Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Nosara I

Sara and I decided last night to forgo the TicoBus to Nosara, which left at 5:30am, to sleep in and to commandeer either car or plane across the country to our next destination. After a flurry of phone calls from our room after breakfast (hint: the dial tone makes a different sound, Michael, banging against dresser will not help) we decide to book a flight with NatureAir for $35/ea plus taxes plus luggage but still cheaper than the toll of an all-day bus ride – can I get an Amen?

There’s talk of hitting a coffee plantation before we depart the Central Valley, but the weather looks ominous and we decide to spend our remaining hours in San Jose at the Mercado Central which, according to Fodor’s “hosts medicinal herbs, the country’s first ice cream parlor, pickpockets and a labyrinthine network of stalls and alleyways (hint: if you get lost, find the statue of Jesus of the Sacred Heart at the center of everything, he faces the way out – if only life were this simple. No wars. No botched elections. No carbon sequestration. Just find the person at the center and walk that way*).

Bought medicinal herbs (for good luck, a clean house, a clean wife), coffee and found ourselves lost. (See above.)

Next we checked out of the Hotel Dunn Inn (two stars, recommendation) and found our way to the second airport in San Jose (San Jose/Pavas) to catch our NatureAir flight. The smaller, less-substantial airport. We should have known it was going to be an adventure after seeing the animated twin-prop plane zip across the banner on the NatureAir website. Should have known it was going to be an adventure when we were asked to step on a scale (with our carry-on) before boarding. Should have known it was going to be dicey when we noticed the 50mph gusts and anvil-like thunderheads resting at the top of the hills (See: Volcano) surrounding town.

And to say we were surprised when the plane started drifting sideways off the runway as we sped toward being airborne would have meant acknowledging anything outside of the pinhole focus one’s life takes when one gets the sense one’s life is about to terminate. We lifted – bucked – drifted – bucked – clawed our way into alternating pockets of clear and torrential clouds, up toward 10,000ft for long enough for everyone to exhale (picture the entire cabin – all 10 of us – gripping the sides of our loved ones/seats/strangers for 40 minutes; picture panic). Then descent. Because this is a relatively new service, we had to land in Liberia (the Other Liberia) to drop a – one – uno – person, then re-ascend for another 20minutes until the newly-paved, golden-stretch-of-tarmac, ground-never-looked-so-good airstrip in Nosara came into view. See pictures. Digression: If ever you are piloting a perilous flight through torrential downpour, zero-visibility, jarring turbulence and your cell phone should happen to vibrate from its holster…consider, for your passengers’ sakes, waiting until we are safely upon the terra firma before removing said cell phone from holster, flipping open said phone, checking message, sharing with co-pilot, then re-holstering. Just consider.

But land we did. Then walk across the street (woman with her two children walking into town with two “beach mutts” off-leash trotting in front of her) to the El Officina del Post to find a taxi to our hotel.

It is his first time in Nosara. He has to ask directions several times in the 5km drive. Reggea-ton trebleing through the 6 X 9s in the doors from his iPod. Cigarettes in the console. “I’m looking for a place to stay, also” he says. Not clear if this is something one says with the hope to be invited. His delivery, though, is more like a man who’s returning something for his wife at a department store. I let it ride. On the drive we wind up and up and up some of the worst potholed, rock-strewn, riverbed roads to the top of a small mountain to the Vista del Paraiso (took me more than once to not say Vista del Paradiso).

The only other excitement on the drive is the shouted EE-WHANNA, followed by an abrupt swerve and gesticulation toward a Labrador-sized iguana shuffling along the ditch. OFFICIAL COSTA RICA WILDLIFE GUIDEBOOK CHECKLIST: IGUANA (P.42, second from the top). He doesn’t charge us for the drive.

We are greeted by a woman who announces she’s 80 the way a blackjack dealer tells the table he’s going on his lunch break, and who’s wearing a shirt that reads IT’S A TEXAS THING…Y’ALL WOULDN’T UNDERSTAND!!! She is the mother of the woman we are looking for - Debbie – and quickly (quickly for 80, quickly for anyone) disappears down a couple of doors to fetch Debbie.

Debbie appears and walks us to our room regaling S and I with the events of the past days – a party of 20 for Christmas dinner, the rare(!) dry-season rain that forced them all indoors, etc. etc. We are led down a gardened path to a small yellow cabina with an orange door. Inside, a small double-bed, some shelves and a small bathroom equipped with what we’re later told has been given the Kevorkian moniker “Suicide Shower” (no joke, a shell-like device curiously plugged into an outlet atop the showerhead – when both S and I try to adjust it we are jolted by a formidable electric shock. Important digression: DO NOT STAND IN WATER WHILE ATTEMPTING TO ADJUST SUICIDE SHOWER!). The room is colorful, quaint and surrounded by…wait for it…jungle. Not for the first time on this trip the Indiana Jones theme song pops into my head. Banana leaves, palm fronds, vines (vines@#$!), howler monkeys, wild parrots, tarantulas.

Then up to the terrace. A bean-shaped pool adjoins the main house, a bar at the end of the pool. And from the bar a view of Playa Guiones (the beach). Temperature: 80 degrees. Humidity: 80%. Sun. Jungle. Pool. Ocean. Whatever your notions of paradise are – wherever they have been borne inside your psyche be it postcards, TV, film, Dante, ancestry, genetics, oral tradition – this, it occurs to me with my feet up on the railing, sipping a soda & lime, in shorts, staring off at, alternately the ocean and the yonder-regions beyond….this is pretty much as close to paradise as this gringo has come.

I hop in the pool. Check my email (from the precipice of Known World and the Sublime). Shower. Then back up to the restaurant for dinner. Debbie, the woman who owns/runs this small operation (there are 2 other cabinas in Paraiso) spent a year at the Culinary Institute of America in Houston before spending six months in Paris under the tutelage of (insert French Culinarè here) and departing for Nosara to embark totally on Vista del Paraiso, is a remarkable chef. S had the vegetarian fajitas (grilled pineapple, pepper, mushroom, rice, beans). I had chili-lime prawns (each this size of a carnation) over an avocado crème sauce, rice and beans. We split a passion fruit-chocolate mouse for dessert before stumbling down the pebbled path to our cabina for the night.

*Suffice it to say, usually when people decide en-mass to up and follow people, bad things happen. However the allegory is not lost. I hope.

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