Friday, September 30, 2005

All wet.

Hotel Tilawa, Lake Arenal 9:00 p.m.

"You're going to Central America in the rainy season?" When my daughter, Jessica asked with a bit of surprise, I matter-of-factly replied "yes." The term "rainy season" didn't mean much to me. Now I have a much clearer understanding!

A bizarre ride tonight. Somehow, I got totally turned around in heavy rain. I was looking for this hotel because of a reference to windsurfing in the "Lonely Planet" guide.

In the dark and rain, I could barely see. And the roads were in bad shape and poorly-marked. I was completely soaked. Dangerous, I know, but I stubbornly continued. At a crossroads, I stopped to wring out my gloves and consult the map (fortunately, the map is plastic-impregnated!) A tour bus driver stopped to help. When he said the direction I wanted to go was back where I had come from, I didn't believe him. I asked if there were any hotels in this area. "No." He said they were all in the opposite direction. Looked at the map again, and at the towns listed on the crossroads signs. He was right. My manly sense of direction had quite abandoned me (as if it were ever there to begin with.)

I told myself "whatever. I'm just going to keep plugging away tonight until I get it right, no matter how long it takes." Returned to Tilarán, the main jumping off point for this region, then tried again to find "Hotel Tilawa", this time asking directions before leaving town.

The correct road was in much better condition than the one on which I had been lost. Easily found the hotel after about a five mile ride. As soon as I pulled up, I was greeted by "J.P.", the young owner, a beer in his hand.

"You knew I speak English?"

"You're driving a motorcycle, aren't you?"

I asked how much a room costs.

"Roy (his manager) and I were just talking. What did you pay last night?"

I gave him a suspicious look. "Why do you want to know?"

"We’ll match what you paid last night, so you better give a low number."

“I think it was $15.”

“Okay, that's what it will be tonight."

I wasn't about to argue, but I was mystified by his behavior.

"I’m parked right in front. Is that okay?"

"It’s a nice bike, right? Bring it in here," he said pointing to a spot in the foyer, next to a sofa.

I met Roy and learned he's taking over management since J.P. is going to Encinitas, California to take care of some business. After piling the luggage in my room, I followed J.P.'s suggestion to join him for a beer downstairs in the restaurant. He was seated at the bar with two other young Americans: his brother Cooper, and a friend, Michael. I was not quite in synch with the conversation, perhaps because they were several drinks ahead of me. J.P is kind of a wild man (who resembles Santa Rosa musician, Daryl Scairiot). He came here sixteen years ago, at the age of twenty-four, to build this hotel. Now at forty, he has a family, scattered about a bit, and plans to retire before long.

He's very much into "kite-boarding", which I hadn't even heard of before. And Lake Arenal is one of the windiest places on the planet, he says. "Take whatever horsepower that motorcycle has and multiply it by three. That's how hard a kite pulls here." He used to windsurf, and still teaches it to guests, but kite-boarding is the sport now.

Cooper is a ski instructor in Utah. (J.P. was formerly a ski instructor.) He flies down "as often as I can". His wife works for Delta Airlines. Michael is a skateboarder. (There's also a skateboard park on the grounds, and J.P. suggested I might want to take my motorcycle out on it!)

J.P. said they had just ordered some pasta from the kitchen, and I was welcome to join them for dinner. We moved to a dining table, and were served a basic elbow pasta with cream sauce - not too interesting, but it was five bucks.

All the while, as we dined and talked, I was trying to figure out what this "scene" was all about. With no other guests in sight (it's the "dead" season), the hotel seemed like a big playground for these guys. In a glass-walled room off the dining room, stood stainless-steel fermentation tanks.

"Are you making beer?"

"We're going to. I traded some land for the equipment..." J.P. said he had previously constructed a brewery in Costa Rica for a Japanese firm.

After dinner, I went off to my room, passing a glass case containing three small poisonous vipers, a small jar of viper food next to it.


After checking out this morning, I went back to the internet café in Liberia. Ten minutes from town, I hit rain and that was enough to soak me. Many problems posting to the blog today, and after two hours, I had accomplished little. A video playing inside the café, and seen or heard frequently lately, of Colombian vocalist Shakira singing "No". She is quite the phenomena in Latin America.

Before hitting the road, went for a cappuccino across the street. The rain was moving south, and I wasn't eager to catch up with it. The roads are terrible in Costa Rica, even the so-called Pan American Highway. I was constantly dodging pot holes, usually with success, but not always. And each time I hit one, I'd blurt out some profanity (as if that helped.)

Night falling too fast again. "Crap!" Of course, to compensate, I just pick up the speed, which under the circumstances is not the wisest thing. I cursed the blog for sucking so much time. "It's going to kill me!" (I sometimes forget that there is the element of choice here!)


(The hotel power is out tonight, and I'm in bed, typing on the computer, when I suddenly realize I can type, at least to some degree, without seeing the keyboard! I can’t sleep. There's a tightness in my lungs, and it seems connected to the damp concrete of this building. My mind continues to wander. "What is this place all about?" Shades of "Hotel California".)




A few questions: Your Blog has no profile so it reads rather vaguely---I assume you're heading to Tierra del Fuego? If not where? What type of BMW are your running? What type of camera are you using....I am considering a trip through Central America in Feb. so any info you could supply would be helpful. Your blog is good, your story compelling---just a little out of sequence---the photos are fabulous. Be careful.

timtraveler said...

Greetings, Paynter!

Yes, I'm eventually going to reach Tierra del Fuego, then I plan to drive home through Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Central America, etc.

I'm riding a 2005 BMW R1200GS. A great bike.

The camera is a Canon EOS 20D. It has way too many features. I'm still learning about it. A more compact camera would be great for more spontaneous pitures - such as when dining out, or in the marketplace.

Feel free to send any questions.

It may be easier if you use the "Contact Me" link. Then we can exchange e-mails.

All the best,