Author Archives: heathermikael

Lately

I think I’m probably pretty average when it comes to my subscription to superstition and new ageyness; I try pull myself back from notions of fate and to not read too much into coincidence.   I do have one weekly, delightful chink in this armor of practicality: Rob Brezsny’s Freewill Astrology.  I love my Tuesday night private indulgance in this one little paragraph wherein I’m free to squint into the few words for some self recognition.  If nothing can be found, at the very least it’s usually funny to read.  Here’s this weeks’ package (to be unwrapped):

The odometer will turn over soon, metaphorically speaking. The big supply of the stuff you stocked up on a while back is about to run out. The lessons you began studying a year ago have been completed, at least for now, and you’re not yet ready for the next round of teachings. These are just some of the indicators that suggest you should set aside time for reflection and evaluation. The world may come pounding at your door, demanding that you make a dramatic declaration or take decisive action, but in my opinion you should stall. You need to steep in this pregnant pause.

Every now and again, I read words that stop me just a little bit.  It has been almost exactly a year since I decided to pack up my life in Chicago and head for the hills. I don’t know that I can say that time is pounding at my door, but certainly there is an urgency or an expectancy lingering in the hall.

I dropped my dad off at the airport on Tuesday.  Now, Wednesday evening, he has finished his first days as an employee in Santiago.  The clock, however distant its’ measure, has been started on our new adventure.  For those of you that don’t know:  my father has accepted a position in Chile, and in about two months, I’ll be riding on his coattails to Santiago.  To me, it is still a story I tell people that I can’t quite believe.  Really, the most significant development of the week is that we’ve sold our bikes.  It’s been strange to do and sad to realize, but we can’t import used vehicles on more permanent terms into Chile.   We’ve been oddly fortunate, though, to find a father and daughter who want to take them – it seems so perfect, really.  She’s only just gotten her license and no doubt is living the same craziness and excitement I was just a short year ago.  He’s been riding for much longer and agrees that there is something fortuitous to passing bikes from one father daughter team to another.  Coincidence or fate… hmm.  Hard call.  But I like it.  I am sad to let go of Nancy: she’s been a true friend and carried me through an amazing time.  I am so pleased that she’ll be the new love of someone else.  And, truth be told, I’m already dreaming of my next bike, my next adventure…. For now the challenge lies in finding adventure in the everyday here in Santa fe.   Tick tock.

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And then a bit more…

When I told you I was leaving Chicago to ride a motorcycle with my father to Argentina, didn’t we all stand around and look at it as if it would be so long and so far from where we stood just then? Didn’t we think it was so much time and so many happenings away?

One of my favorite books (you won’t be surprised to hear, I think) is Madeleine L’ Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time.  In it is the idea of a tesseract- the author describes a right and left hand holding a string taut between them.  She writes that an ant would be able to cross the span by traversing the length of the string, but that there is a faster way: bring the two hands together and fold the distance.  A wrinkle across the distance of time. On the verge of returning, i can feel right and left drawing closer to one another.

My father and our friend Danell left for New Mexico yesterday afternoon – they should be home and resting around now.  It is an uneasy feeling to be on different continents after so much time and yet I know that for both us our return is an odd thing.  We’ve been making attempts to fade in to the background of Argentina – a passive and indiscernible protest of change.  Likely, there will be a kind of relief on the other end that I can’t quite see yet.

Buenos Aires is an incredible city.  If you get the chance, you really should come here.  Broad, open boulevards, twisting trees lining up along the streets, beautifully painted French colonial houses, parks, and outdoor cafes full of heady and dramatic conversation.  It is something made up of parts and yet fully its own thing.  You find yourself biting the lure of the sing-songish porteno accent, the tango, and the artsy-gritty feel that the city lays out for its tourists.  My father and I have long since left our appetite for churches and historical sights behind.  Mostly, we’ve spent our days wandering.  I can’t say that it’s the best or better way to come to know a city, but it is certainly an enjoyable one.  We’ve also hit the tourist markets: San Telmo for antiques, La Boca for tourist schlock, and Palermo Soho for boho chic.  We’ve taken in a tango show and a musical history of the arrival of the horse in argentine history. Best of all we’ve been in the company of friends traveling great distances to see us.  And. We. Have. Eaten.  So much beef, I don’t think I can appropriately describe.  Wine is as cheap as a trip to Starbucks, so there’s been plenty of that also.  It has been a final two weeks of indulgence.  Another protest, I’m sure, to our imminent return to normalcy.

