Santa Rosa Nature Reserve.
So after a long, hot and exhausting day, sorting out our puncture still in Nicaragua, out in the wilderness, a subsequent late border crossing Christina and I land in La Cruz kind late at night, get the hands on the famous expensive Imperial beer from CCR, Cervecería Costa Rica, now owned by Heineken. We find a safe parking just outside the fire fighter's, sleep, gladly to have arrived in Costa Rica ahead of time as we have an important appointment to make, my nephew, age 11, is about to fly into San Jose, and we have another week to get there.
Morning is the 23rd of January, a steamy hot morning, buying a phone card takes forever, bread at the bakers is sweat and two days old. We seek the playa, find it near Cuajiniquil, early morning fish are jumping, 'just not biting' says an older lady who has come with her family, the only beach around here where she can get on, every other one is private.
We carry on on a bad road, some creek crossings, then we 'find' a Santa Rosa National Park entry, from the wrong, unmarked side. Now that we're here we might as well, despite our unsolved tire problem, drive out to what is called Bahia Playa Blanca, almost two hours on a track through the jungle. No food, no plan, but we go and find unspoilt wilderness, beautiful pebbles and sand and a cold Pacific ocean. Some other Tico families are out here, we tell one teenager on his quad-bike to stop, 'unlawful in a NP, destroys the turtle eggs', he just annoys us with his noise on this amazing place, they think we are researchers, as we walk along the bay, investigating hermit crabs and fish bones, we are old, white, authority surrounds us.
Night back in Cuajiniquil, next day to Liberia and we buy a new tire, then back on the great beach expedition tour, Playa Panama, Playa Hermosa, Playa Coco, Playa Ocotal, where we swim, Playa Matapalo, eventually Playa Flamingo which has white sand but is crowded. We settle for a dinner and Imperial at Brasilito Beach.
"Schleich di!" Warum ich Österreicher im Ausland nicht treffen will.
Die drei schauen wie Österreicher aus, benehmen sich wie solche, das sagt ihre Gestik. Jeder von ihnen ist mit dem letzten iphone oder ipad bewaffnet, ihre Gespräche beeindrucken durch faszinierende Stille da ja jeder von ihnen in seine eigene Kommunikation vertieft ist. Belauschen ist hier nicht einfach; die da brüllen nicht etwa wie Touristen durcheinander, trinken auch nur Cola und kein Bier, ganz unösterreichisch eigentlich, so sinnier' ich. Nach einer halben Stunde hab ich dann doch zwei Wortfetzen aufgeschnappt die meinen Verdacht bestätigen, dass eben jene meine Landsleute sind; ein leichter Bundesländerdialekt. Ihr Spanisch ist auch nicht schlecht, sie bestellen die zweiten Colas, bestellen von der Megakarte, sie machen einen zivilisierten, gebildeten Eindruck. Aber da schleicht sich der Zweifel ein ob es nicht doch etwa Tschechen sind, es waren ja nur 2 Wörter und ich könnte mich verhört haben? Nach einer unsicheren Ewigkeit kommt deren Hauptgang, gegrillter Hummer und mehrere Teller mit sämtlichen genüsslichen Salaten, Gemüsen und Fritten die das zentralamerikanische Land zu bieten hat, der Tisch biegt sich wie man in Österreich sagen würde und die drei beginnen in aller Manierlichkeit zu speisen. Der duftende Hummer ist nun auch der schwarzweisse Katze des Hauses, die bis lang in der Ecke gelegen hat, nicht entgangen und die schmiegt sich jetzt ans Tischbein unserer vermeintlichen Austriacos. Bis jetzt haben sie ja kaum oder höchst unmerklich gesprochen, mit einem Mal bellen sie jetzt aber ihre Herkunft heraus: "Schleich di!" der Erste, und mich reisst's, 5 Sekunden später pflichtet der Zweite seinem Kumpanen bei: "Schleich di Orschloch!", nun unser Dritter im Bunde kann das nicht unkommentiert lassen und er setzt noch einen drauf, schlägt mit dem schweren Holzanhänger seines Zimmerschlüssels nach dem Kopf des zierlichen Tiers, trifft aber zum Glück nur die Tischkante: "Schleich di!"
True story, Brasilito, Costa Rica, Januar 2012.
Brasilito south, maybe it has the best beaches in the world.
Brasilito south, the beaches tour continues, Tamarindo Beach, Playa Junquillal, Lagarto, Ozional, Garza, Samara, till Punta Coyote, the roads are new, beaches easy to access, and they are empty, wide and sandy with palm trees lining all the way, these beaches are maybe the best in the world, and the good thing is the tourists stay elsewhere.
We are in a hurry and want to make sure we get to San Jose in time, so turn round, travel via Puente La Amistad de Taiwán to Lake Arenal and touristy La Fortuna. Volcano Arenal, to the great regret of everyone, doesn't puke fire and lava anymore, it stopped doing so just October 2010. I remember well from my 1999 visit the thundery explosions and nightly fire spectacles, I don't remember at all the tourist mess in La Fortuna. What can you do?
My Nephew Marco arrives and we head for the Caribbean.
My nephew flies in, he spent time with us before on the fab trek in Cappadocia, Turkey in 2010. In San Jose we meet Wolfgang, an old friend of mine. Wolfgang owns Amadeus Travel Agency, Costa Rica expert since 1994.
Manzanillo Jungle, Beaches and Nature.
