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"America is the only country in the world where you can burn the flag but can't tear the tag off the mattress." -- Jackie Mason
|86-The Pure Life in Costa Rica|
Oct 01 2002 - 11:14 PST
cherie writes: As I write this I am burned, scraped, scabbed over, bit, bruised and a little drunk. In Flamingo Bay, one dollar buys you a cold beer and “Hora Feliz” or “Happy Hour” is every hour, everyday.
Here's the lizard we ran around photographing, only after shooting tons of pictures did we notice his brother who was ten times his size.
Here I am on the beach at Flamingo Bay.
Greg modeling in a tree.
Scirocco tucked in the middle of "Marina Flamingo".
A mansion over looking Flamingo Beach.
The green lines that greeted us on our return to Scirocco.
Look at all that bird poop on the dodger!
The battered old dock I tripped on the way out to Scirocco.
Here I am with the broken gate that guards "Marina Flamingo". Why even bother with the lock?
The funny sign that greets us each morning at the Mariner's Inn.
You never know what "art" is going to be hanging on the walls. Here is a Gorbachov puppet sitting in shark jaws.
There are lots of pictures with men and their fish framed in the local bars. Here is one of my favorite photos.
The most recent UFO sighting. I'm ready to navigate a jet ski "Costa Rica" style.
Scirocco asleep in Flamingo Bay.
From a distance, it looks like some teenager spray-painted the "Resort" sign to the hotel.
Our trip to Flamingo Bay, Costa Rica was a dramatic test of my abilities as a traveler. Greg and I arrived at the Los Angeles airport over two hours early, but our flight took off as we were standing in the long Delta line. No problem, an hour and a half later, we squished onto the next flight. Atlanta is no where near Costa Rica, but that’s where our flight took us. I can’t complain because Greg’s dad got us passes on Delta that let us fly First Class to Costa Rica for about $200 bucks each. In other words, you had to pry me off my first class seat, because I knew that plane ride would be the last bit of luxury I would have in the next few months.
For those who have never flown first class, there are many differences. It starts with champagne before the plane even takes off and then just keeps getting better. Sure the seats are bigger and there is more leg room, but it is the little things that make the most difference to me. In first class, the forks and spoons are really silverware (not plastic). The butter is served whipped in the shape of a flower and presented in a ceramic dish, instead of a hard pat of fat wrapped in foil. The wine has a cork instead of a screw-off cap, and it’s all you can drink instead of $4 bucks a glass. The salt and pepper come in cute little glass canisters instead of paper-sleeves you have to tear open. The food is served in courses instead of all at once “lunch box” style. The salad is spinach with corn tossed in roasted red-pepper vinaigrette instead of ice-berg lettuce slathered in ranch dressing. The plates are porcelain, not plastic; and the napkins are linen instead of paper. The dinner rolls are soft and warm instead of rock-hard sling-shot ammunition. Most importantly, the tart is the dessert lemon bar instead of the lascivious woman sitting next to you.
We landed in San Jose, Costa Rica and took a cab to a bus station. We paid the cab driver in dollars because my card didn’t work at the ATM machine. Sweaty and tired we lugged all 7 pieces of luggage into the bus station and waited for our non-stop five hour bus to Flamingo. I’m not sure how to say “non-stop” in Spanish, which is probably why we ended up on the bus that took over seven hours and stopped at more towns that I thought Costa Rica had. We rode first class on the plane, and last class on the bus. And the bus ride was longer than our entire plane flight from Los Angeles!
We arrived at Flamingo Bay (no flamingos) after traveling for more than 27 hours in cars, taxis, buses and airplanes. The entire town was asleep except for a few locals playing checkers with a beat-up board and rusted bottle caps. The upside-down caps were one guy’s, the right-side-up caps were his friend’s pieces. The only light was a crummy lantern that as far I as I could see functioned more as a bug-attracter than a source of light. I voted to call it a night and get a hotel, but Greg wanted to get to his boat.
I waited with the luggage and the locals while Greg tried to find someone to give us a ride to his boat, Scirocco. The bugs started to become more interested in me than the yucky lantern. I was clearly the new prey in town. Instead of eating the Costa Rican meal I’d been craving, I became it. We were also feeling the effects of Hurricane Lili which dumped more water on me than I’ve ever seen. I felt like the pellets of water were dropping so hard and fast they were attacking me from all angles. The sky was dramatic and the lightning was ferocious. The air was thick and lugubrious—as awkward and hard to swallow as the word “lugubrious” is.
Greg’s boat had been mysteriously moved in the four months he left it unattended in “Marina Flamingo” and we needed someone to boat us out to “Scirocco”. Greg continued his mission to find someone to get us to the middle of the bay, and I waited not sure who was leering at me more, the checker players or the mosquitoes.
I should let Greg write this part, but after Greg was gone an hour doing who-knows-what I was pissed. I was itchy, wet, starved, tired and I just wanted a clean bed to collapse in. Greg came back holding a local guy by the arm, the guy it took Greg an hour to find. Greg said: “He doesn’t understand what I want, will you talk to him in Spanish?”
I explained that we didn’t want to swim to our boat, so we just needed a ride out there. He said he would have to wake his boss up and ask him if that was okay. I mentioned the “hotel” idea to Greg again, but he assured me it would only be a few more minutes. “Won’t it be great to see Scirocco again? I can’t wait!” he exclaimed.
