Steve Skinner

They say that you should write about what you know. I only wish that I knew then what I know now. And, even though the results could have been dramatic, I did find out soon enough to look in the toilet before sitting down.

I learned that garobo is another word for spiny black iguana. The place where I am staying is crawling with the monsters, some weighing in at 11 pounds. The old wise ones are almost 20 years old.

The garobos are not to be confused with the green iguanas which are slightly cuter, yet still unsettling at close range. The black ones are a little scalier and, face it, scarier.

You thought your dog was fast. Think of the fastest lizard you've ever seen. Turbo-charge it and you have the galobo, the fastest lizard on earth. Scale these suckers up to T-Rex proportions and you have a recipe for human disaster, served fresh and shredded.

Thankfully, garobos do not scale up like that but a little imagination is all it takes to dream of a jurassic nightmare where humans are scampering bait and the garobos are thundering and hungering.

When you are used to seeing common lizards in the deserts of Colorado and Utah, coming upon a garobo grabs your attention pronto. Depending on the setting, garobos look out of proportion to lizard lovers almost everywhere.

Say you see one in a kitchen sink, or perhaps, a toilet bowl. Then they look huge. Or so I'm told.

After spending a couple days in my current accommodations I was informed that in the very toilet that I'd been plopping down on and into had once housed a mature male that found the basin comfortably accommodating. He had to be fished out, lest he be flushed out.

After hearing that story you can bet your family jewels that I've been looking closely before reposing on the throne. A quick scan really sets the mind at ease. Still, it's easy to forget and I'm pretty sure that I've absentmindedly dropped in, Colorado-style.

I've been in the jungle before and I'm not that easily unseated. I’ve been attacked by moths laying burrowing maggots into my arms and clothing and wrestled with my share of Bolivian sweat bees. Still, I think my heart would seize up if I glanced between my legs while at full corporal ease only to see a set of beady eyes looking back and a tongue flickering amongst my unmentionables.

I wouldn't mind so much but garogos are pretty grubby creatures. It's said that they lay clutches of up to 30 eggs in filthy soil. My comfort station is a like a salt water hot tub on Red Mountain compared to a pile of filthy soil in a ditch below the house. Except it's a whole lot smaller. A full scale galobo would practically spill over the sides, unless it was still halfway down the pipe.

So far I've managed to avoid a garabo in my go-go and I'm already halfway through vacation. I'm counting my blessings but not taking any chances.

Don't think I'm bored, though. I've met a 16-foot-long crocodile named “Tornado” on a jungle river and watched a foolish young man named Guido give Tornado a kiss on the snout. Good thing Tornado's mouth was open at the time because his savage bottom teeth are so long and jagged that they come popping through his nose holes when his teeth are clenched.

Timing is everything in Costa Rica. Like Sunday night when I was wondering what move to make in the Scrabble game. The earth below me shook, a 6.1 scale earthquake that felt like divine guidance. So I made my move.

I spotted a small lizard by the water in the back yard. I followed it along the edge of the pool. I'll be damned if the thing didn't get up on its back legs and scamper across the water to the other side.

“Jesus Christ!,” I exclaimed in shock.

“”Exactly,” said my host. “We call them Jesus Christ Lizards because they can walk on water.”

Steve Skinner heard that there are albino white sloth in these oceans and he's trying not to be mistaken for one. Reach him at nigel@sopris.net.