Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Costa Rica – happy ecotourist haven

I spent 4 days fabulous biking and experiencing Costa Rica in Feb 2018. Costa Ricans have good government with a free health service and education and no Army. The citizens are proud of their country and its unique flora and fauna.

We biked in from Nicaragua. Costa Rica has rolling hillsides and abundant rainforest. On 2 hours rafting on the river Tenorio we saw many birds, egrets, ospreys, kingfishers. Iguanas basked in the sunlight on the bank. Crocodiles lurked on the banks and patrolled the depths. So I was careful to remain aboard. A coyote glanced down at from the bank briefly before trotting off.

I biked 60 km around lake Arenal. We started at a coffee farm and the road wound up and down with small bridges crossing the streams. Many different trees grew along the route. We stopped in a fine cafe with a lovely mural outside and a high balcony with views over the lake. Birds pecked at fruit hanging above the forest. At the roadside we saw beautiful white nosed coatis (raccoon cousins) asking for food.

I had bikefree day in La Fortuna. I visited the cataracts Rio Fortuna, and with steps down to the big waterfalls and thick forest. A heavy tropical downpour made it humid.  Toucans hopped around the forest whilst I lunched in the cafe. I walked the orchid trail, seeing 100’s of orchids labelled and some in flower.

We had a decadent evening in bathing in Ecothermales hot springs and drinking the best pina coladas in CR. My skin felt good after the soak. 

Costa RIcan food is Caribbean style. The staple dish is casado comprising rice and beans with fish and fresh vegetables, spiced with salsa and chilli. Costa Rican coffee is the best I have tasted and their chocolates are excellent.  We enjoyed Costa Rican gold pineapple and sweet tasty watermelon on our bike rides.

I left the group early and travelled home via San Jose.  I enjoyed an interesting ride with the driver and his wife. We drove across farmland seeing many vegetables plots. We had coffee in a little cafe in the mountains with home made cheese for sale.  I talked more Spanish to this couple than I had talked in the previous 10 days.

I stayed in a boutique hotel in albujera with small individual rooms in a lovely garden and loud bird dawn Chorus. The local cafe where I enjoyed ceviche and salad was full of families having Sunday lunch.

The museums in San Jose opened up Costa Rican history to me, through jade, money, gold and art.  The jade museum is in a new huge rectangular building made of thin pieces of slate. Jade was polished in the pre Columbian era and the museum explored life and rituals with jade pieces in war, death and shamanism. Daily life, cooking, eating and weaving were explored through pots. The numismatic museum had silver coins used in leprosaria and TB Sanatorium to supposedly reduce the risk of infection. The gold museum is a gem of pre Columbian gold and captures past life. The gold artefacts were beautiful and captured the different aspects of life, decoration for status, and armadillos, frogs, jaguars, turtles and their place in the spirit life.  We experienced some existential angst in the applied art section.

My hotel in Albujera was an archetypal cheap hotel with people staying pre-departure. So I enjoyed wandering the town instead. There was a pleasant square with a museum and a cathedral. I enjoyed exploring a restored arts centre full of kids learning music, a junior orchestra, a guitar lesson and a tiny boy practised drumming.  There was a small theatre and modern outdoor sculpture. I had supper of casado pescado in a small bar opposite my hotel.

I left Costa Rica early because my friend Iain died rapidly at the start of my holiday and I wanted to attend his funeral in Amsterdam.  So I left this lovely country early. I shall definitely come back and enjoy the birdlife and trees more.

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