Friday, February 15, 2008

Friend of the Devil

"The man who grabs the cat by the tail
learns 44 percent more

than the man who only watches."

Mark Twain

This photo of the poisonous Eyelash Viper was taken by the side of the trail in Cahuita National Park, Costa Rica.

In a land of so many temptations it is important over time to develop some kind of daily routine. There are a great many ex-patriots in their 50's and 60's who have either made the permanent move or are in various stages of buying land or building. Some start the day with a power walk, a healthy breakfast of fruit, and a morning swim. During mid-day when the sun is the hottest, a sojourn in Cahuita National Park can be surprisingly cool with the constant sea breeze. At other times a relaxing nap is quite in order. Almost every other evening someone will have a dinner party or everyone will meet at a seaside restaurant for the catch of the day. The days always end after a night of dancing to calypso or reggae down at Cocos.

On the other side of town the lifestyle is decidedly different. It is no secret that the Caribbean Coast of Central America attracts a good number of outcasts, marginal characters and even some former CIA assets who were forsaken and abandoned by their government after the murderous black operations in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala. Many are content to drink themselves to death with the hush money from Uncle Sam.

When the sun finally drops behind the Chinese market and we all sit across the street on the concrete steps watching the world carry on in some kind of sublime, subversive, separate reality; the time is ripe for the Theater of the Absurd with a cast of characters as if from some crazy, tropical Fellini film. The long term regulars Marion the crazy German girl and Mike the drugged out American, Mustafa the big black hotel keeper from New York, Hubert the pillar of the community who grew up in the village as did 86 year old calypso legend Walter Ferguson, Marci from Vancouver who made her first visit as a young girl in 1974, expat Wayne from Toronto, village local Peter, Gary the drunk who sings Ave Maria for a cheap bottle, my high school friend Ted "The Boss" from Simsbury who has found a home and various bit players, tourists, travelers, the Ticas, the Aussies, the Dutch girls and all of God's Other Children who let their collective mind grow long. The one thing to remember in this part of the world is to not ask too many questions. Anything and everything else is on the table for consideration. The bohemian vibe is priceless. As always, the day ends with dancing at Cocos.

My friend Ted says that the Devil is around every corner.
Maybe he just likes it better here.

Friday, February 8, 2008

A Walk in the Park

"Too much of a good thing. . . is wonderful."
Mae West

The other day I walked the 3.5K jungle trail to Punta Cahuita in the National Park. The trail follows the incredibly beautiful coastline on one side with a picture perfect private beach around every turn. On the other side of the trail is the lush protected tropical rain forest full of abundance and life. At certain points the trail edges deeper and deeper into the jungle and farther from the sea.
This is the domain of the White Faced Capuchins "Monkeys" otherwise known as "The Terrorists of the Trees" My neighbor, Elena from Quebec was walking the path from Puerto Vargas back to Cahuita when an aggressive male white face came down from the trees after stalking her for some time. They always look you straight in the eye to kind of size you up. Then without warning the bugger jumped on to her backpack and ripped it off her back. After undoing the zipper and finding no food, the critter tried to steal her camera. Elena was able to shoe away the rascal but not without some trepidation.
On another occasion I came upon a friendly Tico family having a pleasant picnic on the beach at the point. I quietly watched the pack of white faces maneuvering all around the chicken that was roasting on the grill. Finally one of the rascals was hanging by one arm right over the chicken. He reached down with his other hand and grabbed a piece of the meat but it being rather hot, was dropped immediately by the primate with a sharp yelp! Dinner was saved if only temporarily.
On my way back I watched as a troop of about 25 Howler monkeys, including babies, crossed the path on trees only about 20 feet over my head. The babies would stop and eat and then clumbsily struggle to catch the group. There was no overbearing mother nearby so it appears that they feel very safe with the kids on their own.
The many rivers, the volcanic soil and abundant rainfall make this part of the world an ecological paradise where almost anything will grow well. Fruit trees abound. Nothing goes without full and complete nourishment from the land or the sea.