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Costa Rica... Chapter 8

Costa Rica... Chapter 8


The Jungle People

It was Day 4 in Nicaragua. The previous days have not been easy. Physically, they have been fatiguing, as the lack of sleep combined with the heat and strenuous fishing had begun to take its toll upon my resources. Mentally I was exhausted. My mind had been stretched to its limits and then pulled far beyond them. The overload of information and stimuli had caused not only haunting dreams, hallucinations and jumbled thoughts, but had begun to effect me physically. My balance was off, my hands trembled. I could not think comprehensibly. I was however, still having the time of my life fishing. I began to think that perhaps I was a bit too sensitive.

Bertie and I rode with Jaime back to Fish Creek that morning. Two of the other boats from the Rain Goddess showed up while we were there. One held the two flyfishers and the other held two of the guys from the Eagle Claw gang fishing with spinning gear. I could sense their frustration as time after time they went up and down the creek, trying to find a place to catch a fish and each time they passed, my rod was doubled over with another nice fish on.

The day went on like that, with them catching nothing and Bertie and I hooked up almost all of the time. We stopped for a short lunch and then fished some more. Around mid afternoon we headed back in to the Rain Goddess. Peter and Dave had gone to Black Creek to fish and they would not return until almost dark.

As the other anglers from Fish Creek returned to the Rain Goddess, they would ask a million questions. They would complain about their guides. I would set them straight and tell them there was nobody to blame but themselves. The fish were there, the guide had taken them there, it was up to them to catch them. I tried to explain to them the methods that I used, in casting a nymph out, letting it sink and then slowly stripping it in, in 5 or 6 inch strips with a few seconds to allow it to sink again in between. They told me I was crazy.

I tried to explain to them about the way the mojarra sit underneath a popper for up to a full minute at times studying it before they take it. I tried to explain to them that the proper way to set the hook in them was with a snap of the wrist to the side, and not a trout hookset. They told me I knew not what I spoke of. I told them I had caught well over 30 fish that day and asked them how many they had caught. That would shut them up. I could tell they did not like being told anything by someone half their age. I shut up as well. I wanted to keep the peace that the afternoon was bringing me.

Lunch was served on the Rain Goddess, a gourmet meal for sure. It was a far cry from the meals that I had been eating at the hotel, where I had so far dined upon rat and iguana and wild peccary soup. It was rich and sat on my stomach. We went back to the bottom deck to await the arrival and adventures of Peter and Dave. They had not done too well in Black Creek. I went with them back to the hotel and we had dinner. From there it was back to the Rain Goddess to bid Bertie farewell. He was to return the next morning to his home in Ft. Walton Beach, FL. We sat and we drank and Garry joined us and the five us sat there late into the night, with Big John, the 15 foot long crocodile that lives in the lagoon where the Goddess was anchored, watching on. We shared adventures and stories and fishing tales from all around the world and drank. Finally we said our good byes and went back to the hotel for some sleep. I would get some, but not much. My dreams that night were worse than any had been so far.

Once again I found myself down on the dock as the sun rose. Peter and Dave and their boat boy Omar came down just after dawn, and after a quick breakfast we were off again to Fish Creek. Another day passed of Mojarra and Guapote and Machaca and Viejitos. Omar was young, but learning quickly about how to manage a boat containing flyfishers. Peter and Dave and I stood side by side in the boat and all made casts together. It is not easy to cast with three people on a boat. Luckily the three of us were experienced enough to do so. Dave is a short caster, and Peter and I had to adjust our casting to make casts from short distances. It is not easy for me to do, but I can do it if I must.

I hooked into a huge guapote. I was using a 30 lb tippet, but after just a few short seconds, it had broken me off. I tried to turn the fish in every direction that I could but it did not do any good. It finally took off for a log and that was the end of the story. Peter and Dave stood there dumbfounded. I put away the 5 wt and picked up a 9 wt rod and tied a clouser onto the tippet. It was time to see if I could hook into one of the many tarpon that kept rolling all around us. While Peter and Dave continued to catch many fish, I failed to hook a single tarpon, though I did have one bump my fly once. It was just not to be, perhaps it was too late in the day. The bite had begun to turn off for my companions as well.

We left Fish Creek in time to see the black clouds rolling in. We raced the storm to the hotel and made it just in time to unload the boat before the downpour began. While they both went for a nap, I stood outside in the rain and felt it upon my face. It had been a long time since I could stand in the rain and not freeze. It had been a long time since I had heard real thunder. I prayed for lightning, lightning like I had known at home in FL, but my prayers were not answered. I realized how long it had been since I had seen lightning and how much I missed it. My thoughts turned to home. Perhaps it was time.

We did not fish that evening. We were to leave the following day, but things happened and we could not get out until the next, so we all retired early and each of us slept right through until the morning. I awoke disoriented, wondering why I had managed to sleep the whole night through without a single nightmare. I did not question it. Instead I finished packing my things and carrying them to the boat. We would be following the Coronel, the transport boat from the Rain Goddess out. The rivers had dropped even more since we had made our way in, and it would make for a dangerous ride for both of the boats had they had to do it alone. Together there was safety.

We made our way back down the rivers. One solitary huge crocodile was all that I saw. A bright blue kingfisher flew alongside of us for a long ways. I wondered about the kingfisher, and thought of how much alike we really were. I thought back upon the people of the jungle, and realized many things about my own life. I realized how good I had it. I have lived out of a suitcase for many months now and have little in the way of material goods with me and yet, I can not recall being happier. These people have it hard, and yet, they do not realize they do. They have nothing with which to compare it. This life is all that they know. A trip to the supermarket means a 12 mile paddle up and then back down a river to a place where they sell fruits and vegetables. Their meat is hunted or caught on small handlines that I see them fishing with regularly. Their laundry is done in the river. Their food is cooked in a coal pot. I wondered if I would ever again complain about things like that.

We rode on, the Coronel always within our sights, save for one scary moment when we ran aground. The sand got into the motor, the alarms went off and the scramble for a heavy piece of mono to run through the ports began. Finally we were back in business and somehow managed to catch up with the other boat again. We stopped at one house along the river and were greeted by a man and a woman and about 15 children. Each was about 10 or 11 months older than the next and they were all brown children, save for one little boy, whose skin was as white as paper, freckled and he had a headful of red hair. His eyes were the brown of his family. I watched genetics at work as all of the other children hung back. I watched as this boy and this boy alone came to the boat and looked and wondered and watched as we purchased a load of freshwater shrimp, which many would consider small lobsters. I saw how he was ostracized by the rest of the family and saw too that he did not seem to care. He was the most independent child I had ever seen. It was interesting to see.

Back through the checkpoints we went, and I was greeted by my touchy feely friend again, only this time with so many people around with the load of folks returning to Puerto Viejo from the Goddess aboard the Coronel he did not try much. Only the Doc and I got off of the boats, carrying all of the passports for our respective boats. The Doc speaks Spanish. He told me that the guard had told them that I was an amazingly tall woman and that I would make good breeding stock. I was glad to be getting out of there. As we were leaving, I managed to take one too many steps into the water and sank to my waist in horrid sulfuric water. I wondered how the people drank this water and bathed in it. Within minutes it began to burn.

We had picked up three passengers at the guard station and would be taking them to Puerto Viejo with us. It was a man and woman and their little girl. They simply turned their heads as I changed my clothes right there on the boat. I did not care. The water stung my skin. Onwards we went, and I could feel the apprehension and mystery of the jungle behind me getting further and further away. I reflected on all that I had learned, had experienced, had felt, had wondered. As I looked back, I began to look forward as well. Home sounds good. I long for a cold shower and a meal that does not consist of beans and rice. I miss my family, my friends, and I miss wading in the waters of the lagoon. I wondered how much longer I would survive in paradise. I knew right then and there, on the river coming home from Nicaragua, that I would soon be leaving this place and heading back to the waters I knew and loved the most. Soon, I will be going home.

