Costa Rica – Ticos in Paradise

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What is the duty of people with limited means to protect their surrounding environment?  This question has lingered around the cockpit of the Land Cruiser since we first crossed into Mexico.  I’m hesitant to overlay an ideal on another society but am confident in the need for its universality, consequently the dialog continues.

Entering Costa Rica offered a stunning visual of a country that does choose to cherish its environment.  A few miles from the border one is inundated by deep jungle hues and the sounds of active animal life that were absent hours earlier.  The aesthetics of a healthier landscape are obvious and this vitality seemingly permeates through individual personalities and society as well.  Enthusiastic to soak in the tranquility we headed to the mountainous cloud forests of the northeast to explore the stunning Rio Celeste.  Flowing with a hue unmatched in liquid beauty, the river cascades through boulders and basins protected by dark green jungle walls that hold the mystery of this unique place.  Our exploration party was dynamic with the addition of our Canadian and Swedish brothers Terry and Marcus.  Days passed by as we took in the surrounding landscapes via Land Cruiser and on foot.  Our worn legs eventually carried us back to lingering evenings highlighted by large meals of rice, beans, chicken and plantains we collectively prepared.  Pura vida lifestyle had quickly set in and from the easy reaches of our hammocks strung out beneath the flawless nighttime sky we could only imagine what was to come.

Soon we parted way with the mountains and reunited with our hard charging university mate Kevin Bingham.  This reunion was akin to picking up a fresh solider to take straight to the front lines.  There he stood at the airport armed with a surf board and spear gun ready to conquer, capture and go deep Off-Belay.  With our reinforcements secured we ventured toward the Pacific Coast taking a ferry across the Gulf of Nicoya, driving washboard roads across cattle ranges, traversing banana plantations, and finally down three miles of beach highway where we reached our destination in the surf hamlet of Santa Theresa.  Fueled by his insatiable zest for life our days kicked off well before the local roosters and howler monkeys had a chance to start their morning ruckus.  With our campsite two minutes from the surf the “dawn patrol” was on in full swing.

“The best surfer out there is the one having the most fun” -Duke Kahanamoku

On the road there are laundry days, driving days and then there are days that are so epic that they can define an entire place or country in one’s mind.  We refer to these days as being, “one for the books.”  Costa Rica had two such days for which the memory will never be lost.

The first started at our campsite in Santa Theresa with a dawn patrol surf session full of clean waves, absent of the midday hordes of competing surfers.  By mid-morning all the troops had rallied including Kevin’s cousin Ally and our good friend Terry who had joined us on the coast.  We piled in Beckey and drove south across dry river beds and on dusty roads to the town of Montezuma.  Here paradise showed us its playful side in the cascading waterfalls, trapezing rope swings and craggy cliffs set before us.  Our group grew again as our four Swedish sisters joined up to take part in the festivities of this natural water park.

After we had our fill of aerial acrobatics and sunny lounging on the rocks we motored back to our campsite to start on a feast that had been schemed up earlier in the day.  Collaborative in design this meal came together with precision and resulted in the satisfaction that only a once hungry stomach can fully appreciate.  We took a “divide and conquer” mentality to the process, forming ourselves into tactical culinary teams drawn together by a common objective.  Terry and I prepared gallo pinto and fried plantains, the Swedes tackled a tropical fruit salad, Ally kept the smuggled Nicaraguan rum flowing and Austin and Kev secured the meat and grilled on an open fire that had burned down to hot coals.  It was a smashing success that left everyone absent of want with the exception of more rum.  At certain point we migrated to the beach to build a bonfire, if not for the heat then for the captivating accord brought by its glow.  We soon noticed that the brilliance of a thousand flicking stars was playing itself out in the dark waters of the Pacific before us.  This captivating lightshow drew us from the fire into the water to sit front row while millions of luminous plankton performed.  With stars high above and fluorescence among us we were nestled in one of nature’s most vivid light shows taking one beyond the realm of typical imagination.   A genuine appreciation for the creativity and intelligence behind this design couldn’t possibly escape the most hardened of skeptics.  A day such as this must have a formal curtain call and ours came as the reaches of the rising sun touched the skyline suggesting we bid adieu and retreat to our hammocks.

The next day we loaded Beckey down and ventured north up the coastline to the town of Marbella just down the coast from Tamarindo.  Our host was an amigo of Kevin’s from San Diego now living in Costa Rica to help his family construct guest cabins on their property.   Andrew, a most gracious host, provided us with beds to sleep in (we had been about a month without) and served as an incredible tour guide to his backyard beach.

 

On our final day with Andrew it all came together to be one for the books.  Up until that point it had been a fantastic time but a board had snapped during a morning surf session and we had been skunked after a couple hours spear fishing the day before.  Minor setbacks when one is in paradise.  This last morning in Marbella we rallied early in hope of finding the fish active and the water clear.  As Poseidon would have it, the conditions were prime and even better the spears found their mark allowing us to take our tithe of the ocean’s bounty.  In an odd sequence of events I even happened to catch a Needlenose fish with my hands as I snorkeled in about eight feet of water.  It had been stunned by a much larger Barracuda who fled the scene when he spotted me drawing near.  It wasn’t great for eating but Rico the resident Black Lab didn’t complain a bit when it was tossed his way.  With the skill of a local Tico our host showed us how to prep the fish, cilantro, red onions, and tomatoes in a bath of lime juice to make fresh ceviche.  Forty minutes later, after the acidity of the lime juice did its part, we dove into the ceviche with tostadas and were all smiles taking in the flavors bite by bite.

The beauty and bounty of Costa Rica was a treasure to unearth during our time in the country.  Costa Rica left us rejuvenated eager to carry the Pura Vida lifestyle on the road south.

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