I head to Albuquerque on Monday.  We still have to retrieve the bikes from Denver, the closest spot we could get them to New Mexico.  I had entertained notions of shipping to LA, but the reality of worn tires necessitated a closer option.  I still have a notion of heading west for a few weeks, but it requires some financial assessing.  I hope to keep writing to you here and sharing the experience of “what now?” –it is the next adventure.  I’m taking suggestions.

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Live from Argentina

Time. The time grows between our posts, it grows at our destinations. How much of it we have left to travel fades.  Its curious to think that normally a two week period to travel is a great luxury; for me, suddenly, it looks like sand escaping the upper cup of the hourglass.  Nevertheless, we are doing our best to use it well.  We’ve decided to try to add Uruguay to our list and, if we can make it, up to see Iguazu Falls.  We arrived in Mendoza, Argentina last night after staying in Santiago for five days.  We hadn’t anticipated staying that long, but we had a really wonderful experience there that made it difficult to leave voluntarily.

The route to Santiago was three long days’ drive from San Pedro de Atacama.  I should say before I move south, that San Pedro was an incredible experience.  We took the bags off of our bikes for a day and rode around the amazing landscape and traveled through the Valle de la Luna where you could walk through walls mostly composed of salt crystals and hear them expanding in the heat.  If you didn’t know what it was, you’d expect the walls to crash down around you; fortunately we’d been warned. The town itself was almost exclusively tourist driven, but the food was great and the night skies were gorgeous: we were truly in the middle of nowhere.  Driving out through the desert, its hard to imagine how people survive that climate.  Occasionally, we would pass by remnants of towns or work sites, its hard to say- everything dissolves back into earth in a way that its hard to know what is old and what is ancient.   And then there might be a geoglyph or two, or a giant hand statue.  Somehow, when there’s nothing around, anything is possible.

We arrived in Santiago and got lost as soon as we could.  We had made a reservation and had an address but little sense of where we were.  After a few detours we made our way to the Providencia neighborhood where we greeted and welcomed to the petit hotel L’Ambassade (www.ambassade.cl).  This hotel would become our home while we stayed in the city, its proprietors our good friends.  It’s owned and operated by three siblings: Maria Jose, Pia, and Adolphe Parolin.  They took us in and adopted us and even spent their days off with us.  I’ll admit that they helped me put Santiago high on the list of places I might like to live.  The city itself reminded me a lot of Chicago, actually – lots of trees, broad streets, less high rises and more 3-4 flats.  We took the bikes to the dealer and had them serviced – new front brakes for me and a decision not to change the tires (yay! tires would’ve been crazy expensive) and fresh oil all around.  We had a few days to see a few things, but mostly we wandered.  An old friend met up with us for dinner we talked more about the city and how its developing and the quality of life there.  hmmm….

Some of the stories we’ve heard  about the earthquake have been jarring.  Most people, despite their material losses, overwhelmingly described their gratitude at having the health and safety of their friends and family.  It is a thing I cannot imagine and am glad to not have experienced.  There were signs here and there: downed pedestrian bridges, crumbled facades, twisted balconies.  Everyone mentioned it in some way or another- it is a bruise on the consciousness of the city.  Though my friend Nils expressed his feeling that it has brought a welcome sense of togetherness to the country.

So now we are in Mendoza.  The ride here was beautiful and surprisingly, driving into Mendoza at night felt like we might’ve been somewhere in the US.  Slowly, as we draw closer to our return, the end point looks more like the beginning. Time compresses.  And tomorrow, we trade in our motorcycles for bicycles and head for the vineyards of Maipu.  Not a bad way to spend a day.

