Saturday, August 22, 2009
Adventures in the Tropics
Our final trip and the grandest of them all this Summer was to Costa Rica, and sadly the trip and the summer is coming to an end. We are moving on to a new adventure and new hardships, by that I'm talking about school (It's both of our last year). With a little anticipation and some anxiety I look forward to starting up on Monday. Well school is for another day, this entry is for Costa Rica...For a country the size of Massachusetts you would not expect for there to be to much to visit or get lost in, but there really is. Costa Rica has so many parks, reserves, beaches, sun, monkeys, mosquitoes, tourists and Ex-Pats that it boggles the mind. We safely indulged in every aspect of Costa Rica that we could find, even came home with tons of tiny souvenirs given to us by the overly friendly mosquitoes. Like the mosquitoes we tried to stay away from the tourists as much as possible but in a country as beautiful and inviting as Costa Rica it was sometimes hard. It seemed like a number of the restaurants we visited the tourist to local population was a bit unbalanced in the English speaking sides. And the Ex-Pats were both good and bad, some there for money and business others for a simpler lifestyle. The culture of Costa Rica is a little hidden behind the facade of tourism, takes a little digging and exploring to find what is really Costa Rica and what is meant to be "Costa Rica" for the tourists. We found some unique restaurants run by Ticans and went on an Indigenous tour of the local Bribri Tribe to try and sample the real culture and not the one catering to tourists. The best part of Costa Rica, and the parts we explored most heavily were the beaches, sun and the parks. We spent 4 days at the begining of our trip in the Osa Peninsula (southern end of Costa Rica on the Pacific side) staying at a jungle lodge going on wildlife hikes, swimming under waterfalls and snorkeling. We saw countless monkeys, tons of spiders, birds (a toucan right outside our window) and lots of other little critters. The view from the back deck looked out over the rainforest and across to the warm blue Pacific Ocean. After the Osa Peninsula we headed north to Dominical and Uvita which were also on the Pacific. Dominical was a cute little town centered on a few dirt roads and was paradise if you were a surfer or a beach bum looking to do nothing. So in short Dominical was not for us, a fun little stop over to regain strength from the jungle and some good food but not much else around. Uvita on the other hand was quite different. Only a few minutes away Uvita had no town center and was spread out over a large distance, but we found a really good hostel called the Toucan Hostel and had a few really good adventures from here. The first day we trekked through some cow patties, a swamp and the jungle for an hour to get around paying the entrance fee at the front gate of the park (they charge 6 bucks a person so it was all worth it). The route was told to us by the hostel owner, he said turn left off the road and follow the river through the ranch land, when you hit the swamp turn left and go through the jungle then theres the beach! He was right! The hike in made the trip even more amazing. The beach was huge and deserted and as our good luck would have it, it started to pour buckets once we got on to the beach. Since this is the tropics it was still hot and humid so we swam for a bit then walked back under the safety of the umbrella to a Soda and had lunch. Our other trips were to a butterfly garden which was truly an experience and to the Cascada Verde. We swam about for a while, jumped off some small rocks and relaxed in complete isolation at the falls, although we feared there may be aligators lurking about (which wasn't actually true, we just thought there were). After we left Uvita we headed back to San Jose then immediatly over to Cahuita on the Carribbean side of the country. A huge change from Hispanic culture to Reggae culture. Cahuita was a charming little town that we spent a few days in. Cahuita National Park is just minutes from our hostel and it had some of the most beautiful beaches in the whole country. We hiked up all the way to the point one day. We also got up super early one morning because neither of us had ever seen the sun come up over the ocean before. After our stay in Cahuita we continued further down the coast to Puerto Viejo which is very near the Panama border. This town had a reputation for being the primer party destination, although we did not see that nor the surf competition that was going on. After a disappointing stay in the Coconut Grove we headed outside of town to stay at another place called the Toucan Lodge. This place made the visit to Puerto Viejo so enjoyable. The lodge is about 2km from town and tucked away in the jungle. We saw Howler monkeys from the hammock outside. This place was so clean and felt so remote it was like our own little paradise during our stay. It was also close enough to ride bikes into town to get whatever. So Puerto Viejo went from being a town we didn't think we'd like to being one of the highlights. We had so much fun here. We went on the indigenous tour (we went to an indigenous chocolate house, iguana farm and medicinal garden), went to a botanical garden and sampled some interesting fruits (including a spikey one that tasted like garlic) and rented bikes for an afternoon ride to Punta Uva and Manzanillo. Punta Uva and Cahuita had the best beaches in Costa Rica, its so hard to determine the best in a land of bests. This was basically the end of our trip, we went back to Cahuita for the night and then off to San Jose where we went to a local market and picked up the few ssouvenirs that we returned home with and then off to the airport for our 6 am flight home. The one thing I found surprising in Costa Rica was that it is so expensive to travel around there. Food is comparable in price to food here and all the handmade stuff is outrageously expensive as well. Sorry everyone for not getting you all something but I went broke just paying for food and hotels! Oh and the coffee there puts everything here to complete shame, we came home with like 7 pounds of coffee beans :)
This little plot of dirt surrounded by cinder blocks basking in the sun has taught me a valuable lesson regarding life and food. I shall no longer take for granted the overly simple act of grocery shopping for I have now planted my own food. I can see all the hard work it takes to bring 1 strawberry to the store and how that 1 strawberry should be cherished and not wasted uselessly. This garden was by no means easy or more cost effective than buying all our own organic veggies. We have spent a good deal of money buying supplies and dirt and even waged outright war on the invading snails who want to eat our rewards! The effort and money has been put in, now time to wait for the sweet benefits of our little plot of land. This garden has given us a starting point to further learn how to support ourselves. Now a 6 foot by 4 foot garden is not nearly enough space to grow all we need but we are learning the tools to one day grow all our own crops and have no more worries about chemicals in our foods, where our food came from or how much energy was input to grow what we are eating. All the energy we want to rely on is our backs, brains and the sun! Heres to hoping everyone has the chance to have a backyard garden and learn a thing or two about plants, food and life.
The Garden Retreat Cottage (Home)
Our home is not just where we sleep, eat and spend the down time of our day. It is a retreat from life and worries, a base camp for our explorations of Arcata and greater Humboldt County. A comfortable nook nestled in a beautiful garden to stage our lives as we see fit, free from the constraints of neighbors and lousy room mates. Free from the sound of passing vehicles and honking horns. Free from mean landlords and ugly parking lots. From our garden retreat we cannot see nor hear the road and are thus slightly removed from life outside, even if for just the moment. We are completely content in our 300 square foot castle, not cramped, not looking for anything better and not looking to move away for the time being. I love this cottage because it is the first place I have felt like was a home to me and not just simply a house in a long time. I live with a beautiful woman I call shmoo who is clean, thinks like me and likes my cooking. What more could I ask for?