J.D. Salinger, R.I.P.

It is impossible for me to not comment on the passing of someone who was, unquestionably, my favorite writer.

Were I not in Costa Rica and if my time to write wasn’t extremely limited, I would certainly feel a kind of obligation to describe in great detail how deeply affected I was when I read “The Catcher in the Rye” and how I greedily consumed the remainder of Salinger’s works. He was the first and most significant of my inspirations to write, and like so many of his readers I read through all of his writings numerous times, sad that there wasn’t more.

Salinger was a poignant storyteller, his dialogue unmatched, and with the Glass family he created some of the most eccentric yet thoroughly human characters in fiction.

While I always selfishly wished he’d published more, I never begrudged him his turn toward reclucivity. He’d gotten a taste of the limelight and didn’t like it. In my book, there’s more than a little sanity in that.

All I can think to end with is: thank you.

Costa Rica: The International Community of Travelers

It’s funny how, when you travel, you end up meeting as many people, if not more, from countries other than the one you’re visiting than you do locals.

Besides the many fellow U.S.ers we’ve met, by Day 6 we’ve already met folks from England, France, Germany, Sweden, New Zealand, and Argentina, and I’m sure I’ve overheard several other languages spoken by people we have not formally met.

Incredibly, the fellow U.S.ers we’ve met have included a young couple from Vancouver, B.C., a group of retirees from Seattle, their friend from Orcas Island, and a gal who works at the next hostel we’re staying at lived for two years on Lummi Island.

A small world indeed.

Costa Rica: mas agua

After a day of swimming in five different locations, agua by choice, you might say, on Day 5 it was as if we’d tempted the gods. We started our day with a two-hour guided nature and wildlife hike, in unbidden agua, rain that transitioned from a refreshing mist to a driving downpour.

Adding irony on top of irony, after having seen nothing more exciting than a wild turkey on our nature hike, as soon as we arrived at the lodge the rain stopped completely, and we finally got to see our first monkeys of the trip, a howler family, a papa and mama with a baby on her back, moving about in the trees swaying in the wind.

Costa Rica: mucha agua

After a Day 3 that was mostly about air, zipping through it on the zip lines, Day 4 was all about water.

We actually managed to swim in five different places in this one day:

1. A morning dip in the pool at the hostel.

2. After about an hour walk outside of town, we found a swimming hole in a river, sporting a deep, blue pool at the base of a small waterfall. A rope swing afforded no time to acclimate to the cool water. Just a quick plunge from about 30 feet into refreshingly cool water.

3. La Fortuna waterfall is accessed in a deep, verdant canyon, falling hundreds of feet, cascading down moss and fern covered walls. It’s too dangerous to swim at the base of the falls, but there are lovely, clear pools just about 50 feet downstream, where you can swim with fish and see the falls.

4. Thanks to Rafael, a friendly taxi driver, hired only to take us to the Observatory Lodge at the Arenal Volcano National Park, after hearing our comments about how the many hot springs resorts in the area were too expensive for our taste, he unexpectedly stopped on the road to Arenal, pointed to an unmarked trail in the middle of nowhere, which led down a small hill to a raging stream, a natural hot spring. Asking no more money from us, Rafael offered to wait a while as we soaked in the steaming water. (He also stopped when he spotted a pack of coati mundi (Google it), and heard, then spotted, about a dozen toucans.)

5. The jacuzzi at the observatory lodge, where, as we were taking our last dip of the day, we had the great fortune of seeing a stream of red lava ooze from the cone of Arenal. Only 35% of visitors to the lodge get to see any lava at all, due either to a lack of volcanic activity or because the volcano is hidden by clouds.

An amazing day!

Costa Rica: zipping the canopy

It is the single most popular tourist activity in Central America…

…for a reason.

While much can be said about the questionable eco impacts of the famous zip line rainforest canopy tours – some say, like zoos, if people have the opportunity to experience species and their habitats, they will be compelled to help protect them through giving and activism – I found the experience unquestionably wonderful.

As we were given our instructions, instructions that include large doses of warnings about the myriad dangers, I felt serious fear building inside me. I’d spent time in harnesses and I’m not petrified by heights, but this was magnitudes and magnitudes beyond anything I’d done.

The first few, by design, while indeed high up in the canopy, were short and not very fast. By the third of ten, however, we spanned greater distances, with greater distance below us, and at considerably more speed.

The views were magical, the thrill of the ride exhilirating, and experiencing it all with Laurel and Julian was the highlight of the trip thus far.

Beyond this brief summary, words fail, so I think I’ll go jump in the pool.

Pura Vida!

Costa Rica: back to heaven

After a hot trek, dragging our bags around La Fortuna, we arrive at the Arenal Backpackers Hostel.

This is no ordinary hostel.

The grounds are very nice and there’s a swimming pool that spells relief in every way possible.

Checking in took a lot of time, but Laurel and Julian jumped in the pool while I waited to complete the process, talking to Jan and Elsie, two widows from London who had started their journey in Brazil, making their way up through South and now Central America, and just as I was about to hit the pool myself, someone told me that it was Happy Hour, 2-for-1 beers!

Drinking Ice cold Imperial (a Costa Rican lager) in the pool, and playing in the water with the family, it doesn’t get much better than that. Ahough, we’re only a few days into the trip, so I’m sure I’m being a bit premature.

I’m typing this in a cozy tent on a platform, with comfy, thick foam pads, pillows, sheets, Laurel and Julian asleep by my side.

Buenas Noches!

Costa Rica: hell

Four hours on a constantly overcrowded bus from Alajuela to La Fortuna. We were the last three to board, me in the front seat but with Julian on my lap, Laurel sitting on a backpack on the floor of the aisle.

The bus traveled slowly on a very windy, two-lane road through the mountains, making very frequent stops.

At one point, about an hour out, I had to stand up because I’d lost all feeling in my legs, which led to my having to stand for an exhausting length of time. Every time we occasionally thinned out, as we’d been dropping off more than we were picking up, I hoped a seat would open up, but we would inevitably make a stop and cram in more people than you can imagine.

The feeling came back to my legs, but I had to periodically shake out my hands as the blood would not reach them, clasped tight to the handrails above.

I won’t even go into the details of my motion sickness.

Costa Rica: heaven to hell

Heaven: Began Day 2 with a great hike about 45 minutes up the river, to a beautiful set of waterfalls. We walked through lush forest that was reminiscent of back home in terms of the density of the under growth. At the falls we refreshed ourselves, letting the cool water shower over us, a real drenching.

Hell: Coming up next.

Costa Rica: Ticos

Costa Ricans are called “Ticos.” It’s cute.

Ticos singing karaoke, drunk and off-key, at maximum volume, until very, very late in the evening, well, not so cute.

Costa Rica: Chef Santi

I’ll mostly let the amazing meal speak for itself: First Course – fire roasted prawns in a ginger-lemongrass reduction, sushi rice with a wasabi creme fraise sauce, fresh cilantro leaves and thinly shredded carrots; Second Course – roasted chicken with a seared balsamic reduction glaze, steamed and buttered broccoli, gingered carrots, and curry-baked apple; Third Course – macaroons drizzled with dark chocolate, merlot and berry consomme, and a key lime cheesecake topped with thinly sliced mango.

Santi, short for Santiago, says he burned out on being a chef at a high end restaurant in Palm Beach, and treasures surprising unsuspecting Arilapa guests with amazing cuisine they never thought they’d find at a $50 per night pension.