Thursday, September 28, 2006

lj-music: Dance Hall Crashers - Just Like That

Well, we´re back in San Jose. I can´t say I´m exactly thankful to be here, since San Jose is a cess pit, but as sad as I am to be staring the last night of my vacation in the face (especially HERE), it will be really nice to get home. Not least because I really, really hate Bob Marley.

Cahuita proved to be the most relaxing stop on our trip. On Monday, we took a three hour snorkeling tour in the national park. It was more disconcerting than entertaining at the outset, because the guide spoke no english and spoke in such a rapid, heavily accented dialect that discerning any meaning was impossible. However, after I finally understood that the numerous jellyfish were not actually deadly, I had a great time. Except for that time I saw a really huge manta ray and started screaming ¨"OH GOD STEVE IRWIN NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!" Which it obviously did not understand, given that I was underwater with a breathing tube in my mouth, and I do not speak much spanish. It slowly swam away, leaving me in the company of several confused fish and a large and menacing lobster.

Tuesday we spent all day at the beach in the national park, which is far less sinister than Playa Negra, and has monkeys. Around twilight, a few dozen of them invaded the trees around the beach, chattering and throwing fruit at us. We saw a baby monkey about six inches long. He was really cute. Deeper in the Jungle, we could hear the larger monkeys howling and barking. We walked for awhile, but we couldn´t find them.

Today we rode the shitty stupid bus back to San Jose, where we checked back into Hostel Pangea and walked around the central market downtown. It is now clear to me why San Jose is such a hellish dump. Everyone here is either insane or dismembered, and no one can speak in anything but a deafening roar. There are giant gaping holes in the street and the sidewalk, and most of the sewers are open; which in the rainy season about guarantees massive, pungent overflows.

We catch our flight to Atlanta tomorrow at about two pm, and then from Atlanta to Portland the next morning. It´ll be nice to see a bathtub and a washing machine again, and we´re both looking forward to spicy food, microbrews, and our pals. Vacations are great, but here´s to seeing most of y´all soon.

- E

Monday, September 25, 2006

lj-music: Arvo Part - Fratres

We are now in the tiny town of Cahuita, on the Caribbean coast. We arrived this morning from Puerto Viejo, a slightly larger and far more happinin' city about 30 minutes south along the coast. The bus ride from Monteverde was about nine excruciating hours, with a brief (heavy sarcasm on next word) respite in San Jose, where two lunatics working a heavily sketchy and transparent gaff tried to steal our bags. I really thought the one was about to put his hands in his pockets and whistle when I caught him, for God's sake.

Puerto Viejo is a great city for people who want to be constantly stoned and surfing. We stayed in a truly gargantuan and elaborate hostel called Rockin' J's, about a kilometer outside the city proper. When we got off the bus, a maniac unloaded our bags, demanded some coins, and then spent half an hour trying to sell us drugs before we escaped. In our infinite wisdom, we decided to walk to the hostel rather than call a cab, since every taxi driver in the city seems to belong to some vaguely forceful drug cartel. It was the longest walk of my life - I have never, ever felt so vulnerable and exposed. It was like those dreams where you show up to an exam completely unprepared and nude, except there was no test and we were fully clothed. Other than that, EXACTLY like those dreams. Every one we passed tried to sell us weed, or crack, or a dubious bed in their basement.

Rockin Js is a sprawling conglomerate of corrugated iron roofed out-buildings, completely and artistically tiled on the inside, adorned with polished two- tone wood and ceramic statues with protruding tongues. The rooms come with high powered fans, creepy kiln fired faces, dozens of embedded mirrors, and bedbugs. We both look like we have frigging small pox.

However, the hostel gates opened right on a beautiful beach, all the employees were super nice, and the food was really, really good. On Saturday we took a Kayaking trip down a river, and saw a sloth, which was dumb, and a bunch of lizards, which were cool, and a highly poisonous spider which our guide prodded with an oar until it moved, at which point he shrieked and began to paddle furiously.
We took the Kayaks out onto the Carribian, and pulled up on a beach to go snorkeling. The sea, until then a paragon of tranquility, was a total bitch and it was really hard to see anything. Then I bit it hardcore in the middle of the ocean trying to out paddle a massive, threatening wave. When that wave is caught and goes to prison, NOBODY will mess with it. It was lucky I wasn´t carrying a wallet. That wave had a hundred tattoos, and a handmade shank.

Cahuita is almost like a ghost town in comparison - there's no one to get drunk with, and even the insects seem to have social phobia. We went today to Playa Negra, a long stretch of beach with black sand. It was really beautiful in a haunting, creepy way. A hoard of skeletonic wild horses lurched along a sand strip flanked with stagnant water, and vultures roamed the beach, gnawing at crab husks and flicking disembodied claws at us. The jungle invaded the shore, and the trees looked like carcasses. It was overcast, and the other swimmers resembled starving theives and vagabonds. The water, in stark contrast, was clear and warm, and the birds that were not vultures were almost painfully colorful.

