Week Nine – That’s Bull

I am exceptionally blissed out at the moment for one tiny simple reason: I just got out of a bath.  Now, this may not seem like a big deal. Unless you happen to know how much I love my tub at home and that, if I could find a way to cook from there, I would probably never get out at all.  This is the first tub I have had since arriving in Costa Rica! Even the fancy hotel we visited in Uvita was not built with a bathtub – by the way, here is the website by popular demand www.mareasresort.com.  Check out the ‘sample menu’.  “Banana stuffed French toast with cashews”? Yum.  The guy who owns it used to work in one of Emeril’s restaurants.  Bam!  But, unfortunately that part wasn’t open yet and we had to cook for ourselves and I felt rather inferior cooking in front of him.  Anyways, the point is that I had an honest-to-goodness bath and that in itself was exciting enough for me to rank as one of the experiences that goes into these ramblings.

Where is this lovely tub located?  We are in the Diamante Real hotel in San Isidro de General, in a beautiful green valley surrounded by farms. This is an actual city, with a population of about 45,000 and as such it has amenities (like tubs) that haven’t existed in the south of the country.  But I’m getting ahead of myself: here’s what’s happened in the last week.

We left the paradise in Uvita for the town of Palmar Norte.  Palmar Norte is possibly the least charming place we have visited in CR, though slightly redeemed by nice people at the Hall and the family that runs the hotel we stayed at feeding us tamales and rice pudding by the pool.  From there we went way up the mountain to the Boruca Reserve for their annual Festival de los Diablitos.  The festival takes place over three days.  The young men in the village carve masks out of wood and become representatives of the brave tribe.  Another man (actually several men, it is hard work and they switch off frequently) is dressed as a bull and represents the Spanish Conquistadors.  A dance/fight ensues to the rhythm of beating drums, the melody of a recorder-type instrument, and the bellow of a conch shell.  Once the warriors win, they move along in a procession to another place in the village, women and children, older men and of course, us gringo tourists, all streaming behind as they move through yards, rivers and brush to begin the fight again.

In theory, it is all very dignified – a way of the tribe celebrating the fact that they were never conquered by the Spanish when much of the country was.  In actuality, it is a lot of young men getting out their aggression by knocking each other down.  Pure testosterone in action.  An interesting rite of passage and fun to watch though.  Aidan made the comment that perhaps I just enjoy watching dark, sweaty young men dance around and wrestle, but I have denied that vehemently.

When we left Palmar Norte we headed back north past Uvita again to a nature reserve called Hacienda Baru.  I had emailed ahead of time and arranged an interview with the owner, an older man named Jack who bought the land as a cattle pasture and has created a sanctuary for animals and endangered plants out of it.  We had been planning to stay there for four nights, based on what Jack said in his email.  When we got there however, we found out that the cabin had been booked for someone else.  D’oh!  So we only stayed the one night, but our time there was very full.

Highlights and weird stuff from Hacienda Baru:

– Wandered the butterfly garden, staring at the big blue morphos

– Flight of the Toucan Tour with eight very cool zip lines

– Ate a termite.  They taste like arugala.  Ezra liked them and had seconds, but the rest of us were content with one.

– Fact: soldier leaf cutter ants have pinchers that can grip like nobody’s business.  If they clamp on and you try to pull them off, the body will come off, leaving the head attached.  Because of this, some indigenous peoples used them as stitches for wounds.  I’m going to keep a supply on hand from now on and use them to patch the boy back up whenever needed.

After our one night we needed to move on though.  We just seemed to keep running into walls everywhere near there, so we said forget it and, on impulse (as opposed to the elaborate planning we have been doing up ‘til now), came up to San Isidro.  We have things we would like to do and see around here, but for many of them, I’m waiting on other people to get back to me, so today we walked around a lot.  And had a bath.

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