There I am downtown Limon on the Caribbean east coast. Spending time in the park with it’s huge trees I spot my first sloth sort of hanging upside down. I chuckle to mysel! He probably moved to Limon so he could take part in the Reggae type music and all of the festivities that take place throughout the year. Now that’s some cool sloth I think to myself—-just hanging out.
Hidden away in the fish-part of my mind is the opportunity to fish tarpon on the Rio Colorado river. I had sent away for a video and received a video from one of the sportsman’s shows— showing huge tarpon taken on fly-rods and plugs. Written somewhere they claim the World Record Tarpon is rolling in the river just waiting for the next fisherman to get a hook-up. Knowing I couldn’t afford the luxury fish camp treatment, where you prepay x amount of dollars and are catered to like a king— from the airport pickup to a fly-in plus your meals and yes if you are not careful with your instructions they might even set the hook for you. I was hoping to put my own trip together and go out with some of the locals and fish for tarpon.
After a few inquiries and checking my map I knew it was possible to trek by river all the way to the Rio Colorado situated on the Nicaraguan border. The Rio Colorado where it empties into the Caribbean is the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
Making my way by hitching I arrived at Mion the last port where boats set off for northern river travel. Some go as far as Tortuguero, a famous resort and eco-travel area situated directly on the Caribbean. Tortuguero is beautiful series of canals and jungle lodging with their total emphasis on the Green turtle. They have made arrangements with the locals, who can collect a set amount of turtle eggs for eating, at the beginning of the season. Then the locals help conservation officers with all of the duties of turtle watching, protection and hatching. This is an excellent example of keying into the locals and getting them involved in a worldwide project. The only way we can make a difference is to teach conservation from the grass roots. My hat’s off to Costa Rica! They are doing a fantastic job of incorporating eco-tourism with conservation.
All of the boats were either booked or wouldn’t be leaving for a few days. A Rastarfarrian fellow with a rainbow colored hat and a rather large beard approached me and asked me where I was headed. I told him the Rio Colorado river on the Costa Rican side. We negotiated a price for the trip and moments later he showed up with a twelve foot, two-seater panga, with a large round, plastic, see thru waste can— filled with petrol and connected with a see thru plastic line to the engine.
As we headed north the jungle became more intense and the dream of a lifetime was unfolding before my eyes, I have always wanted to be an explorer and when you are on such a trek your creative mind takes over and you actually believe you are one of the original explorers- or so you have the feeling. This is it—– you say to yourself!
Monkeys hollered and chattered as they leaped across the canopy, all sorts of colorful birds dove across the water and cruised at various speeds out of sight. It was just my guide Rafael, myself, and the river. We haven’t passed one boat nor spotted one building or spotted one human. It was just us and nature as we cruised up the river. What a feeling!
I felt at least in the company of Zane Grey and Ernest Hemingway who pioneered the sport-fishing industry. I tipped my hat to Zane and Ernest as I spotted large fish rolling and jumping up ahead. My guide noticed my enthusiasm every time a fish broke water and ask: “if I wanted to fish some.” He went on to say: “one of his buddies had some trolling rods which we could rent and we could also get lunch.” I told him: “great! Sounds like a plan.”
We docked in front of a small river shack and ate a typical Costa Rican lunch arroz con pescado and fried bananas. I thought to myself I could eat this every day of my life and be very happy. After lunch we trolled up and down the river with feathers and plugs. We caught several fish in the five pound category that looked like they were in the jack family and returned to the fishing shack. My guide said: “those fish will make some family a tremendous meal.” We gave his friend the fish, bid our goodbye’s, and headed up river.
The river kept getting more exotic and beautiful with large translucent blue butterflies dancing over the water as if they were in a ballet. We came to the exit point for Tortuguero and he asked me: ” if I wanted to spend the night here.” I told the guide I would like to push on and arrive at the Rio Colorado River lodge this evening—- if possible.
At the divide in the river he turned left and headed up a more narrow river system. After a hour or so of river cruising he picked up the see thru waste can gasoline tank and shook it. “Bad news we don’t have enough gasoline to make it.” As if belly shot I half-heartily asked: “What do you recommend?” He hesitated and said: “if we are lucky I have a friend up river who might have some petrol.” Great I thought! What have I gotten myself into this time? Is it the boiling pot? A downright river murder plot or just an excuse to steal a tourista’s money through a well planned river hi-jack. I bet they do this all the time to unsuspecting tourists. With my mind beginning to run wild I finally said to myself what do I care all I can lose is my life. Looking at my Rastafarrian Guide I began to say to myself: “Don’t worry— be happy!”
