Montezuma River gorge
Wednesday, February 13 2019
location: Casa Trogon, Agua Vista Lodging, Montezuma, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
The white-faced monkeys returned again this morning, and this time they were bolder in behavior. Unexpectedly, one jumped up on the picnic table beside my work-issued laptop and grabed a round stone I'd been using as a paperweight. I knew immediately why he had grabbed it; from a distance it closely resembled a delicious wholewheat roll. The monkey climbed into the tree with just his hind feet and tail, using both his hands to cradle the heavy object that was about to disappoint. When it did, he simply dropped it, which was better than, say, hurling it.
Later a solitary geriatric coatimundi came up out of the jungle and made cute eyes at us for awhile in hopes we would give it something. Most coatimundis have small shoulder injuries (perhaps from little fights with other coatimundis or maybe escapes from harpy eagles), but this one had a large patch of missing hair on its right shoulder centered around a rumpled patch of scar tissue. Initially we thought it was a female, but later we got a good look at "her" pudenda and decided they were actually balls. Our pool guy had recently added an unusually large amount of chemicals to our plunge pool after Gretchen complained about it being "soupy," so I put a little container of water next to the pool for coatimundis to drink instead. This made the elderly coatimundi happy, though later when I snuck her a piece of carrot (from Chris' garden back on Lake Arenal), he didn't want it.
Unexpectedly in my remote workplace, I'd been pulled for the day off of the Electron migration to work on a long-vexing issue related to file uploads that use a Node.js backend (an expertise I have been developing this whole time). I would try something suggested on a web page I found and it would seem to work, though I wasn't sure it hadn't been working to begin with, which is not the most rigorous protocol for fixing bugs.
Gretchen interrupted my work to say we should go see the nearby waterfall, which she had been to many times but which I had never seen. There is, it turns out, a gorge just south of Agua Vista, and at the bottom of this gorge is the Montezuma River. Along the river is a trail, and it makes for a rough (though reasonably direct) route for Gretchen to get to her language classes (down at the seashore) by foot. I'd shown some interest the other day in just knowing how to get to the gorge, but it seems Gretchen thought she would need to force the issue if I was ever going to actually check it out.
The trail from Aguvista began a couple dozen feet from one of Agua Vista's four casitas. It was steep but well-maintained, suggesting it is used by someone other than Gretchen, though it's not clear who that might be. Perhaps the pool guy uses it to get into town; Gretchen saw him on it one day. The trail was so steep that it required steps, many of which were helpfully provided by tree roots, though in places someone had installed boards to retain soil.
At the bottom of the trail lay the Montezuma River, which at this time of year doesn't have much flow. It rather resembled the Chamomile on an average day in spring. It wandered among large round boulders and disappeared completely in places into crevases. When we arrived, we encountered a large group of howler monkeys on the river's north bank. One of the monkeys was a young one with either a goiter or a growth on his neck. Male howlers have enlarged voice boxes which make them all look like they suffer from iodine deficiencies, but what make this look pathological was that the fur on it was white or missing and it was asymmetrical.
Gretchen immediately found a pool (the river had many of them, some large enough to actually swim in) and dove in, though the water was a little colder than I thought it would be, so I all I did was wade in it and take photographs. There was some species of nearly transparent shrimp in the water, and they liked to climb around on my toes and look for scraps of dead skin they might be able to prise free with their little pincers. The only thing about them that appeared to be opaque was whatever they'd last eaten, which formed small dark masses in the center of their bodies.
After crossing the river and climbing through a patch of steep tractless jungle, we came to a well-developed path along the river's south shore. This path had solid steps, metal-framed pedestrian bridges, and even interpretive signs in Spanish and English about the wildlife (white-faced monkeys, howler monkeys, kiskadees, coatimundis, long-tailed manakins, boa constrictors, and conventional raccoons). Soon there after, I happened to notice one of the local squirrels (it's a species with dark rust-red fur and a black dorsal stripe) up in a tree sitting on the stumpy remains of a branch, totally surrounded by fluff from some sort of seed pod. Either he/she was making nesting materials or he/she was removing fluff to get to something edible. Or perhaps it was some combination of the two. In any case, this was one of the few times a squirrel was stationary enough for me to get a good picture, so I even shot some video.
