Pura Vida actually means “pure life” and is constantly used as a form of greeting, praise or appreciative response in Costa Rica. We (my dear Christian and I) had a lot of “Pura Vida” during our stay of 3.5 weeks with the continuous amazement and fascination of its flora and fauna. Just take a look at the posted picture and imagine you have 10 – 15 of these iguanas in your yard (or in front of your lodge). You might think someone’s “Greetings from Jurassic Park!”, right?
Here are a few pictures speaking for themselves…
Our travel route went from the capital San José (you don’t really need to visit) to the national park Tortuguero. The residents of this place just came back the day before. They had been evacuated since hurricane Otto was supposed to be right there. But fortunately, Otto changed his mind and slightly changed his route to move across Nicaragua. By the way, Otto was the latest and most southern hurricane of the Caribbean to be ever recorded. Speaking of global warming.
We spent our nights in the Mawamba Logde we can really recommend. The national park has lots of water, a dense jungle and incredible animals (see above; keyword “Jurassic Park”). The park can be visited by boat. Some pictures (those who are really good :-)) were made by Cindy and Charles, a very nice Canadian couple we met there (see picture) and by Jörg.
|The name “Tortuguero” derives from the word “Tortuga”, the turtle||Baby Turtles trying to get to the sea||These fronds are really something!||Cindy & Charles from Canady, British Columbia|
From there we went to Puerto Viejo. We planned to visit Bribri to gain an exciting insight of the life of the indigene people. With the support of the chief’s wife we were able to make some self-made cocoa. The taste is entirely different from what we know here. It was awesome! I can still smell the roasted cocoa beans today.
|Together with Bribri the tribe patriarch, who’s also a shaman||The chief’s wife roasting cocoa beans|
Costa Rica is not necessarily known to be a snorkel paradise, and that’s why there was a trip to the north of Panama; to Bocas del Toro, to be more precise. The Caribbean flair offered par excellence, from colourful houses to turquoise-blue glazed water with many colourful fishes.
|The bridge Sixaola, connecting Costa Rica and Panama.||Snorkel-time!|
By the way, the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica only measures 212 km, but a ride from the north to the south takes many, many hours. That’s because of the bad roads (the locals – who are called “ticos” gave them the name “massage roads”) and the hours and hours of traffic jam.
The absolute highlight was, however, Selva Bananito. Here, eco-tourism is not just a word, but actually lived to its fullest. And here it really dragged me out of my comfort zone: Walking through the river in gumboots, Canopy Zipline with rappelling, waterfall-tour with rappelling, riding (for me, being on a horse’s back is really no part of happiness) and – tatatata – flying a gyrocopter. The latter activity felt more like riding a motorbike in the air. It was simply marvelous and such a beautiful sight to fly over the jungle and the coast in this little whirlybird. The feeling is entirely different from being in a large plane since there’s no shell. You’re basically sitting high up in the sky or in airy clouds. I’d to this again anytime!
|Our guides Anselmo and Edi. Both have a vast knowledge about the jungle & co||Ziplining – straight through the jungle, at a height of about 100 meters||Rappelling at the waterfall… it took some fear to overcome 🙂|
|Together with the pilot Jürgen Stein, the owner of the Selva Bananito||Right in the clouds over the jungle||At the coast along the national park Cahuita|
|A picture paints a thousand words!||Still being in good spirits before riding the horse…||After riding the horse…|
Unfortunately, we only had 2 days to spend here.
Then, along the Valle Central, the central highlands, with a stop at the Turialba volcano, which couldn’t be seen very well,…
|The rain clouds clearing up.||Beautiful sight…||Behind these clouds is supposed to be Turialba, one of the volcanos||Strelitzia rambling like weeds here|
… we went to the Parque National Manuel Antonio at the Pacific coast. This highly praised National Park proved to be a great flop: masses of tourists at the checkout along the greatly developed jungle trails, very overpriced and gruesome food, noise, etc. not to mention the stealing monkeys and raccoons which were even able to open the zippers of backpacks!
So, if you are considering to take a trip to Manuel Antonio, then I’d recommend to stay 1-2 days. That’s enough, unless you’re up for the things we just described.
We actually intended to relax from the many trips we took at this place and originally planned to stay for 10 days. However, for the reasons mentioned above we decided to move on (after some “discourses” with the travel agency) to Samara .
|Lining up at the national park checkout in the middle of the night to avoid the real crowds||Austrian tourist (me) with trekking shoes at the jungle highway. Flipflops would’ve worked, too.||It’s not as harmless as it looks. It steals without mercy!|
Samara was – compared to Manuel Antonio – really relaxing with the nice restaurants at the beach and a “Natural Center” with organic restaurants (!). You could even go to snorkel.
And by coincidence we came to have a conversation with Micha, an almost blind Berliner, who chose to have his place of retirement right there. He could play the guitar and was a very good cook. He uses this gift to cook for internationally mixed 10 – 12 people at every Sunday evening. How he manages to do this without any eyesight is still a mystery to me. So, should you at some point end up in Samara, check out Cuisine Miguel.
|Illustrious round at Cuisine Miguel||Micha with his wife Sarah – a wonderful evening! Thanks!|
What else is there to talk about? Gallo Pinto! That means “spotted rooster”. The rooster is neither a rooster nor spotted, but a typical national dish of the Ticos: rice with beans. You can also have it the other way around: beans with rice! Since this is the main ingredient of breakfast, and partly served as a side-dish to other dishes, the gourmet palate is somewhat worn out after a certain time. So, quite frankly, I’ll stay away from rice and beans (or the other way around) for quite some time now! If you have, however, come to the taste, here you will find a recipe.
In my view it’s very important to mention the pre-Christmas decoration in Costa Rica. The number, variety and creativity really leaves nothing to be desired, but considering the 30 degrees Celsius and the super green vegetation it does feel a little odd to us. A small selection can be found below.
By the way, Costa Rica has a population of about 4,7 Mio called Ticos/Ticas – as mentioned before – and is one of the most advanced countries of Central America. Since about 60 years they don’t have any army (!!!). In 1983, they claimed to be an active unarmed Neutrality and is therefore also gladly designated as the Switzerland of Central America (my presumption was that the term actually referred to the prices, which were extraordinarily high :-)). The majority of Ticos/Ticas speaks English pretty well, but some knowledge in Spanish can be a real advantage. I could refresh my Spanish skills again and gain so much more insights of the country and the people. I like that!
I hope you could get an idea of what Costa Rica is like by our experiences. Have I already mentioned that I have fulfilled a lifelong dream by doing this trip? With these wonderful memories, I can’t wait to start into the next year of 2017.
Well, I’ll be happy if you’d leave a comment or perhaps even talk about your own Costa Rica experiences!
Pura Vida! Birgit