In a restaurant we were asked whether we preferred regular or bottled water. I asked the waiter what he drinks. “Beer,” he said.
It amazes me that Susan and I can work out arrangements with Marianne and Leif, who live so far away in Denmark, to meet on a February Thursday afternoon in Tamarindo, Guanacaste province, Costa Rica, which is the third and very distant point in the triangle, and despite traveling separately yesterday from different starting points within the country, we arrived at Hotel Chocolate within fifteen minutes of each other.
The drive on the Interamerican Highway from San José to the Pacific was as harrowing as the two previous times we’ve done it, with drivers executing crazy, potentially suicidal maneuvers, but there were fewer chuckholes this time. The highlight had to be the semi that was passing some cars on a downhill stretch leading into a curve. Having a truck flash its headlights to indicate “I’m coming” discomfits to a high degree. Once we turned west for the Nicoya Peninsula, the trip became much pleasanter. We were very impressed with the nice bridge across the northern tip of the Gulf of Nicoya, which is the Friendship Bridge with Taiwan. We stopped as soon as we had crossed it and read the plaque with all sorts of figures about length of span and bearing capacity. Ours was the only car in the parking lot, and one of the two men sitting at a little vender’s wagon came directly up to us and asked if we cared for an empanada and then pitched us on a two-hour boat tour to see crocodiles and monkeys. I claimed we had to meet friends for lunch in Nicoya. “Other tourists?” he asked. “You bet your boots,” I said. Or maybe I just nodded. To Susan I mentioned that most Americans wouldn’t appreciate having a rather scruffy fellow come right up to the car like that.
We stopped at a MegaSuper or SuperMaxi, at Nicoya, and bought camera batteries and sat at the lunch counter to consume ham sandwiches and Fanta orange sodas. The store is Wal-Mart’s enterprise here, but only a fraction as large. At lunch counters like this I’m used to paying right off the bat when they shove the food at me, but it’s the other way around here, so when we had finished and stood up to leave, the attendant figured us for crooks and demanded, “Señor!”
Tamarindo isn’t quite as hectic as last year. And the streets are exhaling dust for lack of molasses application to suppress it. The ocean water seemed colder than I’d remembered but we quickly got used to it during our late-afternoon swim. Marianne and Leif were seeing pelicans for the first time, and we all marveled at how they glide along just inches from the water’s surface without beating their wings. At 6.30 a.m. today we saw loras, the small green chattering parrots of these parts. A highlight of our beach walk was seeing innumerable crabs on one stretch of tessellated sand; they disappeared into their little burrows and we thought maybe we had been hallucinating. Of course we collected plenty of shells.
In mid-morning there was business to attend at the bank and then we four stopped in the sales office of Pacific Park, the monstrous curving high-rise with 34 condo units from $475,000 to $1.4 million. The top two floors offer ocean view in all seasons, with the fifth floor gaining the same in the dry season when so many trees shed their leaves. We looked at video images in a virtual tour and I came away chagrinned by the energy intensiveness of this style of life, by the incongruous luxury of the apartments. Yesterday we talked to the fellow who supervised the bache around the corner from Hotel Chocolate, where several dozen men live in a long shed made of plywood walls and zinc roof. He said they’re almost all Nicaraguans. They’re building the opulent structures that people like us are supposed to buy.
We came back to relax before departing at 2.30 p.m. for a boat tour in the estuary to see crocs and monkeys and maybe tortoises. Alberto, the manager here who made the telephone call and booked our little tour, says the tortoises will be on a private sanctuary and therefore we’ll be able to photograph them. I wonder if they’re also available for taped, one-on-one interviews.