Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tree House

Last weekend José and I spent a night in a tree house in the highlands. It's run like a hostel, and is built into a ceibo tree. These monsterous trees supply hiding places in their roots. There was even a hollowed out area below, a pirate's cave, in this tree! Mosses and lichens sprawl across the bark and branches in vibrant electric green, white and orange.

There were two tree swings and a wooden plank bridge from the entrance to the door of the tree house (plank in the floor). Inside, there was a small living area with small seats and a bar with tree stump stools. There was electricity, providing a stocked fridge of icy Inca Colas and Pilsener beers and water. There was a small balcony, overlooking the garden area below (about thirty feet). A small bathroom with shower and hot water and a wooden ladder leads up to the loft where two twin mattresses await (like sleeping on a cloud, high above the trees). There is even a fireman's pole to slide down.

All the walls are decorated with old photos of Galapagos and funny wooden art pieces (such as a condom behind a glass frame, "in case of emergency, break glass" har har har), and antiques like skeleton keys and an old rotary marble telephone. You know, in case you want to call for take out.

We arrived just before sunset, timed just right for our photographic endeavors, and once the night arrived, we walked down the cobblestone street in search of dinner. We only turned one corner and passed one goat tied to a stake before we found a woman tending a grill. Smoke and the scent of grilled chicken and cow intestines are her only advertisement. We eagerly picked our plates and sat at a table to wait. José ate the intestines (delicious and chewy) with potatoes and peanut sauce. I opted for a chicken cut on a kebob, with half a grilled plantain on the end for dessert.

The lean-to that was this establishment was built next to her house, and music drifted from inside, while her children ran in and out of the door. Dogs chased each other up and down the street, keeping a good distance to sniff the air, knowing they would be shooed away if they got too close.

We were delighted after we finished our snack to know that the same lady sold tamales and coffee in the mornings for $2.50. We paid in advance, knowing that tamales on Sundays run like water and we wanted to make sure we got some more of her cooking.

We returned to the tree house where we drank wine and listened to salsa on the radio, talking in the dim light. The windows had no screens, and yet we were not chilled by the fresh night air. We watched the stars from between silhouetted branches until we climbed the ladder to sleep.

Surprisingly we didn't awake to roosters, as we do every morning in town where they are illegal, ironic, isn't it? The day was bright and clear, a rarity for the usual misty cool fog of the highlands. We dressed and retraced our steps (the goat was gone) to the little table where we were served tamales wrapped in banana leaves and hot cups of steaming coffee. Again, we watched the dogs, and discussed the politics of street dog packs. How a short-legged little mutt chased a black lab three times his size down the street, tail between it's legs. A young female with shaggy blond fur played alone at the top of a small hill, where she had an advantage from all the males who chase her incessantly.

Having brought bikes with us in the taxi the night before, we loaded up our things and started to bike upwards, towards the small settlement of Soledad. There is an old church at the highest point, a clearing for a unique view of the port, the coast, and Leon Dormido. I sat in the sun and meditated on the sea while José chased birds with the camera, forever trying to get the perfect shot of the famous finches. While they are not skittish, they are impatient and have short attention spans.

We rode back down to El Progresso, where we ate at our usual Sunday lunch spot: agua de gallena and fritada and plates of rice and chicken. Now stuffed like olives, we again climbed on the bikes and began the steady descent back towards town.

I love unusual dwellings, and after spending a summer living in a small wooden dollhouse two years back, I have a goal of spending at least one night in as many odd homesteads as possible. The tree house reminded me of my favorite childhood book series: The Berenstain Bears. It was like Ma and Pa Berenstain partied with the Swiss Family Robinson for a night.