Forty-three minutes later (Greg was on the Cherie-timer now) a bunch of scary guys said they would deliver us to Greg’s boat. First, we had to pass the test of walking down the dilapidated old dock in the dark. Of course, I failed this test with a fine thud on the splintered and uneven pier. I banged up my knee and wrist. Laying on the wet dock with luggage splayed about me like a halo, Greg took pity on me. “Why don’t you go to a restaurant and get yourself a drink?” It was the first time I had smiled since we left our first class seats on Delta.
I stumbled into town and found that all of the restaurants were closed except for the sleazy casino. I was escorted to a table and then instantly joined by a friendly drunk. The whole place was full of loaded fishermen eager to tell their exaggerated stories. I ordered a beer and that’s when I felt the glare on my back. A prostitute had decided that I had encroached on her territory, and she didn’t like me one bit. In fact, her customer was now hitting on me, and she wasn’t having any of it. She stuck her face in my face and gave me some mean dirty looks. If I could have thought of the words in Spanish I would have said: “Be careful, your face might freeze that way.” But I couldn’t think of the word “freeze” in Spanish and it probably saved me a black-eye. I can never think of witty things to say under pressure.
I let the casino know I had a boyfriend that would arrive any second now, but no body believed me. The row of hookers at the bar where putting secret curses on me, but Greg arrived an hour later and saved me from any uncalled-for voodoo.
Back at the boat the thunder-storm was in full force. Greg tried to open up Scirocco only to find that after four months the outside locks had seized shut. He was left there banging on the locks in the torrential downpour, hoping his brute force could open them. Meanwhile our luggage was getting soaked. Finally the locks succumbed and Greg threw our luggage inside and jumped in his dingy. Did I mention that the dingy was flat? It didn’t even have enough air in it to hold the engine, so Greg paddled back to town standing up.
Greg found me at the restaurant drinking beer and not fitting in with the fisherman or the prostitutes. I was so thankful to see him I jumped in his arms and showered him with kisses. Then we lingered over a wonderful romantic dinner in the cheesy casino listening to the rain pound away outside. The night was getting better.
Greg ordered me another beer. How thoughtful? What a great man I have! But he was just lubing me up for what was next.
We walked back down the scary dock and I saw this sad deflated thing, barely floating in the water. Greg told me to get into it; it was our dingy. Only, I couldn’t sit down (because it would sink).
“Honey, I can’t stand and keep my balance in this thing.”
“If you fall, this water is gross.”
Greg paddled us away I just wanted to flop down, cover myself in bug spray and go to sleep. The problem was that not only everything on the outside of the boat was wet, but the inside of the boat was wet, too. I touched our soaked bed and tried to put sheets over it. The sheets soaked up the water and formed to the bed. I was “three sheets to the wind,” sleeping on three wet sheets. Exhaustion finally took over and led me to sleep.
Now we’ve been in Flamingo Bay a few days and we love it. There is nothing like swinging in a hammock and watching a thunderstorm approach over the ocean. The lightning stabbed the sea like a hungry Cherie jabbing at her steak. And then later, hearing the roar of thunder clap and shake the boat while you are warm, cuddling inside. I’ve never seen rain like this before. If Greg and I didn’t have a boat, we’d be building an Arc right now. The torrential rain has taken its affect upon the local roads. In most cases, there are no roads. The ground underneath has fought the asphalt and clearly won. Costa Rica has a wild, untamed and savage nature. Everything is alive…even the beach.
Greg and I were lounging on a stretch of uninhabited shore when the shells on the beach started to rearrange themselves. Either someone stuck a tab of acid in my sparkling water, or the shells were alive. Upon closer inspection it turned out that there was some sea-critter alive in each of the shells. Everyday the landscape is a little different.
I wanted to do some sight-seeing so I saw a sign that said “Parqueo” and Greg and I followed the clearly marked signs up a steep hill. Since I speak Spanish, I knew that meant “parqueo” meant “park” and I was eager to see the fountains, swings and young children playing. Of course I dragged Greg up the very steep incline to see a very boring parking lot. So much for my Spanish translations. But the menus here could use a little better English translation, as well. The owner of “Flamingo Marina Resort” is probably still wondering why no Americans have ever ordered his “Nasty Nachos.” It’s just as hard to try to figure out what something is when it is spelled wrong on the menu. I finally figured out that “sirope” is “syrup” and my pancakes have tasted a whole lot better ever since.
During the day Greg and I read books, play chess, swim in the waves, frolic in the pool, play connect the dots with our mosquito bites and fix the 8 gazillion things on the boat that are in need of repair. We are a short paddle away from the beach, where the sand on the shore is so fine it’s like talcum powder; it sticks my legs so that it appears that I have never shaved. The mountains are gorgeous and are nestled right next to the beach. The hills have a shaggy look to them, like they’ve been covered with a blanket of bumpy green mold.
I’ve learned a lot about mold in the last few days. In the four months Scirocco (41 foot Morgan Out-Island) was left alone she grew an algae beard on her hull, her lines turned green, and the dingy lost all its air. I’m afraid that while Greg was away, the local birds of Costa Rica teamed up and had a “Who Can Drop the Biggest Shit on Scirocco Contest.” Every bird seems to have had multiple entries. The winner still remains unclear, but Scirocco was the big loser. How all that poop clung to the boat withstanding storm after storm is beyond me. It was like super-adhesive bird crap creating a layer of bumpy frosting over the deck.
Now we are fixing the last few things on the boat and preparing to head for the Panama Canal. The boat’s permit has expired so the boat is in the country illegally. For now, we are outlaws. The next adventure will document our escape from Costa Rica (which I am sure will include some handsome bribes!)
Click on each picture to see it full size.
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