For now, home is still the house on the hill overlooking the city of San Jose, where my hammock swings out front under the skies and in the breezes off of the mountains. It was good enough just to be back to that. I unloaded the truck, unpacked my things and headed for the shower. I reveled in the small amount of hot water that we have here and as I got out of the shower to dry off, I looked into a mirror for the first time in a week. I barely knew the woman staring back at me. She looked old. Her eyes were those of someone three times my age, and her posture was that of someone who had just walked across the plains of Hell and survived. I wondered who she was, and how well I would get along with her. I am still finding out.


Costa Rica... Chapter 7

Costa Rica... Chapter 7


The Jungle Beat

The day started much like the previous days. I was awake well before dawn, pondering the nature of the nightmares that had plagued me in this place. I could not make sense of them. I knew only that in each of the dreams, those things that I loved, those people that I loved each came to an end. I saw my mother killed, my father as well. I saw in my dreams all that I knew come crumbling down around me. I did not stay all night in the room. I put on a long sleeved shirt, long pants and slathered mosquito repellant on those parts still exposed and I walked down to the dock.

From there I watched the sun rise over the mouth of the Rio Indio from behind the ever-present cloudbank in the east. I watched as the dark clouds glowed with the early morning light and changed from an ominous presence of gloom and despair into a brilliant display of hope and beauty. I listened as the roosters began their morning revelry and the dogs barked to greet the day. I heard the stirrings of the others and soon the place was alive with activity. Breakfast would be ready soon. I went back to the room under the comfort and protection of daylight and changed my clothes once again. I packed up my gear, got my rainsuit ready and came back down the stairs to join the others for breakfast. They could not see the redness of my eyes, the black circles beneath them and the worry lines that surrounded them from beneath my sunglasses.

It was not long before the familiar sound of the small boat I had fished from the previous day could be heard in the distance. I hastily finished what I could of my breakfast, drank down my tea in one giant swallow and ran from the table to meet them at the dock. I could not get away fast enough. We waited as Peter and Dave got their stuff into the boat and we were all off together to San Juanillo.

San Juanillo is a large lake with a lot of mangrove like structure surrounding it. Peter and Dave headed to the opposite side from where Jaime positioned us. We made three or four casts before Bertie decided that he wanted to go someplace else, as he had no confidence in this place. We rode over and informed Peter and Dave that we would meet them at the Rain Goddess at around noon and left them in San Juanillo to enjoy their fishing day there. We were on our way to Silico, a place that Peter could not have followed us to had he wanted to. His boat was too large at 20 feet long and 8 feet wide. I did not quite understand just yet, but I would.

Back across San Juanillo we rode, and then as if by magic, a small opening appeared. I am not sure how Jaime was able to find it, but he did. Suddenly we found ourselves in a jungle passage, a thick canopy of trees and vines and mysteries surrounding us and a very narrow path of water beneath us. Jaime navigated the path with expertise and precision. I am not sure how long we were in this jungle labyrinth, but finally, after many apprehensive turns and twists and small openings, we found ourselves once again on a huge body of open water. Silico is another large lagoon like lake that looked much like San Juanillo. I would soon find out just how different it was.

We made several casts up against one shore before the wind picked up and made casting nearly impossible. We caught a few small guapote and a mojarra. Whitecaps formed on the still waters of the lake around us and Bertie decided that we should move once again. First though, we would take a short break on the other side of the lake. They wanted me to see something. We rounded a small corner of the lake and there along the bank, half submerged in the water was a small airplane. I do not know enough about airplanes to say what kind it was, but it had a propeller in front, barely sticking out of the water, the symbols on it too corroded to read. It was a one-seater type plane, and the large ammo cartridges under each wing still held small rockets in them. The Nicaraguan flag was barely legible from time and exposure on the rudder of the plane. The top of the plane was out of the water. It had obviously not fallen here. The ropes that held it to the shore were visible. I asked where it had fallen. For the first time in two days, Jaime spoke.

He told me that it was found by him in 1984, in the middle of the lake, only the tail end of it visible from the water. It had been shot down over the San Juan River and had somehow made it that far before going down. That was during the days of the Contra Wars. Jaime and other Rama Indians had been used by the Americans as guides and trackers during those wars. He had spent nearly four years in the jungles eating grubs and caterpillars and other creatures in an effort to support the Americans in those battles. Their support for the Americans was not necessarily because they thought our stance in the issues was the right one, but more for the fact that we were not Spanish. The Spanish had hunted them down many years ago, and since that time, they have been extremely anti-Spanish, to the point that even though Spanish is the official language, they will not speak it.

During the time of the Contra Wars, with the rise of the SandaNistas and other factions in the country, the Ramas decided that they would assist the Americans because of their English speaking armies, and the fact that they were both fighting against the same political bounds. For their efforts, they lost almost half of their population, and received nothing for their assistance. He went on to tell me about the raids, the battles, the man to man combats that ensued, with little of the war being fought in the air or on water, and about how horrible it was. He told of the rituals his people practiced to honor the dead and of how he had seen too many of his people killed. As he spoke, I could hear the gunfire in the jungles, echoing across almost 20 years. I could hear the cries of the wounded. I could feel the fear, the anger, the evil of the place.

We sat there beside the plane in silence. I smoked a cigarette and drank a bottle of water and still could not calm the nerves that twitched and jerked all over my body. Maybe I was just tired. I could not be sure, but I was extremely relieved when finally Jaime got off of the plane and back into the boat and we left. We had to pass through the jungle passage once again to get back to the other place we were off to try. This time through though, we would be fishing in the smaller openings within the passage.

As we approached the first, Bertie told me to get my rod ready. With shaking hands, I managed to tie on a new fly, a small tan shrimp pattern that I had had a lot of luck with previously and stripped some line off of the reel. I sat there waiting. Finally we came to a clearing in the jungle waters and I started to cast. There was not a lot of room for a backcast and the jungle canopy above us blocked out much of the light that I could use for sight fishing. I picked a tree to the side of us that had another small canal like passage running beside and began to roll cast out to it. The sound of the flyline cutting through the air in the otherwise still and silent jungle was like a whip cutting through the air, or the sound of the leather straps the Indians used to throw rocks with many moons ago. The sound of the bugs came from nowhere like voices from the past, busy voices that chastised and laid blame. I was terrified. I could hear the beating of the drums, loud and steady, first slowly, but as the seconds passed, they became faster and faster. The beat of the drums coursed through my body, I could feel each beat resonate through me. The screaming began, a voice as mystical as any I could have imagined, her cries ululating with the drums in a way that I knew a ritual was being performed somewhere nearby. I could feel the stinging hot coals on my body and found myself right in the middle of it all. I could almost see her there, dressed in her native attire, the men off to the side beating on the drums, beating and beating, harder and faster, harder and faster and I could feel the heat of the fire and the coals as they flew out of the fire and landed on my skin. I could hear Bertie in the distance calling my name, Tammy… Tammy… TAMMY!!! What??? I replied… And I was brought back to reality and the jungle passage that I was in. I had a fish on. The beating of the drums was no more than the beating of my own heart as a large guapote took off down the creek like waterway with my fly, the screaming of the reel was the cries of the woman and the bugs eating away at my body the burning coals. I would be ok.

