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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
|91--Costa Rica: Life Outside the Box|
Oct 23 2002 - 10:56 PST
cherie writes: Costa Rica: Life Outside the Box
Where are the brakes?
The only way to get into the Costa Rican park "Manuel Antonio" is to wade through the entrance.
Our tour guide Roberto and a sunbather in a G-string.
A lizard who either really liked us, or really didn't like us. We weren't sure what his rapid head-bobbing meant, but I think we parted as friends.
One of the beaches of "Manuel Antonio".
I have this rule I keep with spiders. I don't go in their webs, they don't come on our boat.
Proof that bats can be cute!
A sloth, I took this picture through the telescope.
Greg and I in front of a waterfall at "Manuel Antonio".
That is one pissed-off monkey!
Attention bridge builders: huge opportunities await in Costa Rica!
Never over-estimate the need for balance.
Weird things growing on wood. Does anyone know what that is?
A jungle crab. I bet his mom always says "Why are you so crabby today?"
Greg is a true sailor. He is a sailor from his dirty clothes right down to his deodorant. He wears Old Spice deodorant because it has a sailboat on the label. And like most men of the sea, he thinks that if his clothes are dry, then they are clean.
“Greg, that shirt is dirty.” Imagine that I say this almost everyday.
“No it’s not. It’s dry.” This is always Greg’s response.
Recently, I heard of a way to deal with the unappealing clothing of a true sailor (which is sometimes dry but always dirty.) (Ladies, we all know our men have at least a few ridiculous garments that need to be done away with.) Now a sailboat (like the one on Greg’s deodorant) is the perfect place to get rid of your mate’s unsightly and unclean attire. Now let’s say, for example, that your partner has a stinky sweater that is a mix between a gray rat with an afro, and a 1970’s bath mat. Hypothetically, one could hang up the offending item with a clothes pin on the lifeline of the sailboat. Proper position would be that on your next tack, the jib sheet slides over the lifeline, dislodging the clothes pin and setting the ugly bugger to do the free-stroke in the undulating waves of the ocean. Your loved one will scream something like: “No, that’s my favorite shirt!” And it is only proper that you buy him a new one! (Not that anything like this has ever happened on Scirocco.) But if it did, I would definitely buy Greg a new shirt. As it happened, Greg’s tragic sweater loss was a pure accident.
I’m trying to figure out why I love Costa Rica so much. In so many ways it is truly uncomfortable living. There’s the heat to content with, the bugs, the rain, and the inefficient “systems” that make going to the grocery store an all day event. In fact, we were planning to head straight to Panama from Quepos, but we are missing one silly form. Apparently, no one can fax this piece of paper here. It’s impossible. So we’re off to Golfito (a 23 hours away by sail) to stand in the wrong lines at the wrong offices to bribe the right people to give us the right stamps so we can finally leave the country.
But it’s real in Costa Rica. In some ways it is so wild and broken that it endears itself to you. There are savage sounds that keep you up at night: the squawking of birds, the howling of monkeys and the rip of thunder. Then there are the soundless moments that give you peace during the day like the timid beauty of a flower peeking through a dank jungle. Here nature creates scenes of such fantastic beauty, that it almost seems contrived.
It is so different from California. From so far away, life in the USA seems like a life of boxes. We move from our climate-controlled office box to our air-conditioned car box to the completely-mortgaged house box. Do we ever even roll down the windows to see what’s going on outside? Or is it all invisible? Is it a life of “what’s next”? What’s next? Somehow we spend our whole lives trying to make our boxes bigger, more comfortable, and more impressive. “Wow, you’ve got a great (car, house, job)…but does that mean you have a great life?”
These thoughts slap me in the face here because while Costa Ricans do not have very nice boxes, they are very happy. Costa Rica is alive and things happen so fast I can’t seem to take it all in. I just want to gape and stare and digest it all. There is always something howling behind a tree or scurrying in a bush. It’s all some new mystery that is waiting to be discovered.
While in Quepos, we visited one of the most popular national parks in the Costa Rica called “Manuel Antonio.” Four-years ago I had visited the park with Kristi and seen a bunch of wild monkeys in the trees. That had impressed me enough to return. This time Greg and I brought an informative guide and his telescope along with us. Of course we had to haggle about the price first.
“$65 dollars for a two hour guided tour of the jungle.” Roberto offered.
“That sounds great, we’d love to have a guide, but that is too much money.” I countered.
“How much you pay?” He asked. It was a fair question.
“I’m not sure, but $65 is way too much.” I dragged out the word “way” like a dramatic teenager would. Then he started telling me what a great tour guide he was (he knew the jungle, spoke English, and could show us all the animals and give us the history of the national park.)
I just listened and let him talk away. (This will be hard for anyone who knows me to believe, since I’m not a very good listener.) In reality, I probably tuned out, but I’m sure Greg was listening.
“Okay,” he finally said, “$15 dollars each.”
