A feast of a breakfast prepared by the 2 live-in helpers greeted Vero and I as we emerged bleary eyed from our quarters. JR had opened up a can of Panama beer to ‘clear my head’ as he put it. I took my cup of tea outside and sat on a bench at the front of the house, gazing at the mountains and the brilliant blue sky all around. I could have sat there all day, every day, for the rest of my life. M had other ideas, however, and we bundled ourselves into the jeep and went for a short drive to El Valle Hot Springs, “Las Pozos Termales.”
We paid a small entrance fee and crossed a bridge to enter the park. Besides the volcanic mud that you could smear all over yourself and let your skin enjoy the mineral-rich benefits, they also had an interesting acoustics area with 2 halves of a sphere that were set about 15 metres apart. Whispering something into one could be heard at the other, which was an interesting novelty. After this we slapped the mud on, and felt our faces tightening as the sun dried the mud on our faces. After spending some time trying to get the mud off, and nearly losing the hair of both my eyebrows in the process, we relaxed for an hour in the thermal bath, heads back listening to the sounds of birds, cicadas, and other cloud forest creatures all around. Just the tonic to a night on the booze.
From here, we drove 5 minutes to M’s Grandparent’s house. I remembered meeting M’s Grandfather at M’s sister’s graduation party at their house back in Panama City. An Austrian, he arrived in Panama with an engineering qualificiation, and little else. Not speaking a word of Spanish, he went to the YMCA to study it, along with English. He met M’s Grandmother and fell in love, staying in Panama and working his way up from the bottom of a factory to the very top, and is now the CEO, while his son, M’s father, is the President of the company – a company that deals in concrete – they are concrete magnates. Everywhere needs concrete. I love this kind of success story. Proof that hard work and dedication can get you far in life. It had certainly got M’s Grandfather to some amazing places – his garden here in El Valle one of them. Never have I seen such a fine gardeners dream. His garden boasts a stream that runs through it, orange trees, expansive lawns, and a mini-aviary with peacocks running around everywhere alongside geese and ducks. It was a garden the likes of which I’ve never seen, and from the gardens you can look up and be awed by the sight of the mountains looking down on you. I felt like a kid again, and wanted to explore the vast and magical expanse of greenery, chase the peacocks, swim in the stream and to discover fairies that undoubtedly lived in the far corner near the shrubbery and rocks. The adult version of that dream was almost as good – we relaxed in the private Jacuzzi whilst drinking Panama beer and eating fried cheese snacks, cooling off occasionally in the ice pool which was set just a dive away from the Jacuzzi. As I basked under the sun sat in the Jacuzzi looking at the mountains any problems I’d ever had in the last year melted away.
After this fabulous afternoon of idle chat, cold beers and delicious snacks, we bade farewell to M’s awesome grandparents, though I wanted to stay longer to explore what was an absolute travellers museum of paintings, maps, trinkets and memorabilia from their worldly travels adorning the walls of the house. We headed back to M’s house for a special soup, and enjoyed an evening of sheesha, rum and more red wine. Another evening passed by in a blissful haze, and I was sad that the next day I would be leaving El Valle.