Country Boy in Costa Rica

by | May 1, 2015 | On a Personal Note

Guest Written by Otis Hibbard
With anticipation we flew into the Guanacaste Region of Costa Rica. Our first real vacation in five years.
Upon arrival, Susan kept pushing for an adventure tour. I canceled the whitewater rafting idea after reading all the restrictions including the requirement for top physical shape. Hearing about three men drowned on that excursion just the month before made my decision even easier.  I was hoping a tranquil boat ride would satisfy my better half’s craving for adventure.  A cruise along the Tempiski River should be a risk-free tour.
I felt a little nervous as our van parked next to a steep hill. The rickety bridge leading down to the boat meant one thing — unsafe. Where is OSHA when you need them? We scurried across the bridge — one person halfway across before another could start. The bridge couldn’t support the weight of two people at once.
Safely on the boat I relaxed. Our captain spoke English and Spanish, and, with only six passengers on the boat, I was delighted to have room to move around after a long and crowded flight. The bright sun was accompanied by a gentle breeze. Monkeys and birds called in the jungle. This country boy was living the high life. I smiled at Susan.
But my tranquility was interrupted as the captain announced that the river was home to saltwater crocodiles. Some reaching 21 feet in length.
I had watched a program on National Geographic about saltwater crocodiles. They can pull a 1,200 pound bull underwater. Don’t worry, captain, you don’t have to tell me not to dangle my feet over the side of the boat.
Then a fellow passenger with broken English announced that part of Jurassic Park was filmed on this river. Jurassic Park is one of my favorite movies but at that moment I felt uneasy and my brain was crossing into survival mode. Bliss and tranquility were fading.
The captain warned us about splashing in the water: “A crocodile will view you as a food source … They’re drawn to vibration from movement… A crocodile has the biting power of a T-Rex…”
At this point, I wished the captain would start speaking Spanish.
No more drinks for me. No way would I relieve myself over the side of this boat.  I knew that once I broke water a crocodile would be latched between my loins. At that moment we spotted the first crocodile. Then the second and third. No wonder we weren’t issued life jackets! If you fell overboard there was no hope. My longing for adventure was fulfilled. Get me to land, brother! Or get me a 12-gauge shotgun!
The captain kept the boat moving. After a few minutes he maneuvered to a steep bank and whispered, “white-faced monkeys.”
I forgot about crocodiles.
Unfortunately, I have a fear of monkeys. Frankly, I don’t trust them. To me, they’re always on edge, on crack or acting as if it’s their first day to be tobacco-free. In high school I worked at a pet shop and we had a monkey get loose. They can be aggressive once free of the cage. One of the largest monkeys jumped onto our boat, hurdled over the seats and landed on my lap. Oh happy day! Was it too late to ask for a refund?
Here I was sitting with an unsanitary creature from the jungle standing on my legs. It was about a hand’s length from my face staring into my eyes. I was going to smile to break the tension.
“Don’t smile or show your teeth! That’s an act of aggression to a monkey,” said the captain. “It will bite you in the face!”
At least I won’t have to worry about taking a leak over the side of this boat. I am about to go in my khaki shorts right now.
Our eyes locked. It was as if this jungle freak could see right through me. I tried to convey compassion with my mind. Then, his eyes shifted to the right. Slowly, the monkey reached toward our backpack. He was sporting a smirk. I thought about pushing him overboard. I can see the headline now: “Arkansas tourist throws protected white-faced monkey to saltwater crocodiles in Costa Rica!”
Sorry, Mom.
Lucky for me, a tourist from Wales screamed and the primate lunged off my lap to investigate. Thank you, Jesus.
After several more mild encounters, we headed back to land. Hallelujah. This time crossing the two-man bridge took on new meaning with saltwater crocs below. I am not Harrison Ford. He made several million dollars and had a stunt man. I am a simple country boy who only wanted to go back to my bungalow.
When our feet left the bridge we sighed with relief. Maybe we’ll just spend tomorrow at the pool drinking that delightful Costa Rican coffee.

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