El Blog de San José #9
viernes, el 2 de enero 2016
La hora local: 18:19
Thanks to our excursion, I had to be at Maximo by 6am which translates to me at the bus stop by 5:15. It was getting light out but the sun wasn’t up yet which weaved an odd color into the sky my host sister had described as “Claro, sin sol, pero no oscuro” Clear, without sun, put not dark. The typical Costa Rican sky blue which is given the special title of “Celeste” instead of blue, would not emerge for a couple of hours.
A really cool and rather random flock of birds was pecking at some discarded bread and fruit when we reached Maximo. There must have been no less than eight different species sharing the side walk with us: pigeons, little yellow birds, red-crested gray birds, speckled white and gray ones, etc…. My favorite was the sleek, shiny navy-blue birds with highlights of metallic green and pink sown into their feathers. To top off their fashionable look, they had enormously large tails, beady yellow eyes and a countenance that made them appear eternally livid.
The bus arrived at 6:23 in true Tico fashion. One of the students in our party hadn’t arrived on time which was unfortunate, because in order to keep to schedule, we had to leave him behind.
I hope he can get a refund because the tour is somewhat expensive for a college student.
The bus ride was long, probably about two hours long, and made even longer by the necessity to pick up other parties along the way. We weaved our way up mountains and through farmlands. The shone peaked through the clouds to reveal cows grazing on sharp inclines just beyond hills filled with cultivating plants. Soon, the valleys and irrigation system stretched into raw and think jungles vibrant with diverse plant life. Sure enough, the dense foliage even housed golden trunks of bamboo, early similar but discolored in comparison to those I’d seen growing in groves in China.
Despite all the lush scenery, I began to feel the prick of nerves. I am somewhat afraid of heights and for reasons unbeknownst to me, I had volunteered and even paid to be hauled to the middle of nowhere to dangle from some ropes high in the Rainforest Canopy. Brilliant. Too late, we arrived in San Luis at what looked like a mini elementary school summer camp, mess hall pavilion and all.
Once we were all harnessed up, we followed the guides down to a line that was about four feet or so off the ground. Now this, I could do. Un hermoso Tico who was similarly harnessed showed us the proper technique of hanging from the lines: on your back, knees up, head to the side so you won’t get a fresh facial tattoo. Unfortunately, I was not able to ease into zip lining with their four foot high demonstration line. We started with the real deal.
Now according to the guide, the rope and harness system they use can withstand up to 10,000 pounds, but it was still a bit nerve wracking to watch the line in front of me dwindle until it was me being hooked up, all too aware that there would soon be nothing between me and a fifty foot drop but a couple of trees, some steel rope, a heavy cloth waste harness and a few carabineers. With a push from the guide, I was off the ground.
When I was in Shanghai’s pearl tower a third of a mile off the ground, nothing made me shake like walking onto the thick, clear glass viewing deck to stare at the streets and HuangPu river walk below. But here dangling amongst the trees, I feel perfectly at peace. There’s freedom in the fresh air and the pulse of the rainforest.
The course we traversed was composed of more than a dozen lines which varied in length. In addition, half way through, there was an attraction aptly named the “Tarzan.” While waiting in line for this proverbial “Tarzan,” we encountered the inopportunely non-metaphorical “Death Snake.” Luckily, this highly poisonous snake was viewed a safe ten or so feet away as it lounged on a branch.
So, the Tarzan was pretty much awesome. In the three swings, I was able to just barely see over the trees into the river below.
Within two hours of the start, we’d reached our last two runs. The guides bounced the second to last lines which would have been terrifying except it was only ten or so feet off the ground so that the larger ferns could tickle your feet if you didn’t keep your knees up. And last, but certainly not least, we came to the “Superman.”
The “Superman” functions just about how you would think. You lie on your stomach and are harnessed up so that you have little choice but to stare straight at the ground unless you want to strain a kink right into your neck. This line was by far twice as long as any of the others and covered all the ground back to our start. As soon as they let me fly, I made sure to shout “Estoy volando” I’m flying for dramatic effect. From hundreds of feet up I could see the white capped river winding through the trees as if the whole scene were a living painting. Luckily, “tengo suerte” because I reached the terminal without getting stuck some yards from the end as was a real possibility. If you haven’t picked up on it yet, I would definitely recommend zip lining in San Luis, Costa Rica.
Lunch was included and of course, it had to be a Casado. None the less, it was the best Casado I’ve had so far, complete with fish, rice & beans (again), salad, fried plantain and a type of root that pretty much just tasted like a potato. While eating lunch forest side, we witnessed someone on the “Superman” get stuck three or so yards from the end of the line. One of the guides harnessed himself up to the line, walked with his hands across the rope and tugged the petite lady to the end to a chorus of cheers from the mess hall pavilion.
We returned to Maximo by midafternoon and decided to spend our spare time exploring places to spend our money. “MasXMenos” (Mas por Menos) More for Less is the premier grocery store on the main street. I was really surprised to see how expensive food prices are here. Most items are as expensive if not more expensive than those in the U.S. The absolute worse was the fruit. Apples are $6-8 for a kilo which is about four apples. Even the fruit which one would expect to be cheap in Costa Rica like pineapples, guavas, oranges, limes and lemons are all quite expensive as well. I suppose much of it must be imported and the Costa Rican government doesn’t subsidize food prices in the way the U.S. government does.
I am very pleased to announce that the Shanghai, China Mall Tour 2K15 has been extended for another season to what will now be henceforth known as the San José, Costa Rica Mall Tour 2K16. It was hard not to wind up in a mall in Shanghai because they were on virtually every street corner and the first place many a subway stop would dump us. All of the Shanghai malls were immensely large and immensely fancy, full of foreign stores, sparkling kiosks and décor of varied tastes. The “Centro Commercial San Pedro” was equally impressively massive, however, its interior seemed somewhat random compared to what I’ve seen previously. There were plenty of U.S. and Latin American stores that seemed exactly as one would find them in the U.S. or Shanghai. However, amongst these were graffiti-filled walls and market like outlets that gave the overall impression that we were in a back ally market in San José or an illegal underground market in Shanghai. One also could not ignore the prevalence of sex shops and the built in strip club just a few store fronts down from the children’s arcade and the day care center. I suppose this particular mall caters to the desires of just about anyone. To make things even more interesting, the parking garage flowed somehow right into the food court so that anyone could hypothetically drive right into the tables of people munching on McDonalds, KFC, China Wok, and yes, even Taco Bell among others. Interesting…..