When we arrived in Costa Rica we were picked up by a driver who had been arranged for us by Jan and Greg at the hotel. Mario is a charming fellow who has been driving for them for the five years since the hotel has been open, and were they ever lucky to snap him up! He is very passionate and knowledgeable about his country, and was careful to speak clearly and slowly so that we two gringos could keep up with the conversation. He spoke fairly good English, but when he found out we both speak bastardized and butchered Spanish, he decided he was only going to speak Spanish to us unless we really couldn't finger out what he was trying to say.
On the way to the hotel, he took us to this awesome little soda (roadside restaurant) at the top of a mountain looking out over a large valley and off into another set of peaks. Absolutely stunning views that my pictures don't even come close to doing justice to. We had a cup of Costa Rican coffee. (Ehh...*waves hand back and forth*...I wasn't that impressed as I prefer a much stronger more bitey coffee, but I had thought to bring along my Splenda and my Italian Sweet Cream Coffeemate so it was drinkable) (no, they do NOT pay me!)
We got back in the car to finish our trip through the mountains, and along the way, Mario introduced us to his companion Igor, a little toy iguana he kept on his dashboard, who will re-enter the story later. When he dropped us off at the hotel, we told him that we would have Jan and Greg call him to arrange when next to pick us up, as he is their driver for long rides, but local taxis would be our in town transportation. We did, however, arrange right then for him to pick us up on our last day to return us to San Jose for our flight home.
When we got back from the zipline tour on our first full day in country, we hit the pool for awhile, then headed into Jaco proper. Jaco is pretty much like any other beach town or tourist town-one main street of tourist shop after tourist shop, selling all manner of towels, bathing suits, jewelry and rosewood carvings. We don't really 'do' souveniers, but I picked up a couple of little things that would be easily packed, and we found some dinner (excellent fish-mahi mahi and seabass, primarily) and a grocery store to procure our beer for the night (Imperial and Imperial Light substitute remarkably well for Busch and Busch Light in a pinch). After much discussion and debate with Jan and Greg and some friends of theirs who were down from Canada, we decided to get Mario to take us to Quepos, a town about one and a half hours away, to visit a National Wildlife Refuge there called Manuel Antonio.
It was a beautiful day-perfect for hiking. We, along with one other couple, hired a guide to take us through the trails. It was well worth the money. The guides see things you would NEVER be able to pick out on their own, and they carry these telescopes on tripods, and zero right in on things. He also does a little lecture, pointing out different plants and fruits and barks and telling us about them in this very dry voice (imagine Ben Stein's monotone with a Spanish accent). He'd say things like, "In Costa Rica, with this tree, they take the bark and they boil it in the water, then they drink the water. This is good for headaches." or "In Costa Rica, they take the leaves of this plant, and boil it in the water, then they breath in the steam of this plant. They do this for three days and it cures the asthma." Evidently, for every plant in Costa Rica, there is a potion to be made.
We were very fortunate right off to see our second batch of capuchin monkeys (we'd seen a few the day before on the zipline tour briefing) (these are the little white faced monkeys that are used as helpers for wheelchair bound patients). They are so cute! We could also hear howler monkeys, which sound just like their name suggests, but we never did get close to them. We saw iguanas and basilisks (also known as the Jesus Christ lizard because it can 'walk' on water), crabs, bees both of the itty bitty variety that don't sting and the African Killer variety, which were fortunately WAAY up in the trees, bats, sloths (which is really just like saying we saw a couple of wads of hair in a tree because they ain't kiddin' folks-those suckers to not MOVE), a porcupine, and probably ten or so more things I'm forgetting. It was most definitely a blast.
After the tour was done, we walked over to a soda on the beach with Mario, who had waited to take us back to the hotel. We had a lovely open air lunch (all the sodas are pretty much open air) of barbecued pork and chicken, along with yuca which neither of us had ever eaten. Surprise, surprise! It is just like potato, but with a little more fiber. Very yummy.
On the way back to the hotel, Mario told us that he wanted to take a detour and show us something. He started teasing us about La Sirena, which he expected us to understand as we are big Mana fans (a Latin American band who has a song by that name). When he finally realized we weren't going to get it, he just said one word and it came to both of us-mermaid. He turned down a series of little secondary roads in a residential area and we came out on the beach. Out about a hundred yards in the surf was a large rock sticking out of the ocean, and mounted (heh-I said mounted) on top was this statue of a mermaid. We tried to get pictures, but they did not come out worth a flip, so pfft. When we got back in the car, Mario kept talking about how sad it was. I finally asked him what was so sad, and he told me that many people had died surfing in that area because of the rocks scattered under the surf, and that the man who had had the statue built commissioned the artist to give the bronze the face of his daughter, who was one of the victims. Gave me a piss shiver, that one did.
I think I will quit pushing my luck and close this for now, and finish up the story tomorrow. I am trying to catch up on your blogs too, and have two, count'em, TWO awards to acknowledge, so this is a busy week for me. Add to that the Superbowl and the fact that the Innocent Bystander goes back to the Fatherland on Wednesday, and hopefully you'll forgive me for drawing this out so long. Hasta manana, ya'll!