South America 2011-2012: Puerto Viejo (de Limon), Costa Rica


15 Mar, moving on from Monteverde to Puerto Viejo (de Limon)
As usual, another bus at the crack of dawn. For the first time, however, I'm warned that the driver is not responsible for the baggage NOT in the interior compartment, a new one for me. So, for a $5 bus ride, I'm practically coerced into paying $2 to "check" my backpack below as I'm warned of awful robberies. Doubt, of course, plays the feature role here - as it does in every form of that bloody, dirty business known as "insurance". I get to wonder for a short while whether the bus driver pockets this difference, or whether he contacts buddies to let them know that what is essentially is a bribe has been paid. From a logistics point of view, meanwhile, it would seem to only matter that the LAST ones pay the fee, anyway - it's THEIR bags which are most accessible if the door to the luggage compartment is opened. These are all things to think of as I get into the most uncomfortable long distance (4.5 hours) bus of this trip. The head rest is so far gone as to be essentially a metal backing, the chair cushion has about had it, and the lady next to me is fat enough that she needs to share some of my seat. I angle my arm to not touch hers as she throws off enough heat to warm up the bus all on her own. That, of course, is unnecessary as the sun quickly warms things up and the dust floats around the coach. I take in the beauty of the sun waking up the land as the guy in front of me opens his window to take pictures and let wafts of diesel and dust inside. Thanks. Otherwise it still is damp inside and the rattles to be heard are prodigious - when not dulled out by the grinding of gears in this circa 1957 (okay, probably 1979) bus. The lady who sings out-of-tune lullabies to her young child only completes the scenario. Still, the discomfort when contrasted to the maniacal drive stylings of the transfer drivers- who I assume have to prove themselves with speed since the price makes no sense - is acceptable. We'll unquestionably make it to San Jose alive. Which we do, passing from cool to hot to cold to hot to pleasant. I then get ripped off by my taxi driver to switch over to the Caribbean terminal, an oasis of cool air and breezes that serves to recharge me as my clothes begin to unstick from my skin. At least the five hour bus to Puerto Viejo (de Limon, not the Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui which is available at the next ticket booth and in the other direction) will be a much more quality vehicle. First, of course, comes the typical silent handing out of papers that relays some sob story that never gets to be verified. For the seats that accept the story or the "gift", a donation is expected. I've always wondered if the bus company ever verifies their story; I've come to act like the majority and ignore the panhandler, in this case a scrawny dude with slicked back hair who could be 15 or 30. It's impossible to tell. But he's gone before we've the station, only to be replaced a couple times by the more usual and welcome vendors of peanuts, ice cream, and soft drinks somewhere along the way. Now in motion, I'm surprised to notice that we might even get treated at A/C for a short while - that won't last. But I DO enjoy the miracle of having the only seat with a vacancy next to it in the entire bus. The only down side to that is the German family with their two four-year-old boys fighting over their game computer take the seats immediately behind me. Sleep is generally punctuated by a boy whacking me in the head because he's decided to stand up on his seat and use mine - and my head - as a hand prop for looking around. Sigh. That's how we make our way down to the Caribbean Coast, anyway, periods of drizzle and rain intermixing with merely overcast. Three hours into it we come to the "big city" of Limon, a pitstop across from what is one of the more picturesque cemeteries in South America. It rests on a hillside straddling the road, each white tomb working with the contours of the land to present a statement of repose. From Limon we immediately begin to see the sea, starting right with the airport and from there forward to Puerto Viejo. We pass over some rivers like the Rio Banano and the Rio Bananito - appropriate after passing the massive container holding area for Del Monte, Dole, and Chiquita outside of Limon - but I wonder why little banana river is bigger than the just plain old banana. In any event all of the rivers are muddy and completely opaque, generally crossed over by one lane bridges that our bus seems to arrive at each time as a car first has decided to cross from the other side.Come 5p.m., finally, Puerto Viejo is reached. I walk the quickly darkening streets in search of accommodation as an old Colombian soon comes to walk alongside me as a tout. He eventually leads me to the friendly dive I'll soon call home before walking over to his shack a block away - "Anything you need, I know the best price and all the real story!" And I think he's likely right. So begins the last leg of my four month odyssey to no purpose. A surfer's beach town on the Caribbean, a constant sound of sea. Warmth, probably some mosquitoes (yes, and in short order) - and maybe some sun.

