Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Back o' the net

On my last trip round the world nearly ten years ago my friend Ben and I spent about six weeks travelling around Thailand. We began to make a habit of turning up in strange places, dumping our bags and heading out to get drunk which made waking up in the morning an interesting experience most days. So it was that we arrived in the town of Pai in the north of the country after a long dusty journey from Bangkok, checked into a cheap wooden shack, left our stuff and headed out to find a bar. We were up till late by a campfire somewhere and saw Thai lanters being set off for the first time. I can also remember marvelling at the inbuilt homing device that takes you home to a place you don't even know in the dark at four in the morning.

Anyway we got back this night got into bed and tucked the mosquito net around the bed we were in and fell fast unconscious. The first thing I realised when I woke up was that I had a load of mossie bites and I cursed what must have been a hole in the net. It was only when I sat up that I realised that there was one large hole in the net...  so big there was a dog asleep in the bed with us.

Such misty eyed reminiscence has a point as I have just encountered what could possibly be an even less effective mosquito net. Gemma and I had the fortune to get to stay in a little hillside cabin in the rainforest in Chirripo National park in Costa Rica. It's a stunning place and our little electricity free cabin was beautiful. Wood burning stove, candles, hammocks on the porch and amazing views and it was just us up there with no-one around. The place was of course humming with life; spider monkeys were in the trees, we saw a bat falcon, vultures and humming birds buzzed busily around the flowers round the cabin as we sat and watched.
Somewhat alarmingly in the cabin there was a laminated sheet which showed different types of spider, scorpion and venemous snake that were to be found in the forest. The tarantula here can jump up to a metre and a half!

We had a lovely night with a fire and candles and ambient music on our speakers then it was off to bed. The mosquito net was to start with riddled with holes. Not good. Then it appeared that on one side it was split right up a seam from the bottom to the top making it more like a curtain. The opening of this curtain was right at my head as we slept. I wasn't overly bothered as the mossies hadn't been too active that night so far. I drifted off as the candles burnt down and the mix finished on the speakers...

...the next sensation I felt was a sizable creature crawling across my face. When I say sizeable I mean about the size of my hand. I felt footprints. I was dragged up from my heavy sleep and sat bolt upright in bed and swept wildly with my pillow to push whatever it was off the bed then shut the "curtain" net and pushed my pillow against it. Gemma woke up at the commotion but I half managed to convince her it had been a mossie bothering me. I lay back down with my heart racing and a sweat on my brow. It could have been a lizard but it could also have been a fucking tarantula! I lay there going over it in my head and a bit concerned about what was on the floor by the bed then a few minutes later I heard it scuttle up the wall and away. It sounded heavy. So heavy Gemma thought it was someone trying to break in.

So I will never know what it really was. I'm still alive to tell the tale though and that tale will no doubt err on the side of the massive tarantula as the years unfold.

Costa Rica-ca- ca

I woke up on January the 26th in a strange bed in New Zealand and I felt like my head was going to crack in two.  I shuddered at the thought of the amount of wine that had passed my lips the night before. Then I remembered what we had to do that day...

We had to get up (already a challenge there), walk for half an hour in the hot sun with all of our bags, get a thirty minute ferry, get a 50 minute bus, check in at the airport and then fly twelve and a half hours to LA, wait there for 2.5 hours then fly 5 hours to Miami before getting a taxi for half an hour to South Beach. The biggest nights always seem to be the ones just before we have to do something that will be utterly awful if you are hungover.

Miami was however two days of pure pleasure. I love South Beach and we had a perfect little American breather. We went to the cinema twice in a night to see first True Grit and then The King's Speech. The latter made the former seem very inferior. We ate in a traditional diner with bottomless coffee, pancakes, bacon and maple syrup. We strolled on the beach, had key lime pie and baby back ribs and a pizza the size of  satellite dish while watching Fox news and South Park. Then, just before we burst, it was time for Central America...
We were nervous about Costa Rica after our friends had everything pinched on a bus a few weeks back. Also if you've heard anything about Central America, you get the notion that theft is pretty much guranteed. Coming from the safe dreamlike land of New Zealand it was going to be a change of pace.  Arrival in San Jose did nothing to quell the fears. We got there late on a Friday night and our hostel was in what seemed like a double dodgy part of town and behind massive gates with a security guard. Our room was the most like a prison cell I have ever encountered apart from my years spent at Her Majesty's pleasure.*

Things always seem better in the daylight and this proved to be so despite Gemma almost getting her wallet swiped from her bag by some old biddy in the street. After a weekend in San Jose we really needed to get out into the country and so we headed to Tortugeuro which is dubbed the mini Amazon. What a tonic it was too. All our fears evaporated within minutes of our boat taxi to the town where we saw three crocodiles, a turtle, three Iguanas and a hatful of herons before settling down to jerk chicken, rice and peas for lunch and a stroll on the beach. That's more like it!

Since then we really haven't looked back in Costa Rica. It's a brilliant place to travel around. The Caribbean coast has a chilled reggae and rum fueled vibe with beautiful black-sand beaches and palm trees. The people are mega friendly and although the roads are a bit of a state the buses aren't too much of a hassle. Of course the wildlife is the main attractionand we are seeing it by the bucketload. Pura Vida as they say around these parts.

*I was the Queens special prison cell monitoring ...erm...butler. Yeh that's it royal prison cell monitoring butler.