Costa Rica has a diverse landscape. On our first visit in 2000, we went to the southern part of the country along the Pacific Coast. This time we are in the mountainous cloud forest not far from active volcanoes. One thing consistent about the geography, however, is the number of designated national parks throughout and the beautiful farmland, rivers, waterfalls and rain forests.
Similar to Canadians who often seem to define themselves by who they are not (the Americanos), Costa Ricans (who call themselves Ticos) take pride in not being like their Latin American neighbours. There is less poverty here, a distinct middle class, and an absence of political conflict. Costa Rica has not had an army for 60 years which allows them to provide a high standard of education and health care, albeit still at a developing level.
Costa Rica also has a female president elected in 2010. However, most Ticos I’ve talked to say they are disappointed with her government because they had high expectations – sound familiar? Meanwhile, tourism is flourishing, providing many jobs for Costa Ricans. There are a lot of ‘gringos’ in Costa Rica who have either retired here due to the cheaper cost of living or opened businesses.
Farming is also big in Costa Rica especially the exporting of coffee, bananas, beef, pineapples, sugar and tropical plants (mostly for a Japanese market). The pineapple tree below is just one of many growing on Gary’s property and we pick a fresh pineapple almost every day.
Yesterday Gary’s housekeeper, Mariela was telling us about her daughter’s upcoming celebration. When a young girl turns 15 in Costa Rica the parents host a large mardi-gras type party with a large fancy dress worn by the one celebrating. This is a ‘coming of age’ party but can be expensive for the parents. Mariela is saving a portion of her wages each month in preparation even though she has 2 years left before her daughter turns 15. Mariela’s concerns are also the concerns of many Costa Ricans where the average annual income is only $11,000 despite the high cost of living.
Many people in the San Ramon area where we are staying do not speak English. There are no English road signs or shop signs. This makes it easier to learn the language. Marilyn studied some Spanish before leaving Canada and she and Kelly have been learning Spanish vocabulary together. I, on the other hand, have learned how to order dos cerveza (two beers) and say good morning (Buenos Dias)
After working around Gary’s B&B in order to get ready for his grand opening, we took three days and went to Samara beach. It is a tourist resort town catering to many young people who are attracted by the surf. There are many restaurants and lodges but most of them are on the less expensive side.
We stayed at Laconda which was a lovely beach front lodge with simple but spacious and clean rooms. The bar/restaurant area in front of the rooms was absolutely beautiful with high palm trees leading down to the sandy beach and ocean. Only twice did we eat at other locations and spent most of our time playing cards or scrabble, enjoying fancy drinks, walking along the beach and swimming and body surfing in the huge waves.
Samara beach is only about 140 km from Gary’s but the mountain roads are jammed with slowing moving trucks making the trip a 3.5 hour adventure.
While we were sitting at the beach-side bar around 11pm we saw a huge fire raging only a short distance away on the beach. Turns out a structure at a place offering surf board rentals had caught fire. When we ran down the beach to see if we could help others were starting to gather.
Everyone started tossing sand on the fire but there was nothing that could be saved although the fire did become extinguished. Unfortunately, the wind had taken burning fragments up into a large palm tree and the top centre of it was burning and sending more flames in the direction of other palm trees which were close by. A young man shinnied up the neighbouring palm tree as far as a hose would reach and sprayed the flames. It took a lot of water to put the fire out but eventually it did die down. I never would have believed that the top of a palm tree would burn so quickly.
Today we are back painting, building, and helping out around the B&B. Gary has some guests coming on the 19th so he is anxious now to get the last rooms completed. The men are also making good progress on the outdoor fireplace, pizza oven, and grill.
Last night Albert and Roy dropped in and invited us to come on a trip on to a park in the northern part of the country called Cano Negra. It has a lot of wildlife including numerous birds. The group going are mostly biology students from the University who are looking to identify birds by journeying up a river in a small boat. Marilyn and I are going along but Gary will be busy with his guests and Kelly has decided to stay behind to help Gary.
This web site has information about the park and the cabins where we will stay. http://kingfisherlodgecr.com/
We still have three weeks left in Costa Rica before returning to Saskatchewan.
Here’s some of the flowers growing around Gary’s place.