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The Great Pan-American Synchronistic Cycle Extravaganza Unlimited

a travel blog by chaddeal

Backpacking, surfing, TEFLing, WWOOFing, boozing, and cycling Costa Rica and beyond.
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Alajuela, Costa Rica

My first week in Costa Rica was a crude, improvised sort of acclimation process. I bumbled about Alajuela with a perpetual tell-tale mask of gringo-no-entiendo, failing constantly and simoultaneously at operating pay phones, using currency correctly, and putting recyclables in the appropriate bin. I said stupid things in Spainsh like "I have only pain" when trying to communicate that I only carried American dollars. I unwittingly commited the worst of faux-paus and continued on on my way, grinning.

I spent a few days at the Alajuela campground, trying to get my bearings. The campground, more of a house converted into a hostel on the outskirts of town, is owned by a cool dude from Dusseldorf. I made several gringo friends at the campground, who were understanding and helpful in the difficult transition process. We drank copiously and pretended to speak intelligently about politics around a bon fire. I slept in my hammock on the porch.

Stefan, the owner, has five dogs in the yard. They effin rule.

permalink written by  chaddeal on November 19, 2008 from Alajuela, Costa Rica
from the travel blog: The Great Pan-American Synchronistic Cycle Extravaganza Unlimited
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Hence the BBQ

Samara, Costa Rica

I am living in la casa de Doña Cristina Castillo Carrillo. Everyone is fed here.

It was sometime after midnight when a speeding car full of nuns collided with the cow. The sisters contacted the appropriate channels and within the hour the cow was being axed into workable chunks on our patio. By noon the next day, parts of the cow had made their way to every corner of town: a liver here, some cabeza there, a hoof. A large section of rib dangled in the afternoon sun from a rope on the porch.

We are having a BBQ. Bold bovine for all.

permalink written by  chaddeal on December 10, 2008 from Samara, Costa Rica
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tagged Cow and Samara

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Mango Bridge

Samara, Costa Rica

Chicken dangles
from bits of string

a crocodile
looks on, grinning

juvenile cackles of glee
as the lizard troll
splashes madly after
phantom feasts

just downstream,
a fat mother
bathes her babies
in the creek

without interest.

permalink written by  chaddeal on December 17, 2008 from Samara, Costa Rica
from the travel blog: The Great Pan-American Synchronistic Cycle Extravaganza Unlimited
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Mango Transmissions from Starfruit Satellites

Samara, Costa Rica

It was love right from the gecco

electric mango sunset framed
with guanabana palm tree sway

shoreglow strawhut cabiñas flicker to life
wise-eyed old man chases sea foam
creates galaxies
with the gushing cosmic OH
of a didgeridoo

quetzal end all
iguana monkey round
shinewaves hum good vibes all day

got my papaya on you

starlite poi girls breathe
Scottish gasoline diction
lady luna still grinning like a croc

ocelot longer till a cuppa coati
all according to plantain.

chorotegan ghost warriors
cast jaguar shadows
dance on old curtains
with banana bones.

Pura Vida
en la Vida Sueña

coconut kisses
from the moon.

permalink written by  chaddeal on December 18, 2008 from Samara, Costa Rica
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Holiday Rush

Samara, Costa Rica

The blight of tourism arrived yesterday. A week ago Samara was quiet, tranquilo - static pulse of seashore, the occasional motorbike, unseen birds singing Guanacaste sabanero war cries from palm trees, a tinny radio playing Marley from the bar. Now the town is roaring, barely enough room to bicycle on the beach. Americans stomping around looking pale and insatiable, making crude, condescending demands to the breezy locals who seem to just sort of hang on and bare the rush like a bad joke while it lasts. Gringo business-types from places like Palo Alto and Phoenix talking too loud, oozing anxiety and a misplaced sense of entitlement: but of course this is my picture postcard week on the beach whole town propped up on toothpicks just days ago in anticipation of my mighty influx of Dolores (meaning either dollars or pain when you shift the accent) and what the fuck kinda of hamburger is this anyways want my money back.


Up the coast a few kilometers, near Cristina´s house, is Playa Buena Vista, aka "Mel Gibson Beach." It is quieter here, out of the way. All the charm of Samara is obscured by tourism. Tourism insists on homogenized mediocrity, cheap comforts, familiar logos, and above all, absolute predictability.
The tourist sees the surface, complains that the tacos look more like wontons and the burritos are in fact tostadas. The American tourist reflects US foreign policy on the microcosmic level; it finds value in the natives only when they make themselves of service, produce something which it can exploit. The American tourist does not see culture or beauty, only a frantic hodge-podge of places to stick more money in the vain search for paradise. It is content to be just another tourist turd pushed through the established tract, apathetically bloating the town to its economic capacity before suddenly drifting away like so much bad gas.

