Rohit Chandra

Costa Rica

Buenos Dias!

First & foremost: I lost my travelogue from Africa , do you have a saved copy of “Update 5” and “Update 6”? If you do please email it back to me, and as they say – “ I will be eternally grateful to you 😉 ”   Thanks & now enjoy my:

REPORT FROM COSTA RICA

  • An abundance of sugarcane farming – just as I arrived in San Jose (capital of Costa Rica) and left the international airport in my rental car, I saw farm workers harvesting sugarcane right by the highway. Of course I had to pull over and get some 😉 The guys were really friendly and picked out a couple of nice juicy sugarcanes and handed them to me – all smiles – what a great start! 😀
  • Later the same day, I went to see an active volcano – Volcan Arenal! Quite the audio experience with lava and gases spewing out in a plume with a whoooosh, and a rooarrr! And a bang, and a gusssshhh!  On one occasion I thought that I was witnessing a MAJOR eruption – it truly was an auditory deeelight!
  • While it is hard to see the lava during the daytime, one can clearly witness the plume of smoke and gases as the volcano periodically erupts. As nightfall comes – the red lava, and magna flowing down; along with the (literally) burning red rocks rolling and bouncing down the side of the volcano provide a stunning vista. The volcano itself is a like-from-a-textbook-photograph.
  • All this geothermal activity leads to hot springs – Tabacon River! The resort by the same name has channeled the water from the springs into beautiful lush gardens with cascading waterfalls and still water pools – all with a continuous and never ending supply of hot water. Aaaah….it is basically a hot water river at 110 Fahrenheit that one gets to bathe in – at a premium price –blissful! 😀 (and they have water slides too to bring out the child in you ;))
  • The very next morning, I hiked down to La Catarata de La Fortuna – water falls – and got to swim in bone chilling cold water 😉 (BTW, if you ever decide to go here prepare yourself for a very steep hike up and down to the waterfalls!)
  • As I drove around Lake Arenal – I got to see a large number of American expatriates around the quaint town of Nuevo Arenal, (the original town of Arenal was destroyed in 1974).
  • And I got to take in the splendid views of the laguna itself. (Again, if you are there, make sure to lookup at the skyline and take in the series of windmills perched proudly atop the mountain range of the cloud forest. Beautiful. Serene.)
  • Despite having traveled over some really bad roads in Africa, India, and other parts of the 3rd world – the road from Tilaran to Monteverde still won hands down! To cover a distance of 21 miles it takes (any)one, NO LESS THAN a whooping 2.5 hours – that too in the dry season! Ugh! (And get this, by many accounts Monteverde is The number one tourist attraction in all of Costa Rica)
  • At Monteverde I went on the world famous Canopy Tour – SkyTrek! The idea is to look down at the canopies of the trees making up the rain forest.
    • How does one accomplish this? Basically you climb up to platforms in the sky: on a treetop, at the peak of a mountain, or even higher – typically several hundred meters above the ground.
    • There, a cable runs from your platform to another such platform on another mountain across from you – about a kilometer long, give or take a few hundred meters.
    • You now get to hold onto a pulley and swing yourself across the chasm (the ground below is about a kilometer deep – give or take ;))
    • Think of Cliffhanger – the movie to get some idea of what it was like. This description does not do justice to that experience… 
    • Quite the exhilarating experience!
    • I went on 11 such cables – whooopity dooo!
  • For the slightly faint of heart there is an alternative way of seeing the canopies – called The SkyWalk. SkyWalk is a series of suspension bridges across the various chasms and interconnected by a trail that one can hike across and take in the sights and smells of the rain forest. I did the SkyWalk too but I thought it was a tad boring. 😉
  • Right outside the Monteverde Cloud forest reserve is the Hummingbird Garden, where a slew of hanging feeders attract numerous species of, humming birds! (Contrary to what you may read in touristy brochures, do NOT expect to see much of anything in terms of wildlife around the Monteverde & Santa Elena Cloud Forest reserves!)
  • Having said that, Costa Rica has a splendid variety of vegetation with a lot of color splattered in between, right from red trees with red leaves to red cactus! They even have poison frogs with bright red, yellow, blue, green, stripes, spots, and intricate patterns… There are flowers of assorted colors in the wild!
  • More orchids than you can ever imagine – it seems every tree is host to thousands of parasitic plants. (Question: Do you know, if the parasitic plants don’t flower, are they still considered orchids?)
  • As you might expect, there is an abundance of coconut, banana, and mango tress – it was quite a delight to pick freshly fallen mangoes off the ground and relish the succulence – ummmm… 😉
  • In small towns I saw young boys, selling mangoes from door to door – in clear polythene bags. Often one would see oranges or cashew fruit sold similarly.
