Costa Rican Chaos
“How can I be banned for life from the swim-up bar if I’m only here for one week?!?”. This from the big, ugly white guy who was brandishing some very nifty sunburn patches on his shoulders, nose, bald spot (small) and tops of his feet.
toll you seberal time you canno keep doeen det ‘orseplay. An, no yoorin-aychon een pool like sign
say”. This from Carlos The Official, an
otherwise very nice and engaging gentleman who seemed to be at the hub of any
action going on at our all-inclusive, five star resort.
“I never once urinated in the pool !!”, came the prompt but indignant reply.
Technically this was correct. The urinary feat(s) had not been done directly into the pool but, in fact, had been executed with a good degree of panache and a bit of showing off, from high atop the lifeguard tower, arcing down some 15 feet or so to (generally) land in the large milk jug that had been purloined from one of the resort’s kitchens and was presently residing poolside.
The nighttime crowds had begun to grow larger with each passing episode, so I guess it was no wonder that the bureaucracy eventually grew alarmed and was forced to intervene. There was, however, grumbling at Carlos’s announcement from the swim-up bar crowd, with whom I had grown close over the previous 5 days.
But we still had
2 to go and, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how I was now going to
survive without the whaling-to-the-bar routine, or worse, being forced to watch
the bantering, bikinis and bellying-up from behind a chain-link fence down by
the garbage pickup area.
For reasons which I still can’t figure out, my gal was bemused by the whole charade but then went back to her 12 pound textbook entitled “Brain Injury Phenomena – Theories & Practices”, edited by one Daniel P
“Approximately half of severely head-injured patients will need surgery to remove or repair haematomas (ruptured blood vessels) or contusions (bruised brain tissue). Disabilities resulting from a TBI depend upon the severity of the injury, the location of the injury, and the age and general health of the individual...”
Truth be known, part of me was a little relieved by my enforced time-out because the constant stunting and stupidity had started to catch up with my thought processes as well as my central nervous system. Some of the dudes I had been hijinxing with were WAY over the line and I had been forced to reach down deep to not only come up with some tricky new moves but even to keep up. Also, I am Canadian, so I had a big flag to fly.
The previous evening, for example, Cigar Guy had dragged us all down the beach to the co-located gravel landing strip where the Twin Otters and Piper Navajos airlifted in the fresh tourist meat each morning and medivac’d out the sunburned corpses each dusk. Earlier, he had noticed that the landing planes barely cleared the sand dunes close to the resort upon approach and Cigar challenged us to a chicken contest – yes, we would all line up, gin and tonics in hand, to see who could remain unmoving as the inbound flights skimmed over our heads, close enough to ruffle our hair.
I was surprised to find out later that the Costa Rican pilots, rather than being alarmed at this behaviour and calling out the federales, had started to get into it, and actually joshed with each other over the radios as they veered towards us as if caught by a gust of wind, and then pulling back a bit in order to, a). land, and b). not rip off our skulls.
Then it got dark and we weaved our way back to pool side for some repeat float therapy. It was at this point that I spied the lifeguard tower and things began to click together rapidly.
In retrospect, I guess some of us were already under watch by management for previous displays of stuff that, in my book, wasn’t really worth making such a big fuss over. This included the thing on Day 3 when my swim trunks somehow got ripped off by the vicious surf and I had to make it back past the restaurant for another pair. I thought it was dark enough not to be noticed, but I guess not…
Also, at the nightly disco, some of my new buddies had been inspired by my Moonwalking workshop to put on their own blazing shows of slides, swoops and dance-chugging displays that added to the creative synergy and reduced many of the crowd to tears. Others in the crowd were not reduced to anything and chuffed off to their own miserable existences and you don’t know how to have real fun anyways dickwad so go back to your room and watch the Simpsons for all I care.
Early in our trip I learned that Costa Rica had disbanded its armed forces in 1979 and I became serene upon learning this fact. I have had a few mix-ups with armed officialdom in the past (the Hong Kong border tete-a-tete, the hallucinogenic confusion on the Balearic Islands, the passport thing in Marrakech, the Sioux Lookout water tower episode, etc.) and I was glad it wouldn’t happen here. My gal was glad too, even though there were local police who otherwise looked friendly enough.
Being a smooth-talker always helps when discussing business with policemen, as does anticipating their thought processes, what has turned their crank so badly, and how to describe to them in a very nice, calm manner that they may have mis-interpreted things. I am not good at any of this, which is why I usually try to hide behind others who may be more well-suited to such interactions.
