I want to take a step back and talk about Costa Rica. We’ve seen quite a bit this trip and have plans for more. We haven’t been here for eight years and our view is a bit different. We’ve been fortunate to stay at Arlyne’s brother’s house in Puntarenas and with friends (Ronald and Tere) in Alajuela. We’ve hired an Uber driver for much of our travels in CR, we’ve been driven about by friends and family and we’ve transitioned to driving her brother’s car sometimes. Haven’t rented a car yet and probably won’t. The Beeche family isn’t exactly the Mafia but you get the idea.
Costa Rica is a green world, with gardens, pastures, mountains, jungles, farms, fruit and volcanic slopes, all in varying shades of green. With the possible exception of San Jose, the capital, Costa Rica attracts and catches the eye everywhere. As I tell everyone here, it’s all normal and routine to you but special and exotic to us no matter what it is, a tree, a restaurant, a highway a river. I not only married a Costa Rican woman, I married a family, a country, and a culture……a kingdom of riches. Rich coast indeed. Sitting as it is, straddling the volcanic “ring of fire”, Costa Rica must have had a turbulent prehistory. The early volcanic fires still show themselves in the wonderfully colorful green, red and yellow bird life. Even many iguanas come in various hues of green and yellow-green. It has been said (Henry Miller) that a destination is not a place, it’s a new way of seeing things. Henry, in Costa Rica, I have both.
Our first tour was to Volcan Irazu. Irazu is more or less dormant now and even has a little store at the top. Visitors can walk along the edge of one of the two or three craters that formed from early eruptions. People from all over the world come here to feel the magic.
As you saw in the last blog (and again here), Volcan Turrialba is active and can be seen from the 11,000 foot summit of Irazu. It takes my breath away. Actually, Volcan Poas could now take my breath away permanently with its poisonous gases.
After decending Irazu, we visited two very old churches and a coffee farm. Everything we saw was suitable for framing so we took lots of pictures. This seems the time to talk about……..
Costa Rican Food. The national breakfast is coffee, two eggs, mixed rice and beans (gallo pinto, aka “spotted chicken”), and fruit (papaya, mango, bananas, plantains, pineapple, and/or watermelon). There are other fruit varieties here that are not regular fare for norteamericanos. We really like guanabana.
For lunch, customers ask what “natural” drinks are available. Most of the fruit listed above is made into drinks and smoothies. Shrimp is very popular everywhere. Yuca (especially fried, for me) is wonderful. Fabulous soups seem to be available only at cafes above the really low end, which can be found all over the country. For those who like meat, there is beef, chicken, pork and tongue in various dishes. Costa Rica, with a few exceptions, does not really “relish” hot sauce.
For dinner, virtually every restaurant in the western part of CR is an outdoor covered patio affair. If it’s raining, even torrentially, no one has a problem. It rains virtually every afternoon starting between 2 and 3 pm. In the dry season, maybe not every day. It stops at around 6 or 7. Everytime.
Roads, Highways and “Other”. Most roads, even small ones, are filled with traffic of large trucks, large buses, small buses, vans, cars, motorcycles, scooters, motorized bikes, bicycles, animals, and pedestrians. One yellow caution sign we saw near the Tarcoles river warned of crocodiles crossing the road. I did run over a small iguana last evening in the rain.
We’ve been on freeways, major highways, small community roads, true “back” roads and numerous dirt roads. We’ve been on farm roads through private pineapple and sugar cane fields that stretched into the distance. Ask our friend Aileen…..we forded several rivers in our friend Rafa’s 4-wheel drive. After all, he’s a rancher. I have home movies to prove it.
New roads in Costa Rica have helped with workday traffic but not much. CR has a traffic problem and doesn’t have a solution. There is talk of a contract with a Chinese company to build a new road but it’s a long way off, if at all. We even saw and drove over a couple on Bailey bridges, portable, prefab bridges developed for WW II military use. I think these were put in place in Costa Rica in the 50’s or 60’s as part of foreign aid.
Rafa’s Farm. Arlyne’s family, particularly her younger brother in San Diego, has a long-time friend here. Rafael (Rafa) Oreamuno is a landowner, rancher (mostly cattle and cattle feed), a commercial pilot, grower of limes and general entrepreneur. Rafa has several employees who are constantly working. He has taken a 125 year old ranch house and a large tract of land and made a very successful business, several in fact. His son, Rafa Jr., operates a lime juice factory and bottling operation at the ranch. Rafa has a runway and three or four hangers on the ranch, where he keeps his airplanes and rents space out to an aircraft
mechanic. He has a unique small rotary wing 2-seat aircraft that only an engineer can figure out. I hope to take a flight next time I go to his ranch. Rafa’s ranch has sleeping facilities for at least eight people, being a current and former working ranch house.
A major attraction of Rafa’s farm is bird life. Incredibly, we’ve seen 30 species of birds there, including a lot of parrots. We added six brand new ones to our list right on his property. We’ve discussed having commercial birding trips make a stop at his ranch. It could happen. Rose-throated becards nest near his patio.
Yellow-naped parrots roost in his yard. Red-fronted parrotlets hang out there too. We saw a dozen yellow-headed caracaras in one of his pastures. A wonderful little pond on his “back 40” has lapwings, jacanas, kingfishers and flycatchers. Iguanas like his whole farm, especially his mangos.
NEXT: Much more birding and traveling in Costa Rica, including La Paz Waterfall Gardens and The Observatory Lodge at Arenal.
The Drapers, Bob and Arlyne