Saturday, August 26, 2006

Off the mountain

This is the first time in my life I haven't travelled more than 5km in any one direction for a length of 5 weeks. Does that make sense? It was time to get off the mountain. Last weekend was a three day event and we bounced and jostled down the mountain and north to Playa Hermosa which is on the Pacific side and about 40 minutes from the border with Nicaragua. It was a beautiful ride through rainforest and meadows with horses and cows: the Nicoya penninsula to our west and the mountain ranges to the east. It didn't take too terribly long, maybe 2 hours from the bottom of the mountain.
This is an interesting country. People say that CR has less disparity between the rich and poor than any other Central American country. It's hard to believe that driving through. We passed grand haciendas with manicured lawns and wrought iron fences often a stone's throw from corrugated iron shacks with no doors or windows. People sat on stoops watching traffic while dogs and cows scratched around beside them. There was a middle type of house with glass windows and sometimes grills that were painted in pastel shades.
We got to Playa Hermosa and checked into the hostel which turned out to be a terrific apartment on the beach, it slept 10 but we 4 had it all to ourselves. We slept on double beds on the veranda under mosquito nets and were woken by howler monkeys each morning. Playa Hermosa is a quiet place, several gringo apartment blocks, a few restaurants, two mini-supers and aschool. There were many joggers out on the beach in the early morning - mostly Europeans though it also seems to be a popular tico resort. Lots of families. The water is warm and clear, plenty of fish. There seems to be a high unemployment rate though - there were always 15 to 20 drunk tico men scattered along the beach nursing on Imperial cans. The earliest we saw drunk was around 7 in the morning and we saw one guy so wasted we thought he was dead. He was lying face down and covered in sand, his shorts were half way down his bum. One of the dogs went over and sniffed him and we saw he was breathing. That was around 4pm. And the tourists jog by. The hostel owner told us to keep everything locked up. Theft is an everyday part of life here and I can understand why.
The owner was an interesting guy, I would like to hear his story someday but wouldn't like to ask. He's French Canadian, in his 60s and an old hippy. He lived behind the house in a cage. If he hadn't have been there I would have taken a picture. It literally was a cage - a roof and timber frame but the walls, windows and doors were chain link fencing. It was one room, I presume there was a bathroom somewhere else. He had 3 fridges, a microwave, a TV and a mosquito net over a board. His clothes were hung from the fencing, not much, maybe 4 tee-shirts and a couple of pairs of shorts. He had 6 big male dogs. He told us they didn't like each other and so he kept them in 2 groups and walked them seperately. He asked us to save all food scraps for them. His area stank terribly of dog shit.
But the house itself was great, all wooden with a sunken shower and full kitchen.