For what we want to show Marco, Wolfgang sends us for the Caribbean coast. Via Limon and Puerto Viejo we arrive in Manzanillo, almost where Panama commences, laid back, todo tranquilo.
We come here to walk the jungle that starts right behind the beach, go on a great many treks to spot those howler monkeys that wake us at night. We walk barefoot, slip-slide on muddy trails and push the enormous ferns aside, always watch for snakes.
It is a time of sunshine and we spend the days bodysurfing the waves while C. builds castles and masks and busts of sand. The rains come mostly at nights, violent storms drive in from the sea and drum on the tin sheeted roof of our cabaña.
The Caribbean is where the music plays, Pura Vida, as they say, but Manzanillo is different, the only music I ever get to hear is Paul Anka from the 1950s, a ladino store owner puts up the volume of his super-sized speakers, to my full delight. I even tell him how horrible it is, and totally anti-Caribbean, the fat man obviously ignores me, tells me he likes it, I punish him by buying my beer elsewhere.
We find a small great restaurant, Twain's, reasonable prices, fantastic milk shakes, Marco has 4 a day, we eat breakfast, lunch and dinner there, we recommend it to every other tourist.
Cahuita National Park, Abundance of Wildlife.
After 8 nights in Manzanillo we relocate, again give a miss to touristy, loud, and more expensive Puerto Viejo, and settle in Cahuita. The National Park starts right behind our hostel and the iguanas, crocodiles and capuchin monkeys come really close.
Every day we enter the parc nacional, walk through the jungle barefoot and swim in the sea.
One day we get up early to do the whole of the 8km coastal walk, a bright morning and eventually we would swim at Punta Puerto Vargas while a raccoon gets interested in our stuff. We search the monkeys, howlers and capuchins, also sloths, that we would otherwise see quite often near the entrance on our way to the beach. But no luck, no sounds from the jungle, just lots of huge spiders with many spiderwebs across the trail, and I hate spiderweb feeling in my face. The moment of horror comes when a snake hangs from a branch, right at face level, right where I walk, and as I look for snakes down on the path, I only see it in the last moment, also probably scream. After re-finding my concentration, realize that I didn't get bitten, I spot her on the ground, beautiful beast, a green yellow lore snake, luckily non-venomous.
We catch a taxi back, the taxi driver tells us that once in the reserve he pitched all for a grand Sunday picnic with his family and then the capuchins came down upon them, threatened and fletched their teeth, they had to break off their lunch. "If you take a stick and hit one they throw you in jail, we were scared" he complains. The monkeys have lost their usual shyness since every tourist throws bananas at them.
Still in Manzanillo we come home with a coconut every other day, I borrow a machete and chip it up, almost like a pro. Nothing goes over fresh coconut, the ones that were hanging on the palm tree the longest are the best. Marco is fascinated and nothing can hold him from bringing one home for his little sister. On returning to Vienna honest amazement is all over her face.
Yes time flies and Marco flies home again from San Jose and we to Panama...
We are still in a hurry, we have another, even more important appointment to make, my boys somewhere in South America.
Prolog on Costa Rica.
Costa Rica is a paradise, tourist's paradise, tourists also think CR is green. This is how it is branded: Pura Vida. After the weekend when thousands flock to the coast from San Jose, the beach looks devastated, bottles, cans and plastic, Ticos are not as green and caring as their government claims them to be. 'Whatever a government says is fine if it helps the dollar, in our own back yard we eat turtle eggs and crocks'. Pura Vida is a pretty trashed slogan.
For the traveller, this is me and C., tourists are the other problem, fact is that we always hang in tourist places, intercommunicate with other tourists, listen to tourist music, eat tourist food, suffer tourist food poisoning; yes C. was on it again, or was it a heat stroke?
Also Costa Rica is expensive, compared to all its neighbors, with tourism the obvious culprit.
Imperial beer is 2USD. How do Costa Ricans manage? Salaries aren't high, life is a struggle. Panama will be better...
Out of Costa Rica.
C. and I, and we miss Marco, escape the city congestions of San Jose, get on the Inter-American highway that winds long into misty, rainy mountains. High on the rim near Cerro de la Muerte, the highest elevation in Costa Rica, and with great weather one might see the Caribbean and the Pacific at once, somewhere around there, we get lucky when all of a sudden late sun breaks, colors a restaurant before blue skies, gives view over a sea of clouds; we are out of the misty mess for a few minutes before we dive back into the soup of white wash. Late late we break to the lower end of the clouds, near the Pacific, under an over-floating yellow glow below a dark damp shield, we reach the beach and boulders and palms of Dominical. A beach bar looks attractive, but our food, supposedly cheese nachos is soaked in mayo and ketchup, is uneatable, music is pathetic, Bon Jovi for longer than anyone can bear, beer is the usual 2.50USD, tourists and tourists, what a letdown this place? Disgruntled and still hungry we drive off into the night again.
Panama, an afternoon later, then is a world apart: in David beer is .65 or .75 USD, Panamanian men, women or young can enjoy a drink or many, music is original and of such a variety. We get drunk, all afternoon and all evening, play billiard that is payed by the hour as compared by the game in CR's tourist-traps. And better is to come, Las Tablas... (next page). Just before we drive to Volcan Barú, Cerro Punta, seek the Las Quezales trail, but we are tired and we want to get to the Carnival of Panama in Las Tablas, that is about to start.... Turn the page.