May 18:  Tortuguero National Park to Rara Avis

Up at 6:15pm.  I slept decently.

At 7am we had a 1-hour boat ride, then rode in van for 3 hours to the Rara Avis office ("base camp") where we had to leave our big bags for the next two days, which meant I had to pack all essentials including clothes (which were guaranteed to get sweaty and muddy) into my carryon bag.  Also we got boots, since we'd be doing a lot of walking in mud.

When I booked this tour last September, the itinerary had us taking a different route to Rara Avis that required a brief incursion into Nicaragua, a legal entry that would have given me my 42nd country.  But the itinerary was revised a couple months after that.

In the van Sandy said there's a restaurant in Beijing that's dedicated to the penis.  I wondered why there wasn't one dedicated to the vagina, and realized that's a much better setup for my "pussy fried rice" bit than what I used to use.  I'll dust that one off for my triumphant return to the Pig 'N Whistle.

From the base camp we took a 3-hour tractor ride, mostly uphill over bumpy rocky muddy road.  It wasn't as bad as Fabi had warned us, and unfortunately I don't have a good tractor story out of it.  Maybe if Sarah had worn her bathing suit for the ride, or maybe if the driver's handshake was a little too firm, there's be a good anecdote in it.  (Those are more Seinfeld references, which I usually leave to the reader to identify, but in this case I'll point them out because the latter is tied to this story, which I saw before I left for the trip...once again proving Putro's Law:  Everything that happens in real life happened on Seinfeld.)

The tractor let us off at El Plastico, a rest stop that used to be a penal colony, and then we had to walk another hour.  On this walk I got bitten by a horsefly on my back, right through the shirt, and I bled.  Along the way someone (one of the Rara Avis guys I think) pointed out tapir tracks, which I used as an opportunity to tell my tapir story.  Very few people have tapir stories.  Mine is that were were at the Philadelphia Zoo years ago, and my brother and I kept calling for a tapir, and every time we called he would enter his enclosure, trot around in a circle exactly twice, then exit to the back.

We finally arrived at Rara Avis at ~4pm.  And just then, it started to rain.  But a few people had their headlights on prior to the rain.  Not that I was looking...actually, those things were looking at me.

I had my own room, even though at Rara Avis you're not supposed to get your own room even you pay the extra $400+ for a single room in all the other hotels.  It's the benefit of once again being the only single guy on the tour.  The sisters and the Dutch girls shared a room above mine, and I heard every word.  I had three beds in my room--a small one, a big one and a bunk bed above the big one.  I was planning to sleep in the big one and put all my stuff on the little one, so when I got to the room all sweaty and wanted to lie down, I used the bunk bed.  As I rested there, I noticed a gap in the ceiling, through which I could clearly see the girls upstairs walking around.  I quickly covered my eyes, because I was creeping myself out, and I don't creep out easy.  I felt like a total Quagmire.  (I forgot...that's the second use of quagmire today.  The first was at lunch, in reference to Sarah's bean soup.)  So I moved back down to the small bed, and rested for ~45 minutes listening to the rain.  Blissful.

The shower I took after that was not blissful.  It was as cold as a witch's teat.  The rooms had no electricity (there were kerosene lamps, although I just used my flashlight) but were supposed to have hot water.  Apparently the hot water is available only to the first person who showers.  A cold shower isn't just uncomfortable, but it takes so much longer, because I have to carefully rinse body parts without letting the ice water run down my torso, which would send me into hypothermal shock if I don't brace properly for it.

We had dinner, after which Josh (who seemed to be kind of the leader of the lodge) described the hikes that would be available tomorrow.  Josh sounded knowledgeable (except when he had to consult with his colleague Ben), but something was "off" about him, like he'd been away from society for too long.  He reminded me of Ed Grimley when I said it would be "indecent" of him to lead a hike that only Sarah wanted to go on.  But in his defense, he didn't sound as mental as someone at spring training doing a monologue about his experience getting Bob Feller's autograph, I must say.

After dinner we did a short hike around the lodge (7:30pm-9pm) to see Creatures of the Night.

Tink frog.  A guide later in the tour said it's actually called a dink frog.  Weren't Tink and Dink two of the midgets on Jerry Lawler's Survivor Series team that one year?  Either way, this frog inflates a pouch under its chin and makes a loud "tink" sound up to 40 times a minute.  This was a very familiar sound to us all the way to Quepos.  I didn't use my flash for this pic because I was feeling guilty about blinding those bats for life, but I enhanced the colors with IrfanView and it came out awesome.  After this I used my flash because everyone else did.

Somewhere in here, Sarah knocked down a tree.  It was like in the Thriller video, where Michael Jackson knocks down a tree for no obvious reason.

I forget what kind of snake this is.  It can extend and support its body way out there.

Tarantula!  So I told everyone my tarantula story, which is actually my sister's story from 1999:

i had a dream that i got an order of cheese fries with a huge furry tarantula melted in under the cheese. i don't know if i did this or not, but i know i was thinking of just eating around it.

Walking stick.  I remember being fascinated with these things when I was little.  Maybe I saw one in a book.

We all got goofy as the walk went on.  I had two beers at dinner so maybe that was part of it, and then I influenced the others.  We were just being very sarcastic to Josh, who somehow invited messing with.  Josh was talking about a bug and ended with "...and 9 months later, she lays another queen."  After that, pretty much everything he said was a double-entendre that he was oblivious to (unless he wasn't, and we were the ones getting messed with), like "maybe we'll get lucky" and "let's poke around and see what we find".  The latter prompted a very belated That's What She Said from me...the first recorded use of our tour's signature phrase.  There would be many, many more.

After the walk we hit the bar/dance area and I had two more beers.  The scene broke up at 11pm because some people were doing a bird walk at 6am, which I was skipping, because that's mighty early.  Bed 11:15pm.