Thursday, August 28, 2008

Costa Rica Day 1: Watch for Falling Coconuts

San Jose is nice. Nothing to write home about but it is a clean city. And the traffic lights work. Plus the Costa Rican's drive in a civilized manner, not like the Lebanese who never saw a traffic law they liked. Crime is apparently something of a problem, though. All the houses I saw had tall gates around them with razor wire around the tops of the fences. And there were guards at all the entrances of the hotel. I don't know how much of that was justified, and how much was paranoia, but the residents seem to take it seriously. I didn't have any trouble, though.

The flight to Palmar Sur was on a high-winged, twin-engined, 20-passenger plane with nice big windows. The flight was a little bumpy coming out of San Jose, but once we got around the mountains and made it over the costal lowlands it smoothed out. From the air Costa Rica is a lush, green beautiful country. You can see individual houses, and small and medium sized villages in the jungle. On a side note: when flying around in Costa Rica be sure and pay attention when the pilot tells you where you are. Otherwise you might get left somewhere you don't want to be. Obviously I got back on the plane in time.

Dan met me at the airstrip at Palmar Sur and took me for a smoothie while we got to know one another a little bit. I helped him with a little shopping he had to do then we were off to the town of Sierpe, on the Sierpe river. We would leave from here by boat to go to Sabalo Lodge. After about a 45 minute drive we reached Sierpe . We ate lunch at the Las Vegas restaurant (seriously) while we waited for the tide to be right so we could get to the lodge. We had the whole fried fish (some kind of snapper, I think) and papatosomthing-or-other. It's slices of plantain that are fried, pounded flat, the fried again. Pure yumminess.

The 40 minute boat ride to the lodge was very pleasant. However the Sierpe river is, quite literally, crocodile-infested waters. We saw 4 crocs on the way--3 were sunning on the shore and one was swimming in the river. The largest appeared to be about 8 feet long. I don't know what size the one in the water was. The lodge itself is a nice, manicured oasis in the midst of the mangroves. The lawn is smooth and well maintained, and there are all kinds of tropical trees planted that offer shade as well some fruit. I had fresh coconut milk right out of the 'nut. Dan just sliced the top of for me, stuck in a straw and handed it to me. Neat! Signs every where warn to watch for falling coconuts, and they aren't kidding. One thudded down right beside me while I was stalking a butterfly with my camera. I jumped right out of my Birks.

A bit later I met Marc (French) and Illiana (Romanian). They were on vacation from their jobs in Haiti. They work for the U.N. teaching Haitian police European police methods. At dinner that night, with lots of prodding from Dan, Marc told us a bit about his speciality, non-lethal crowd control, and gave a demonstration on Dan. I watched. I was embarrassed to note that most U.S. cops tend to shoot first and ask questions later.

The rain started about 5:15 PM and it was real frog-strangler. It didn't let up for several hours so we all went to bed soon after dinner.

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