After another relaxing day at sea, we arrived at Puntarenas, Costa Rica, early in the morning. We gathered downstairs in the Universe Lounge to await our instructions to disembark and meet up with our tour guide. Andre proved to be a hoot. He talked non-stop for the five hour tour, regaling us with stories of life in Costa Rica. Some of those stories left a few of us (including me!) wondering if he was pulling our leg. I knew he’d be fun when he took my hand to help me into the bus and said he was taking me bungy jumping over a swamp full of crocodiles.
We all piled out of the bus, lined up for potty break, and then piled into an open boat for a trip through a swamp where we searched, cameras ready, for wildlife. We spotted monkeys high in the trees, red macaws ma-caw-cawing in annoyance at our invasion of their domain. We saw egrets and ibises, kingfishers and black hawks. One large crocodile glided across the murky river in front of us and submerged. Two little ones lay still and camouflaged near the boat. We spotted a beehive and numerous termite nests with their dark tunnels running down the trunk of trees.
After more than an hour of winding our way among the mangrove trees, we piled out of the boat and climbed back on the bus for a ride through the country. We stopped in the middle of nowhere and boarded an old train that took us through farm lands. Andre explained that Costa Ricans do not trust banks and prefer to invest their money in cattle and land. He asked if any of us had seen bull fighting. Some had been to Spain. He explained that bull fighting is different in Costa Rica. People fill the arena and one bull is set loose inside. “No one can touch the bull, but the bull can touch them.” Imagine a pack of men running, shrieking, dodging and diving for a barrel of water at the center inside which is a greased pole on top of which is a one hundred dollar bill. Everyone is trying to get to that bill while the bull adds incentive. The winner can have the hundred dollar bill or a rock to smash a beehive stuffed with money.
Another Andre story is etched permanently in my imagination. Lots of retired Americans are living in Costa Rica and they still like to celebrate Thanksgiving. What’s Thanksgiving without a turkey? When Andre is not leading tourists around, he’s preparing turkeys. He asked how we get our turkeys. “Costco!” We called out. “No, I mean how do you kill them?” He didn’t seem to understand (or pretended not to) that our butterball-toms are already deceased, cleaned, plucked, neatly wrapped with giblets tucked in the chest cavity and ready to be stuffed and cooked. Andre explained his turkeys are much better because they are fresh. He gives his turkeys four shots. He did not mean shots out of a gun. He said (straight-faced) that he chases down a nice plump turkey, gives it a shot of whiskey (preferably Tennessee sour mash also known as Jack Daniels) and then lets it run around again. He chases it down a second time and gives it another shot. The turkey is a little less fleet of foot by the third shot, but still manages to run in circles. After four shots, the turkey is toasted. He “dies a good death” – one quick snap of his neck before he’s hung to marinate in the booze he’s consumed. I began to wonder if this is the origin of the phrase “giving him a good run for his money”. Someone else asked Andre how he could possibly kill his drinking buddy.
Costa Rica is a beautiful country with very friendly people, and the next time I come for a visit, I want to see a bull fight and a turkey race!