Costa Rica Flashback Post #2

October 11, Monday 1999
Santa Elena, Costa Rica

Santa Elena is a small town about five kilometers from Monte Verde Cloud Forest and Reserve. Our bus departed yesterday at 6:30 AM. We arrived five hours later and settled ourselves at Pension Santa Elena. For five bucks per person per night we have a room for three (myself, Moira, Stephanie) with a shared bathroom (heated water!--well, kind of). The place has kind of a nice college dorm feel about it, with a large communal kitchen for cooking, attached to a dining/lobby area with tables for eating, writing, playing cards. This room opens out onto a porch with a couple of hammocks and lounge chairs where you can sit back and enjoy the Pink Floyd emanating from within.
Today we visited a private reserve that plays host to a series of suspension bridges and cable lines known as SKY TREK. We hiked through the forest wearing climbing harnesses and carrying small metal pulleys. At intervals on the tour we would climb towers or steep paths to the cable lines, hook on with our hand pulleys, and zip through the treetops to the other side. The longest cables were about 300 meters long, and 60 meters high, and we traveled at between 25 and 30 kilometers per hour. Propelled by gravity, a heavier person travels faster and further, while a lighter person (or one not so adept and shifting one's body weight) might find oneself stalled before the end, and proceeding hand over hand for the last few feet of the trip (not that that happened to anyone we know ha ha!).
After this adventure Moira and Stephanie made for base camp, but I continued up the mountain with an English couple we had met during our tour. Terry and Alice are father and daughter--she seems about my age--and were good company. They are traveling together through Central America for six months, and each is writing their own account of the trip and their relationship. At the end they hope to compile a book. It was raining even before we began our hike up to Santa Elena reserve. The rains seemed to end as we arrived and began our trail, but this was deceptive as half an hour later we experienced monsoon-like conditions. It was fun, but I fear my boots will be drying for days to come!
In the evenings we entertain ourselves playing cards with a sweet tempered boy named Casey-- the type who would have captured my heart as he came running out of the Fiji house for a game of Ultimate back at Hanover College. In the off-season he is Pension Santa Elena's oldest (duration, not age)occupant. After a little over a week he is as completely comfortable as a stray cat that wanders into your life and simply chooses to stay. He has the face of an angel, framed by shapely sideburns, a stud through his lower lip, (there is another through his tongue)and a shell necklace. He tells us in a monotone Savannah,GA drawl about his favorite DJs and mixers who spin drum-bass, jungle and house. Unlike the cat, Casey would like to leave--his friends have already left for Montezuma, but he is a victim of the country's rather slow money wiring system, and so each day since Friday he's been "waitin' on tha bank." Because he has to conserve his money for the essentials (food, cigarettes and some kind of local moonshine) he has not visited any of the wildlife attractions--he's always right there when we come home. We depart tomorrow before the bank opens and so I won't know how the story ends. I think I will always have this sense of him being here, like an episode of "The Twilite Zone" perpetually sitting on the porch bumming smokes, every day waiting on the bank that never comes.

Costa Rica, 1999-Montezuma (My First Blog)

Getting ready to leave Costa Rica. It’s been an eventful nine days, which I intend to write about today on my four hour bus ride to Liberia. But being here again has caused me to reminisce about my other trips to this country. Back in the day–I wrote emails to a list of friends. I guess I have always been a blogger at heart. Amazingly, some of them are still in the my inbox (attached to replies). I thought I might post a few of them here.
In September of 1999, just after I had left my three year gig working at Mattel, and my sister Moira had recently returned from her years in Spain and India, we went to Costa Rica for a couple of months. Somehow I remember staying in San Jose for a month, and then traveling…but we must have done some traveling at the beginning as well, because this is one of the first dated emails…

Sept 1, 1999 Wednesday
Montezuma Beach

Our travel day, consisting of a taxi, a bus, a ferry, and another bus--was almost 12 hours in length. We passed the time waiting for the ferry in Puntarenas (the port town) with a Canadian guy we met on the bus named Mike. He's just back from spending 3 months on an isolated island doing a study where they tagged wild pigs and then followed them around all day. He seems a bit undershowered, but amicable.
Our room is behind an Italian restaurant named "El Luz Mono" (The Monkeylight). Off season, for a moderate price ($15) we can share a sizable room with a private bath (no hot water of course), and they say they'll bring in a table tomorrow so I can study. Moira says I am a bit of a Princessa, but I don't think she minds the more deluxe accomodations.

Sept 2, 1999 Thursday
Montezuma Beach

Regarding our planned daily schedule. I woke Moira up bright and early this morning; we were in the water by 7am. By 7:07 we were feeling little stings all over. We quickly headed for shore, to find find mosquito bite-like welts all over our bodies. With some resarch we found out that until the water reaches a certain temperature (usually around 9 or 10am) there are "Pulgas del Mar" (Sea Fleas). The welts seem to be subsiding rather quickly, but even so--we'll be swimming warmer waters in the afternoons from now on!

Sept 4, 1999 Saturday

Yesterday we took a snorkeling tour to East Tortuga Island. Due partially to the great amounts of rain, visibility isn't great, but is relatively clear near the rock formations...
...Some technical difficulties with the motor boat on the return leg of the trip. Something with the gears in the steering column. (I got a good first lesson in walkie talkie speak in Spanish). In the end they detached the steering attachment and steered manually from the rudder by wrapping the anchor line around the motor to move it. It made for a bit lengthier and choppier trip but everyone made it back...
...Glad to be back we went to look for food, but were so quickly and aggressively accosted by this guy named Swenn from San Diego who has lived for the last ten years in Japan teaching English "at the University level" (we found all of this out in his first two sentences) that we beat a hasty retreat and splurged on a meal at our home base. El Luz Mono is a fine restaurant, run by Italian expatriates, with whom Moira flirted so successfully that by the end of the meal they were plying us with alcohol filled deserts and free shots until we could take advantage of another table paying their bill to escape into the pouring rain and back to the relative safety of our room.

Sept 5, 1999 Sunday
Still Montezuma

A day trip today to "Cabo Blanco Strict Nature Reserve". The ride was short, even with the small detour to jump the driver's friend's jeep. Having always owned an automatic, I was fascinated to learned you can just tie a rope to a manual vehicle, put it in gear and pull it a short way and it starts!
The reserve is very interesting, we saw various monkeys, birds, butterflies (there are so many here) and birds. The trails were incredibly muddy, at times we were sinking to above our ankles (I am loving those Tevas you guys).
Mike joined us for the hike. We are finding him less pleasant. He kept picking up insects and then throwing them a bug's mile away from where he found them, then told us this story about the German guy who had so rudely complained when Mike threw a beer can at a dog the night before... by dinner we were avoiding Mike, Swenn, and the Italians. We picked the most remote table at the most remote restaurant (not that remote, there's only about four), but about halfway through Swenn found us and seated himself alone at the adjacent table and proceeded to stare ceaselessly. Too hungry to run,and over Moira's protests, I broke down and invited him over. He's not all bad--just really dysfunctional. We had a nice discussion about fucked up childhoods and life in Japan--but declined to go bar hopping after...It might be time to start thinking about returning to San Jose!