Wendy and Nils

Costa Rica Story

     My future was written with the antagonistic words of a message written in a fortune cookie.  This particular notice was something like getting a heliogram from the evil face of the Hindu god Agni.  The prophetic text was written as such: “say illness - jíbìng”.  In the fall of 2009, Wendy and I set up a date to meet at the local Fresh City restaurant with the intention of using their Wi-Fi to purchase airline tickets to Costa Rica, but recent admonitions of impending bad health had recently haunted us on enough occasions that we hesitated. A few weeks after our decision to pause, I experienced an accident while surfing that led to the discovery of a serious abnormality in one of my excretory organs.  For the next year, we were overwhelmed with imaging studies, diagnoses, doctors, treatment options, surgery, bills, health care, litigation, etc.  By the fall of 2010 things got better, and in the name of personal retribution against my own poor health, we decided to reserve airfare tickets to the Central American enclave that eluded us a year prior.
     This was a trip of role reversal and cross dressing.  Usually, I do the majority of research in regards to our destination, but this time Wendy was the decision maker.  She read the travel books, reserved our transportation and hotels, and wrote the list of “things to bring”.  My list of “things to bring” is usually filled with weaponic contraband and unnecessities such a 3-D porno movies, but Wendy’s list is much more logical.  Instead of making reservations at an actual hotel, I would find a beach on google earth and convince Wendy that it is a safe place to sleep, and we would spend our entire vacation at the same uneventful location.
     With Wendy running the show, we were blessed with a saga of the highest proportion, but that also meant that we would probably end up running late for our most pertinent departures.  This was immediately noticeable when we arrived to the bus station without a minute to spare, which led to a situation where we were forced to crash our vehicles into our snowdrift laden parking spots and literally run to the bus terminal.  Our flights went well, although..... as I looked down on the continent from the airplane, the option of traveling by land/sea seemed enticing, as I noticed how much of rural Central America we were missing.  Next time I travel to this region, I will be tempted to use a ground based form of transportation such as a pair of Heelies or maybe we will travel by water in our inflatable kayak.
     Upon our arrival, a nice man greeted us at the Juan Santamaria International Airport , leading me to suspect that he was a either a pervert or a pick-pocket thief.  I made sure my fly was zipped up and my valuables were contained and I then proceeded to have a friendly conversation with the man about being a lost tourist.  He reassured me that we would find our way if we stayed put, which seemed like good advice, and within a few minutes, our rental car agency shuttle bus arrived. 
     When we started to process the paperwork for our car rental, I realized I had forgot to bring my drivers license.  Wendy remembered her license, so for a change of pace, I was going to be the co-pilot while she drove.  We had reserved a vehicle that used a standard transmission, so we had to switch our reservation to car with an automatic transmission for the weekly fee of $900!!!  As we drove off, with unconnected foresight, I randomly set the location of the rental car agency (Thrifty) into the GPS in hopes of simplifying our ability to find our rental car agency on our return trip.  As we drove off to the Tabacon Hot Springs resort near La Fortuna, we appreciated the view of the local Costa Rican communities tucked in the hilly landscape with the sun setting in the backdrop - beautiful!!!
     Costa Rica has very confusing road signs with important details blacked out by vandals (such as which way to turn) or arrows pointing the wrong direction.  Apparently, Costa Rican GPS maps are not much more reliable than their road signs, so within a few minutes from leaving Thrifty, we found ourselves lost, driving the wrong way on a one-way street.  Fortunately, another man who could have just as well been a pervert or pick-pocket thief quickly guided us off the one-way road toward the safety of travel in the proper direction.
     That evening, we arrived to the Tabacon Hot Springs Resort with enough time to soak in the naturally warmed pools of water and buy $7 bottled beers at the bar.  The hotel was for high rollers only, so we acted the part and walked around the lobby in our bathrobes and complained about things that didn’t matter.
     The following day, we decided to check out the Arenal Volcano which appears to actively spew out lava in all the postcards, but typically doesn’t do anything when tourist arrive.  We stopped at the first privately owned location that offered “Lava Views”.  This area brought us through a variety of landscapes for a fee of $10 per person.  We were excited to see a few snails on the trail and a couple of colorful birds, but the action really picked up when we saw a family of Ebola Monkeys in the trees.  It was fun watching them fall and shit on each other (literally).  The view of the volcano was cool, and there was some steam coming out of the top of it, so even though we weren’t going to see any molten lava, it wasn’t a total loss.  We drove a bit further and I went swimming in a river that was cold enough to reduce any mans sex drive.  We picked up a hitchhiker and he led us to another viewing area that only cost $3 a person and had insanely well engineered suspension bridges, a fake waterfall, and paved “hiking” trails.  That evening we went to the town of La Fortuna and ate dinner at a gringo restaurant of the same name “Gringo Restaurant”.
