Nov 14, 2006
La Ruta 2006: Hola Gaucho!
Despite the fact that we were on a mission to retrace the steps of a group who raped, pillaged, plundered, converted and attempted to steal the soul of an indigineous culture in the name of a Queen and gold, I was looking forward to participating in the 14th addition of La Ruta De Los Conquistadores. I’m sure it was a torturous 20 years the Spanish endured in order to find a passage between the Caribean Sea and the Pacific Ocean but I hardly see how it is fair to call it progress when we do it in three days on a bike. Fortunatly I approached the race expecting the worse, and as the hours in the saddle ticked by and climbs poured from the heavens like melted nacho cheese I basked in the glory of once again conquering Costa Rica like my Euro forefathers. Without the raping or pillaging and so-forth. This time they got my money.
Five weeks before La Ruta race day I had a decision to make. Sign up for 24hr Worlds or not. I felt like one more big event in my dosiere was due but god how I dreaded the idea of staying up past 2am unless it involved a dancefloor and some solid narcotics. (just kidding) But since there was little chance of dancing in a heavily Southern Baptist state like Georgia it seemed like La Ruta would be an acceptable cop-out to all those people who thought I should show my endurance skills as a 24solo racer. (I did it once 2003)
So with decision made to go it was time to recruit an unsuspecting partner in travel, expenses and pain. In stepped Topher Valenti. A nice Italian boy, a little naive, a little hairy and one little gear. But big wheels and a big smile seemed like good company and true to his dashing style he signed up without much thought. Over the next few weeks I slowly came to realize he hadn’t much idea about what were were about to get into.
We booked our flights for October 31st, which is Halloween, which might explain why at the airport I helped a Terrorist get through security, why a man in a wheelchair wore three fedora hats at once and why the Haitian next to me on the plane was unable to allow his elbows within three feet of the rest of his body. Or why when I offered him a hunk of my apricot and pistachio bread he stuck it in his 1970’s brown polyester suit pocket without a thanks. And finally why he periodically burst out in tourettes like converstions to the back of the seat in front of him all the while madly skribbling words in the air with his index finger as if he was conducting a flea sized orchestra in fast forward. Oh yes, and why he stood up clapping when the plane landed in Miami. Did he know something I didn’t? I would like to imagine the terrorist, the three hatted man and my Haitian sitting around a table in a Cuban cafe in Miami’s little Havana congratulating each other on another successfull weird-out and dedicating it the the late-great Hunter S. Thompson.
Of course the plane was late leaving Miami for Costa Rica so I arrived a couple hours after Topher who was on a seperate plane. An interesting greating at customs was the multiple flatscreen TV’s extolling the eco-adventures that awaited. Canopy tours, zip-lines through rainforests, whitewater rafting and picturesque horseback rides on empty honeymoon perfect beaches. That was in full view above the passport toting crowd in line. As we inched forward posters for a new tourist attraction became more visible posted at waist level on the immigration booths. A montage of two images, a man behind bars in a dark prison and a young Costa Rican female looking up into some far-away space forlorn and distraught. “You get fined, but she loses her soul” or some derivative of that was the message. Not exactly a catchy sales jingle. Apparently Costa Rica has a healthy sex-for-sale industry. Disturbing to know that people come here for more than a nature tour, and I start to feel embarassed to be me; white, male tourist traveling with another sort of white male tourist. I guess the pillaging of the souls has yet to stop. That includes my soul.
I’m not the best planner and tend to intentionally ignore the details after creating a general plan. All in the name of the unknown. For some reason I felt a little more responsible for my travelmate’s good time so in order to iron out potential problems I booked a hotel a the Kalexma before we arrived in San Jose, which included a pickup from the airport.
I have to go to bed. This is to be continued.....