Monthly Archives: October 2009

Zip Lines

Today we did a crazy amount of driving through the mountains… It’s nuts that you can have something that’s twenty kilometers as the crow flies, but thanks to winding gravel roads climbing to ear-popping heights, it takes three hours to get the distance. This drive took us to a national park in an amazing rain forest where we did a “canopy tour”, shooting over the forest on zip lines. The longest was a full kilometer, and the next shortest was 750 m, and the total of all fifteen must have been around 4 km in all. Nefarious had a great time doing it, shouting that she wanted to go again after we completed the set. A very brave six year old! After the zip lines we went for another hike through the rain forest, crossing eight huge suspension bridges spread out over 3 km. After that, another ridiculous twisty drive, and we’ve ended up in Arenal where Costa Rica’s most active volcano is — still spewing lava, exploding, and blowing ash on a daily basis.

Not sure what tomorrow holds… perhaps white water rafting.

Posted from a beach hotel

We made it into Playa Del Coco, Costa Rica last night, with most of the day getting consumed by driving because we didn’t leave San Jose until around eleven. There’s no “one hour glasses” like I’m accustomed to in Toronto, so I have to wait until Wednesday to get a pair, which has left me wearing contacts which I don’t really enjoy but can certainly make due with. I have been employing Caitlin to put them in and take them out for me because I am not emotionally up to the task!

Last night we had a chance to visit the beach just before dark, and ate some delicious tacos and then swam in the lit up hotel pool after dark — which on the whole I think Nefarious enjoys just as much as the beach. This morning we swam in the pool again after breakfast, and it was so incredibly hot so we took a siesta break and watched a movie before going back to the beach here. The water kicks up the dark sand, so it’s sort of like swimming at a muddy beach like Presquille in Ontario, but much much warmer. On the walk back Nefarious and I chased a foot and a half long bright green lizard that she discovered in a parking lot. Dave bumped into a friend who recommended a beach that’s about a forty-five minute drive away, Brasilita I think, so we made that drive in the afternoon.

It was amazing, with the beach being not sand, but millions upon millions of little seashells, before they’ve had time to be ground up into the white sand that I am sure they will become one day. In addition to the white granular surface, there were many craggy rocks jutting up out of the water, which meant snorkelling, which I love to do. In my swimming I saw dozens of kinds of fish — big schools of barracuda-like hunting fish, many sorts of bright multi-coloured fish, big spotted and stripped puffer-type fish, three foot long needle fish, psychedelic blue starfish and many living seashells and urchins, and to my amazement, a baby moray eel (again, I took a photo as proof).

I swam out quite far from shore, exploring all the rocks and seeking out all the hidden fishes I could, imagining the life I could lead if only I had a spear and no responsibilities. On land I’m hobbling about as a cripple, with enormous strain and pain for even the simplest activities, but in the water, I feel strong and normal, and it makes me very happy to spend time in the ocean. Anyway, tomorrow we are finally heading off to see a volcano, as well as a cloud forest I think. When I get back I suppose the easiest thing to do will be to update these entries with the many photos I have been taken, once the shock of returning to winter wears off!

Posted from the hotel

We’re having an amazing time here in Costa Rica. Yesterday we drove out to Playa Jaco, about a two hour drive through the mountains — thank god our rental car has GPS, or we would have got lost a few times. When we almost got to the beach we saw a sign that said “Waterfall… You can swim in!”, so we took a detour and drove 5km up a very steep mountain road (and saw an anteater ambling along the side of the road on the way).

Once we got to the parking lot at the top, we had to hike 2km — about a forty five minute jaunt that was mostly downhill and then climbed up again at the end — to get to the waterfall. It was really wonderful getting to stand in the cold water cascading down over us after having been drenched in our own sweat over the long and draining walk. Next we walked down to where the rapids pooled and swam in them, slowly being pushed down the river from pool to pool. It’s hard to describe just how idyllic it was, and how happy we all were there. As a father there’s no greater joy than seeing your child laughing wildly as they suck in the experience of life in its best moments.

The walk back though was completely miserable, hiking the 2km back up the mountain. Imagine 2km of rocky muddy stairs. The pain in my legs was almost unbearable and I had to stop regularly and was it not a “no choice” deal, I’m sure I would have given up. I was so proud of Nefarious for being able to do such a huge hike. Along the walk through the rain forest as well as many birds and the screaming in the distance of what must have been some sort of primates, we also saw a poison tree frog (I have photos for proof), and a battalion of leaf cutter ants disassembling greenery and carrying it in formation into their lair — a pretty amazing thing to see in person.

