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Costa Rica Trip, Day 6 and 7
Monday, 2005 December 5 - 9:05 am
The trip to Manuel Antonio National Park.

Saturday, November 26

I have a late morning shuttle that will take me from Jacó to Quepos. (Quepos is a small town just outside Manuel Antonio National Park.) I see Uncle Mort and Aunt Jane on the way out, and we exchange good-byes and email addresses.

The shuttle ride is short, less than an hour. On the way I really start to understand the road sign "PUENTE EN MAL ESTADO" (bridge in bad condition)... there are several bridges that have been completely destroyed, and the road detours to a replacement one-lane bridge riddled with bumps and potholes.

On one stretch of road, I actually see a tree growing out of a pothole. I wonder if the tree was deliberately placed in the hole to warn drivers. At any rate, it's an odd thing to see a tree in the middle of a road.

I get to the Hotel La Mariposa in Quepos, and it's quite pretty. I have a great view overlooking the park:

There's a little binder of information in the hotel room. It says that I can hike down to the beach from the hotel, down a dirt road, and optionally through a jungle path. It sounds like fun, so I set off to go hiking. But I take a wrong turn right off the bat, and I walk for ten minutes down a steep road until I realize I have to go back, uphill. So twenty minutes into my hike, I'm right back where I started, and already feeling tired.

The walk down to the beach is sharply downhill. That's just as tiring as walking uphill, since I have to spend a lot of energy counteracting my downward momentum. And the footing is pretty dodgy. And then it starts to rain.

I keep looking for the shortcut through the jungle, but I never find it. I end up walking down the road all the way to the beach. I'm relieved to have arrived at the beach, though I'm on the isolated end of the beach, a good half mile from the populated area. So I continue trekking until I get to the central beach area.

By this time it's raining pretty hard, so I decide I'm not going to hang out on the beach. I step into a local restaurant and order a casado, along with a couple of beers. It's a cheap lunch, and a pretty good one.

Then I'm faced with a choice: hike back two miles up the road to the hotel, take a very crowded bus for 105 colones (about twenty cents), wait about 45 minutes until the next free hotel shuttle, or take a taxi for about 2000 colones (four dollars). I figure, well, I set out to go for a hike, so I might as well keep hiking.

It's a tiring uphill walk back, but not horrible. When I get back, a hot shower and a little bit of downtime feel GREAT. But I start to feel the pangs of loneliness; I've hardly talked to anyone all day.

The loneliness gets a little worse when I go to eat dinner by myself. I kick myself for not pre-arranging dinner plans with the other people who are in Quepos.

Back in my room, I call Amy, and that helps. I go to bed at about 10:30 PM.

Sunday, November 27

It's white-water rafting time, the last tour I have scheduled on my trip. I wake up and have a good breakfast at the hotel: gallo pinto, pineapple, bacon, sausage, hash browns, and croissants.

The tour includes seven of us from the wedding: me, Anna, Erik, Gino, Jen, Geovanna, and Nima. (Another guy, Guillermo, was supposed to come also, but apparently he partied a little too hard the night before.) Unfortunately, the rafts are not big enough to accommodate all of us on the same boat; we split into two groups, with me and Geovanna and Nima in one boat (along with a couple from Canada), and everyone else in another boat. There's a third boat with a bunch of guys from St. Louis.

The rafting is fun. I get tossed from the boat twice, which is no big deal except for the minor embarrassment. (On our boat, only Geovanna and I have ever been rafting before. None of the newbies fall out of the boat; only me, the "expert".) The rapids are mostly Class III, some perhaps approaching Class IV.

Afterwards, we're given a nice lunch at a nearby restaurant (another casado), and we sit around eating and chatting. The St. Louis guys are all in marketing, and they all travel a lot. The Canadians are a newlywed couple. There's one guy who speaks very good Spanish, and he tries to convince people he's Costa Rican, but Anna sees through him... he's actually an American.

After going back to the hotel to clean up a bit, we decide to go down to the beach. We enter Manuel Antonio National Park, where the beaches are much prettier and less crowded. There are trails leading through the park, and we see lizards, monkeys, turtles, and about ten billion hermit crabs. I regret that I didn't bring my camera for this portion of the trip... I'd thought we were just going to hang out on the beach, so I didn't think I'd need a camera.

I do a bit of swimming and a bit of hiking with Erik and Nima. It would have been nice to spend more time at the park, but it's getting close to closing time and we've got plans to meet other people for dinner. So we drive back to our hotels and get showered and changed.

We meet at a place called El Avion for dinner. There's some history to this place... it's a U.S. spy plane that crashed in Nicaragua or something, and they took the fuselage and turned it into a restaurant. Pretty cool. There's a giant crowd of folks from the wedding there, at least thirty of us. We eat and drink and talk for a few hours.

After dinner, there's an informal party in a hotel room; not at my hotel, but the Villa Mymosa, where most everyone else is staying. It goes pretty late, and there's a good deal of drinking involved. I realize that I'm really starting to make a lot of new friends on this trip, and I'm glad about that. But as the evening gets late and it gets time for me to leave, I start to get a little bummed that it may be a long time before I see some of my new friends again.

Fortunately, that's not the case for the people who live in Raleigh. I note that Jesse, Heloisa, Don, and Vanese are going to be in my hotel in San José the next day, and traveling back to North Carolina on Tuesday, just like me. So, avoiding the mistake I'd made on Saturday, I make definite plans with them to meet for dinner.

Most of the party wraps up, and I get up to leave. It would be a long walk in the dark to get back to my hotel, so Anna calls a cab for me instead. A cool thing happens during the cab ride: I actually have a little conversation, in Spanish, with the cab driver.

Me: "¿Cuanto cuesta?" (How much does it cost?)
Driver: (Laughs.) "¿Cuanto cuesta? Porqueño." (How much? Only a little.)
Driver: (Says something I don't catch.)
Me: "¿Qué? Soló sé unas cuantas palabras en Español." (What? I only speak a few words in Spanish.)
Driver: "Un mil seisciento." (One thousand six hundred.)
Me: "Ah."
Driver: "¿Es Chino o Japonés?" (Are you Chinese or Japanese?)
Me: "Japonés."

(Looking back, there were a couple of phrases in my vocabulary that I wish I would have included, but didn't. After the driver said "Porqueño", I could have explained "Tengo solamente cinco mil colones" [I only have five thousand colones], to explain why I was asking about the cost. And when the driver asked me if I was Chinese or Japanese, I could have replied "I'm Chuck E. Cheese" (Soy Carlos E. Queso?), but somehow I don't think he would have understood the "My Name Is Earl" reference.)

Anyway, I get back to the hotel with no difficulty, and I go straight to bed.
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Posted by Ken in: lifetravel


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