July 14, 2009

Clothesline Maniac

We get to Puerto Jimenez, a village on the Osa peninsula in southern Costa Rica, after a long, shimmying ride in the back of a tiny pickup. That truck was the once-a-day, and only, transport from the two-hut hamlet of Carate, on the other side of the peninsula. And we had reached Carate itself via a day-long hike along the beach under a blazing sun.

So by the time we hit Jimenez, we are grimy and exhausted. But cheerful too. Because we had passed through Jimenez some days earlier and been charmed by its tiny-town friendliness. It was the kind of place where a woman on the street noticed us searching for a place to stay and offered us a basic but clean room in her home, three dollars a night; where a tame parrot hung out in a tree and whistled at the passing girls -- only the girls -- but hid in the leaves if you tried to locate him.

Nice to be back.

So we locate the woman, get the same room again, bathe and wash some underwear. Then travelling buddy Zu and I set off for the Carolina restaurant, already our favourite Jimenez spot. The pretty young waitress there recognizes us right away and brings us tall, cool glasses of the stuff we so liked before: jugo de tamarindo (tamarind juice).

A long, leisurely dinner, and we are ready to sleep. We don't want to make it too late a night. Not just because we are tired, but because at dawn tomorrow, a dinky little plane will arrive to fly us over the Golfo Dulce ("Sweet Gulf", that's right) to Golfito.

It's starting to turn light when my alarm goes off. We stumble out to the clothesline to collect our underwear. All these years later, I still shiver at the memory of what we see there, that cool morning. All of Zu's underwear -- every last fluttering piece -- is slashed.

It is a tiny plane, a shaky one. But as we climb away from Jimenez, the plane has nothing to do with the shaking inside us.

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