2.10.09 San Jose, Costa Rica
People who have, at one time, been truly excellent pop stars, but have later revealed themselves to be horrible little bastards:
1. Gary "I love Thatcher" Numan.
2. Gary "I love pre-teens" Glitter.
Hold tight! I think I spot a theme.
What in blazes is Barry short for? Gary = Gareth, Terry = Terence. Barry does not equal Barrence (not even if your surname is Whitfield). Or Bareth. So what is it? Barold? Barathon? WHAT IS IT?
I bowl through Panama at a reasonable lick, conscious of my ferociously dodgy documents and keen on the idea of a beach "holiday" in Costa Rica. The border formalities are lengthy but straightforward, and include getting fumigated on the Costa Rica side. The indignity! I do have a shower now and then you know. Daily, where appropriate. (It's actually Her Ladyship rather than me that gets de-loused, but it still rankles.) By the end, for the first time since Argentina, I'm 100% legal; proper import certificate, insurance, fumigation cert. and a 90 day visa. It's a great feeling, and I find myself willing the roadside cops to stop me so I can show off my paperwork. (Later on they do, and they're quite terse about it, obviously refusing to see the whole documents thing as a bit of a game, so - phew! etc.)
Ten minutes into CR, the sky blackens and the regular rainy season downpour leaves me wetter than a cod's nostril. Soon I can't see the potholes as the road's become a river; also the extremely loud thundercracks are making me whimper a bit. I pull in at the next hotel, where Peter and his mum sit me in a rocking chair on the porch and feed me.
God blast this infernal rain...
The rain doesn't stop until sundown. It's now that Peter asks me if I like books. Oh dear me yes! I respond. Have you allowed this one into your life, he enquires, handing me a copy of the New Testament and a leaflet entitled "Who is Jesus?".
There's nowhere to run now baby. Nowhere to hide. Except, it occurs to me, for the deadening embrace of booze. I excuse myself and skip down to the supermercado for some cans, and head back to the hotel to erect a wall of lager between my earholes and the Good News. The makeshift barrier holds for five hours, and I roll out westwards into the blue-hazed morning the next day.
An hour or so up the Pacific Coast, I meet Brian and Sandra. Funny folks on GB plates! It's a treat to hear their tales over a hastily-scoffed omelette, as they're doing the same trip as me but the other way round. They tell me that they got deluged with interested bystanders in the US - every petrol stop, every food stop - to the point where they were thinking "please don't ask me anything" as another gas-station lurker decided to make his way over, usually just as they'd got their sweaty bike duds back on and the key was in the ignition. Good luck fellas!
Up the coast a bit more and I fetch up in Matapalo, where USA Charlie gives me half a house, 30 yards from the beach, for 20 bucks a night. Five nights in near-Paradise (i.e. no telly) follow. On night three I promise to marry a barmaid at 10am the next day. She's unfazed when I turn up the next night with the excuse that I forgot. Matapalo! Brilliant.
Next there's a quick stop in Jaco, where my room has a kitchen for the first time in a year, and I prove that you can fry both chicken wings and pork ribs in butter and garlic salt, eat them, and not immediately die. NB: Jaco's "World Famous Beatle Bar" is, judging by a quick peep I took through the door, a whorehouse.
Literally gargling butter-fried ribs, I haul my distended body aboard She Who Must Be Obeyed the next morning, and we waddle off to the gleaming capital - San Jose. Except it's not gleaming - it's rubbish. And it's $10 a day just to park a motorcycle, so, after an ill-considered and really quite expensive midnight visit to the Texas Hold 'Em table at the casino, I head to the hills for some volcano action.
Volcan Poas has an unusual selling point; you don't have to walk up it to peer into the crater. However, you do have to go early in the morning to avoid the clouds which eventually block the view. I make it to a nearby hotel at lunchtime, where the very nice South African fellas that run the place advise me that it's too late to visit the crater. I sense they may be right, given the view out of the window. Scrambling into planning mode, I decide to
a/ start drinking now (1.30pm)
b/ go to bed early
c/ get up early and "do" the crater.