16 Mar, Puerto Viejo
Someone has to wake up the sea, and it seems like the trumpet is just the vehicle with which to do it. I take up my spot on the back of business front the shore, the water lapping only a few feet from my feet as I simultaneously practice some tunes and watch the early morning surfers tackle the famous Salsa Brava surf break. Marijuana wafts in the air and a slowly growing group of surfers assembles to check out the beginnings of the day's action ... Today's agenda is mostly get my head out of my ass and figure what's the what in PV. I find the likely candidates for good coffee and food, then move on to finding the digs that should serve for the majority of my time here. Ultimately I settle on Casa Verde, quite the coincidence (the Spanish (original) version of the book title of what I just read in English) but more importantly a nice place to eventually settle into. I just have to wait until my room clears out in a day or three: Puerto Viejo is pretty booked right now, a surprise considering the season but perhaps a result of the red tide on the west coast. So I'll only have a kitchen for a short while, but eating out in this town looks to be a pleasure that isn't necessarily an expensive one. Done ... I meanwhile get started on what will likely be my last book of the trip, V.S. Naipaul's A House For Mr. Biswas - another tale of a misplaced Hindu in Trinidad, a common theme for Naipaul for the obvious reason of his having lived it in good measure ... On the trumpet I start selecting the next tunes to memorize, a dastardly collection of bebop that ought to keep me guessing for which note is the right one for years. So be it. Hothouse, Bebop, Ask Me Now, Blue n Boogie, Shaw Nuff, Donna Lee, etc. - all insanely good and timeless tunes ... It's Friday night, and from the number of people who have been wandering around town in the day I suspect that the scene will lively, a nice change from Monteverde. I'm wrong. Yes, many bars and restaurants are open, lights on in all their forms from electric mood lighting to candles and stereos cranked up to suggest all sorts of gyrations of bodies to a beat. But place after place is a hollow shell of light and sound lacking souls, the best places approaching double digits. I decide to not wait out a change later in the night as I make my rounds and begin to become more interested in what is going in my Naipaul book or what I might do with a short story I've started writing.

17 Mar, Puerto Viejo
Another day started to the live television of the sea and the surf break before me. An overnight rain is making the scene slow to develop, but eventually the surfers started to pop up here and there as the wading birds behave exactly as they did the day before. This time I'm an half hour later to my calling, so when enough Costa Rican families with hordes of staring children appear to flop in the sea before me, I finish up some scales with a silencer mute and move on to make breakfast. I won't have a kitchen at Casa Verde, so might as well take advantage of the savings it can offer for the little while longer I have it ... More bebop finds its way to the music stand as I continue to select songs for memorizing, now nearing twenty such hopefuls with more to come. I'll enjoy the chewing of these bites ...I take a long walk to the south, east, or southeast - toward Panama, anyway. This entails a long section of walking over tidal reefs and taking in tidepools. Fortunately, these are some of the best I've ever seen, teeming with life. Hermit crabs of all stripes, little fishies, sea urchins, then a footlong striped eel that makes a funny dash half in and out of the water to get away from me after I startled him. I move over to where he cowers in the old coral and we stare each other down for a good long while as the only two other people on the reef come over to check him out. They tell me I just missed a lionfish, like, just over there. All the while a number of shorebirds work the coast as songbirds do their thing in the trees that come out pretty much to the water. I rue not having my camera, last used only an hour when I was taking pictures of lizards of differing looks from a hammock back at my hotel. So be it- I eventually return to walking the coast, eventually making it all the way to the end of the next beach - Cocles - and getting a dip in that is mostly a happy fight with riptides after I pass the crowd of surfers assembled across from the board rental shack. The waves have formed a large shelf of sand between the incoming and violent tubes of waves and the retreating ones from the land's edge. Each time they meet is like a time-delayed explosion of white that I've never quite seen before, mainly on account of the sheer volume of water coming back from the shore in the form of an incoming wave more than a retreating one. I allow myself to be slid up and down the coast in a mere foot or so of water that repeatedly immerses me from both directions. The tubes of water which are so close by really pack a wallop, but I'm oddly maintained just out of range by this current action. Weird. At the beach's end I cut through a ritzy resort-ish place, grab a quick rinse in passing - don't tell! - and then I take the shore road back to return after dark and contemplate a last (self) cooked dinner of this trip. Not that I rue that, in this case - it'll actually be nice to just be restaurant-bound for the last week without any hope of calling myself to cooking duty. Resignation is not always a bad thing.

