The Easy Way to Tour South America Lazy dad, hyper mum, four kids (one in nappies) tour South America for 6 months

The Easy Way to Tour South America
Our personal Costa Rica
Costa Rica 2011

Costa Rica 2011

Fantastic apartment in Alajuela. 4 beds that we could string together to make the widest bed known to man, and which the kids loved. Dinner in the hostel. Aida and her fat daddy moment. “It’s a shame”? No, “It’s a really big fat belly”. Chop chop chop. The owner’s mother who knew more about Palestine than you’d expect in a suburb of San Jose in Costa Rica.

Arrive at La Fortuna to be mobbed by taxi drivers and tour operators. Dinner in a restaurant opposite the park. Omar and Alvaro after dinner go in to join a game of football with a group of boys in the square opposite the restaurant. Aida and Tariq running around the park doing somersaults with other small children. Eventually found taxi for 40 minute drive to the Observatory where we’re staying. Last 20 minutes is slow over gravel and stone road, our first preparation for much of Costa Rica’s roads.
The Observatory is stunning. Our one room is tight for all of us. One long bed for the six of us. Stunning morning views from the restaurant of the valleys and the volcano. First walk in the morning through the forest with guide. His ability to open his arms and invite horseflies in so he could kill them. Tariq and Aida both needing to pee or worse while he’s talking, so take them for their first forest ‘experience’. The infinity pool for ourselves. The massive downpour while we are there, and running around the pool in it. The walk with all the long and high bridges with bewildering views over the forest and streams.

Car (or minibus) hired from Thrifty, and their young representative who directed us the wrong way. Which coincidentally was the way he needed to go. The long drive (starting with Burger King), which turned into a stone and gravel path for nearly two hours. The 40kmh max limit placed on those roads, a speed that seemed to be an aspiration rather than a limit. The cafe / shop where we stopped in the torrential downpour for a break. The couple from Madrid and Alicante who we met inside. Continuing past the Spanish tapas bar on the way into Monteverde.
Checking in after the confusion at Dos Pinos. Three bedrooms, though we often used just two as one of the young ones always had to sleep with mummy. The little playground nearby. The vegetable garden where the children picked tomatoes, mint and lettuce for us to eat. Drinks at the tree house, Aida dances the Marimba.
Doing the zip wires at canopy extreme. Hands behind the wire to brake. Short at first, about 40m, then increasing to 100, 400 and eventually 1000m. The babies carried by a guide. On the longer ones, Omar with me and Alvaro with mum. Ridiculously high wires with a bewildering and expansive view over the rainforests, which opened up in front of us after about 10m on each wire. The rappell down to the Tarzan swing. Tarzan is part bungee part swing, where you get pushed off by the guides and free-fall before the swinging starts. Omar does it. Tariq wants it, and after much negotiation, does it. Swings like a small monkey and loves it. Dad does it. Pushed unceremoniously off the platform and loves it. Videoed by people we don’t know. The long climb up to the Superman, which is 1km on your front. Alvaro does it. Mum does it. Dad does it and videos badly. Told I could spread my arms as momentum was not going to be a challenge for me (nice way of saying ‘slow down fat boy’). Beauty and adrenalin, what a mix.

Volunteering at the Children’s Eternal Rainforest. 3 days’ sweeping and moving leaves from the children’s path to compost. Wendy day 1, then Elias for days 2 and 3. Alvaro worked really hard all the way through. Aida and Tariq backwards and forwards to the toilets. Conversations with Elias about the indigenous Costa Rican tribes and the new generation forgetting their language. Also about sustainability and ecotourism in Costa Rica. Discovered the soda restaurant behind the general store – cheap and good food. Omar bought the strawberries from the guy selling from the back of the pickup truck.
The Common Cup for coffee and wifi. Ken the amiable American who studied under Carter’s staff and knew a fair amount about Middle Eastern politics, became a lawyer in the US and turned into a farmer in Costa Rica. The schemes for giving more revenue to farmers for coffee than Fair Trade. The intro to Urban Cafes in the UK, and the packs of coffee beans brought for friends and family.

The drive to Samara after change of plans. The Locanda hotel, with an empty room, but unused for quite some time. The creaking fans, the dirty drying bin, the broken mugs, the missing cutlery. The great beach at the foot of the hotel bar. The wild horses running in and out. Bumping into the two ladies who saw us in Cienfuegos, then on the plane to San Jose, then on this hotel beach bar in Samara, which we hadn’t planned to go to. Aida and Tariq going up and down the high bench in the Vela Verde next door. The surfing. The boys and their boogie boards.

On the beach at the Manuel Antonio rainforest. The walk through the forest to the beach, and the first sloth sighting. The iguanas walking up to us. The racoons invading next couple’s picnic. The sloths in the trees. The crabs, and the boys discovering and playing with the crabs. Dinner at the airplane. All in a long bed in a row. The Catalans next door. Our beach. More waves. More boards. The swimming pool and all on dad’s back. The pool fight. Big Omar cooks. The sloth and her baby crossing the wire over the road.
The hostel back in San Jose with the roof terrace bar with hammocks overlooking the city. The night of little sleep.

Proximity of the wildlife everywhere you go. Iguanas, lizards, monkeys, humming birds, snakes. Awareness of nature by everyone. Impressive trees with more impressive roots. The stunning beaches everywhere. The sounds during the day and at night. The greenness of the vegetation. The distinctness of thunder showers, and then sunshine. Snakes walking across the road chasing frogs, and sloths walking high above them.
The people don’t seem to want to be millionaires or own this and that. But still seemed happy to try to short-change tourists quite regularly. Not wealthy, and not bothered by not being wealthy. Contentedness. Should we buy a bar / restaurant / hotel here? 🙂

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