One afternoon for example, we wandered down the palm-lined beach, surf pounding in nicely and with a warm rum-glow in our tummies. I thought it would be great idea if I got my picture taken at the what-I-thought-was-deserted local police station chugging a can of beer and holding a joint. For posterity. But, yet again, things backfired when two members of the local law enforcement community (armed) showed up and wandered over to chat.
Uncharacteristically, I remained mute throughout the interaction and I heard my gal murmuring about “… delicate medical condition… rest and therapy… harmless…” and overall comments about the wondrousness of the country and the local people. Eventually a few chuckles were exchanged and they wandered off, shaking their heads in what seemed to be sympathy for the confused-looking big guy and his wonderful handler.
Anyways, we meandered away despite the additional problem of the broken/dropped thingee in the cheapo souvenir shop which brought out the best in my Spanish linguistics powers. The fact that I instead spoke with the occasional “o” or “ita” on the end of the closest French word somehow went over the heads of the locals. But they laughed. Uneasily sometimes.
common disabilities include problems with cognition (thinking, memory, and
reasoning), sensory processing (sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell),
communication (expression and understanding), and behaviour or mental health
(depression, anxiety, personality changes, aggression, acting out, and social
They sell this vile mess of a drink in Costa Rica called “Cacique” that is 60% alcohol by volume. It tastes like a 30/50/20 mix of aviation fuel, perfume and embalming fluid and was so bad that I was forced to just gulp it down in big glassfuls each time and then stand over the sink while I fought the heaves. The resulting boiling rip into the heart and cranial regions was immediate and useful and I fell in love with everything all over again but it was hard work each time.
It is at times like this that I become a panther of a man, with all my senses and powers jumped up to peak human maximums. I know with certainty that women grow faint when they are caressed by a man’s gaze when he is in this mode, that grown men weep at new-found abilities on the dance floor, and that the exusion of such man-spoor is so powerful that Big Pharma would nuke Africa’s entire child population just to bottle its essence. Later, I usually crash big time, snore and fart a bit, and somehow forget all the brilliant ideas I came up with oh-so-short a time ago.
And that’s why I have to do it all over again all the time.
Things go a lot better at any all-inclusive resort if you hang out with the staff and lay on some maple leaf pins and some Montreal Canadiens hockey pucks for their kids and stuff like that. This, and being a very cool person, will usually get you invited to out-of-the-way places that the average tourist wouldn’t believe existed. This explains The Bus Ride.
“Pele” worked on
the grounds crew and I had struck it particularly deep with him during my
veering sessions to the can from places like the swim-up bar and the Coco Bolo
Room. In fact, he was the one that
turned me on to Cacique. One
afternoon we were off by the Anaconda exhibit in the mini-jungle area they’d
set up for the visitors when he yanked out the bottle and we began to get into
It was remarkable
at how my Spanish became more and more perfect as we progressed and my new best
buddy in the whole wide world (as well as the coiled, still reptile) took great
pleasure out of hearing me tell wild and almost-true epic tales of my childhood
development (ongoing) in his mother tongue.
serious head injuries may result in stupor, an unresponsive state, but one in
which an individual can be aroused briefly by a strong stimulus, such as sharp
I had initially made his acquaintance in the vast buffet area whilst examining a nylon, light-mesh fencing that separated the dining area from the surrounding jungle. Pele had happened by and I inquired about its purpose.
“Dey doan like lizarrrs in he. Dey scare de guesss”, he explained.
I had noted a
small gathering of various sized Iguanas and the like each time I had sat down
to pig-out. Some were a vile black
while others appeared in a rainbow of greenish-brown hues. Behind them at most times were rather
large black/orange birds that also looked hungry and occasionally squabbled
about, making a racket.
I usually side with the underdog at times like this and grew a bit upset at the unfairness of the whole thing. Here we were, whitey’s visiting their country and they weren’t even allowed to come in for a bite to eat or to have some face time with us.
Over the next few days I managed to “drop” my knife a few times and each time I bent down to retrieve it I managed to worry away at the nylon screen, eventually opening it to a size that would enable even the fattest Iguana to squirm through.
Justice would be served.
The animals were no dummies and began to crowd over to the mesh by our table each time we came in. They made eye contact with me constantly and, like the East German border guard gone bad, we began to ESP back and forth the Escape Message.
It was on the 4th night that I managed the finale, which was aided and abetted by the approaching darkness as well as the mute testimony of my gal who grew up liking animals on her French-Canadian farm and who continued in her bemusement at my actions. We found out later that the staff had also figured out what I was up to and had whispered my progress about to all the cooks and servers.
They too were on the side of the home team.
Well Holy Liftin’,
you should have heard the racket at the moment the wall was breached. It wasn’t like these things were
meat-eaters or anything, but you never would have known it from all the
shriekin’ and hollerin’ that grew and grew. The animals were through the gap in a flash and were
crawling and leaping away to beat the band. Some got into a minor tussle of two for turf rights but they
soon settled into the bigger task at hand – what’s to eat?!?
