Saturday, April 18, 2015

GPS Follies and Sloths

Yesterday morning shortly after we got up, and it's hard to sleep past 5 am because that's when the howler monkey living in the hotel trees get up and sing, we decided to take the morning and visit the Parque Manuel Antonio. It was less than a mile or two from the hotel but we decided to drive because that less than a mile or two was narrow, curvy, steep ups and downs. The thought of traipsing back from the park in that insane traffic didn't hold any appeals.

Right away the park trip started on a pretty sour note. We got about 500 yards from the park entrance according to the signs and our GPS when this local guy jumped in front of our car and told us we MUST park right there in the lot to our left. Well I could clearly see and read the signage even if it was in Spanish that indicated that the parking and park entrance was just ahead so I started arguing with him in my broken pigeon Spanish and English. Jim complied with him but I was angry and fighting all the way. I hate people that clearly take advantage of others and their ignorance.

So when the guy was trying to sell us a tour of the park I really wasn't having it. His shout after me was that you cannot ever really 'see' the animals of the park without a tour guide to point them out.

From where we parked it was quite a slog to get to the park entrance, we had to criss cross through hotel and restaurant back alleyways, skirting trash and sewage (lot of open sewers in the local areas, even in the town of Quipos). We finally got to right where the park entrance was only to be assaulted by various locals selling a huge variety of things, including tours into the park. After talking to one of the tour guides we realized that if you book a tour that the tour guide has a mono-ocular on a stand for you to see the far away animals like sloths in the trees. We bought tour tickets.

While we were waiting to start I had a refreshing coconut water. I sometimes drink coconut water in the States but it's always in a little bottle or box. This was a young man with a machete slicing open a green coconut, poking a hole for the straw and handing it to you, all for the princely sum of two bucks. Delicious! All the fruit has tasted better here, but that's because it's locally grown and picked, none of this imported on a ship for a month stuff we get at the supermarkets.

The tour was amazing, we walked a couple of miles through the jungle park, seeing three different types of monkeys, some bats, many different types of iguanas and some sloths high in the trees. We stopped at the beach where Tom Hanks filmed "Castaway" and where some television shows like "Lost" and 'The Amazing Race" have filmed. Incredibly beautiful beach filled with teenaged monkeys trying to fiddle with tourists things. The monkeys are bold.

We had to really move it on the way back in order to get back to the hotel, shower and check out in time and get on the road for the next part of our trip, three days in the Green Lagoon Resort near the volcano park in Arenal.

It should have been a four hour drive, but quickly took on a nightmare quality. Back in the states I'd downloaded and printed out a map from Quipos to La Fortuna where our hotel is and the route looked pretty simple. At the Adobe car rental place the nice man at the counter drew out the route on a Costa Rica map, Hwy 34 to Hwy 27 to Hwy 1 to Rt 702. But... we plugged in the GPS that he had also programmed and didn't realize till we were pretty far into the trip that the GPS had the trip listed as over eight hours. They had us programmed in some crazy way way way out of our way. I tried reprogramming it to no avail. Friends had warned us that GPS didn't always work right in the CR. We had to turn around to go the way the map indicated and the trip took a total of six houts.

Once we stopped at this modern mall, complete with KFC, Burger King, Taco Bell and McDonalds to ask the way. All this primate third world surroundings and up pops a modern mall that would have fit in any American city. I am sad to see of all the rich culture in our country that the thing that is exported time and time again overseas is American fast food, M&Ms and Pringles. You can get both M&Ms and Pringles even at the most ghetto frutas stands.

A big part of that six hour stretch had been eaten up by the fact that by the time we turned onto Route 702 it was all up and down switchbacks on a super narrow road around the mountains with very low speed limits. This was compounded by the fog that had crept over those roads. Neither of us could see much of the road for long stretches, causing us to creep along at very slow speeds. We crossed at least twenty bridges that were one lane and it seemed everyone in the Guanacaste state was out and about walking on these roads in the dark, compounding a difficult drive.

I was positively losing it, cursing up a storm and we finally arrived to the most beautiful resort on the side of a mountain. We're in a two bedroom suite that is like night and day from the last hotel, Hotel Karahe in Manuel Antonio! The suite is beautifully turned out and the sheets are soft. At Karahe the sheets were that super old percale polyester mixture popular in the 70s and the pillows limp thin slabs likely new back in the 70s or 80s.

Writing this while I'm having several delicious cups of coffee sitting on the porch watching a wide variety of birds I've never seen before. This place is so otherworldy and serene. I love it.

No comments: