Costa Rica :: Part 20

This story is being told as a series. Here’s a link to Part 1

Part 20

The sun rose bright in the morning, and we continued toward Puntarenas on the west coast. Along the way there were two scheduled stops for the day: to hike over the suspension bridges, and to tour a pineapple plantation.

On the way to the bridges, Chucho brought the bus around a steep corner — clearly never designed for buses — called the Devil’s Elbow. He made it in a few minutes, with only one slow pause in the middle to navigate the sharp corner and steep incline. We had no frame of reference to be impressed, but Ciro told us what he’d done was actually an amazing feat of skill; he’d led tours where lesser drivers had been stuck there for almost an hour trying to make it around.

In short order we made it to the suspension bridges near Lake Arenal. One member of our group, Rose Marie, found the movement of the bridges disconcerting, making them hard to cross, and I would provide moral support as she would slowly make her way.

The paths were steep, the bridges high, but it was the fact that the path was riddled with sections with names like “Jumping Viper Tunnel” that I found most off-putting. In two places we did pass vipers beside the path; in both cases I refused to look at what my companions avidly photographed. If I didn’t see it, it couldn’t panic me. The second time, I guarded my eyes from the direction of the snake while Rose Marie directed me behind the group to imagined safety.

All along this trip, the kindness of these strangers with whom I shared the journey was striking. I was blessed to be surrounded with the most warm, wonderful people.

Once we’d all made it the length of the hike and stopped for a cool drink, it was time to head westward again. Several hours and a lunch stop later, we pulled into the pineapple plantation. The presentation offered us was informative and entertaining. The group lingered, to sample pineapple ice cream, to shop, or just to take photos.

The manager of the pineapple plant stopped and took me by both hands, working all his Latin charms, to ask me earnestly where I had gotten such beautiful eyes. The tour books warn that it’s a cultural norm for the men to flirt, and I’d encountered a bit of it along the way without taking much notice or any offense. Waiters paid undue attention despite the appalling lack of makeup and unwieldy frizz of my hair. The zip-lining staff had flirted in spite of the decidedly unflattering effect of the gear. Even Chucho, even from the beginning, seemed to give me lingering looks, or to hold my hand a moment longer than necessary whenever I stepped off the bus.

But this was the most overt instance, and the only one that required a response: when I just tried to laugh it off, he asked me again about my eyes. I smiled and gave him a flippant answer, extricating my hands in the process. I knew it didn’t mean anything, and made myself not look back at him after I walked away.

I headed back toward the bus, where Chucho was waiting, watching me. I smiled and shrugged, and he laughed.

Copyright © 2010

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~ by lorakceel on May 17, 2010.

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