In high season, a person can easily overlook the subtle nuances of the place. Like how the locals honk their horns at everything. Not the blatant amplified "Fuck You!" of the American SUV; the Tico beeper is a more articulate instrument. It says: "Hey mae, right behind you", "¿que pasa, Esteban?", "Sweet ride!", "¿Donde esta tu novio?", "Hey, I´m driving a truck, too!", or simply "Hey", because we´re two people driving down the road in paradise so why not?

Or how they Ticos never really took to the idea of refrigerating eggs or milk but they taste just as good all the same. The Tico way is relaxed to the point of being lazy, except for the fact that most of the people work well over 40 hours a week. But you wouldn't know it from the looks of them. The concept of "stress" is non-existent here. The most common response to anything is "tranquilo" (relax), "tuanis" (cool), or the national byline "pura vida" (pure life). Free time is spent playing futbol with friends, drinking Imperial at the beach bar, hollering "priopos" (witty and not-so-witty pick-up lines) at girls, and making empty accusations at passersby of being mariposas, pajaros, or about thrity other words meaning "gay."

All of this is lost upon the feverish tourist, who would never notice the smiling street dog who arises from a shaded spot to escort a stranger across town.

The right set of eyes, however, perceives the essence of the place intuitively. Something more, greater, very subtle, stirs behind the homemade tiki facades. A sense of stillness permeates the lackadaisical palm treed shoreline at sunset. One becomes absorbed in the realization that there is absolutely nothing to do except sit and watch, in awe, as the sun disappears down the neck of your beer and a lone coconut thumps the warm sand, somewhere down the Costa Rican beach.

permalink written by  chaddeal on December 27, 2008 from Samara, Costa Rica
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Whole Lotta Up and Down

Jabilla, Costa Rica

Samara to Playa San Miguel - 33 Km

I considered a horse at first. Fancy visions of trotting into Antigua at dusk, spitting tobacco beneath a sun-bleached Panama hat. A bike seemed more feasable. You have to peddle the thing, sure - but its efficient and it doesn´t poop. All I knew was that I had to go.

I was sad to leave them, my TEFL classmate come roommates at Cristina's ranch by Pablitos. We had become like family over the weeks and I became suddenly nostalgic for our breif household as began peddling my black two-wheeled stallion south. The familiar stretch to Playa Carillo and onwards to Estrada demanded a new effort with the mid-sized Australian millitary pack on my shoulders and a searing Guanacaste sun above. The first few kilometers are always the most difficult. After that, sweet endorphines shower over crucial connections in the brain, lending a strange sort of elation at that place where exhaustion and ecstacy meet.

The coastal mountain range proved to be a difficult route. A seemingly endless uphill trudge finally gave way to a few kilometers of blissful, breezy down, delivering my steed and I to the quirky upper-crust resort town of Punta Islita. Sweating and thirsty, I promptly found a large, green pipa on the beach sand. I hacked the unripe coconut open with my red-handled swashbuckler Machete and slurped down its cool, nutrient-filled milk. Then I scooped out the tender coconut meat and ate watching, entertained, as a coati meandered down the road. A unique enterprise of nature, the coati most resembles an anteater, enxcept that it is about the size of a racoon, tailed, and pigeon-toed.

Another exhaustive uphill climb opened up to an awesome ocean view from the single-lane dirt road far above on the cliffs. This led to an especially redeeming downhill ride into a vast expanse of quiet, sparsely populated cow country. The silence was broken by the occasional motorbike wizzing by, the forlorn BUUUH of a cow, and the ever-unseen howler monkeys. The terrain continued in this manner - up,down, pasture - all the way to Playa San Miguel, where I strung-up my hammock between two palms and drank a few slow cervesas in an empty beachfront cantina at sunset.

permalink written by  chaddeal on January 2, 2009 from Jabilla, Costa Rica
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Lost in the Valley of the Dinosaurs

Puerto Coyote, Costa Rica

Playa San Miguel to Playa Coyote - about 30 Km

I woke around 8am and splashed around in the waves for a while. The beach was empty and I felt like Gilligan. I sliced open a pipa and filled my water bottle. The road was much flatter heading south through San Francisco de Coyote. Open cow country flew by on either side as I whistled and spoke non-sense Spanish to myself, canoodling along in the morning sun. The road veered inland and the temperature rose considerably away from the ocean wind.

I stopped for refreshment in San Francisco de Coyote. A Dutch woman was liberating a wayward scorpion with a can of Raid as I took a seat in the open-air cafe. I had some blended fruit and one of those sandwhiches generally associated with bistros and fusion restaurants - small, expensive, bland. The Dutchess told me about the road to Santa Teresa. She cited every landmark, river, and good restaurant along the way, intermittenly reminding me - "always you are following this road." I liked her and tipped for the first time in Costa Rica - not a custom here.

