Saturday, 20 December 2008

El Lujo 171208

(Luxury) is the reward of those who have no fear of discomfort - Jean Cocteau

We woke early and waded across the river to catch the 7am bus to civilization. Civilization comes in the form of a wild one-street town , how I’d imagine a wild west, frontier town to be complete with rancheros on horseback wandering down the street. The joy and jubilation of the ATM working ensured the trip had a positive slant. My breakfast of Jamon omelette, patacones (fried plantain chips) and Panamanian coffee was just reward for the grueling trip to town. My silly coloured hair attracted the town’s attention; an old man laughed and reached out to grab a lock that was peeking from beneath my cap and a beautiful young English student requested an interview with me. She took me aside, produced a Dictaphone, shook my hand and began the interrogation. I think her hormones must have gotten the better of her when she strayed off course and asked if I liked Panamanian women and then asked why. I think I blushed and shuffled awkwardly in true Templeton-gigolo style. These Panamanian mestizo women can be incredibly beautiful, a mix of afro-carribbean, Spanish and indigenous Indian creates strong proud features, perfect skin, almond eyes that dance in the light and physiques born from an active lifestyle, though to see them married to or hanging out with old, fat, ugly gringos has the rancid reek of a nu-capitalist imperialism where the dollar wins all.

I surfed the next day at Punta Brava, the swell magnet of the region with Kurtis my Canadian room-mate — Paula was afflicted by the Playa estero lurgy sweeping the beach. Itolo, a warm, amiable Brazilian ex-pat who wound up in Santa Catalina in 1979 and now runs a guest-house gave me the tip and talked me through the set-up. A twenty minute walk down the beach brings you to the rocky outcrop of Punta Brava , then a scramble through rocks and pools leads you to a channel from which you can begin paddling. No-one else was out and I found myself the most experienced surfer so I lead the tricky 15 minute navigation through the rocks and out to the break. The reward was about 45 minutes of fun 2-3ft lefts and rights breaking over rock and sand before the tide came in too far and softened the wave too much. I took a few drops and made the odd turn, but not enought to know whether GG is the dream-machine I hope her to be.

I really love the simplicity of this place… it’s an uncomplicated, simple, slow, raw, natural way of life here, with the added bonus of year round surf and perfect weather. The Real estate hawks are circling so it will not be long before the place is concreted over and golf courses are hacked from the land — prices have gone up from $5/ to $50/ in the last 5 years and investment groups from the states are busy buying up all available beach front land. Everything’s an investment opportunity in our wonderful exploitative western world.

No-one made any money, however, from one of the highlights of my stay so far. A heavy, tropical afternoon downpour stimulated an impromptu game of football in the rain on the beach followed by a rain-soaked swim in the sea. Why was such an ingenuous activity such a pleasure? Here’s a thought. We are made of water, saline water. We’re born into a womb with a saline solution almost exactly that of seawater, and our blood is similarly saline hence our attraction to the ocean. Whilst others ran for cover because of the rain we embraced it. The water in the air and the ocean, above and below relates to something primal taking us back, in evolutionary terms, to our aquatic origins.... Or maybe it’s just quite nice to be in warm rain?

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