It was too late for the guapote, though. I came out of the trance far too late to have any chance of landing it. He had run far enough down the passage and wrapped me around enough logs that even with the 30-lb tippet I was using; I did not stand a chance. I broke him off and Bertie looked at me and asked me where in the hell I was at when that thing took off. He told me about how big it was, and how I had just stood there, as if off in another world and just let him go. He did not chastise, that is not his style, but he certainly wondered. Jaime just looked at me. I looked back at him and raised one eyebrow as if to question it all. He simply nodded his head once and we were off to the next small opening.

We fished like that for nearly two hours, each taking an opening and fishing it out in all directions. We caught many machaca, mojarra and a few more guapote, although none as large as the one I had hooked and lost. We caught a mudfish as well. It went a whopping 2 ½ inches long. It was amazing. I changed the shrimp pattern and put on a small olive double bead head nymph and found the fish to go crazy for it. The heat of the day had somehow found its way into the canopy of the jungle and put the fish down. They would not take topwater flies now, or even the shrimp flies that we fished just below the surface. These fish now wanted their flies down near the bottom. I gave it to them.

Finally we made our way back out of the darkness of the jungle and into San Juanillo again. We kept going and went around another small passage, though a short one and it opened up into another good waterway down which many boats traversed the land by way of. There in the middle of the water was a large bed of some kind of grass growing. We fished around it. Large mojarra dwelled within it and if you could cast just so and get your fly down far enough, huge guapote would give you a run for your money. We did not land a single guapote from the grass bed. They headed straight for it and got themselves all tangled up in it and there was no way to do anything about it… at least not with a 5 wt.

Jaime picked up his spinning rod and made a few casts at the bank. He picked up several nice guapote with a spinning lure. Two of them went into the well on the boat. He only said one word… dinner. I was not about to lay down the values of catch and release on a person whose traditions and livelihoods depended on NOT releasing the fish. I could not do it. I simply nodded my head in response and continued to fish.

When finally it was time to go, the score was pretty obvious. The guapote had beaten us pretty severely. My flyline was tattered, I had been through several lengths of 30 lb tippet and had broken or lost many flies. I was bitten by bugs from head to toe, sunburned even with the sunscreen and I was tired. I cannot recall ever being so tired in my life, and yet so fully alive, either. It was a strange feeling to experience. We headed back to the Rain Goddess. Peter and Dave were there already waiting upon us. They had done well in San Juanillo, bringing in several good sized guapote early that morning on poppers and 10 wt rods using a straight 8’ length of 40 lb test for a leader. One of them had tangled a flyline up in the trolling motor. Then they lost the screw for the motor when they took it off to untangle the flyline. Their adventure had taken them to some place nearby to find a new one at some mid-jungle scrapyard.

I left with Peter and Dave and headed back to the hotel where lunch was waiting for us. We ate a fine lunch, I tried rat for the first time and found it to not be completely unappealing and then we all decided to take a short nap before heading back to Fish Creek for the evening fishing. The night on Fish Creek was like the one before… first on nymphs, then on shrimp, and finally they would take topwater again as dusk began to make its way upon Central America. Mojarra, machaca, guapote, viejito and one snook that decided it wanted Peter’s hooked mojarra were caught. The snook got away though, after nearly spooling him.

We returned for a pretty normal dinner and then sat upon the dock and watched the moon rise. It was a full moon for sure and it shone its light down upon us and created many shadows and mysteries while at the same time illuminating many things as well. I was too tired to decipher its messages. I was the first to head to my room. I fell into a deep slumber by 9 pm and somehow managed to sleep until almost 3 the next morning. That is when the dreams returned. I was thankful for the sleep I had gotten though, and instead of cowering in my room, opened the door and walked down to the dock to greet the day, watch the sun rise and try to read the stories that the moon wrote out with its shadows. I was no longer afraid. As the first rays of the sun began to show over the eastern horizon, I was ready for a new day to begin. I wondered what I would see next.


Costa Rica... Chapter 6

Costa Rica... Chapter 6


The Fish
Day 2 in Nicaragua

I was awake when the rest of my party got to moving around. I had sat huddled in my room with no electricity, shrouded in darkness and the sounds of the jungle. Many thoughts raced through my head. The dreams of the night still had me in a cold sweat. My gear was ready and I was only waiting for the rise of the sun to step outside. Luckily, the sun rises early in the jungles of Central America.

We ate breakfast and Peter questioned my strange attitude that morning. I told him of the dreams that I had experienced and he only gave me a serious look and said something about the spirits there. The sound of a boat motor pulling up to the dock outside brought a quick end to the conversation and to breakfast. We stepped outside and an old friend of Peter’s made his appearance.

Bert Bookout is a little old man who holds one of the peacock bass records. He took one look at me and decided that I was to fish with him that day. I gave Peter a questioning look, he looked back at me with a look that said, “Go ahead, it is ok.” That is how it came to be that I ended up fishing with Bert and his guide Jaime for three days on the waters of Nicaragua. I loaded my gear into the much smaller and more basic boat that Bert was in and off we went.

First order of business was checking in with the military outpost. They want to know where we were going and when we thought we would be back. I thought it a great idea, actually. It was somehow comforting to me. We continued north along the Rio Indio, past the village of the Ramas and further on until we came to a small opening in the bank. We turned and went into it. This was to be the first of many trips down Fish Creek.

As we rounded one corner and went down one stretch of it that ran east and west, the sun was just above the treeline. For some reason, on this stretch and this stretch alone, the creek took on an eerie glow as the orange sunlight of dawn caught the mist that rose in only this section. It was beautiful. The sounds of the birds and other animals in the trees around us resonated through the glowing mist and gave the whole experience an ethereal mood.

Bertie and I went much further into the creek than Peter took Dave. We fished all day at the end we chose and never saw another boat. We had agreed to meet up at noon for a lunch. It would be that long before we saw them again. We had some fishing to do. I had some learning to do.

We started out with small poppers. The fish eagerly took the topwater offerings early in the morning. I had much to learn about catching them, though. The Mojarra are giant bluegills, cursed or blessed as you may see it with an attitude. Their colors are splendid and they fight like bulldogs. They do not get much over two pounds, but one does not go in with anything less than 12 lb tippet and expect to land one. They dwell under logs, under the cover of the hammock and under the other deadfall that lines the banks of the creek. They react to a topwater fly in a way that I had never before seen.

The most effective way to work the poppers is to first be able to cast a tight enough loop that it is able to make it through very small openings in the overhanging hammock and beneath it. Once it lands upon the water, a very small twitch is all that is needed most times. Sometimes a nice loud pop does the trick. Either way, when the Mojarra rises to the fly, it tests you. It sits beneath the fly for a very long time, as if studying it, wondering what it is and if it is worthy of being eaten. The reflex of the angler is to move it again. I know. I did that several times and succeeded only in spooking the fish away from it. The correct thing to do, as I learned after many failed attempts is to just wait. The mojarra will do one of two things. It will rise and slam the fly and take it or it will abort the mission. If the mojarra takes the fly, that is when the next battle begins. The first thing it will do is head for the logs and other cover in the water. It is like fighting a much larger fish. I used a 5 wt and my 12-lb tippet often failed me. The rod was fine, it was the tippet that could not handle the fish.

We landed several of those fish, from small to very large. I landed many of the larger ones. The whole time, Jaime did not say one word, but he kept us always at the proper distance from the treeline so that our casts were easy. I was lucky in that Bertie and I are compatible fishing partners. We stood side by side the whole day and matched each other cast for cast, never tangling our lines though we often laid down our lines only inches from each other. We both are distance casters, and find it difficult to make very close in casts. We both cast fairly well.

