Dear all:

Well, it has not been a particularly quiet week in Monteverde.

What follows is a little photo vignette of the stroll Susie made this morning to the other side of the impassible chasm in the road, to pay bills and pick up a few things after the hurricane.

“But Susie”, said I to my dear landlady (who had an early-to-mid 70’s birthdsy 2 weeks ago), “it’s steep and muddy and slippery on the footpath down by the Quebrada Maquina” (<-Gringo Translation: stream-cum-raging-torrent, which has since quieted down just a bit). “You sure you want to go?- maybe I can pay it for you….”

“_I have to pay my Caja_, David, just.., , I have to pay my Caja.” (<-GT: Costa-Rican Public Health Care, huzzah – $50 a month, keeps me alive, eat your hearts out, U.S.)

She finds repetition useful sometimes in order to penetrate my thick skull. She’s going to go pay her Caja. I get it now.

Bob (77 six days ago) is going along for Coke and other necessities. I can’t always keep up with Bob’s walking pace, but decide on short notice to tag along anyway. I do have time for a quick cup of coffee and a boiled egg (such a luxury, being able to cook again). I need to pay my Caja too, after all. Perhaps pick up a usb keyboard (the ‘A’ key has just gone out on my laptop, in honor of the utilities’ return; it’s more work than you’d think typing all the ‘A’s on-screen with a mouse. If you see an occasionl missing “A”, tht’s why :-). Besides, nothing like looking for yourself to see how things are going and getting good information (especially in situations like this). Good information is priceless these days.

It’s a 1/2 mile at most to the other side, a walk in the park (literally). Besides, with luck we’ll find Paco, whose car very fortunately was trapped on the other side, and who’s been ranging back and forth on Missions From God and For All Mankind ever since. If we find him he might could give us a lift the rest of the way to the bank and the Mega-Super?…

So off we go. “Take a hat”, said Susie. I hardly ever wear hats. I reflected 3 seconds, unlocked the door, went back in and got my hat.

Chasm looms in the near distance. One hundred 80-lb. sacks of hog feed have made it to this side, brought over no doubt across the same steep muddy foot trail we’re about to cross, by men like the one on the left, who was now proceeding to the dairy’s Home for Hundreds of Hungry Pigs, a further mile down the road.


Susie surveys the Chasm; Bob and Tarcicio (sp?) look on and discuss.


La Cascada’s kiosk building in the drink. Backhoe vigorously on the job. Costa Rica’s Noble Bandera, foreground.

The Chasm in all its glory, with (5′ diameter) culvert (blocked at the other end)..


…and what remains of the house built just a _leetle too close_ to the mighty Quebrada Maquina.

18. So, back 50 meters and down the Garden Path, until…

22. Susie peers into the muddy jungle leading to the Mighty Maquina, 50 meters downstream from The Chasm…

28. Where friendly helpful folks from the Municipalidad helped us down the mudslide, across the puente…

30. …and up the mud on the other side…

35. …to emerge between the House-Half-Gone and the luckier one next door.

36, 38, 39. …from whence Susie proceeded onto the muddy road, and on into the distance, to pay her caja and pick up a little oatmeal.

(1980-09 Whitney summit -see below (“no u dint.” “yes I did too….”))

Of course your intrepid photojournalist made it as far as the pictures go too, and even up into the sun, the dry road and the flat sidewalk just beyond. But no further just right now, please. Susie was already far gone, out of sight; Bob was even farther off. (Bob walked the extra mile clear into Sta. Elena, and then back, a walk he’s made for decades. Bob and Susie got here in the mid-60s, when this was still pretty much the exclusive preserve of pioneers. By the time I got here in ’87, it was more than half settled down, the biologists had moved in, and tourism was just beginning its rise. A lot has changed since 1987. Bob drove here in the 60s, but he doesn’t drive now.)

“I think I’d like to sit down a minute”, I said to myself. “Or no, on second thought, _lying_ down, for, say, 5 minutes, would be even nicer”. Easier on the neck, which has been aching. My pack with its water bag inside made a comfy pillow. Two days ago, I was hauling 5-gallon water jugs uphill. I enjoyed eating very little that day too – a half plate of wonderful high-quality food at Sarah and Rick’s phenomenal Canadian Hurricane Thanksgiving. I believe I’ve dropped 8 lbs. in the last 4 days, and by inclination. (I’ve experienced that before, in those Gatherings of 1000s in the woods that I go on about sometimes).