  • There were numerous vendors on highways, curiously enough selling bags of onions, tomatoes, garlic, and cashew fruit – hanging from hand erected wooden stand-stalls. Some of them were selling a clump of white flowers on the stem…I never quite figured out what that was about…
  • Quick showers with the approaching wet season were another delight – I’d be driving in bright sunshine, and suddenly there’d be a quick shower resulting in (literally) steam emanating from the tarmac accompanied by the smell that is so characteristic of fresh rain on a hot summer day – ah, the childhood memories of growing up in India!
  • While driving from Monteverde to Jaco one has to cross the bridge across Rio Tarcoles. If you were to just pull over after the bridge and look down into the river you are assured to be treated to the sight of numerous crocodiles just lounging on the banks (why this spot? No one seems to know – my guess is the shadow of the bridge provides a nice shade to bask in ;)) I counted over 20 crocodiles including a HUGE, GIGANTIC BIG DADDY!
  • I drove through the nice, touristy town of Jaco – Costa Rica’s biggest beach town – very well known amongst the young people & the surfer community.
  • While distances in Costa Rica are minimal, the time required to go from one place to another is maximal!  (Costa Rica is a mere 20,000 square miles in area, i.e. about 200miles x 100miles)
  • Interestingly enough, I don’t think it is possible for one to drive through Costa Rica and not see any iguanas by the roadside – certainly not in the dry season! I lost count of the number of times, I pulled over by the side of the road to photograph yet another – green iguana!
  • It appears that the country itself is very sparsely populated – the only signs of life I saw while driving throughout the country was children going to school. But for them it almost felt like a ghost country. 
  • Perhaps that would explain the truly amazing rate of literacy: OVER 95%
  • Costa Rica is a very clean country – there isn’t any littering to be seen ANYWHERE – neither in the cities, nor out in the countryside.
  • Manuel Antonio Park, just outside of Quepos is a definite must see destination. In a tiny 1625 hectares I got to see – capoia, sloth, white faced moneys, howler monkeys, boa constrictors, crabs, agouti, iguanas and much much more… all in the wild, and all in their natural habitat!
    (Perhaps I’ll do a dedicated article on this park one day…. with its beaches, it’s tens of thousands of orange crabs, it’s deadly snakes, … and more!)
  • Busy, bustling San Jose with a maze of one-way streets around city center and THE BEST NIGHTLIFE on the planet – that I have seen! Oh yeah, forget Rio, El Pueblo it is baby! ;P
  • The beer is either Pilsen or Imperial.
  • Quiet Montezuma, a small town – very reminiscent of Nungwi on the island of Zanzibar: essentially a small beach village completely overrun with young backpackers, and has a reputation for a ‘party beach’. It has even been referred to as Gringolandia 😉
  • The ferry ride back from Montezumo was quite the experience – my car was actually hanging off of the ferry! I scrambled to take my passport & camera out of the car, before we set sail, just to protect against the eventuality of losing the car to the Pacific Ocean. I kid you not; I have pictures to prove it! 😀
  • And if all your cars are red – like mine – you must be a cabbie 😉 (In plain English: in Costa Rica: the taxis are all red – bright red, and only red!)
  • Gale force winds – almost throughout my entire stay – especially at Monteverde.  It was insane, never in all my living years 😉 have I heard the wind roar as it did that day – it was a true and honest to goodness continuous ROARRRing… You could hear it everywhere – weeeeeeeird and eerie….
  • I couldn’t go to the Caribbean coast because of a landslide that blocked the road. In fact I had to turn around midway. They had severe damage from storms resulting in flooding and power outages along the entire Caribbean coast. 
  • BTW, did you know Costa Rica does not have an army – no military at all! Wow! (Hey Mr. Bush, here’s one more country we can go after, whaddya think? Idiot!!)
  • The highways (where there are any ;)) are undivided. In the mountains they tend to be three lanes: two for uphill so the slowest moving traffic can be passed by the slow moving traffic 😉 and one lane for the downhill – Mack trucks, lorries, et. al.
  • I guess no write up about Costa Rica can be complete without the mention of coffee, but what can I say I’m not a coffee drinker  But I sure found some good coffee liqueur. 
  • And I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to add to my collection of world liquors by bringing a bottle of Guaro – local sugarcane based alcohol. (So if you are ever thinking of what to get me for a present 😉 here’s your clue – world liquors!) 

Finally, often times friends ask me – after all my travels where in the world would I like to go back to – the answer remains: “It is a wide world and so much to see that I know I can’t cover it all in this lifetime, so while there are places I really liked, I’d like to go – somewhere where I haven’t been yet!”

So until next time, I leave you with a resolve to learn Spanish – the 3rd most widely spoken language. No more regurgitating in broken Spanish, in the immediate future I have to learn to converse. Until my next adventure…
_Rohit!

Next