Machaca came next. They can get very large, though the ones we caught were usually less than 20 inches long. They are a mix between a mullet and a piranha. They look like a mullet in their own little way and yet have a set of teeth like the piranha. They are in fact a distant relative of the piranha and they DO bite. They also fight well although they are not as infamous for heading for the cover as the other fish that live there are.

Along with the mojarra and machaca, I caught several small viejitos. They are smaller panfish like fish that are brown and black and gold and are really a beautiful fish. They do not fight as well as the other fish there, but are eager to take a fly. If you catch one of them, it is likely that if you cast back into the same spot, you will be able to pull several more out of there. Also caught was one large tuba. It was indeed the epitome of a bluegill on steroids. It even had the markings and colors of the bluegills I was used to seeing in FL, only three times the size and twice as mean.

The other fish that I caught several of was the guapote. It is the rainbow bass. There are two or three kinds of guapote, including the guapote pinto, which has less coloration and does not grow to the same sizes as its cousin the guapote. The rainbow bass can grow to about 15 pounds, sometimes bigger. They fight like crazy and they too head straight for the cover. For the small guapote, 12 lb tippet is sufficient, but for the big boys that swim there, if you do not have 40 lb tippet at the end of your line, you may as well hang it up and forget about it. I was broken off by a mid-sized guapote using 30-lb tippet. They will literally wrap your line around logs and keep going. They are the toughest freshwater fish I have ever fished for. I have never known anything like them before.

Their colors are absolutely marvelous. They have a few teeth in the front of their mouth and the large guapote are loners. I caught most of the large guapote later in the day using a shrimp pattern fished slowly near logs and right up on the bank. I lost most of the large guapote in the same places. Near midday my line was beginning to show signs of wear and tear. Several times a day I had to take a break and clean and dress my line. Tippets were checked after every fish and changed so often that I must have gone through a hundred feet of leader material. Flies were checked, changed and heads shaken over them as hook after hook was straightened out. It was amazing. I would never look at panfishing the same way again. I was a changed woman.

At lunchtime we went down the creek and found Peter and Dave just in time for the short rainsquall that fell upon our heads. We headed to a place along the bank where two boats could slide in and tied up for lunch, naps and story telling. Peter tells the best stories. If we believed him, he caught a Mojarra that ran 12 lbs. Jaime had still not said a word all day. Bertie had talked much about the place, the fishing and he had taught me much. I still had a lot more to learn.

Around 2 pm we headed back out to fish some more. The fishing in the middle of the day is unbelievably slow. It is also unbelievably hot. It is not as humid as many would think it to be. FL is more humid. The sun though will burn a body quickly. The breeze that blows through there often becoming a stout wind to cast against somehow manages to keep it cooled off, so that you do not realize how much sun you are getting.

We did manage to catch several more fish as dusk set in. Just like panfishing in the waters of FL, the best times to do so are mornings and evenings. By the time the sun started to sink low enough for us to be making our way quickly out of there, I was exhausted and ready to go. We began to make our way out of there. The phenomenon of the morning somehow repeated itself on the one stretch, only this time the sun was just above the treeline in the west. It was a great way to end the day.

After checking back in at the military post, it was back to the hotel. Bertie dropped me off and we promised to come visit him on the Rain Goddess after dinner. Dinner for us consisted of rice and beans, chicken and iguana. It was not bad at all. It was not to be the strangest thing I would eat on this trip. Showers were taken after dinner, and the fact that we had no hot water there did not phase me in the least. The cool water coming out of the showerhead was extremely refreshing after a long hard hot day in the tropics.

Once we were all settled down and relaxed, we loaded into the boat and made our way through the river and lagoons by the light of the moon to where the Rain Goddess was anchored. It is a large houseboat. It is a five star mobile fishing lodge complete with gourmet chef. The people who were aboard that week were as diverse as the wildlife that surrounded us. A group from Eagle Claw was there to film the fishing and the area. I will withhold my opinions of those people. There were two ordinary average guys from NJ who were there for some flyfishing. There was a guy from Texas who runs a safari hunting lodge. And then there was Bertie, who is one of the partners in the Rain Goddess.

We sat at the back of the boat under the awning around a table and drank and smoked cigars and talked about the fishing. Friends were made, lines were drawn and stories told. The rich history of the place absolutely astounded me. It was hard to imagine that we were anchored just a hundred or so yards from where the original canal was to be built before it was moved to Panama. The sunken dredge shone in the light of the moon as proof. A graveyard nearby had headstones with only English names on it, and were riddled with bullet holes not by anyone one but by those whose people were buried there. Bloody wars had been fought right where we were sitting. Pirates would come into that lagoon and count their booties. I was fascinated. I had never imagined any of those things.

Finally we left and returned to the hotel. By the light of the moon we made our way to our rooms and fell into our own little slumbers. The dreams would come again that night and haunt my soul like it have never been haunted before. I would wake up later that night in a cold sweat, tears streaming down my face and a scream still on my lips. Again I would not sleep that night, but would wait for the rise of the sun to comfort me, warm my body and soul and get me out of the bed that was too like a prison now at night. I sat alone and listened to the voices in the jungles. I wondered if they were real or not. I prayed for the sun to rise.


Costa Rica... Chapter 5

Costa Rica... Chapter 5


The Way to Nicaragua

We left the house on the hill early in the morning. The sunrise over the volcano in the distance was the perfect beginning to what would turn out to be a grand adventure. It was an hour and forty-five minutes to Puerto Viejo where the boat would be meeting us and we would begin a journey into another time, another world, another reality.

We unloaded all of our gear from the truck and into the boat. We packed light, as every bit of weight we could spare had to go for gasoline. The Rio Sarapiqui is where we met the boat and it was the first of many rivers that we would go down on our way to San Juan del Norte in Nicaragua. Gray skies loomed above and as we launched the boat and waved good bye to our helpers, the rain began to fall. Our rain suits were gathered, donned and everything covered up as best we could. It was only to be a 4-hour boat ride, but it turned out to be a ride of almost 6 hours. The rivers were extremely low and even though we had taken the least amount of gear possible, the boat was heavy enough that we bogged down in many places.

The rain fell upon us as we journeyed down the blue waters of the Rio Sarapiqui and the lush green forests that surrounded it and made our way into the sulfuric green waters of the Rio Susio. Its waters come straight from the volcano and are quite acidic. The line is obvious where the two rivers meet. There is a clear dividing line of blue and green waters. The Rio Susio was even lower than the Sarapiqui and going was slow. I sat alone on the bow of the boat to add weight there and it was a long and silent ride through the jungles.

As time went on, I noticed the changes in the environment around me. The luscious green jungles that surrounded us on the Sarapiqui gave way to a dirty and brown sparse forest and the banks of the river began to show more and more.

The geological make up of the walls that rose above us fascinated me. Layer upon layer of color and texture in many shapes, forms and designs decorated them. Logs alongside the water’s edge began to take on the shapes of monsters, both imaginary and real. I saw in them crocodiles and dragons and dinosaurs. I saw guardians of the river in them. The wind howled through the jungle and the rain came and went. I could hear the wind over the drone of the motor and it walked through the forest beside us at all times, as if it were a great creature, following us, watching us. My imagination knew no boundaries for the first two hours of the trip.

Soon though, I was brought out of my daydreams and back into a reality like none I had ever known. The first checkpoint was on the Costa Rican side of the border. We pulled in and spoke briefly to them, and then traveled 150 yards downriver to the where the Rio Susio and the Rio San Juan meet and to the Nicaraguan border. There we were greeted by teenagers with automatic weapons. We got out our passports, unloaded and walked up to the station there on the river to fill out some paperwork. It would be the first of many such stops.

