From Jungle To Cloudforest

This blog entry about the events of Wednesday, December 12, 2007 was originally posted on December 17, 2007.

DAY 22:  With Central America’s wacky flight patterns, it took three indirect flights to get from La Ceiba, on the coast near the Honduran jungle, to San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica.  One after the other — with minimal layover times — a domestic flight took me to the regional hub of San Pedro Sula, a regional flight took me back to the international hub of Guatemala City, and one last flight got me into Costa Rica.  “You’re crossing borders while I’m just sitting here in bed,” Steph told me with amazement on a chat session in Guate’s airport.

COSTA RICA, with its lovely climate, beautiful cloudforests, relaxing beaches, and ease to travel to, has become a popular tourist destination for North Americans, more so than any of the other Central American countries.  With its snappy tourism motto, “Pura vida” (Pure Life), it is almost like “the new Thailand;” it seems to me to be the new “it” place to go, with its easy travel infrastructure for every travel style, from backpacker to luxury jetsetter — plus many people speak English.  I knew it was a vacationeers’ paradise to be as soon as I walked in the airport and rode the escalator down to baggage claim; on the speakers were the sounds of sea gulls and ocean waves, beckoning travelers to visit (and spend money) on its shorelines of the Caribbean and Pacific.

But my visit to Costa Rica would be a different one, for I had people there: a friend and colleague named Paulo that I’d made from my job in New York.  It was he who invited me to stay at his place in the San Jose suburb of San Pedro (no bagels), although getting there with a taxi was a small ordeal (even without the traffic) since giving directions on paper wasn’t so straight forward.  The cabbie had to call Paulo three times to find his apartment complex — this is all after a reservation for a driver to pick me up had fallen through.

“I had to tell the dispatcher what you looked like,” Paulo told me.  “I said he’s probably wearing cargo pants.  He has tan skin, dark hair and dark glasses.”  It was a little late by the time I got to his place, but he greeted me with conversation and some reheated lasagna that he’d made.  To my dismay, I was also greeted by his cold, which I caught, feeling a bit under the weather the next morning.

With him at his apartment was his girlfriend/baby mama Lorena, and their daughter Renata, a cute 1 yr. 4 month-old who was quick to respond to me; she even let me feed her apple slices for breakfast the next morning without crying or anything.  My time at their humble abode was brief — at least for the time being — for I was going to head off on one last solo venture before my real stay with them: to the Monteverde Cloudforest Reserve, one of Costa Rica’s highlights in tourism, a playground for birdwatchers, nature lovers, and adventure-seekers wanting to zipline from tree to tree and over big valleys.  “I wish I could go with you,” Paulo said.  “But I have too much to do here.”

And so, I set off to Monteverde for the long weekend.  It was easy to set up getting there for there are several door-to-door turismo shuttle companies that bring you from Point A to Point B in Costa Rica.  My Point A was the Best Western in downtown San Jose, which, to make a long story short, was where I was actually picked up — there was a mix-up in which hotel I would be picked up from.  I eventually got into the right Interbus shuttle en route to Monteverde with John and Cheryl, a senior couple from Rhode Island.  The 4-hour ride out of San Jose’s urban sprawl to the green-hilled landscape around Monteverde was fine albeit with a lot of bumps in the road on the last leg of the drive up the mountains.  Also, our driver got a ticket passing a car in a no passing zone.

“Looks like you’ll need two more aspirin,” John told me as we rode the rocky last leg.  The bumpy ride really didn’t help the fact that I was still feeling a bit feverish, so I decided to take it easy for the rest of the day.  I checked in at the wonderfully friendly Manakin Lodge, a bed and breakfast in between the two tourism hub towns of Santa Elena and Monteverde, which was run by family of four.  The daughter, 15-year-old jailbait Davavo, played the part of desk manager (she had better English than her parents), showing me my room and booking me on three popular to-do’s in the area.  After that, I just took it easy to breathe, recuperate with some cold meds, and enjoy the green mountain scenery around me — plus I went as far as to get really relaxing massage at a local Natural Spa for an hour. 

In the end, the only cure for being under the weather was just a little pura vida.

Next entry: Going Eco

Previous entry: Rollin’ Down The River

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This blog post is one of thirty-nine travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip: The Central American Eviction Tour* (*with jaunt to Colombia)," which chronicled a six-week journey through Central America, with a jaunt to Bogota, Colombia.

Next entry:
Going Eco

Previous entry:
Rollin’ Down The River


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