Sep 24 2016

Final Bits

Published by under Travel,Video

I’m home. Suitcase is unpacked. Laundry is done. Bills are paid. E-mails are caught up. I fixed the blog so trip photos pop up bigger in new windows. With my granddaughter I’ve baked a strawberry cake (from a mix) that’s shaped like a beehive. I’ve talked to Maw for an hour and a half. Bug bites are less itchy, bruises dissipating and sunburn fading. Life is back to normal.

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Molly sent me her documentation of our trip, and I decided it’s not too late to include a video of me climbing up to the treehouse, so you can see how the contraption worked. It was slow going. It took me about five minutes to get to the trap door, 80 feet up.

And here’s the process of sliding down, much quicker than the journey against gravity:

Peter, creator of the treehouse, posted this message on AirBnB about us:

“Molly and her mom are your dream guests. Wonderful people with great sense of humour and adventure. Hope to see them again.”

The feeling is mutual.

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Sep 23 2016

Return

Published by under Travel

I hope that this is the last morning that I wake up before dawn. This time it was 4:15, though my alarm was set for 5:00.

I packed up one final time, feeling heavy-hearted that the trip and my time with Lulu are over. I woke her up at 5:30 to say goodbye, and the Very Good Girl got right up and helped me carry my heavy suitcase up four sets of slippery stone stairs to where I met up with Berni, who brought me a bagged breakfast and called me a taxi, which arrived in about two minutes. I couldn’t take my eyes off my wee one as she waved goodbye.

The traffic was already a little funky between my hotel and the airport, so I’m glad I left a bit early. At the airport, I found a seat next to a Tico family and ate the breakfast I’d been given. They were very friendly, chatting a mile a minute to me in Spanish. I nodded and smiled and said, “Sí sí,” so I hope they weren’t talking about dead relatives or war or something. The matriarch of the family showed me a scar on her chest and told me she’d had open heart surgery a year and a month ago. I understood that because of the visuals: what we in the ESL profession call realia. She asked me a question that I’m not sure about, and I thought the safe answer would be to tell her I have two children and two grandchildren, because that’s the limit of my language production ability.

Once through security, I killed time by writing yesterday’s blog post. The flight turned out to be 45 minutes late because the crew had gotten stuck in the San José traffic. On the plane, I had an experience I haven’t had for twenty years: I had three seats to myself. At one point I stretched out across all of them and used my backpack for a pillow: luxury! Somehow the pilots made up the lost time and we got to LA on schedule, which is good because I had to go through customs and all that. I tried Global Entry for the first time. Instead of waiting in a line, I just went to a kiosk, inserted my passport and put my fingers on a window to be scanned, and I was done. I don’t know why they make people go through security again, but at least I had TSA pre-check, so it was fast.

My plane to San Francisco was about 45 minutes late, but after landing here, my bag appeared on the carousel pretty quickly and I went out to wait for the Bayporter shuttle home. I stood in the biting, windy cold for another 45 minutes, and finally my driver showed up, absolutely furious. He’d been stuck for three hours in a traffic jam downtown. It turns out, this was the scariest part of my trip. When the traffic was moving, he bombed along at 75 m.p.h., weaving between lanes dangerously close to other cars and to the center concrete divider. He kept slumping over as if to sleep, and rocked forward and back in his seat as though he were on a bucking bronco. And he fumed the whole way. It look nearly two hours to get home, and boy was I glad to be out of that vehicle.

As soon as I got home I called Eleni and made arrangements to see her this weekend. I had the longest talk with Emmy, telling her about all the animals I saw. She seemed to be engrossed in my descriptions of natural wonders seen, adding her own details about what she knows about various fauna, gleaned from her watching public television. It’ll be so great to see them in a few days.

And with that, I conclude my epic tale of the trip to Costa Rica. It’s not likely that you’ll see me back on Bloggy for a while, so I bid you adios and thank you for reading. Actually, I don’t think anyone reads this, and so I write mostly to preserve  memory that would otherwise fade. Fare thee well.

