By Zachary Moses
Oh my god! You should have seen the water around Miami! The flight from Key West to Miami was one of the prettiest I’ve ever seen. The night before had rewarded us with a torrential downpour of fresh rain that had increased water levels throughout the Everglades, and the sun was glimmering like diamonds among the grasses. When we reached Miami, the airplane flew way out over the Atlantic and then banked back toward the city. The sea was the most amazing vivid blue I have ever seen, reminiscent of 2000 Flushes in a toilet bowl (which sounds gross, but is really something special when it’s an ocean of blue).
The following flight to San Jose was uneventful. I just fell asleep and woke up with my mouth hanging open like some dead person. Drool running down my shirt. Neck kinked to one side. The crease of some book binding imprinted into my face. I travel in style.
I arrived at my hotel in San Jose with lots of time to kill, so I decided to do a little exploring on my own. There was a music and arts festival happening across the street from my hotel. The music went from 2:00 until 10:00 pm. Some of it was good. Some of it was horrible. I had to smile and chuckle a little, seeing all the 15 year old kids who showed up to watch the worst bands and lay all over each other like wet puppies, none of them caring what the music sounded like.
I went around town looking for a nice souvenir of the tour that I could give as a gift to the members of our group. I took a previous tour director’s suggestion and went to a shop that sells art made by local artists. I found 13 unique amazing bronze pieces modeled after pre-Columbian art of the region and coated in 24-karat gold. After I bought the gifts, I sat and chatted with the shop girl about the importance of providing exclusive gay tours.
I came back to the hotel and took a nice hot bath. This is a luxury I don’t get often , since I live in a shoebox-size apartment in Key West, where the shower has no tub, and I can practically brush my teeth from the kitchen table.
I spent my evening hanging out in the hotel. I had a wonderful Costa Rican beer as well as traditional beef soup. The soup had wedges of corn on the cob, plantains, some other random starch, tomatoes, and rice.The soup was accompanied by possibly the best salad ever created, or even ever thought of, and I was reminded again that the “fresh” produce in the USA sucks. The avocado was much better in Costa Rica, it was so creamy and smooth. For some reason, writing about that avocado is giving me a craving to eat a stick of butter… what’s wrong with me?
The following day, I met up with several members of my group in the pool before our evening orientation. It’s always so much fun getting to know a new group. Ollie (our local guide) and I held the orientation in a hotel conference room and officially welcomed everyone to Costa Rica. We played some fun icebreaker games and afterward we drove to an old part of the city, which looked like the cutest little Spanish village you have ever seen. Like something straight out of speedy Gonzales. After dinner, everyone tried to get to bed as early as possible, since I had scheduled a special 6.1 earthquake to wake everyone at dawn.
Since San Jose is a seismic region, our hotel was built on rollers. It was really cool to feel the building swaying back and forth. The earthquake happened near Manuel Antonio, on the Pacific Coast, but we felt it strongly in San Jose. I know how to start a trip off with a bang!
Once our nerves calmed, we set out as planned for Tortuguero, an amazing unspoiled jungle on the Caribbean side of the country. On the way to our boat launch we stopped at an enclosed butterfly garden and Ollie showed me a gorgeous butterfly whose markings made it look like an owl. Flip it another way… and it looks like a little snake.
Our next stop was a Del Monte banana factory, where we watched how banana production is done. Forty-pound bunches of bananas are still brought to the processing facility on the backs of the men who work and live on the plantation. The bananas are sorted, with only the perfect 8-inch bananas (about yay-big-around) being shipped to other countries. The bunches are loaded onto chains where they are cut into clumps. They float through a wash and are sorted by women for black spots, etc. The whole system feels very much like a company store. There are several little banana villages run by Del Monte, with Del Monte Doctors, Del Monte Soccer fields, and Del Monte Schools… You load 16 tons of bananas, what do you get? Another day older, and deeper in debt. Saint Peter don’t you call me cause I can’t go, I owe my soul to the company store. *insert music symbols*
We drove down dirt roads to our boat launch area, where we rode for another couple of hours on an Amazonish river. At one point, we navigated through shallow canals where several other boats had gotten themselves stuck up. As we moved past them, I yelled out “men, get ready the grapples, we take no prisoners.” To the other ships I yelled “all we want is your family jewels, give us your booty.” We never got stuck thanks to our fabulous captain.
After checking into our eco-lodge, we crossed over to the local village of Tortuguero, a town on the edge of the preserve with only 1000 residents. The village is a cute Caribbean Sea-side town with no roads. The buildings are covered with colorful murals and line the narrow walkways that serve as streets. While there, we visited the beaches where the largest population of Green Sea Turtles on the planet lays their eggs. The town makes its money from protecting the turtles and from tourism.
When we got back to our eco-lodge we all went to the pool. Since the group members were new to each other, I bought a round of drinks for everyone, which led to another round and another and turned into a real fun party. We learned about each other and really clicked as a group. I got to bed quite late, but it was worth it
On Valentines Day, we got up at 5:30 am so we could glide into the rivers and canals and see the animals as they are just waking up … or going to bed for the nocturnal ones. The flora and fauna were incredible, and we saw boa constrictors, birds, and caimans. Ollie sliced open a giant flower bud and pulled out an amazing bouquet of flower stamens. Around 10:00 am we took a walking tour through a labyrinth of a trail in the jungle. We found wild anise, and Ollie showed us how to rub the leaves on our skin as natural insect repellent. While walking through the forest I found a nesting Atlas Moth … which shouldn’t have been in Costa Rica (but he didn’t know that). I recognized it because I’ve seen one up close at the Key West Butterfly Conservatory. We all got amazing pictures of it. Later, Ollie was surprised by a huge boa constrictor and several of us got lost. On the upside of being lost, we rescued some hardy Norwegian woman who had been lost in these jungles since the Reagan years.
At lunchtime, Ollie and I gave everyone valentines that I had purchased from CVS before leaving Key West. I gave them all Lik-m-aid candy and Ollie gave rainbow animal valentines with rainbow tattoos. There really is nothing like watching a group of gay guys sporting their rainbow tats and licking candy sticks to instill a sense of adventure into the hearts and minds of everyone.
Around 3:00 pm we took another boat tour and right outside our lodge we found howler monkeys. Our boat man moved us under the trees and I got video of a monkey jumping over my head … definitely a male. We moved through some incredible side canals, and found a family of spider monkeys flying through the tree tops. One of them got mad at us and started swearing at us in monkey talk … until his branch broke and he fell into the river.
On the way back to the lodge I noticed a toucan and more howler monkeys in the trees. As darkness descended we sat around on the river dock having beers and a good time. This was promising to be one amazing trip! [to be continued …]
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