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Archive for August, 2007

Bad attitude earns the big bucks.

Costa Rica 3 413, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

These are the bulls – the most ferocious in Central America. Guanacaste is famous for its bulls and these are the cream of the crop – killers every one of them. Guanacaste is especially well suited to raising cattle as its interior consists of vast dry plains – the only shade being the umbrella expanse of the Guanacaste tree.

The humped cattle or Zebu are more tolerant to heat and have far more sweat glands. Their oily skin helps shed parasites and ticks. The famous Brahman is a sub species of the Zebu along with other species such as the Gir, Afrikaner and the Indo Brazilian. To my untrained eye the above appear to be Brahman – first domesticated in India some 10 000 years ago but the cattle most commonly seen in Costa Rica are the Indo Brazillian. They have great hanging dewlaps and absurdly floppy ears.

Terrible meat and I would not reccomend them to anyone.

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Witness my wife being pickpocketed – it makes an interesting picture.

P0000181, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

This post had appeared on my other site – thetravelnet – but as it was too much to keep up I will repost it here for its informative value – would be visitors to the Mercado Central in San Jose – BEWARE.

Every type of unusual item can be found in the “Mercado Central” – Peruvian ponchos, cheap yellow plastic rain coats, pig’s heads, cow’s feet, leather belts and wind chimes. Situated just to the edge of San Jose’s downtown core it is well worth a visit but – keep your wallet close – the pickpockets swarm as thick as flies.

Admittedly, we had been warned but feeling invincible with my money belt tucked across my belly (gave me the appearance of a really beefy beer drinker) we wandered in to the foray.

For reassurance I rubbed the secret stash from time to time and glumly followed Maggie around as she nosed into the various heaps of bric-a-brac looking for trinkets. At a vegetable stall she found tomatoes at half the price that you could buy them at the convenience store across from the Melia (our Hotel). Absent mindedly I stood some distance off wishing she would hurry – I am not a big one for shopping. Two young guys who were running the store had not noticed me and the smaller, sharper one called out quite loudly to the other – “Englise”, quite literally meaning a tourist but more practically implying, “stupid dope” or “easy mark”.

Maggie wanders around our home town with her backpack hanging open, no doubt losing things from time to time. It would appear that she had continued this habit here in the Mercado Central – a practice that was akin to slopping great heaping piles of fish guts into shark infested waters. We were immediately identified as a meal ticket. I could see a pouch on the back of Maggie’s day pack where the buckle was loose and a wad of untended postcards hung out as a signal to would-be pickpockets, “Easy pickings here”.

The smaller stall tender’s hand shot out at the pack with the speed of a viper strike – no luck, a better angle would be required, and he maneuvered around for a second attempt. Working in tandem the larger, more placid looking stall tender drew Maggie’s attention. He stood squarely in front of her mumbling something and she straining to understand what he was saying.

I was already moving in for a defensive block, Maggie was still oblivious. She bent over to look for ripe tomatoes. The two conspirators exchanged gleeful glances; they were by all appearances a well practiced team. Sudden shock as I pushed the predator away, the stall attendant immediately changed his demeanor back to dutiful sales man once discovered. They were by appearances only teenagers. I suppose they were just doing what was expected in a world of limited opportunity. No hard feelings on my part. The viper had melted back into the crowd and we bartered for tomatoes. Jeeeze this guy is not so bad, “Picture?” I asked. Compliantly he posed with Maggie just behind.

You might see by the picture that no sooner had I raised my camera than “the stealthy one” slid back for another attempt at Maggie’s pack (see his foot to the bottom right of the picture). Pretty brazen dont you think? We left so as not to tempt fate any further. Consider that while I am watching Maggie, who is watching me?

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A Spanish lesson.

Sheltering from the Costa Rican weather

Up until this day, it had only threatened rain – brief sprinklings from a leaden blanket above – lilac flashes in the dry and dusty hills around Tamarindo but today it was different – the sky leaked water as though its belly had been slit – an evisceration that began with a splattering of large warm drops upon the beach soon escalating to a all out downpour the like of which we had never seen. The Costa Rican weather can be stupendous.

