Living in the Crater of a Volcano

Trip Start Aug 26, 2005
Trip End May 26, 2008

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Flag of Panama  ,
Friday, November 24, 2006

Its cold wet and windy, but El Valle (The Valley) is amazing. It's a tiny town smack in the middle of a crater of an extinct volcano. The last eruption was around 3 million years ago, so I should be fairly safe for now. Let’s just hope it holds off for another few days at least.

The crater is big, so big in fact that you don’t even realize you’re in a crater. The rim of the crater was obscured by low cloud the entire time I was there and it was impossible to really get the grasp of being in a crater. I considered one of the many hikes to the top to look back down, however the persistent rain kept me limited to a few touristy sights around town.

It took me 4 busses to get here. One bus from Santa Catalina to Sona, then a bus from Sona to Santiago and from Santiago to the side of a road somewhere near a town called Anton, then from Anton to El Valle. It was a lot cooler in El Valley than anywhere else I’ve been in Central America so far. The crater, at an altitude of 1000m was a welcome relief.

I met an Englishman in El Valley who was just as much as a Chess fan as I was. We sat in the main plaza, with a posy of stray dogs at our feet and moved the pieces around. A few locals watched us in amazement. We asked if they wanted to play but none had any idea what we were doing. El Valley was beautiful but fairly uneventful, which is probably a welcome relief at this time in my travels. The rain continued the whole time I was there and limited my adventures. English Dave and I resorted to alcohol and spent 2 days and nights, eating, drinking, chatting, playing Chess and putting out candles with our 'Chi’. It works. It really works.

I made a phone call home, the first in a few months now. It was great to speak to my mum and dad after so long. I told them that I was losing interest in Central America and desperately needed a break. I was considering heading to the USA for 3 months, then returning to Central America to continue the trip north. The only problem – funds. They offered to fund my $600 US flight to the USA. Wow, that could completely change my life right now. But do I really want to go to the USA?

That night, after the call, I contemplated my options. Do I travel North, and continue the Central American saga, or head South, back to Panama and fly to the USA? I filled many pages in my journals with my options and that night, I didn’t sleep a wink. The next day, I packed up and when the bus came to take me out of the volcano, I didn’t know where to go. I arrived at the crossroads, and still hadn’t made a decision. I didn’t know which side of the road to stand on. The other side, to go North, or this one to go South. I decided not to make a decision on the spot and caught a bus to Panama city to give me more time. Both options would have a completely different outcome and change the course of my trip.

I checked back into my lovely Panama City Hostel and thought about it some more. At 3 am the next morning, while I was looking at my book filled with options, and drinking beer at a local 24 hour restaurant with a few locals I decided to book a flight to Miami. A decision had been reached!
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