Friday, October 22, 2010

Costa Rican Caribbean - a reunion, joyous sea swimming and monkey cuddles.

Megan and Darren appeared bedraggled but in remakably good spirits for having nearly spent 2 days in transit at the prearanged hostel in San Jose. Megan and I settled into our twin-ness like feet settling into their favourite pair of comfy slippers. The next morning we hopped a bus heading for Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, a small town on the southern Caribbean coast universally described as chilled out and beautiful. Megan had booked us into Cabinas Jacaranda where we had two delightful cabinas next door to each other tucked into a corner of the beautiful gardens. It felt like a place that tropical fairies hung out with Heliconia crabs claw flowers and bouganvillea surrounding us. The town itself is a cheerful mish mash of cafes, bars, tourist services and craft stands that line the beach. You'll be pleased to know that Manu Chao's "Clandestino" is still hella popular down here and whilst Bob Marley is often heard it's more often than not tracks that you won´t find on "Legend", thank Jah. There was even one spot where we had dinner that played lady reggae all night. Yay!
Our first day was a mellow day that consisted entirely of walking to Playa Cocles to have a swim and of drinking beer. That's all I remember us doing. The next day we hopped the bus to Cahuita to hike round Parque Nacional Cahuita.
First things first we had a swim because it was damn hot and as we dried off an excited bunch of turistas began pointing into the trees. Envisioning a sloth or toucans I was only a little disappointed to see a couple iguanas lounging in the tree tops. A little while later my dreams were answered when we came across another excited bunch of people enthralled by the three-toed sloth not 20 metres above us. I whistled at it and it craned it's crazy head all the way around at me with the speed of a, well, sloth! As we rounded the point and seemed to have the path to ourselves we came across a little family of howler monkeys, then another, then another, and another until it got to the point that we'd spy a sudden movement in the trees or a sporadic howl and we'd just keep on walking. Feeling high on monkey sightings and oropendola song we ambled down the entrance road towards the highway to catch the bus back.
The next day we awoke to torrential rain. Both Megan and I sighed within moments of each other, in separate rooms "It always rains on our birthday". The rain did subside but the clouds did not and the sun never really came back again. This did not dampen our spirits and we set off to the Jaguar Rescue Centre. Now all I've been waiting for is to see toucans so I was stoked that the first thing we saw upon entering was three toucans cruising about. They're a lot smaller than I thought they'd be but no less awesome. We had a tour of caged snakes about which I was all "Meh, seen it" as the Serpentarium in El Castillo was way superior. At the frog pond a frisky red squirrel ran up (not inside) Darren M's shorts and all over him. He was thrilled. Then it was time for "monkey therapy". We got to go into an enclosure with seven or so howler monkeys who leap all over you with wild abandon. Two of them made for Megan immediately with one settling in on the top of her head. After a few minutes it shut it eyes and napped. Best. Birthday. Ever.
One of the bigger ones settled into Darren's lap and another clung to his nape. Another big one came for a cuddle in my lap too. It was so freaking amazing to have these little creatures feeling comfortable enough to sit affectionately with us. The next enclosure was the three-toed sloths. Darren B was in raptures. Our guide explained that they are the symbol of Costa Rica, always smiling. We couldn't hod the sloths but we did get to pat them and, man, they're so soft! There were two-toed sloths in the next enclosure who, according to D-Bot, are not as cool "They don't have smily face".

Still pretty darn cute in my books. A really annoying American lady got bitten by the baby one after doing exactly what the guide told us not to do (i.e. put your fingers near its mouth) and we all had a good chuckle later with another couple at a restaurant. Direct quote: "She deserved it. She was an idiot". After a siesta we cracked a bottle of (perfectly servicable) champagne at dusk to toast our 34th. On rather tipsy feet a couple hours later we had a lovely dinner at a beachside restaurant. I ate steak and drank red wine. Megan had soup she described as deep and delicious. D-Bot had the best salmon he's ever had. Darren M had fish. It was real good.
The next day was Darren Bot's. He decreed that we shall hire bikes and ride to Punta Uva for a swim. It was a 45 minute chillin' ride along the road dotted with eco resorts and lush jungle. The sea at Punta Uva was the perfect sea for rollicking fun. We four rode the waves, giggling as we narrowly missed being slammed into the shore, groaning as we did. Off in the distance the deep purple blue (with the occasional roll of thuneder) of the skyline threatened a mighty storm and we left the beach as the first big drops hit the beach. At the beach restaurant we watched as the sky opened up and erupted water. An hour passed and it still hadn't let up. We had to get the bikes back so we had no choice but to get on and go for it. F""k it was fun. We had all donned rain ponchos but they were useless against the onslaught. My face hurt from grinning so much. Pura vida to the max! Later on we ventured out in the rain to the restaurant Darren had had his eye on all week, a Thai fusion place that served sushi. Our meals weren't all that but the sushi, oh the sushi. It was delectable and reminded us both of how much we miss Van-city sushi.
The next day was one of chilling and chores. Whilst Darren and Megan went on a tour of a permaculture farm in Punta Mona we attended to laundry, bus tickets and sitting on the beach. We were leaving the next day back to San Jose. Our original plan was to head to the Drake Bay and Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula (south west coast) but the forecast was dreary with rain and cloud. After checking on the forecast for Granada, Nicaragua we decided to head north instead.
So get this, not all beaches on the Caribbean are white sand. I mean, I don't know about you but I was utterly convinced that this was fact. Probably wishful thinking more than anything. We walked on golden, grey, and black sand beaches. Not one white one. Bummer. Oh well, I've walked on the most pristine white sand beaches that squeak when you walk on them and not another soul in sight in South Western Australia and those I did not expect! Life, I tell ya, fulla chocolate box surprises.

pics to come...

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