From Maine to Costa Rica
You can get there from here
Driving down the bleak gray highway I am in a buoyant mood. I’m on my way to the airport and all of my luggage fits on the seat beside me. I won’t need much more than my bikini, t-shirt and shorts where I’m going. Ahhh Pura Vida. Costa Rica, land of the “other” Good Life.
I’ve loaded my ipod with Spanish language courses, but all I do on the plane is read a lovely novel I’ve had on my bedside table for several years.
As we approach San Jose I spot the peaks of two volcanoes poking up above a puffy skirt of clouds. Touch down and immediately the dry plane air is replaced by sweet, tropical warmth. We are herded through the air-conditioned airport filled with neat rows of aromatic coffee beans, native chocolate, embroidered cloth and glossy picture books. Downstairs at the ATM I insert my bankcard and out come gorgeous Costa Rica Colones. Oh dear, I don’t think I’ll be able to spend this one with the Scintillant Hummingbird on it.
Outside our ride is waiting. I find several students who shared my flight. We arrange ourselves into the taxi-bus and head down the highway a short way to our hotel. I love reading the billboards here. They are big, bright, Spanish proclamations that unite a culture through idealism and consumerism all at once. Bimbo bread, Pollo Campero (friend chicken), Viagra, high-speed Internet services, Nestle bottled water and Save The Environment!
After checking into our hotel we decide to wander around town a bit. We find a nice open-air restaurant and order typical “Tico” fare. Fried plantains, beans and rice, stewed chicken, fresh cabbage slaw, and for dessert, trece leches. It is simple and fresh and life is good.
The next morning we wake to the sounds of raucous parrots feeding on palm fruits in the courtyard. They continue to serenade us as we enjoy another fresh and simple meal. Papaya smoothies, pineapple slices and coffee brewed from beans grown less than 20 miles away.
Soon, our group is back in the bus, this time on our way to the domestic airport. Nature Air weighs our bags and then each of us. A few minutes later we climb into our beautifully painted commuter plane and head out over the Paramo (high plains), down the rugged western slope of the Continental Divide and past miles of lush tropical forest until we reach the expanse of palm plantations that line the coast. The Pacific Ocean is turquoise and sparkling rimmed by miles and miles of sandy beaches.
By the time we land in Palmar Sur we’ve each taken dozens of photos trying to capture every nuance of the wild and diverse landscape below.
Another bus driver greets us and takes on the short drive into town where we will meet our boat. A coconut vendor is selling fresh coconuts and we buy several to drink the cool sweet water inside. The open-air market is next to the dock and I spend a little too much time looking for fresh passion fruit. Alas, the boat is about to leave and I have to abandon my mission.
Off we go down the big lazy Sierpe River, home to one of the largest intact mangrove forests in Central America. The bird-nerds immediately start leafing through guidebooks barely able to keep up. We discover five varieties of herons within the first mile of our trip.
We emerge from the river mouth and travel down the coast past volcanic rock sculptures until we arrive at our beach. The driver lets us off here but continues on with our luggage to a rougher landing that is closer to the lodge.
Our lodge hostess meets us on the beach and leads us down a sandy shaded path. There is so much to stop and look at that we might have spent all day walking the half-mile if we hadn’t hear about the lunch awaiting us.
Whole-grain bread baked in their stone oven, fresh passion fruit juice (phew!), salad with avocado and hearts of palm and stewed squash.
Our bags were waiting in our cabins. Simple, clean and open to the ocean breeze, each cabin is comfortableand unique. Monkeys scurry across the rooftops, toucans peer through the screen windows, and flowers scent the air.
And so we arrived. Guaria de Osa lodge sits at the edge of the emerald jungle a few hundred yards from the warm bathtub of the Pacific Ocean.
Join me for this year’s adventure March 16-23, 2013. You can get there from here!
Watch the slideshow from last year’s trip: