The Tortoise and the Hairy

Trip Start Nov 26, 2012
Trip End Dec 30, 2012

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Where I stayed
Hotel Blue Conga Puerto Viejo
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of Costa Rica  , Province of Limon,
Saturday, December 8, 2012

No coffee or other enjoyable morning rituals, we are at the dock at 6:05 AM. Laura stands there tapping her watch like we're crazy late. Cute. We launch into a respectable dawn rain. Actually, it's not officially a dawn rain since it started last night during calypso time and hasn't stopped since. We are in a rainforest and you can't spell rainforest without "rain' and "forest." It's actually very pretty. The sounds and smells are just as enjoyable as birds go nuts and howler monkeys howl. Their cry is a long, raw, chesty bellow. On the banks the overgrown trees, vines and palms seem to nudge each other out of the way for position. Every now and again we are treated to a sighting of a great or colorful bird: the Blue Heron, tall, long-necked and soaring; the Roset Spoonbill, its chubby body flamingo pink (same shrimp-based diet), its beak like the Queen of Heart's crochet mallet. The Niles Crane, its pelican-like chin jutting, its attitude still belying his resentment toward his brother Fraser even though the show was cancelled eight years ago. All in all a lovely boat ride. Especially for us! We see other tourist craft out on the river and they don't have tops on them! The passengers are clutching the insides of their ponchos and squinching up their faces in that being pelted in the face with hard rain kind of way. There is a walking tour of the jungle also included in our schedule but we all agree to skip it; it's simply too dangerous to trek through the soaked path and a stupid idea.

Originally we were to spend two nights here in the jungle but we skimmed one off so that we could get to Puerto Viejo to visit a place called the Jaguar Center, which no longer has a jaguar but is a facility that helps wild animals and we may be able to pet a monkey. Now that we've seen the jungle for a few hours, we are comfortable tossing the second day.

Back to the lodge for breakfast. This time eggs will be playing the part of "chicken" long before they've grown into the role, rice will be embodying rice and beans will be closing the show. Grab the stuff from the cabin, back in the boat with Silent Eddie a bit worse for wear. Apparently he had a tete a tete with a young park ranger chicka last night. All the texting paid off.

We Ipod-soundtrack our way back up the river (Gimme Shelter and a tropical river will always provide a perfect "Apocalypse Now" moment). We pull back up to the dock from which we launched and are transferred back to the van. Laura will not be taking the bumpy van ride as she is a child of the Earth and must be left to run free. Actually, she is about to launch back into the river with a young, Asian family of three. Chicka jungle guides and vacationing Asians are natural enemies in the wild and we fear for Eddie but we say our good byes and climb into the van.

Bump, bump, bump, bump (repeat for one hour with a desperate need to pee in the second half hour). We forgot to mention that on the way out in the bumpy van we got a look at how banana's are grown and harvested. Banana production makes humans and animals sick, renders soil useless for other purposes and uses men like burros. We will be switching to organic bananas immediately (it really matters).

Back at the base the day's triumphant rafters have been drinking their beer and preparing to board their vans to whichever of the three Exploradore cities they want. A special lunch has been prepared for Tortuguero returnees, whose number includes us, period. Plenty of decent food and we eat. It's interesting, they are hurrying the rafters to board the vans but they are telling us to take our time and relax. We sense the invisible hand of Miguel; The Fixer. We board the Puerto Viejo van and join those going there going there.. It's a pretty long drive and we spend it with our eyes aimed out and music aimed in.

As we pull into Puerto Viejo, we see the accuracy in what we we've read about it. Apparently the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica has an island flavor. This a backpacker town, a surfer destination, a hippy holdout. Reggae spills into the street from the rickety wooden stalls full of trinkets, dreadlocks cling to the tops of pseudo Rastas and drop out white boys, bicycles outnumber cars and scooters and the locals either outnumber or simply outshine the tourists. Barely out of the range of the brief, busy "downtown," the van cuts a right into a tiny street and a left into the parking lot of the Hotel Blue Conga. The place is compact but has an obvious charm. We are greeted by Marise, a warm French Canadian transplant and shown our room. Small, no frills, but fine. We drop the luggage in the room and seconds later Julie jumps into the small but stylish pool.

The day has been long and we need some food. Marise tells us the sushi place in town is good and we are giddy at the thought of "food." The hotel offers loaner bikes to guests so we grab a pair and head into town. This, we can now see and smell, is Stonerland. The streets are lined with people hanging out or hustling around. They seem to have some purpose though we couldn't conceive of what it might be. Chile Rojo is the restaurant we want and we find it with no problem. We are told to lock the bikes carefully because, as everyone knows, hippies steal. The place is on the second floor so we take two seats at the counter that aim toward the street. We can see the bikes and everything else that happens on a typical night in Stonertown. It's happy hour so we grab a pair of mojitos. From what we see below, the town is pretty mellow. Kids can play without close supervision, people use the street like a promenade, somehow interacting neatly with the cars and bikes. Many dreads, many bohemian young people and many pink people from vacationing from Pinkpeopleland. The sushi is pretty great! Another couple of rounds of happy hour mojitos later, the "band" gets going. We didn't know there was going to be a band. We were right. This is a trio, actually. There's an older dreadlocked conga player, a bald guitarist in his sixties and between them a competitively square 60-something in a Panama hat at the keyboard. They proceed to lay down the most L7 collection of medleys and easy listening ever presented. Picture Ned Flanders with an "act." It's really funny until its really not and we leave.

Back at the Blue Conga we submit to enough Downton Abbey to finish the job our physical fatigue and mojitos started.
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My Review Of The Place I Stayed

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Courtney 2.0 on

I read the posts to Nick out loud as he drove me around last weekend. He's been to some of the places you mention and he was laughing at a lot of the things you wrote! Keep it up!

steve_julie on

I bet we could laugh about the driving, too. We watched a chica try to turn around a mini compact car with a nine point turn in a generous parking lot. Where has nick been?

Courtney K. on

We've both been to Costa Rica but he went to more of the places you have talked about. Specifically Tortuguero and he agreed with your feelings on the town, laughing at the way you described it. We haven't finished catching up on your travels but we have a 30 min drive today so I will be reading aloud to my driver. Can't wait!!

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