Turtles

The road out of Nicoya turned into a one way and I was glad Susan was asleep. The streets were narrow, busy and things were happening quickly. Street signs to Samara or Nosara had disappeared, and I was going this direction by gut instinct.

When the truck coming fast the other way filled the entire street and almost the windshield, and I had to dive into the driveway of a bus station to avoid a head-on, I was sure the swerve would wake Susan up. Thankfully, she still slept.

My daughter K.C is like that. Fifteen minutes out of the driveway, K.C.’s head tips and she’s sound asleep. Susan thought she slept for about 20 minutes. Actually, she was out for most of the five hour drive south to Samara. That’s a good thing. She missed driving that would have unsettled a passenger.

She woke when I had to backtrack and take the highway, when the creek I was going to cross had logs and branches piled in the channel, left over from heavy rains. We stopped in Santa Cruz, where we were the only Norte Americanos in sight on the busy streets.

Samara was not the original destination, but it was getting late, signs to Nosara were non-existent, and I didn’t want to be driving at night up small dirt roads in the jungle trying to find a hotel.

I knew of a place in Samara. Not a great place, but a place, and on the beach, and a short walk to food.

“I really like this,” said Susan of the place, despite the lack of soap, shampoo, and with towels that had been washed so many times they had little more than the memory of being terrycloth. I think the towels were a new addition since my visit last March. The place was rough, the lime green and purple walls cracked, shelving put up in places not easy to reach or too easy to crack one’s head.

But Susan said “Thank you for finding these places,”  as we lolled on the beach before packing up the next morning.

We moved on to the Little Green Gecko hotel (Piqueno Gecko Verde), made up up a dozen or so cabinas in the rain forest just to the north of town. Not on the beach, but placed gently in the forest where the owners planted native species and took pride in being an eco-friendly. The shower was outside in a rock enclosure.

Susan had a whole baked fish for dinner, the head with teeth staring her down. It was delicious. I had chicken in Gorgonzola sauce. That too. We saved salads for lunch the next day.

I finally drifted off to sleep at 3 or so. Three hours later, fully rested, Susan said “I hear monkeys!” I groaned “I don’t think so,” or something and rolled over. She was out the door in a flash, in a strangely wonderful whatever’s handy tomboy girly girl amalgam of high heel flip flops, beach coverup and outer shirt, this time not mine.

She texted to let me know she was okay a couple of hours later, and that there were monkeys “everywhere.” I headed down to a wild and rocky beach. Then she texted and asked for the name of our hotel. Given that her sense of direction is, well, somewhat random, I was a little concerned. I texted back Blue Iguana, or something where we were maybe going to stay a few days earlier. It was Gecko Verde. Ooops.

While I was down meditating on whether poetry would be different if the moon really were made of green cheese, Susan texted that she’d made it back to the room. What she did not text was that she had befriended another coatimundi, a large raccoon-like animal with inch-long razor sharp toenails and a long, prehensile nose.

Another one. The first was several days before at Sugar Beach. “Peanut” got his name from the fact that he took an entire bag of peanuts from Susan when she wasn’t doling them out fast enough.

”Please don’t let him climb into your lap” I said, thinking that rare Central American diseases would surely follow a long rake of those claws deep into her leg.

“Appleseed” was much more polite, and loved apples, but not the peels. She also loved peanuts, and I guess I’m thankful she tipped over the bowl before Susan decided to feed peanuts by hand to her one by one.

“Where are the monkeys?” I asked, thinking Susan must surely have found one to take home in her carryon bag.

“He’s coming over tomorrow morning. May he borrow your passport?”

Susan was out of the shower and putting the salads together a half hour before we headed down to watch baby turtles just hatched from eggs head out to a new life at sea.

In the Daihatsu Bego, we followed the white Nissan pickup of our guide through the river. When I saw how high the water came up on the Nissan’s running board, I hoped the little car with it’s smaller wheels wouldn’t decide to float downstream,  but we made it with enough momentum.

At the beach, tiny and incredibly cute Ridley turtles made their way directly to the ocean. Some had to make the trip three or four times, as the waves washed them back up the beach, flipped them over and left them upside down in the sand. Over they’d go again, and head to the waves.

I feel a little like that sometimes. But right now I feel like I have been caught by the wave and am moving properly out to sea.

“It just keeps unfolding,” Susan said, and it’s true. So much has happened that seems to be directed but without our intervention.

Except that tomorrow, at noon, we begin a two day journey home, back to Oregon. Across Costa Rica in one day to the airport, and fly out the next. I know this trip will fade as our context changes, as bills and jobs and tasks postponed now demand attention, reality defined by where we are and what we have to do.

Later that night, Papaya, a real raccoon, would stop by for peanuts and… papaya. Those were his favorites. Susan objected to feeding him junk food, and so he stood on his hind legs when given fresh fruit and when he wasn’t picking peanuts up in his hands like a two year old.

The hammock where I have taken up residence holds me in a crescent embrace. It rocks with the slightest push off the deck below. How to hang on to this, how to make this last?

Driver

There’s a Yoga retreat at lovely Sugar Beach Hotel on Playa Pan de Azucar, Potrero, Costa Rica. There’s large circular pavilion, probably 50 feet across, where the 15 or so yogettes? position and absorb twice a day while listening to the crashing of waves.