I point this out because here you our on your trip of a lifetime without a care in the world and then boom, bang, your stomach is beginning to tie up in knots. I wasn’t looking forward to spending the night in a twelve foot panga with mosquitos, the size of small helicopters, baring down on me.
Or a hungry jaguar leaping out of the woods for a midnight snack. The jungle seemed to be crowding the river and crowding my thinking. Shadows were making the river look dark and foreboding. If I was Zen enough I would accept the fact that I’m ok when things are great and I am also ok when things are shitty. But, we westerners aren’t built that way-but we can always learn.
After-all if you boil it all down. Life is a journey—– isn’t it!
Rafael slowed the boat down for maximum efficiency and even with his laid back attitude, I could see the veins in his neck begin to protrude. Just then he pulled up to several river shacks and hopped off stating: “at least we can crash here if they don’t have any petrol.” The gas tank had about a thimble full as we sputtered in.
Rafael said: “look here it’s been a while since I made this run and I now have this bigger outboard and didn’t calculate my gas. I thought I had plenty.” A few minutes later with some heavy dialogue he returned and asked:” if i could pay some more money because in this neck of the woods gas would cost a pretty penny.” Looking over my options I agreed to pay extra. It’s like being up the river without a paddle and that ain’t no idiom.
Several more hours of river travel the swallows were diving down low and picking up insects just above our heads. The jungle noises were intensifying and it was getting darker by the minute. We passed a river boat loaded with bamboo. This stretch of the river was low and there were four men with ropes walking in the river pulling the loaded boat down river.
It was now dark and we had no boat lights. I had one flashlight that would not last very long. He said: “the only thing we had to worry about was hitting a floating log in the river.” Then he laughed and shouted:”Nirvana! See those lights up yonder— that’s the little village on the Nicaraguan side. We have made it amigo.” We hi-fived each other and proceeded to dock.
He dropped me off at the local tico lodge and I invited him to stay the night and I would pick up the room tab. He thanked me very much and said: “oh no mon! You see’s I gots several girlfriends just across river. They loves Rafael.” I thanked him for the trip and we said our goodbyes. We hugged and Rafael offered If I was ever back in these parts to look him up.
You could barely see him crossing the river as he silhouetted out of sight under the partial moon. Standing on the dock you could hear the engine moan with the rise and fall of each set of waves. With the night breezes echoing the sound you could tell he reached the other side when the engine came to a halt and shut down.
Saying my prayers I knew Rafael was safe. I muttered on: “May we each have a good night’s sleep as I crawled into bed and thanked my lucky stars for the trip of a lifetime.” Drifting off to sleep I had visions of giant Tarpon rolling in the river and that’s all I remember.
QUOTE: “Every plant and tree knows spring will soon be gone A hundred pinks and purples Compete with their bouquets Willow fuzz and elm pods lack such clever means They only know how to fill the sky with snow.” – Han Yu (768-824)—–dailyzen.com
THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW: What parts of the World have never been visited by Man? Although the highest mountain peaks have been climbed and the densest forests have been visited, there are still about 140,000,000 square miles of unexplored area on earth. Those miles are found on the ocean floor, with its winding valleys, towering mountains, steep canyons, and vast plains.
On land, there are still some remote areas that can be reached only on foot. Some of these as yet unexplored places are in the mountains of New Guinea and in the jungles of Africa and the Amazon.
Then, too, there are the colder regions still to be visited and explored. However, these regions, the Greenland icecap, northwest Siberia, and Antarctica, can only be reached by dog teams.—–bigsiteofamazingfacts.com
THINGS YOU MAY WANT TO SAVE: Some money! Here is one tip that can save you some money and also keep you fit. Walk as much as possible. For small journeys, instead of taking the car, walk. It keeps you fit and reduces fuel bills. Park as far away as possible when you pull into a parking lot. That little bit of extra walking adds up and allows you to slow down. What’s your hurry anyway?
ZENTRAVELER SAYS: Life’s a Journey in more ways than one!
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.