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There to here and a few more to go….

Lima is a huge and inviting city.  We were only there for a day and the food poisoning we picked up in Trujillo was still working its magic so we left before we had a chance to really see much.  I know that both of us would jump at the chance to return. We stayed in a hotel on the quiet side of the neighborhood Miraflores and had an afternoon of lazy street wandering.  There was a Starbucks not too far away and we were sincerely excited, but my stomach just couldn’t handle it.  After two months of Nescafe and coffee “syrup”, Starbucks really fires up a sense of wonder.  We’ll have to wait for Santiago.  Just a 15 minute walk from the hotel was an incredible view of the ocean; we sat high up at a cafe and looked out at the expanse of sky.  It felt like a snapshot of easy living.  To finish off a quiet recuperation day we went and saw Alice in 3-D.  It was a strange thing to sit down in a dark room and do something so normal for a day in Chicago or Santa Fe.  When the lights came back up I was a little bewildered – my brain didn’t know what it would encounter when we walked outside.  A little magical realism of our own.

Every day that we ride I think I’ve seen something so beautiful, so different and singular that it must be the most beautiful thing that I will see this entire trip.  That somehow I can package it in my mind and store it in aisle 3 under the Most Beautiful where I will later retrieve it and hand it off when asked about what I’ve seen.  Peru has so many incredible landscapes.  We’ve ridden through broad deserts that match perfectly the stock photo in your brain when someone says “desert”.  And there have been deserts that resemble lunar landscapes with giant jagged mountains spearing up from the earth in solitary breaks of the horizon line.  The sands have been yellow, red, white, and beaches have stretched for mile after empty mile.  At times the wind would rise up and kick up a sandstorm: a million stinging points on your neck and swirling designs dancing on the road.  This is how we got to Nazca, home of the infamous Nazca lines which are seen from a small prop plane you can catch – except when the pilots are on strike (as they were during our stay).  Its a lovely town with a lively plaza that teems on a Saturday night.  By this point, the food poisoning had mostly ceded control of my stomach and I was able to get back to the business of touring food.  Hoo-ray!

We headed the next morning back into the mountains – we had a two day trip ahead of us to get to Cusco.  In retrospect, neither of us knew exactly what we were getting ourselves into on the drive, although I’m not sure we could’ve anticipated the weather we hit.  The first leg of the day was beautiful: climbing up red, dry sandy mountains, swinging like bells around the curving roads.  There were corners so tight and blind that there were signs posted saying “honk your horn” to advertise your presence to the other side.  Here we are on our motos – meep! meep meep meep! Incoming are enormous steel walled trucks.  Meep!  Fortunately, we made it through. 

Eventually, red smeared into green and still dry mountain roads and the temperature began to drop.  We looked out ahead and saw greenish grey skies and surges of lightning.  We put on our rain gear and pressed on and temperature just kept falling.  That afternoon we road through rain, hail, lightening and thunder, and on snowy, icy roads.  The temperature got down to 36 degrees and there was nothing for miles except bad weather.  Our hands were numb, my feet were numb, and all we could do was keep going.  I don’t know that I’ve ever been worried about frostbite really before, but in those hours I was shifting gears based on where i thought my hands and feet were rather than where I could feel them.  For both of us, getting through that day was an exercise in determination – we had no choice but to keep going.  We didn’t get to our destination until about 8 that evening- thankfully the last hour or so was significantly lower in elevation and warmer in temperature.

