October 11, Monday 1999
Santa Elena, Costa Rica
Santa Elena is a small town about five kilometers from Monte Verde Cloud Forest and Reserve. Our bus departed yesterday at 6:30 AM. We arrived five hours later and settled ourselves at Pension Santa Elena. For five bucks per person per night we have a room for three (myself, Moira, Stephanie) with a shared bathroom (heated water!--well, kind of). The place has kind of a nice college dorm feel about it, with a large communal kitchen for cooking, attached to a dining/lobby area with tables for eating, writing, playing cards. This room opens out onto a porch with a couple of hammocks and lounge chairs where you can sit back and enjoy the Pink Floyd emanating from within.
Today we visited a private reserve that plays host to a series of suspension bridges and cable lines known as SKY TREK. We hiked through the forest wearing climbing harnesses and carrying small metal pulleys. At intervals on the tour we would climb towers or steep paths to the cable lines, hook on with our hand pulleys, and zip through the treetops to the other side. The longest cables were about 300 meters long, and 60 meters high, and we traveled at between 25 and 30 kilometers per hour. Propelled by gravity, a heavier person travels faster and further, while a lighter person (or one not so adept and shifting one's body weight) might find oneself stalled before the end, and proceeding hand over hand for the last few feet of the trip (not that that happened to anyone we know ha ha!).
After this adventure Moira and Stephanie made for base camp, but I continued up the mountain with an English couple we had met during our tour. Terry and Alice are father and daughter--she seems about my age--and were good company. They are traveling together through Central America for six months, and each is writing their own account of the trip and their relationship. At the end they hope to compile a book. It was raining even before we began our hike up to Santa Elena reserve. The rains seemed to end as we arrived and began our trail, but this was deceptive as half an hour later we experienced monsoon-like conditions. It was fun, but I fear my boots will be drying for days to come!
In the evenings we entertain ourselves playing cards with a sweet tempered boy named Casey-- the type who would have captured my heart as he came running out of the Fiji house for a game of Ultimate back at Hanover College. In the off-season he is Pension Santa Elena's oldest (duration, not age)occupant. After a little over a week he is as completely comfortable as a stray cat that wanders into your life and simply chooses to stay. He has the face of an angel, framed by shapely sideburns, a stud through his lower lip, (there is another through his tongue)and a shell necklace. He tells us in a monotone Savannah,GA drawl about his favorite DJs and mixers who spin drum-bass, jungle and house. Unlike the cat, Casey would like to leave--his friends have already left for Montezuma, but he is a victim of the country's rather slow money wiring system, and so each day since Friday he's been "waitin' on tha bank." Because he has to conserve his money for the essentials (food, cigarettes and some kind of local moonshine) he has not visited any of the wildlife attractions--he's always right there when we come home. We depart tomorrow before the bank opens and so I won't know how the story ends. I think I will always have this sense of him being here, like an episode of "The Twilite Zone" perpetually sitting on the porch bumming smokes, every day waiting on the bank that never comes.