As we headed down the gorge on the trail, we kept encountering groups of white-faced monkeys, some of whom seemed to be standing in our way. Gretchen says that it's common for people to feed them, so at this point they've been trained to collect tolls. Further down, below where we'd be going, there is actually a human toll-taker who collects money from gringos to go towards trail maintenance, though Gretchen is already so friendly with him that he treats her like a tika whose money is no good around here. We only went down as far as the first dramatic waterfall, where about ten people (nearly all of them gringos) were hanging out and occasionally jumping into the pool below. Gretchen did that a couple times as well, climbing back up the falls after each time on a knotted rope helpfully installed along the edge.
When we climbed back out of the gorge, we were hot, weak, and hungry. I immediately plunged into the plunge pool while Gretchen fixed herself a sandwich. Unfortunately, today was the day that the lady came to clean the casita, so we had to sort of work around her. After Gretchen headed off to class, I set up a couple chairs under a palm tree some distance from the casita so I could work there, out of the range of whatever soap the cleaning lady uses to clean the floor tiles. The fragrance on that stuff just eats away at my happiness and makes me distracted and depressed. When the cleaning lady was finally gone, I celebrated by fixing myself a rum beverage.
I keep thinking that rum is going to be a good study aid, but it never is. Fortunately, today I knew enough to stop and get back to work at some point.
This evening I pointed out to Gretchen that it had been over a week since I'd eaten out at a restaurant, which has to be something of a record for me while in foreign countries. So we decided to eat out tonight. Gretchen knew about some places outside the center of Montezuma from having taken various shortcuts from the lower gorge trail, and we decided to try one such place called Clandestina, which supposedly also has a brewery.
We sat out on the roofed open-air balcony while one of those merciless droning insects kept producing a whirring metallic sound in the nearby jungle. Gretchen said she couldn't really hear it, but I sure could. To me it sounded like the unholy spawn of a hangover and tinnitus. How could any organism keep producing a sound so relentlessly? Occasionally, every fifteen minutes or so, it would fall silent, but only for about a second. It was after dark before it quit for the evening.
At some point, a motmot appeared in a nearby tree and we got a good look at the upside-down lollipops of its tail feathers.
For drinks, Gretchen ordered some sort of tamarind drink that was too weird for her (and almost too weird and soap-like for me). So I ended up drinking most of that, along with the stout I'd ordered. (Gretchen was surprised that I'd ordered a stout, but it was the least-macrobrew type of beverage produced by the brewery, and I wanted something with more character than that, even though I'm not much of a stout enthusiast. For a stout, it was pretty good.)
In terms of food, Gretchen ordered us a little of everything vegan: the corn soup, the green beans, and the street tacos (which, for vegans, they make with roasted cauliflower). It was all excellent but required a fair amount of salt to get to the level of sodium to which we've grown accustomed. Dinner with food of this quality would've cost over $100 in Manhattan, but here it came to $40 (which is a lot in Costa Rica).
After dark, some sort of laser device showered the jungle with hundreds of tiny glowing emerald points. The air was so still that the dots seemed to be part of the vegetation, making it all look like a scene from Avatar.
During the meal, there was a table nearby with some other gringos eating (all the customers were gringos). The entire time we were there, their little daughter (a blond girl who looked to be three or even as much as four years old) was completely naked. Indeed, she rather resembled the girl depicted multiple times on the cover of the Led Zeppelin album House of the Holy. At some point I turned to Gretchen and asked rhetorically, "What if you're a pedophile who hoped to clean up your act by flying down to Costa Rica for awhile to just sit on a beach and get your shit together?"
This morning's stone-stealing white-faced monkey. Click to enlarge.
The elderly coatimundi.
Click to enlarge.
A little monkey along the Montezuma River Trail.
A costa-rican squirrel separating fluff from seed pods (either for the fluff or for the seeds or both). Click to enlarge.
Gretchen in a pool in the Montezuma River below one of the falls.
Click to enlarge.
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