After getting back to the car we drove down to Playa Jaco and ate supper on the beach — ceviche for me, fish tacos for Caitlin, quesadillas for Nefarious, and calamari for David — while we watched surfers out on the waves and naked little kids splashing at the shore as their parents sat and ensured they weren’t dragged out by the deceptively strong current. When we finished eating, I “locked” my glasses in my trunks’ velcro pocket, and we went out into the waves ourselves, being pushed and dragged about by the huge surf. Again, gales of laughter and joy, even with the many scrapes we were suffering and the sand that was quickly and uncomfortably filling our bathing suits.

When I got out I discovered that my glasses were gone, not that I should have been surprised. Luckily I barely need them, and because by now it was night time the drive back was quite easy — although slow, getting stuck behind many large trucks in the curvy mountain passes as a violent thunderstorm with a strobe light disco of lightning played out around us.

Today we’re going to drive North, and check out some volcanoes, after I get myself some new glasses of course, when the stores open at nine. It’s only been a day, and it’s a great vacation so far. I’ve been taking lots of pictures, but I don’t have an XD slot on my laptop so I hope my wordy description will do until we return and I can post them. Depending on what Internet access I have I may or may not post again.

Chesskers, MAD Checkers, and Costa Rica

Nefarious and I have been playing a couple of variants of chess and checkers recently. At her school there’s a big chess board in the foyer, and the kids love playing while they’re waiting for their parents to pick them up. Some of them are quite experienced and good at the game, and others are beginners. Here are the two variants we showed them, both of which were received with great enthusiasm.

In “Chesskers” your main pieces are normal, but the pawns behave as checkers. They’re laid out in a staggered formation over two rows (all on the same color, for both sides), and move like checker pieces, diagonally, and when they jump, instead of landing on the piece they’re killing like in chess, they leap over it like in checkers, and they can do multiple kills like in checkers, and they can be kinged normally. This game is fun because you have a slightly more diverse set of thinking you have to do because of the variation in move types, but on the whole it’s pretty close to chess.

M.A.D. Checkers
“M.A.D.” as in “mutually assured destruction”. The goal of this checkers variant is simply to kill. The checkers pieces move as normal, but you have the choice of moving either your own pieces or your opponent’s. You can also take your own pieces, but only by using your opponent’s pieces. You can not get kinged, so the game ends when there are no moves left. The winner is the person who has killed the most pieces, no matter what color. I think this game would probably end up with a stalemate most of the time with experienced players, but it’s great at first. It’s also fun because the game can be quite static, and then suddenly snowballs into a cascade of captures.

Other than that, a bunch of last minute stuff (including posting many new ducks — thanks everyone) and doing lots of packing! Tomorrow morning we leave for our big adventure in Costa Rica and Panama, so we’ll be gone for two weeks. There’s so much I’m looking forward to… Volcanoes, sloths (pictures below by alumroot, pierre pouliquin, mlleglass), waterfalls, horse riding, rainforests, beaches and snorkeling, spending vacation time with my family, and so much more. I will surely have much to report on our return in two weeks.

Nuit Blanche Porta-Rave

As you know, we were a part of the Nuit Blanche renegade parade, a sort of traveling rave. It was us, a big sound/DJ truck, fire dancers, a ton of amazing live drummers, aerial artists doing trapeze and silks from trees, stilt walkers, and at least a thousand people (probably more) dancing and marching in the streets… It was pretty crazy. I’m impressed with myself that I managed to not bump into anyone given how free-form it was and how many people were stumbling into the truck as it drove. Nefarious and Cassie and Caitlin provided armed support in the anti-zombie-mobile. It was fun how many people came up with comments a la “hey, I just saw this truck on the Internet!”


The guns are airsoft type guns, but they look very real, especially the shotgun, and quite a few people thought we were not just playing undead cleanup militia. Sorry I don’t have better pictures. On the off chance that anyone sees any elsewhere, drop me a line.

Tomorrow morning I have to get up very early to drive a friend to the train station, and then we’re having a big early Thanksgiving dinner — today we did a big house cleaning session, oh the misery — and then just a few days until we’re exploring Costa Rica and hanging out with sloths.