Costa Rica (コスタリカ)

Since I was about…6 years old, I dreamed about what it would be like to live in Costa Rica, my place of birth. Did the people live in tree houses alongside the spider monkeys? Was there a never ending supply of fresh fruit that tasted so delicious it would remind you what it felt like to be alive? Were the beaches and jungles as beautiful as the magazines made them seem?

私が6歳だった頃コスタリカに住むことを夢見ていた。ヤシの木がしげるビーチの家に、スパイダーモンキーが時折遊びに訪れるような、南国のフルーツや動物達と共に生き、雄大な自然に、人間としての”生”を思い出されるような、そんな経験をした事があるだろうか。

ー私の出生の地、コスタリカ。

 

Well, after completing a quick 5 year tour in The United States Navy, I finally decided to take the plunge and see what life was like in the country I spent so many nights dreaming about. And I can say without a doubt, everything I imagined as a kid, turned out to be true (even the spider monkey bit).

幼少期からアメリカで育ち、大学を出てからは、5年間の過酷な海軍生活を経て、本当の意味でこの先の人生をどう生きていくのか、考えていた。
そして思い描いていた通り、ここ、コスタリカに戻る決意をした。

The first few weeks here took quite a bit of adjusting naturally. Not even 30 days ago, I was in Japan, one of the safest countries in the world that had the most convenient public transportation system. Now I found myself in a beautiful third world country, where the buses are rarely on time and time is rarely a concern (seriously, it can be pretty frustrating when you need to get things done).

移住して来て、数週間。全てが順調で何事もスムーズに受け入れられた。
ーーわけではもちろん、ない。
たった何週間か前までは、日本に居たのだ。最も交通機関が正確で、最も治安の良いとされる国ー。
しかし、今となっては、バスが時間通りに来ることのない、美しい、美しい、もう一つの母国にいる。イライラすることが全く無いとは、お世辞でも言いづらい。真剣な事程、特に。

In this slightly expensive Latin American country, you’d be a fool to walk around downtown after sunset with your phone out. Hell, you’d be a fool to walk around downtown after sunset….In my humble opinion at least. Compare that with Japan where phones are left on trains for hours, and returned to the owner by the end of the day. On top of that…slight safety concern…. I had to figure out how to make the Spanish I had been speaking since birth (which apparently had somehow transformed to Mexican Spanish with a splash of Gringo during my time in America) sound more Tico.

ラテンアメリカの中では、物価が高く、中米の中では、比較的安全と言われるこの国でも、日没後にダウンタウンをスマホ歩きするなんてことは、本当にバカげている。少なくとも私の意見としては。
昼間でさえ携帯をいじりながら歩いている人は中々いない。
電車に携帯を置き忘れても、何時間後には持ち主の元へ戻って来るような、平和な国とは、わけが違うのだ。
私の中に確かにある、安全に対する懸念ー。そして、メキシコ訛りだと言われるスペイン語もどうにかしなくてはー。

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La Feria

Even with those negatives, there are so many more positives to this small country that make it a no brainer anyone that has a hint of wanderlust. Every weekend there is a Feria, or a Farmer’s Market, where you can buy any kind of fresh produce imaginable for dirt cheap. I’ve recently found out that I have a small addiction to papaya, and I’m able to satisfy that craving weekly, for two dollars (sometimes a dollar!) a papaya. Along with papaya, there’s pineapple, bananas, mango, guayabana, avocado, cilantro, lettuce, broccoli, you name it, its there.

そんな思考に浸りながらも、この小さな国には、ネガティヴな事を忘れさせてくれるような、心躍ることもある。
週末に開催される市場もその一つ。フレッシュで美味しい野菜や果物を安く買うことが出来る。
最近ではもっぱらパパイヤにハマっている。1つ2$、安い時は1$程度で食べられる!!!
パパイヤの他にもパイナップル、バナナ、マンゴー、グァナバナなど南国フルーツが目白押し、野菜もアボカドやレタス、ブロッコリーなどいろいろある。

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Playa Ballena in Manuel Antonio

What’s even better than the abundance of fresh produce in this country is the nature. Living in the capital, San Jose, you are a quick 2 to 3, sometimes 4, hour drive to countless beaches like Playa Ballena seen above that will be almost impossible to forget. If you are more of a hiking/jungle person, Costa Rica has that as well. It seems like besides fast internet and easy to understand cell phone plans, Costa Rica has it all (including of course coffee beans but we’ll get to that later).