“We can pay $10 each, I think that is fair,” I said. I read in the guidebook that the average person makes something like two dollars a day, but then everyone wants to charge $15 an hour for their “jungle knowledge” services. And I don’t know why I even bother to haggle; I always end up giving them a huge tip anyway. I guess it is just the used-car dealer in me.
Once within the park, we were inside a zoo without cages. I’d be looking into a gnarled mass of foliage and really see nothing more than a group of trees. Then Roberto would set his telescope up and I would be thinking: ‘what is he looking at?’ Then he’d offer me a peek and bam: a three-toed sloth!
At first Roberto pointed out everything including big spiders and scary bugs. I had to ask him to show us more monkeys, bats and sloth and less poisonous trees, killer bees and giant ants. Though it was cool when our guide picked up an ant and said “Watch how strong he is.” Then he put a three-foot palm-frond in the ant’s legs. The ant held it off the ground with a vice grip.
It was at this point that I noticed one of these monster ants crawling on my leg. I wasn’t worried; our guide was nonchalantly holding the same type of ant. “These ants don’t bite, right?” I asked.
(You really have to see this on video because Greg has it on film.) The guide said: “Yes, they bite hard, and then they fill the wound with their defecation and saliva.”
Now remember that one of these ants is crawling on me when I hear this. I start to convulse. Of course, I forget that this ant is the brother of the ant that can lift an over-sized palm frond. In other words, there is no way this ant is letting go of my leg. It was probably an exciting roller-coaster ride for him as my leg practically popped out of its socket swinging around. The guide was laughing, Greg was filming, and I was getting all the attention and none of the help I needed.
In the future if anyone sees a woman screaming “Get the ant off me!” consider that laughing at her is not so nice. Furthermore, continuing to video-tape the ant attack, especially if this person is your girlfriend, may also not be the wisest choice. (It is amusing to note that the very next day at breakfast, Greg had a spider on him and it was crawling under his T-shirt. Considering the size of the spiders in Costa Rica, Greg reacted fairly calmly. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the video camera because you know what I would have been doing. The waitress came over and tried to smash the spider (on Greg) but she missed. I’m not sure who was more upset about this—Greg, or the spider. But, just as the spider was about to bite Greg (Greg claims to have seen the spider’s teeth) Greg flicked the spider off and no one was harmed.)
Back in the national park, Roberto finally got the ant off before it spit and pooped on me. But that would not be our last animal encounter.
Monkeys are everywhere in the park—screeching, hooting and swinging from limb to limb. And those primates are smart. I watched in amazement while the monkeys pulled a scam on some unsuspecting tourists. Here’s how it went down. A man and his girlfriend were eating lunch when a monkey crawled onto a branch just above their heads. The monkey wiggled his butt and then crapped right on the guy. The couple jumped up and stepped away from their lunch to wipe the mess us up. That’s where the monkey stepped in and grabbed the guy’s soda and drank it like it was his. Then he snatched a sandwich and climbed back up in the tree. I’m not sure, but I think the other monkeys were giving him high-fives.
We also saw bats, sloth, raccoons, jungle crabs, butterflies, rare birds, bees, ants, and spiders. After two hours the guide left us alone to wander about the park. I wanted to hike in the “non-spider” section, but I couldn’t find it. Greg and I took some very interesting treks for which the word “trail” seems very ineffective. We waded through streams and stumbled across broken-down bridges until we very wet and even more lost. The park closed at 4:00 pm and more than an hour later a guard found us wandering around still trying to find our way out of the jungle. He was frantic! “You must leave at once! The snakes are awake!” I’m not sure if this is a ploy used to get tourists out in a hurry, but it worked. Greg and I were on snake-watch. We left practically running along the beach, as the man advised, so we wouldn’t become victims of Costa Rica’s most deadly snake.
Since we survived the jungle on foot, we thought: why not try it by air? The very next day we found ourselves trapezing through the rainforest. It’s called a “canopy tour.” For $40 you get a tour of the rainforest canopy by gliding over it like Tarzan on a network of cables. Vines aren’t considered safe transportation anymore.
Our tour had three guides and four participants. (Which is unusual for Costa Rica; usually the employees outnumber the customers.) Junior, Minor and Freddie were our guides. Another young couple from Denver named Doug and Lisa joined us for the tour. For two hours, the four of us swung through the trees spinning around and yelping like kids. Minor kept saying to me: “No more tricks!” and then he’d swing away on a cable upside down. It was safe, easy and fun--you just sit in a harness and hold on. The scariest part was standing on the rickety platforms. I was happy to jump off those wooden wrecks and sail through the jungle. But after our tropical fun, it was time to get back on “Scirocco” and log some nautical miles.
Greg and I had one last errand before we left Quepos. We went to the “grocery store” (untidy shack with lots of expired food) and bought a week’s worth of provisions. Then I hailed a taxi and said: “We need to put all these groceries in your car, and then stop and get our luggage, and then go to the dock where our boat is waiting. How much will that be?” The driver said: “$1.50”
Maybe that’s why I love Costa Rica!
Click on each picture to see it full size.
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