My son Jed and I set out on what he described as a mother-son
bonding two weeks in Costa Rica. He did a semester abroad there so
he was a terrific guide, naturalist, and translator. I was glad
though I’d listened to Spanish tapes driving around town before the
trip so I could be courteous and get the gist of some conversations.
We flew from Chico, to SF, to LA, to Guatemala City, (the largest
city in Central America) where we were welcomed by lightning flashes
randomly moving across the horizon (this is the rainy season which
mean fewer tourists and lower costs), and finally to San Jose.
The guide book said CR’s main industries are
electronics, as well as tourism and coffee and bananas. The
indigenous population is very small, because Spanish invaders in
search of gold didn’t find it but left devastating diseases, but we
noticed native people in the rural areas. It’s a country with no
army, but lots of guards in San Jose, in front of a furniture store,
etc. as well as the more obvious bank armed guards. Windows in homes
are barred and grilled, sometimes with barbed wire on top of fences.
We picked up our little Korean four-wheel drive and headed
out of the city to see Volcano Arenal. Somehow I end up by a volcano
when I travel—power spots. Lush and green, kind of like the rainy
side of Hawaiian Islands, we saw impatiens, birds of paradise,
bougainvillea, and hibiscus, growing along the road. Tourists
complain most about those roads because outside of the city there
are lots of rutted, potholed dirt roads. Probably good because it
keeps some visitors away. We found a little café and had what became
the usual meal: grilled fish, rice and beans, fried plantains,
tomatoes and cuke, for about $5 each. That includes a fresh fruit
drink, just fruit and water. I started mixing them, say mango and
This was the most expensive hotel area; we paid $55 for a
simple room with a volcano view ($17 was the least expensive). It
has daily lava flows but we didn’t see much activity because of
cloud cover. We drove closer to observe the volcano and then took a
14 k loop trail in the rain forest below the mt. We saw and heard
howler monkeys which sound like sea lions barking loudly, big
lizards (anole) which Jed promptly caught to examine closer, lines
of busy leaf cutter ants used to garden some fungus in their
underground colony, and toucanette birds. The hotsprings headed by
the thermal activity beaconed and we soaked in them, a warm natural
Jacuzzi in a lovely garden setting. European and American tourists
spoke in many languages, so I could use my French a little.
Fireflies and lightening gave a lovely evening show.
We drove past huge person-made Arenal Lake, a major source
of hydroelectricity, the main power source. We also saw windmills on
the dirt road to Montverde, the cloud rain forest. It’s like hiking
in a greenhouse of our houseplants. We were going to do the zip line
whizzing through the canopy and walk the suspension bridges, but it
was cold and rainy so we decided to head for the coast. Lots of
dairy farms on the way down from the hills, tended by cowboys on
We came out at Playa del Coco and then in great desire
for snorkeling went south to Playa Conchal I saw a sting ray and
large blue trigger fish eating along the rocks; didn’t see any reefs
although I saw corral washed up on some beaches. Walking back to the
hotel, I saw an iguana walking up from the sea and then a yellow and
an orange butterfly showed me their colors. That was to be the only
beach with snorkeling during the rainy season, will have to get my
fix in Maui on the back from Japan workshops in October. Next time
will bring bogie board and take surfing lessons to adapt to the
waves. Had dinner on the beach overlooking the sunset and lightning
The next day we swam out to a little island to check out its
tide pools, shells, and birds. We got stung by little invisible jellyfish
coming and going but it was worth it to go to an untouched place and
the rash didn’t last long. Moving south down the Nicoya Peninsula we
checked out Playa Tamarindo, a surfer beach, but it had too many
gringos so we went to Playa Grande where turtles lay their eggs.
Stayed in a lovely $25 hotel, as usual with the sound of the surf
lulling us 24 hours. At dinner a young surfer came up to me, asked
to see the Tao of Medicine book I was reading. I realized how hungry he was for info on alt. Health, told
him about Bastyr in Seattle, the best naturopath college.
Playa Nosara has lots of Europeans and Americans living
there and a terrific yoga center. We took a couple of classes in
their tree house with a distant view of the ocean. Really liked this
Angel Wings breath: Bend knees, circle arms to the sides, lower
hands in front of your public bone palms pressing downward in prayer
position, raise back of palms together above the head and behind the
ears, touch your heart, and lower hands. Our teacher said there are
180,000 yoga positions! I also liked happy baby where you lie on
your back and hold your feet in the air, rolling around on your
back, and one where you roll your forehead and skull on the mat.
I went for a hike in a nature reserve in a mangrove swamp,
serenaded by howler monkeys. It was maize, got lost, and was a bit
late for massage apt. The Viennese therapist and her assistant were
calmly waiting in chair hammocks in the Tico relaxed spirit.
Americans are the most stressed out people I’ve seen…. She started
out the massage tracing the meridians, a good idea. She told me it’s
common for Tico husbands to have girlfriends and babies on the side,
but when her husband indulged she separated from him. I asked about
local schools and she said the worst teachers are sent to the rural
areas. She also said the leaders of CR have put the land up for sale
to the highest bidder. The local expats push to keep the roads
unpaved to preserve their environment.
We went kayaking up a river looking for crocs—only saw the
bank where they sun and rest. We got out and looked at a deserted
black sand beach. It lightly rained but no biggy when it’s so warm.
I went swimming in the ocean to warm up when I got back.
Our last beach was Samosa; as we headed there on a dirt road
we rounded a corner and saw a river flowing over it. Oh merde, but a
Tico guy on a scooter said it was OK to cross. Good that Jed speaks
Spanish so well. That night there was a salsa band with 12
instruments and three dancing singers, very tight, in an outdoor
palapa. Dogs and young teens enjoyed the dancing. I started taking
salsa lessons in preparation for Cuba trip several years ago.
Then we took a ferry to the mainland and drove to San Jose,
did some Christmas shopping in central markets. Their crafts are
wood, pre-Columbian style ceramics, leather, plus Guatemalan
textiles. The towns in CR are laid out similarly to Mexico and Cuba,
and I’m assuming other Latin countries, around a central park/soccer
field, bordered by a church, school, and little shops. Then we flew
to DC and back to Chico to lovely weather.