I’ve noticed recently that I’ve been practicing what I’ve now coined as the “smack first, ask questions later” action… It really has nothing to do with the recent Muay Thai training I’ve been doing (just finished session 5 today and it’s a real rear-kicker!!). And when I think back I’ve been “smacking first and asking later” since arriving in Thailand last December.
So what am I referring to exactly? Well, you see, not every place has a mosquito net covering the beds. And even if they did, they don’t prevent 100% of whatever night critters decide to come out and join you bedside… And since I’m arachnophobic, I would rather not actually see what it is that’s crawling on me, because if I ever visually found it to be a spider I would absolutely lose my mind.
Enter the “smack first, ask questions later” motto. It’s a simple concept that I use more often than not. Whenever I feel something on my skin while in bed or hanging about, without looking to see what it is, I simply smack the area where I feel the unknown critter. Sometimes that’s the end of it. But sometimes I do feel a body beneath my hand in the area I’ve just smacked so just as quickly as I’ve hit the unknown creature I swiftly grab the body and chuck it as far away as possible from where I am. It’s become such a common movement that I don’t even notice I’ve done it sometimes. And yet I wonder where that bruise came from the next day, lol!!
Thankfully I’ve never come across the body of whatever I’ve hit and thrown off me the next day, which really means one of two things: either the creature was just stunned by the hit and limped away after recovering OR its body was eaten by another critter during the night. Neither of those scenarios are very comforting really, but that’s jungle living for ya! All part of the joys:)
All the way down to Manuel Antonio I chatted up with the two fellow travelers, henceforth known as “B” and “A”. They were from the States and were traveling friends down in Costa Rica for vacation. Together we made our long journey through a long lay-over in Puntarenas and a drive through Jaco (which has been recommended to me by several people who have previously visited Costa Rica but locals have said not to travel there and frankly consider it one of the scars of the Country because of the large party and drug atmosphere there) and finally arrived late in the afternoon to our final destination of Manuel Antonio.
Upon exiting the bus (a small 15 minute and 250 colones ride from Quepos) we were instantly “attacked” by several people trying to get us to go to whichever hotel or hostel they worked for. Backpackers are targets for these workers who get commission for every person they bring to whatever hotel or hostel there is in the area. At first we were quite reluctant to follow the advice of the individuals who met us as most looked drugged out and some reeked of alcohol. Nonetheless, since it was a backpackers hostel they were recommending to take us to, we followed.
We were led to the Costa Linda Backpackers, about a 500 meter walk from the beach and a 300 meter walk to the Manuel Antonio National Park and after checking out the accommodations decided it was a nice enough place to stay for the weekend. We had also agreed on the way down that we would share a room while staying there to cut down on our costs. For the first night we were able to score a private room with a private bath for $15 per person, but as this room was reserved for the next few nights, we had to move to another private room with shared bathrooms for $10 per person per night for the remainder of our stay.
Despite the initial sketchiness of the place, this area turned out to be one of the best places I had visited so far. But I am getting ahead of myself…
As it was late in the evening with the sun already starting to set, there really wasn’t a ton to do except, well what else but get drunk!! Ok, one other little factor played into our decision to leave the exploration to the next day, and that was that within an hour or two of us arriving there a fantastic thunderstorm erupted!! So since we were bound to stay under shelter by a beautiful storm we opted to stay in the restaurant that was just at the entrance and part of the Backpackers to toast the day and the beauty around us. I really don’t recall how much beers were at this location, but I do recall them being cheap as we had several rounds that night toasting the lightning and thunder as it clapped and struck around us and chatting the night away.
As all the drinkers out there know, once you get started the inevitable million trips to the bathroom begins. I had not yet “broken the seal” but had need to at one point and borrowed the keys to our room so I could use the bathroom. I happily made my way into the room, went into the bathroom and even though I was the only one in there, I closed the door to the bathroom…
BIG MISTAKE!!! Or well, perhaps really it was much better that I did as you will soon learn… You see, behind that door on the wall was (no joke here) a spider with a leg span of about 5 inches!!! I know that as an arachnophobia our memories and stories tend to make these fearful creatures out to be much larger than they actually are, but in this case I’m not exaggerating! And this wasn’t one of those large daddy long-legs with large leg spans but teeny bodies… No sir! This one had a long but slender body!!
