To retain one’s sanity in NYC, it became apparent a few years ago to me that a person needs to get the fuck out of dodge for a week or so every three months. Sticking around town, avoiding dogshit on the sidewalks (see last post, thanks to Guest Blogger, Roommate Jim, who took the reins while I was away), watching the same twee idiot dandies sipping their brandy cocktails—and don’t even get me started on those assholes who pick their noses on the subway—really wears a soul down. The dregs of February and March are enough to drive even the sanest, toughest New Yorkers to their knees.
And so, every year, I make a pilgrimage to lands South of the Border. This is one such trip to Costa Rica.
When I travel I hate doing super-touristy shit—the fact that I had to fly to Orlando on a plane filled with ‘Mer-Kuhns and their squealy-ass brats on the way to Disney World is bad enough—I’m pretty certain now that the portal to Hell is Orlando. The Orlando airport is pretty fucking horrific, too. There’s no decent bar and grill to eat a meal—just some faux Jimmy Buffet-looking hole that serves nothing but fried shit, a la coconut shrimp, and neon-colored drinks that come squirting out of disgusting plastic bins.
But that’s all short-lived. I finally get to San Jose, and one thing I notice as soon as I land and am waiting for my ride to the next place, while eating and drinking cervezas, is that when you leave New York, you revel in how cheap everything else is. A beer? One or two bucks. Some guacamole and fried plantains? Like three bucks.
But I’m in Costa Rica! Before I head to the beach, I decide I need to see a volcano. I’m only making two stops on this trip—I also hate it when people vacation and run around with their agendas and places they need to see as it defeats the whole purpose of relaxation—and I’m headed to the Volcan Arenal to see that shit. My gut tells me that I should’ve stayed at the awesome Observatory Lodge—a bit pricey, but right over that thing, so you can hear it rumble at night. Instead, I take the advice of a 26-year-old (Seth, I love ya, but we’re on different planets when it comes to passable amenities).
Do not ever take travel advice from 26-year-olds.
When I’m planning this trip, Seth, who just went, goes, “You should stay at this hostel.”
“I’m too old to stay in hostels,” I say. “Besides they’re gross. And I don’t share rooms with anyone.”
“No,” he says. “This place is like a resort, and they have private rooms. There’re people there of all ages.”
“Yeah, there’s no way you should spend more to stay at hotel.”
And so, after a two-plus-hour van ride that turned into pouring rain at the end, I arrive in La Fortuna, a true shithole of a town, and the Arenal Backpackers Hostel—which sported pictures of pristine, airy rooms with queen-size beds and white sheets and flat-screen TVs on the Internets.
Instead, I get this:
This is truly one of the most depressing rooms I’ve ever had my life. Despite the rust-colored period red on the walls, it has no windows—none—so it feels like you’re sleeping in some jail cell or nuclear fallout chamber. There’s one blaring overhead light accentuating all of this and stained sheets. And there’s a sign to keep the bathroom door closed to keep bugs out. Lovely.
It’s pouring rain outside, and the only other people hanging out in the lounge area are a bunch of 20-year-old Spring Breakers. I swear to God, it was enough to make me think about starting smoking again (I did not). I sat in my stained bed under the blaring lightbulb, thinking, “Fucking Seth.”
The next day, things start looking up, despite the rain. I have a few hours to kill before my Volcano Hike, so I get a $30 massage and facial that kick ass—another perk of visiting Central America—and figure out the money after I stupidly realize that I took the equivalent of $4 out of the ATM–a transaction I have paid the folks at Chase a good $6 for.
The hike is pretty typical, here’s the volcano and some jungle shit:
Afterward, we go to this insane hot springs place. Now, here’s the other best part of these countries—the most absurd, crazy-ass dangerous shit that would never be legal in the U.S. is fair game here. It’s totally at your own risk. So, the fact that they built a buffet/water park over one of nature’s most beautiful creations—i.e. a hot springs coming out of the volcano—is blasphemous enough, but, eh, fuck it, when in Rome…
The highlight of this water park are these insanely steep water slides—one that is nearly a vertical drop—that would never exist here.
After climbing up three flights of stairs in a bikini, I look at the badass one—the one I’ve seen people torpedo out of on the bottom—and think, oh, shit, I’m here, I gotta do it even if I might hit my head and go unconscious or break something. So, I get in this slide—it’s dark outside, but they have like little holes cut in the tube, so it’s like you’re flying through some insane sci-fi shit. I’m going pretty fast until about halfway down, and then it drops and I’m fucking airborne for pretty much the rest of the ride, until my ass bumps off the bottom and I come flying out the end.
It feels like I’ve literally been torn a new asshole. No shit, I am like pulling a wedgie out of my crack and rubbing my butt and hoping that I’m not bleeding. There are fat Texans laughing at me.
I do a few more of these slide things—each time you smash into the water at jet-force levels, you lose your top or bottom or something. It’s ridiculous and fun. And this is why we travel.
(To come, Part Two, hitting the beach at Montezuma for drugs, prostitutes, sharks, surfing and more)