Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Costa Rica, La Pura Vida

Last August, the misses and I hit the 10 year mark. We wanted to do something big, and ultimately decided that Costa Rica would fit the bill. However, in August, Costa Rica is in the midst of a non-stop downpore. We decided that rather than leave Utah during our nicest time of the year to head to Costa Rica during one of its rainiest months of the year, we'd postpone our anniversary trip to January in hopes that we'd miss a week of inversion in Utah in exchange for the nicest part of the year in Costa Rica. I'd say that things worked out swimmingly.

We flew into San Jose, CR just in time to bring in the New Year. During the flight, I have to admit to lamenting about missing Kenny's New-Year's ride. Wesla wanted to smack me, and I probably would have deserved it. Upon arriving in San Jose, we headed to a shindig in the city which was nice and all, but it turns out that most Costa Ricans bring in the New Year with the family, and then head out to party till morning. We had an early flight to catch the next morning, so we had our first taste of Gallo Pinto (rice, beans, and their secret sauce) and called it a night.

The next morning, we headed to a little slice of heaven called the Osa Peninsula.
La Peninsula de Osa is tucked away on the southwest corner of CR. Although it's only 100 miles away from San Jose (as the crow flies), it takes about 8 hours to drive to due to the multiple mountain passes and poor road conditions. Although I think the drive would be fun, we flew to Osa on a domestic airline instead, which took about 40 minutes.
From Costa Rica

We stayed on the Drake Bay side of the Peninsula, and according to some of the locals, the first cars did not arrive to Drake Bay until 8 years ago, and Drake Bay did not have a power plant until 4 years ago.

The area is very undeveloped, and reminded us of our visit to Mangrove Cay in the Bahamas last year. Very low key, great locals, amazing beaches, etc. What sets Drake Bay apart is its proximity to Corcovado National Park. We took a 1 hour boat ride to the heart of the park and took a guided tour through some amazing rain forest.

The guide was simply amazing. I'm guessing that if Wesla and I had ventured out by ourselves, we would have been lucky to have seen 4-5 different animals. The guide had a sixth sense for spotting all sorts of animals hiding in the canopy above us and on the earth below, and usually had some interesting science or history behind each siting.

The toucan:

Spider monkey:

Cool tree - Watcher, what's this called?

Baby howler monkey with mama:

These leaf-cutter ants were honestly one of the coolest things we saw.

Each of these little leaves on the trunk are being carried by an ant. They'd march to the top of this tree, cut out a leaf, and carry it back home to use as a bed to grow mushrooms, which were used for food. The ants had walked this tree and the ground below enough that they had worn in a nice little single-track path. Watching these ants go to work was simply amazing.

An American crocodile, which happens to be my new favorite Spanish word: cocodrilo. I could say that over and over again all day...

Nice little waterfall:

The next day, we headed out to Cano Island for some snorkeling. Unfortunately we don't have an underwater camera to capture all of the fish, coral and reef sharks out there. The water was 80 degrees and even a skinny guy like me could swim around all day without getting cold. My sunburned back is evidence of that. And by the way, don't trust Costa Rican sunblock. The SPF 60 that we bought locally didn't work half as well as the SPF 30 from home.

One of favorite things about travelling is seeing how the local people live. Here are a couple of pics to give you an idea of what life is like in La Peninsula de Osa. My favorite is the local airport:

No, that's not a fruit stand. That's the entire airport. The security screening consisted of... um... well nothing. I put my own bag into the airplane. Pura vida.

Another of my favorites is this is a little place that I came across while wondering around some of the trails near our hotel:

The only way to get to this house was to walk a half mile up the 1-track trail you can see in the pic. I spent 15 minutes talking to the guy sitting on the front porch. He guides tours through Corcovado by day and enjoys la pura vida by night by sitting on the porch and looking down at the ocean. I bet that prime real estate must run him $50 a month. Maybe less.

Next up is our visit to the Quepos area. At my current rate of updating my blog, I'll get to that sometime in March!


Lucy said...

I think your tree is a strangler fig. It was once some vines growing on another tree, but the vines all grow together and make a new tree and choke out the old tree. I'm sure Watcher can describe that better. They are totally cool to look at but I always felt sorry for the original tree when I saw them in CR. Silly I guess.

Ski Bike Junkie said...

The thought often crosses my mind of just packing everything up and wandering for a few months. Or years. Nice to know we could live for next to nothing in Costa Rica if I ever made it happen.

nails said...

The Rich Coast is right at the top of my list. Bichin camaro.

KanyonKris said...

After Watcher's post about Costa Rica I was ready to go. And now your post (with more to come). And this crappy air and cold Winter. I don't know how much more I can take.

Or is it a Banyan tree?

Good pictures and post.

South County Ciclista said...

Looks like a fun time.

Aaron said...

I was thinking strangler fig as well because our guide pointed one of them out. It was so much smaller than this one that I thought this may be something else. I suppose if it's just a bunch of vines growing around a tree, that a strangler fig can be of any size. Definitely not a Banyon tree though. That's coming in the next post.

Anonymous said...

Corcovado is the singular most awesome place in the world. Way jealous and can't wait to go back there its been too long.

Grizzly Adam said...

That tree is called a Ceiba tree, it was very important to the Maya. They would use the spikes that grow on the young trees in their blood letting ceremonies. Including the piercing of...um...various anatomical members associated with male reproductivity. Also known as "the penis".

In the month I spent in Guatemala I grew to love and hate the spider and howler monkeys. The spider, because it threw poo on us, and howler because it kept us up all night.

I'd go back immediately if I could.

Watcher said...

Awesome! Osa Peninsula is target of our next trip. Sounds like it was a home run for you guys. Re: the tree, I'm with Jube- my $ is on a fig. Lots of different species. How they reproduce with the help of fig wasps is way cool (blogged about it in this post.)

Banyans BTW are native to South Asia, so when you see them in CR they've been planted, like in a yard or park (like at the Blue Banyan.) I've seen them planted in several town parks in Mexico.

Your toucan by the way is a Chestnut-billed Toucan. A cool thing about CR is when you travel like 30 miles, the toucans (or toucanettes) are all different. And yes, the leafcutters are the coolest thing ever.