Thursday, December 4, 2008

"See you in hell, tailpipe!"

This Costa Rican trip, which was supposed to be a carefree, all-expenses-paid fun birding experience, keeps defaulting back to misfortune and adversity. So we spent 48 hours in Tortuguero, of which a total sum of 3 maybe were dry, and we left with only a handful of new birds for us. True, practically every other individual bird we lifted our binoculars for was new, but we didn't see all that many birds, because most of them were hunkered down somewhere, waiting for the rains to stop. We spent an awful lot of time online, but that's not what we came to this fairly remote, isolated tropical rain forest for.

In Tortuguero, I bought this tin coffee cup, thinking it was a nice souvenir with a toucan painted on one side and a parrot on the other. In a country where tourism is the number one industry, souvenir shops are not hard to find, and most have a wide selection of t-shirts and trinkets. A lot of it looks generic, and we suspect that very little of it is actually made in Costa Rica. Initially, I was happy with my coffee cup because it seemed to me that it was obviously hand-painted, with pictures of birds that are actually local.

But no. The cup was made in China, as it says on the bottom, while the so-called hand-painted design is nothing more than a plastic sheet that started to come off as soon as I tried pulling off the price sticker. I was planning to use this thing here in the field, but I'm sure that the toucan and parrot design won't even survive the first dish washing.

From Tortuguero to La Pavona, where we had left the car, was a 1.5 hr boat ride on a winding river. A fallen tree blocked our way, and the crew of our boat spent some time trying to remove the tree. When this proved futile, they decided to just approach the obstacle as fast as we could, then lift the outboard motor as we crossed the submerged tree, and hope that we had enough speed to make it across. We did.

We picked up the car, were happy that it started right away without pulling any more car alarm stunts on us, and were on our way. After about an hour or so of driving on a fairly bad dirt road, we suddenly heard "ka-plonk, ka-plonk, ka-plonk... baf!"

We stopped the car, went to see what was going on, and found our tailpipe 10 m behind the car. So this is when I had a chance to quote my friend Dave and speak the immortal words "See you in hell, tailpipe!" I was there when the exact same thing happened to his vehicle, somewhere in New Jersey.

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