Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Day In Costa Rica

Costa Rica

Mmmmm, room service for breakfast!!

We arrived in the port near Puntarenas, Costa Rica, on the Pacific Coast. Costa Rica is bordered on its West by the Pacific and on its East by the Caribbean. In the center of the country is its capital, San Jose. 

The country has a population of 4.2 million.  They hope to be carbon neutral by 2021. They also hold the number one position on the Happy Planet Index as the happiest country. 

Costa Rica literally translates to Rich Coast. Their main exports are mangoes, watermelon, and cashew nuts. Bananas and coffee are also big exports. 

This land has been inhabited since about 10,000 BC. One of the cultural mysteries left behind are thousands of spherically shaped granite bolas, found along its Pacific Coast. The bolas range in size from a baseball to ones larger than a VW bug. 

They've been independent since 1821 and have had no military since 1948. 

I had put together a private tour for the day and had managed to get 19 of us together so the tour company, Gio Tours, had two 12-person vans waiting for us. Our ship arrived in low tide and so it made it quite difficult for passengers to disembark because we had to walk up a very steep ramp from the ship to the dock. And, there was only one door open, so imagine 900 passengers lined up all at once trying to get out. Add to that about 50 or more wheelchairs and electric scooters. It took more than an hour for some people to get off the ship so our tour ended up starting over an hour late. 

All was well, however. Our guides, Jesus and Ray, soon taught us the term Pura Vida, which means pure life and it is a term they use freely and often. Loosely translated it is "it's all good". I guess that's why they rank number one on the happy planet index. 

We started our tour with a short drive to a private home/farm where there were about 70 white-faced Capuchin monkeys. We were able to feed them banana pieces and they would come up to us and gently uncurl our fingers and take the bananas from our hands. Some would climb up us and sit on our shoulders eating their bananas. They were very gentle and sweet.

After visiting the monkeys we had a nice drive south past various plantations and beautiful scenery, finally reaching the Tarcoles River. 
There, we boarded a 30-seater small covered riverboat (think Disney's Jungle Boat) and set off on a nearly 2-hour River cruise to see crocodiles and birds. 

And did we see crocodiles! Mama mia yes we did! Lots of them, from baby ones sunning themselves on logs to crazy big ones hungry for a snack. Our boat driver would pull us up next to the bank, get out with a big piece of chicken and "encourage" the croc to come up out of the water and "jump" for that chicken. Yikes!!!  

It was a really nice river cruise. Our boat had a roof so we were shaded and the open sides allowed a nice breeze to keep us feeling cool. We saw lots of beautiful birds, plants, horses and even a young Brahma bull running alongside the river bank. The river route took us all the way out to where it meets the ocean.

After this we piled back into the vans and headed up the road a little bit to a restaurant for a nice lunch. We had meat, rice, black beans, potatoes and green beans and salad. Washing the food down were delicious mango smoothies and some local beers. 

After lunch we stopped off at a private resort called Nativa where we were able to drive out to a lovely vista. From there we could see across east towards the mountains and north and west along the ocean coast.

We were able to enjoy a sighting of a group of lapa rojas. They are huge red parrots of a sort and they were busy flying around the trees. You can usually find them in pairs (they mate once, for life) near the tropical almond tree, as that is what they enjoy eating from. 

It began to rain quite heavily while we were stopped at a store shopping for some coffee and other souvenirs. Our day was drawing to a close so we got back into the vans and turned towards the port.

One of our guides, Jesus, suddenly yelled excitedly to the driver to stop, and he hopped out of the van and ran across the road to a small tree  he pulled off a large lead and brought it with him back to the van. We then drove over to an open and covered area and got out. Jesus then had us all rub the lead with our hand, down and up. Then we felt our hands and they were butter soft! Next, though, he began testing up this bright green leaf into small pieces. He bunched the pieces into his fist and began squeezing really hard. Giancarlo the driver poured a few drops of water from time to time into Jesus's fist and suddenly, as Jesus squeezed the liquid into his other hand, the clear water turned blood red! It was a chemical reaction of the water and the plant leaves.  Really cool!

Soon back at the port, our lovely day and small taste of beautiful Costa Rica was ending. Oh well, Pura Vida!!!

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