It was soon apparent how different I was from most of the people that travel the rivers here. I am a woman for starters, and the men stationed there rarely see women. I am tall. A tall woman is almost unheard of in this part of the world. My green eyes draw attention almost everywhere I go and my brown hair with its sun-bleached blonde highlights is almost always touched. The Lieutenant on duty was just a bit too touchy-feely for my tastes. There was not a lot I could do about it, though. He was holding a very large automatic weapon, though he was a bit older than the teenaged boys on duty there. He insisted on having a picture taken with me. With that done, we took off, but not before he asked me to have sex with him. I was saved by Peter and his ability to speak Spanish better than I could.

We rode on. I thought about the country that I was traveling into. It took a long time for the reality of where I was to sink in. Huts lined the river. Squatters lived there, bathing in and drinking from the sulfuric waters of the river which was their livelihood. I had never seen anyone so poor, and here I was seeing whole communities of people so poor that I felt a twinge of guilt as I rode by in a nice boat, off to fish in a foreign country for a week and drinking a Coca Cola.

The main difference between Nicaragua and Costa Rica that I noticed immediately was the lack of animals along the river. They were there, of course, you just could not see them. I think I would rather see them. At least then, I know where they are. The jungle grew thick alongside the river and time went on. Soon we were riding past the mouth of the Rio Indio at the Caribbean and were nearing our destination of San Juan del Norte… a small village that lies along the river and is just as poor as the rest of the country. We first checked in at the military post there and then went and cleared immigration. With that done, we were off to the hotel.

Each room had a bathroom here, making it one of the finest places to stay in the entire area. We would have electricity from 4 in the afternoon until 10 at night. Water would be available for several hours in the afternoon and evening for showers and other things. The water there is cold. We checked in, unloaded the boat, unpacked our gear and settled in for a bit. A meal was prepared for us and we sat around for a while before heading to the mouth of the ocean for thirty minutes of casting before dark fell and we returned to the hotel for dinner and showers and bed.

The ocean was very rough and we could not get out to fish for the tarpon on the other side of the breaking waves. We anchored just inside the mouth and with a 15-wt rod, I made several casts into a drop off coming into the river from the ocean. I hooked nothing. I saw nothing. I felt nothing. I was numb from yet another bout of culture shock. We returned to the hotel and it was then that I realized that the people there were speaking a broken sort of English. I wondered why they spoke no Spanish. I soon found out as the night wore on and we sat upon the dock outside watching the tide change, the islands of grass float by like they have for years and learned about the history of the place, the people, and the culture from the people themselves. I was almost ashamed to be an American when they were done talking. I now knew the history of the Rama Indians.

It had been a long day. I was weary and had much to mull over in my mind. I sat alone on the dock long after everyone else had deserted it and smoked my cigar and thought about many things. Finally, I was exhausted enough mentally and physically to make my way back to the building with the rooms, climb the stairs and crawl into bed. It would not be the last night that I was haunted by dreams that I can not describe, except to say that I have never dreamed so vividly, so realistically and so terribly.

I laid awake most of the night, listening to the sounds of the jungle around me and trying not to fall asleep again for fear that the dreams would return. Morning would not come soon enough.


Costa Rica... Chapter 4

Costa Rica... Chapter 4


Tropical Trout

The sun had not even come up yet when I was rousted from bed. The sun rises early here, too. We gathered our things, drank our tea and loaded up the truck and left. The hour and 45 minute drive to Rio Sevegre seemed to take 3 days. At one point along the journey, we were at 13,000 feet above sea level. From there we dropped down a winding narrow dirt road downhill. From our ascent to the top of the mountain, we dropped to a place along the river that was nestled in the mountains at the altitude of about 8,000 feet.

We pulled into the restaurant for a quick breakfast and looked at the trout in the trout ponds there. Everywhere around us were flowers, and in the flowers, hummingbirds of many shapes and sizes and colors. I had never seen so many hummingbirds. After our meal, we were back out to the truck to get our gear ready. I strung up my 5 wt and tied on a new leader and picked a fly. I was told that dry fly action on the river was not that great, so I went with a bead head nymph that I found in my box. I was going nymphing. No strike indicator, no putty, foam, or anything else would go on my leader.

The 7 of us split up. They dropped me off at a place along the river and I was to fish downstream to where they would meet me after having fished upstream. Apparently because I was the youngest, and supposedly the most capable of that stretch, that is what I was given. I got out of the truck, said my good byes and we agreed to meet back on the road at about noon. I looked down at my arm at the place where a watch used to sit and laughed. I would get there sometime.

I stood on the side of the road and looked across the pasture to where the river was. I had never fished these waters before and am quite inexperienced with trout fishing in general. Through the barbed wire fence I went and across the field. My broken toes reminded me of their presence with every step. Across the pasture, I came to yet another barbed wire fence. As I started to go through it, I heard a familiar snorting sound, and looked up just in time to see the bull starting to charge. I backed out and looked for an alternative entrance to the river. I found one upstream a little ways.

To get down to the river, I had to scale a fallen tree that spanned the width of the river. The river itself is no more than 30 feet across at its widest and fairly shallow, but with good pools and a lot of falls. I got assigned the section with all of the falls. This was not going to be an easy trip. I almost regretted not having my waders anymore. As the water seeped into my shoes, though, the coolness began to numb my sore toes and I found it much easier to walk. I also found it easier to slip and slide.

For the first hour I walked downstream, jumping from rock to rock, slipping and sliding and cutting new trails through the jungle forest around me. It was nothing but whitewater for a long ways. I often stopped and admired the many birds and bugs that I saw. The insect life of the river was pretty amazing. Although there seemed to be some major hatches going on, by the time I got past the whitewater to some calmer pools, I did not see a single rise.

I spotted the trout in the first pool past the long trail I blazed through the jungle. They were tiny. I made a cast though and let the nymph drift down. I had about 3 feet of line past the rod tip out. I found it difficult to control a drift that way. Nonetheless, a few seconds later I was nearly launching my first official "real" trout of the water. A perfect specimen of the rainbow trout, exactly 4 inches long. I took a quick picture and let the little guy go. What colors these fish possessed!

I caught two more from that pool before heading to the next. One was 8 inches and the other 6. Down to the next pool I walked and there, on the same nymph, caught 2 more. One was a brute of a trout at 12 inches and the other was 10. I tried in vain for several minutes to entice the golden colored rainbow trout in the school to take a fly. I could no longer walk along the river again. I went back up to the road and walked downhill a ways until I could find another access point. From the road, I saw the pool and just knew that it held trout. I was not wrong. I pulled 2 from its waters. Each was an exact replica of the other and each was 8 inches long.

I decided to rest that pool and walk downriver along the road a little further. I passed a small bridge and walked out onto it and looked down the river. I saw the pool about 200 feet downstream and hoped that there was a way to get to it. A very large rock was on the side I would be accessing and I thought it would make a nice place to rest. I had been walking and fishing for hours. The thin air at that elevation reminds me that I do not have a full set of lungs.

I was in luck. There was a way to get down to it. As I walked down to the rock on one side, I spooked two trout, bigger than any I had caught so far. I stood there still for a bit and watched. I saw them rising. I ducked quietly behind the rock and changed flies. I put on a very small light colored fly and crawled around the other side of the rock and cast upstream. On the third cast like that, I had one on. It was 13 inches long.

It was time to take a break. I climbed up upon the rock and from there saw a small pool loaded with tiny trout. I put the nymph back on and sat there and played with them for a while. I did not let them take the fly… I did not feel like getting back down. It was amazing how quickly they would take the flies. These fish were stocked almost 40 years ago, and are naturally spawning now. I sat on my roost atop the big rock and decided to practice my drifting with so little line out. I found a small fall, about 10 inches wide and a foot or two deep. I would try to get my fly to go down that.

