Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Vacation in San Jose and Liberia and Santa Rosa National Park...and Ricon de la Vieja... and Playa Grande

Howler Monkeys from our estuary tour
Since several groups were coming to the lodge, my group from Hendrix College had to evacuate for a week. This 'evacuation' was modified into a vacation and we traveled all to a few cities and national parks. First on the agenda was San Jose for museums. It was strange to be in the city again after spending so much time in the forest both adjusting to local culture and the pace. San Jose is a concrete jungle like any other with a little extra goodies: fantastic museum, intense peddlers and stores that sell mopeds and flat screen TVs while blasting techno music. We only spent a day there, but it was plenty of time for me.

When we got to Liberia, which is in a more arid part of the country, I couldn't help but feel like I was in Texas. The landscape paired with cowboys being advertised everywhere was a big influence, but then we went to a fair. Fairs are like childhood, you feel like you've been transported back in time when you go to one. Some things about fairs are universal: the rides, the dirt that gets in your sandals, and slew of strangers--the best place to people watch. But Costa Rican fairs are far superior to any American one I've seen: their food is AMAZING. Casado (the traditional plate) with chicken that leaves you chewing on the bones and churros that will make you dream about cinnamon for the rest of your life. The strangest part of it all was the rodeo. I felt like I was in a small town in Arkansas as I sat in the bleachers. Even back home I can't understand the speaker while I sit mesmerized by the cowgirl's and boy's as they race their horses around barrels. It shouldn't be so surprising, but this cultural overlap just reminds me how big of an impact cattle ranching has had in Costa Rica. It is the livelihood and thread of each family like it is in any small town back in the states.
Hugo and the Buttresses in Rincon de la Vieja

Aside from Costa Rica's less exotic rodeos, the tropical forests and volcanos transport you to a world of magical realism. Isabel Allende and Gabriel Garcia Marquez become kindred spirits as you traipse through the ferns and fronds that inspire magical realism. Most of Costa Rica is windy so it's common find large roots that only tap into the topsoil, but spread out widely to support their large tree. We call them buttresses.
Rio Colorado in the tropical humid rainforest
After our trip through Santa Rosa National Park where we visited one of the hottest parts of the country, then dried our sweat off at the top of a windy mountain, we climbed back on the bus. The large picture windows hypnotize you into a daze of rolling hills covered with large trees. Many things pass in a blur leaving you wondering if it was a termite nest or a large bird. Occasionally though, we spot a critter and pull over. First it was white faced capuchins, then just up the road we pulled over for a troop of spider monkeys! The students I'm with are in a class on animal behavior, so they took the opportunity to make observations while I got to oogle on.

Playa Grande and it's killer sunsets
I learned a lot from our trips to each national park. Each guide was kooky in his or her own way, while showing us the variety of habitats (dry, humid, and rainforest with volcanoes tucked in each). It was the end of the trip that was my favorite though. After a day of travelling from Liberia and stopping in a neat, but hot ecomuseo on pottery we headed to Playa Grande. When we first arrived we all went straight for the beach, rushing into the waves at dusk. After each wave passed over us a froth of bubbles would follow. I kept cupping my hands to pick the bubbles up and trying to make myself believe that this was real. Everything was so perfect.

Playa Grande is famous for surfing because it has some of the most vicious waves. They'll toss you and make you do cartwheels underwater until you learn how to flow with them or dive beneath. I rented a boogie board and spent half the day immersed in those waves. By the end of it my whole body was sore and my hair had an entirely new texture. I felt transformed, but still ashamed of my light morphology. I feel weak by having such pale skin. Still I know this light skin will keep me looking young and I'd rather have a periodic sneaky sunburn then try my chances for skin cancer.

 We got back to the lodge in time for dinner and UGA's famous hot chocolate. The trip was fun and I would do it a million times over again. Still, there is a certain quality to UGA. We kept celebrating that we were going home when really we only have a few days left here. June 29th is our last full day and by Thursday our bags will be piled on the deck to leave.

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