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Jan 05

Christmas on the road.

Getting festive for the lead up to Christmas.

Pig for Christmas

I put down my book Cascabel by Arturo Arias and got up from my perch which had been carefully positioned to be sheltered from both the rain whipping around the corner and the smoke coming up from the fire.  I moved over to the fire, on top of with was a gigantic iron pot, and carefully removed the piece of sheet metal covering it.  Instantly, I was rewarded as an invisible cloud of delectable aromas leapt up towards me.  Inside the witches-brew style pot were two gigantic hunks of pig, and the smells they were producing put bacon to shame.  I grabbed the large wooden stick and turned each of the hunks before putting the cover back on and pushing a bit more wood into the fire.  Those two hunks alone would be enough to feed over 20 people for our Christmas dinner, and we still had a lot of pig to go.  Christmas would be spent frying up the ribs and huge chunks of fat.

It was Christmas Eve and I was at the Lost and Found, a hike-in Eco Hostal located up in the western cloud forests of Panama about two days ride from Bocas del Toro.  The day before I had come up over the last big hills of Central America, I was tired, wet from the constant rain, and my chain had broken again that day, so when I saw the Indiana Jones style signs on the side of the road, I decided I would cut my day a bit short and go and check it out.

Pig.

If I had known that the hike-in was a hard steep 20 minutes then I might of reconsidered, but I didn’t know, and so I spent the next 50 mins doing one-legged squats up slippery stone steps, lifting, pushing, crying and dragging my heavily loaded bicycle up to the top.  When I finally arrived, I found myself in one of the most unique hostels I have ever stayed at and amongst a great group of interesting travelers.  It wasn’t until I saw Gabriela though, a small Panamanian woman elbows deep and hacking apart a whole quarter of a pig, that I realised that I would be staying for Christmas Dinner.  In retrospect though, I was looking for any excuse to put off taking Tony back down the hill.

 

 

View from the Lost and Found.

Passing the Holidays on the road

For many people, the idea of passing Christmas in a foreign country far from family is a depressing one.  To be sure, most Travelers would agree that Christmas is a time to be spent with family – if feasible – and so many do coordinate their plans around the holidays, starting early enough in the year so that they can end their trip in December and catch a flight home a few days before Christmas.  However, this is not always possible, and so every Christmas, while families all over the world sit down to eat a massive meal together, there are also hostels all over the world that are filled with travelers that couldn’t make it home, sitting down and eating a massive meal together.

I have passed three Christmases traveling away from family, obviously this past year in Panama, but also in Malaysia and the UK, and I can tell you that each time it has been an enjoyable experience.  You aren’t “alone” as many people seem to think, rather you are surrounded by other travelers in the same situation as you.  Christmas Eve is usually spent lounging about, calling home to family, playing boardgames, putting together puzzles, and preparing the big meal.  Once the big meal is served the drinking tends to start in earnest.  Christmas Day is then spent nursing your hangover from the night before, calling home to family, playing boardgames, putting together puzzles, and eating leftovers from day before.  When the 26th comes around (unless you are in the UK*) it’s all over, and people uproot and head off to the nearest big city in anticipation of a big New Year’s bash.

So when the 26th came, Tony and I – with the help of others leaving – lugged our gear down the jungle trail and started off to Boquete, a mere 60 km away.  What we didn’t know was that about 20 km into that ride we would find ourselves crippled and bleeding on the side of the road.

Christmas eve at Lost and found. note the wild monkey in the background.

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*In the UK, the 26th is Boxing Day, and you won’t be going anywhere as it is the one day of the year the all trains, busses and other public transport do not run.

We can highly recommended the Lost and Found Hostel for nature and hiking enthusiasts.  Apparently it is already in the Lonely Planet, but I leave you with a link to its website: http://www.lostandfoundlodge.com/lostandfoundlodge.com/Eco_Resort.html

More photos can be found here.

Finally, I would just like to wish everyone who is still reading the blog after over a year on the road a very very merry Christmas.

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