Monday, August 18, 2008

Costa Rica

HighLights: Pura Vida

Pura Vida (POO-rah VEE-dah), a very popular expression used by Costa Ricans literally translated means "Pure Life." Contextually, it means "Full of Life" "Purified life", "This is living!", "Going great!" It is used as a greeting, a farewell, and to express satisfaction.

Pura Vida is the most significant expression, I learned in Costa Rica ! Costa Rica furnished tons of tourist trivias, tracks and Tushar’s tidbits about tuanis topics. This includes the traveling from Tortuguero( First Day) to Tamarindo(Last day), Tarnatula(Spider like insect) , Tucan (exotic bird), Tortuga(turtle), Tequilas, all about Ticos (Costa Ricans) was truly Tuanis( Cool). What Ticons call Pura Vida ! (.). These all "T"s in the land of Coffee Richa ! Turtles and Toad gave me extra introduction to the world of Herpatology, lava and magma to the world of Volcanology.

Costa Rica is Pura Vida ! “ Costa Rica is paradise according to National Geographic, July 11 2008” – per the official web site of Costa Rica.


The land with size smaller than West Virginia in the USA, it encompasses one of the one of the world’s most diverse natural landsacpes . Nowhere else in the world are so many types of habitats squeezed in to such tiny area. The unique geography, creates rich diversity of flaura and fauna. Costa Rica is home to roughly 5% of the world’s biodiversity and is credited with having the 615 of species per 10,000 sq km in the world. Hundreds of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians can be found here, along with a staggering 10,000 plant and tree species! Compare this statistics to the wildlife rich country Rawanda that has 596 ( and USA has 104) . This makes Costa Rica a premier destination for the nature lovers in the word. We were not that fortunate enough to many of the well-promoted birds and animals, part due to the season, weather .

Niral, Amit, Madhu and myself has a wonderful trip. We landed to San Jose (Day zero) and departed from Liberia (Day11). On both weekend, Daniel ( CostaRican, who stayed with Madhu and family as exchanged student and Amit’s friend), I grouped the travel log and the picture album in five sections .

You may see the overall summay highlights ( I call Pura Vida Gallery)for a quick overview. For more details , click each one of the following links, Click the "slideshow" and hit F11 key for the full screen view. Here are the five photo albums.

1) Tortugero National Park ( Day 1-2) ; Land with canals, Turtles on Carribean ocean

2) Mount Arenal ( Day 2-5) Volcano, Hot springs, water falls, Lake Arenal

3) MonteVerde Gallery (Day 5-8); Rain Forest

4) Guanacaste : Northwest (Day 8-11) Pacific coast next to mountain. Stay at Hilton Resort

5) Miscellaneous: Art, people, more flaura and fauna

1 Tortuguero National Park ;

Witness the timeless, primordial act of Nature

It’s the Caribbean version of the Amazon in Brazil. One may compare it with the backwaters in Kerala as well. The Tortuguero Canals are an extensive system of natural and man-made waterways used both for simple transportation and jungle exploration. Traveling through the canals is a fascinating experience rich in wildlife that includes monkeys, iguanas, and colorful tropical birds. Picture on the left shows the topology of the place with tiny strips of land between canals, rivers and the ocean.

Getting there is part of the fun. The road goes through the verdant coffee plantations outside of San José and pass through the massive Braulio Carrillo National Park, before heading down to the lowlands of Limón, on the Caribbean coast. Here, the jungle finally gives way to small towns and huge banana plantations, offering a unique glimpse of Costa Rica’s rural life. The unpaved road goes through the banana plantations for atleast 1.5 hours with huge plantations equipped with planes for spreading fertilizers. The loom of Banana is covered with the blue plastic for the protection. Each Banana tree may have enough bananas to feed a village ! Once you arrive at the Canals, the real fun begins. We’ took a scenic boat ride along the canals for another hour and half to a charming jungle lodge.