この国で何より満喫できるのは、自然の富だろう。首都、サンホセから2〜4時間のドライブで数え切れないほどの美しいビーチがあり、毎週でも遊びに行くことができる。もし、ハイキングやキャンプが好きなら、山に登ったり、森林浴にも気軽に行けるのだ。

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Spider Monkey outside my hotel

I’m not sure how long I will be here, perhaps as long as it keeps me out of Corporate America. But I am sure, that I’ll enjoy my time here and share what I can with you guys. If you have any questions about the country, travel ideas, or need some recommendations, don’t hesitate to send me an email and I’ll get that information to you. Look forward to hearing from you guys. Pura Vida mae.

まだここにどれ程滞在するかはわからない。ただ、私がアメリカで働きたいと思わない限りは、自分の人生を楽しみながら、ここでのことを共有していくつもりでいる。

もしこの国のことや、旅行のアドバイスなど聞きたいことがあれば、いつでも気軽にメッセージしてください。みなさんからのご意見、お待ちしています。

Pura Vida mae.

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Mt Echizengatake (越前岳) 1504m

越 -Surpass, Exceed

前 – In Front, Before

岳 – Peak, Mountain

To get to this hike, take a train to the Gotemba (御殿場) station. Once there, leave the station and get a bus bound for Jurigi (十里木) and get off at the last stop. The hike, round-trip, takes about 6 hours to complete, so if you’re planning a day hike from Tokyo, it will be an early, but rewarding, morning.


I had just gotten back to Japan from Christmas vacation in the United States, and I was bored out of my mind. I had regrettably finished all of my Netflix shows on the 22 hour commute to and from home, and I couldn’t find many people that wanted to go surfing in negative degree water (myself included).

Deciding to get off the couch and sweep away my suffocating boredom, I put my morning cup of coffee down and picked up my iPhone. I opened Google Maps (highly recommended app for living in Japan) and looked for a mountain within driving range. I found one just south of Fuji-san, three hours away. Afraid of losing any more daylight, I threw on my favorite pair of hiking pants and was out the door within a matter of minutes.

Absolutely nothing remarkable or exciting happened on my drive to the mountain. I listened to a few podcasts from SYSK (highly recommended podcast, great content, outstanding presentation) and safely arrived about 15 minutes ahead of schedule. I parked my car, grabbed my gear (camera and backpack full of one rice snack due to poor planning) and I was off.

About 100 steps up the trail, I kept getting this nagging feeling to turn around. I knew Fuji was close, but even from the parking lot, I had somehow missed the fact that it was this close, and this visible.

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I turned back around, and continued on with my hike. You can see all of the cars in the parking lot in the picture above, but I had yet to see any hikers on the trail. It could just be me, but I’m always a little unsettled when I don’t see at least a few souls enjoying the hike. I use a similar rule when visiting foreign bodies of water. “If none of the locals are swimming, there is no way I’m getting in the water.” Well, I didn’t have that option here after a 3 hour drive so I tried to just put that thought away.

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This small patch of leafless trees wasn’t the most comforting either

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About halfway through the ascent, I finally came across another human being, a group on their way back down the mountain. Solo hikes are fun because you don’t have to worry about too much talking, too little talking, pace, or burdens of injuries, but, too much silence is rather unsettling. Overcome with excitement, I had failed to realize that it was too early for anyone to be making a descent.

As I passed by and greeted them, the leader of the pack stated “Be careful, its dangerous.” I asked why in Japanese and I’m not sure what startled him more. The fact that I understood his comment, or replied in Japanese, but shock and confusion was well written all over his face. “There’s too much snow ahead, you need (word in Japanese that I did not know).” “Eh” I replied “what is it that I need?”

His face shifted back to calm and collected. As if me not being fluent and able to understand Japanese completely put his world back in order. “Cramp-onzu.” “Cramp-ons,” I thought, “Hmmm….that is definitely a thing that I do not possess.” Slightly defeated, I asked if he thought I could still continue. Unsure whether to use English or Japanese he replied “Ah….maybe ok because…..” The words had escaped them. “強いので、その大丈夫です,” he proudly stated, “気を付けてね,” waved, and continued his descent.

I thought to myself. “I’ll be ok because I’m strong?….What does my strength have to do with the snow?….It must be pretty bad if they all decided to turn around….I wonder if this is going to be one of those situations where I wish I made THE OTHER choice….Well, no turning back.”