The next day we made our way to Cusco – another day of channeling through gorgeous mountains and valleys, rising up through red clay peaks.  The closer we came to Cusco, the more evidence of the recent havoc wrought by heavy rains: displaced people living in tents and clay piles creeping up on houses, roads, and everything in its path.  We swung down into town following a local rider who volunteered to lead us in to our hotel – and we never would’ve found it without him.  Cusco is another city that I will lament our fast passage through – beautiful, friendly, less polished then other colonial cities, but with its fair share of pricey boutique stores and restaurants.  A confluence of interests.  Time available is waning, though, and we’re on a tasting menu schedule.  So we took a day and walked the streets – narrow and winding cobblestones, hippies everywhere, llamas, alpacas, inca stone work that is unbelievable, and one of the grandest cathedrals we’ve seen.  We also sought out Norton Rats Pub – what a great spot.  We got to have a real honest-to-god cheeseburger and fries and sign the book of moto travelers passing through over the years.  Jeff, the owner and Norton Rat rider, introduced himself and gave us a great welcome to town.  This man knows everything there is to know about riding that entire area and is a generous resource in knowledge and spirit.  We were sad to go, as we always are these days, but countries are big down here and we had our sights set on Bolivia.

It seems like our parking spots are getting smaller and smaller and involve higher curbs every time. It took me a little longer than is respectable to get out of that last one, but whatever.  We always think we’ll zip out of town- but getting out of Cusco involved bypassing a pretty substantial protest- it was a strange moment to be a foreigner on an expensive motorcycle stopped next to a protest being waged by campesinos against the government.  What do they see when they look at us?  Some smiles and nods – we definitely draw attention.  Some stone faces.  It highlights your own privilege and certainly made me uneasy.  We found our way around eventually and headed to Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca.  Like a twelve year old, its really hard for me to name the lake with a straight face.  I just can’t do it.  The lake is beautiful, though.  Y’know, that lake.  hm.  We saw some gorgeous views of it on our way to the border- we were so high up (12,500) and the air was clear and sharp.

This was, to date, our easiest border crossing, albeit a pricey one.  There is a reciprocal visa cost for Americans entering Bolivia- we charge them $135, so they charge us the same.  The process felt a little shady – an immigration officer took us into a separate room and wiggled his fingers and with a broad grin said “money! money! dinero!”. It was a little surreal. After we paid the fee and got the visas, he walked us out and called out loudly: “Visa!” to which several other officers throughout the building yelled back in kind “Visa!”.   As we found out a few days later, we were lucky to get the visas as the strained relations between the US and Bolivia have both countries denying the others’ entry.  We cleared the aduana and lost an hour to time zone change, but made it in to La Paz around 6.  The city has grown immensely in the 13 years we’ve been gone.  We’re glad to be here though, and to see the internal structure that remains recognizable to us.      I’ll sign off now with the expectation that we have time and WIFI available these next few days to keep you updated.  There’s always so much more to say.

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Playing Catch-Up

I Know We Are Egregiously Behind.  Sincerest (mostly) Apologies.  I am posting this half finished and outdated and then handing the reigns to dad who will try to fill some more gaps. I hope its interesting J.

I started to write this note swinging in a hammock outside of my hotel room, which sat above a beautiful valley just outside of Vilcabamba, Ecuador. In the distance, you could hear the ever-present rooster crowing (an ambient sound we’ve grown to expect everywhere) and the occasional donkey braying (hilarious).  Occasionally, a stray thunder roll.  Mother Nature’s roll call.  Bugs, bugs, bugs. Crazy new ones we’ve never seen and spiders you could put on a leash.  I daily dip myself in sun block and Off and hope to both bask in nature while I repel it.  Ha.

Tomorrow we head for the Peruvian border after a week and a half in Ecuador.  On our way down from Quito, we stopped in Riobamba for one night and stayed in Cuenca for two.  In Riobamba, we stayed in the Hotel Rio Roma, which, I’m happy to report, is a biker-friendly hotel. The owner, Julio, who is also a biker, gave us both a discount and great conversation.

We decided to stay for an extra day in Cuenca once we rode in and saw how lovely it was.  Every time you think you’re tired of another colonial city you’re charmed by the next one.  They become variations on a theme – so many similarities but of course, each reinterpreted by time and interests.  We actually took a double-decker tour of the town and later wandered around until we found the hat museum.  Panama hats, it turns out, are made in Ecuador.  They’re really beautiful creations, so crisp and almost luminous.  Not long after we found a bar on a corner in the Zona Rosa and watched the world pass for hours.  Minus a bizarre five minutes where the street was flooded with high school kids circling up to egg on a fistfight between two classmates, it was a quiet, easing night.

