Square trees

Trip Start Sep 28, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Panama  ,
Saturday, November 24, 2007

El Valle
Another pretty Panamanian mountain town surrounded by wooded hills that apparently are full of interesting animals. It has at least two unique species.  The first is the  endangered golden frog, which one almost thinks may be endangered mostly because people keep putting them in aquariums.  The second is the square tree which naturally grows with four equal flat sides, joined by 90 degree corners.  Quite strange.

We arrived in a pretty sombre mood, because as we were getting off our   bus at an earlier connection a man drove his SUV into the back of the stationary bus. He died at the bus stop before the ambulance  arrived. 

We spent our sole day in El Valle wandering around. We had hoped to be a little more direct but we got a bit lost as a result of using the map which the hotel kindly gave us. Unfortunately it only noted sights, and streets, deemed of interest by the mapmaker, and had some flat out errors as well.  So what looked like the first left on the map was the fourth or fifth in reality.  However, we did end up in broadly the right place, and were able to beg directions off people.  So we eventually arrived at the hotel from which the track to  the square trees departs. It was unmarked of course, but hotel staff pointed it out for us.  The track itself follows a stream through attractive forest and arrives at the grove of square trees after about 15 mins. The trees really are square but it is easy not to notice this, and we walked right by them and were puzzled as to where  the path went. There were various tracks going different ways but none looked convincing.  It took us a while before Nancy realised that we had arrived, and the trees were, now we looked, plainly square.  This may not be apparent in the photos, but trust me.

We had a look at another captive golden frog on the way back (there were two in this aquarium) and I spent a good portion of the afternoon admiring our hotel's captive toucans (altough I object to the practice in principle) called Pancho and Pancha. They are given a strange range of things to eat here, from fruits to potato chips (fries)and rice, but they seem healthy enough anyway. The hotel staff claim that they are toucans colorado (ie red) after the red tip to their beak, which I think corresponds to the keel billed toucan in English.

After dinner we all went to the local cantina, the place locals go to get drunk on $0.60 beers.  We walked into a huge empty warehouse, with the bar located in a side room, where the television played 'suggestive' images but the bar, amazingly, prohibited smoking. The four girls created a senation amongst the already sozzled patrons and spent their time ignoring attention from admirers. Local women don't go to these kinds of places (or anywhere really), and I can't say that I am surprised. Meanwhile the two boys tried to have a conversation with the locals.  Tiago probably managed this beautifully, but it wasn't easy for me, in Spanish in a noisy bar.

We left after half an hour or so, on Tiago's theory that this is an important cultural experience but it is best to leave before any one starts to feel comfortable with the situation. 

Next day we were back at our ill fated stop, to catch our connecting minibus to Panama City.  It passed without incident.
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