“Dang, I’ve never heard Mama say ‘shit’ before,” Rosa Marie giggled after our 500 meter sprint back up the footpath.
Only the Compton women would be chased off by a deep grunt during our first full day in Costa Rica. Only in Costa Rica, as the monkeys stake their territory, will you hear your rather reserved mother cuss. It’s all because she is one of the most directionally challenged human beings ever, and she passed her mapless genes onto us. Inheriting no internal compass, I opt to call myself a wanderer.
When I’m on the Appalachian Trail, I’m a hiker or a backpacker. On the Ravenel Bridge, I’m a power walker. I could probably win a powerwalking race; yes, I am that dorky. But those varieties of walking are all pretty typical things for me to be doing. They go in a straight line, and you can’t get lost. When I’m in a foreign country, however, I become a wanderer. Not because I have some deep wanderlust running through my veins, but because I will invariably get lost, which, of course, happened today in the intestinal labyrinth of Nosara roads.
After a sample of Mediterranean vegetable, pepperoni and salami, arugula and sundried tomatoes, and bacon and blue cheese pizzas for lunch, Cain and Hoffa turned back along the beach. As they headed to the cozy bungalow we’re renting for the next two weeks, the women – Mama, Georgia, Rosa Marie, and me – decided to find our way into town, buy a few groceries, and check out the lay of the land. So, in our bathing suit cover ups and sandals, rain clouds looming, we ventured the other direction down a rocky, dirt road, which, after wrapping around a house, quickly turned into a small footpath.
“Uh, Mom, are you sure this is the right way?” Georgia, the most skeptical of us all, questioned.
“Oh, come on, it looks alright to me. Let’s keep on,” I pushed, always up to discover where something may lead.
We trekked on another minute. As usual, I led the way. It’s one of my pet peeves to follow others on trails. I like to see where I’m going and what’s ahead of me, which is ironic, since most of the time I’m oblivious to my surroundings. Mama followed, the two sisters straggling behind her.
“Hey look!” Rosa Marie pointed to the trees above us. “Monkeys! And there’s a baby too!”
I was more interested in the bonanza of mangoes our curly tailed friends feasted on than the animals themselves, but it was still exciting to encounter our first jungle animals.
“Hey, let’s turn back,” Georgia suggested. “Do you hear that?”
I retorted that, no, I didn’t hear anything. It was still a clear path, and I continued walking.
And then it happened. This guttural, husky warning, a threatening crescendo began in the thick trees ahead. My ears didn’t register, and my steps continued. Rouh, rouh, roouh, rooouh, ROOOUH!
“Oh shit!” Mama exclaimed.
Oh my gosh! I thought. I’m about to be attacked! Turn around, run away!
My track star sisters were already off, fifty feet ahead of me. Though my mother is one fit fifty year old, running has never been a strength of hers, and bearing four children has not done her any favors. Adrenaline kicked in, though, and even she was trotting along as best she could. It turns out sacrificial love for one’s child is not reciprocal. Mama, get out of my way!
As soon as the trail opened up, I cut around her. Nothing was chasing us, but we weren’t taking any chances with a noise like that, and we all continued running until we were back at the head of the trail. Grateful to be safe, we all laughed, and continued on the next unmarked road. We walked down more jungle paths and continued in almost perpetual ignorance of where we were. An hour later, the clouds released rain in the same way the mystery animal warned us. First a refreshing sprinkle, fifteen minutes later a torrential downpour. We never found the town, and, as only true wanderers do, we unintentionally circled back to the pizzeria. Even when we got back on the beach to follow Cain and Hoffa’s footprints, we got lost, passing by our exit and looping back until we found a promising gap in the trees. I suppose this is how our time in Costa Rica may go. The days are circular…waking to the early sunrise, morning dips, a daily adventure, afternoon thunderstorms, reading, and relaxing. Within these days, though, we will wander together, enjoying each surprise around the next bend in the road.