BOB CORBETT'S TRAVEL JOURNAL -- 2005

Costa Rica 10 -- October 8, 2005
Phenomenal 24 hours

By Bob Corbett

Itís just 3 PM here in Quepos, yesterday about this time I finished a note to you folks and looked out to discover a pouring, teeming rain. I didnít have my rain coat. I made it a few doors up the street toward my place, this entire block is covered and if one is on the south side, as I was, you could stay dry. But at the next corner, and the three blocks to Casa Hellen, well, thatís tough. One just gets drenched.

I passed a bar that is where lots of U.S, ex-Patís hang out. Iíd not been in it. But I looked up to see baseball on the modestly large and very clear TV. The TVs in bars are typically quite small and the pictures dim and rather blurred. This was different. I ducked in and it was the 4th inning, Chicago beating the Red Sox. And the rain poured, so I purchased 2 slightly over-priced beers and sat for two hours until Chicago eliminated Boston. Quite a shocker.

It was still raining, and the pace was on and off just raining and teeming. Using the just raining periods I made it home, but stopped on the way to pick up two pieces of fried chicken at a carry out place so I wouldnít have to go out again.

It was dark when I got home just after 5. The family was having a large and loud family party; lots of little kids too. And then the rain just exploded into torrential downpours. I was so happy to have those two pieces of chicken.

The house is about 20 yards, at most, from the line of four cabaŮas. I was the only guest. There is a narrow three foot wide concrete veranda in front of the cabaŮas and each one has two chairs there. Each has a nice bright porch light for reading outside.

In the middle of the yard, obscuring the house from us and us from the house directly, there is a large almond tree with lots of almonds on it. So last night I decided to sit out on the veranda with my chicken, and cold water and some peanuts, and just take in the lovely music (compas and meringue) coming from the house and listen to the sounds of the happy family gathering.

The back yard is all gravel save the big tree. This is so cars and park in front of each cabina. None were there last night, not even the family car since they wanted a place for the kids to play, but the rain stopped that.

However, it was dark, save two yellow lights on their open air back porch, and that made some light. The back yard was pretty with the rain, and about a dozen little puddles formed in the yard. About 6 or 6;30, after Iíd finished my simply delicious chicken, and has put away the nuts and gotten out a bit of rum, things got interesting.

But first about the rum. I had two rums in the Tico restaurant where I USED to eat (more about that anon) and there, where things are very cheap, the rum was 800 colones a shot, which is decent, only $1.60. But, that still seemed high to me. So the other day I went to the Super Mas and got the manager to help me with rum. He selected what he said was an excellent rum, a black label 5 year aged rum from Nicaragua. It was 5000 colones for the whole large bottle, just $10.00 so I thought that would be a great deal. It has been.

Thus back to last night in the rain and dark of my veranda. I got out my little coffee cup looking souvenir glass I got for my rum. And I had a nip as we say. Right then, was one of the most relaxing nights Iíve had in ages, sitting in the dark, the rain just teeming, the pool in the yard filling up with water and glistening in the soft yellow light, the lovely, but not terribly loud music coming from the house with lots and lots of laugher, talking, now and again a crying child or baby and a fussing parent. So much like my Grandmother Corbettís house back in the 1940s and 50s.

Then I began to see movement. I recognized it quickly as frogs, but these are very special and potentially dangerous frogs. These were the red-eyed poisoned frogs this area is famous for. There were dozens of them. They were so blasted cute. They would jump twice (never saw a single break in this pattern in close to 2 hours of watching), then sit quietly for at least 2 minutes, then jump twice again. And they just seemed to go back and forth across the yard as though they were getting exercise. I was just fascinated and rather than go in and to bed, I had an extra portion of rum, (or was it two?), that I sat there until 8:30, the latest Iíve been up since Iíve been here.