And then, to Vilcabamba!  We rode off into the mountains a bit out of the way to go to a sort of backpackers resort called Izhkayluma.  It’s tucked up in a mountainside, blanketed in a green that seems to grow while you watch. The place is decked out in hammocks and views and offers spa services for twelve bucks.  It’s really pretty fantastic.  Best of all, we met some great people.  Two of which were Janice and Pauline, who had left their home in Ireland last year and flew to Santiago where they bought bikes and went out for an adventure with no substantial riding experience and very little Spanish.  Really impressive women who just decided to go have an adventure and made it happen.  We were sorely tempted to stick around for their St Patrick’s Day celebration, but time is beginning to weigh on our goals so we suited up and made a rainy departure.

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City to City, Continent to Continent

The power generator here just kicked in. Here is the hotel El Virrey in Bogota, Colombia. It’s not the first time the power has gone out on our adventures, but it’s surprising in the middle of such an expansive metropolis. The city is big and it bustles – I looked up “bustles” out of curiosity and I like even better the phrase Merriam-Webster offers: this city is busily astir.  We left one for another – we spent two days rambling around Panama City.  Neither of us had been to Panama City since I was about nine years old.  My father can tell you how different the city is now – there is more development then you can imagine. Skyscrapers appear out of nowhere, and more then likely they are under constructions and in the realm of 100 floors. I can’t see how different it is –  I, of course, could only see how much it resembled my fuzzy 3 ft tall memories.  We set out for our old neighborhood in search of our apartment building.  The cab rolled up in front of a shopping mall when we told him the neighborhood – replete with a D&G and Jimmy Choo. It’s a more recent addition to the landscape. We marched through the streets on the hunt for crappy buildings with fewer then 10 floors.  There weren’t many and we bobbed back and forth through the streets trying to reorient ourselves through time, development, and decay.  Finally we found it, the Vista Mar, just where we left it so many years ago. Its a bit dingier than it was back then, but it was pretty cool to see, dwarfed in the path of time passing. Seeing proof that we had lived there, that we had some small claim on that city, made it a bit more accessible and less different.  It opened up just a bit more.  Its a beautiful place, much saltier and rough then Costa Rica. The roughness gave it some raw appeal- though the slums were vast and unsettling.  So much poverty sits beside its opposite.  You know things are tough when your cab driver applies the automatic locks on certain streets.  We made the requisite stop at the canal, too, which I think neither of us were really psyched about but both of us really enjoyed. We showed up to the restaurant after the visitors center closed and before the dinner crowd arrived and had the patio to ourselves. It was pretty cool. I took a video that I’ll post on flickr, though i doubt it will be as interesting as it was in person.

The last two days have largely been devoted to getting us to Colombia. We took the bikes to the cargo section of the airport yesterday morning and spent the better part of the day trying to get the paperwork square and find a cab back in to town. We booked flights and bought jumbo bags because we couldn’t ship any of our luggage in the bags on the bikes. This morning we trekked to the airport with unreal amounts of baggage and got in line for … air travel. It was a strange feeling.  The best part about it was that we sprung for business class tickets because there was only a $32 difference but it bought us 40 kilos of permissible baggage weight.  So for an hour and a half we flew in big squishy chairs like classy bitches and were waited on hand and foot. It seemed like we might be on the path to the fastest border crossing day yet. That was foolishness.  The bikes were there when we got there, which was very exciting, but there was a still a hike across the airport campus, a visit to the aduana, a search for a photocopy machine, a trek back, and the most excruciatingly slow form filling out I’ve ever beheld.  All told it took about three hours to import the bikes which gave us the paperwork we needed to have the shipper release the bikes.  Then there was the process of getting the bikes off the loading dock. I’m trying to load the video – I’m not sure if the WIFI here is strong enough, but I will get it here soon to watch- it was a tense four minutes! We didn’t make it to our hotel until about 6 this evening. The ride in to town was confusing and landed on rush hour, but we got it done.  The ride in was also strange because EVERYONE stares at us on our bikes here.  People would stop in the street to stare.  The crowd that saw us off at the cargo hold was surreal. So of course we rode off in the wrong direction.  They were still there when we came back to go the correct way.  Every last one. There are a surprising number of bikes on the road- at any given time you could find yourself a part of a moto posse.  The city here is crowded and messy – construction, buses, dogs, exhaust and grime.  Its totally energizing and indeed, busily astir. I’ll try to get some decent pictures tomorrow.

