Funny thing as I traveled through the west of Panama during my stipulated 10 days to exit the country - at every one of the routine military checkpoints and again at the border crossing, every time they asked to see my passport and I explained my unorthodox entry through the Darien, it was always met with cheers and signs of pride and respect. I was a bit nervous at the final encounter with the immigration authorities at the border as they demanded I enter the office rather than speak through the window like everyone else. Uh oh, more trouble... no, an offer of cookies and coffee, sit, relax, pilgrim. I got an exit stamp from Panama in my passport, absent its entry stamp which nicely balances the entry stamp from Colombia, absent its exit mate. Ah well.
Costa Rica lives up to its name. The lifestyle and culture reflect its relative wealth. Still finding no other long-distance pilgrims, there is an annual pilgrimage to a shrine of Los Angeles near the capital of San Jose. Every year, thousands trod along highways in early August to reach the beautiful old enormous church made of wood, though here, instead of being called peregrinos, they're oddly called 'romeros', and many establishments have signs out front offering free coffee to romeros on foot. That's me =)
The heat of the morning is washed away with the violent storms of the rainy season afternoons. I don't mind. Costa Rica will be behind me in another week, then a quick succession of Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador before hitting Guatamala and finally Mexico. Revised estimated arrival is August 7th, San Cayetano's day.
I had a small celebration this week as a downpour hit suddenly along a lovely mountain road through a national protected area. A short distance from a town, a fellow pulled up in a jeep next to me as I was frantically pulling my raincover over my pack. Jump in, there's a café a few kilometers ahead. Get out of the rain. You bet. Over coffee and a giant pancake served cold and eaten with fingers, we celebrated my passing the 10,000-kilometer mark. That's a big number. Whoo-eee.