Costa Rica - September 13-20, 2023

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Martin Hash
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Costa Rica - September 13-20, 2023

Post by Martin Hash » Sun Sep 17, 2023 6:04 am

Costa Rica, with 70,000 ex-pats, is second only to Mexico as a place for Americans to retire, about as many natives that emigrate to the U.S. Costa Rica gets multiple places in Top 10 lists of Central America attractions; having visited many of the others, I agree if the goal is pristine tropical beauty. “Pura vida” is a Costa Rica-centric idiom meaning pure life, and “eco” is the dog whistle used to attract supplicants of the environmentalism religion so attractive to young women if the 5:1 ratio of female to male tourists is any indication. We entered through a small border crossing using old shipping containers as buildings and no A/C. While waiting, we ate lunch in a small, impoverished community where a woman was baking turtle over an over flame. I’d never had turtle before; tastes like chicken.

Broken Dreams – September 13

My wife, Gwynne’s, and my first night in Costa Rica was at a bizarre rundown campground featuring a medieval castle facade and a giant human skeleton constructed of concrete. It was totally out of place among the lime orchards and ramshackle local construction. The place was owned by a retired American fishing guide and his mixed family but obviously they had lost their naive optimism because the rooms were all vacant and the gathering hall and open areas windblown & overgrown. I don’t know what would cause someone abandon what was obviously a labor of love, and it made me sad.

Boat Ecotour

In the morning we took a boat ecotour along the Rio Frio in Los Chiles. It was supposed to be a wildlife extravaganza but mostly it was idyllic meandering; I’ve already seen plenty of caimans & Kingfishers. The guide pointed out a brown blob at the top of a tree, claiming it was a sloth; really? I got more enjoyment watching the monkeys cavorting about in the dense foliage below. Getting an idea and having data service for my phone, I listened to the “The Best of the Monkees” album on YouTube loud on my EarPods during the rest of the journey.

La Fortuna – September 15

We were fortunate enough to arrive in La Fortuna, which means “fortune” during the Independence Day celebration. I bought a cheap Costa Rica-themed Panama Hat, red, white & blue striped, in a small grocery store to wear during the holiday; locals wearing the same hat nodded to me in knowing familiarity. The tourist town is known for access to the Arenal Volcano Ecological Park, best known for its active volcano which last erupted in 1968, We took a humid but relaxing stroll through the rain forest to a lookout but the volcano’s top was hidden in the clouds. In fact, the tops of all the mountains were hidden in clouds, and are known as cloud forests.


We also visited the famous waterfall whose picture is on all the travel brochures. The waterfall, with its 500 curated steps & tropical jungle setting, was something closer to Disneyland than real life. I waited for the dozens of young women to take their selfies & Instagram photos and leave before I got into the churning water. I tried to swim out to the cascade but the back current got stronger & stronger until I could no longer make progress. When I paused in my futile effort, I was rapidly pushed back to the shore.

Hanging Bridges

Hanging bridges are a perfect way to cross the steep ravines of a mountainous rain forest. However, I’d never been in a park dedicated to them before? Like other tourist-dominated ecology attractions in Costa Rica, the presentation was almost too overdone; they present a representation of what people imagine the jungle to be like, which is too idyllic to be true: few bugs & fewer dangers. That didn’t make it any less enjoyable though, more so if anything.

Hot River

We finished our day basking in a river warmed by volcanic hot springs. The water was only a little warmer than the outside temperature but it was refreshing and communal. The mud there is also noted for his skin care potential; Gwynne had an application to her face before getting into the water. I sat with the guide, sipping from a bottle of local rum, probably distilled the previous day from the awful taste, and watching all the beautiful young men & women enjoy themselves in a tropical paradise.

Cloud Forest Zip-Line

I’ve seen cloud forests hovering over the tops of mountains but had never been in one so when Gwynne suggested we zip-line over the Bosque Nuboso Santa Elena, a world-renowned cloud forest, I was all in. It turned out to be the longest, most exciting of our many zip-lining experiences: the sky was clear, the temperature was cool, and there were 13 legs of the hour-long event; including a “Tarzan swing.” The jungle below looked like broccoli; vibrant green and huge in scope. On 2 of the legs, Gwynne & I zipped along in tandem at 40 mph.

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