It was the end of snow season in Colorado and the date was April 28, when we planned our sun escape to Costa Rica. Pulling out of Aspen was a thing of beauty since it snowed a freakish amount of 36 inches over night. We were the only ones on the highway as we made our way to to the Denver airport.
In preparation for the trip I told my friend Bruce to be aware of snakes and make sure he had some good climbing boots as we would be visiting some volcanoes and mountainous terrain. To my greatest amazement when we were going through customs in San Jose, Costa Rica the inspector pulled out a leather pistol holster and raised his eyebrows. I immediately opened my three drawer tackle box and shoved the contents of some my best lures to the inspector.
He patted Bruce’s bag and put a check mark on it meaning OK.
After a good nights sleep at one of the local hotels we proceeded to the government run travel agency and was handed a brochure for the new fishing camp located near Tambor. The brochure indicated primitive fishing, tents, and dinning facilities. The map showed less than a mile from the small town of Tambor.
Oe more day in San Jose while we gathered supplies, tested out the local fruit carts, drank fresh sugar cane juice and ended up at the Costa Rican hotel for afternoon coffee. At this point Bruce was dressed like Dr. Livingston— complete with three foot high, leather snake boots, kaki trousers, safari shirt, and a white pith helmet. This outfit together with his Notre Dame fullback stature and measuring 6 foot five inches made quite a spectacle to the local ticos as well as anyone else who kept staring at Bruce as if he was an endangered specimen.
The following morning we bused to the town of Puntarenas. On the way the local bus-driver kept picking up extra passengers, who were standing in the isles until he spotted a cop at the bottom of a steep hill who had already clocked him past one hundred miles an hour. The bus-driver instructed the stand-up passengers to lay flat on the floor. This is one time my prayers worked. I prayed for a slowdown and the bus driver not only slowed down, but picked up a triple ticket for speeding, reckless driving, and carrying too many passengers. He drove like a sensible pussycat for the remainder of the trip.
I could also see why he was driving like the wind when he pulled over at the local restaurant rest-stop and he kicked back into leisure time. You drive fast so you can have more rest at the local restaurant and tease with the waitresses and what-not.
Spending the night in Puntarenas we elected to fly to Tambor in the Nicoya Peninsula the following morning. For breakfast we had “Huevos Rancheros” hot style and I wasn’t feeling that great when the porky pilot pulled the airplane with a rope out of a tobacco shed. We each had 70 lbs. of gear plus our body weight, plus the pilots body-weight, plus the airplane was jammed full of supplies.
As we taxied down the runway and our pilot continued with the Jesus crossing himself maneuvers, I finally told him to stop I had an emergency bathroom call. He pulled to the edge of the jungle while we had a short break. Back in the plane we were taxying down the runway when beads of sweat were pouring from the pilots forehead. He pounded the dashboard with both fists, let out a few cuss words, and we were airborne. Just barely flying over a body of water we could see hundreds of sharks right underneath the shadow of the plane.
Bruce indicated he might not mind going out in style, but surely didn’t want to be eaten by the sharks if we crashed in the water. Bruce took his glasses off and said:” well we had a good life brother this might be the end.” The plane headed toward a jungle patch going straight down. He landed hard on the sand and taxied up the beach and threw a huge mail bag out. “Amigos we are on the mail run.” Not coming to a complete stop he revved the vintage plane up— just enough to clear the next set of coconut tress and we did this three more times before he spun around in front of the only building which was a cantina/store right on the beach. “This is it amigos— this is downtown Tambor! ”
We stumbled out of the plane and bellied up to the cantina where we each ordered a cold cerveza. The store clerk said no-one flies on the mail run– it is too peligroso (dangerous). There were at least 7 or 8 killed just this summer. The planes are too old and don’t have enough power to get in and out of these tight spots.
Still shaking and giving a few Dios Mios we enquired about Coco Loco. She said: “you can’t go there this time of year because the mud road is washed out.” We showed her our map which showed the fish camp less than a mile from the town of Tambor. We told her we would walk along the beach and she just shook her head and indicated: “if we went the other direction— just about one fourth of a mile we could see the American Statesman and he would probably know all about it.”
