I think I was about 10 years old when I decided I wanted to visit Colorado. I had read about a city called Boulder, where you could spend a warm and sunny morning in town and then drive an hour or so and be on a snow-covered mountain. I had never experienced an actual mountain, and that sounded like a good way to do it. In the mean time, I’ve had 15 years of South Park to mould my perceptions of Colorado.
I’ve got this brilliant game I play with myself. When we go on vacation, I hide a hard drive full of backup data. Then when we get home, I have to try and find the fucking thing.
On Saturday, we decided that we ought to check out San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital. However, after a week of good weather, the Green Season climate finally caught up with us. It began to rain, heavily and steadily, in a way which suggested it could keep it up indefinitely, and had every intention of doing so. In the city, attractive young Costa Ricans, all wearing red T-shirts, were wandering through the congested traffic collecting money for what turned out to be a local equivalent of Habitat for Humanity.
Rather than returning straight to Alajuela, we decided to take a detour to Carara National Park. Located on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, it’s one of the best places to see scarlet macaws in the wild. Unfortunately, best times to see them are morning and evening; we were too late. We heard some macaws heading off into the distance, but we didn’t see any. Carara is the northernmost area of rainforest in Costa Rica.
Our next Costa Rican destination was Santa Elena, near Monte Verde. This presented some logistical challenges. The distance from Alajuela to Monte Verde is around 75km as the macaw flies, but unfortunately there are some rather large mountains in the way. Once you factor in meandering roads, the route ends up being around 130km. In addition, the people of Monte Verde are concerned about what’s happening to areas of Costa Rica that are popular with tourists.
Thursday, we visited The Ara Project. Visits are by appointment only. I had contacted them by e-mail, and been told that the best time to visit was about 10:30, and that they were available on Thursday. We set out in our rented mini-SUV, and had almost made it to our destination when we hit a roadblock—the main road was closed for maintenance. I looked at the GPS, and picked what appeared to be a reasonable alternate route.
After our bus tour of Doka and Poas, we reluctantly decided that we were going to have to drive. By this time we had a pretty good idea of what to expect, so we knew that we needed something with 4 wheel drive and good ground clearance. We rented a mini-SUV. If you’re planning on driving in Costa Rica, then based on our experiences, here are some things you can expect to encounter:
On Monday, we arranged to go on an all-day tour. The hotel had information about various tour packages organized by local companies. Now that we had seen some parrots, it was time for coffee, so we picked out a day trip that would take us to Poas Volcano and the Doka Coffee Estate, then to see some local crafts. As the bus climbed up the mountainside, we entered the cloud forest.
On Sunday, the sun emerged from the clouds. The weather was beautiful, apparently perfect for cycling as we saw a lot of serious cyclists go by as we waited for the bus. We also saw around 30 or 40 bikers head for Delicias del Maiz for brunch. They weren’t Hells Angels, but I didn’t manage to see the entire name of their group as they went past. Our destination was Zoo Ave, a rescue center turned zoo.
We arrived at our hotel in Costa Rica late in the afternoon. After resting briefly, we walked to the bank nearby and got some cash, and then walked down the street in search of food. We arrived at a restaurant called Las Delicias del Maiz. The sign said “restaurante tipico”, which is the phrase to look for if you want to try Costa Rican food. I ordered a random platter without meat, and Horchata.