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Its tomorrow and we’ve had a day full of nothing much, yet somehow its been exhausting.  We decided to start out by taking our bikes in for service to the Autogermana BMW center here in Bogota.  About halfway to our destination, a policeman stepped out into three lanes of busy traffic to pull us over. You can be pulled over here absolutely arbitrarily.  We were asked for our insurance, which we had none, and told to leave our bikes in the street and walk four blocks up the way to purchase the appropriate coverage.  So I stayed with the bikes while Dad went off on an adventure.  I can’t express how much attention we draw here – I’m not sure if its the size or our bikes or the fact that we’re not wearing the safety vests the locals wear or what but its a little unnerving how many stares we get. So I sat on the street with the bikes for an hour and was the subject of silent fascination.  Eventually, Dad returned with insurance cards in hand and we were told by the officer that the insurance wasn’t valid until midnight so we should leave the bikes there.  Which we argued down and convinced him to let us get as far as the dealer. Thank God.  Watching the hordes of buses just skirt past the very edge of the bikes was…uncomfortable. 

We made it to Autogermana and were met by Edgar Gomez who generously gave us his time and advice with regards to our bike service and our stay in Bogota. He was so kind and enthusiastic – we’re both looking forward to seeing him again tomorrow when we pick up the bikes. He also offered to go to buy safety vests with our license plates on them, so maybe we’ll be a little bit less conspicuous.  Maybe.

We spent the latter half of our afternoon roaming the halls of the Museum of Gold – just a few blocks from our hotel.  The museum itself is beautiful, before you even begin considering the incredible collection of pieces the have.  Dad kept marveling over how amazing it is that across the world people were inventing the techniques of metallurgy independent of each other.  Honestly, about three wall plaques in I gave up reading descriptions and just gave over to wandering and staring at the surprisingly intricate figurines and jewelry.  It was a lovely way to spend a meandering afternoon.

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Pura Vida in Costa Rica

fig treeWe’ve been busy. Busy with fun!  It has really been an incredible couple of days since we left Grenada, which was its own wonderful world of fun. Our latest adventure was absolutely born out of a miserable day at the border. Every time we  change countries, we label it Border Crossing Day almost as if we’re identifying in advance that it is bound to be a difficult and frustrating day.  All the way to the border, we call out the name of the day – attempting to invoke some kind of patience we know we don’t have; to draw upon our better, more adventurous selves that can meet any obstacle with easy going, happy sentiment.  We actively try to kid ourselves.  It took us FIVE HOURS to get across the Nicaragua/Costa Rica border.  We stood in line after line with busloads of Mollytourists and locals – waiting for tiny little official pieces of paper to shuttle from one counter to the other – a signature here, an inspection there, and mostly just someone dragging the cheese around for us to follow through the maze of desks behind windows.  It was, to date, our worst border crossing.  We survived, and we successfully imported the bikes and had them fumigated, and were off to Flamingo Beach in the dark.  Because we apparently always ride in the dark, despite our best intentions. The landscape (what we saw of it before the sun went down) was beautiful- the road wound through lush hills and past beautiful volcanoes.  The roadside was incredibly clean – a marked difference from Nicaragua. The road itself was lined and had reflectors – its the little things that we take for granted that make life so much easier down here.