I set off, then, pleased with the simplicity of it all. At the first crossroad , several kilometers out of town, I intuitively flowed left and silently congratulated myself on my keen sense of direction. The countryside opened up into wide grassland valley dotted with palmtrees. Not a single soul crossed my path. This was Michael Crichton's turf. I could picture the Bronchiosauri gently filandering about the scenery, occasionally rising on hind-quartes to snatch a coconut from an ancient palm. I smiled and yelled strange things in faux-Espanol and hummed the theme song to Jurrasic Park.

An hour or so passed before I came to the river, the one the Dutchess spoke about, no doubt. I hacked open a riverside pipa and filled up my empty water bottle. The milk came thick and white and stinking of fermentation - an ominous sign, to be sure. I dumped it out and carried on. I was at the edge of a small villiage and decided to to speak with an old caballero selling pineapples by the road to confirm my position on the map. The wizened cowboy promptly pointed to an inconsequential dot, somewhere up in the mountains. I laughed inwardly and corrected the poor man - "no, we are here...which road goes to Santa Teresa?" He pointed in the direction from which I had just come. A young Tico came over to help and told me the same. The man at the pulperia confirmed it once more.

I had gone in exactly the wrong direction.

I zoomed back to San Francisco de Coyote, not sure if I should be irked or totally indifferent. Neither seemed healthy, in the long run. When I finally returned to the fateful intersection, I sat and contemplated life in the shade for some time. The sun was harsh and stifling, and I was exhausted from a poor nights sleep. Lesson learned, I'd decided. I'd never be going back down that road again. I got up to move on and noticed that my bike lock, crucial in this haven of petty thievery, had jostled itself loose from its clamp and was no longer connected to the bike. So, indeed, back I went - several kilometers until I found the damn thing lying leisurely among some rocks. I glared at it accusingly for a moment before snatching it up. By and by, I rolled onto the ultra-low-key beach at Playa Coyote, having made very little southwards progress since morning.

I was spent. I ate shrimp and rice and contemplated my intentions. I found them to be simple and pure, subject to the flippant impulses of the universe as was everything. Shortly after sunset I strung up my hammock on the beach and slept for a very long time.

permalink written by  chaddeal on January 4, 2009 from Puerto Coyote, Costa Rica
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Toys in Babeland

Mal Pais, Costa Rica

Playa Coyote to Santa Teresa - 30 Km or so

The ride out of Playa Coyote was flat, scenic, mellow, and pleasantly uneventful. I crossed a few knee-high rivers and waved at the Ticos who sat on their porches in the middle of nowhere. They waved back and some smiled and hollered "hola!" as I disappeared into the dust. About halfway to Santa Teresa the road jutted directly west, right onto the beach. There was no actual road aside from the soggy beach sand, an impassable route at high tide. The tide was out, so I zig-zagged down the open beach and considered living there in my hammock, eating coconuts and maybe foraging for insects and fish for the rest of my long, joyous life. But no, onwards. Keep peddling. Paradise will always be there. Waiting. There is too much to see. Too much to do. Too much sweet nectar 'o life. Ah yes.

I rolled into Santa Teresa early in the afternoon. The sun beamed down its scathing agenda, burning my tender gringo flesh. Cars and motorbikes threw a lingering cloud of dust from the bumpy dirt road through town and I thought of Burning Man. Santa Teresa is a lot like Arcata except with great weather, amazing surf, beautiful tanned chicas everywhere, and a happening night life. Ok, so it's nothing like Arcata. Everyone has dreadlocks and the place has a definite hippy vibe. A hint of magic on the wind. You get the feeling that the secret got out not long ago. The place is a veritable gringoville, teeming with a certain breed of tourism. But its a relaxed, free flowing kind of place and I can see why it is such a sought after destination.

I strung up my hammock at Zaneidas campground and hopped in the ocean for a while. The waves here are huge, consistant, and barreling. I got out and went to a pay phone to call my folks. The phone were in use and I waited. A dreadlocked Jamaican walked by, did a double take, turned around and said, "hey mae, what is that on your shoulder?" I told him the tattoo was Saggitarius. His face lit up. "I am the fifteen of December, mae." Its my birthday too, I told him. The Jamaican laughed loudly and cried out, "how did I know? how could I know? Come man, lets share the beer."

