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Our final decision to have our holiday in Costa Rica was made after a nice offer from Vincent Arends from Zonnetours in Amsterdam. And is it not environment friendly to escape the harsh winter in Europe to the tropics where you do not need heating at all?

Costa Rica was long on our travel wish list. Costa Rica is a small country in Central America, south of Nicaragua and north of Panama. The centre of the country has a ridge of high mountains. The climate is tropical with a distinct difference between the Caraibic East and the Pacific West. It was discovered by Columbus on his 4th journey in 1502. He was surprised about the gold the local Indians had, and called the country Costa Rica, Rich Coast. The Indians told Columbus the goldmines were in the south. However, despite desperate searches, until now these mines have never been discovered.

The colonies had a hard life and troubled past and were almost forgotten in Spain. They became independent and now the country is a relatively well developed country, blessed with a favorite climate, perfect soil for agriculture, and a well developed heath and education system. It abolished the army in 1948, however the police have tanks. So what’s in a name?

It is a small country, slightly bigger than The Netherlands, and 4,5 million people living there. It was time to discover this “Switzerland of Central America”.

We left Holland in a very cold, white winter. We had an enormous amount of luggage, including a complete scuba dive gear plus a toy shop of entertainment for Mariska. The flight was scheduled with a stop in Newark, near New York. The flight by Continental Airlines, an old Boeing 757 arrived in time. Continental is an old legacy airline, celebrating its 75th anniversary. Good is that the company has no age discrimination, as stewardesses seem to work after retirement age, however they were very friendly.

Then the problems started. Though the checked luggage was labeled to destination San Jose, we had to reclaim the luggage in Newark, process us again through security, immigration and agriculture. At the last station they confiscated our apples and after that the assholes realized that we had a transition flight, so we left the USA in minutes again. We knew we had a tight schedule so we did the procedures in the most expedite way. Then we had AGAIN a thorough inspection again of our luggage and the morons worked slowly and had absolutely no interest in the fact that our aircraft would depart within 15 minutes, and at the gate the farthest from the security check. The security crew, made a comical remark that we had to thank the Airline, as the gate was still 15 minutes walking further. We were only saved by the fact that the plane to San Jose was half an hour late. By all cost we will avoid any transfer in the US, next time.

The organization at arrival in Costa Rica was perfect. The transfer to the hotel was arranged and after an exhausting travelling for 22 hours we arrived at the hotel. Only a short night rest as the breakfast was at 6 and 20 minutes later we loaded our luggage in the bus, destination Tortuguera. The plan was 2 nights in Tortuguera, then 5 other destinations where we would stay usually 2 or more nights. This program was especially designed for Mariska, so she had some time to relax.

The Trip was nice. San Jose is already located high in the mountains. We crossed the high Central Mountain ridge. The weather was wonderful, pleasant warm and sunny. The 3432m high Irazu Volcano was visible, the top however shrouded in clouds. The mountain ridge has steep mountains and is the dividing between the Caribic and the pacific area. This is the area of the subtropical rainforest, all green with lots of flowers. At a point we saw two rivers merging. One with yellow water from volcanic ash and the other with clear water. After reaching the pass we descended again. The plants however were completely different at this side of the mountain ridge.

The Caribic side is slightly warmer and home to extensive banana and pineapple plantations. In fact Costa Rica was the first Banana Republic. We saw birds as well, here a mighty broadwing hawk on a wire next to the road . We even saw our first sloth (in Dutch: luiaard), a big mammal that hangs all his life in a tree, sleeping most of the day and moving extremely slowly. They never come out of the trees. If a young falls down, the mother does not pick it up and will die. The flowers were stunning like this bright red colored passionflower. Even the butterflies were impressive . Some had worn out wings , others were hiding their brilliant blue colors. We could catch one however with open wings. Others were green and brown while other had bright yellow spots . What to think about flowers like a fantasy!.

The trip went on and we passed a banana plantation with a packing station. The banana’s were transported, hanging on a cable wire, a man pulled some 20 bunches, each 45 kilo’s. A big difference with the situation before, when the banana’s were carried on the back.<> Here they cross the road on the way to the packing station. All the premium brands like Chiquita, Fyffe’s and Dole are represented here. The banana’s were cut from the bunch, and put into a bath with chemicals. In a second bath the chemicals were washed away. They were sorted and the premium quality was for export. The bananas are harvested green 90 days before they are supposed to be eaten.<> The remaining time is for packing, transport and distribution. Banana plantations are sprayed often with poison. It is an environmental problem. We passed a light aircraft strip of the Dole company for the cropdusters.<> All banana bunches are protected with blue plastic against birds and insects. Fyffe’s banana’s are sometimes protected by green plastic.

The trip went on, on the dirt road, that means a free massage, according to the guide. We ended up at a little harbor in Barra de Matina, where our boat to Tortuguero was waiting. It was a 20 person high speed boat, with a powerful outboard motor. The trip took us in one and half an hour to Tortuguero, over some 70 kms wide natural channels parallel to the coast, just inland. Later the channels became narrow and with many curves.

Tortuguero is unique. It is a flat area with a dense primary jungle, with unusual flora and fauna. It is famous for palm trees with giant leaves. Many trees are growing out of the water. It rains ten times as much as in Holland, so a day without torrential rain is just your lucky day. On our inbound trip it was such a lucky day. We saw a cayman, with 2 others and later a big crocodile, with its mouth wide open for cooling, or maybe for some juicy tourists. But the real problem here for swimmers are the bull sharks. The nature was stunning and we kept taking pictures. Mariska enjoyed it a lot .

