2010
Aug 
12

Stitches

Filed under: Costa Rica — Russell @ 10:37 am  

There is a funny scene in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” where the main characters are in some distress.  As the tension mounts the narrator switches to a calming tone and explains that stress is very unhealthy.  Then he reassures the readers that everything turns out well for the hero and resumes the story.  In that spirit let me tell you a story about Carol.

When I was waiting to try stilt walking Carol send me a message.  She wanted a doctor’s appointment back in Canada to get her stitches removed.  After arranging this I tried to find out some more details but she had to run to class.  So I knew she had a surfing accident but not much else.

It seemed most likely that she had cut her leg on a rock falling off the board.  I told the story to several people, none of whom seemed concerned.  Still, no news may be good news but it is also a vacuum in which the imagination can run wild.  One old friend even teased that Carol had lost an ear but didn’t want to upset me. As I waited for Carol to arrive back in Canada I worried.

So here is what happened.

She was surfing and fell off her board the wrong way leaving the board between her and an oncoming wave.  The wave picked up the board and flung it at her head.  It was too shallow to duck under the water and the board hit her, the fin tearing her ear.  Bleeding, she walked back to shore and showed her teenage surfing instructor.  “You should wash that and put on a bandage.”, he said.  Reassured that that it wasn’t serious she started the 45 minute walk back to town.

Along the way she met some people she knew and they chatted for a while before she showed them the cut.  Their horrified reaction was the first hint that this wasn’t just a scrape.  Back in town she consulted the cook at the local hotel who it seems acts as the local medical expert.  The cook thought going to the clinic was a good idea.  At the clinic she met an intern from the US who had just started.  He was excited that there was so much blood involved in his first case.  He chatted excitedly with her as the doctor put 12 stitches in her ear.

This news was embargoed for a while since we didn’t want her parents hearing about it third hand.  Carol is now back in Newfoundland visiting her parents.  Her ear looks OK and she is in good health.

2010
Jul 
24

Drip Dry Lifestyle

Filed under: Costa Rica — Russell @ 8:56 pm  

Our experience in Costa Rica made us vow to only carry things that are waterproof or drip dry.

At the cabin someone had hung a pair of jeans on the clothes line to dry.  Even though it is not the rainy season it still rains heavily about 6 hours out of every 24.  So the jeans remained on the line for the entire time as a flag of surrender in the war with the elements.

It was the constant rain that prevented us from taking pictures.  Everything electronic or otherwise water sensitive had to be wrapped in plastic before going out.  So the camera was more trouble that it was worth.

For our final night together in Costa Rica we went to a very nice yoga retreat.  There we swam in the infinity pool and watched the sunset.  Then we had a fantastic dinner.  At dinner we met a very nice couple from Maryland.  We had a good conversation about travel.  They have travelled quite a lot.  We gave them the URL for the blog and they promised to read and comment.  I felt a twinge of guilt about this since I haven’t be allowing comments from people who don’t have my email.  Clearly, I have to rethink this because I do want to hear from people we meet on the road.

So if you want to comment on the blog, please send an email to

and I’ll make you an account.

2010
Jul 
22

Howling

Filed under: Costa Rica — Russell @ 7:49 am  

Don’t believe what you’ve heard, the end of the world will not be heralded by the trumpets of Angels.  More likely it will be the call of the howler monkey.  These creatures howl as a way to mark territory.  Up close, it sounds like some half human creature with a deformed head screaming in anguish.  Further away it conjures up images of ancient reptiles howling at a terrible loss.  An exciting way to wake up to be sure.  Luckily, we heard this sound last time we visited Costa Rica so I didn’t have a sudden urge to repent all of my sins.

2010
Jul 
20

Life in the street

Filed under: Costa Rica — Russell @ 10:50 pm  

Spent some time today sitting at the café on the main corner studying Spanish and talking with my new friend Cuko.  He is Puerto Rican, lives in Las Vegas and spends two months of every year in Costa Rica.  He has a lot to say about the people of the town.  There is one guy who wanders the town each day berating passersby.  My friends says he used to be a University professor but is now a mentally ill alcoholic.  He gets a pension and people give him food (and alcohol).  He sleeps outside where ever he can.  People occasionally talk with him but mostly he is ignored.  The local kids sometimes throw fruit at him which earns them a rebuke from one of the local business owners.  What amazes me is that he has lived like this for 15 years.

Beware the Sharks

Filed under: Costa Rica — Russell @ 7:49 am  

Yesterday, we took the bus to the Cabo Blanco National Reserve.  This is one of many national parks in Costa Rica.  We hiked two hours to a secluded beach.  Upon arriving at the beach we walked to the end planning to swim.  Two young women approached us and explained in Spanish that the sharks hang around this part of the beach and we would be better to swim near the trailhead.  Good advice.

After swimming we hiked back (it was 2 hours each way) and walked to the local town.  There we met a mother and daughter waiting for the bus.  The daughter was a student at the University of California and had just finished a study abroad program.  She had spent the last two months in San Jose living with a local family.  This had clearly not been a good experience and she came away with a better sense of self reliance and a distrust of other people.  This was not exactly the point of the exercise.

About 25% of Costa Rica is set aside as nature reserves.  This is the highest percentage of protected land of any country in the world.  The park came into being as the result of the work of a Scandinavian couple who settled on the Nicoya Peninsula.  There is a memorial to them at the foot of one of the local waterfalls, a short distance from town.

Large reserves are just one of the progressive aspects of Costa Rica that resonate with Canadians.  Costa Rica has free education and health care.  The literacy rate is 96% which compares very favourably with the surrounding countries.  The standard of living is also comparatively high.  One theory as to the success of Costa Rica is their 1948 decision to eliminate the army.  This enshrines civilian government (elections are the only way to change regimes) and saves the cost of maintaining an army.

2010
Jul 
15

Made it!

Filed under: Costa Rica — Russell @ 8:54 pm  

Well after a 6 hour overland trek including a ferry ride I made it to the beach town where Carol is teaching.  Along the way I met a woman from Italy on her way to visit her daughter who is cooking at the local Italian restaurant.  It was very strange trying to talk to someone with my terrible French.  Surprisingly, we learned a lot about each other, incorrect verb tenses not withstanding.

I also relearned a bad road driving technique from last time I visited Costa Rica.  I call it pot hole chicken.  If you lack the cojones to pass properly (up hill, blind turn, on the side of a mountain with a 500 ft drop into the sea) this will often work. Let’s say that you are behind a slow driver and want to pass.   You see a big pothole ahead on the right side of the road.  Pull out and along side the front car to prevent the other driver from swerving to avoid the pothole.  This forces the front car to slow down to avoid damage while you zoom past.  Our shuttle driver did this many times very effectively.

Tomorrow, I take my first Spanish lesson.  Hanging out with the Europeans on the shuttle reminded me how embarrassing it is to only speak one language.  I’ve never had an aptitude but hopefully there will be lots of opportunities to practice on this trip.

2010
Jul 
14

San Jose

Filed under: Costa Rica — Russell @ 2:27 pm  

Arrived in San Jose.  Still waiting to check into the hotel.  Non-smoking rooms are at a premium.  The bad news is there may be no ground transportation available tomorrow.  Still considering options including a short hop flight (cheaper than a private car).

On the plus side, I’m in Costa Rica where life is very relaxed.  Also, all the travellers I’ve met have been very helpful.  It seems that on unfamiliar ground everyone is a bit more open to interaction with strangers.  This bodes well for the rest of the trip.

2010
Jun 
6

Costa Rica

Filed under: Central America,Costa Rica,Plans — Russell @ 9:54 pm  
July 13, 2010toJuly 24, 2010