Panama is one steaming, sweaty, scorching sauna of a country. This last weekend I had the bright idea of leaving the relative comfort of Boquete for a renowned beach out on Panama’s Pacific Coast called Las Lajas. I have been staying up in Boquete, located 3,000 feet up on the side of a volcano, for the past three weeks and I have another ten to go. Thus the idea of breaking up the stay into several surf journeys became very appealing.
Upon my arrival at Las Lajas I noticed a faint tickle on my forehead, then – a second later – another on my back, then another on my chest, my arm, my leg, ear, eyelid. My entire body had turned into a waterfall. I was purging sweat faster than I could possibly replenish with a fire hose at full blast shoved down my throat. OK, I thought, I will set my bags down, walk across the sand and jump in the water. Well, the sand is approximately 105 degrees, requiring a full sprint towards the water’s edge and not even the ocean can cool you down in this part of Panama – it’s like swimming in a hot bath.
The heat for me is debilitating. My brain stops functioning around 90 degrees and 70% humidity. I’d say Panama averages 98 and 100% humidity on its coolest day – thus giving the pleasant relative temperature of around 120 degrees.
Add to that the bugs. None when I showed up…but Jesus Christ – after the first rain fell, the little monsters started eating me alive. The biting miniature flies seem to be some sort of evolved sand flea. They are near microscopic, as are their brethren, but they also possess the ability to fly up to any latitude on your body and munch away at the flesh of their choosing. I was eating dinner out on the veranda, enjoying fish and chips whilst looking out at the sea. Within 2 minutes of the first sign of what seemed to be a pin prick on my ankle, I had been bitten over 175 times. Realizing the predicament I now found myself in, I immediately inhaled my fries, fish, coleslaw, and juice, yelled to the waiter my room number for the check, and then spent the next five minutes fumbling with my keys trying to unlock my door. A scene straight out of a horror movie. The end result of which is only partially pictured below.
The next morning I hopped back on a few buses and made my way back ‘home’. Out of the heat, away from the bugs, and back at square one… and so I made homemade meatballs, some brownies and whipped up some fresh whipped cream to dollop on top.
One might begin to wonder what I am doing in Panama, and in fact on countless occasions I ponder the same. I think the best thing so far has been all of the people I am meeting, the travelers, a few locals, some ex-patriots. For now I am here to relax, scope out the next surf location, help some kids with their English homework and get my ass kicked in soccer, and try to let go of the idea that I always have to be doing something at any given point in the day. I leave that behind, in the U.S. , this is Panama. It’s hot. There’s no need to do anything but sit in the shade.