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Monday, February 18, 2008

Guide to Estonia

Costa Rica (2/12) - All I wanted to do was flop around on my lounge chair, turning over from time to time to make sure I was evenly baked on both sides. The biggest excitement we had experienced since our plane landed was a wild Iguana creeping under my husband's chaise, turning over his drink, and steeling the cherry out of it.

But a Tico convinced two lazy Gringos to try an eco-tour. He recomended the night excursion out to a deserted beach to watch sea turtles lay their eggs. That evening, we, along with about 30 tourists, ranging in color from light red to bright red, gathered in a small hut by a shallow lagoon and recieved our instructions.

So thirty trusting Gringos without flashlights followed five men, whose English we could barely understand, into an inky dark night. We chugged across the lagoon in a small boat with no life jackets. We walked down a desolate mile strip of beach. They herded us into a corale equipped with crude wooden benches. They left us there in the dark.

One big-mouthed, know-it-all, neighbor from the north kept the air stirred with his constant expert exhortations on our mission. He had participated the night before. He even assured one traveler, whom he accosted, wanting to know her homeland, then responding to her in Spanish once she told him, that he was well aware that Estonia is located in Europe. "We don't speak Spanish there," she admonished him and turned away.

After an hour of listening to the guy drone on like a diesel truck, and jumping to our feet every time we thought we saw a flashlight flickering in our direction, hoping this would be the moment, my husband and I decided to explore. Beyond the gate to the beach, in the middle of sandy, roadless terrain we found a bar, stcoked and open for business. Very odd in a Twilight Zone sort of way.

We walked back to the holding area. Still dark. Still no word from our "guides," whom, as the hours wore on, I began to think of as captors. We had no light, except that from the bar, and no way to leave, except to swim. Trapped. I nearly lost my mind.

Finally, a "guide" returned. In a thick accent he explained there were no sea turtles for us to view. We must leave. And he took off at a quick clip, back toward the boat, flashlight extinguished. By the time it registered that we were to follow, he was ahead by the length of a football field. Instead of guiding us, he did his best to disappear.

Suddenly, we bumped into the back of him, still in the pitch black. He then yelled for us to stop, turned on his flashlight, and pointed out a lone baby turtle scrambling toward the water. He must have spotted it with his infrared eyes, because there was no light from the moon. It had dipped below the horizon long before.

Our loud turtle expert in residence, the Yankee (hate to say it, but he was), dropped down on his knees and told us all to stand back. He knew what he was doing. He had attended the night prior, when they also saw no nesting turtles. Blah, blah, blah. I wanted to remind him this was an eco-tour, not an ego-tour, but my husband pinched me when I started to say it.

I wanted to tell the guy that there are no single hatchlings, that these were not the alleged nesting grounds, and that the "guide" had ditched us so he could sneak and drop that turtle out of his pocket to give us all a cheap thrill. I wanted to, in my sassiest voice, inform him that he had foolishly, not once, but twice, paid $40 to get dragged on a Costa Rican Snipe Hunt.

And I desperately wanted to hold up a map of Europe and have him locate Estonia on it.

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