The rubber trees shall inherit the earth

One of the things I like best about the tropics is the sense that nature has a chance in the face of mankind's constant assault. The brute power of photosynthesis near the equator gives one the suspicion that our species' eventual and inevitable passing into extinction will be noted here only by a massive spurt of vines, trees, rot and recycling, until in a few short centuries not a cinder block or slab of asphalt will remain to await the discovery of interplanetary archaeologists.

The hotel where I am staying in Cartagena is a riot of buildings and overlapping roofs with multiple patios, all under constant threat from two gigantic rubber trees in the central courtyard. They are the largest I have ever seen, and manage to cast a deep shade across much of the sprawl of hastily conceived additions. They shed prodigious amounts of leaf litter and beefy twigs.

Yesterday, one of the workers here climbed delicately up onto the tile roof to clear it of debris. The leaves of these trees are thick and rubbery like the sap that is tapped from their trunks. They have substance and heft that prevents them from falling far from the tree. Overwhelmed by the piles of litter, my friend on the roof was using a common kitchen broom. It was a Sisyphean task in reverse, pushing the leaves, twigs and sticks off the roof into the patio, only to await the next breath of sea breeze to replace them with another shower of organic material.

The hefty beams placed to prevent the mighty branches from sagging down and crushing the roofs are as matchsticks, engulfed in a spaghetti of the dangling tendrils from what is rather like a gigantic mangrove tree. These strand-like branches become, upon reaching down to the ground, the roots the tree uses to spread itself. The eagerness and ability of these shady giants to envelop the hotel in their embrace is endearing and unstoppable.

A couple of minor offshoots...

By the way, while our species is still thriving, I highly recommend the Bellavista hotel to those travelers tolerant of cracked, upthrust patio tile and a genuinely welcoming atmosphere.

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