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The deadly snake lay coiled on the bank, poised to strike. It was a fer-de-lance, a species responsible for many deaths, an expert in camouflage. But this time, fortunately, the viper was spotted from several feet away. Carefully sidestepping this threat, the hikers continued slowly and gingerly upstream, following on the heels of their Costa Rican guides, in the steamy shadows beneath the high forest canopy.
The first seeds of doubt had been planted, and they began growing just around the next bend, where lay the skeletal remains of a monkey. A sense of eeriness overcame the hikers, who had been told they were going to a waterfall to do some rappelling. They had come to this country simply to do some fishing, but their sense of adventure seemed to have got the best of them. Tom Ball and Pete Gray, avid fishermen from Southern California, began their first full day at Crocodile Bay Lodge with a jaunt out onto one of the largest and most beautiful bays they had ever seen, a shimmering body of water the size of Lake Tahoe, mirroring the pillowy clouds passing slowly overhead.
Porpoises surfaced in the distance. Closer to the boat, large patches of sardines fluttered across the surface, fleeing predators such as those the anglers were trying to catch: roosterfish, jack crevalle, large snappers and groupers.
The two had found heaven. But there is a serious side effect most fishermen succumb to during their visits here. Gray nodded. Their visit was no longer a fishing trip, but one that would involve mingling with monkeys, wandering among wild orchids, marveling at large blue butterflies fluttering beneath the forest ceiling. And, finally, wandering off to scale a waterfall. Staley is one of about 2, residents of Puerto Jimenez. Actually, it had been, years earlier by an entirely different crowd.
There was gold in the hills and a sparkle in the eyes of those who came looking for it. There were saloons on the streets and from each was a well-worn path to the town brothel.