What happened to my howler wakeup call?

(To read El Gringo Feo’s Costa Rica Diary from the beginning, start here.)

Tuesday, August 21

A coatimundi makes his way past the Treehouse while foraging for food.

A coatimundi makes his way past the Treehouse while foraging for food.

For the second morning in a row, there was no howler monkey party outside my window as day broke. Yesterday, I was sleep-deprived and thankful for the relative silence. But today I miss the little buggers. I’m not even hearing them in the distance. They must have moved on in search of food. I suspect they cycle through a wide territory …

I thought I caught a quick glimpse of a white-faced capuchin monkey, but upon further review I’m pretty sure it was actually a coatimundi. Later, as I was reading Poilu on the deck of the Treehouse, a band of them showed up, leading me to believe my earlier capuchin sighting was more wishful thinking that actual fact. The coatimundi does have a vaguely monkey tail, and one of them ventured close enough to me for a photo opportunity (see above). He was casually foraging for tasty fruits, much of which gets tossed down from birds who take a single bite and move on. Sydney, our umbrella cockatoo, behaves in this manner. It’s a very efficient way for nature to scatter seeds …

As I write, a rain of fruit is falling around me, some of it clanging off the metal roof, as the jungle birds eat breakfast with little regard for the mess they’re making.

Remember that smack I was talking about the dearth of mosquitos here?

Not so fast. One of Jeff’s friends warned me there are biting bugs on the beach, and they’re very stealth. You don’t realize you’ve been assaulted until it’s too late.

There are some here at PurUvita, too, though it’s still not as bad as my front porch in Ohio. Regardless, I’ve reconciled with Deet, at least in some circumstances.

I spent yesterday morning watching boats full of tourists head out toward the Whale’s Tale at high tide, presumably on their way to watch the whales. From my perch atop PurUvita, they looked like tiny waterbugs, discernible primarily through their wakes. Is that a rogue wave? No. It’s attached to that little dot, er boat, pushing out into the Pacific. Another item for my to-do list.

Strange, delicate little wasp-type insects were ducking in and out of a tubular hive in one of the logs that forms a supporting timber for the shack. They chose a knot in the wood to insert their nest. I assume they’ve burrowed into the wood. They don’t appear to be aggressive and were unperturbed when I came close to shoot a short video. I haven’t had time to ID them yet. There’s so much here that I don’t know. It’s humbling and invigorating.

I received a text yesterday from Lara telling me her father is going into hospice. I think she has mixed emotions. It’s obviously distressing to know your father is about to die. But there’s also a sense of relief. He was a difficult guy before dementia twisted his brain. It got worse from there, muddling him and prompting him to see schemes and conspiracies everywhere. But Lara said Daddy has taken a turn toward sweetness with the news. Perhaps he’s ready. Or perhaps it’s like that Flannery O’Connor Story, A Good Man is Hard to Find, one of my favorite O’Connor stories. After an escaped convict, the Misfit, encounters and then kills a sinful Christian grandmother, he says, “she would have been a good woman, if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.” I always took that to be O’Connor saying some people need that immediate threat of extermination every day to truly see the light and find grace. Or as Ray Wylie Hubbard sang in Conversation with the Devil:

Some get spiritual, ’cause they see the light

And some, ’cause they feel the heat

Though my favorite stanza from that song is:

Now I said, “I’ve made some mistakes, but I’m not as bad as those guys

How can God do this to me or can’t He sympathize

He said, “You’re wrong about God being cruel and mean

Oh, God is the most loving thing that’s never been seen”

I said, “Hotshot tell me this which religion is the truest”

He said, “There all about the same

Buddha was not a Christian, but Jesus woulda made a good Buddhist”

The day closed, again, atop the hill, watching a delicious grenadine sunset sprawl across the sea, capped by banks of clouds. The humidity was palpable, and then a light rain fell as the light faded. No photo. Impossible to capture … so I’ll leave you with Ray Wylie.

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Portrait of the artist as a pasty middle-aged gringo

(To read El Gringo Feo’s Costa Rica Diary from the beginning, start here.)

Monday, August 20

Random flowers. BIrd of paradise, perhaps?

Random flowers. Birds of paradise, perhaps?

Last night was my first sleepless night here, but it was more due to sudden inspiration than anxious tossing and turning. I was up until almost 3 a.m. uploading all of my entries thus far to the site. And I still awoke at about 5 a.m. so there will be a bonk at some point today.

While I’m getting a solid 3G connection here, it bogs down massively during prime time when everyone has a straw in the bandwidth and is sucking voraciously. In the middle of the night, my 3G becomes relatively fast and smooth, prompting me to take advantage of my computer’s tethered connection to my iPhone.

A drenching rain fell for much of yesterday, which helped break the heat that had been mounting toward noon. It was incredibly soothing, and as much as I hate to use this cliché, it was Zen. I found it difficult to not just sit there drifting off into the raindrops.

I spent most of the day reading and writing. I’m deep into Poilu: The World War I Notebooks of Corporal Louis Barthas, Barrelmaker, 1914-1918, and have no idea how the human mind can survive the things Barthas describes in his amazing account of the Great War. Many don’t survive it, crumbling mentally as the shells explode and gore flows out of the trenches. But many find a way to persevere. As a counterweight, I started reading Jack Ewing’s Where Tapirs and Jaguars Once Roamed: Ever Evolving Costa Rica, which was recommended by Jeff, who noted that his wife, Laurie, loved it. She’s a fantastic writer and journalist, so that was good enough for me. Jeff and I drove over to Domincal so I could pick up both of Ewing’s books about Costa Rica (the other is Monkeys are Made of Chocolate: Exotic and Unseen Costa Rica). Ewing first came here in 1970 when he was just out of school with a degree in animal husbandry and intention of working in the cattle business. He gets hired to assist in bringing cattle to Costa Rica for sale. Ultimately, he ends up settling in Domincal and founding Hacienda Baru , a national wildlife refuge and lodge. Jeff and I poked around a bit there after buying the books, and I definitely intend to return before leaving.

To say the two books are polar opposites would be an understatement. Or perhaps not. When Ewing arrived in Costa Rica, it was being pillaged for its natural resources and the jungle was under siege. Thanks in part to his visionary efforts, that was thwarted. Or at least slowed. So there is a sense of impending apocalypse in both books. But the Barthas book is just mind-numbing. He managed to survive the major slaughters of the war, which he refers to accurately as charnel houses. I’m about to enter the section where he details the horrors of Verdun. Wish me luck.

Another random flower, this time to purge thoughts of Verdun.

Another random flower, this time to purge thoughts of Verdun.

My writing thus far has largely been self-obsessed blogging about this trip, but I’m starting to think about form and structure for a novel I’ve been plotting for decades. It’s Pittsburgh based and focused on the rise and fall of steel. The Homestead Strike is in there. And Tall Tale hero Joe Magarac. And maybe a few ghosts. But the world keeps shifting. The plot line was focused around an unemployed Geek who was spit out in the first great Internet meltdown in 2000, or Dot.Bomb, as it came to be known. The Geek returns home from the Bay Area to Pittsburgh, where he retreats to an hold house in Homestead that his grandparents left him in their will. As he’s tearing out the lathe board to install Cat 5 cable for Internet (this was before wireless changed everything), he finds a trove of letters that date bak to the 1892 Homestead Steel Strike, which triggers the rest of the action. But as time has passed and the nation has been Trumped by populist hysteria, it seems major reworking is in order. I really hope I can get myself to do that during the next few months. On the plus side, there’s not a whole lot else to do most days. My usual vices and distractions are far away, and I’m feeling something that I can only describe as clarity emerging. But there’s still a lot of static and frequent cranial power outages, so we’ll see how that goes.

On the plus side, I’d vowed to write at least 1,000 words a day, which I’ve had no problem hitting. A letter to Mom and Dad alone clocked in at 1,600. If I can keep this pace, I should produce about about 80,000 or 100,000 words. while here. That’s a hell of a lot more than I was doing before I jumped on that Delta jet and headed south.

One more gratuitous flower picture.

One more gratuitous flower picture.

I spent this morning talking to a helpful American Airlines agent to undo a business-related trip back to the States that I have to take in October. They moved the agenda back a day, negating the itinerary I’d purchased before leaving the States. I don’t want to charge the company I work with for my travel back to the States, but they kindly agreed to pay the change fees on both that trip and the next leg that will take me to my destination.

Last night, I sat here atop the hill, watching a cloud-strangled sunset recede into blackness over the Pacific. Suddenly, I noticed a firefly. Then others. So there are fireflies here, which I enjoyed immensely as I pecked away at my keyboard. White puffs of cloud clung to the trees as the day’s rain instantly evaporated, ready to start the cycle again.

I still haven’t gone off the property. I’m thinking I’ll do that tomorrow, when I’m better rested and will be needing a few minor supplies. I’m also hoping to find a spot where I can poach a wifi connection to do more bandwidth-intensive tasks. But there’s no hurry. I have food. And I’m in paradise.

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A running list of things I’m encountering here in Uvita …

(To read El Gringo Feo’s Costa Rica Diary from the beginning, start here.)

  • Gray-headed chachalaca — I’m seeing these grouse-like birds frequently. The like the fruit trees on the property and I see them every day when I stump down to the kitchen from the Treehouse..
  • White nosed coati (coatimundi) — I saw a group of them working the fence line on the property. They look a bit like raccoons.
  • Blue morpho butterfly— I’ve seen them multiple times already, carving whimsical blue streaks through the jungle flora.
  • Tombolo — This is the term for a long stretch of sand connecting a former island to the coast. Playa Uvita features a tombolo that looks like a whale’s tale from above at low tide. Seems appropriate since it’s part of the Ballena (whale, in Spanish) National Marine Park.
  • Borucu — indigenous people who make vibrant, phantasmagorical masks I’m seeing at the markets. I’ve already decided I need one of these. At least
  • Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet — This is a type of flycatcher bird. I’ve been seeing the around the property since I arrived, and I finally ID’d them in the Birds of Costa Rica book I brought with me. Just after I determined what they were, one of them soared straight up from the tree it was perched on and into a sort of stall. At that point, I saw what it was doing. A large insect zigged aimlessly just below it, prompting the flycatcher to soar downward from its zenith and snag the unsuspecting bug midair. It was beautiful and graceful, but the Tyrannulet returned to his perch as if it was no big deal.
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Costa Rica’s got balls

(To read El Gringo Feo’s Costa Rica Diary from the beginning, start here.)

Friday, Aug. 17

This is the largest of the spheres we saw in the park. Jeff and a sweet stray we met are hanging out in the background.

This is the largest of the spheres we saw in the park. Jeff and a sweet stray we met are hanging out in the background.

I was a tad disappointed that there are no major archeological sites in Costa Rica. No pyramids. No sprawling vestiges of ancient empires. But they do have one thing going for them. They’ve got balls. Or spheres, more accurately. Apparently, around 1,000 CE or so, indigenous people here were carving stone spheres. Archeaologies are sure exactly what they were up to, but theories range from them being some sort of Stonehenge-like astronomical clock to religious artifacts. I definitely made a note to get to the museum to see them.

One of the stone spheres sits in the park with neighborhood in the background.

One of the stone spheres sits in the park with neighborhood in the background.

After lunch on Thursday Jeff and I drove south to Cortez, where Jeff had to pay his Costa Rica property taxes. After paying homage to Mr. Taxman, Jeff headed toward Palmar Sur, where the museum for the pre-Columbian stone spheres is located so I’d know how to get there. We didn’t intend to go to the museum. But along the way, we passed a humble park on the side of the road where stone spheres were strewn around. We stopped to check it out. It was clear this is for Costa Ricans, urging them to understand and celebrate their pre-Columbian heritage.

One of the spheres with a sign in Spanish urging Costa Ricans to embrace this part of their pre-Columbian heritage.\

One of the spheres with a sign in Spanish urging Costa Ricans to embrace this part of their pre-Columbian heritage.\

We walked from sphere to sphere, checking them out. The scale isn’t impressive. The largest was about 5 or 6 feet high, and most of them were the size of large beachballs. But they’re perfectly round, and the stone used to carve them was imported in from other areas. I’ll definitely return to see the museum farther up the road …

Fine food and brews in high places

Friday, Aug. 17

From there, we headed west, back toward Uvita, stopping in Ojochal for a few beers at the Bamboo Room, which is run by a couple from Toronto. It’s a cool music venue perched atop a precarious driveway with great views of the Pacific. We talk to the owner for a while, who pauses periodically to clean gecko poop from the ceiling (a task every Costa Rican business owner is familiar with). We had a few Costa Rican microbrews from Jungle Brew, including an excellent Lapa Roja Ale (Red Macaw Ale) and a Congo Black Lager. We then continued on to another place perched atop the ocean for dinner. I had a National Especial and pasta with seafood.

Bugging out

Friday, Aug. 17

When a friend visited Costa Rica a few years ago, he came back very impressed/humbled by the fact that there are lots of things here that can put an end to you, ranging from ornery vipers to toxic spiders. I get a taste of that when I walk into the bar area and Oscar, who is one of the Ticos working on Jeff’s place, is using a broom handle to end the life of a spider while keeping a safe distance. I couldn’t glean what type of spider it was, but apparently they’re very toxic and like to jump at you. Oscar said if you get bit by one, get to an emergency room for a shot of anti-venom. It’s not the most toxic of spiders, but it’s also not something to be trifled with. It looked a bit like a dried up piece of palm frond so it was nicely camouflaged for the task at hand. Oscar wasn’t fooled, however, and dispatched the venomous arachnid with extreme prejudice.

A small part of my Deet arsenal.

A small part of my Deet arsenal.

Oscar loves the flora and fauna of his homeland and was quick to call our attention to some sort of white raptor that soared overhead (happened too quickly for me to see it in enough detail to attempt an ID in the Birds of Costa Rica book). He also plucks one of the numerous pineapples Jeff has planted on the property, saying it’s ready to eat “ahoy.” It was golden and delicious.

One pest seems somewhat absent here: mosquitos. I’m that guy who gets brutalized by mosquitos when they’re in the area, and I’m astounded I haven’t had to bathe in Deet to survive the jungle. They’re here, to be sure, but because we’re up on a hill that benefits from ocean breezes, they’re not much of a problem. Down on the beach is another story completely …

I felt the earth, move, under my feet …

Friday, Aug. 17

Jeff and I are sitting in the kitchen area, taking politics, music, and Costa Rica tips while a steady rain beats down on the metal roof overhead.

Suddenly, we look at each other. Then the ground. Then back at each other .

The cement floor undulates beneath us for about 5 or 10 seconds.


Without a word, we both get up and head out into the parking lot, away from the building. It’s a solid concrete structure reinforced with rebar, but we’re not taking chances.

When it’s clear it’s over, we’re incredulous. I’d experienced a 5.8 earthquake in D.C. in 2011 that damaged both the National Cathedral and the Washington Monument. This was the same feeling today, though not as long or hard. Definitely a temblor.

After waiting a few minutes in the gentle rain, we realize there isn’t anything else coming so we move back under cover and Google around for info. It’s not long before we discover we just experienced the effects of a 6.1 quake about 100 kilometers southeast of us. It was nowhere near a 6.1 here, but it definitely was discernible. And a tad disconcerting. But in my searching I also find that there’s a 4+ earthquake somewhere in Costa Rica on a regular basis.. The price of living on the Pacific Ring of Fire. It takes geologic drama to create this kind of beauty …

Monkey business

Saturday, Aug. 18

By Paulo B. Chaves – Flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20444442

That braying I’m hearing every morning around 5? The sound of what I thought was a distant, pissed-off donkey.

Not quite.

Howler monkeys. Haven’t actually seen any yet, and this photo is from Wikipedia. But last night as Jeff and I sat in the kitchen area, we heard the noise again. And he told me it was the monkeys. Apparently they like to raise a little hell and let everyone know whose ‘hood this is when they awake and again when they bed down. Jeff pointed out a tree they like to hang out in when they come through the property. I’m looking forward to waking one morning to a band of them raising holy hell right across from me …

We dealt with some logistics yesterday. I got a Costa Rican phone number and inserted the new SIM card into my phone. Then we went shopping, which proved a tad confusing. Lots of brands, logos and products I’d never encountered, but it was fun to stumble across things I’ve never seen in the United States. Like canned tuna packed in jalapeño and hot sauce. Grabbed three cans of that. Can’t wait to try it …

We also ran by a liquor story because I’ve been craving a rum and Coke. I grabbed a bottle of Flor de Caña, a really nice Nicaraguan rum that apparently is now owned by Ron Rico. While there, I was relieved to see that Spanish speakers stumble in their attempts at English in ways more amusing that my mangling of Spanish. Care for a nice single molt?

Of course, I forgot to grab limes, putting my dreams of Cuba Libre in dire straits. Until I realized we have a lime tree on the property. Nothing like pulling one off the tree and squeezing it into your drink …

Jeff has done a great job thinking about the grounds and how to organize the flora. Every time he eats a pineapple, he cuts off the top and plants it. And they sprout. He’s done this dozens of times and they all take. Pineapple knows how to thrive in the jungle. The property also features an assortment of other fruit trees that are trying to weather the assault of leaf-cutter ants. Jeff cuts a branch of ripe rambutans from the tree, and we sit there like a pair of howler monkeys stuffing ourselves with the delicious fruit.

Sunday, Aug. 19

Tang. Nectar of astronauts. And Jeff.

Tang. Nectar of astronauts. And Jeff.

And then there was one. Jeff left this morning for the States, leaving me to my own devices here in the jungle. I’m already talking to my leaf-cutter ant comrades about starting the People’s Republic of Tang atop the property at Puruvita. We’re going to turn the shack I’m writing this from into our Tangquería, complete with a gutted blue Suzuki that’s being outfitted with a giant bladder to dispense Tang. Our first offensive will be against the wasps who have established themselves upstairs, forcing me to sit in the shade down below as I write this. (This is an inside joke; Jeff is one of the few adults I’ve met who loves Tang so I’m giving him a bit of grief.)

From here, I have a magnificent view of the Pacific, including the Whale’s Tail of Uvita, which at high tide renders as a line of breakers off the coast. As low tide approaches, a sandbar emerges that looks like a whale’s tale from above. It seems quite appropriate for Ballena (whale, in Spanish) National Park. I’ve already watched a trio of green parrots soar over and disappear in the canopy below. They were to quick for a more complete idea. Yellow flycatchers are darting through the leaves of a tree down the mountain that’s at eye level from where I sit.

Getting my Pura Vida on ...

Getting my Pura Vida on …

The fears and stomach acid that I wasted time on before coming here have largely been for naught. I’m a bit worried about how I’ll manage without a car, but I’m going to give a shot for a week or two to see how it goes. Play Colonia, which is part of the national park, is definitely walking distance from here, as are a few restaurants and a not-so-super market. I’m planning to go minimalist with food, focusing one a largely veg, fruit and fish diet. It’s working really well so far. My appetite has been modest, and the jungle-ripened fruit is incredible.

Yesterday, Jeff made one last attempt to acclimate me to my new environs. He’s been fantastic on that front, driving me around and pointing out key things so rapidly it was impossible to digest it all. So he also left me with a hand-drawn map and several pages of auxiliary info, including contact details for Gian and Sara, whom I met yesterday. Sara was at the Saturday market selling bread (herb focaccia for me; pizza for Jeff). Great stuff. She’s Italian, as is her partner, Gian. They stopped over last night for a few beers and I enjoyed their company immensely. Good people.

Gian’s family immigrated from Italy to … Uniontown, Pa., and then Pittsburgh, my hometown. As we talked and swapped stories, it also emerged that Gian spent time in Destin as a kid and knows Seaside and Seagrove, two areas I was very familiar with when I was the news editor of the Destin Log back in the mid-‘80s. He’s a bit jaded about the Uvita area, noting that before the paved road came in here 10 or so years ago it was exceedingly remote, accessible only by boat or horseback. As a result, the folks here are more insular than other Costa Ricans, who have had decades to come to grips with the pros and cons of tourism. There’s apparently resentment against Gringos here (defined pretty much as anyone who “ain’t from ‘round here,” as my friends in Tennessee used to say.

(A pair of black buzzards just soared into view, riding the thermals up off the ocean.)

I haven’t experienced any hostility or passive aggressiveness from the local Ticos, as Costa Ricans are known, but it’s been a short time and I’m dealing mostly with the folks who have figured out how to profit from tourism. As an example, I tried to give a woman at the farmers market 5,000 Colónes (about 10 bucks) for a small bag of organic carrots after she asked for “cinco.” She laughed, pulled out a calculator and showed me it was 500 Colónes (about a buck) and handed me change.

Gian says he and Sara decided to land here after checking out other parts of Costa Rica largely because it’s so damned beautiful and it was clear after the highway came in that this area would be a good bet.

(More black buzzards just emerged into view, circling the sky in search of carrion.)

As Gian and Sara departed last night, Gian made it clear that if I needed anything I should call. And I believe he was sincere about that. It’s comforting to know I can get ahold of someone who is fluent in English and Spanish (and Italian) should I need it. I hope to see them often over the next few months.

Surf’s up

Earlier in the day, Jeff and I drove over to Domincal, a beach favored by surfers that’s a short drive north of here on the coast highway. It was and wasn’t what I expected. A bit smaller, but still with more infrastructure and buzz than Uvita. There was a line of vendors selling tourist stuff behind the dune line, including bottle openers shaped like dildos. Not sure who would want, or more frighteningly, need something like that. But I guess tourists will do what tourists will do …

We stopped at Fuego Brew Co., a beautify building where we had a Milagro Espresso porter that was amazingly good. The structure featured bamboo railings that were as thick around as my thigh, harkening back to an earlier trip Jeff and I took to a nearby bamboo forest that reminded me of Jamaica’s Bamboo Avenue. Apparently a woman who arrived in the area before most of the development did started planting bamboo. Now she’s made a business of selling the bamboo for these types of uses.

The beach at Domincal was a bit underwhelming, very rocky, which apparently is the result of a recent hurricane that left it strewn with rocks and rubble. But the waves are incredible and I definitely could see the appeal to surfers. I’ve never tried surfing, and not sure if I will while here. It doesn’t look like something I’d excel at … or even be competent at.

I saw the best monkeys of my generation …

As Jeff, Gian, Sara and I drank beer and talked about Uvita last night, we saw a howler monkey move into the trees on the property, followed by other members of his group. So I wasn’t startled at 5 a.m. when the howlers made their presence known. First there was a distant, guttural grunting that I’d mistaken for donkeys on my first morning in Uvita. It was from another group of howlers out in the jungle, and it soon drew a response from our group. I stood on the deck of the Treehouse listening to them for an hour as the sun came up. It was an astounding experience. I could hear them dropping fruits and whatever else they were eating throughout the night, some of which clinked off the metal roof of the Treehouse as I lay in bed.

Their howling made me think of Allen Ginsburg and his primordial scream of a poem, Howl. The Beats were certainly no strangers to monkey business.

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First impressions after landing in Costa Rica

(To read El Gringo Feo’s Costa Rica Diary from the beginning, start here.)

Wednesday, Aug. 15

Travel to San Jose is no problem. I board a Delta flight from Columbus to Atlanta, and then connect to San Jose, where I meet Jeff at the airport. The drive to Uvita is an interesting initial look at Costa Rica. It’s definitely poor, but I’m not seeing the type of crushing poverty that seems pervasive in Jamaica or parts of Mexico. This feels a bit more like Peru.

Crocodiles in the Rio Tarcoles

Crocodiles in the Rio Tarcoles

Jeff stops at a bridge where massive crocodiles lounge in the water below. There’s a “Crocodile Cafe” on one side, and a lot of people walking out on the bridge over Rio Tarcoles to see the crocs. I’m a bit dubious as I join the other tourists on the bridge, but once I catch sight of the crocs, my wariness shifts to wonder. They are massive, strewn about the river bank below like a reptilian version of Pick-Up Sticks. I’ve seen a lot of gators in the Florida Everglades and even have paddled my kayak respectfully past them in Central Florida. But nothing this size. After I get my fill of crocs, we stop for lunch at a hotel perched high above the ocean. Beautiful view, good salad and seafood soup. This is where it fully dawns on me that I’m not in Athens anymore. Seafood is back on the menu. Fresh and delicious. The waiter comes by as we hear a sound in the forest below and says, in English, “Listen. It’s the toucan.” We hear him but don’t see him.

The iguana panhandler

The iguana panhandler

It isn’t long before we get another parrot encounter. A pair of macaws squawks by overhead, alighting in a leafless tree with a great ocean view, where they continue raising hell and being parrots. Then a massive iguana emerges not far from our table. This clearly isn’t his first time approaching diners at the restaurant. Jeff tosses him a slice of lime, but after a lick or two the iguana realizes it’s not what he’s after.

The drive along the coast is stunning, and it isn’t intimidating (though I’m not driving; Jeff is). We don’t arrive in Uvita until dark because of our stops to see crocodiles, gawk at macaws and eat lunch. As we drive, we see several other pairs of macaws on the wing.

Uvita isn’t exactly what I expected, but it has a lot of potential. It sprawls along the coast highway for several kilometers and lacks a town center, but there appears to be a lot of restaurants, etc. I’m just not sure how walkable it will prove to be.

Jeff’s PurUvita resort is impressive but it’s very much a work in progress. The Treehouse, where I’m staying, is pretty much ready for prime time. No air conditioning  yet in the rooms, though the Treehouse is cool and I sleep well. I already love the equal portions of day/night you get this close to the Equator. The sun was down by 7, and after talking for a bit at the open-air bar/kitchen area, I turn in at about 9.

Jeff is a good guy. This is his project, and apparently his wife, Laurie, came to it with reservations. I totally understand that. Lara and I have similar discussions in these situations.  But Jeff is doing this smart. He’s not incurring debt. Instead, he’s doing it incrementally, which slows the process somewhat but makes it much more fiscally sound.

New flora and fauna

Thursday, Aug. 16

I awoke before sunrise, and I’m sitting here now at 6 a.m. watching the day break and listening to the various and strange sounds surrounding me. There’s a constant insect buzz punctuated by frogs, birds and what sounds like a braying donkey at about 5 a.m. Jeff says toucans come on the property. There’s a rambutan tree on the property that attracts them, and there are howler monkeys, too. I’m looking forward to seeing a new array of wildlife, but I’m hoping to give the resident pit vipers a wide berth.

Rambutan at the market near Rio Tarcoles

Rambutan at the market near Rio Tarcoles

Rambutan is interesting. It’s red and prickly looking, a bit menacing actually, but it’s not as thorny as it looks and you can peel it open with your fingers. We stopped at a series of fruit and vegetable stands near Rio Tarcoles on the way in yesterday, and one of the vendors saw me eyeing the rambutan warily. He told me the name of it, then pulled one open, revealing a soft fleshy inside that was delicious. A seed about the size of an almond is nested in the flesh. We ended up buying an assortment of fruits at the stand, including a bag of rambutan.

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El Gringo Feo’s Costa Rica diary

An episodic, stream-of-conscious dive into the the Central American jungle. Here’s hoping we don’t find Col. Kurtz … or a drunken, incoherent Marlon Brando, for that matter.

