It’s All Turtles on the East Coast of Costa Rica

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I have not been swept up in a mudslide and sent down a mountain. Though as many of you have heard, the rains here have been pretty intense. Not “Rains of God” intense, like in Uganda, but still very heavy and very continuous. And I don’t pretend to be everywhere in the country… like the Pacific coast.

I was trying to decide which way to go, either to the Pacific or Caribbean coast first and then loop around the country, and Mother Nature gave a very clear message to head east to the Caribbean, as the west coast of Costa Rica was declared a disaster area with mudslides and tragic deaths. All the children were off school two days ago in mourning for the 60 plus folks who were buried when a hillside gave way. Hopefully the rains will abate a bit soon, so as to give the country a break.

And due to the rains, I won’t likely be going to Corcaverda or Quepos, since they are flooded.  Now, I didn’t really know that the east coast of Costa Rica was all about turtles. As in, during the high season, from July to the start of October, there are literally 10,000 tourists a week in a town that has 700 residents…. I cançt find the exclamation point to make that last sentence as dramatic as it should be. We had our choices of rooms, because of the slower time that has come. The town of Tortugaro, where the main turtles crawl up on the beach, thousands of them, and lay their eggs, is a cool place. Muddy streets, no cars, chill nice people and tasty food. The only way there is by boat, or you could fly if you were lame. :)

So my first day was landing in San Jose and meeting some other travelers. Getting me “see legs” back, which happened very quickly. Usually it takes 3 days or so to get back into the swing of backpacking. But because I was soooooooo ready for this trip, I felt like I was back at it quickly. Though Ive been cheating a bit… more on that later.

San Jose is a green mountainous town. One friend of mine would say it sucks ass since he was mugged there, and well, if Id been mugged there Id say it sucks ass too. Fortunately I wasnt… but when I was wandering around, trying to locate my hostel as darkness was falling fast, rain was falling hard, and the map I had not only didnçt have all the streets labeled… it didnçt have the hostel in the correct location! So I had to decode where I might be in a town where very few streets have signs or labels, and I was carrying around a lot of money cause I had just stopped off at the bank. Yikes. Eventually I saw a roofline from the side that I imagined to be what the rooftop bar from the hostel would look like if I were outside it, and I was able to find the gate and the very small sign. whew.

I met a few fellow travelers. We all played OMNI SCORE, which is known as Yahtzee in places other than Holland, where Marleen, the games owner, is from.

The next day I cruised to the bus station, got my 2 dollar ticket and rode out of town… into an AMAZING landscape of mountains, valleys, rivers, clouds, rain, sun. Wow. It was spectacular. I looked down to set an Ipod playlist, rocking songs like Ramble On, Touched, Kyrie, St. Elmoçs fire, Africa and more… and looked up as we emerged from a tunnel onto an amazing, uber green landscape. It was great. Music rocking. Street rolling beneath us.

Oddly, I couldn,t help but think of Viet Nam. I just finished reading MATTERHORN, written by my good friend Laurel-s dad, Karl Marlantes, before I left on the trip. And the book is an incredible story of soldiers in Nam. And the terrain and mountains and super thick jungled slopes made me imagine even more the hell the soldiers went through.

After a bus, we transfer to another bus. The first was like a greyhound in the states. The second was like a school bus. No wait, it WAS a school bus!. Replete with seats built for 8 year olds. I love it! sure, my 6 foot frame barely fit, but its traveling like this that makes you really see a place. The bus dropped us at a water taxi, which took us for an hour or more into the Mini Amazon of the northeast of Costa Rica. Awesome.

In Torugaro I ran into Marleen and Ulrike from San Jose, and also made friends with Ina. We saw a baby turtle, about 4 inches long, crawling ot the ocean, but no mass influx of turtles. Again, that was over months ago, and now that I know it exists I will have to come back and check it out sometime. There was a festival for the end of turtle season that consisted of four very large bars.

The next day we did a canoe trip into the national park… in the rain. Our guide, Mr. Bill, is 84 years old and used to hunt Jaguars and other animals before it was outlawed, and now hes a guide. He had great stories and even though it was raining, we had a great adventure down the sampy canals and into the hidden jungle world. I loved the rain. It made it really cool and feel like quite an adventure. The rest of the day was about eating, yep its me, gotta eat!, and a hike through the jungle and on the beach.

I got to know my travel buddies and they are all cool. Ulrike especially was inspiring, as she has MS, but isnçt letting that stop her from living life. She might have an attack at anytime, but sheçs going on an around the world trip, following her dreams, and saying kiss off to the physical issue that might stop other folks. I was humbled and impressed.

And we capped the night off with an Imperial beer, loud reggae again, and some Omni Score.

Today was one of the coolest boat rides Içve ever taken in my life. 3 plus hours zipping along a canal and rivers surrounded by jungle and green and occasionally seeing the caribbean beyond. We stopped at stilted restraunts, we got gas from gas pumped in a town that was flooded, and the boats were on the streets and the cars were no where near. There was even a bus parked in the water, collectging travelers.

But it was the jungle, smoothe water, overcast sky, wind in my face, occasional splashes or huge ass splashes that kept it lively and wet that were the best. It was really wonderful.

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