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Costa Rica 2012

Various shots from Costa Rica (America’s 51 state)

In 2012 I decided to see if I’d like to live in Costa Rica. I found I wouldn’t. I went there as a HelpX type volunteer, my skills for lodging and accomodation. The manager decided that he knew more about painting than I did and gave all the wrong materials, mainly oil bound, and wondered why he hadn’t got his mural in 3 days. Hmmm… let’s read the can. Sixteen hours drying time. Could have been something to do with it. Not to mention nearly 100% relative humidity and no wind.

The next day he gave me an hour to vacate the property (after flying 6,000km). He then had me arrested and brought in to for questioning on the legality of my visa and the following day claimed I was a well known drug dealer. To which I had to go to the court house to arrange a hearing.

Needless to say it left a sour taste in the mouth and a desire to leave the country as rapidly as possible. So I treated myself to a flight home on Christmas day. 28 hours in total including a 10 lay-over in Mexico City.

Due to time differentials I left at 04:30 Christmas morning and got home at about 23:30 Boxing Day (if you’re in Ireland – St Stephen’s Day). I was delighted to be back in a country where I wasn’t taken for an American all the time.

Chilamate Rainforest Eco-Retreat

So before el berrinche grande – the grand tantrum and being given my marching orders I made as much use of the very little time off to take pictures. It isn’t often I’m in a country that has toucans in the trees, poison arrow frogs on the stones and monkeys waking you in the morning.

This is a rain forest folks. The sheets on the bed are always clammy to the touch. Your clothes feel damp. It rains at the drop of… well pretty much anything. The Ticos, as the Costaricans call themselves, eat early in the evening. This is nearly the equator. One minute it’s day and then it’s night. During the winter months that I was there the first light was about 05:30 and night arrives with a thump at 17:30.

One thing I found hard to acclimatise to was there was no hot water. It seems the Ticos are a hardy race. In the de-luxe cabins they have heater heads on the shower and the water heats directly on demand in the shower head.

I think the EU would have a fit at the health and safety issues of having live electricity running in tandem with water. But who am I to question?

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Sarapiquí River Festival

The Sarapiquí River, or Rio Sarapiquí, is a tributary of the San Juan River which flows into the Caribbean Sea in the north of the country. The San Juan makes up part of the eastern border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. The Sarapiquí is navigable and is a major trade route. It was also used by people fleeing Nicaragua, with the result that it has a customs post far into the interior (this is where they first checked the validity of my visa.) in the town of Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí. (The old port of Sarapiquí.)

The river festival was held where I was stationed. It comprised mainly of kayaking exhibitions and try outs. They also had other navigable boards and water sport equipment. In all honesty it was a down scale event, I hope it has grown because it was good fun in paradise of a place.

The kids jumping off the bridge were tireless and always on for another photo session.

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I based myself in Alajuela, I had to be close by if I was needed in the court house in Sarapiquí. I bunked with a Spanish lad named Dani, a heavy metal head over there to marry a girl from an online dating site. He had his heart broken.

Alajuela is the second biggest town after the capital, San José. It reminded me of Africa. It smelled a bit of Africa. The climate is tropical but slightly warmer than San José just down the road. Temperatures are moderate, averaging 23ºC – 26ºC (farenheiters work that out yourselves) with low humidity most of the year round. It’s said that they have “the best weather in the world”.

The hills around have the coffee farms and, in some strange way, they reminded me of Switzerland. There were little log cabins and black and white cows. What Switzerland doesn’t have that Costa Rica has is a volcano up the road. Poas. You can see some shots further down this page.

Another thing I found out in Alajuela is that it is illegal to smoke in public, anything. So you can’t smoke in the hostel and you can’t smoke in the streets or parks. Maybe that’s why the cigarettes were $1.20 a pack?

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Flora and fauna

I like taking pictures of plants. It may seem a little wussy but when the depth of field and composition come together – you’ve got yourself another chocolate box cover.

These pictures are just stuff I found along the way to photograph while in Costa Rica. Mostly brightly coloured tropical flowers.

The bamboo was incredible. Although you don’t see it in these photos, it’s girth was enormous, some as big as my waist. It’s a shame I couldn’t include something to give it scale.

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Poas Volcano

Everything in Costa Rica costs money. They have refined the art of relieving tourists of their money. Heavy tipping Americans don’t help. So to go to see Poas Volcano, a natural landform, they block the road a few klicks shy of the volcano with a barrier and you have to pay US$10 to continue. It’s not like there are any volcano maintenance teams.

The biggest rip-off I found was a $40 charge to see the La Catarata La Paz just to the west of Poas. A series of 5 waterfalls effectively cut off from tourists and locals alike unless you up the ante. Ticos have to find US$22 each. Like that’s going to happen with wages so low and prices so high it makes one wonder how they survive.

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Alajuela Bird Reserve

The bird reserve can’t really be called a zoo. It has animals and birds but some are rescued. Some just kind of live there. It’s a great place to visit although I’m not too sure about charging non Costarican nationals twice the price for the entry. I have come across this practise in other countries too but to the best of my recollections I have never seen that in UK or Eire.

As I mentioned cynically earlier, the Ticos have perfected the art of separating tourists from their money.

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