So there I was, one hand on the button of my pants, my eyes focused steadily on the spider, my body frozen in fear. Thoughts began to pass through my drunken brain… “What do I do?!?!?!”… “Perhaps I can just pee really, really fast then tell someone about it when I leave cause I really, REALLY need to pee!!”. The showdown continued for probably another 30 seconds like this with me staring at the spider and the spider staring back… I was about 2 seconds from just peeing really fast then leaving when the spider moved a single leg about 2 millimeters to the right. And that’s all it took, I was out of there!! I flung the door open and ran as fast as I could to the exit of our room, out the hall and back to my friends at the table who were still chatting along happily. I sat for a moment wringing my hands waiting for a moment to interrupt their conversation. Then I shyly told them that we have a HUGE spider in our room and that I need it removed immediately!!! I of course told them too that I was arachnophobic and was sorry to make such a deal out of it, but it had to go! “B” got all excited as he was quite interested to see the large arachnid (Lord only knows why!!) and he said he would go take care of it.
While he was gone, “A” and I exchanged stories of fears, which for privacy purposes I won’t reveal hers here but I will say it was quite an unusal one! We continued to chat until “B” finally came back and said “sorry it took so long, I first wanted to get some pictures of the spider, and then it took quite some time to get him out of the room as it kept trying to bite me!” Thankfully he didn’t go into too many other gross details of how he removed the spider but as my relief for knowing the spider was out of the room set in, my now even more extreme need to pee returned!! But before even thinking of returning to the room, I had to know exactly where the spider was taken too… “B” then informed me that since it was so hard to get it out, he was only able to get it as far as the hallway… “I’m sorry, WHAT?!?!?!?! You mean it’s in the HALLWAY right OUTSIDE OUR ROOM?!?!?!?!” This made me even more paranoid and though I really didn’t want to have to go back to the bathroom, my body was telling me otherwise. So I begged “B” to come with me and walk ahead of me to the room just in case the arachnid was in the hallway or on a wall of the hallway on the way to the room. Such a nice person he was as he acquiesced and allowed me safe passage back to our room so I could finally relieve my bladder:)
The night continued much happier and arachnid-free from there as we continued to fiesta the night away until we all finally crashed and slept soundly. We awoke to a stormy morning the next day and therefore opted to wait to go to the National Park until the next day when we hoped the weather would cooperate. After breakfast and taking a picture of a “cute little guest” (see below picture) we moved into our new hostel room (private room with shared communal bath), met a local lizard who was always hanging out in one area and whom I fondly named Miguel, and generally hung around waiting for the storm to recede.
“A” had to get to a bank for more money, so about mid-day when the rain finally stopped, we all headed on a walk back up toward Quepos where the only ATMs were found. Along the way we spotted several Capuchin Monkeys making their way across man-made ropes that stretched from one side of the road to the other. These ropes are part of the “Children Saving the Rainforest” project and can be found throughout Costa Rica. When electrical wires were first being erected to provide electricity to various areas, the monkeys thinking they were useful items to climb across to get to where they wanted to go, would often get electrocuted and die when they gripped them. This was quite a large problem in the beginning, but it was quickly remedied as the “Rainforest” group stepped in with their fantastic idea of providing safe and non-electrical passages for the monkeys to use.
After our walk back up into town and a nice lunch and beer, we headed back to Manuel Antonio and A and I spent the rest of our afternoon “butt surfing” in the ocean!! Now for those who don’t know what this is, Butt surfing is where you sit in shallow areas of the beach and allow the coming waves to toss you around the shallow beach as if you were simply a grain of sand. It really is quite amazing the power of the Ocean as we literally were tossed and pushed and pulled and pommelled by the tiniest of waves!! Due to the anywhere from small to large rocks and pebbles on the beach however, at times it was quite painful!! But still fun nonetheless:)
Our night was spent again with good food, good conversation and company, and of course many great beverages. If our hopes were to come true, the next day would be a sunny one so we could visit the Manuel Antonio National Park.