This is a photographic record of walks I have taken in the five boroughs -- posted in rough chronological order.

I'll skip around from borough to borough as the mood strikes me. I'll add captions and occasionally a brief
commentary but, for the most part, I'll let the pictures speak for themselves


Our Trip to Costa Rica

April 22-27

On April 22 we depart from San Jose once again, this time heading some forty miles north to a "hotel" located in a rain forest preserve that our travel agent has recommended. We have hired a driver to take us there, departing in mid-morning rather than taking the "transbus" that would have picked us up at the crack of dawn, before breakfast. This was a wise choice. The forty miles trip took "only" two and half hours on winding mountain roads.  The Wagelia Espino Blanco was difficult to find; our driver had to get directions twice as we got closer to our destination. On arrival we were greeted by "Cindy" who helped us bring our luggage to our cabin in the forest. She and another woman cooked the food, cleaned the dozen cabins and registered the guest, all of whom, except us, arrived and left by car. She handed us a lantern and a flashlight and pointed to a shelf with two blankets.  (The second night we asked for two more.) This was quite a transition from the hot Caribbean coast.

Our stay at the lodge was pleasant and very different; the trails provided a unique occasion to hear the sounds of the forest and see an occasional monkey high up in the top branches, the restaurant was adequate and the experience will always be remembered fondly. The mosquito netting around each bed was fortunately unnecessary, at least when we were there.  But in terms of taking pictures, forget it; the wildlife was elusive, the forest blocked the light and the unique experience was more aural than visual: the sound of the rain on the metal roof at night and the howling and other unfamiliar sounds of birds, insects and beasts. These cannot be photographed.

On April 24 we take an Interbus, a private van service, heading out of the rain forest and west to our next destination, Volcano Lodge. This is the last leg of our trip before returning to San Jose and our flight back home. For the past week, quite contrary to our wishes and expectations, we have traveled in a tourist bubble. This part of the trip is no different in that respect. Since I am (correctly) unwilling to drive, and since we have been warned that it is unwise for tourists to travel by public buses due to rampant thievery, we continue to be cut off from the everyday life of the inhabitants in a way we have not experienced even when traveling in more restricted countries such as as Morocco, Russia and China.  (Had we opted to take our chances and used public buses it would have been impossible to make connections in a timely manner). So wanting to avoid the restrictions on our freedom imposed by "a tour" we nonetheless have remained confined to the areas catering only to tourists.

Volcano Lodge, as promised in the online ads, is indeed a paradise -- one that is gated and isolated.  In many ways it reminds me of the place that was described as "heaven" in the Catholic mythology of my childhood: a charming comfortable place where one sits around bored for all eternity contemplating the infinite goodness of a temperamental old guy with a long white beard. The hotel gardens, full of beautiful flowers, are well tended every morning by a small band of uniformed workers who cut, trim, fertilize ... and spray huge quantities of insecticide to make the place pleasant for the guests. In this case we can see "the old man" outside our hotel window: the Volcano at Arenal. It is one of the top ten most active volcanoes in the world, with a visible little puff of white smoke at the top. It erupts every few years with greater or lesser violence. In 1968 it destroyed the village of Tobaćon and killed 78 people. Since then it has erupted a half dozen time, with the last major eruption in 1998 destroying a few thousand square feet of forests.  Yet, on the world scale of natural disaster generators, it has only been a very minor nuisance.  The nearest town and tourist destination is named La Fortuna, in recognition of its good fortune -- so far.


On April 25 we take a leisurely tour from the Volcano Lodge to visit the wildlife sanctuary at Cano Negro. We are very fortunate that I changed the pick up time to visit the sanctuary from 6:30 AM to 12:30 PM.  The company doing this trip is "Sunset Tours."  As the name indicates they obviously do sunset as well sunrise tours. But Liz, the agent at, had booked us for the early morning one, contrary to Jen's instructions.  By the time I realized this misdeed on her part -- one of many -- it cost us twice us much to be picked up at the time we wanted, for a private tour.  But the extra cost is well worth it. Instead of a van we are picked in a car by our guide, Pablo, and his driver.  Not only does this give me greater flexibility in terms of picture taking, it provides us with the opportunity for a more informal encounter in which our questions are answered more candidly and thoroughly than we have experienced on our trip so far.  After an excellent lunch with Pablo at a little place along the road we make another stop before reaching Cano Negro. To our delight and amazement there are several large iguanas walking around on the sidewalk and in the nearby vegetation. This is apparently a well know stop for tourists, where more than five hundred iguanas live to a ripe old age without any natural enemies.  In the bright afternoon sun most of the pictures don't turn out so well but Jen and I get to walk among the iguanas and see their prehistoric features close up.

The End: Some Flowers


The tourist industry is a necessary evil, both for the country visited and the visitors. It makes it possible for millions of people to see and “experience” something out of their everyday reality, a wildlife habitat that is quickly being eradicated almost everywhere in the world by the relentless march of population growth and modernization. But it is also just another “reality show,” having very little to do with the way the country's natives experience and feel in their everyday life. This is all the more true for a small country like Costa Rica where tourism is now the number one “industry” and which in many ways -- along with American mass culture and the spreading crack cocaine epidemic -- has degraded its culture.

Tourism has been a major factor in the rising standard of living of this Central American country and in the restoration and maintenance of its ecology and wildlife preserves. But it also pollutes the countryside with an excessive number of tour buses and creates a second tier economy of inflated prices and manicured gated environments for the captive visitors on the way to the national parks. It is like so much of modern life, a “Truman Show,” except that the curtain to the outside world is torn in many places and one or more of the other realities can always be seen unless one is asleep: before one reached the countryside and the national parks one must traverse long stretches of urban sprawl covered with Kentucky Fried Chickens, McDonalds, Esso stations, Coca Cola signs and used car lots. One also cannot fail to see that most homes and businesses are barricaded for fear of crime. The beautiful flowers above are kept insect free by the small band of workers in hazmat suits who every morning patrol the grounds of Volcano Lodge liberally spraying the flora with insecticides.

For scientific documentation see, for example:

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