It’s just before 6 a.m. and the roosters are cockadoodle doin’ it well, which is how LL Cool J would’ve written it if he’d been raised in the rainforest. Lizards are a-skitter and there’s a chorus of birds singing lush and falsetto.
Boquete is in the northern part of the country, closer to Costa Rica then Colombia. I hoped to come here post-urban adventure to finish this vacation with utter relaxation: sipping local “the world’s best” coffee, hiking to waterfalls on the volcano on which my room is perched, and snapping sloths in their natural habitat, while pleased, I think about how gross and cool it is that they’re slow enough to grow an entire ecosystem in their fur.
I am just so gosh darn lucky to have gotten here alive.
Within a moment in the cab, I realized that something was amiss. We wove down the road like the thread on a seamstress’s deadline, and my driver- Josef- kept groping for something while muttering anxiously en Espanol. “Up,” he demanded, and I eventually understood to hoist my butt as he groped at the seat underneath me, emerging worryingly with keys and an expression of true satisfaction.
We stopped at a gas station and inexplicably switched from a yellow cab to an unmarked SUV. Josef grinned at my puzzled face, then rev’d the engine through a blast of rap music that assaulted at full volume. As my shell-shocked brain retreated, he tossed the beer cans into the back and took off, with me in the front clenching every muscle in my body as I noticed the tv set in the dashboard flashed some skin in a thong and then the accompanying soft core pornography.
“You like?” asked Josef.
I just stuttered. Grunted. Remembered all the prayers of my youth. As it turns out, I was not the quick-thinking survivalist when the internal warning bell screeched in time with the hybrid Spanish gangster beats.
On the road, we blew through alto signs like red meant “go” and octagonal meant “faster” and my puppet self jerked at every makeshift, hairpin turn. The music became a reasonable volume of rhythmic “f” and “n” words, and as I thought of it as Tupac with Tourette’s, I pondered my options.
Ask him to stop, that I’d reached my destination? There were no streetlights on this rural road: no.
Bail bravely from the bucket seat with a pavement-softening power roll? All of AC/DC’s thunder struck and the heavens gushed through their opening.
So much for prayer and plan b.
Sooner than anticipated- Josef lurched maniacally at 125 in opposition to the speed limit’s 80- we arrived at the aptly named Haven. There, he became gentle and shyly offered me his phone number.
I dully checked in, and on each of my trembling body parts.
And in bed I intend to stay until I recover.