The important thing with a staged plan is to have the most inviting stage at the top. That gives you a fighting chance of completing stage one; perhaps the others will follow. By 6pm I've persuaded Oliver to play poker with me at the bar. (I win - about 40 pence). Stages 2 and 3 do actually fall into place, and by 10am the next morning I'm staring into an active volcano.
4.10.09 Puntarenas, Costa Rica
Comedy Misunderstandings 101: Basic Principles.
Featuring Arnold, a waiter, and me, the me.
Arnold: My name? My name? *points at me*
Me: I have no wish to cause offence old boy, but I'm sorry to say I have literally no idea!
Arnold: No! My name?! *resumes pointing at me*
Me: You are a fine fellow! A stout yeoman, and so on, but I'm nearly sure we've never met... Could you favour me with a clue? Perhaps just the first, or initial, letter?
Arnold: My (etc)!!!!
It turns out that Arnold's English is as bad as my Spanish, and by "my", he means "your". Beautiful! I only came here because the name of the place is almost the same as Punta Arenas in Chile; a town in which hilarious incident was piled, "willy"-nilly, upon whimsical scenario, almost to toppling point. I'm glad I made the effort now.
I simply cannot locate the necessary phrases to tell you how much I love every part of 'Er Ladyship except the saddle. All I can tell you is that if you're thinking of going somewhere weird on a motorbike, and you're well over 5' 7", get a white 1998 Africa Twin. It's pretty and it works - unlike the wife's mother, ladies and gentlemen.
Arsenal take on Blackburn at the Emirates Stadium today, and due to a 7 hour time difference, if it's on telly at all in CR, it'll be on at 6.30am.
After all the volcano-led excitement of the morning, I'm gratified to see the highlights coming up on CNN in my Puntarenas hotel room. 0-1 to Blackburn! Oh crap. Shortly we equalize. Then - 1-2 to Blackburn! Oh double crap. I prepare for drink-alleviated dismay. Then we equalize. A point ain't so bad. Then it's 3-2. Hoooozah! Then it's 4-2. Yowza! Then, with a rather obvious stage omitted to allow for narrative flow, it's an amazing 6-2! Wooo-bastarding-hoooo!
*applies for post of Chief Sports Writer at The Times*
10.10.09 Liberia, Costa Rica
A cow, ironically
Last major stop on the north-west highway to Nicaragua, and it's a smiley little town with a freakishly ugly church and a helluva way with a pork chop. I arrive five minutes before the lunchtime rains kick off, having left Samara on the coast reasonably early after the first bacon 'n' egg breakfast in months. Possibly 12 months.
The second-to-last beach bar on the left in Samara is where it's at. There I meet Cliff, and as Imperial follows Imperial, the conversation turns to Rush's golden years: Tom Sawyer, Freewill, The Camera Eye etc. I tell Cliff about my brother Rob. (They're the same age). At the age of 10 or 11, Rob made a (somewhat rudimentary) pig out of clay, painted "RUSH" across its back, glazed it (or whatever) and presented it to our mum. It then sat for more than a quarter-century in her kitchen, savouring the aromas of roast chicken and home-made hamburgers through its unusually-modelled snout, which, perhaps in a nod to Cubist sculpture*, was actually outside its face.
During the Kitchen Years, Piggy Lee´s creator grew from sculptor of Barnyard Progabilia into music journalist, retaining a lifelong if occasionally sublimated Rush fetish along the way (as one does).
Fast forward to 2007: Rob is booked on a flight to New York to interview Rush. "You gotta take the pig, man!" I yelp. He does. If you manage to get your hands on the relevant issue of The Word, you'll be able to detect a deeply moved, very slightly concerned expression on the faces of Geddy and Alex as they clutch the pig for a photo. AWESOME.
Anyway I told that story to Cliff and he thought it was AWESOME. And he was right!
*Surely the most pointless of all 20th century artistic movements; since Cubist painting was an attempt to represent 3D objects in a 2D medium, why bother with Cubist sculpture? Still, if it looks nice, it's good, as my A-Level History Of Art teacher would have said if you'd massively over-simplified the point he was making.
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