of town.  The gears were on the lowest setting and my legs rotated furiously while I moved at a snail's pace forward, sweat on my palms making it a bit difficult to grip the handlebars tightly.  The thing I love about biking is it enables you to take in your surroundings so much better than if you are in a car.  There are a lot of stunning views from up in the hills of Boquete and biking enables you soak it up.  Gasping for air with each inhale I decided to stop for a little water break and snap a few photos, I dismounted my bike and immediately my knees started to feel sore.  Man, I thought, not even thirty minutes of riding and I'm already feeling this.

I was laughing with a friend the other day about growing up.  We joked about how when you turn 30 suddenly all these things that used to be physically easy now seem a bit daunting.  For example, if I sit cross legged for awhile and then go to stand up, I have to ease up slowly being careful not to strain my legs in the process.  My face winces as a struggling of ahh, ohh, eee's expels from my mouth as I rise to standing.  The same goes for biking.  I can't just hop on and off a bike anymore.  I have to take my time dismounting and mounting, much like an artist takes his time with his piece of art.  Except, I'm only taking my time so I don't dislodge my knee cap.

Easing back onto the bike, I started farther uphill, my knees feeling the effects of resting for a spell.
 There's an old abandoned house up in the mountains that looks like a mini castle.  I had seen it from a car a few times prior and wanted to bike up there for closer viewing.  I'm not sure why, but I feel very drawn to this particular area of Boquete.  The land is replete with coffee plants and massive trees and the road is parallel to a low-level, rocky river.  There are sheer cliffs on your left as you ascend reminding me of roads I've driven on in the Adirondacks in upstate New York.  Maybe it's the magnificent trees lining the river next to this house but it's just so quiet up there, the only roar the water, the occasional car passing over the bridge.  Other than that, it's just a slice of quiet, peaceful bliss.

Roughly two hours later I made it to my destination.  I walked down to the river's edge, removed my shoes and hobbled on the uneven, rock-laden riverbed.  The water was frigid but felt exhilarating after losing five pounds in sweat on the way up.  I climbed onto a boulder and lay on my back to gaze at the canopy of trees overhead.  One side of the river was lined with pine trees and the other eucalyptus trees.  Looking up, the sky was the passage way between the two.  I stared at the branches of pine and thought how each individual display of pine boughs resembled little mini displays of fireworks.  A silent, still and natural display of something so powerfully loud.  How complicated we make life, how simple we can reduce everything when we are in the outdoor world tree gazing.  How boring to spend time watching TV when we can watch the wind tussle tree branches and hear the river rushing by.  How lovely to be alone with your thoughts uninterrupted by people, a phone call, a text message.  Despite the fact that I know I will be in a bit of pain tomorrow after working out muscles that I haven't worked out in quite some time, the bike ride up hill was utterly, totally and completely worth it.  My advice to you, even though you haven't asked, is to find your little slice of outdoor heaven and cling to it much like you do to your cell phone.  However, leave the cell phone behind and instead listen to the wind and the trees.

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