     Later that night, we went back to our hotel and sat in the hot springs and illegally went down the waterslide headfirst and drank non-alcoholic mixed drinks that were advertised as fruity booze laced party concoctions but included no alcoholic, as is the standard for Costa Rica.  The next morning we hit the hot springs again.  At this point, our skin was completely waterlogged and moldy from so much time being spent soaking ourselves, but it was well worth the risk of infection that we faced, considering that our hikes the day before were quite grueling.  Upon leaving, we asked the people at front desk of the Tabacon Resort if our next destination, Santa Elena, could be reached by a four wheel drive trail that we discovered.  They said no, so instead of driving a six mile shortcut to Santa Elena, we drove on a forty mile road that made our trip take all day. 
     The first thing we encountered on the road to Santa Elena was a tourist with his car stopped in the middle of the road feeding human food to wild animals.  After that, we stopped in a town that was invaded by an inconsiderate group of tourist who traveled thru Costa Rica on a charter bus.  The realization of how stupid tourists can be started to aggravate me, but I realized it wasn’t their behavior that was bothering me, it was the fact the mixed drinks in Costa Rica had no alcohol, so I started to drink beer, and had a much easier time tolerating stupid people for the rest of the trip.
     That afternoon, we drove around Lake Arenal, which was beautiful, but it didn’t have any beaches and there were no young topless Costa Rican girls suntanning themselves, so we didn’t make many stops.  We did stop in a non-tourist town called Tilaron, where we tested the criminal activity level of the community by leaving our valuables at a visible point in our car while we went grocery shopping etc.  We returned to find everything intact, leaving us with the understanding that many places in Costa Rica are much less dangerous than many sections of Boston.
     The drive from Tilaron to Santa Elena was thru plush green hillside farms that reminded me of springtime in Napa Valley, which made me wonder if the wine in Costa Rica had any alcohol?  Well..... at least the beer had alcohol.  Anyway, when we arrived in Santa Elena, it looked as though a tourist convention was underway.  It was a small town filled with fancy restaurants, quaint shops, and TONS of tourists everywhere!!
     As Wendy and I discussed which activities we should add to our agenda for the following day, I realized that my age was catching up to me, considering that fact that I voted for spending the morning eating off the breakfast buffet at our hotel and then taking a nap.  She wasn’t too interested in that “activity”, so we scheduled a guided tour thru the Costa Rican rainforest and then we booked a trip on a zipline canopy tour.  The only large animal that we saw on our rainforest tour was a sloth, which wasn’t very interesting because sloths don’t do anything, but our tour guide was good at getting us excited when we encountered irrelevant things such as birds, bugs, and frogs, so I would say that the guided tour was a success.  In any case, the zipline trip was definitely the highlight.  Actually, the zipline wasn’t all that exciting, it was the 20' plus “Tarzan” swing that really left me with a heart murmer and stains in my underwear.
     We left Santa Elena the next day and drove to a town called Nosara on the Nicoya Peninsula.  Along the way we stopped at the Barra Honda National Park, of which hosts a variety of caverns/caves, where we saw snakes, bat shit, and vandalized stalactites.  We had a wonderful time with our guide “Jose” who gave us our tour exclusively in Spanish, so we got really good a nodding our heads and pretending that we understood everything he was saying.  That evening we arrived at Playa Garza to discover a laid back fishing village on a beach with perfect surfing conditions.  I decided to skip surfing that day, so we could make our way to the hotel.  I was under the impression I would catch plenty of waves the following day.
     In Nosara, we stayed at a beautiful and amazing yet oxymoronically semi-problematic resort.  I must admit that the mood in Costa Rica was almost always a bit flawed, as the inherent carelessness and craziness of the nation’s culture was always looming over any situation.  This “vibe” forced us to consider avoiding our attempts to create a perfect experience.  At times, it made more sense for us to just sit at a dive bar and eat undercooked seafood and drink cheap beer while surrounding ourselves with the unusual blend of outlaw American ex-patriots and the local population.  This is an experience that we got to enjoy the following night at a place called “Mexican Restaurant”.  In any case, the evening that we arrived in Nosara, we had a romantically incredible candlelight dinner while sitting under the Central American stars and listening to the waves hit the beach at a well known restaurant called “La Luna”.