One of the most important nesting sites in the world for four species of marine turtles, Tortuguero National ParkThe Green Turtle, one of the park’s most famous visitors, has existed for over 200 million years and can weigh over 400 pounds. It nests in Tortuguero from July to October.The egg laying occurs at night, when the females pull themselves out of the pounding surf and up the sand, digging holes with their flippers. After carefully covering their nests with sand, they return once again to the sea. Guided tours are available at night to have us a chance to witness this timeless, primordial act. Like Salmons in Alaska, the Turtles cone back for the nesting at the same place where they born. Costa Rica is one of only a handful of countries that protect turtle nesting sites, and even then, chances of survival are slim, as only one of every 10,000 baby turtles reaches adulthood per ranger. Photography is strictly prohibited and enforced as any light (except for special red light) inhibits the turtle from nesting. We walked there at dark night,with intermittent pouring rain. However the experience was worth the trip.

US Naturalist and Herpetolgist Archi Carr gets lots of credit for saving the Turtles, His name and work creates deep reverence the way one feels for another US scholar in America like Hiram Bingham when one visits Machu Pichu

The second day began with boat tour through the canals. The boat employs nearly silent electric trolling motors, helping the skipper maneuver close to wildlife without disturbing or scaring it. I got a chance to take some photographs of the wildlife that inhabits this immense ecosystem with my tele-zoom lens but it could have been better ! I learned the necessity of Image Stabilization in the lense I concluded that 200 MM zoom is not enough for the close up of the wild-life far away in trees !

2 Mount Arenal

We had a great view of Mount Arenal from the room with river Arenal flowing 100 ft away from the room. We hiked to La Fortuna water fall, soaked in hot springs, did white water rafting at the Sarappiqui river. We took taxi few times into town and ate at a cool restaurant called "the Lava Lounge" complete with lava lamps in the bathrooms. There credit card machine was down but they trusted us to pay for the bill next day. The town of La Fortuna is typical tico because in its center is the park and the catholic church.

The Arenal volcano is ACTIVE!!! So you can actually see and hear (the noise coming from) the volcanic activity: fumaroles and rocks rolling down. Here, a picture of the lava river from the 1992 eruptiion. Unfortunately ( rather fortunately) we were not around to see the grand view of the lava river but we were fortunate enough to see the lava at night on our third night at Arenal. Watching the live Volcano was another unique experience. We could actually see fire coming out of the volcano and the smoke blowing to the west, which was really cool.

3.MonteVerde Cloud Forest

Situated along the Continental Divide in western Costa Rica, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve stretches down both the Pacific and

Caribbean slopes. As the elevation increases from under 2,000 feet above sea level to over 6,000 feet, the temperature and humidity also change, markedly transforming the scenery. The Monteverde region is known around the world for its conservation efforts and lifestyle centered around respect for nature. Santa Elena is the area’s main service center with various shops and tourism companies and beautiful art shops.

One of the coolest things was the view from the room. It was great ti watch the clouds passing by you , opening the view of the bay from the height of 6,600 ft, seeing rich wildlife and the lush greenery. .

4 GuanaCaste

We lived in all- inclusive resort of Hilton at Papagayo. The hotel in Costa Rica is located in a private bay heading the Pacific Ocean at the Gulf of Papagayo. Mainly we relaxed at the resort. Had fun with the wave runners, beach volleyball, taking lessions in Spanish and try different drinks. Last day we rented a car and I actually drove in Costa Rica for the first time. That was indeed exciting. Visited many towns near by. To Be added ..

5 Miscellaneous

People, art ; To Be added .

Visting art shops and art galleries of the local artists was new track added to the fine pleasures in travelling. I specially enjoyed the work of local artists with the depiction of inanimate objects theme of merging still life, plant life and animal life with human life on wood, jewlery or on canvas. The right term in Gujarati is સજીવારૉપણ્ ( Sa jiva ropan- planting life implying human life to non-human entities )

The artist may intend to convey a more subtle, moral message.


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