18 Mar, Puerto Viejo
No surfers to wake up this morning, nor do any families come out to invade my trumpet kingdom. A light rain which will build does this. I am surprised not to see any surfers, however, it being as wet and warm out there as always. I'll have to be content with serenading a shorebird. The rain will become the day's theme ... I meanwhile move to my new digs, Casa Verde, a massive sprawling complex of greenery in the center of the pueblo that hosts piles of birds, crabs, fruit trees (which attract the stunningly colorful birds), fruit, and respectable coffee on tap if an internet that is less so. Nevertheless I am told that there is no, I repeat, no kitchen to even possibly boil water. Oh well. The comfortable chairs will more than make up for that, plus the airy room with light to work on trumpet tunes (the list grows without pause). I'll have to get around to the pool, too ... The day's excitement comes completely in the form of an assault on two Canadian women, a mother and daughter, who I had befriended along with, respectively, their husband and boyfriend. Walking their dog down the (virtually only) street somehow leads to a drunk local on a bike whipping out a knife in front of everyone and saying he will kill their dog. The daughter gives him a little challenge with such a public before he rides away. Eventually he is tracked down and the boyfriend literally runs him down the street into the police station. He sort of turns himself in as the boyfriend has grabbed a few rocks along the way and has made no bones about their intended destination. He is relieved of his knife as I try to find the women to identify him at the station, my heroism strictly limited to a wandering liaison trying to find first the knife-wielder and then them. Identification will ultimately mean little as he will only spend about six hours in the drunk tank. Wonder if he would have gotten another six for threatening the women directly, or using the knife. Pathetic.

19 Mar, Puerto Viejo
The sun's back, but no surfers are riding the Salsa Brava as I serenade a few birds and dogs. I don't get it: The break doesn't change much at all! I guess it IS Monday. But there were no surfers challenging themselves with yesterday, either ... Be-bop spoken here, as the words go: I finish my run through of bebop tunes and tally well over twenty challenges ahead for me. A few may have been memorized by now already, like Hothouse, Comin' Home Baby, a few easier Parker and Gillespie tunes (of which there aren't a lot when it comes to Parker!) ... I discover the joys of a swimming pool at my hotel; I practice blind photography with way too many birds and crabs with way too few decent results ... Another beach walk south or east, this time considerably further - to the end of Playa Chiquita, which comes after Cocceles. I try my hand at more guess-ography, this time with the tidepools. Plenty of shorebirds and crabs and striped fishies, but no eel. Instead I get a large underwater centipede or whatever (about four inches/ten centimeters long). I again pass the small gathering of surfers, passing on a dip myself, and make my way around the horn of coast that separates the two beaches as yet another goddam off leash dog comes charging at me outta nowhere. For chrissakes this is getting old, all these selfish folks having their inner doggie moment as people like me have heart attacks. Then I make my way to the next beach and not a soul is around as I walk its length and the sun pretty much disappears. I cut through some back driveways of sorts to retake the main road at Punta Uva, now in for a long haul in the dark back to town. The random car, moped, and bike narrowly miss me at times as I do a good chunk of this barefoot, praying there is no glass that I'll frankly never have a chance of seeing. This effectively illustrates that the downside of fully strapping sandals is the chafing that can occur when some sand gets between skin and the strapping. I eventually break down and loosely put them on after enough sidesteps to the road's edge, precisely the place where all the loose gravel and debris ends up as any cyclist knows ...