At other times they go on hikes, tours, maybe even zip lining. In the evenings, they sit at a long table in the dining area and, after a short verbal prayer, share a meal.

Yesterday, while they were gone during the day, Susan jumped rope for an hour in the pavilion, then worked out for another. That’s her meditation. I imagined her energy waves lingering in the space, surprising and enervating the quiet contemplation of students when they returned for their evening session.

I’d come up early to the cafe to work on my computer in the morning. Two of the Yogettes were already at the table where WiFi is best. A waiter turned on the local music that fills the cafe.

“At least I brought my headphones,” said one, a thin man maybe in his 50’s, about average for the group.

After one minute, the other, a small dark-haired woman with a prominent profile replied “I’m going to the lobby. I can’t stand this music.”

“Me too,” said the first, and they gathered up their things and left, which let me go over to my favorite chair to work and tap my feet to rhythms I enjoy.

I was at the computer trying to find a something important we’d left behind, it doesn’t matter what. Once again, the generous and efficient personnel of this hotel stepped up.

Sven, Operations Manager,  said a few things to Melissa, a new employee working at his side. She was instantly on the computer, located the item, and started making calls. In a half hour, they found what I needed in Liberia, clarified the ability for it to be picked up, gave me a map.

I am Driver. I was ready for some alone time and took off in the little Daihatsu Bego. All 1,000 ccs of raw power, grabby brakes, bad balance and a tendency to put its nose down and swap ends when it hits rough pavement, kind of like it doesn’t want to see what’s coming next. But I had the windows down and the warm wind rushing through and I was on a mission.

One lane bridges have to be timed just right to get over without waiting for oncoming traffic. Horses on the side of the road are usually staked down, goats and sheep are not. Bicyclists may have one or two kids standing on the frame while the largest kid pedals. And huge trucks and buses don’t necessarily stay in their lane when coming at you, or when you’re passing, because they don’t have to.

On the other hand, while police standing in the road will stop you to see a license or passport, I didn’t see any radar guns. I made it to Liberia in an hour when I was told it would take longer. I don’t tell anyone here why that was possible.

Back at the hotel, after a more leisurely trip that included a gas and grocery store stop (we never covered how to say “Thank you card” in third grade Spanish), I got back to the hotel. I thanked the staff again for doing what I could not do on the phone.

“Thank you so much for doing this,” said Susan.

“You would have done the same for me,” I replied.

“I would have done it for anyone at this hotel, but could not ask for myself,” she said.

“That’s why I didn’t give you a choice,” I said. “Besides, I got to go for a drive. It was really all about me.” Praise makes me uncomfortable. She and I are so much alike.

This morning I went to the lobby to ask Sven, the Operations Manager, what time we needed to check out.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “Check out is noon, but you may stay until one, one thirty. Whatever you need.”

We talked for a minute about his work as an operations manager for a farm in the highlands of Costa Rica where ferns for export were planted in the shade under a reforestation project, how he’d been in charge of building a 30 hectare (75 acres) botanical garden, his opinion of various free trade coffee efforts.

We were interrupted by the same small, dark haired Yogette from the U.S. who didn’t like the music the morning before.

“Seven a.m.”  she said. “Driver?”

“Yes?” asked Sven, confused.

“He’s not here.”

Sven looked at the clock on his computer.

“It’s not seven yet…?”

“Maybe you could give him a call, just to be sure…?” It was said as a question but was clearly a command.

“I can do that, certainly,” said Sven, and he reached for the phone. I let him get back to work.

It’s time to leave Sugar Beach. Susan will cry a little; she becomes attached to good people easily, and those here have done so very much for us. But it’s time to move on. We have one more stop we’ll make someplace else in exquisite Costa Rica with its calm, sophisticated, and generous people. Pura Vida.

Map

I love the GPS on my phone, my Link, except when it’s wrong.

It has taken me to a road called “Monkey Trail” for the last 15 kilometers of the trip. The books warn against taking Monkey Trail. One kilometer in, the trail fords a creek of depth I can’t judge. I back up and turn around.

A petulant navigator, GPS nags and sulks when I say that it was wrong, and keeps trying to send me down unmarked roads. I finally mute the volume. I begin to use a paper map for guidance.

GPS stares at me. “I thought you said you’d ended communication with her,” it says, and because I had no charger, or out of spite, it goes completely blank and silent.

That’s a good thing. Map and I continue on together. She is in the hand that also holds the wheel. I now look at and read signs, and figure out names of villages that present a fork in the road.

I have to decide if I’ve gone too far or not far enough to arrive at the next decision. Map suggests, never demands. The sky is partly cloudy.The ocean is iridescent blue under clear sky, is a muddy color where it reflects the white, gray and orange clouds of the descending afternoon.

Slowly, scale begins to come into focus, and what I see on Map in my fingers represents what I see on the ground. This left turn must dead end at that peninsula. The headland emerging from the jungle canopy ahead must have a way around.

Pacific Ocean claws at quartz-ribboned cliff face. Rocks recently fallen are chewed into pebbles by waves. Cacti and palms hang precariously over the edge, soon to fall. Erosion seems to be destruction, but the ocean was pushed back once by the land, this is simply the cycle, summer to winter, night to day.

We arrive at our destination just as I began to doubt. GPS Link is dead on the seat. I put it in my pocket. I leave Map there where I can reach for it, once loved and still a good friend, with shared experience, to turn to when lost.