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Sep 22 2016

Whitewater

Published by under Travel

I got up at 5:00 to pack up and get ready to leave Puerto Viejo. A van picked us up around 6:30, bound for Siquirres, the start of our whitewater adventure. There, we offloaded our luggage and had a breakfast of eggs, fruit, and pinto gallo (the traditional Tica dish of rice with beans), and then headed up the mountain toward the headwaters of the Río Pacuare, a wild class III and IV river. Yes, once again I was nervous, even though I’ve rafted quite a bit in recent years. But on one of those past trips I was thrown out of the raft in a hole in the river, and got sucked under the boat and had a hard time finding my way back to air. So I was concerned about remaining aboard, an anxiety exacerbated by the guide’s explanation of all the dangers of falling in.

On our boat was our guide, Andrés, and four other tourists, all very nice and friendly. One was a giggly flibberty-jibbet who took the left-front position, which is where the most expert rafter should sit, since s/he sets the pace for all the other oarsman. But lots of times, she was too busy chortling and chatting to respond to our guide’s commands to row. After each rapid she’d shriek, “That was sooo cool!” It was nice to see her so thoroughly enjoying herself. In the slow spots in the river, she’d jump out and go swimming over to flirt with the cute young safety kayakers who accompanied us down the river. She’d been scheduled to fly out of Costa Rica a few days ago, but the airport was closed because of an eruption of El Volcan Turrialba. We’d seen it spewing grey smoke on our way to the river. Dramatic.

The setting was spectacularly beautiful, as we raced through primary rainforest still inhabited by indigenous Costa Ricans, who weren’t in evidence today. It’s said that the Río Pacuare is among the ten most scenic rafting rivers in the world, with 38 rapids in the section we traveled.

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At one point we drifted under a branch overhanging the river, and beheld a tarantula descending immediately over our heads, hairy legs waving. Yeek. Our guide had the nasty habit of sounding panicked as we careened through the rocks and waves: “Watch out!” he’d call. “Oh no! Be careful!” Maybe he thought that would make our journey more exciting, but the wild water provided all the thrill I needed, thank you very much.

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After racing for two hours through rapids aptly called things like “Rodeo” and “Pinball,” we made our way to the shore for lunch of self-serve vegetable, bean and cheese wraps, and for a necessary reapplication of sunscreen. By that time, my leg-tops were scarlet from the sun.

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After lunch, Molly took a position at the front of the raft where you get the wettest, going face-first into the waves. She seemed to enjoy herself. Light rain and cool winds made me goose-bumpy. We saw a bunch of water birds. In a few places, ancient rotting foot-bridges used by the indigenous population crossed overhead. Along the shore was the usual dense tropical vegetation: various palms, banana trees, giant-leafed bushes.

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After about four hours and 30 kilometers on the river and the final rapid, called Lost Gringo, we returned to shore, climbed into dry clothes, and set out toward San José. We were in the Hotel Pura Vida last night, and tonight it’s the Pura Vida Hotel in Alejuela.

The drive took about three-and-a-half hours, through torrential rain, along winding roads. The traffic was horrendous, particularly as we approached the city. It was every bit as heavy as Bay Area traffic. The van dropped us at the same Denny’s where I started my journey twelve blog entries ago, and from there we caught a taxi to our hotel. Since it was dark by then, I couldn’t really see the setting of the hotel, but I think it’s pretty, with a giant garden and lots of trees. This lodging is a two-bedroom, two-bath unit with living room and kitchen. Too bad we’re not staying longer.

After settling in and checking into my flight online, we went for flautas at a little Tex-Mex place recommended by Berni, the hotel’s helpful proprietor. We had the last of our wonderful fresh tropical fruit drinks that we’ve had throughout the country. We’ll miss them. I tried a margarita but it was too strong to drink.

Back in the room, over farewell glasses of wine, Molly and I looked at the videos she’s taken on the trip, and then I retired around 9:30 in anticipation of an early morning journey to the airport.

I’m sore all over: sore arms from rowing and climbing up to and down from the treehouse, sore feet from the raft, sore butt from the horse ride, sore legs from hikes. I’m polka-dotted with bug bites and bruised from snorkeling and canyoning. This is an indication of a good time had all ’round. What an adventure. I’m sorry my time in Costa Rica with Molly is over. It’s been such a treat to see the country and spend time with my girl. I’m glad I have a visit with Eleni to look forward to on my return.

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