Hola, my friends! Time for our last update.
We leave tomorrow morning for a three hour car ride to a 3 hour flight to a 3 hour layover to another three hour flight to a taxi home around 1130pm. At first, Andrea and I were relieved that we wouldn’t have to relive the horror of the anfractuous local flight from here to San Jose. The drive would be a little long, sure, but anything beats being trapped in a claustrophobic biplane piloted by Evel Knievel’s long lost relatives. And then we learned what ‘drive’ means in Costa Rica. Roads here seem to be more of a suggestion, as drivers, pedestrians, and animals compete to see who can move in the most random patterns. Speeds are always excessive. I couldn’t help but think of Mad Max each time we took a taxi somewhere, our off-brand SUV caroming back and forth across gravel paths.
The cars combine the old with the new. No matter how junky the auto, every car seems to come equipped with NSA level GPS features. Cars also still have those miniature coin-purse ash trays jutting out from each side. Drivers always drape a discolored rag over the stick shift. At first I thought this was to mop up the occasional barf from unaccustomed tourists. Then I realized they use them to swat at flies. It’s pretty neat to watch a driver navigate a monkey and pothole littered path while laughing into a black market cell phone with one hand and towel-snapping horse flies with the other. Don’t even worry about the steering.
So Wednesday was our trip to Ecotermales, one of the many natural hot springs in the area. Andrea and I had previously visited hot springs somewhere in the bowels of Virginia. Although the Virginia pamphlet beckoned us with the majesty of the Earth’s waters, what we found was a ragged hole more suited to mass graves than family fun. So imagine our surprise when we discovered the hot springs at Ecotermales. I say ‘discovered’ because, like pretty much everything here, you must navigate through a gorgeous maze of neon green to arrive at your destination. The trees had some serious Lord of the Rings vibes going on, roots and branches twisting into Escher-like spirals. The place was wonderful. 102 degree natural water cascading down perfectly imperfect rock formations. We soaked, watched infinite trails of ants carrying gnawed off sections of leaf three times their size, and commiserated with the other tourists. Besides the two of us, only five other people were visited the hot springs that day.
We dried off and headed to the Ecotermales restaurant for a late lunch. Like most places here, everything seems to be everything. A house is never a house. It’s also a local attraction, a cattle ranch, and an official site for spelunking, kayaking, and/or insect farm. We were alone in the massive restaurant until a collection of elderly locals came hobbling in on walkers and wheel chairs. They sported the universal uniform of the infirm: massive cataract glasses, high-waisted slacks, trucker hats with intelligible logos, and slightly stained polo shirts. Always tucked. Although we had finished eating by the time they rounded the bend and sat down at a table, we stayed for a while to listen to them play the harmonica and glare at each other menacingly.
A sea of tourists greeted us on our return to the hotel. For whatever reason, (close enough to the end of the week perhaps?), tourists have now descended like locusts upon Nayara. We left our room and walked right into a large family taking pictures of a two-foot iguana. One of the kids tried to grab it, leaving us without a picture of the glorious lizard. We were, however, able to get slightly decent photos of Tony the sloth (a giant tuft of fur perfectly balanced against a single tree branch) and Pedro the macaw.
We ended the night with a five course meal complete with wine pairing. Each time the wine expert came out to discuss the particulars of why an oaken Chardonnay went well with capers, he ended with an, “Oh, yea! And it really brings out the flavors of the fruit punch, amigo!” Haha.
Today we hit La Fortuna, the small tourist town built after the 1960s volcano explosion decimated the previous town. I can’t wait to go to the drugstore. Which also functions as a Catholic Church, a papusa restaurant, and maybe a place to herd goats.