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Monday, February 21, 2011

Through the River and Over the Woods

What one sees in the roads – the likely possibility that the locals deliberately leave them in minor disrepair to discourage the gringos – seems also true at the river. When I first arrived, I could find no simple way to traverse the Chiriquí Viejo other than dancing across on the stones like the locals do, and hope not to fall in. The bridge that had straddled the fording place, someone explained, had washed away in the last rainy season, and nobody had gotten around to putting up a new one.

This fording place is, however, a frequently used thoroughfare. I have grown accustomed to seeing local people dance across on wet stones surrounded by roiling white rapids, clearly familiar so with the crossing that they didn’t hesitate but seemed almost to fly over the waters. In my desire to visit the other side – which looked fascinatingly wild from the Paso Ancho side where I stood – I was building up my courage to try to emulate them, or perhaps adopt the coward’s route and take to the water with pants legs rolled up and my socks and shoes in hand.

But then one day I came down and found a new bridge had been built.

In its own way it rivals the engineering marvels of the world – the Golden Gate Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge, even. But it was not built for gringo traffic: it consists of three logs, one sagging in the middle, braced at either end by piles of unsecured rocks, and two lengths of barbed wire for handholds. It must have taken a lot of effort to drag the rocks and logs hither and angle the logs across the river. And now, as they did on the stones, the local folks now walk across this span as comfortably as if it were a promenade in the Bois de Boulogne.

* * *

As they come to me to be written, new chapters will be added to this blog, so stay tuned! But the blogs up to a certain point are now chapters are now in a book.

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