20 Mar, Puerto Viejo
Finally I opt for one of the bicycles that I see literally everywhere. At $5/day, there's certainly no question of $ (in Montezuma they wanted $25!). So I get another beach cruiser that's probably been through hell, but there's not much tech to a singlespeed bike with coaster brakes. Soon I find the pedals wobbly and the chain falls off (only once), but that's splitting hairs. In no time I cover the ground I took so long to walk just the day before, gliding along the coast to the sound of birds before the sun is too much on the rise. Near Manzanillo, my destination at about 14km away, there are the most modest of rollers - about three of them in all - that effectively illustrate the shortcomings of a singlespeed as I stand up a few moments to top them out before the flats reappear for the rest of the way. I make my loop of the town, or village, or cluster of houses, before returning to the beach strip before town as the best option for a breakfast. This works perfectly until a few guys show up with guns in business-ish attire - or such as it is for Costa Rica. I also see handcuffs, then next find myself playing translator for the restaurant/hostel folks and what is apparently the Tico version of the FBI. The short story is a dispute between the ex-owner (a slippery character from Jordon who also ran underage girls in a bordello on the premises, I'm to eventually find) and the ex-ex-owner, a local with lawyers. Eventually the matter is sufficiently squared away and I get breakfast on the house, proving that all the time and effort I've spent on learning Spanish has vast market appeal which will no doubt serve me on the way to riches. Then I head over to the trailhead at the end of the road, a reserve noted for its beauty - and this coming on the heels of what the Lonely Planet supposedly calls Costa Rica's Best Beach. I dunno, but it's absolutely beautiful as I cross the "red river" (a tannic stream from the interior) to march along the coast and take in tidepools and palm trees alike. Again there is no shortage of crabs of all makes and housing. They even will be found anywhere - and at any height - of all the interior trails I take to get around the sections of coast I can't walk around. Eventually I get to taking the trails less used, too, ultimately breaking spiderweb after spiderweb with my hands when not noticing one and doing so with my face. This is heebie-jeebie stuff, naturally, since the spiders insides them are about five to seven centimeters wide. They look suspiciously identical to the golden orb spiders which I remember having similar issues with in Australia. Harmless, fortunately. The good news with this is that I see many cool trees, leaves, more crabs than possible, lonely microbeaches to lounge in as the waves toss me about - and red frogs. It's the latter which get me excited of course, and I only spot them on the steepest slopes with the leastest and muddiest of trail sections. But they little buggers are worth it. All of this makes for a spectacular hike, even as I eventually lose any decent trail. Eventually I just hack, skip, and jump my way along the coast until I bump into two very red-faced and sweaty people who I assume are from Russia or the former East Bloc from their teethwork and age (this was always mentioned in all the old cold war spy novels, so run with me here). They indicate a path back and I eventually come to the muddy "highway" of a path at somebody's estate that I imagine shouldn't legally be in the middle of a preserve. Whatever - now I can make my back, hoping I don't continue to get eaten alive by all the bugs that were feasting on me when I was bushwhacking. I gingerly step over leafcutter ant trail after trail - each so active that nothing grows where they have their highways of activities - or mound after mound of anthills. Weird bird calls fill the air as the howler monkeys do their thing to announce that they know I'm walking by. Finally I cross the cool and clean red-tinged stream again to regain my bicycle and get some frankly excellent fish tacos at the place of my breakfasting. I'm warned of how the few rollers on my way out of town are used for robberies as I leave at dusk with a slight amount of paranoia. But it's nothing but a pleasant ride back in the best of temperatures with the enviable soundtrack of birdcalls to accompany me all the way back to Puerto Viejo. I'll be renting a bike again soon at this rate.

21 Mar, Puerto Viejo
An overcast day, and again no surfers to give me something to watch beyond the shorebirds as I practice my horn at 7a.m. There's only the same guy who uses my existence each day to break his morning walk and dump some of his clothes in front of me to take a dip in the sea with the security of his belongings. Maybe I should charge. It's also a very uneventful day of errands, like getting a temporary razor because I'll be leaving my electric razor here in town on its last legs. I don't know if anyone will be or should be the least thankful for that or my flipflops also destined for the end of the line here as well, held together with pink duct tape. I pick up a needle and thread to put back a button to give a pair of shorts more life, but otherwise it's a bit of trumpet, writing, reading, yoga, and not a whole hell of a lot more beyond watching what I call bird TV over where the coffee is available ... Well, there IS one thing of note: I got my first haircut since the very beginning of the trip, back in Valdivia. At six bucks I likely have no room for any complaint, but it was about the whackest hack job I've ever had on a hairy pumpkin called a noggin. No precise scissorswork here; the bulk of the massacre was done with a jerking clipper that made many a claim toward just yanking some hairs out of my head in a mild fashion. When all was said and done I was nevertheless thankful... that my hair is hard to really mess up. My style these days is to muss it up myself with my hands. That covers up quite a bit!

