I apologize for jumping off the map for the past couple of weeks, but I have just been allowing myself time to “heal”. For those who don’t know where I have been, I am up in Eugene, OR. visiting family, pretty much. Most of my time has been spent between Doron and Sierran’s with weekend visits paid to Aria. I have passed a little time with Francesca in between.
Little by little I heal, though I am not sure I will ever return to the old days of reckless abandon, driving long distances through strange cities, visiting places I’ve never been before, alone. But who knows; I’ve discovered my memory may not be so acute, but once I start doing something, it comes back and the memory kicks in like an old engine that tends to work when you have given up on it.
Sierran and I were reminiscing this morning about an excursion he and I took to Corcovado a few years back. Corcovado is a National Park in the southern portion of Costa Rica. I don’t recall what the purpose of our trip was, other than just doing a tropical rainforest hike; he had been to Costa Rica once or twice before, but the season was different so he knew Corcovado would produce some new angles on the outing.
National Parks in most developed countries are much like the parks in the U.S: well developed, oriented to fees, camping, a well defined trail system, and rangers to maintain order and keep wild game from becoming a problem for the tourists that want to get up close and personal with the big game that attracts the sight seers, but I can say for certainty that in undeveloped countries that once you pay your fee, you are on your own. You are suppose to use common sense which is a huge help in avoiding conflict between animals and humans, but that alone does not guarantee peace between parties.
In Corcovado the trekker had to cross rivers and there were records of people being attacked (and killed) by bull sharks, so crossing at the mouth of a river wasn’t where one wanted to dawdle. If you went up river there were crocodiles (as opposed to the smaller, more docile caiman also present). There were always risks, but it was a three or four day trek that afforded lots of opportunity to prove your mettle. At one point I tried to goad Sierran into a free lunch by betting him that I would swim across a river and back said to have crocodiles, if not bull sharks. I was sure that if I made lots of noise it would make a wary beast more wary. I had my plan but Sierran wouldn’t take the bet. Later I asked him why he didn’t take me up on it and he said because he thought I was dumb enough to take him up on the wager and he’d be the one forced to go into save my foolish ass when I was attacked by a crocodile. I chuckled to myself thinking there might have been some truth to that especially when I found out that making noise was the opposite of what I should be doing while trying to cross the river. Be very quiet I was later told. I thought to myself how again I had been more lucky than good while trying to win a bet.
Before we started our trek, we began our evening on the ocean shore where the rainforest pushed up against the steep, sloping beach front. We swam out in the semi dusk and treaded water together as we we watched the colorful macaws fly in tight flocks up the beach and the monkeys run and jump from tree to tree up the beach. We finally came to shore after concluding it was a good place for bull sharks to be and the right time of a 24 hour cycle for them to show up.
We were two nights and 16 miles in when we reached a campground that had vacant log buildings that for something like $15 you could spend the night, but neither of us were willing to spend the money and we said we would stay in our two man pup tent at the end of a very verdant air strip for free. About sunset, I told Sierran I would sneak into a room (for free) and he could join me if he wanted but he insisted that he would pass (in order to save himself the humility of being caught in a room neither of us were willing to pay for). In the room, I slept in a bunk and felt pretty good about going the entire night without getting caught like a common burglar.
The next dewy morning, I went out and met up with Sierran who was suffering a bite some jungle arachnid laid on him that was swelling and festering, turning all fair living flesh surrounding the wound into dead flesh. It was a wicked looking bite. We went down to a stream to indulge in our lunch and at the same time, clean the wound out when Sierran decided to sink his wounded wrist into the cool of a jungle stream and it was immediately attacked by a school of small, but toothy fish who ate every iota of dead flesh from the wound. It reminded me of those piranha-like minnows in Thailand they use for cleansing the feet of dead skin. Good racket.
It was a tough hike, up mud slopes, across deep streams, and sleeping where I doubt I would sleep today if given the opportunity. I did get bit by one snake. It was a harmless looking snake (if found in the U.S.) and I tried using a method the Crocodile Hunter used to use: grab the snake by the tail and lag it out when it came into bite, instead of my technique of pinning the head down with a stick then grabbing it behind the head. It turned out the snake laughed at my technique and reached in and bit me with no problem. I later counted my lucky stars that the snake was non venomous.
I confess, we saw lots of animals we probably would normally never see: basilisk lizards, spiders (by the dozens), caiman, and a tapir at night and by day javelinas, four different kinds of monkeys: squirrel, howler, spider, and capuchin; coatis, exotic birds and a coral snake I had by the tail but released out of fear of it coiling back on me and getting a good bite on one of my fingers. Coral snakes are first cousins to cobras and their venom is basically the same.
All in all, it was one of those trips that left a lot of favorable memories, if not a few potentially close calls. These are the kind of trips that a guy like me just hates to stop doing unless there is just no choice—you do until you are sure there is no more do left in the will.