Whitewater Rafting in Costa Rica

Whitewater Rafting in Costa Rica

After a 90 minute drive in a bouncy, smelly, and rickety bus, through cane fields and jungle and over wooden bridges, after we paused to let an eight foot long Western Brown Snake pass, we arrived at the raft entrance.   The Tenorio River in Guanacaste, Costa Rica was flowing with strong and intense rapids.  Although I had only met the 3 Americans a day earlier, I was trusting them with my life.  Our guide was called Terminator.  It was the third time in 3 consecutive days I thought I was going to die.  This is Costa Rica, where it is best to just laugh and hold on.  Pura Vida!

 

Enjoy The Journey…

Best Meal Ever

Best Meal Ever

If you have ever been surfing on a longboard, you will know they are not particularly light. ¬†I had just spent hours riding waves with Pilot Don, while Mrs. SirOzzy and Flight Attendant Louise, the Pilot’s wife, soaked up rays. ¬†We were in Tamarindo, Costa Rica, and ready for lunch.

We carried our boards back to the rental shop, down a ways from where we set up for the morning, and across the street, trying not to breathe too heavy from the weight of the boards and sand under our feet. ¬†It was our first day in Tamarindo, ¬†we didn’t have much of a plan.

“Oye, chou people need some help?”

“No. We’re good.” ¬†It’s the universal saying for get the %&$# away from us. ¬†It’s most commonly used when some street urchin is trying to hawk his stolen wares or the ex-pat at the hotel invites you to a timeshare presentation. ¬†This time it was a tall and skinny local surfer. ¬†He was dark skinned and his hair reminded me of seaweed. ¬†His English was good.

“Yeah man, I’m good too. ¬†I Just wanna know if you need some help. ¬† You look like you’re visiting, and my friends have a restaurant down the street. ¬†It’s a real nice place right on the beach. ¬†I’m not looking for anything from you. ¬†I just want to hook my friends up. ¬†And if I bring them guests maybe they will give me a drink. ¬†My name is Chavo, I’m going that way. ¬†Let me show you around.”

Our new friend Chavo walked us through the streets of Tamarindo, waving and saying hola to nearly every person we saw. ¬†He told us the story of Costa Rica, with it’s revolution and new constitution. ¬†He told us Costa Ricans are educated and have dental insurance, that is why they have such great smiles. ¬†And he brought us to his friend’s restaurant, right on the beach, just like he said he would. ¬†We offered him some cash. ¬†He said, “I don’t take money from mi amigos, get the fish.”

The four of us sat at a round table outside, the shade and cold drinks were refreshing. Not far from where we sat was an enormous tree which hosted a family of Howler Monkees.  Someone played guitar.

“Mi amigos from Chavo, welcome to Panga’s. ¬†What can I get for you?” ¬†The waitress was middle aged, barefoot, shorts and a tanktop, weathered from the salt and sun and years of waiting on tables. ¬†But she had a million dollar smile.

“I hear the fish is good. ¬†What’s the catch of the day.”

“Senor, you see that man? ¬†Down there, on the beach. ¬†Walking this way. ¬†He has the catch of the day. ¬†I will not know what it is until he arrives.”

An hour later, a grilled, whole, Red Snapper, was presented to me. ¬†Pilot Don had one too. ¬†Garnished with fresh vegetables and lime, it was, quite simply, heaven on a plate. ¬†We spent the better part of the afternoon at Panga’s, eating and drinking and laughing the time away. ¬†It was a good day.

It is not just the food that makes a great meal, it is the company which you keep. ¬†I’ve not spoken much to Pilot Don and Flight Attendant Louise since then. ¬†And I’ve never seen Chavo again. ¬†But when you share a good meal with good people, you have friends for life.

 

This post was created as part of WordPress’ Daily Prompt. ¬†Seconds!

 

A Week In Riviera Maya, Mexico

A Week In Riviera Maya, Mexico

Mexico.¬†¬†Is it¬†the image of a¬†barren wasteland of adobe¬†huts and sombrero wearing banditos on permanent siesta, only waking occasionally for a slug of dirty tequila?¬† Or is it Mexico City, that smog infested, over-populated urban center, littered with stolen cars and orphans playing on landfills?¬† Is it the Drug Cartel controlled border towns, teeming with illegals jumping the fence?¬† Is it¬†Tijuana, with it’s sidewalk pharmacies and¬†bestiality shows? ¬†What is it that makes you so God-Damned scared of Mexico?

