09 February 2008


An example from experience of a map misstep: In Costa Rica I traveled to Monteverde and its cloud forest reserve for the quetzal bird (a brilliant-green streamer-tailed trogon, whose tail feathers were highly prized by the Aztecs; still a mythical bird to me as I never caught sight of one). I mentioned to a local Tico that I could hear thunder and observe clouds every day, but that it did not rain. He deigned to inform the idiot foreigner that he was standing on the flanks of a volcano, and the rumblings beneath my feet were the inner burblings of the magmatic physiographic feature. Vulcan seemed to suffer from perpetual dyspepsia.

Where I went wrong (but I blame it on the "misleading" map, of course) is that the x marking the volcano on the map was actually the crater that according to my mental map seemed on the other side of the country (CR is probably only 60 miles wide); and by road I had traveled hours across country from east to west and then back east up the grade (and the western flank of the volcano).

The Tico tried to ease my fears by informing me that the volcano had not erupted since 1968! My instincts told me to not wait for moody Vulcan to again get the heaves. I left early next morning.

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