22 Mar, Puerto Viejo
No surfers, but "walking man" modestly smiles for the first time on this day to acknowledge my existence as he goes for his dip in the sea. An overcast morning brings dots of water into the air, but I don't care: I'm going to rent a bike again and head for Cahuita. That I do, the dots slowly growing into a steady drizzle by the time I am halfway there. The locals had warned me that this is a much busier road, too, but for all that my take is that a) it IS a little busier, but that's still only a car passing me by every minute or two; b) it's a bit wider than the road to Manzanillo, allowing even for a stripe down its middle to keep it interesting; c) the Tico drivers are still out for blood, moving at much higher speeds and not curving much around me in comparison to the gringos (it's obvious who's who); d) there are more non-tourist related businesses on this road, plus the brush has been hacked back a lot further from the road e) it's another third again more than the distance to Manzanillo, even if they are stated to be about the same distance away. For all these observations I still arrive in Cahuita completely soaked. I rumble the mean streets and discover that it's Puerto Viejo divided by about three in density of everything - while covering about the same area. The big thing is that the Cahuita National Park entrance is here - and that's where I head after my breakfast and fresh mango juice. It's a 8.3 km walk if I go the whole way to Puerto Vargas, I'm informed, but I only head out for about 6km of the way, past Punta Cahuita to Punta Puerto Vargas. I shortly discover that they probably should be called Punta Mosquito One and Punta Mosquito Two and this the Mosquito Trail - the rain has brought a pile of nasty winged visitors to every piece of my exposed skin. I learn to swat VERY fast. Moreover, it's high tide and I'm forced to use the inland trail which they infest - even if it really isn't that far from the beach most of the time. It IS very wide, completely flat, and relatively trafficked: I use the water access to escape the mosquitos as best I can. Anyway, for all this I'm rewarded with a sloth in a tree, an unmoving ball. Sigh. Typical. I also get to take in numerous crabs doing their thing, plus a beautiful red bird and some blue-gray-black ones with white dots - both of which I've never seen before. A few butterflies I last saw in the enclosures at Monteverde are in evidence, too, highlighted by the electric blue morphos - which I get a nice shot of in its non-blue, wings-closed state. Still pretty cool. After crossing a few tannic (and thus red) streams I make to out to Punta Cahuita, then Punta Vargas - which is much better, since it affords the first breeze to keep away the mosquitos. I sit for awhile in swat-free comfort, eventually only joined in passing by the same transvestite/transexual man/woman I've seen a few times around this way. He-she walks with an odd, prancing gait that I imagine is supposed be to an exaggeration of a feminine, model-like strut. Dunno, don't care. I take in the reef offshore in the close distance, a long white line of waves that break on it, but I also have noted the signs that say I can only go out snorkeling if I have a guide. Oh well. I THINK that these reefs are supposed to be in good shape, but I don't see more than one boat taking people out to them. Some other time. So I head back to take in more herons and everything else, going barefoot all the way and trying to stay at the water's edge as much as possible. This involves the stepping over of a multitude of downed trees (explanation unknown) for a good while, then after Rio Saurez I can stay on the beach the rest of the way back. I step out of the park and am immediately offered marijuana a few times, getting a "tschh!" when I say that's all right. Not exactly the way to create a customer vibe, naturally, but I imagine that I have been sufficiently emasculated. Then it's only the ride back to Puerto Viejo, including an aborted stop at Puerto Vargas (the other side of the park, with its own entrance) - which turns out to be both closed and supposedly not really a town, anyway. I'm told that there are just a few ranger huts. More importantly, the rain holds off the rest of the day and all the way back to town. I also DON'T drop the bike's chain and it doesn't fall apart. That's just what it sounded like would happen the entire day ... I finally decide to head to the famous surf hostel for happy hour and dinner. Can't complain about the booze or the food, but the entertainment is a bit off. I get to watch the owner and a couple of his other old surf buddies destroy a large bench between two pillars on a whim, then I'm offered a "Mexican vodka" - something in a fancy bottle that apparently has hot sauce in it. Then the old drunk surfer friend rambles on for a long while, and loudly, about how crap the place has become. The girl working the bar who I've been talking to can only stare as he makes pointed comments and says "I wish I could quit today..." And all this for the price of fish tacos and a couple of mojitos!