The food here is amazing, and our hotel is cheap and really comfortable. Tomorrow we plan to hike through the national park to the waterfalls, and rent snorkling gear at the coral reefs on the park beach. It's wonderful here, but at the same time, we're happy to be heading home at the end of the week. More details as they surface from the cards.

- E

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Tonight is our last night in Santa Elena, the village bordering Monteverde, the "Cloud Forest" park reserve. It's been interesting, but not altogether without negative incident. Santa Elena is a location that definately keeps you aware of the rainy season. It's been pouring for the majority of our stay, and we also seem to have chosen to reside at the pension Grillparzer, minus the bear with the unicycle. The dogs wander in and out, everything is MOIST, and there are several scraggly, manky, unpleasant cats on site. Not to mention the perpetually stoned sex offender with HENRY tatooed in ragged black capitals inside his lower lip.

On a more positive note, the rainforests here are incredible. Yesterday we hiked through the sky bridge area of the Santa Elena reserve, and the views from the bridges were phenomenal. Last night we wandered over to the frog pond, in the company of a group of students who also attend Portland State. It was a really bizarre meeting, but yielded some much desired companionship. Costa Rica has some of the most repellent amphibians I have ever encountered, and frogs that totally glow in the dark.

Today Bobby and I rode a lurching, sputtering decommisioned school bus to the Monteverde national park, where we managed to hike for approxiamtely twenty minutes before getting caught in a torrential tropical thunderstorm (alliteration unintentional. Our apologies. - the management). This is definately much cooler in retrospect, considering that the hike was around three Km for the shortest route, and by the time we finished, we were drenched to the bone and freezing. For awhile, though, the thunder and lightning were directly overhead, and it was the loudest sound I have ever heard. Even after the storm passed (leaving the rain, however), it still left the distinct impression of wandering far too close to an active air force base.

We made it back to the main buildings just in time to miss the bus to the hostel, leaving us about an hour in which to freeze and impotently spot at our clothing with paper towels from the partially flooded restrooms. While I was involved with this sissyphian task, a maintainance employee (male) came charging into the (women's) bathroom to tell me that "Tres monkeys!!!" were outside in the tree. I think they felt truly sorry for us, and seeing how pleased we were with the monkeys, several of the employees lured me back into the forest, and proudly presented me with a poisonous snake. ("Aqui!! Mira, Miss Chica! Serpente! Mira!") I was, as can be expected, extremely grateful on the surface. (It was, actually, really, really cool.)

Tomorrow morning (6!!!) we start a long and arduous harrowing bus journey to the Carribean coast. As rad as the rainforest is, I'm sick of the attendant rain, and I think we'll have quite enough of that when we get home. Expect to hear from us next on a beach surrounded by belligerent monkeys with a profound disinterest in the respecting of personal space.

- E

Saturday, September 16, 2006

tWe spent much of the last week in La Fortuna, a city bordering the arenal
volcano national park. The hostel we stayed in is the partner to the one in
San Jose, and although this one does not have its own restaurant, it still serves
beer and is, for the most part, much nicer.

The bus ride there was about four hours, and intolerably hot, cramped, and
smelly. There were about fifty thousand people on the bus, and possibly
fourteen seats. I enjoyed the mixed blessing of a seat next to a sweaty man who
insisted on poking me constantly and inquiring whether I was "England." I told
him I was.

La Fortuna is mostly bars at night; There´s really not much to do once the sun
goes down. We hit a few with some friends we´d traveled with, discovered the
virulent properties of the national liquor (Guaro: distilled from sugar cane,
and tasted vaguely like vodka, only smoother and sweeter. A seething disaster
for a hangover.), and watched the stars come out around the sillouhette of the

The next day, We signed up for an excursion through the rain forest. Our guides
were great, and actually managed to call some birds and monkeys. Most of the
really bitchin wildlife was too far away to get good pictures of, but with the
aid of my binoculars we totally watched some spider monkeys kick the crap out
of each other. The wildlife is amazing here, partly I think because this
environment is so unlike home. And is much, much better protected. We saw a lot
of toucans and insects, and throughout the whole walk, the volcano rumbled

The hike ended on a plateau with a clear view of the volcano. Since September is
the rainy season, the volcano is almost always under a cloud, but once we got up to the top, the clouds had dispersed and we got to watch hot lava run down the mountain for a half hour. Of course my camera is a woeful failure. Some vaguely ethnic guy promised that he would email me his pictures, because his camera costs about as much as 600 acres of land in Costa Rica.

The Van dropped us off at the Tabacon hot springs, where we ate the worst meal of our trip (my ass did NOT come to central America for the "Oriental buffet." Please.) The hot springs come directly from the river at the base of the volcano, and are surrounded by palm trees and flowers. It looks more like a national park than a resort. It was awesome.

