Sarapiqui

The first objective of our trip was to take in the wild life of Costa Rica. Now, even in Costa Rica, this is easier said than done. No problem seeing the plants. They cannot help it. But the animals – their lives depend on being well concealed, and they are very good at it.

Before breakfast we went on a bird walk guided by William. (He had explained to us that due to historical circumstances, the name William is very common in his country. He spoke of three historical Williams – two good and one bad. More on that later). William trained his telescope on several birds and we were able to see them that way, and almost no other way. Some tried to take pictures through the lens. Despite their often brilliant colors, the birds are hard to spot in the wild.

During breakfast we got to see many birds feeding on bananas laid out by the house manager Gustav – a droll fellow by the way. Our cameras were not quite up to the task, but later we got some good pictures taken by the staff photographer of our rafting trip:

Chestnut Mandible Toucan
Chestnut Mandible Toucan

This was a white water rafting adventure on the Sarapiqui river. The rafting company, not far from the Selva Verde Lodge, was well organized. We all got into our gear and listened to the chief guide, Miguel, tell us the hard and fast safety rule: obey when he says, “paddle forward,” “paddle back,” and “stop!”

We gravitated to Miguel’s boat, and were glad to have his expert direction. For if we had seen the waters we were about to navigate, I doubt we would have put on our gear. But the die was cast. We got in the boat behind Ron and his wife Denise, who were experienced rafters themselves.

Here we are, paddling, as snapped by the staff photographer, who was by himself in a smaller raft:

Miguel and His Crew
Ron, Denise, Sharon, Harry, and Miguel wearing the white helmet.

We saw plants and animals on shore and on the water: trees such as cecropia, animals such as egrets, anhinga spreading its wings, caiman, howler monkeys (you can listen to them on this link). Miguel was very good at pointing everything out. He also knew exactly when we should paddle and which way, and when to stop paddling, so that our craft did not collide with the outcroppings of the shoreline, or slide into an impasse. We followed his orders! Nobody fell overboard as he had showed us how to anchor our feet and where to sit, on the rim of the raft. He was funny, too. For example, he said, “If it occurs to you to help out by steering…DON’T.” He carved up a couple of pineapples and served up a snack once we reached calm waters. Late in the ride, the Sun came out with intense rays for the first time in about 10 days. Like most of North America, Costa Rica was affected by an unusually big cold front descending from Canada. However, the temperatures were in the 60s and 70s, not two or ten as at home. The ride was over too quickly it seemed, and suddenly we were back on the bus heading to the Lodge to change into dry clothing in our rooms.

After lunch we went to a private home (“Hazel’s House”) for a demonstration of tortilla cooking and cheese making, with coffee. Hazel was participating in an organized program on cultural activities in the community. She spoke to us in Spanish, and we got a running translation from a program guide.

Volunteers from the group fashioned the tortillas and Hazel cooked them on a simple wood-burning stove that was also used to heat the water for traditional coffee.

Hazel's Wood Burning Stove
Hazel’s wood-burning stove in the back yard pavilion

We learned about the establishment of the local community (near Chilamate) only 32 years ago, and the construction of a series of bridges over the river, the last a solid affair built by the government. The people of the community set up and maintained for many years a public water system, by local request later also taken over by the government. We were charmed and impressed by the fact that we were interacting with a genuine pioneer. Again we were struck by the mixture of the modern and traditional aspects of Costa Rican life: there were several motorcycle helmets in the house, and a couple of motorbikes in the yard, as well as two cattle, a calf, and a vegetable garden. The property backs up on the Sarapiqui river. Most homes that we saw in this region were modest affairs, but had satellite dishes just the same.

After dinner at the Lodge, we had a dancing lesson from a marvelous duo. This link will take you to a youtube video that gives an idea of that experience. 

We tried, but could not match the steps of the four or five different dances that they demonstrated!

We did see wild life. And we also saw the life of Costa Rican people.

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