We then went to the village of Tortuguero, at the edge of the National Park. It is a Caribean style village, with only a path leading trough the village. . As everywhere, beautiful flowers. After an hour we changed our boat and set course to our destination. The ever changing jungle was fascinating, with a giant iguana on a palm leaf when older they get yellow.

After another half hour travelling suddenly the harbor of the Turtle Beach Lodge appeared. .

We made ourselves comfortable in our bungalow and after a short time we went into the jungle for a dusk tour. The enormous trees were glowing in the last sunrays. We saw Dieffenbachia’s, popular ornamental plants, however very poisonous. even the hardwood in the jungle has no eternal life and fungi destroy them at last, to release nutrients for the next generation. The jungle is layered, with all kinds of plant fighting for their place. Some trees use huge roots to get stability in the wet soil. Near a brook we found some broadbill herons, nesting in a tree . Tucked away we discovered a bromelia, which would deserve a place of honor in a specialized shop. Lots of heliconias showed their bright colors. Close to it a tree with spines, an effective defense against damaging animals. . Again a heliconia, here a hanging variation, family of the banana as well. In the dusk another flower showed their red colors.A giant bee nest should not be disturbed, you get a massive attack from the bees.

You always hope to see the famous Costa Rican frogs. They are extremely poisonous and Indians used to rub their arrow points against the frog, making it a deadly lethal weapon. The frogs however are small, as a fingernail. And bright red and very shy . It was pretty dark now in the jungle and you better did not bump against these palms with sharp needles. They will break off and cause a nasty inflammation. This strange form is a new generation of roots of a palm, trying to reach the surface .

Out of the jungle it was dusking and in the last sunrays we saw spider monkeys high in a tree. They use their tail as an extra hand. .

After a delicious dinner we go to bed early as next morning at 5 o’clock we get a wakeup call, for a dawn tour by boat over the canals. We silently cruise over the water and we see on a tree trunk, hanging over the water longnose bats . They are not happy with the attention, but the 7 cm animals stay on their branch. Then we see a few grey, giant kind of kingfisher.

Mariska is excited to see so many interesting plants and animals. The captain of the boat plucks a bean type butt from a tree and he slowly pulls out a wonderful flower for Mariska .The weather is nice and the water is flat like a mirror .

Then we see another miracle of nature, the Jesus Christ lizard . He can just walk over water at a very high speed. Then we saw again a kingfisher hiding on the side of the canal. Soon we saw turtles in the water. The guide picked one out of the water , poor animal. They can badly hurt someone with their powerful jaws. Then we see another iguana.

Shortly after that we get a torrential rain shower and the captain flees under cover of a jungle research institute, where we don rain capes. Looking at the cover we again see bats .

Back from the dawn tour we have a copious breakfast buffet and after that it’s time to check out the beach. It is black sand and rather unsuitable for swimming. Lots of wood is collected on the beach, the sea is rather rough.

I had booked for a canopy tour, but I was the only one. But after meeting one of our group at the beach and informing him about the problem, he decided to go as well, we informed the reception and they hoped two was enough. After the beach it’s time to go for the canopy tour. First we are brought there by boat. Along steel cables you travel high over the ground with high speed from platform to platform. Included is a Tarzan swing as well. It is a great experience, and certainly not the last time. We have that experience on video.

After a short rest it’s time for the next adventure: climbing a hill at dusk. We travel again by high speed boat to the 120m high hill and start the muddy track While leaving we see another Jesus Christ lizard, hidden between waterhyacinths . After starting our climb to the hill we see brilliant flowers . The path is steep and slippery and it is a surprise we see again a red frog, with blue legs , nicknamed blue jeans frog. The guide let one on his arm. Later we see more . And one on a mushroom showing his blue jeans. Despite the red color, they are difficult to spot as they are small. Halfway the hill we have a nice view to the south and it is a good opportunity to make a picture of our group .

On the top is nothing to see except the rusty remains of a watchtower, used in the conflict with Nicaragua in 1946. On the structure I see 2 giant bullet ants. They are called so as their bite hit you like a bullet. Far away we hear toucans and we see them as well. The toucans have enormous bils and I catch one in flight . Interesting is a wild palmheart palm with an edible stem, with roots that keep him in the air. It is excellent food, but harvesting is strictly prohibited. At last we see an interesting tree, with flowers developing directly from the trunk. We board the boat again and we are back at dark, ready to prepare for dinner. We are now two days in Costa Rica and have seen quite a lot.

Next morning, after a early wake up, we pack for departure. We take some pictures from the park of the lodge , our cabin and the swimming pool in the shape of a turtle, in which Mariska had so much fun. Friends of us take a picture at the breakfast table and soon we board our speed boat.

We take a last picture of the park and some pictures from the boat of the Tortuguero area. We were overtaken by a bigger speedboat.

Then we had a surprise. A big sloth was hanging low in a tree, over the water. He was slowly moving and looked curious at us . We took some minutes to admire the sloth. His fur was green of algae on his belly side. The surprises were not over as we saw another cayman We arrived in the harbor again. The bus was waiting and took us same route to the restaurant of day one. The rental company was so good to bring the car here, so that saved us the trip to San Jose and back. \
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