Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Creature Comforts

In the wake of our renewed solitude of two, our only solace has been to take comfort in Costa Rican wildlife; namely a tapir who goes by Charlie. This mischievous beast, attracted by the alluring scent of DEET insect repellant, followed us throughout the cloudforest in an attempt to wet his snout on our chemically-treated legs. Exhausted from all the snouting, Charlie quickly fell asleep in his favorite log.

Next, I met a friendly butterfly, name unknown. After practicing various butterfly calls and rubbing myself with overripe pineapple, I tempted this pretty Morpho to land on my finger. She perched for a bit, sprinkled me with magic butterfly dust, then took off in search of another flower.

A must-do in Costa Rica is ziplining. They build these huge zipline playgrounds, stringing high-tension wire from tree to tree high above the ground. Armed with "brakes" (aka leather patches glued to gardening gloves), we took turns soaring over treetops. It's the closest I've ever felt to flying.

Now we're surfing and camping in Mal Pais, or the Badlands. It truly is anything but, with its great morning surf, white beaches, and ample shade. No wonder the place is teeming with ex-pats hawking real estate. If we can manage to rip ourselves from this place, we can finally enter our last and final country, the Great Halfway Point, Panama.

- Rach

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

And Friends Are Friends Forever....

Oh what a bitter world we live in. A cruel, twisted, spinning mass of molten where friends do nothing but leave. Just when everyone is beginning to have fun it's all swept away so suddenly by schedules and impending purchases of vet clinics. There were 9 days of passion with our dear amigos. We swam streams, surfed til Kev's rib cracked, hiked 'canos of liquid hot shmagma, and bathed in hot springs until all our parts looked old. And now, as quickly as our friends came, pretending to be companions, they are gone.

After a week of Nosaran monkeys and beach house bliss we took the windy road to the Volcan Arenal to get our jungle on. Our last few days were somewhere in between those movies about those blood diamonds, and the Jungle Cruise ride at Disneyland where they fire blanks at the mechanical hippo. It was the perfect cap to the trip as the girls & FB got their share of poolside papaya masques, and JR and I got to hike on a live volcano, drive cars thru rivers, and do other manly-type things that caused Kev (FB) to whimper in fright.

Our hotel here at Arenal also put the Nosara stay in perspective and we realized that brief power outages is hardly "roughing it" in comparison to dorm-style living in which your roommates are live bats. At least Kev and Molly have had their rabies vaccines and the bats ate most of the mosquitos in the room.

Once again Rachel and I are back to the core... the nucleus... the mitochondria... the endoplasmic reticulum... otherwise known as just the two of us. We have hit a critical point now where our friends' visits are a pendulum of joy and homesick depression. Perhaps the only solution is to have someone visit for different portions of the rest of the trip with us. On that note, Nathan and Spencer have already booked the Ruta Ruinas Tour, May 15- 24th, Teguchigalpa to Belize City. Any takers for a week or two before or after? It's first come first serve so book fast. I can guarantee monkeys.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Pura Vida, Baby.

Costa Rica: a luscious land of adorable long-eared cows, iguanas, and howler monkeys whose cries echo like wild boar-dogs in the night. Right now we're sitting in air-conditioned comfort, a luxurious relief from the sweltering heat outside. The cast: our peeps from Columbus and Chicago, who narrowly escaped the wintry snowstorms of the midwest to reclaim the tans they once had.

With much relief, we crossed out of Nicaragua and entered a realm which we both agreed instantly felt "more safe." Despite the decrepit roads, the dense jungle/beach of Nosara is a place of unique beauty, a place where fireflies dance to the haunting chorus of wild night creatures.

So far, we've experienced the kindness of a local volkswagen kin, whose offering of a safe driveway to park in and dinner kept us happy in Tamarindo. We've crossed small rivers in Gunther, and built shady refuges out of driftwood and a Wuzzles sheet to save us from the brutal sun.

It's so awesome to meet up with friends, who can help us answer important life questions such as: "Which Costa Rican beer really is the best?" and "How do you pick a champion Hermit crab racer?" Our only regret is not all of our friends can be with us.

But there is an important lesson in all of this for the wise. Consider our friends Beth and Theo. Both young, able bodied, kind-spirited people that we don't get to see on this trip because they suffer from a case of bad priorities. Beth spent the entire year in cozy heated comfort, while reading US Weekly in every spare moment. One year and $843 in magazines later, she doesn't have the money to enjoy paradise with her friends.

And then there is Theo. Smart, handsome, with an intensive background in etiquette and ballroom dancing. What on earth could keep him away from a week in paradise with his friends? Thats right. Bad priorities. Apparently Theo thinks starting a new job is more important than try to figure out a 7th way to blend rum with tropical fruit. Obviously he has learned nothing from our example. It's a sad cautionary tale for young people everywhere.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

One Week & Four Countries Later....

The last week has been a cross-section of countries and cultures that reminded me a bit of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride... without that whole blowing up and burning in hell part. In a very short time we have travelled from the soul of Semana Santa in Antigua, to some great surf in El Salvador. From there we cleared the skinny Pacific tip of Honduras on our way to the still bullet-riddled buildings of Nicaragua. Since we've done a lot in a very short time I will leave you with a few tidbits from each country just in case you ever travel in this area.

If you come across to very nice ex-Pats that are now running a down-to-earth retreat in the mountains above Antigua, stay with them for a few days. As Martha Stewart would say, eating gourmet food all day, sweating like hogs in a wood-fire sauna, and hanging out with some friendly Aussies is "a good thing". Especially when you can gaze in wonder at not one, but two volcanoes, while flying like Peter Pan on their rad swing.

El Savador
They are winning. A great country that is surprisingly modern and fast becoming way more comfortable for tourists. There is great surf around El Tunco and the moon rising over volcanoes is just an added plus. BTW if you are on the beach at Zunsal make sure you do something crazy like attack driftwood on the beach. It ensures that no one drops in on you in the surprisingly crowded and rather cut throat breaks.

Get out as fast as you can, but while you are there here's a few good tips. If a rotten corrupt cop tries to collect a "multa" (i.e. bribe) because you don't have a reflective triangle for an emergencies, it's best to politely argue for a while and then convince him that your pack of glow sticks is signal flares. However, if you are driving along close to sunset and a group of about 15 dudes dressed in robes and masks that look exactly like Tuscan Raiders (thats for you Jim) it's best to slam the brakes, assess the situation, and then floor it while pretending to run them over if they don't move.

It's prolly best to avoid talking politics at all unless you lean lefter than left, or you happen to have Joel Woodman with you for backup.

But to get an interesting perspective visit the Museum of Legends and Torture. It's a fabulous collection of Nicaraguan mythology and first hand accounts of the tortures done to dissenters during the Somosa dictatorship. The combo creates an obscene pairing of murals of various acts of torture and strange legends such as the Single-Teated Mujer, Headless Padre, and the Haunted Ox Cart.

We are now in Granada, one of the few places in Nicaragua that seems to have made a considerable comeback since the Contra-era. It's straight up cozy colonialism with horse drawn carraiges, old churches, and $10 surf and turf. Up next, a few days of surf in the Nicaraguan beach breaks and then we meet up with old friends for a week in Nosara, Costa Rica. We can't wait to see some smiling friendly faces, and show off our impressively inadequate Espanol.

- JJ