For five minutes I tried with no luck. Finally I got it to do what I wanted it to do. As it went down, the line tightened up. Damn, I was stuck on a rock. I lifted the rod tip in an attempt to let the current carry the fly off of whatever it was snagged on. With that action, something amazing happened. The only thing I heard was ZZZZZzzzzzZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. My reel was singing up a streak. My rod was bent over and 25 inches of rainbow trout leapt from the water in front of me. I was no longer sitting. I was sliding down the side of the rock into the pool I was playing in and starting my run downstream. I could not believe it.

After about 5 or 6 minutes of chasing after it and fighting it, I finally got it to me. I compared its size to my rod and went to land it. As I touched its sides, it flipped, slapped its tail on the line and zipped out of my hands and raced upstream. I had touched it though. I had caught a trout that was considered big for those waters. I was thrilled. I hollered and screamed and cheered and cussed. I danced in the water. Finally, I had broken the trout curse. Finally, after all of the miles, all of the places, all of the attempts, finally, I had caught my trout. I had caught several of them actually.

It was time to sit again. I walked downstream some more to the next pool. There in the middle I saw something moving. It was another trout, about the same size as the one I had just caught and brightly colored. There was something wrong with it though. It had a large growth on its bottom jaw and its tail was ragged. It did not move. I moved flies across its snout and it still did not move. I stepped into the water and walked towards it. It was not until I touched it that it finally darted away and hid under a rock shelf. It seemed sick, or dying.

The sun was high in the sky. I walked back up the road and began the walk back to the restaurant hoping that they would come by and pick me up. I did not realize how far I had traveled. I walked back up the hill nearly two and a half miles to the restaurant. Apparently my "watch" was wrong. Actually, they were late. I lay in the grass alongside the road across from the restaurant and peered at the river. I saw movement in one of the trees and was shocked to see the rare Resplendent Quetzal feeding its young in a nest dug into the tree. Its long tail talked of flies that it could make and I watched as the male and female of the pair took turns. The female did not have the long flowing tail of the male, but had the same beautiful colors.

As the male flew off down the river, the sun hit its plumage and it lit up like magic. Its feathers were iridescent in the sunlight like a peacock’s. I thought of Marvin and how happy he would have been if I had had a gun with me. I thought of how if I had been caught shooting at the "God bird"… I never would have made it out of Costa Rica alive. It is a highly revered bird among some peoples. I laid there watching the birds and soaking up the sunlight and somehow I guess I fell asleep. I woke up a while later; my friends still not back. I was early and they were late.

I made my way up to the restaurant, in a dreamlike state, the effects of my siesta not yet worn off. I pulled up a chair and asked for Un Coca-Cola por favor. I sat and sipped on my Coke and watched the hummingbirds all around sipping on their own sweet nectar. One by one my companions began to show up. One had caught over 30, and all on dry. Apparently the fish were actually rising way down where he had fished. The young ones had caught 3 apiece. One had caught 15. One had caught 14. The other had caught an even 20. I thought I had done well with my 9. I guess I was wrong. I was, however, the only one to catch anything over 10 inches long. I laughed at that thought. I teased them about what a pity it was that they couldn’t handle the section I fished.

We sat around and smoked our cigars and watched the kids pull dinner out of the trout pond. We talked, shared fish stories, I showed them the Quetzals and we all winded down after a good day’s fishing. I had no idea that trout fishing could be so good. I found it extremely ironic that I would have to travel to the tropics to finally catch a trout. I guess sometimes things just happen that way.

I now have to switch back from the trout frame of mind to the tarpon frame of mind… from one extreme to the other. A week from today or so, I am off to Nicaragua, and then to Lake Arenal. Between now and then, I have flies to tie, leaders to build, shock tippets to tie flies onto and lines to clean. I have loops to remake, knots to check and phones to answer. I have a lot of work to do. I can not wait until next week. It will feel nice to have a tarpon on the end of my rod again… but I have to admit, those trout aren’t as bad as I thought they would be either.


Costa Rica... Chapter 3

Costa Rica... Chapter 3


Escuela del Río

It was still the middle of the night when I was rousted from bed. On the mountain at the elevation where I am staying, overlooking the city of San Jose, the air is cooler, and the wind is always blowing. As we packed the truck to get ready for the day, it was cool. I knew that once we got down to the city to pick up Peter's client that it would be warmer, possibly as much as 15 degrees warmer. I enjoyed the cool while I could. We were off to the Pacific side of the country to fish and there the sun has no mercy.

Unlike the Atlantic side of the country, the Pacific side is more of a dry forest as opposed to the tropical rain forests found on the Caribbean side. While rain and clouds can often dominate the weather on the Atlantic side, it does not seem to affect the Pacific side as much. As we drove across the continental divide, this became amazingly apparent. The line of clouds stopped there and the temperature became so that we all took the extra layers we had put on for the cool mornings.

The guide Peter, the driver Cristofer, myself and the client John rode in silence most of the time. the result of not enough caffeine yet and the fact that it was still so damned early. The sun was fully risen by 6:30. As the sun shed light on the scenery around us, we became more active in conversation, talking about the things we were seeing around us. The ficus trees and teak trees and even the cabo trees, which has pods that are used for chocolate that is not chocolate. At hearing that, John and I suddenly needed a rest near a large stand of those trees. They did not stop.

We stopped only once for breakfast, where we finally managed to put enough caffeine into our bodies to make the rest of the long journey down the always-dangerous roads of Costa Rica. An hour later we drove across the rickety old bridge in Bebedero and were at the boat launch. We unloaded the 1200 pontoon off of the top of the truck, and took the 1000 out of the back of the truck and assembled it. We got rods ready and gear ready and the motors on the boats, gassed up and ready to go. John was going fishing with Peter in the two man 1200. I was going to school on the smaller one man

The school bell rang. Cristofer loaded onto the one man pontoon with me and off we went up the Corobici, while Peter and John went up the Bebedero. The extra weight and off balance weight that Cristofer created by sitting where and how he did was absolutely asinine and foolish, as well as extremely dangerous. It was supposed to be. School was in. We headed off with a small motor trying to push the weight of the boat, the fast moving current and the two of us in a pontoon that listed badly to one side and a bow that was raised into the air. I was supposed to be nervous. In fact, I was supposed to be very afraid.

My job today was to get to know the river a bit, see the place where we were, get to know the boats and how to control them, both with the motor I could not reach and the oars. The problem with the motor can be easily fixed with an extension on the motor guide bar. The oars on the other hand, will take time. They had picked for me the toughest set of conditions to learn in. High winds, high waters, extremely fast currents and a boat that had too much weight and too off balance to be able to handle efficiently.

Cristofer motored us up the river, explaining what he was doing. Hydrodynamics became amazingly clear all of a sudden. I found myself being able to read the river. When we got to the first set of small rapids however, I found myself sitting with Cris in the boat, crossways to the current with one side up on a large rock. We were stuck. At least we were not flipped over. I managed to not panic and with a small prayer, put my feet down below us, found a rock and after praying that it was indeed a rock, pushed us off of the rock we were stuck on and got us turned around again.

Going up the Corobici is a treat in itself. Though located in Costa Rica, the people that live there are Nicaraguan. They are simple people. As we motored our way up the river, we watched as the people gathered up on the bank of the river and waved us on. They watched us with curious and sometimes evil eyes. I looked back at them in their wooden shacks, their rubbish strewn down the sides of the riverbank and flowing into the river and wondered if they knew what damage they were doing to the river they depend on for their welfare. Along with the rubbish from the people, the runoff from the agricultural areas around there have brought the level of toxins in the river to a dangerous level. We would eat no fish caught from that river.