It was such a great evening. Today I stopped at the English language book shop in Manuel Antonio and had a long talk with the woman who runs it, an American woman who came here 30 years ago and stayed. She now has the book store upstairs with some 6,000 used books, an up-scale tourist boutique where we talked, and a lovely B&B which I will recommend to my son and his friend who are coming here to be with me in early November. I asked her about the frogs. She assured me I was in no danger and could even have tried to pick one up, but she said they are very difficult to catch and if I had tried I probably wouldnít have succeeded. But, while they are poisonous, or have poison, enough in each one to kill 8 humans, they canít hurt you unless you EAT them, it is in eating them you can get the poison, so Iíll try not to order frog legs while Iím here, but most of the time I donít really know what Iím ordering.

This morning I slept in until 5:30, I think the latest Iíd slept. But I did that on purpose since after yesterday I figured today would be a day with little or no walking since

  1. My groin would be too raw and sore
  2. My legs would be worn out by that mountain yesterday

But, joyous surprise, I woke feeling fit as can been. The redness and soreness of the groin was gone and my feet felt fine. I hurried into the shower after a shave and still caught the 6:15 bus after having some pineapple and water before rushing out the door.

I got to Manuel Antonio for the next to highest tide day of this cycle. (The bookstore lady, much later on today, had gotten out her tide book and noted that tomorrow is the highest tide at 6 AM in this cycle. It changes 50 minutes every day, and after tomorrow will be on the down cycle.)

There was little shore and I walked on 1 1/2 miles up before I ran into rocks that I couldnít get by with slamming waves and the only way round was into the dense forest with no path. I bowed out of that option without a single thought, and headed back. I thought, if I felt good enough, I would do the up and back twice. But, when I got back I was tired. I had walked a good deal in the surf about ankle to knee deep and thatís very hard walking, the retreating tide wanting to pull me out and down on every wave.

So, I went to my little man by the very last bus stop and purchased two more bags of sliced pineapple. 500 colones a bag, just $1.00. Huge bag, at least 1/2 a whole pineapple in each bag, fully peeled and sliced into round slices about 1/2 inch thick. I keep them in my refrigerator and they are wonderful treats. Goes very well with rum in the evening.

He likes me and makes me ask for what I want in Spanish, but I can never remember. Iím usually wanting a balton con manilya, something that sounds like that, a plastic bag with handles. And today he had a treat for me which he gave me, a double banana. That is two banana in the same skin. It was so cool. And heís a good businessman. When I go back for more pineapple on Monday, Iíll buy bananas too, they were just delicious.

I was home, having walked 5 miles by 9 AM. I washed up a bit and went to the coffee house, but since Iíd had some pineapple and the double banana I just got coffee and read.

Then, since it was a bit overcast, I decided to do something Iíve wanted from the beginning -- ride the bus to the top of the mountain from Quepos and get off and walk down. I did that. People often say it is much harder to walk down hill than up. HA!!!! Not for me. My first day here I had walked up that mountain to the very top where I got off the bus this time, and it nearly killed me. I was dragging. Walking down is a piece of cake.

I had only gone about 100 yards from where the bus let me out, and was coming to this bizarre place, AN ENTIRE WWII B'52 BOMBER!!!!!

[I was completely wrong about what it was, but that story comes later in these notes, several days from this note.]

I kid you not. How in the world did they get that on top of the mountain? Itís real. No engines, but the mounts and all. They are in the final stages of building a huge bamboo structure around and over it. I guess it will be a restaurant of something. At any rate, they had about a 15 foot long parking lot there on the side of the road, just about 10 foot deep so cars and park longways. I wanted to see the bomber close up so I crossed the road and saw something very odd in the parking lot. I thought it was a childís stuffed animal, and weird looking, then it moved. I said, Whoa, Bob, thatís alive.