I went to his place next to the campground and we drank a Pilsen. His name was Pineapple Head. He showed me around his place, which he built himself. He was a sculptor and had several cement figurines around the yard. Pineapple Head read my palm and told me I am blessed, protected by a dead relative, bound to live a long life, and also told me the last name of my future wife. We talked for several hours and noted the similarities of our pasts based on astrological predisposition. Then I went back to Zaneidas and fell asleep to the sound of crashing waves.

permalink written by  chaddeal on January 5, 2009 from Mal Pais, Costa Rica
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Montezuma, Costa Rica

permalink written by  chaddeal on January 7, 2009 from Montezuma, Costa Rica
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From Badland to Mainland

Jaco, Costa Rica

Santa Teresa to Montezuma - about 15 Km
Montezuma to Jaco - one hour by boat

Santa Teresa is a hard place to leave. One succumbs to quixotic visions of endless surf, early retirement at Zeneidas campground, and the ultimate french fry. The allure is Blue Crush meets Mad Max goes to Disneyland mostly naked. Everyone zooms around in beachwear on bicycles, quads, and motorbikes looking like 1930s bank robbers behind big shades and handkerchief masks. More than a hint of mischief lurks on the breeze.

The road to Montezuma was about 15 kilometers of rugged jungle trekking. The first stretch, all the way to Cabuya, consisted of several small stream crossings and a demanding climb over the coastal range. A thick, warm sheet of moisture hung visibly in the air. The final torturous uphill trek eventually gave way to a mountain-top vista of the wide gulf between the Nicoya Peninsula and the mainland.

Montezuma is even more like Arcata than Santa Teresa in its penchant for street-side pipe vendors, organic eateries, spontaneous drum circles, and fire dancing. It is a popular eco-tourism destination. Visitors from all over the world come for diving, jungle hiking, zip-lining, fishing, and beyond. Others come for the reggae and ganja, which looms thick and sweet over a brief main street.

I set up the hammock at a campground, talked with the animated host for an hour or so, and wandered around town. In the evening I had a few cervesas at Chico's and talked with a Tico from Jaco. He told me at length in Spanish about how great the place was. When he left, a dude sitting near by turned to me and said, "that guy is feeding you so much shit." So we talked The Economy, San Diego politics, and catching the waves of life and he turned out to be a good friend of a family friend who has a place in Montezuma. He spoke gravely of the crackheads and condo bullshittery which is blossoming in Jaco. The conversation was critical yet congenial, and we enjoyed sharing many similar views on the general condition of things. After an hour or so my friend left and I jammed on hand-drums with some chill kids on the street corner. Everybody was happy and there was a potent feeling of festivity in the air. Like in Santa Teresa, one feels in Montezuma undertones of celebration, in the pagan sense of the word, at all hours.

What more do you want?

Reluctantly I purchased a ticket for the shuttle boat to Jaco. At first they flat-out refused to take the bicycle. Scratches up the boat, they said. But after some argument and diplomatic half-truths, they agreed to take the bike provided I put it in a cardboard box and paid an extra ten dollars. By the time I finished boxing the bike, it looked like the a seven-year-old's improvised space scooter. The wheels were removed, the frame partially contained in an old fruit box, and the front fork inside a discarded soda carton. My hog was fully equipped for make-believe interstellar travel. Instead, I got on the boat and enjoyed an hour long high speed ride across rolling swells and bluebird skies.

About halfway over, the Tico from Jaco who had been feeding me so much shit the night before suddenly handed me his watch. In Spanish, he told me to keep it. I was confused and hesitant about accepting the awkward gift. Gringo paranoia kicked in. What does he want from me? Is it radioactive, a bomb? Then I remembered him telling me that he is a vendor of watches, among other things, and realized it was simply a kind gesture to a stranger - one of many along the way. I thanked him and we knocked knuckles in traditional Tico fashion as the condos of Jaco towered half-veiled in rain clouds on the horizon.

Jaco is always spoken of in cautionary terms. It stands as a monument and a warning as to what may happen to your humble fishing village, should you choose to sell your soul to the cancerous devil of foreign land developers. By the way people speak of it, you'd think the place was a festering hive of peg-legged drug fiends, cut-throat gangsters, and salivating hookers - and you´d be correct. Jaco is the bastard lovechild of Garnet Avenue, Miami beach, and Reno. An unholy union, to be certain.

I rolled into town just after sunset as main street lit up, revealing poor choices, done deals, with countless devils past. Illuminated signs of Pizza Hut, KFC, and Quiznos, veritable seals of civilization, pocked the trendy downtown strip. I found a hostel and now sit here typing, thinking about turning around and whooping it up in Santa Teresa or Montezuma for bit longer. Of course I can't, not yet. My inertia is too great. The fates, too anxious.

But maybe someday I will return to Santa Teresa and work for Pineapple Head at the hotel/sushi bar/internet cafe he is building - ET's Magic Beach Place. Or maybe I'll proclaim myself the resident poet Laurette of Montezuma and never wear a shirt again. I will be heralded like Krishna returned and shall sip fine batidos de papaya con leche in a hammock, deep into the burning hand-drum night.

permalink written by  chaddeal on January 8, 2009 from Jaco, Costa Rica
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