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Published: January 16th 2015
I am sitting beside a pool high above Drake Bay on the southern Pacific coast of Coast Rica. A pair of scarlet macaws have just flown past and the ocean is stretched out golden blue as the evening turns to dusk. We've come to Drake Bay to visit Corcovado National Park and the Osa Peninsula, according to National Geographic, the most biologically "intense" place on earth.
Since I last posted from Puerto Viajo we've been on a meander through Costa Rica, seen some of the diversity packed into this little country and met lots of great Ticos (Costa Ricans). The Ticos are on holidays and say "Pura Vida" a lot. Pura Vida is a national expression of how the world really is, and how life should be lived. It literally means "Pure Life" and can be used to say hello, life's good, thanks, to answer the question "how are you?", or to generally comment on the bountiful state of the world. In a lush place like Costa Rica pura vida seems to have many applications.
We boarded the shuttle to Rio Pacuare in a pre dawn deluge, the kind of rain that only the tropics can turn on, like
a warm shower full blast. But we persevered, and surely enough the clouds blew away and the sun was shining by the time we reached the river.
Rio Pacuare flows north east from the continental divide to the Caribbean and is rated the 4th best white water rafting river in the world, for its stunning gorge scenery and fun class 3 and 4 rapids. Class 3 and 4 are challenging, but still ok for novices, like us.... We boarded with 4 good fun Ticos, who were also novices, but with a guide who wasn't (thankfully), and who was also pretty calm and had a loud voice. We briefly lost one guy into the water and nearly rolled the raft, but otherwise it was so much fun, and so, so pretty. Check the pics of the gorges....
From Pacuare we went to the central north to Arenal, a recently erupted volcanoe. Apparently the scenery is amazing, but it was cloudy and rainy and we couldn't see the volcanoe. Plan B was pretty good, though - Arenal hot springs, in the rain were beautiful and the perfect cure for raft induced aches and pains.
From Arenal we caught a
boat across the lake and bus to Monteverde, high on the continental divide overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Monteverde is in cloud forrest, is almost always raining, and is home to a community of Quakers who migrated from the US in the 1950s. Costa Rica has no army, has had no army since 1948, and the Quakers were being conscripted to the Korean War. In Costa Rica they farm cattle and make cheese, and have helped keep the jungle intact as a watershed, so as a result the Monteverde cloud forrest is a vast treasure of rainforest of mighty trees and prolific wildlife.
We hoped to see a Resplendent Quetzal, a flamboyant blue and tourquise bird with a red chest, long tail, and which is found in Costa Rica and not too many other places. We saw Quetzals in Ecuador, but they are different.
The tour guide was Jose Manuel, and he took us to the jungle and we did see a quetzal. It was bright and amazing and flew into a tree in front of us. We were so lucky! We also saw toucans, mot mots, hummingbirds and enormous strangler figs. Check the pics...
At Monteverde we
went on a zip line tour through the canopy, 13 different cables, with one line 1000 metres long. It was fun and an entirely different view of the jungle.
From Monteverde we caught a shuttle to Manuel Antonio National Park on the central Pacific coast, where primary rainforest comes right to the beach. It is an amazing place with sloths in the trees and racoons and monkeys on the beach. We walked and swam in warm water and watched a mother racoon and her children steal and demolish a packet of potato chips which a tourist had left unguarded.
Then south to Dominical, a chilled out surf town nestled under sea almond trees and coconuts beside a wide open beach. We walked on the beach and watched the surfers, read books, saw scarlet mccaws and ate tropical fruit and fish. Stress levels are way down on the Pacific coast.
So, now we find ourselves on the Osa Peninsular, remote Drake Bay, which we reached yesterday by boat. Osa is a place with beautiful scenery and wildlife, a biodiversity hot spot that's worth the effort.
Today we went horse riding and floating on the Rio Claro, and
yep, it's clear! The guide was Eric and there was just Pilar and me; we rode through the jungle, floated on the river, swam under a waterfall, and jumped off a rock into a crystal pool. Rio Claro is tropical idealic! We ended up at the beach where we met up with the horses and rode back to the horseman's family home for traditional lunch - rice and beans, chicken stew, tomatoe and finely shredded cabbage, and the ubiquitous fried bananas called plantain. Meeting the family over lunch was just great; warm, funny and very interesting to hear how they live in their remote jungle paradise.
We'll be in Drake Bay for a few more days and on 17 Jan (Pilar's birthday) we get a boat down the peninsular to Corcovado, which promises to be exceptional.
After Drake Bay we head north again to the Nicoya Peninsula. I'll let you know how that goes next posting.
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