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It took me at least another 20 minutes of hiking before I even saw snow. I had started to think maybe that guy was just messing with me. When I finally did see the snow, I was naively unimpressed. I distinctly remember thinking “Locals here always over-prepare and err too much on the side of caution.”

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And then I was alone again. Not a single soul. “Where are all of those parking lot car owners?” I thought to myself. The snow on the trail began picking up, but nothing worth worrying about. It was so thin that I could “feel” the dirt beneath each step. I told myself I was really glad I didn’t quit.

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Trees could save a fall

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And that’s when the snow reared her subtly irritating head. It wasn’t so much the thickness of the snow, but the “challenging” aspect to it. I now found myself on angled trails, with no real grip on my boots and no cramp-ons of course. I alternated between trying to shimmy up this trail, not fall off, and grab trees to pull myself through when I could. I, hated, myself. Why was I so stubborn? Why did I decide to swim when none of the locals were swimming?

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The snow never gave way to dirt, it was always ice. Ice, ice and more ice. My boots couldn’t grip to save my life. If I wasn’t holding on to a tree, I was sliding, or on hands and knees, digging into the snow with my shivering hands, and planting my legs to prevent myself from sliding backwards. I was slightly comforted in the fact that there were so many trees all around me that if I fell, it would be a short “slide” into a tree nearby. However, I would lose all sense of direction and would be in some serious trouble.

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I had decided by now two things. 1. There was no way I was going to let this snow defeat me. And 2. I need to invest in some hiking gloves. Sliding up the mountain, I found a new drive to not let this mountain beat me. I would allow my hands to go temporarily numb to the point where I could no longer grip the trees and then curse myself as I warmed them back up. I’m sure, if you could have been there with me, you would have died of laughter. The funniest part, I think, was in the thickest part of the snow. There was a small gap where no trees could be reached. My hands were numb and my legs were killing me at this point from digging so deep into the earth. I tried to “hop” in between the gap of trees in order to grab the next tree. Well, I successfully “hopped” in between, but when I went to grab the tree, my hand was too numb to even feel for anything, let alone grip it. I lost my balance and fell hard on my right knee. I was livid. This damn snow. I went to stand up, but I realized, that any significant shift in my center of gravity would have me back on the ice. So, I slid back, using my hands to shuffle me along to the last tree. My “weather resistant” (read: non-waterproof) camera had snow all over it like it was about to be in an Old Navy Christmas Display. I finally reached the previous tree, hands burning, and I just sat there, trying to wash away my frustration.

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About five minutes later, I finally got back up and attempted to “hop” again. This time, I wrapped my fleece around my hands for added grip. Successful, I continued my ascent and was graced with a marvelous sign. No, more, snow. I’m not really sure the science behind it. I had always assumed that, the higher the altitude, the stronger the snow, but I wasn’t complaining, neither were my hands.

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I finished out the hike energetic but grumpy. Once I got the top, I finally saw another person. A friendly lady that asked me to take her picture. I did of course, and in return she offered me a Japanese snack. I was deeply embarassed as all I had to offer in return was a rice snack that had, without a doubt, been crushed from all of my falls on the trail. I thanked her and realized I hadn’t eaten anything all day. I laugh at it now, but all of my irritation, frustration, and pain suddenly made sense. I ate her delicious snack and began my descent. My first thought, “I’m going to have to get to that damn point again, and I’m really going to lose it.” Fortunately, gravity would be on my side this time.

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But seriously, where were all those people who parked their cars in the parking lot? I’m still pretty creeped out by that to this day.

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Death Valley (デスヴァレー国立公園)

The Hike that Started it All

First and foremost, let me apologize for the pictures. The quality is terrible, the creativity is minimal, if existent at all. At the time, I was sporting an iPhone4. That is not a typo. As a result, I hope these will be the poorest images on this site; however, they are the only ones I have of a very significant hike for me.




 

I had been in San Diego for about a month now. A friend decided they wanted to come out to visit, and had also decided that it would be a great time to hike the Mojave. I knew absolutely nothing about hiking. I knew nothing about trails, gear, conditioning, but I knew I was interested. After hours spent watching videos of people getting lost in deserts, mountains, and jungles, I knew I would love it, I just didn’t know how to start.

I went to the local REI and asked the poor guy working there probably close to a thousand questions. “What kind of boots should I use? Do type of socks matter? How much food should I bring? Do I really need these water purifying tablets?” After 3 or 4 trips, of lengthy question and answer sessions I had my gear. I had previously purchased a Mountaineering Book so I had somewhat of a baseline level of knowledge, but book knowledge is quite different from experience. Luckily, the staff at REI could provide that.