The thermometer at the store read 112 degrees Fahrenheit. Walking along the beach even one forth of a mile with 70 lb backpacks, plus our fishing gear made us sweat like pigs. Upon arriving at a small beach hut with an American and Costa Rican flags mounted on a palm tree ——we knew we had arrived.
Grey, silver, bleached hair, and wearing nothing but a speedo swimsuit he said: “About time you engineers showed up. You can start building the revolving hotel tomorrow morning.”
There is crazy, then there is crazy, crazy, but this guy had the full monte and was definitely crazy, crazy, crazy. He went on to say that his daughter was taking typing lessons on the piano and sang better than Joan Baez. His new Tico wife and several children seemed to fit right in. The beach was concave and was as beautiful a beach as I have ever seen.
The question is who’s crazy like a fox— our very own American Statesman. He was an American from the states not a diplomat as the store owner indicated. He has someone to wait on him— hand and foot, cook his meals and the entire afternoon they spend swimming and hunting for driftwood, which he makes works of art out of. Still swearing up and down that we were the hotel engineers and could start in the morning, he mumbled on and on about the Russians. He indicated we had to build fast before the Russians arrived and marched us around at gunpoint. He continued to demonstrate with a broomstick as he marched briskly with sharp turns aroud his beach house.
Wondering If I should enquire about Coco Loco? “Coco Loco now that’s a different story– I think that it is only a fantasy and doesn’t really exist.” I showed him the brochure and map and he laughed out loud like a a hyena. ” Maybe on paper— it doesn’t exist in the real world.” We bid our adieus and said adios. He countered with: “they all say that but eventually someone will build my revolving hotel. See you tomorrow morning at 7 o’clock sharp.”
Hiking back to our starting point it seemed to be getting hotter and Bruce and I were beginning to believe Coco Loco didn’t exist. But since it’s only approximately one mile up beach from where we landed we might as well find out for ourselves. Nothing ventured nothing gained we said to ourselves under our breaths— wiping the sweat from our brows.
We had already walked several miles when a wiry Costa Rican came up on a skinny horse and asked us where we were headed. We told him Coco Loco! He laughed out loud. “Are you sure you want to go there? They only have the bare essentials. This isn’t some high class fishing fraternity you read about in the magazines.” He instructed us to take our back packs off and rest for a while.
About twenty minutes later our new best friend came with two more horses trailing the one he was riding. Bruce, all 6-foot five and his backpack mounted his dog-like horse with his feet touching the ground. I mounted mine and off we went along the beach. After several hours of riding a group of bandidos descended upon us with revolvers drawn. The leader had his pistola stuck in his front pants with the revolver handle in plain sight. They circled us and told us we were trespassing and that this was private land and that we would be shot for cattle rustling if we didn’t turn around immediately.
The leader asked us where we from and where we were headed. We told him Denver, Colorado and we were headed to Coco Loco for a weeks fishing expedition. He smiled and immediately warmed up and said: “he was going to the Denver Cattle Show next week and that we were more than welcome to cross his property. He yelled out: “Buena Surete (Good Luck) You will be on your own once you reach Coco Loco. Their horses whipped around and sped off in a different direction.
Three hours later I said:”let’s take a rest these horses need a break and so do we.” I showed our guide the map and he told me: “it was drawn wrong and we had at least two more hours by horseback.”
As dusk neared we arrived at Coco Loco. It looked more like an outfitters camp from Africa than a fishing camp. It had six white wall tents mounted on plywood foundations, complete with a gas operated refrigerator, filled with cold beer and mosquito netting completely surrounding the tent. To our South there was three overhead tents set up for the camp kitchen and portable bathroom facilities set up to the rear of the camp. You couldn’t see a house or a neighbor for miles and we were just beginning to wonder what we were getting ourselves into when our guide threw a machete at Bruce, which stuck in the tree about a foot above his head.
He then wheeled his horse around and indicated with a hand slash across the neck. “Este Noche mi amigos” and spun off through the darkness of the night. I blamed the whole thing on Bruce for dressing like an African Outfitter. “No wonder they sent us out here in the jungle they just wanted to make you feel at home.”
