This past week included my 5-day monthly vacation, a period I had planned to use to go visit Panama. I was all set with a bus ticket and itinerary, but got less than 100km down the Panamerican before the bus stopped before a roadblock of tanker trucks and protesters holding banners.
Turns out, local fisherman were protesting new regulations, and decided to close off several portions of the only highway through the country until their demands were addressed. I joined confused commuters, panicky tourists, and disgruntled truckers in the crowds as we milled about around stopped vehicles, trying our best to stay out of the sun. With no concession in sight, and no concrete news on hand, I decided to bail and turned around, resolving to walk to the nearest hotel. I hiked past over 15 kilometers of stopped vehicles in hot sun and pouring rain until I came to a decision: screw Panama. Tomorrow, I was going to catch the first bus to a place were I could get a real vacation: Monteverde.
Which is how, about 24 hours later, I was seated in my favorite spot in the world, the porch of UGA Costa Rica, watching birds fly by and sipping fantastic coffee. The smell of fresh cooking lingered in the air, mixing with the mist coming down from the mountains. A coati ambled passed, eyes only for the banana trees. Somewhere nearby, the interns were arguing about the correct name for “eyelash viper.”
It was just what I needed. A return to the quiet life, cool climate, and lack of monkeys. I felt like I still new every inch of the place. I visited a few of my old haunts–the frog pond was still alive with over five species breeding at once, the leafcutter ant megacity was booming, rumors still persisted about puma sightings in the fields. The only changes? Some hurricane damage still lingered from Nate in 2017, and a few new small ecolodges and tour businesses had popped up in the town. But it still felt like the same San Luis.
I chatted with the interns, combining the collective knowledge of our separate cohorts. We swapped guiding stories. They took me on a couple hikes which really ended up being cooperative wildlife walks–all good. They filled me in on the latest ecological data, and I showed them a few tracking tricks.
I’m back to work now, but feel refreshed and rejuvenated. A little guilty, though–while I was enjoying coffee and mountain wildlife, my fellow bus riders were still sweating it on the side of the highway, fruitlessly waiting for a clearance that wouldn’t come until 2am the next morning. Some ended up waiting for 17 hours. Glad I followed my instincts and cut my losses when I did. Panama will have to wait.