Passing Through

This morning I sat on the front patio of my hostel in Santa Elena at 6:00am drinking coffee, watching the rain blow through in endless tides of mist.

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It started raining yesterday afternoon as I was hiking up the highest peak in the area, Cerro Amigos(a hike abandoned halfway up when I realized the advertised views had disappeared into those mists), and it hadnt’t stopped since.  The rains were small potatos compared to the wind, which when it gusted knocked me off balance several times as I walked the 6km back from Reserva Biologica Monteverde, and at night several times seemed to shake the walls of my room.

I came to Monteverde from Montezuma and before than Manuel Antonio National Park.  After two weeks of barely moving, I was now getting into the rhythm of travel, spending two nights in each place instead of a week. It felt good, less like vacation and more like travel. (I am not trying to draw a distinction between tourists and travellers here; I am both, and I like vacations, but the purpose of this trip is travel.)

Monteverde’s mountain cool was a drastic change from the tropical heat of the Pacific Coast.  It was 92F when I woke up in Montezuma, and it had been 97F on the bus, though the breeze through the open window mitigated it a bit.  In fact the heat had ceased to bother me at all.  Sweating was just the state in which I existed.  I didn’t notice it anymore than a fish notices water.

Here in Monteverde, it was 70F, and the landscape reminded me of Northern California, the foothills of  the Sierra Nevada where the Central Valley gradually becomes mountains, the burnt gold of the grasses on the mountains with their folds and creases streaked with the green of trees.

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I choked on nostalgia and the dust coming in through those open windows as we slowly made our way up the unpaved road.

I was travelling with a newly met friend; Christian an American/Peruvian, or vice versa. We met on the bus between Manuel Antonio and Puntarenas, where we shared a cab to the ferry and then another bus to Montezuma.  He lived in Lima teaching English, and was taking the semester off to travel.  He had discovered teaching English abroad while studying engineering in college in Denver, took a job in South Korea, dropped out and never looked back. He had taught there, in China, and Thailand, and discovered a desire to travel. He is an ideal travelling companion,  We hung out when we hung out and went our own way when we went our own way.  We bonded over running.  His fluent Spanish helped me, and my obsessive trip planning research helped him, as his trip was more on a whim and he had only a vague idea of where he was going and how to get there.

Montezuma was not what I was hoping.  I had thought it might be another Dominical, but it wasn’t quite.  Christian told me he read that in the 90s, River Phoenix and The Red Hot Chili Peppers had spent time here, and it was evidenced in the crowd.  I didn’t dislike it, I just didn’t like it enough that  I was drawn to extend my stay as I had in Dominical.  I don’t surf, and I’m not a pot-smoking rasta wannabe fun seeker, but I guess I feel more comfortable among the surfers.

I was sitting on the upstairs porch of my hostel the first night, writing and uploading photos to Dropbox.  I heard a guy and his girlfriend regretting that they soon had to leave Montezuma.  Someone  told them that travel was a great lesson in non-attachment.  You meet people you like, you find places you love, but you have to move on.  I’m paraphrasing.  I couldn’t possibly do justice to the groovy guru, Eastern religion for Dummies 101  tone in which he delivered his sermon. But buried in that was a point.

Dan and Rachel, my hiking companions in Corcovado had talked about living out a  bag for most of the last year, and how they looked forward to moving to Australia and putting down some roots, having a place to be, even if they didn’t know what they were going to do when they got there. I hiked with them and Jose for three days, and we parted ways with waves and handshakes.  I’ll never see them again, but they were good company while we were together.  Christian and I will exchange email when we go our own ways on Friday, but that will probably be the last I see of him.  I know this because I’m crap at keeping in touch.

Travel makes me acutely aware that when a moment passes it’s over.  I will never be in this place, at this moment, as this person, again.  It freezes me sometimes, listening to the jungle wake up and fall asleep in Corcovado;  looking up at the sky of stars on a beach in Dominical; watching a futbol match among locals on a Saturday night in Manuel Antonio;

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standing for an hour in the park just watching monkeys being monkeys; a sunset;

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a run along the beach;

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a quetzal bird perched for a moment high up in a tree; overheard conversations; an interminable bus trip to a place I’m not sure I’m ready to arrive.  I don’t want to move. All joys want eternity(Nietzche).

I ended today floating on my back in a thermal pool in La Fortuna, staring up at a mist-smeared moon between breaks in the trees. Three days from now I will be in Nicaragua.

I’m just passing through.

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