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Is it because they’re below us and it’s super hot?¬† Does it actually remind people of Hell?¬†¬† America as the promised land and Mexico as purgatory for the damned.¬† ¬†I mean, shit, I know tons of¬†bad-ass, tough New Yorkers that crap themselves when they hear “Mexico”.¬† ¬†Oh, the murder rates?¬† You’re five times more likely to get whacked virtually anywhere in the States than you are in a Mexican resort area.¬† Check the numbers yourself.

So here’s the deal, don’t go looking for trouble, and trouble won’t find you.¬† Sure, there are troubles, big troubles, along the border towns and Central Mexico.¬† But it’s nearly 100% drug related.¬† Eliminate the drug cartel issues and you have one cool country rich in history and culture.

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The Yucatan Peninsula is the south-eastern region of Mexico that runs along the western portion of the Caribbean Sea.  Cancun, Riviera Maya, and Tulum belong to this region.  This has got to be one of the most magnificent coastlines in the world.  I visited Playa Del Carmen, in the heart of Riviera Maya, in September, 2012.   I wanted to know what everyone is so afraid of.

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The drive from Cancun is just over an hour.  In this time we saw 3 stop points along the highway manned by Mexican Federales.   Military men, dressed completely in black, with flak jackets, riot helmets, machine guns and all sorts of other heavy artillery man the check points.  They let us proceed in our van, barely slowing down.  The second stop point was less intimidating,  more interesting.  By the third sighting I realized these guys are actually just here to protect me.  Any other time I saw them during our trip there was a general feeling of security.  Never once during my time in Mexico did I feel anything less than perfectly safe.

Our drive brought us to the Occidental Grand Xcaret Royal Club.  The hotel has an open air lobby with a truly grand thatched roof.   The only thing warmer than the welcome was the temperature.  Quite frankly, it was hotter than hell.

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At 3:00 in the afternoon, midway through our vacation, we were sitting in a pool.¬† No matter how many frozen margaritas I tried to wash down, nothing beat the heat.¬† It was so hot, it felt like the pool water was about to boil over.¬† Feeling drained and nauseous, we looked at each other, and decided it was time to go inside somewhere and find air conditioning.¬† It was just too hot in the pool.¬† Of course, it didn’t help that I outdrank a Scotsman at the swim-up bar the night before.¬† Tequila, ugh, it’ll be the death of me someday.

Quinta Avenida is 5th Avenue, Playa Del Carmen, and only a short taxi from our hotel.¬† Lined with hundreds of shops, bars, and restaurants, it’s the main tourist hub in the region.¬† If you look hard enough, and the locals trust you, anything you think of can¬†be found here.¬† I was offered prescriptions, weed, heroin, tattoos, and women.¬† One guy even tried to pawn his sister off on me.¬† I couldn’t help but wonder how many American fugitives are holed up here.¬† But again, I never felt in danger.

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Except for the few trips into Playa, most of our dining was at the resort.   Every meal had leftover rice and beans and some sort of mystery meat.  Over-cooked and over-seasoned, we laughed as we tried to figure out what kind of animal our dinner came from.  Much of the food was mostly inedible, but we found enough that was palatable to keep us largely satisfied.

On our last full day we needed to arrange transportation back to the airport.¬† After asking our concierge to please make arrangements, she got back to us and said, “I’m sorry, JetBlue is no longer in business.”

“Really, is that so?”

“Yes, their phone number is no longer operating.¬† I’m afraid you will have to make arrangements through our own transportation company.”¬† I nearly fell over laughing.¬† This was one of the more creative, yet so simple, scams, that has ever been tried on me.¬† Miraculously, our transfer to the airport was arranged through JetBlue about 2 minutes later, but not without a few more laughs.

So in the end, I was not sucked into the bowels of Hell or kidnapped by a gang of banditos.¬† I met some great people, ate some terrible food, drank good tequila, saw some cool stuff, brushed up on my Spanish, and walked away a better person for it.¬† Mexico, you don’t scare me.¬† See you again, someday.

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