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Noche de la Laguna

The town of Escazu, just outside of San Jose is a look back in time. It is a look at a culture so different from my own, that the shock was inevitable. It did not last long, as I found myself becoming more and more attracted to a way of life where nobody was in a hurry, nobody was concerned with what time it was and things had a way of just going along smoothly. Needless to say I was enraptured with the place. I love the lifestyle, the laid back way of the world here, and how time just seems to stand still. The houses, schools, cemeteries... all of it, is older than time itself.

We went through Escazu on our way to Cano Negro. Far in the north of Costa Rica, not far from the Nicaragua border, it is part of a wildlife refuge where time has stood still for many years as well.

The people of this country are a calm people. There are few fights, and even though we may not speak the same language, it is clear that they are not saying unfriendly things. To watch them is amazing. It does not matter who it is, if they see someone struggling with something, they jump right in and help. I saw that so many times. Cano Negro (Black Canal) is a place of dreams, and I lived a few of them out there.

We arrived late at night on the first day and got settled into our cabinos. The first order of business before taking our belongings into our rooms was a good spraying. The odor of bug spray wafting through the area as we sprayed our rooms to chase any scorpions or other insects out of our beds was pungent. The rooms were simple. There was a bed in each. Some had two beds. Nothing else. The walls were plywood. That was the extent of the construction. No fancy pictures on the wall, no insulation, two windows with flimsy mismatched curtains and a small shelf. The cool breeze drafted through the cracks and holes in the wall and floor and through the windows. It was a perfectly functional room. Downstairs, below us in the rooms (each cabin had two rooms) was a picnic table and a closed in toilet and shower. The water coming out of that shower was cold.

As we waited for the bug spray to do its job, the near full moon, now in its waning stage, shone down upon us. The light breeze kept the mosquitoes away. The mud on the ground was thick, and sticky. It had rained twice that day. We sat and talked and enjoyed the warmth and fresh air. Eventually, my companions started to head to their beds. Only Cristofer and I were left awake.

In the next cabino over were two guys. Both were young men from Belgium who were living out their dreams and bicycling across Central America. Stefan was a very tall thin guy, with hair that had not been brushed for 5 years, a nice smile and a sense of adventure. He was very outgoing. His friend was more the shy, quiet type and we did not hear or see him much. As midnight approached, somehow a plan was formed. The next moment found Stefan, Cristofer and I carrying the pontoon boat down to the lagoon that lies along and off of the Rio Frio.

The pontoon boat is made for two people. It has a place that one can put a motor on and get somewhere quicker, but we took only oars. Stefan sat in the back seat and rowed. Cristofer stretched across the small place for gear behind him and I took the seat in front. Armed with only two flashlights, we made our way into the lagoon and were mystified. Stefan rowed us out to the center of the lagoon. With our flashlights, we spotted many large crocodiles. We listened to the bullfrogs, which grow to giant sizes. We listened to the calling of the neighborhood roosters, the huge tarpon feeding, the cows mooing and the owls hooting.

We sat there in a small inflatable boat, in a lagoon in the middle of the jungle, three people from three different places who spoke three different languages. Somehow we managed to talk and to share not only our languages with each other, but a special moment in time. The silvery glow of the moon laid down its reflection upon the murky waters below us and the orange eyes of the crocs and frogs shone with its light. We sat there in silence. We sat there and talked. We tried to learn each other's languages in one night. Somehow we communicated.

For nearly three hours we sat in the lagoon, sharing stories and silence with each other. The sounds of the tarpon feeding all around us and the crocodiles swimming and bullfrogs croaking and the sights of the shadows in the jungle around us and the moon above and the clouds moving over it and the reflecting eyes and splashes of water that caught the moon's light, lending an eerie glow to it as the tarpon thrashed about in their moonlit midnight feeding frenzy intoxicated us. Lazily, reluctantly, we made our way back to the shore and headed in. None of us wanted the moment to end.

It was almost 4 in the morning when finally I made my way up to the bed and after one last check for scorpions, got in it. I fell to sleep immediately, the sounds of the wind and the tarpon and the frogs and crickets was my lullaby. Morning would be here soon. With morning would come a trip down the Rio Frio for some flyfishing. It did indeed come early.