Thursday, June 07, 2007
Costa Rica: Land of Rice and Beans and Ticos
Go to our Costa Rica photo album at our photo site to see more photos.
Outside of diving Coco's Island, Costa Rica has been amazing. Everyday, Troy and I are greeted with phenomenal views, stunning landscapes and incredibly lush rain forests. So often we say "Wow, look at that! That is gorgeous!" We still have 8 more days here but we wanted to share a bit about our land experiences.
La FortunaWe flew into San Jose which is a place you want to get out of as soon as you arrive, stayed the night then hopped on a bus to La Fortuna which is known as the Gateway to Arenal Volcano. This is the most active volcano in Central America right now although I'm not really sure if that is saying much. We were hoping to see lava flowing down the mountainside, but the top half of the mountain was covered in clouds our entire time there. We talked to several people that were there a day after we left and sat and watched the lava flow for hours. Bummer. We did an awesome hike to Cerro Chato which is a crater lake on the side of the volcano. On our way down from the top it started pouring rain like we have never seen before. Our trail literally became a gushing river and was gooey with mud. We kept telling each other to not fall and get hurt because it was a long way back to help.
After we arrived back on the main dirt road from the hike and were heading back to town, we saw a cow running down the middle of the road towards us with a man running after it. We (ok, Troy) quickly figured out that the man was trying to get his cow back. I was just wondering why a man was chasing a cow. Troy says "Shelly, don't let the cow pass you!" What? Are you insane? Who do you think I am? He says, "Make some noise, scare it." So I start clapping my hands and jumping up and down and yelling "Hey, cow, stop!" thinking I'm going to stop it. Instead it runs around me and keeps going. What do I do? I start running after it! Troy says "Shelly, you can't outrun it!" Oh, yeah, I guess I can't. We eventually somehow got him turned around. Oh, wait, I think the farmer did that. But we did help the farmer get the cow back into his pen.
MonteverdeOur next stop was Monteverde. After arriving there from a really gnarly, bumpy van ride, we were quickly caught off guard by the dense number of backpacking tourists in this little tiny triangle of a town. And yes, we are backpacking tourists as well, but we're different, we're better :) We quickly found a hotel off the town center because it was just way too noisy with the locals and their dirt bikes. The area around Monteverde is known as the Cloud Forest because of it's elevation (roughly 3500') and because it is always raining, the town is always in the clouds. It was actually a little cold here which didn't help when we would get absolutely soaked walking back from dinner. While in Monteverde we did the Costa Rican famous Zip Line! You don't go to CR and not do one. These are just a kick in the pants. We did one that had 18 lines that totaled over 3km in length. At one point we reached a speed of 40 mph. (We know this because of a friends sophisticated GPS.) There was also a Tarzan Swing which is exactly what the title implies. There is something to be said about an activity that makes a grown man scream! And no, I'm not referring to sex.
From Monteverde we headed to Puntarenas to catch our diving liveaboard. While on the boat, we met an incredibly smart and geeky guy from San Francisco that gave us a ride down to the southern peninsula of Osa. He could give professional off-roaders some serious driving tips. There was one stretch of nasty dirty road that literally everyone said it would take at least 3 hours to cover. Our friend did it in 1 hour! Days later and we still haven't recovered.
Osa PeninsulaOnce in Osa we gathered tidbits of information from the locals to find out what we should do next. Early on a Tuesday morning, we packed an overnight bag and headed out to the "town" of Carate. I put town in " " because even though it is on the map, all Carate consists of is a building (what is inside, we have no idea) a grass runway for two tiny single prop airplanes to land and a couple of wooden plank tables under a blue tarp with a coffee urn in the middle. "Can I get a double shot, skinny latte to go, por favor?" You may ask "Why the hell did you go to Carate?" I'll get to that in a moment. Our transportation of choice is locally called a Collectivo. A Collectivo is a 1983 Nissan truck, beat up to hell, then in the bed are placed two long benches for the passengers to sit in. If you are lucky to get the deluxe Collectivo, you get the padded seats. The ride there was non-eventful. (I will post a separate blog about our return trip. It was eventful enough to earn it's own blog posting.) By now, Troy and I are used to the swiss cheese dirt roads. Our destination was not Carate, but the La Leona Tent Camp right on the edge of the Corcovado National Park. To get there, we had to walk 3.5 km along a black sand beach that is also lined by rainforest. Remember earlier when I said we are greeted everyday by CR beauty?
We were the only guests at La Leona which was kind of cool. So even though it was shared bathrooms, we had them to ourselves, even though it kind of sucked walking to them in the early morning when you had to pee. Troy took the shortcut and just peed off the front porch. National Geographic has called the Corcovado National Park "the most densely bio-diverse area in the world." We did a few hikes and saw 2 species of monkies, several types of frogs, snakes (yuck), Peccari (wild boar), Coati (member of the Racoon family) and tons of bugs and spiders. Every so often we would stop and go "WOW! Look at that tree" Take a few more steps "Wow, look at THAT tree!" Take a few more steps... you get the idea. I have found out that I am a pansy when it comes to night hikes (who wouldn't be) and I think I also have a new found fear of frogs. I don't know if it's because they jump on me and cling to my jacket or the fat f**kers run after me and my light. You can only guess how much shit Troy gives me now.
We have found the CR people are really nice. They are very patient with Troy when he is trying to speak his high school Spanish. He was doing really well until he called a lady's son a chicken. Even with my limited Spanish I know pollo is chicken not son! We have found that CR is slowly getting overtaken by Americans. We went to Osa because we were told a lot of tourists don't go there because it is too hard to get to. We're trying to get away from them. But we get there and the hotel we had reservations at is owned by an American couple from DC. The best internet cafe in town is (you guessed it) owned by an American couple. On the plus side, since they do speak Spanish, they can help us make other reservations or find out the ferry schedule for us. So they are useful!
Tomorrow we head out to the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica where we have absolutely nothing planned so it will be one of those "by the seat of our pants" destinations! Stay tuned.