But yesterday, the hill up to the meeting house was also a bit of a problem for me. Half my life ago, believe it or not, I used to hike 60 miles, off-trail and over steep passes, above timberline, by compass (the Sierra Nevada are 3-D enough to make such navigation easy and fun). Now my lack of stamina appalls me sometimes (enough to change my habits? – probably not…). But I’m a math major, so I know what the ‘4’ in F=1/D^4 means: it means half the arterial diameter yields 1/16 the blood flow. I suspect those puppies are shot, my friends. But, so far at least, no ticker problems, gracias a dios….

A bit light in the skin and head trying to continue walking today, is all. I felt just fine lying down. Rest (and a knowledge of my limits) are all I need, mostly, I think.

People and police passed by; I waved to them from my comfortable reclining position on the sidewalk. The sun beat down on yesterday’s incipient sunburn; I pulled my hat comfortably over my face (what foresight I have at times).

Mirav walked by, and we agreed that we would be even more comfortable on the cool shaded cement of the driveway by (formerly) Bill’s (former) Rock. The dirt was fine – 4 days of it already in these tough old pants. More friendly Muni people summoned friendly Cruz Roja to confirm (as I was pretty sure myself) that my blood pressure and glucose were fine. I suspected my blood oxygen might be low, but I was wrong; it was fine too.

I plotted my 1/2 mile return journey, with its second helping of mud, and the rest stops I planned to enjoy along the way. I had an extra unplanned but welcome rest when the policeman told me no one was allowed through, and to sit on that man’s porch please and wait for Bob and Susie, who might arrive shortly and who apparently were then also not to be allowed to pass.

I understand the pressures this young man’s been under, trying daily to keep people safe. It is about as easy for him to block that flow of people and supplies as it was for the road to block the river.

Seriously folks, that path is getting muddier and slipperier hourly. Someone _could_ break an ankle or fall in. You really don’t want that to happen, especially now. Don’t use the footpath unless you’re _quite competent_ in rough country (like Susie), _and_ unless your mission is _absolutely essential_. Think it out _carefully_ (more carefully than I did, apparently). The road is expected to be passable very soon in any case, even tomorrow, most likely, according to Paco. Ticos, are you ever getting it done. Hats off to you.

I sat for another 15 minutes. Martha Campbell (nearly my age, and born here) and companero came up the path going from Monteverde to Sta. Elena. I mentioned that the police might not want them to be able to return. She noted that the policeman was no longer here, and it occurred to one or both of us that this was probably the time to go home if I was going, which was where I (and the Cruz Roja) knew I belonged.

So, back down into the mud. Why am I not wearing boots? “Want a hand?” asked another friendly guy in a day-glo vest. “Yes, thank you”, said I. I’m not proud; that hand was welcome. I notice in the last couple years that I have passed (hopefully with grace) into the realm of those Seniors who occasionally get a helping hand.

Furthur On, then. One more nice rest at Bajo Tigre, lying in the soft grass this time, and then I was home.

I worried a little about leaving Susie back there. She usually gets a helping hand herself, for example in crossing the ditch by Margaret’s path in the dark. But it was not in the cards for me to go back and help her across the Mighty Maquina today. “Actually, you know, she’s gonna be back any minute”, I said to myself, and she was. Caja paid, oatmeal in hand. “Everyone was so helpful, gave me rides, helped me across the Rio….”

But then what about Bob? A final thing to worry about; I’m a worrier, sometimes. Susie and I were still on the porch talking when Bob came back. He had located and purchased not only his 2-litre Cokes, but .750 litre of Botran Oro Reserve 5 Anos to go with it (a fine Product of Guatemala which I can heartily recommend, if you can find it).

Paco came back too, and mentioned that police had been forbidding anyone at all to cross the Mighty Maquina since day one, which is also before the Miracle of the Manifestation of the 8000 pounds of pig food on our side of the river. Also, that he was heading right back into Sta. Elena and of course would be glad to pay my caja for me and also find me a usb keyboard if one was to be found anywhere in the zone. “Wireless if possible, please”, I said.

He had to wait forever with his number in hand (as one always does in the Banco Nacional) and then another hour when his number came up and the system came down, but that caja got paid. Also the last half of this missive has been written on my brand-new wireless keyboard, which misses nary an ‘A’. I do have to translate this Spanish keyboard into English, but I have taken a little Spanish, and I know that right paren really means left paren, for example.

Chicken noodle soup now warms my comfortable though formerly somewhat chilly frame. It’s from a package, but, man, it hits the spot.

Well, that’s the News from Monteverde, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children, are above average. (<-guess what I’ve been reading for comfort-in-the-dark these last few days).

Be Well, Do Good Work, and Keep In Touch.

-David King