From Ohio to ?????

Monday, August 13

Athens, Ohio. Night sounds. Crickets. Tree frogs. Drunken college kids. How different this will be in a few days … Total angst at the unknown and travel. Feels a lot like it did the night before I jumped in my truck, left Knoxville and set off for Washington, D.C.

A journey of a thousand miles starts with a bus-riding tweaker

Tuesday, Aug. 14

Took the GoBus from Athens to the airport in Columbus for an early flight to San Jose, Costa Rica. The bus is only 10 bucks and it was an easy trip. But it did give me a taste of Southeast Ohio redneck before I left the States. There as a heavily tattooed guy sitting on the bench at the GoBus stop at the Community Center. I notice him and that he appears to be talking to himself, or maybe someone on a phone. Once on the bus, he heads to the back row. Then he moves from row to row as the bus rolls through Logan. He’s talking to no one in particular, looking around nervously, clearly agitated. I start wondering if the police car I noticed at the Community Center was hanging around waiting for him to board the bus and leave Athens with the proverbial bus ticket out of town. Before we get to Lancaster, he talks to the driver, who pulls over and lets him out on the side of the road. He darts across all lanes of 33 to the other side and disappears from sight in the woods. Very strange … and I suspect he’s boomeranging back to Athens.

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Sunny mornings and smooth sailing

It’s great having a dog again.

Since Sunny, our great Pyrenees rescue, joined the family about 6 months ago, I’ve realized how much I missed having a dog, especially the morning walks. I bolt out of bed at 6:30 pretty much every morning; Sunny lumbers out of the bedroom about 30-60 minutes later and goes immediately to the front door, ready to walk.

Sunny pauses to admire the morning during her walk.

Sunny pauses to admire the morning during her walk.

The stroll usually takes about an hour and covers a wide swatch of Athens’ near east side neighborhood, culminating with a walk along the Hocking River. Sometimes Sunny needs to take a break, so she lies down in the first place that looks comfortable.

Sunny takes a break during her morning walk.

Sunny takes a break during her morning walk.

This morning, Sunny and I parked ourselves on a bench behind the Athens Public Library to rest. While we were minding our own business, three deer scurried across the field, which brought Sunny instantly back to life. We had to go investigate the scent trail and ensure the deer were behaving.

Sunny watches deer dash across the field behind the Athens Library.

Sunny watches deer dash across the field behind the Athens Library.

The results of these morning rambles  can be seen in my iPhone pedometer. My walking trails off after Ozzy died in November. But it ramps up again in April and has been going strong since. We average about 5k steps on the morning walk, and most days Sunny and I hit 10k.

Sunny also is getting better from a social perspective. She bonded quickly with my niece and nephew when they visited earlier this month, and even Sydney the Cockatoo from Hell has come to accept her.

Sunny with my nephew Milam. She’s getting better about warming up to people she doesn’t know.

Even Sydney is coming to terms with Sunny. They're getting along pretty well these days.

Even Sydney is coming to terms with Sunny. They’re getting along pretty well these days.

Perhaps most importantly, Sunny has found our bed. She crashes there every morning now after the walk. She’s definitely making herself at home …

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Rolling to Devil’s Kettle with Noah

We took advantage of the exceptional weather during the past week to ride the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway over to Devil’s Kettle, where I indulged my love of their Gallatea Dunkel. Great time. Great ride. Love this photo of Lara and Noah rolling over a bridge across the Hocking River on our way to the brewery …

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For Rent: One-Level 3-Bed 2-Bath in Near East Side

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Front of house


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Back in the boat

Not sure why it took this long, but I finally got back on the water. Yesterday was perfect. Breezy. Low humidity. Sunny. I went up to Stroud’s Run and circumnavigated Dow Lake. Despite the fact it was high noon, I saw a good bit of wildlife: an osprey, several blue herons, an otter and a gang of kingfishers noisily working one of the coves. It was a great way to get back in the groove, but I’m definitely feeling it this morning …

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