I couldnít imagine what the hell it was, but then I saw it move and stick out a very large arm and there were the tell-tail three claws. It was a three-toed sloth. I guess Iíve never seen one before in my life. Not even in our zoo. Itís the strangest looking creature Iíve ever seen. But the way it moves -- it lays flat on its stomach and moves every bit as slow as a turtle. Lifts one arm, moves it 6-8 inches forward, lowers the arm and scootches up to level off. Then moves the other arm, at least 4-5 inches off the ground and does it there. For the sloth to move 1 foot takes 3-4 minutes.

It is completely covered in moss like stuff and then I remember reading about this and the lady at the book store confirmed this Ĺ day later, they are covered in a lichen-like living protozoa, which the sloth eats by licking it off its own body.

The problem here was, this thing was about 3 foot from this two lane highway and was dead set to cross over. It clearly didnít understand English. I looked around and about 15 foot up by the bomber were 6-8 American tourists looking at the bomber and talking English. I called to them and said, did you see this can you help me? They all came running and oooohhing and ahhhhing and everyone had a camera and finally I said, folks this thing is going to cross the highway and get squished. Everyone saw that as soon as I pointed it out. So, three young women didnít want to be there, since we all thought this sloth was history, and they agreed to go up past the bomber where the hill crested and try to stop cars coming that way. A middle-aged man, younger than I, and three guys in their 20s, went 20-30 yards down the highway where I had just gotten off the bus to stop cars that way. Another man and I just stayed by the sloth as last resort helpers.

When I say it moves like a turtle, Iím serious. One could just as well say a turtle moves just like a sloth. Slow, slow, slow. Only 6 cars came in the next 10 minutes it took for us to encourage this character across the road, and all went very slowly around it, every single one parked and ran back to take pictures. It was a gigantic picnic and in the end as it got to the other side, a young guy who had come in a car had nicknamed it Charlie and we all cheered Charlie to safety. Could just as well have been Charlene for all we knew.

When I told the lady at the book store about it 1/2 hour later (I never said walking down hill was FASTER, just easier), she roared with laughter and said why in the world didnít you pick it up? ďPick it?Ē said I, are you serious, have you ever seen those claws? She laughed again and said you pick them up like cats by the scruff of the neck and they are totally harmless but quite heavy. She said sheís done it a dozen times. The woods are filled with sloth.

I told her about the coati I saw yesterday and she told me they were closely related to the raccoon family and they are thousands of them in the area, they forage everywhere.

After walking to the bottom of the mountain I took a bus home. Iím up to 7.5 miles and itís not even 4 in the afternoon yet. Iíve gone 8 miles or more all but two days Iíve been in Costa Rica. Lots of walking. Loving it.

Finally, I went at 2 PM to Soda Sanchez, now where I eat my only restaurant meal each day. What a place. I went in today and ordered the fish chowder, but they didnít have it. The manager, who was there for the first time today, told me they had the filet de la mar planchetta. I have learned that if you get anything planchetta you are getting a huge HUNK, like my large chicken breast of yesterday. so I got it. wow. That was some of the best fish Iíve very had tried, very lightly battered and lightly fried, just melted in my mouth. And same sides as yesterday, huge mounds of black beans, rice, mashed potatoes, lovely salad. This monster meal, which left me reeling after all that exercise of the day was a rip roaring 1500 colones .. $3.00. My two fruit juices were 50 cents each, but I donít know what kind of just I had. Anyone know Spanish, what is tamarind?

He did tell me that manyana, the same dish is on the menu again, since I was raving about how good it was. Iíll definitely repeat this tomorrow.

And here we are already a 4 PM and Iíve run up a large internet bill nearly as much as lunch!!!!!! Fun.

I am about as happy as a guy can get, and itís not raining, but clearly looking outside as my old country Grandmother Wilbourn used to say: "Itís a fixing to."

Iím going to head to the American bar for a beer and a bit of baseball before I grab something light thing to carry home and relax on my veranda until the late later hour of 7:30 or even 8 PM before I got to bed.

Bob Corbett

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