With my boots, socks, pants, backpack, tent, sleeping bag, and recommended food (and water of course) I was ready to go. I picked my friend up from the airport in a rental car and we immediately set off. The trip to the desert wasn’t bad. We only encountered one minor scare. I decided to chance it on the gas and just get some when we got there. Dumbest idea I’ve had. A gas station in the desert. No idea why that sounded like a good idea. After pulling up to the “Mojave Desert Information Center” and not seeing a gas station, we realized this could be a problem. I asked the information guy where the nearest gas station was. 15 miles?!?!? I had 8 in the tank. An ever re-occurring mixture of fear and excitement met me when I got back in the car. “Well, this could either end up in one of two ways,” I thought. The sun was pounding onto the gravel road. Unfortunately, we saw no tumbleweeds, as would have been indicative of even a slight breeze. All we were met with was the wavy haze of an overheated road far off in the distance.

“Just let the car coast,” I kept thinking. I kept checking the gas, and kept looking at my friend, who did not seem as worried as I did. We crept forward, looking at our phones every few minutes praying we would come across some cellular phone signal in case the worst happened. “Well, we do have enough food and water for a few days, worst comes to worst…” I was the only one that laughed. We spent the next 30 minutes, going just under the speed limit, killing daylight and our adventure, creeping towards the gas station. We finally arrived, somehow, with no gas. I popped open the tank, and it let out a breathe of air, almost as if it was exhausted, giving us all the fumes of gas it could muster up to get us to the gas station.

We filled up, let out a sigh of relief, and got back on the road, racing back towards the parking lot trying to save daylight. After finally arriving, we hopped out of the car, excited to have a full tank of gas, and, although a shortened one, a whole day of adventure ahead.

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The trail was absolutely beautiful. It was hot, very hot. Temperatures here can get up to 49C (120F) incredibly enough. But the further away from the visitor center we got, the more breeze we were able to catch. We saw small rodents, rabbits, and even cows grazing and I kept thinking “How awesome is this!” And then of course, as if perfectly times to ruin my carefree, adventurous mood, we saw “Caution: Mountain Lions. Don’t hike with small children, don’t hike alone, be cautious of your surrounding.” Ha….well wow. “I doubt this pocket knife will do much to this mountain lion. Umm…was anyone going to mention these vicious killers to me before we decided to go on this hike?” Silence. I quickly learned that it was better to not speak of the potential danger, and just enjoy the journey, whether it be a bear, a lion, or a shark. You can’t control when and where you see them, you can just better prepare yourself.

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Tough chance. The entire hike, the thought of a mountain lion leaping 60 feet in the air and pouncing down on my lingered in the back of my head. Fortunately, the further along we went, and the less energy I had, the quieter this thought was, although never silenced.

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The hike up to the site where we decided to set up camp was pretty fun. Between wild animals, rocks to climb over, and jaw-dropping views, I was having the time of my life. I felt so disconnected with the city and the rest of the world. In that instance I felt alive, free, and refreshed.

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It was right around when we decided to set the tent up that we noticed two things. Its starting to get really cold. And. Where did all of this wind come from? As the sun went down, the wind picked up, almost as if it was the very thing pushing the sun back behind the mountains. If you’ve never set up a tent in 20-30 knot wind, I’m pretty envious of you. Setting up one side of the tent, only to have a piece on the other side blow up, or an item roll down the hill was by far my least part of the hike. But looking back, it made it that much more memorable.

The sun finally set and it. was. freezing. I knew from high school that it can get cold in the desert at night, but I had not anticipated needing a jacket inside my sleeping back inside my tent. The same tent that was constantly at risk of being blown to pieces by the howling wind that was determined to not let me get any sleep. On top of that, in my head, I envisioned a mountain lion just circling our tent, waiting for one of us to step out and go to the bathroom or peak out for a view. Fortunately, the wind did its best, but did not damage to my tent, and the mountain lion, if she came, never bothered us.

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We awoke, with little sleep, and started our journey back to the car. I was completely exhausted. The views were amazing, I could recharge away from the city, and really turn inward to my thoughts and where life was going. However….my joints were killing me, and I was tired of eating jerky and trail mix, I wanted real food. Still, with all the self-induced suffering caused by a weak frame of mind and no conditioning, I caught the hiking bug. It was quick, it was easy, I hadn’t even noticed it. On the car ride back I thought “That was cool, but I’m not really sure I’ll do it again…” And here we are…

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