Dead tired I was ready to turn in when Bruce got the brilliant idea that they would sneak in on us in the middle of the night and slash our heads off. He said: “we needed to take four hour patrol duty around the tent.” He then proceeded to take out his new 38 revolver which was put into his ditty bag for camouflage and placed it in his holster.
We flipped coins as to who would have the first watch. I won so soon it will be lights out for me. Because of the extreme heat, Bruce stripped down to his green military underwear and leather snake-boots and proceeded to load his revolver. Off he went into the night making square military turns as he guarded our tent.
Drifting off to sleep I was sure I was having the worst nightmare of my life when I heard murderous howling coming from the jungle trees from the ridge just behind our encampment. Bruce came running into the tent white as a sheet. “What in the hell do you suppose that is?.” I said: “whatever it is— it surely doesn’t sound good!” It turned out to be Howler Monkeys. But if you have never heard them before or wonder how they got their name. You need to wonder no-more. They make a tremendous roar which will scare the be-Jesus out of you.
Moments later I drifted back to sleep and didn’t even care if they came and killed me or not. I was exhausted and just wanted to sleep. A few hours later Bruce came in and shook me to take my turn as security guard. I told Bruce I was exhausted and just wanted to sleep. He indicated I had to pull myself together or I might just die here on the spot. According to Bruce our guide cooked for us for two days and finally wrote in the sand with a stick that Coco Loco was not officially opened yet and may do so some time in the future. He told Bruce our charge was FREE and if he wanted to tip him for his services that would help him and his family.. Bruce told me he gave him an equivalent of a months pay in Costa Rican money.
The next thing I remember was being bounced along the trail sideways on my horse like they tied up the banditos from the western movies. It was high noon and hotter than blazes. I felt like this was the end of the line. Bruce told me he couldn’t wake me even the next day and I probably had a touch of sleeping sickness. Our guide said: “we won’t need to fly back we can take the ferry.”
Still sicker than three dogs, I met a traveling doctor on the ferry, who gave me three kinds of medicines to take and I dozed off immediately because I couldn’t keep my eyes open. Bruce let out a white feathered lure from his fishing rod and reel and got into a school of Sierra Mackerel which fed everyone on the ferry. I continued to sleep and somehow made it back to the states. Since this article isn’t carbon-dated you may discover a few changes in the Nicoya Peninsula since my first visit in the early seventies. And whatever you do always look for Coco Loco days ——the alternative is downright boring.
QUOTE: “For twenty seven years I’ve always sought the Way. Well, this morning we passed Like strangers on the road.”
– Kokuin (10th century) ——dailyzen.com
THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW: How does the Pelican use it’s pouch? The pelican has a long beak and an enormous elastic pouch connected to its underside. The pelican uses its pouch to feed itself and its young. Living by the shore, this bird’s diet consists mainly of fish. The pouch is a very efficient fish net.
If the pelican passes a shoal of fish, it puts its lower beak in the water and swims forward, using its pouch like a net. When the pouch is full of both fish and water, the pelican closes its mouth and the water drains out. If there are a lot of fish in the water, the pelican may keep scooping them up until its pouch is bulging.
The mother pelican also uses her pouch to feed her young. She partly digests her own food, then passes it back from her stomach into the pouch. The young pelicans dip in, eating from this convenient “bowl.” They eat until the pouch is empty, and sometimes fall into it too.
The pouch of the pelican can stretch so much that it can carry 12 quarts of water or 30 pounds of fish!——bigsiteofamazingfacts.com
THINGS YOU MAY WANT TO SAVE: Why save endangered species? Plants and animals hold medicinal, agricultural, ecological, commercial and aesthetic/recreational value. Endangered species must be protected and saved so that future generations can experience their presence and value. —–endangeredspecie.com
ZENTRAVELER SAYS: Nuts can mean many things! Squirrels hoard them. See how many sentences you can come up with using nuts as the theme. Now that’s nutz!
Follow the Zentraveler Blog often for Travel, Health and Zen-like stories and such. Where else can you get a three in one blog for the price of free.