Some of the more jittery diners had dropped their plates, mid-bite as it were, and many of these essential nutrients were gulped and devoured instantly. Lizards are generally pretty quiet about things, so I was glad when the first few birds made it through and joined the fray. Their clacks and squawks were in excellent juxtaposition and their aerial antics made for a great canvas.
Later at the Coco Bolo Bar (the swim-up was closed for “maintenance” or something) we compared notes with some like-minded individuals who thought the animal invasion riot was “way cool”. Staff sauntered by as well and Pele eventually whispered in my ears that they thought the stunt worthy of Hemingway, whoever the hell he was.
Speaking of the Coco Bolo Bar, it needs to be said that this is where we ran into the dudes who played the traditional central American music each lunch hour, greeting the fat whitey guests who were preparing for yet another assault on the gigantic buffet table. There were 3 of them and they looked completely miserable assembled in their folk outfits and doing some pabulum music on steel drum, bongos and a neat looking black Stratocaster even though the guy only used the bass strings for reasons that surely should not exist on such a great axe.
Later I ran into a two of them over drinks and got an invite back to their room for a spliff and a couple of shots of Cacique. At my urgings they got going on some “real music” which was groovy indeed. Finally, I had worked myself into a Moonwalking lather which prompted the lead axe guy to break into a note-perfect rendition of Voodoo Child.
“You like Chee-meee???”. He grinned.
result in coma, a state in which an individual is totally unconscious,
unresponsive, unaware, and unarousable…”
The resort was situated on an idyllic stretch of beautiful, volcanic sand, amidst palms, colourful birds like the Imperial Macaw, my friends the “leeezarrss” and wondrous, soothing surf. At the end of the southernmost stretch was situated a small fishing village which had an extremely cool bar (Baie del Balenas - translated it meant Bay of the Whales Bar). To get to this juncture, one needed to stumble across a rock-strewn creek which became a raging torrent at the twice-daily high tides which we didn’t know until we found we couldn’t return to the resort until the next low tide.
This stranding was accompanied by a near tragedy when I got caught in an undertow and nearly dropped my beer. We then gave in to defeat and retreated back to the bar to watch the tides (and the empties) for a few hours. My gal was amused in her own calm, soulful manner, which clashed badly with my typical manic freaking out with the local guzzlers.
We strolled passed a black panther basking in a distant tree on the eventual hike back. But he did not respond to my very accurate attempts to communicate with him in a series of very fluent and authentic-sounding panther calls. He did, however, crap from about 30 feet up without so much as a how-deee-do. And they wonder why we call them animals.
That evening I decided we needed some speed and began to take matters into my own hands. Like many idiots on the planet, I am a dyed-in-the-wool motorcyclist and was suffering from cabin fever as most earnest riders do when caught in the middle of a Canadian winter. Most of us had become good at suppressing these wheelie/burnout desires for the 6 months or so that we suffer and this year much of this suppression was aided and abetted by a whopper of a record-breaking snowfall we’d received up in the Ottawa area (13 feet at last count).
The tangy, warm
air of the Costa Rican pacific had triggered my riding buds to a degree that I
neither anticipated nor could control.
These surges were compounded by the local dudes, racing past on their
small Japanese on/off road bikes and I began to twitch and my nostrils flared
with each passing encounter. I
needed to somehow take control of a mechanical transportation conveyance.
And then break the law.
I was mentioning this to Consuela and the steel band boys whilst staring at a spliff the size of a cigar and taking the occasional pull on a bottle of that filthy Caquice stuff. Again. They couldn’t quite follow my emotional jabbering but the teary-eyed, lost looks I managed imparted the deep meaning directly to their hearts.
has bus. It berry rusty and loud
like match-een gun but maybbe he let you drive up in hills”, she posed.
I pondered for a split second or two, as is my manic wont, and then decided that anything was better than resting splayed out on the couch in their quarters. Especially since the appeal to be let back into the swim-up bar area was still under consideration by resort management. There was nothing for it but to move!
We wandered down
a dusty but palm-shaded back road and eventually made it to an older-looking
hacienda. And lo and behold but
outside the place was a splendorous-looking internal combustion machine! It looked like it had been
machine-gunned during the Soccer War of 1969 but it would have to do.