The next day, we did a zip line tour of the La Fortuna rain forest canopy, I will feel the wrath of that harness for many a day. I got some pretty decent pictures of the waterfalls while riding the lines, and since Bobby and I were the only people on the tour, we got to visit the remains of a native village on the way back. We rode horses who were total assholes. It was cool. We went home and drank beer in the pool. We were sore.

On our last day in La Fortuna, we wandered over to the Crocodile farm behind our hostel. Our guide was a fifteen year old who gave a marvelous tour, if what you want is to be laboriously and pedantically instructed on how to say bad words in Spanish. Most of our actual interactions with nature consisted of Juan throwing pebbles at the crocodiles to make them move, grunting, "Fuckin crocodile. Fuck you. You are a bitch. I kill you." We admired his English, as was intended, and for a reward he let us hold a Cayman. They´re to crocodiles what Teddy Ruxpin is to Grizzly Bears. We still liked it.

We departed for Monteverde by the accepted mode of transport, termed appropriately, "Jeep Boat Jeep." I would have liked it better had it been "Jeep Boat BATHROOM Jeep"; Or, "Jeep Boat Lunch Jeep." It was a beautiful journey nonetheless, even though the road to Monteverde is so monsterously pitted and fraught with disaster that the locals must be proud of its infamy. We were forced to stop several times to allow for the whimsy of several herds of cows.

Today we hiked through the "Children´s Eternal Forest." Remember all the coins you collected and fundraisers you did under the auspices of "Saving the rainforest?" Well, you apparently did. All the money came here, and bought a huge tract of land (over 55,500 acres) for a preserve. If you donated a quarter, I saw your leaf today. It was actually pretty amazing. The whole area was purchased and is primarily maintained by second graders depositing fistfulls of grubby nickels into jars. Kind of inspiring, if you think about it. The path was beautiful, and they have these animals here that look like what would happen if a pig impregnated a gerbil. Really strange.

This post is tortuous in its length, So I will refrain from inflicting any more pain on those of you who are still reading. Way to go. If you made it to the end, leave a comment and I´ll give you a prize.
We´re having a great time, our hostel here is beastly, and damp, and INFESTED, but this is cool as hell. I miss everybody back home, I hope to hear from you soon.


Saturday, September 9, 2006

The disasterous consequences of imprudent behavior

lj-music: Deltron 3030

So we´ve finally made it to Costa Rica. Our journey was a nightmarish parade of lunatics with poor boundaries experienced against a background of perpetual discomfort.

We rode the MAX to the airport on Thursday, entertained by a dreadful young specimen of post puberty attempting to covertly masturbate. In retrospect, I regard it as an appropriate (however innappropriate) omen of the bitter frustration, inconvenience, and intermittent horrified disgust to come.

We had little difficulty obtaining seats for the flight, probably because everyone else with the barest shreds of common sense took one look at the copious amounts of black smoke eminating from the engine of the plane and opted to recieve hotel vouchers and board on Friday. We were delayed for about four hours, and finally made it to Atlanta at about midnight. Luckily we found a pizza place that would serve us beer until 3 in the morning, when we curled up in some suprisingly comfortable armchairs, serenaded by the melodious sounds of homeless people bickering about whether or not one of the involved parties was amenable to the proposal that he shut the fuck up before the second party was compelled to beat his ass.

With bated breath we awaited the morning, when we badgered at least four different airline employees to make sure our luggage was loaded onto the plane, and redeemed our passes for our tickets. By the time we passed through security, the resteraunts were serving beer again, but we were too tired to care and instead passed the time guzzling coffee (me) haunting the poorly ventilated smoking oubliette (Bobby) and frequenting restrooms liberally festooned with the urine of strangers (all aforementioned).

The Three hour flight to San Jose was the only sleep either of us enjoyed (word used for convenience, and by no means meant to be interpreted literally) and upon arrival learned with no real surprise, although with extreme ire, that my suitcase had been lost.

The San Jose airport is populated entirely by people who would really like to help you. No, Really. Would you like to use their cell phone? Do you need to get somewhere? Their brother can give you a ride. There! In the pickup truck. See? He is waving! He is so happy to meet you! He can take you anywhere! You have a ride? Who is getting you? Them?! No, no. Sorry, but they left an hour ago! Of course I am sure. He is my cousin! But don´t worry, my brother will take you. He is the one in the No Fear shirt with the eye patch, and this is my other cousin here, the one with the very long fingers. Hey! Where are you going?!

The van from our hostel picked us up, this place is shockingly cool. The hostel has its own pool, resteraunt and bar, and after wandering around in a tropical rainstorm for a few hours looking for a few necessary items of clothing and toiletries, we sucked up our exaustion and joined a tatooed thug with a gravelly voice and a penchant for casinoes for about three hundred beers. As the night wore on, we made many new and lasting friendships with people whose names I cannot quite recall at the moment. Today we are waiting for my bag to be delivered, and then we will tentatively approach the town, and timidly wander out upon it.

More updates when something actually happens. The beer here is realllllly cheap, and despite the loss of any and all clean clothes, shampoo and soap, we´re having a really great time.

- Emmi