As we neared the last of the shacks and got into the wilder part of the river, away from the visual traces of man at least, we were greeted by the howlers. They do not like the sound of the motors and whenever they hear one they will howl as if we are a threat to them. Perhaps in a way, as humans, we ARE a threat to them, but not directly and not in the way that they perceive us to be. The parrots began to show. The great white ibis and the heron and many other kinds of birds became visible to us. The trees, some right out of time itself, with their huge mass of tangled roots rose above us on either side, sentries of the river. The iguanas scooted away from us on both sides of the river. There were literally hundreds of them in all shapes and sizes. Mating season must be coming soon for them, as they were beginning to take on the bright orange and black coloration that they do during that time.

The caiman and the crocodiles and the Jesus Christ lizards and the other creatures of the forest became more and more obvious the further we got from man's influence. The crocs would slide into the water ahead of us and disappear. The caiman would do the same. Flickers of movement in the shadows would catch my eye as well as my imagination. I wondered what secrets the forest held. I wondered what the trees would say if they could talk. I wondered what tales they would tell of the river, the jungle and the country. What creatures swam through these waters a million years ago? What secrets lay waiting for us on the bottom of the dark murky green waters? What creatures lurked in the shadows it cast upon the ground, in the tangled mess of roots below it, and in its branches hidden by its leaves?

We went further and further into the wild part of the river. We filled the motor up with gasoline several times. As we rounded one corner, another splash from the shore into the water happened in front of us, but this one was to be different. This one was p**sed. The croc was as wide as the inflatable craft we were sitting in and at least twice as long. It slid into the water and charged at us, going under the water only feet in front of us. If crocodiles can smell fear, this one's olfactory senses would have been overloaded. I sat there in the pontoon, the coppery taste of adrenaline in my mouth, the smell of fear coming out of my pores, the knot in my stomach, the sharpness and edge that only pure unadulterated fear can give a person in all of their senses, and the fight or flight syndrome kicking in. I was bound and determined to fight. I knew there was no way to outswim, outrun or out motor the croc. I was not going to leave the pontoon willingly. A million thoughts went through my head. We went over where it had gone down. It took only a second, but seemed like a year. It did not bother us. It would be a while before my hands stopped shaking again.

Around that area we saw many baby crocs, and I began to wonder if we had not made mamma croc think we a threat to her brood. More howler monkeys howled above us. I began to notice the holes in the mudbanks of the river and the large amounts of white splatters of feces below them. I wondered what lived in those holes. I soon found out and was rewarded with the sight of the rare
Anderson Owl, peering out from its hole. Owls are by nature a nocturnal creature, so to see this bird in broad daylight was certainly a treat. As we got closer to take a look, it flew off only feet in front of me and across the river into a tree. I watched it in awe.

The motor ran out of gas for the fourth and final time far up river. We made our way to the bank, where I grabbed hold of a tree branch after carefully checking the bank, the tree and the water around it and held us still while he poured the last of the gasoline into the motor. It was now time to learn how to row this thing. It would not be easy. My right oar was high in the air; my left was low to the water. My bow was raised and my stern was nearly underwater. The wind was howling down the river and across the river and in some places, up the river.

I began to row. It took a few minutes for me to turn the boat around so that we were facing forward. Finally I got a system figured out. It was not easy with one hand so high in the air, but somehow I got us going, around the first couple of corners and around the first few obstacles in the river, keeping us in a forward direction and without running into anything. We turned another corner and the wind was blowing so hard to our faces and across the river that it became impossible to row anymore. Cristofer started the motor and we motored the rest of the way downriver. I had not made it very far. Apparently though, I made it further than they expected me to.

Back to the launch we went. The sun was beating down upon us, through the stiff wind and it did not feel hot, but even through the sunscreen I could feel the effects of the ultraviolet rays upon my skin. Four months in Canada will take away whatever tan and resistance to the sun that a person has. It was time to get out of it. When back at the launching place, we disassembled the pontoon. Peter and John arrived shortly afterwards to the bridge just below the place where the two rivers come together. They pulled over to the shore and we lunched.

They had cast to one huge snook, but had gotten nothing. They had seen two egrets die from apparent poisoning. They had seen an amazing amount of wildlife as well, but had gotten no fish. They were going to now go up the Corobici and see if they had any luck. I did not tell them that I had not seen a single fish move there. The sounds of mortars exploding in the air caught my attention quickly. especially since it was in the air just on the other side of the bridge. The town of Bebedero was having a fiesta, and that was their way of inviting neighboring towns to join them. On the bridge, people started appearing. It was time for their baths before the party. I felt like an intruder. They did not seem to mind or care about my presence. They bathed on the river's edge, changed into clean clothes and stripped down naked to do so right in front of my eyes. Again, I felt a bit of culture shock coming on.

While the people of the village had their fiesta, I laid in the back seat of the truck and had a siesta. It will take a while to acclimate myself to the sun again. It had won that day, and I was feeling its effects not only on my skin, but with the nausea and headache that the beginning of sun sickness bears. I slept soundly until Peter and John got back, some three or four hours later. When I awoke, I realized that indeed I had gotten the disease. I didn't know that it could strike so easily and its symptoms show so quickly. I realized that I had fallen into the depths of the disease of the tropics. I no longer cared about the time. I was in no hurry to do anything and it was the first day that I had not asked what time it was a single time. Those symptoms assured me that I was infected. I can think of worse things.

There are only two times here anyway. There is day time and there is night time. By the time we got the other boat loaded back up and on the road back to home, day time was over and night time had begun. It would still be another hour or so before the lights of San Jose shone in the Central Valley below us and we would know we were close to home. It had been a long day. I wanted nothing more than to sit on the front porch in the dark, look at the lights of the city below me, hold my kitten in my lap and have a shot of café rica. It was not a lot to ask for, and I got it. Another day in the tropics ends.

Costa Rica... Chapter 2

Costa Rica... Chapter 2


Lluvia de la Selva

My alarm clock was the sun. Though I had not gotten to bed until almost 4 am, when the sun rose and shone in the window around 7 am, I awoke to greet the day. Today I would float the Rio Frio. There was no chance I could have slept any longer; I was far too excited. The magic of the night before was still dancing around in my head and I wondered if I would find the waters here as magical during the day as I did in the middle of the night. I would soon find out.

We worked hard and yet efficiently getting the two pontoon boats down to the water, the engines strapped on and all of our gear that we would be needing taken care of. The wind was blowing hard, but it was a warm wind and a welcome change from the cold winds of Vancouver Island where I had just spent the last 4 months. The water of the lagoon where we launched was not as mystical as it had seemed the night before, but I knew that it still held mysteries. I knew it held large tarpon.

Cristofer was to be my guide for this trip. It was to be a short one. We still had a 4-hour drive back to the finca and a lot of work to do there after the fishing. This was just a short introductory trip. I had my big rod strung up, a good strong tippet as well as a bite tippet and a large topwater fly tied to it. I was prepared.

We situated ourselves into our seats and were finally off. We went downriver first, the small 2 hp motors pushing us along with the currents. The further downriver we got, the wilder it all became. I made some casts, but was too overwhelmed with what I was seeing to really think hard about fishing. I knew that it being so close to the full moon, the fish would not be actively feeding this time of day, as they had fed all night. I had heard them. I had watched them. I knew.

A jungle of green rose up from the river on either side. Curtains of wild orchids draped the trees in places. Many other exotic flowers grew wild, adding a bit of color to the tones of green, brown, black and white that seemed to make up the majority of the landscape. mostly green. As we rounded the first big bend in the river, the rain began to fall upon us and I stood in the front of the boat, and easily imagined that I was the first one ever to be there, though I knew it was not true. Many had been here before me, you just could not tell.