Somehow, over the course of the last few years, I had become electronically entangled with members of the Kawasaki Concours Owners Group (COG) – a serious and ardently-loony group of motorcyclists if ever there were one. One of COG’s online pastimes was bemoaning car drivers and their “cages”. I knew that my 4-wheeled choice of Costa Rican vehicles would be mercilessly ridiculed and abused if ever I admitted this pending affair, but I was going nuts and needed to get out there and crank up something. Anything in fact!!!
also is a vegetative state, in which an individual is unconscious and unaware
of his or her surroundings, but continues to have a sleep-wake cycle and
periods of alertness…
Consuela’s cousin, Ramone, was the erstwhile bus driver and threw me the keys after my affliction had been explained to him.
“De brakes are batt man. An de light doan work”. With that, he turned back to the TV where a couple of soccer players were lashing about on the field looking for all the world as if Dr. Mengeles had just tortured them for the last several months in a series of hideous Nazi medical experiments. Up in Canada we would pound these guys out if they ever pulled that crap on the hockey rink. I’ll tell you.
There were 4 of us aboard Ramone’s bus and I immediately explained to the passengers what was about to go down. I was calm all of a sudden and the winds softly whisper through the broken windows, bringing a light dusting of volcanic ash to cover the interior surfaces just a tiny bit more. Once more there was purpose in life.
We gathered around the racing cockpit where I explained to the team the concepts of burnouts, wheelies, stopples and power slides. Luckily, the bus had a front, back and side door, and that is where the “monkeys” (the sidecar racing passenger who clambers about to maintain speed, balance and traction) were placed.
My mind completely refused to accept the fact that I couldn’t locate a motorcycle and started to shut down given my instinctive distain for any 4 wheeled excuse of a contrivance. To compensate, I imagined we were in a rather large sidecar. Yes, it had an extra wheel, but that would pay off in the lefthanders which were going to be on us as soon as I figured out how to get off to a showman’s start.
I had each of the passengers hang out of their respective doorways, leaving them open to facilitate the “leaning technique”, so necessary in the world of sidecar racers. On straightaways we all (except the driver) would lie flat on the floor of the bus. To reduce wind resistance.
We also had a bucket of iced-beer to worry about as we all knew how grim any frothing would be at pit stops.
So away we went, not quite with the burnout that I had described, but rather in a series of stuttering backfires, a cloud of thick black smoke and a hearty “Hi-Ho Silver… AWAYYYYYYYY!”, which the Costa Rican didn’t get.
It was good that the first series of corners were uphill, as this let us practice our leaning and lying flat techniques at a reasonable speed (like 10 mph or so). But we got into the swing of it immediately upon our first descent and it was uncertain whether the squeals from the abused tires were more compelling than those emitted by the animals within the “sidecar”.
All in all the roaring exhaust, the crunching gear box, the wild and terrifying plunges and ascents, and the shouts of encouragement and instructions within the team was a real gas, except when we nearly overcooked it at a barrier-less turn overlooking a steep drop down to the rocky surf below.
I hung on like that cat-on-the-bar picture and momentarily imagined the floating debris and chunks of bloody meat floating about should we have not managed the turn. But regrets are useless things and there was a windy road still ahead.
The last day came on us with the suddenness and finality of a bottle of beer dropped from a high-rise balcony and then an old lady walks out of the building close to its possible landing zone but it missed and I swear to God I’ll never do that again. As such, we needed to mount up pronto and get over to the San Juan international airport to get the flight home.
For reasons which were never explained a small group of us were provided a Beechcraft 6-seater for the hop instead of the dreary and 4 hour-long bus/ferry thingee through the heat. This was good.
Our pilot’s name was Juan and he responded enthusiastically when I asked if I could sit up front with him in the co-pilot’s seat. He regretted this seconds later when I flailed my 6’3” lankiness about, fouling the flight controls and rudders. He advised me in a cool, Ricky Ricardo-like voice to “doan mess with dat, ho-kay?”. He looked worried.
All for naught, however, as we took off like a rocket ship (maybe that was my grinning imagination as I leaned forward to help keep wind turbulence down) and then stood it on its wing to turn toward the coastal mountain chain we needed to get over. We then soared up and over in a marvellous manner, blasted along for about 20 minutes and then did a neat approach and landing at San Juan International amidst loads of them big old’ jets.
Made it through customs after having my belt removed and my running shoes x-rayed (yes, they needed some odour eaters, but that was a tad too much methinks) and then cramped out on the flight back north. Montreal was 30 below and had a couple of meters of snow when we eventually landed after getting sandwiched between the fat guy and his fat wife.
It hurts precious…. it hurts!!!!
CIA Handbook - …
Costa Rica is a transshipment country for cocaine and heroin from South
America; illicit production of cannabis in remote areas; domestic cocaine
consumption, particularly crack cocaine, is rising; significant consumption of
Next year is the Trans-Siberian. I swear it is…