23 Mar, Puerto Viejo
It's Friday, and I see my first surfers since last weekend. Maybe it's a weekend warrior thing; I see a few middle-aged gringos take on the waves. As far as surfer TV goes, however, this kinda stinks. Mostly they wait and wait, sometimes getting up on one all too infrequently before immediately getting down again because it apparently isn't good enough. I can count the number of "rides" on one hand in over an hour. Better by far are the lizards with their hopping motions, sometimes doing their pushups to cool down and even letting out that weird, disc-shaped thing in their neck for a bit of color. I also discover that I think the hummingbird makes its rounds at the same time each day, too, not to mention the same annoying people bringing their dogs to the beach for a run and a shit (which doesn't seem to get picked up) ... In the end, a perfect Caribbean day as my book has it - trumpet, writing, reading (I'm slowly parceling out the last bits of the Naipaul book since the only other book in town I saw available and of interest, Boyle's The Road To Wellville, disappeared before I bought it), a stroll over to Playa Cocles to get tossed about by some slamming waves, then slowly walking the tidepools back. Even a heavy shower later in the afternoon I see as a plus ... With the official arrival of the weekend, my time is short now in Costa Rica and, in particular, it's version of rasta-land. There's no shortage of dreads in this area, not to mention the colors red, green, yellow, and black together. You also can't escape the reggae. But, and with all due respect to Bob Marley - who I love in his way - about all the songs I hear sound about the same. I have no idea how real the "Jah, mon" stuff is around the area, either, but I have a sneaking suspicion that as a way of life it doesn't mean much more than doing a lot of nothing outside of drinking beer, smoking marijuana, and saying "Jah, mon" as you walk or ride a bike around - and always slowly at that. It is what it is, but my take on the rasta of today is that it's not much more than a lot of hanging out and hanging around. And that's about it, none of the political stuff is left at all beyond the odd poster or sticker on a door. Fair enough ... At night I decide to give Rockin' Js another go-round, if only for the possible entertainment value. Sure enough, the Mexican owner is pushing his "Mexican vodka" again, this time with a large number of American college girls willingly playing victim. They line up at a massive block of ice on a counter, a frozen chunk with a runnel in it that he pours onto to make its way to an awaiting throat. Everyone smiles and makes a face; No one asks for seconds. Eventually, though, the entertainment value of this wears thin as conversation with a bunch of 19-year-olds excited that they can legally drink is not my idea of interesting. So again I walk the streets of town with dull hope of someplace looking appealing, but even the lone musician trying to do something potentially up my alley - he doodles jazz, more or less - doesn't inspire. Oh well, Puerto Viejo just won't be about the night life. After Argentina, this extended detox (minus the mojitos at Rocking Js, anyway) is not a bad thing, either.

24 Mar, Puerto Viejo
Morning Surfer TV shows improvement today, with longer rides from the few who show up to take on Salsa Brava. I doodle away on the horn as the sun is fully out after yesterday's downpours ... Today's big activity is to walk over to the ad hoc botanical garden outside of town. A former cocoa plantation, from its ruins an ex-pat from Los Angeles and his family have been building something special for 25 years. Nowadays it's a working nursery and fruit/spice orchard that is fully in harmony with its jungle surroundings. For a first time I wisely beg for some insect repellent and am off walking through the property. The bird and insect calls change as I change areas within the garden, but it's the snapping and the grunting of the manakin that stands out when I'm in the tropical rainforest area. Otherwise I focus on what looks weird, those fruits and blossoms that naturally catch the eye. That's as far as my science in nature usually goes, but I learn from the son about a number of the things they have growing at the end of my self-guided tour. For instance, I learn that the red frog I've been seeing is actually the blue jean frog, which is red with any amount of blue on its legs. I apparently have been getting the ones that keep their pants off, so I assume that I've been gandering at all the fine ladies of frogville. I'm given some juice to sample and some seeds to masticate, too, buy a few chocolate products, then I head back to town after an hour or two ... Later I have a romantic jog down the beach (Playa Negra, which DOES have black sand to a decent measure) by, uh, myself. I eventually pick a palm tree of note to turn around at and, well, that's that. It just feels good to do a first thing in eons that gets my heart rate up. I should lather, rinse, and repeat this exercise ... Finally I have some better luck with the nightlife, befriending what are probably the two most accomplished musicians in the area, ex-pats both. I'd heard them before as I've walked about; evidently one of them had noticed I was in town when I was practicing scales at Dolce Vita with my silencer and he didn't want to bother me mid-drill. I'm invited to do something for the jam session tomorrow, to which I agree is a nice idea. These guys are versatile and experienced, so the backing (piano and guitar) won't be the issue - just whatever I've got to bring. As for what they play this fine evening, it's all over the board in the generally rock world from Springsteen to Simon. Enjoyable as they are to listen to, only when they break out "Under African Skies" do I really wish I had my trumpet handy - it would fit in very well with that one. As usual it's the international music (and jazz) that get me hankering to play. Rock I just like to listen to.