At the end of our day we landed at the Flamingo Beach Resort in Guanacaste, met by my brother (James), sister-in-law (Becky), niece (Molly), and three cousins (Chris, Monica, and their daughter, Sarah).  We were at the resort Thursday through Monday and had such a fantastic time.  First and foremost, it was such an absolute treat to have familiar faces waiting to meet us. We got the chance to share some adventure with friends other than just ourselves and spend time with dear family that we rarely get to see- it was awesome.  The hotel itself was right on the beach and the constant breaking of waves became the backdrop for our weekend. We spent the first day wandering around the beach and lounging in the pool.  That afternoon we went out on a catamaran a ways and went snorkeling. It was my first time and I wasn’t sure how I would do with the whole “we’re all in the water together” thing.  I’ve seen plenty of marine life and been perfectly happy with that 5 inch pane of glass between us. It was fantastic.  The water was murky but our guide did everything he could to find us things to check out – he found a sea cucumber, Monica and Sarah!starfish, and blowfish, all of which we got to hold. The blowfish was bright yellow and as I held him in my palm I could feel his eyes looking around anxiously to try to figure out what the hell was going on. When the guide let him go he shot like a bloated rocket into the murky depths, a dimming yellow lightbulb sinking into the rest of that vast world.  We got back into the boat and sailed out to watch the sunset on the open water. Just for a moment, dolphins swam with us just beyond my feet dangled off the front of the boat. The clouds looked more like paint then reality that evening  and the sun settled down to the bottom of the edge of the world.  It was a sunset I don’t think I’ll ever forget.

On Saturday we headed to the Buena Vista Lodge with our tour guide, Johnny, who probably knows more about the history and environment of Costa Rica then you can imagine. At the lodge we did a canopy tour, we went down a (concrete) water slide, bathed in volcanic mud, hot springed, and rode around the property in a tractor. It was a strange combination of activities but it was a lot of fun and dusted off memories of summer camp.  The canopy tour was really the highlight- swinging through trees with our guides Gary and Javier who took every opportunity to shake the cables and scare the hell out of us. The views were so verdant and full- it took the edge off the reality of our defiance of gravity.  And we got to wear some awesome looking helmets.nice

The last evening of our stay Chris, Monica and I went with another family from California and two of the guys from the scuba shop at the hotel to a bull-riding rodeo that was going on in the neighboring town of Brasilito.  Alex and Pablo bought us tickets and took us up to the rickety bleachers lining the ring.  We sat and waited from maybe 20 minutes before the show started – Pablo explained that they had to wait for the ambulance to arrive before things got underway.  We saw why almost immediately.  These bull riders aren’t wearing helmets or kevlar- they’re bare-headed in t-shirts and jeans.  When they go down, and many of them went down brutally, they’re grabbed by the arms and legs and dragged to a portion of the ring that is painted with a red cross and shoved through the first aid hole in the wall.  My jaw dropped, but the Californians turned green.  I don’t think it was quite the cultural experience they were expecting.  It was really interesting for me to be next to my cousins who are from Colorado and are familiar with US rodeo and on the other side, Pablo, who could explain the customs and announcements as they were coming.  It was a pretty brutal evening for bull and rider – nobody came out of the ring unscathed.

this bug lived on my door. i called him grandfather. i dunno.And of course, I stayed for the party afterwards. Which was a fantastic time.  I could definitely go back to that place and hang out for a while.  We’ll see which way the wind blows in May…

Costa Rica really is an interesting country – it has the highest literacy rate in the western hemisphere, socialized medicine, and no military. It seems to be doing quite well off of its tourist industry and is working hard to preserve its natural ecosystems.  The ticos (Costa Ricans) are incredibly proud (which ,from what we’ve seen, they have every rite to be) and yet they are an easy going, warm culture.  It has easily become one of my favorite destinations so far on this journey and i find myself wishing we had more time to kick around the countryside looking for more adventure.  We’ve drifted around for the last two days through surf towns on the southern coast. Tomorrow we’ll probably head to Panama, and then start thinking about South America.  I can’t believe we’re all the down here!Pura Vida!

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