In search of scarlet macaws and Paolo Wanchope
Trip Start Jun 06, 2011
50Trip End May 22, 2012
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Where I stayed
Pension la Cuesta
What I did
KK: Halfway through our three week stay in San Jose, Costa Rica. Here are some of the things we have learned:
LK: Don't stay in San Jose for three weeks.
KK: San Jose is fine but you can enjoy its delights in three days. That’s assuming you don’t spend most of your first three days here asleep. Which is pretty much what we did, we were so tired when we got here that it took us two days before we noticed how filthy our apartment was. Another thing we learnt is that very few people speak much English and that cleaning ladies here take the right hump if you start doing their job for them.
LK: Also, be prepared for the two foot drop off the pavement into the red taxi infested roads
KK: The rainy season lasts from May to December and normal days in that time are sunny mornings, darkening afternoons, heavy rain when you put the TV on and clear nights. The country is impossibly lush and green when you first see it and understandably so when you have been here for a few days. Our apartment has three rooms, five beds and a veranda from which we have seen squirrels, humming birds and lizards. In the distance a mountain looms in and out of cloud. Oh and we have "a suicide shower". Not as dangerous as myth foretells (we are assured) but the electric heat gets put in at the shower head so you are advised not to touch it. Controlling the temperature requires the delicate touch of a safecracker or blind luck.
LK: But you come to love it, especially when the water supply comes back on after it has been cut off for a day and your skin is sticky from the humidity. And if you love beans and rice, you can eat very well and cheaply here. A 'casado’ (literally a married man’s lunch) usually consists of beans and rice, a choice of chicken, beef or fish, a bit of salad, some plaintains, and a bit of pasta the other day
KK: There is a choice of local beers, most of which we sampled, before settling on Imperial, our very local supermarket flogs 8 of them for less than a fiver. It’s not a lot more expensive in the local bars, although in a few of our localest bars selling beer doesn’t seem to be the primary function. We found a place called “The Monkey Bar” which I set my heart on visiting (for non-Newcastle readers The Monkey Bar is an infamous Tyneside establishment) only for it to close, seemingly for good, the day after we got here. Football is on television, in some form or other, 24 hours a day but the Spanish commentary means you have to try and work out where, when and what you are watching. Mexican, Brazilian, beach, friendlies. The other day they showed Arsenal with (I think) the promise of Newcastle v Arsenal later this month. Tonight is “El Classico” the San Jose local derby between Alajuelense and Saprissa.
LK: We have been following Costa Rica’s under-20s football team’s fortunes: their weakness is clearly a very substandard goalkeeper. We would like to suggest, for the nation’s benefit, that you’re going to have to stop putting lasses or your mum in goal when you’re playing in the parks (like what we’ve seen on several occasions already).
KK: The other residents in our building only stay for a day or so and Alberro on reception looked at us funny when we said we were staying for three weeks. Perhaps we were approaching this wrong, perhaps we should get out a bit? San Jose is bang in the middle of the country and you can drive from the Pacific Coast to the Caribbean coast (west to east) in five hours, with buses being regular and cheap. Finding out where and when your bus leaves is another matter but LK did some research and after a little bewildered wandering we found ourselves in the Jaco Playa bus for which all other passengers had a pre-bought ticket. So we were standing.
LK: For two hours to Carrera National Park. And for two hours back from Carrera National Park. A small price to pay for an excellent morning with a nature guide, three well-behaved French people and two bargy Americans (Tom and Cake – no, it was Kate, but we like Cake so much better)
KK: Especially when our guide discovered two spider monkeys, getting it on, up a tree. I’m not sure the couple appreciated the audience but then I spend so very little time considering the proclivities of monkeys . What we wanted to see was a scarlet macaw; they are in all the guide books and I was disappointed not to see flocks of them coming in from the airport. “Virtually guaranteed” it said of Carrera in the book. We had another go on Wednesday, although once again other animals stole the show.
LK: Crocodiles, big massive crocodiles. I admire them for being so perfectly evolved but from a distance decided on my terms. So peering down 30 feet to see them basking along a riverbank was fine. Seeing a clearly crazy guide hand feed them about four feet away from our river boat was unexpected but compelling. I’m sure he knows what he’s doing.
KK: Our companions on the tour were almost as interesting. Three Argentine lads who turned up hung over and were impossibly laid back and consequently late; a nice couple from New Jersey who fled a restaurant we were in when a raccoon joined us shouting “It might have rabies!”; Anne from London who was lovely and Lesly from Lima in Peru who spent all day, and I mean ALL day, asking people to take her picture. She would pose smiling in front of signs, plants, beaches, rivers, birds animals, buses, other people and when she hadn’t enlisted help she would take pictures of herself. As a point of principle I got her to take a picture of us.
LK: We had a two hour break scheduled in an exclusive beach resort, and we all had to be tagged with luminous green wristbands so we didn’t get chased out (as we so obviously would have been). We had a paddle along the nearest beach, with HOT Pacific water lapping at our feet. Then our curiosity got the better of us and we climbed over a cut in the landhead to a much nicer beach, with whiter sand, pelicans diving into the ocean, and a better class of little hermit crabs (prime real estate shells).
KK: The cove looked like the idyllic beach in your mind when imagining such things. A dip in the clear blue sea? LK declined, I was not going to pass up such a chance. I would cavort in the waves and cavort I did. Providing your idea of cavorting means, as LK said when I stumbled back “looking like you were drowning.” The sea bed was thick with uneven sharp rocks and the waves were chest height, a combination of which tripped, scratched, plunged and battered a cavorter. Impossible to walk, impossible to swim I returned to land bleeding from knees and feet but exhilarated. “Have a go” I suggested. “Oh for God’s sake” – was the reply.
LK: But we’re off out on another scarlet macaw hunt tomorrow, there may even be toucans. Costa Rica is a very special country full of lovely people and amazing wildlife and we’re already planning when to come back.