Alexa and I met Hanzel in the small town of Squirres. It was lunchtime, and the three of us waited an hour for the boss at MINAET to see us at 1:00 PM. Taking the monkeys wasn't an issue because we had our wildlife center permit and written permission from the MINAET office in San Ramon. Taking the monkeys that day was apparently a problem because the "passport" that would allow us to travel with wildlife could take a week to prepare, in part because the boss in the Limon regional office was on vacation. We were told to return to San Ramon and wait for the paperwork.
By this time it was mid-afternoon and we knew we couldn't make it home by dark. Alexa doesn't drive, and the mountainous two-lane road through Braulio Carrillo National Park, and maze-like capitol city of San Jose, are not for the nightblind. We agreed that we'd stay at a hotel in Siquirres after going out to at least see the monkeys.
We followed Hanzel's motorbike on a pot-holed dirt road, through banana plantations, for a half hour . A dusty sign indicated we were just 10 kilometers from the massive Tortuguera National Park on the Caribbean coast when we arrived at our first destination.
Driving away from a second monkey pushed me past a tipping point. What if Hanzel's wife changed her mind before we returned? A mile or two down the dirt road I pulled over and asked Alexa to call the San Ramon MINAET office.
Long story shorter?
The head of the San Ramon office said he couldn't believe it when Alexa told him the Siquirres office hadn't provided us with paperwork for traveling with the monkeys. He said he'd call the appropriate people. He didn't say we could take the monkeys, but he didn't say we couldn't. Because we didn't ask. We turned around and went back for them. First the male, then the female.
By now it was after 4:00 in the afternoon and Hanzel was getting onto his motorcycle to head off to his night job as a security guard. In a matter of five minutes, with instuctions from Alexa to "be brave," he had shoved Chiquito into my fiberglass dog crate, slammed the metal door closed, and loaded it into our car. We made arrangements to meet at an attorney's office in the morning so Hanzel could certify that he was donating Chiquito, not selling him. And then we headed in different directions.
In spite of having borrowed a GPS, it did us no good at that moment. Roads in Costa Rica have no names. And dirt roads in amongst banana plantations aren't even on the map. Alexa, always blunt but sincere, asked a boy on a bicycle where the "gordita" (fat) woman with the baby spider monkey lived, and he gave us directions.
Emotions ran high. I unpinned the wet diaper and handed it back. (YES...pendulous clitoris!!!) I paid $10 for the plastic bottle and remaining container of 2% milk, knowing it had been a financial sacrifice for a poor campesino family. The daughter who had been smiling in earlier photos dissolved in tears. We gave them our cell phone numbers, I invited them to visit, and we drove away with our precious cargo.