Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Finding a Jewel

Our Canadian friends, Connie and Chris, had to return their rental car by noon on Monday. Chris had seen something on a by road uphill from where we stay... Exploradora ... or something like that. Chris couldn´t remember the exact name. Connie found a short note in her travel book about it, and since it was on our (admittedly long) way to town we agreed that it might be worth a stop.

No matter which way you come from, the road is bumpy and care must be exercised not to hit rocks when driving a sedan. This passage - a shortcut through Jaramillo Central that avoids going the full circuit through Jaramillo Alto on a paved road that can take 30 minutes. It is winding with each lane only ten feet wide and no room for error.

We came to a refreshment stand in what might be termed the middle of nowhere. The sign read ¨Exploradora.¨ The stand was closed and we thought the park might also be closed. Connie spotted a unique switch, a picture with an electric light switch as its nose. She switched it on. There was no announce box, but when she did it a second time one could hear in the distance a faint buzzer.

A woman walkng the road smiled and said the owner would open it at ten. A few minutes later promptly at ten an elderly woman came dow the steep driveway and invited us to begin what turned out to be a fascnating trek through her 5-acre garden, highlighted by recylced everything.

What a jewel. The owner, a 75 year old native of Panama, spoke only Spanish. Since she spoke the idiom slowly, we could understand or get the sense of what she was saying. In addition to the tour, we were receiving a practicum in Spanish and an introduction to her philosophy of life.

Native plants of all kinds stretch aong the ¨Ruta.¨ The full tour took two hours - up and down, over a walking bridge and ultimately a bonsai garden. A discarded computer, its screen removed is labeled ¨computadora vitual.¨ Later we come across a similarly recyled television set that is set up against some plants. We label it ¨real reality TV.

Her family´s used shoes and boots and purses form pots for plants. Stones have painted faces. But more important are the sign posts - all in Spanish -- most easy to understand, a few that she explains, a couple that are not comprehended.

During the entire circuit we are transfixed by the nuances and talking almost entirely in Spanish. Each of us hugs our hostess for showing us a delightful adventure.

Cost is $2 per person.

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