Leaving the beach at the initial onset we headed for the tour company – hoping to find our trip to Barra Honda being arranged as promised, but the intensity of the rainfall had us seeking shelter in “The Pelican Bar”. The bar had sucked up all street traffic for some 50 metres circumference. In dripping darkness without power as frequently seemed to be the case- was packed a great many people from the street – cheek to jowl – sweating and waiting. Few were paying customers.

These two fellows in the picture are Carlos from Tamarindo and the other (whose name I cant remember – but who came from Managua – Nicaragua) I recognized Carlos from the beach, he sold cheap porclean pots with Mayan symbols. I cant imagine how they made any money as I never saw anyone buying them.

Every time the thunder struck Carlos cowered and grimaced – gun shy by all apearance – like a war veteran – but Costa Rica is peaceful so maybe a childhood fear. I bought them beer – the cost of which likely would exceed their daily earnings but they were friendly decent people and by the time the rain subsided and the air had cooled we were pretty tipsy. “KEY – AERO” Spanish for “I would like”.

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Dirty woman!

IMG_6954, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

From left to right – Marc (SQS), Greg (TCG) and Corneilie (SQS) all crouched around an area of flowstone on the floor. This is in the cave that we visited last weekend – a place of great natural beauty along the northern reaches of Ontario’s dolostone rim. Dolostone is not all that well known for its cave formations but this tunnel system is an exception top other known Ontario passages.

Of particular importance are the growing connections between Ontario and Quebec-based cavers. My regular caving friend (sadly nursing a severe injury at this time) is making some great French-Canadian caving contacts and so are several other cavers. I suppose the initial contact came through Corneilie who is a member of both the TCG and SQS – we can only benefit from that alliance – they are great people and very experienced.

Marc who is the head guide at Le Fleche has invited us up and also mentioned new tunnel that he, Corneilie and Donald have found. The way ahead seems to be through “Sump digging” – with plenty of speculation about some really long underwater connections.

An amusing story from Marc during lunch in the forest above – Apparently there is a bridge over a chasm in the Le Fleche Caves. While digging below Corneilie was spotted by several tourists. All hunched over and splattered in mud from head to toe – Corneilie looked every bit the Niebelungen (cave dwarf) for which their caving club is named. Proudly Marc explained to the perplexed visitors “Yes there is indeed someone down there – a dirty woman – she’s my wife” I wonder if they understood the excitement of a cave dig?

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We observe from a distance a fantasy land of stalactites, sodastraws and columns.

IMG_6957, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Beneath these stone draperies a tunnel leads from the bottom of the bone pit off into the “No Go Zone”, an area of incredible and delicate formations – the like of which are unknown to exist elsewhere in Ontario. Cavers are requested to leave this tunnel unvisited so as to keep the area untouched for scientific inquiry.

Marc photographs inward to record what little we are able to see from our distant vantage point.

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From Pre-historic times to present the urine of a thousand generations of bears has soaked the tunnel floors – or so it seemed.

IMG_7008, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Hidden beneath a cedar bush this tunnel entrance leads to some sizeable – stoop walking tunnel.

The passage is been broken open at this point and it runs on behind me as well – back down along the ridge – sloping downward toward the lake. The scalloping above the tunnel entrance could reveal the direction of water flow and In looking at this photo something just occurs to me, it might be a trick of the light or maybe not enough information to judge from but the shape and orientation of the scallops are suggesting a water flow inward from here – off up the ridge away from the lake. Who knows how the water might run beneath a glacier. The circular cross-section of the passage confirms its development beneath the water table.

In following along the tunnel behind Marc I recall him suggesting that he had spotted some furry creature but I never really learned what it was and it was gone by the time I got there, however the smell of urine in the this passage was really strong.

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