Earaches and Dead Geckos Don’t Stop Liz

golfito1.jpgDays after crossing into Panamanian waters, poor surf, worse weather and an ear plague that just won’t quit forced Captain Liz to turn the Swell around and beat a hasty retreat back to Costa Rica. Along the way, paradise is discovered and curious circumstances lead to the death of Bruce—the boats’ stowaway gecko. The next morning we wove through the island paradise of Islas Secas, still in a shaken haze. We found a perfect anchorage outside the fringe of the coral reef and rested most of the day. The islands appeared deserted, despite a few yurts spread out through the hills that belonged to a private resort. We spent the next days exploring this island paradise, with its clear coral reefs, footprint-free beaches, hermit crab armies, coconut groves, and trickling streams. It was like heaven on earth. The catch was—despite the pristine beauty, it rained nearly the entire time we were there. At one point we tallied 36 straight hours of strong rain. The dinghy had more than a foot of rainwater in it that morning. We cooked and read and made the most of the rainy, waveless paradise. But as I swallowed the second-to-last antibiotic, I knew my health was going to be a problem. My ears weren’t getting better. I had to get back to a doctor and take care of the problem correctly. I blamed myself for the lack of swell and that we had to end our Panamanian adventure early, but I was sick and getting sicker. Jack got to surf a few sessions at a left and then we headed back up to Costa Rica where I knew there was a safe place to leave Swell and find a doctor. On the trip north we caught a lovely female dorado just before we stopping at Isla Parida. Jack made Mahi sandwiches and we swam in and spent the day roaming this deserted beach. The day was glorious and the water golfito2.jpgin the bay shimmered like a field of green emeralds. When I heaved myself back up the side of Swell, I found that a tragedy had occurred. It was Bruce, my stowaway gecko that had been aboard since Mexico. His shriveled body lay directly where I’d climbed up. I just couldn’t understand what had happened. It surely couldn’t have been a lack of water or food—not with all the rain and my bustling colony of red ants. I had hoped he would continue on with me for many miles. I’d named him after the Bostonian spider that had accompanied Joshua Slocum nearly all the way around the world aboard Spray in the early 1900s. He could have easily disembarked in the Puntarenas boatyard, but when I had returned he was happily nestled under the spare inflatable. When we sailed for open water that night I thanked him for his company and freed his little body into the dark sea. I guess I’ll have to wait for another brave little creature to climb aboard somewhere. I just hope it isn’t a cockroach. Golfito was almost a southern version of Puntarenas. Both towns were deep in a gulf, and both served as the main centers of commerce for their areas. golfito3.jpgGolfito was smaller, though, and the landscape more beautiful, as the jungle cascaded down steep hillsides to the water all around the bay. It had been a major banana exporting port from 1934 to 1985. The houses built by the United Fruit Company make up a majority of the community. It seems to be filling up with ‘For Sale’ and realty signs directed at gringos looking to retire as is the case in most of Costa Rica. We anchored off of Land and Sea Services, which is owned and run by Tim and Katy, an amazing couple from Santa Barbara. They had sailed down 13 years earlier, found their piece of paradise and never left. They now provide an amazing facility for other boaters to land their dinghies, hang out, shower, do laundry and get information on just about anything. Their place was oozing with love and care. Not a plant went unwatered, nor was there a single corner void of something fun to look at. And if that wasn’t enough to make you feel at home, the rowdy herd of dogs and cats would melt you with their incessant purrs and licks and paws. They graciously invited us to their Thanksgiving smorgasbord, which we instantly accepted. I explained what had happened with my ears over the last two months to the pharmacist behind the counter. He opened the half-door and guided me into the back room. He peered into each ear with a grimace on his face. It was apparent that he didn’t like what he saw. He explained that the infections were very bad and that because the antibiotics had failed to kill it, the infection had likely developed a resistance to them. All of this I had suspected, but when he pulled out a syringe I winced and reluctantly pulled up my shirt sleeve. This was the only stronger antibiotic, he explained. But it could only be administered with an injection. He pointed down. I knew it. I rolled over on the padded bench and pulled down my pants to expose my left cheek. I gripped the cushion as the thick serum entered my muscle slowly. I thanked my new doctor—Elvis, as he called himself—and limped back out into the steamy Golfito heat.

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