Category Archives: Tourist Attractions

Monkey Breakfast

The spider monkeys swing by each morning for a protracted breakfast of pine nuts. In the first few days, when they saw me underneath they’d shriek and thrash about and then scarper, which made me feel bad for disturbing their very pleasant family gathering. Then they got used to me. I could almost hear ‘Oh. You’ in resigned monkey voices. Aside from an incident in which I wore a hat, effectively disguising myself as a different sort of animal altogether and provoking confusion, distress and a rain of small branches, they tend to watch me for a bit, and then ignore me. I am most privileged to be ignored by monkeys. Rough film, low res, great monkey.

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24hrs: Costa Rica Rain

In the interest of fairness, I should say that it is currently sunny, and that from where I am sitting, I can see howler monkeys, spider monkeys and white-face monkeys, as well as about 50 of the 850 or so species of birds that twitchers come all this way to see. But it has been Very Wet. My clothes are damp, and my books are mouldy, and I am thinking wistfully about the British heatwave.

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Over the Sea to Sierpe

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Demetri Martin does a ‘Sort of’ routine: ‘Sort of’ is such a harmless thing to say. Sort of. It’s just a filler. Sort of – it doesn’t really mean anything. But after certain things, sort of means everything. Like after ‘I love you’ or ‘You’re going to live.’ I spent some time in the office at the hotel in the role of resident flak catcher when a surccession of managers, shipped down here from San Jose, fell apart, cracked up ran into the jungle clutching bottles. A lot of visitors wanted to discuss the internet signal with me, and very few shared my opinion that it was a miracle that we had it. Sort of. We don’t have roads, or phones or cars; there’s twenty foot of rain falling on us, and sometimes we have an internet signal strong enough to suck in mail. That’s amazing.

Comedian No.2, Louis C.K: “Everything’s amazing right now and nobody’s happy”. He tells how he was on a flight that was offering new-fangled, super hi-tech internet access. It packed up, and the man next to him, goes ‘This is bullshit!’. “How quickly” says Louis, “the world owes him something he didn’t even know existed 10 seconds earlier”.

Quite. That’s right. But I need it. For the last few weeks the signal has drifted and flat-lined. Following two days spent swatting mosquitoes and waiting for a page to load, I packed my laptop in bin liners and went to get a boat for the three-hour round trip in driving rain across rough seas, the Hawaii surf of the wet season breaking against the rocks of the river mouth and through the mangroves to the one horse town of Sierpe, (picture attached of the one horse), and the superior internet facilities of Las Vegas, the bar. Unfortunately there wasn’t a boat.

I spent days in the Bucket o’ Blood Bar and at the end of a jetty in the Bay Islands 25 years ago waiting for a mail boat, or a fishing boat, or any boat, to get off the island. It probably wouldn’t be such a trial being stranded there these days, but back then people . . . well, let’s just say they didn’t get many visitors. It brought it all back.  Anyway, yesterday there was a boat, and I shared it with Fitz’s caretaker, William, and his wife Carmen (she of the puma incident), who had some days off.

Obviously there wasn’t a lot going on in Sierpe, because there never is (this, I guess, is its charm – not that it really has charm), but I sat in Las Vegas, checked emails (including one, an invitation to a cider event at the Houses of Parliament, and another, a press trip London-Panama) while crocodiles snapped below, and listened to the usual trio of sleazy guides approach backpackers with some ingenious conversational openers. I strolled about, chatted to a man hosing down his piebald horse, went to Super el Combo but couldn’t see anything I wanted to buy, dropped into the police station to see if they’d found any Colombian drug lords this month (no, actually, they hadn’t). Lorena, who runs the hotel’s Sierpe office, had a new grandson in a back room which she got out for me and the boat captain to have a look at, and then it was time to go home. Away from all this craziness.

There were two tourists on the boat coming back, and plenty of whales and dolphins in the dark, choppy sea.  It’s nice to go to town. Sort of.

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Monkey Dangle

Spider monkey in the Osa, demonstrating good use of tail.

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I was trying to upload a monkey film. Spent about three hours holding my laptop to the clouds but to no avail. So tomorrow I shall take the boat out to the big city of Sierpe and head to the Las Vegas bar, watch crocodiles and upload stuff from there. Let’s hope it’s not raining.


Change is in the Air

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There’s a set of three dials set in wood by the desk at the beach house. The barometer is pointing at the ‘Pluie’ end of ‘Variable’, the temperature is 34 degrees, and the time is always 9:05. Earlier this morning this was all as it should be  (although the French seems out of place) because we are undergoing The Change.

Theoretically, Costa Rica has two seasons: wet and dry, but it has altitude, so should you feel like a bit of autumn, you can nip up to Zarcero or Barva and drink coffee wearing a jumper and rubber boots, watching drizzle. And any time you fancy a bit of spring, you can pull over on the Cerro de la Muerte, step out of your truck and feel the frosty grass crunch under your foot while enjoying a nip in the air (which is precisely what we had to do when we broke down on the way back from the beach, and George was a baby, and everyone was wearing wet swimwear under other clothes selected for Extreme Heat).

However, if you remain in one place long enough, for example, a house in a rainforest on the Osa peninsula, you start to become aware of – to tune into – many other seasons and cycles, the various flowerings and dying offs, births and deaths, arrivals and departures, all of which, gradually begin to affect you, and colour your days.

Obviously that includes the moon. Personally I’m not too sure what this moon does and doesn’t do other than suck the sea into tides, but people here hold it responsible for a lot of stuff, from whipping the purrujas, sand fleas, into a frenzied attacks, and making bull frogs sing, to the success of crops, weddings and business ventures. Certainly, having a night that looks like a film negative on a light box out there making the sea look milky is unsettling, and I can believe it’s up there doing something.

Then there are migrations, some international, some just local as trees come into fruit – the so-called ‘elusive’ tapirs have thrown caution aside and spend every night tromping through the hotel grounds in their greedy quest for maranon, the fruit of the cashew; some spider monkeys have decamped to the beach for the palm nuts; there are toucans outside the house (although I don’t know what they want).

And then there are smaller things that, in great volume, have impact, like a big increase in the numbers of the plate-sized blue morpho butterflies (Londoners: think of crisp packets caught up in the air coming out the tube station vents); the flowering of the ylang ylang trees filling the air with Chanel No.5, and, this year, the deafening, ratcheting of cicadas throughout December and January (followed by the sudden but pleasant Silence of the Cicadas in February).

Anyway, of all the seasonal and cyclical shifts, the most dramatic, the most seismic, is dry to wet. Every year, around mid-November, there’s a collective sigh of relief as the supply of rain dries up. By the end of March, we’re desperate for it.

For several days the sea gone green, grey and black and frothy in the afternoons, and the sky over to the west, or the south or the north, turned dark purple. It has been insufferably hot, the temperature notching up through the day to teeter at its peak, the air is thick, tingling steam, and everything on edge, hopping along twigs and rushing through undergrowth, squawking and chuntering, and you are sure the sky has to crack open and let the deluge begin – you’re begging for it – come on, dammit! . . . before backing off. All the talk is of rain – will it rain? it might rain! I thought it was going to rain, please let it rain etc.

But there is electricity in the air, literally, and last night, feeling restless and energised, I wandered outside and saw a distant storm lighting up the sky. The air had little twists of cool stuff in it, and it smelt different, carrying whiffs of damp vegetation and wet earth.

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