     The next day I planned to do some surfing but that was ruined because the waves were messy and large.  The vast majority (basically all) of surfers were having no success catching waves, so I didn’t even try.  We were seriously warned that our car would likely be broken into if we left it parked near the beach unattended, so we decided to park it in a visible location.  We hung out on the beach all day, and met a really cool local guy who sat with us for an hour and told us about his life in Costa Rica.  Although his English skills and our Spanish skills were quite limited, it was nice to meet someone who was willing to hang with us and talk about Central American life.
     We left Nosara the next day, and drove to Montezuma.  We were not looking forward to another day of driving on the dusty dirt roads of Costa Rica.  Not to get too personal, but the dust would pile up in every orphus of our bodies, making for a very uncomfortable experience.  On top of that, the roads in Costa Rica were not very well marked, so we knew we would get lost and frustrated a few times along the way..... so moving along to another location seemed kinda’ like self-imposed torture, but we continued anyway.  We picked up a few interesting hitchhikers on our drive and stopped in a fun town called Samara, but by the evening, I noticed that we were getting irritable, so I suggested that we stop at a bar on the side of the road.  The bartender was nice and offered to let us use her karoke machine, which exclusively played classic hispanic cowboy music..... tempting..... but I wasn’t quite drunk enough for that.  The beer did relax us enough so that we could actually enjoyed the rest of our drive to Montezuma, even though the dust from the roads was still flying everywhere; in our ears, mouth, nose, eyes, and even where the sun don’t shine.
     Montezuma is a town filled with a drunk and stoned contingent of Europeans/Americans mixed with an equally drunk and stoned contingent of Costa Ricans.  When I say stoned, I would add mushrooms and cocaine to the mix, so this made for a very unstable sense of human existence.  Because we weren’t participating in the inebriation, we always felt a bit concerned for our safety, a concern that I must admit I always appreciate in a sort of sadistic way.  Aside from Montezuma’s insanity, the town had cute shops and pleasant restaurants and beautiful beaches.  When Wendy asked me what I wanted to do the next day, I repeated my desire to eat lots of food and take a nap, and again she insisted on doing something a bit more interesting, so she convinced me to walk two miles up a canyon to a waterfall.  The swimming was refreshing and some of the locals were cliff diving into a pond near the waterfall, so the entertainment level was about as high as the people.  We also spotted some Ebola Monkeys, who this time tried to shit on us rather than each other. 
     That evening, we left Montezuma.  Considering that Wendy was piloting our car, we arrived to board the Paquera/Puntarenas ferry with less than a minute to spare, a situation which brought a fair amount of excitement to our trip.  The ferry was a cool experience.  It was filled with mostly Costa Rican families.  They danced and sang along with pop/folk songs that were being played over the loudspeakers, thus proving that you can have a good time, even if the fruity drinks don’t have any alcohol.
     We planned to spend that evening at a hotel near the airport.  The signs that led us to the airport were confusing, so after driving a few hours in the general direction, I put our “saved” rental car agency destination into the GPS.  Apparently, when I saved the location, I did it “randomly” and I saved the Thrifty Agency to a different location than it actually was..... a location at least thirty miles from the airport.  We spent the next two hours driving in the wrong direction.  In the end, we did managed to guide ourselves back to our rental car agency, only because we had noticed a few landmarks (actually a Denny’s Restaurant) along the way that was located near our rental car agency.  Wendy was not happy with my incompetence as a co-pilot and the stress driving in a third world country, so it almost looked like our night was going to end with us getting separate hotel rooms, but the guy at the front desk of the Holiday Inn told us that there was a casino next door.  He recommended that we check it out, and he gave us coupons for discounted gambling.  We arrived to the casino and spent any leftover money gambling.  Gambling lasted about five minutes, but we spent the rest of our night watching a kick-ass authentic Costa Rican band.  They were performing at the casino.  Their band had all the amenities; such as a full blown horn section, multiple hand drummers, and underdressed females in the audience and on-stage.  This saved us from an evening of anger and animosity.  We went to bed at 3:00am and woke up at 5:00am and flew home under the conditions that all vacations should end: Tired and Hungover!!!

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