Monday, 12 May 2014

Things I learned in Costa Rica

It feels like a very long time since I wrote anything at all, yet arguably I've had plenty of time to. I've no excuse really, except that perhaps I haven't really had that much to write about. When you stay in the same place for an extended period, especially fairly remote, isolated places, there's only a very small percentage of your time that's spent doing anything particularly unusual or exciting. Although I guess being randomly interviewed (in Spanish) for a local tv series while eating a trout I'd just caught ten minutes previously might count.

The last couple of months, aside from my visit to Corcovado, I've been at the beautiful Casa Marisposa in San Gerado de Rivas on the edge of the Chirripo National Park. A tiny mountain village, it gave me the chance to experience a unique slice of local Costan Rican village life and to meet some wonderful people as they passed through the area. It would be hard to pick one favourite thing about my time there, but honourable mentions must go to the Trout Farm, Secret Gardens and of course the Cloudbridge Reserve where I spent so much of my time. Having a place so beautiful and serene right on my doorstep was an incredibly lucky coincidence. I did a lot of hiking, sitting and thinking in that forest, alone for hours with just the occasional coati stopping by for a curious glance.

It was time to move on though and explore new places and although I didn't think it possible, I've been lucky enough to find a place even more beautiful than the last. Cascada Verde in Uvita is a hostel right in the jungle, owned and run by a wonderful German family - Julie, Stephan and their little daughter Luzie. Entirely built out of wood and bamboo, I think it'd be hard to find a better location to stop and chill out for a while. Totally opposite in climate to where I was previously, here it's hot, humid and very wet. My days are spent, again, sitting, thinking, drawing and reading, interspersed with a few hours of cleaning rooms in exchange for my bed in a rather cute little volunteer house. If it wasn't for my visa running out in a couple of weeks time then I think I'd probably stay here forever. As it happens I can't...90 days is the limit before you're ejected from the country, so I'll soon be heading up to Nicaragua (via the cloud forest at Monteverde) on my way further north in pursuit of some exciting new ideas that are in the pipeline.

In the meantime though, in the absence of any exciting tales full of adventure to tell, here are a few things I've learned during my time in Costa Rica...

  • Chocolate brownies are an accepted form of currency
  • Bus fares vary a dollar or two from day to day for the same route depending on a set of undisclosed criteria
  • Just when you think it's as hot as it could possibly be, it gets a degree or two hotter
  • Monkeys and toucans dropping in to say hello never gets old...unless they're howlers ten feet from your window at 4am
  • Receiving anything by post requires a plan, plus several backup plans, of military precision and an awful lot of patience and persuasiveness
  • Don't save lizards from cats by picking them up by their tail...
  • Tang is a staple dietary item
  • Patience
  • There are scorpions here
  • Steak is better in Costa Rica than anywhere else in Central America
  • To shuffle my feet as I enter the Pacific Ocean to avoid stingray strikes
  • Mosquitoes here are vicious little bastards
  • Batteries drain much quicker at altitude and in humidity
  • Nothing ever really dries in the tropics
  • One pack of dried black beans, once rehydrated, makes enough beans to feed a small army (if Costa Rica had one) for about a month
  • Strangler figs don't actually strangle
  • I don't think I'll ever want to eat pasta or rice and beans again after I leave Central America
  • There are few places you can't go with just Teva sandals or crocs
  • Ticks don't carry Lyme disease
  • Even the banknotes here are pretty
  • You pay more for a No.2 than a pee in public bathrooms
  • Children under 18 are exempt from the law
  • The boldest criminal element here, especially on the beaches, are raccoons
  • You often have to pay to go to the beach
  • Glass frogs make a sound like someone's mobile phone alarm going off which has caused confusion on more than one occasion...
  • You need to take out a bank loan to buy pesto
  • In fact you need to take out a bank loan even to buy your basic food to survive
  • There's no recipe that can't be improved with the addition of refried beans
  • It's amazing the meals you can make using 'free box' food and a bit of collective imagination
  • Everything runs on Tico time
  • When they say 'rainy season' they mean it. It rains every day at 3pm. Sometimes it rains from 10am. Often it rains all night too.


  1. What a great summary...funny and MUST come to New Zealand and DO the SAME thing here..we need you! Pipa from NZ

    1. NZ is VERY high on my to do list! It was my vague plan when I started out in Canada to head for your neck of the woods...but I got sidetracked! I'll make it there in the next couple of years though :)

    2. NZ is VERY high on my to do list! It was my vague plan when I started out in Canada to head for your neck of the woods...but I got sidetracked! I'll make it there in the next couple of years though :)