25 Mar, Puerto Viejo
Salsa Brava stands alone in the morning, not a surfer or even a "break watcher" to be had, and I miss my intended photo of the daily hummingbird visitor. He comes by when I pick that moment to be the one time I close my eyes to concentrate on a new technical drill of an interval exercise (now being added to be in all the minor keys). Doh! ... I'm rather fully into my rhythm now of a bit of trumpet, jotting some notes, studying a bit o' Spanish, etc. I get my two cups of coffee and surf the web a little before reading the only reputable paper - La Nacion - each day. Some more Caribbean rice, beans, and plantains, fruit juices - these are the makings of a happy belly. I make no claims on an ambitious day, merely eventually awakening from my midday siesta of sweat to walk the tidepools. A dead octopus is found this time, interesting to poke at with the red coloring lining his tentacles and some blue streaks and such around his head. He's missing two tentacles, I assume from a battle, and then I place him on a downed palm tree for others to look at before some vulture finds him for an easy lunch. An impressively large and well-colored sea slug also catches my eye for a bit as I take him out of the sea for some close inspection before returning him to his environment. Another jog is in order, not quite as "romantic" as the first one as it feels like somebody punched me on both sides of my lower ribcage. I nonetheless see it through as the heart and lungs are happily willing. The beach isn't exactly all that crazy long, either, so I only pause at the end of it to stand on some massive bleached brain coral to stretch before turning around ... The idea of joining the jam session later is first fouled by nobody answering at the piano player's house the two times I come by - I actually imagine he might be in a stupor, based on his comments and condition the previous evening. I check out the place where it is to happen, too, but that doesn't look promising for anything getting going by ten or so. The nail is driven in the coffin of the idea when I stretch out on my bed to pass out until midnight. Oops.

26 Mar, Puerto Viejo to San Jose
A lonely and calm Salsa Brava. No surfers even looking this early morning, although by now I've guessed that they (duh) must be using the tidal and weather reports. Many, many vultures on the beach today, though. I play my scales and say goodbye to my morning routine. This bears worth repeating. But not some months, or years. I've got a bus at 11 a.m. which puts an end to my bird TV, my surfer TV, my lizard TV, and all those other tropical TVs that Costa Rica provides. Several hours of bus are comprised of a few hot coastal ones plus a last, and increasingly cooler, hour and a half to San Jose. The best part is easily the 40-60 minutes spent climbing through what looks to be very steep jungle that gives the appearance of being old growth or at least really varied. It seems so verdant that all attempts to create drainage along the road are foiled by falling chunks of earth that seemingly immediately sprout green. Then I'm in San Jose, back to a dorm room for a last night at Costa Rica Backpackers, fending off the plans of my roommate who insists we need to go out and get some Ticas and bring them back to our dorm room and go from there. Instead I pass out not long after taking a short stroll in the downtown area. I pick up some coffee and eat a last tamale and sopa negra for the effort, but that's about it - the bus ride took it out of me, apparently. My roommate settles his bar a bit lower as well when he convinces several Germans to go out with him (he's from Frankfurt himself, insisting on speaking German with me) and they can't find any place suitably happening. They come back to the hostel and I hear them chat and drink beer in the random interludes where I achieve a hazy consciousness.

27 Mar, San Jose to Fort Lauderdale and Tampa
A final gallo pinto at the hostel's restaurant, some bold dashes of hot sauce to properly bid Costa Rica adieu, a last coffee, and to the airport I go with a Canadian girl from Vancouver. The one flight a day from Spirit Airlines awaits me, an indistinct event otherwise that only annoys me from the start when I'm charged $43 to check in my bag. At least the plane seems in newish nick if the crew sports a bit of attitude. Whatever - I'm back in the U.S. after 2:40 or so and customs and all of that is straightforward. A couple hours of layover and a 45 minute flight to Tampa makes the end of my trip official.

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