I stared all around me. A very large iguana sunned itself at the top of a tree. Looking for other iguanas in the treetops, I spotted a few monkeys, hunkered down and quiet and unmoving in the rain. All around me birds of every color and species imaginable flew and swam and dove. The rain did not last long. the trip continued.

Further downriver we encountered some of the natives, doing their laundry in the river, the soap a chum line of sorts to alert the crocodiles to where they were. Doing laundry there is dangerous work. A few of the natives were fishing as well, though not with fancy graphite flyrods and reels. Instead they outfished us with their hand lines and bait. We saw many of them with fish, who used nothing more than a piece of line and a hook. No reels, no rods, nothing but the knowledge of how to catch the fish where they lived.

We fished on down the river some more, and as expected, drew no strikes. I finally realized that sometimes it is best just to put the rod down and take in the wonder around me. I replaced the rod in my hand with a camera and went to work. On the way back up the river, I asked Cristofer to stop near where we spotted the monkeys and the iguana. The position was wrong for a photograph, however. As he pulled us over to the bank though, we scared three large iguanas from their places. I did not know what they were at first beating around in the bushes a mere foot and a half from my face, and have to admit I was a bit nervous until I finally spotted them.

We sat there and watched the monkeys, who were still pretty inactive and watched the huge iguana at the top of the tree. I admired the parrots that I saw in the trees everywhere. After I had had my fill, we continued on. A little ways up I was greeted with another rare sight, a Jesus Christ lizard, sitting alongside the water's edge. As we approached it so that I could get a picture of it, the bright green lizard with many adornments took off and proved why it is called what it is. Across the water it walked, and when it hit the land, it ran like a man on its back two legs. What an amazing sight.

Shortly after, as we motored upriver some more, I found myself lost in my thoughts and lost in the beauty of such a place. A noise rose above the din of the small motor and I looked to the sky to see where the jet airplane was. It sounded as if it had to be close. Cristofer smiled and shut the engine down. From his throat came some guttural noises, and they were greeted by the same sounds back from the tree. The howler monkeys were staring at us from their places in the trees. I was taught how to talk to them from the safety of our boat. The noise came again. I know now why they are called howler monkeys. What a haunting sound they make.

Past the lagoon we went and continued up river. I was adjusted well to the thought that this would be more of a sightseeing tour. The tarpon were not feeding, and I had only seen a few of them rolling, although they were big tarpon. A dead pig laid along the river, obviously a fresh victim of the mud that it was stuck in. The crocs had not yet found it and the first bird was finally making its way over to it. Indian huts lined the river in places. People's homes were found way out along the river, accessible only by the small wooden boats that they build themselves and totally rudimentary. There is no plumbing, no running water, and no electricity. It does not seem like a bad way to live.

Horses and cows, egrets, wild hogs, crocodiles, snakes, lizards, parrots and an assortment of other wildlife surrounded us. The jungle enveloped us. The river flowed beneath us. The wind blew, the rain fell and me?? I fell in love. The many canals, the lagoons, the deep dark muddy river with ghosts of its own like a river I have loved back home in FL have totally stolen my heart.

As we headed back in to the lagoon to get ready to depart, I found myself wondering what it would be like to live here. The thought will not leave my head. I wonder. The jungle has a way of letting you think.

Costa Rica... Chapter 1

Costa Rica... Chapter 1

Noche de la Laguna

The town of Escazu, just outside of San Jose is a look back in time. It is a look at a culture so different from my own, that the shock was inevitable. It did not last long, as I found myself becoming more and more attracted to a way of life where nobody was in a hurry, nobody was concerned with what time it was and things had a way of just going along smoothly. Needless to say I was enraptured with the place. I love the lifestyle, the laid back way of the world here, and how time just seems to stand still. The houses, schools, cemeteries... all of it, is older than time itself.

We went through Escazu on our way to Cano Negro. Far in the north of Costa Rica, not far from the Nicaragua border, it is part of a wildlife refuge where time has stood still for many years as well.

The people of this country are a calm people. There are few fights, and even though we may not speak the same language, it is clear that they are not saying unfriendly things. To watch them is amazing. It does not matter who it is, if they see someone struggling with something, they jump right in and help. I saw that so many times. Cano Negro (Black Canal) is a place of dreams, and I lived a few of them out there.

We arrived late at night on the first day and got settled into our cabinos. The first order of business before taking our belongings into our rooms was a good spraying. The odor of bug spray wafting through the area as we sprayed our rooms to chase any scorpions or other insects out of our beds was pungent. The rooms were simple. There was a bed in each. Some had two beds. Nothing else. The walls were plywood. That was the extent of the construction. No fancy pictures on the wall, no insulation, two windows with flimsy mismatched curtains and a small shelf. The cool breeze drafted through the cracks and holes in the wall and floor and through the windows. It was a perfectly functional room. Downstairs, below us in the rooms (each cabin had two rooms) was a picnic table and a closed in toilet and shower. The water coming out of that shower was cold.

As we waited for the bug spray to do its job, the near full moon, now in its waning stage, shone down upon us. The light breeze kept the mosquitoes away. The mud on the ground was thick, and sticky. It had rained twice that day. We sat and talked and enjoyed the warmth and fresh air. Eventually, my companions started to head to their beds. Only Cristofer and I were left awake.

In the next cabino over were two guys. Both were young men from Belgium who were living out their dreams and bicycling across Central America. Stefan was a very tall thin guy, with hair that had not been brushed for 5 years, a nice smile and a sense of adventure. He was very outgoing. His friend was more the shy, quiet type and we did not hear or see him much. As midnight approached, somehow a plan was formed. The next moment found Stefan, Cristofer and I carrying the pontoon boat down to the lagoon that lies along and off of the Rio Frio.

The pontoon boat is made for two people. It has a place that one can put a motor on and get somewhere quicker, but we took only oars. Stefan sat in the back seat and rowed. Cristofer stretched across the small place for gear behind him and I took the seat in front. Armed with only two flashlights, we made our way into the lagoon and were mystified. Stefan rowed us out to the center of the lagoon. With our flashlights, we spotted many large crocodiles. We listened to the bullfrogs, which grow to giant sizes. We listened to the calling of the neighborhood roosters, the huge tarpon feeding, the cows mooing and the owls hooting.

We sat there in a small inflatable boat, in a lagoon in the middle of the jungle, three people from three different places who spoke three different languages. Somehow we managed to talk and to share not only our languages with each other, but a special moment in time. The silvery glow of the moon laid down its reflection upon the murky waters below us and the orange eyes of the crocs and frogs shone with its light. We sat there in silence. We sat there and talked. We tried to learn each others' languages in one night. Somehow we communicated.

For nearly three hours we sat in the lagoon, sharing stories and silence with each other. The sounds of the tarpon feeding all around us and the crocodiles swimming and bullfrogs croaking and the sights of the shadows in the jungle around us and the moon above and the clouds moving over it and the reflecting eyes and splashes of water that caught the moon's light, lending an eerie glow to it as the tarpon thrashed about in their moonlit midnight feeding frenzy intoxicated us. Lazily, reluctantly, we made our way back to the shore and headed in. None of us wanted the moment to end.

It was almost 4 in the morning when finally I made my way up to the bed and after one last check for scorpions, got in it. I fell to sleep immediately, the sounds of the wind and the tarpon and the frogs and crickets was my lullaby. Morning would be here soon. With morning would come a trip down the Rio Frio for some flyfishing. It did indeed come early.

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