Sunday, June 10, 2012

Getting Real in Costa Rica

Heavenly Bahia Drake, Costa Rica


    "I believe that the primary healing of human loneliness and meaninglessness is full contact with reality itself, especially in its concrete forms. But, as T.S. Elliot said, 'Humankind cannot bear very much reality.' What human existence often prefers is highly contrived ways of avoiding the real, the concrete, the physical."     -- Fr. Richard Rohr

 I'm sure some have chided slightly sarcastically that Chris and I have run from reality in our decision to sail south and leave American civilization behind for awhile. 

 This would certainly be an understandable point of view. After all, we are exploring some of the most spectacular natural beauty on God's green earth. 

Espiritu and the tiny mooring fleet at Puntarenas, Costa Rica hunker down for the afternoon's lightning storm

     But I've found that this experience we're having -- and life in Costa Rica itself -- is very, very real. We're not fooling around down here. And neither is Mother Nature. 

   We just found out yesterday that our friends Aaron and Nicole suffered a severe lightning strike to their sailboat home "Bella Star" a few miles north of here.

Nicole and Aaron of Bella Star (on the left) during happier times in El Salvador

      Fortunately they are both fine, but the boat suffered major damage. The thing about lightning -- and about anything "bad" that lurks out there -- it can feel so random. We sit, we hunker down, we wait, we pray to be spared -- and in situations as these, there is truly no control. But we all have to deal with this, don't we? Even you guys up there in the states. 

     In many areas of our lives, we are simply powerless.

     So the further south we get, the road gets narrower. And life gets more and more real.

    We've continued to head south along the Costa Rican coast for the last couple of weeks.

    We spent a night in the anchorage on San Lucas Island where the ghostly remains of an
                Alcatraz-style prison, long closed, sit as a reminder of sad days past.

The shattered remains of the chapel window at the abandoned prison on San Lucas Island, Costa Rica

                       The prison walls are a testament to the sad existence of the prisoners. 
                    This message translates in English says "What misery we have in prison." 

                 It was shocking to find this patch of cacti growing in the midst of a thriving 
              rain forest on San Lucas Island. Cactus is actually quite common in the tropics. 

A typical Costa Rican rural scene in Herradura

                      A local relaxes under a coconut palm in Herradura, while the fleet of
                                       Espiritu, Palm, Blue and Talaria rest in the anchorage.

                 Costa Rica is much more prosperous than El Salvador. And with more prosperity
                          comes the occasional slightly chubby, slightly spoiled youngster.         :-)

Next stop: Manuel Antonio National Park

Playful Capuchin monkeys came within feet of us on the paths through the park

This was our view of the park in the Manuel Antonio anchorage. The water was pristine, crystal clear.

             This about-to-blossom flower hanging from the banana tree looked like                               something from "Little Shop of Horrors." Apparently this is NORMAL 
                           and completely safe. Still, I kept my distance.       :-)

                    This national park is named after a fellow named Manuel Antonio who was in Ponce de Leon's crew in 1519 when the first Europeans landed here. Mr. Antonio was the first gringo that the local Quepos Indians killed, so they named a park after him 500 years        later. I'm sure he was thrilled at the honor.      ;-)

           I loved this. A park worker appears to have been told to sweep up, but he only had a stick and no broom.  So he grabbed some twigs and part of a garbage bag, 
                                                        and voila! A broom was born!

We also viewed Three Toed Sloths in the trees along the path.
We were told they move so slowly that it takes them 24 hours to make love.

         I wonder if the creator of the Abominable Snowman in the old "Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer" Christmas special had been on a trip to Costa Rica for inspiration? Although this guy has four toes, not three...

Next stop: Bahia Drake, Costa Rica

     OK, I have to say that Bahia Drake is my favorite anchorage and destination so far on this adventure of ours. If you ever have the chance to visit, GO.

This crop of super-sized bamboo in Bahia Drake was unlike anything we had ever seen

We loved strolling along this car-tire path

The dinghy dock at Bahia Drake is the prettiest we've seen

            A pair of scarlet macaws buzzed us overhead and flew into this tree. After much patient waiting, this little guy popped his head out as if to say: "OK, OK...just one picture."

This tiny beachfront tienda screams old world charm

Just another day in beautiful Bahia Drake

The de-riguer "suspension bridge shot"

This mother and daughter happily strolling along in sleepy Bahia Drake
epitomizes the "Pura Vida," sweet life of the Costa Ricans

                This is the grocery store in Bahia Drake! As always, everything is open-air. When I heard that Costa Rica is considered the "Switzerland of Central America," I ran excitedly to the chocolate and cheese sections of the store. Alas, though, the reason for the title is they do not have a standing army. Aw, shucks...the cheese and chocolate will have to wait. :-/

How's this for prime waterfront real estate? Complete with a satellite dish! ;-)

A typical Bahia Drake scene

They say a transfer of grace can happen merely by being in the presence of a person or a place.
Costa Rica definitely has had that effect. 

A mango tree groans with its sweet bounty over a field of wildflowers

     Adam and Cindy of Bravo dropped anchor in town, so we showed them around. A mid-morning torrential rain provides Chris with a free refill of sweet rainwater...

    We took refuge in a bar perched on a hillside overlooking the town as we awaited the storm to pass over. But she was persistent. She rained and rained and then she rained some more.

      After two hours of torrents, the hillside above the bar began to give way. We tried not to be too concerned. After all, they get 200+ inches of rain in Costa Rica every year. 

    We were stunned to watch from our lookout as this rushing river formed over the beach that had been pristine and untouched only an hour before.  The water has to go somewhere. And still it rained...

...and then, the deluge finally ended. We left our shelter and walked down to the beach.

        This photo dramatically shows the rushing rapids of the newly formed river which cut right across the beach from the mountains to the right, to the ocean at the left.

          After the storm, the four of us took our dinghies up the estuary for some serious jungle river cruise action. Here we glide under a suspension bridge which traverses the river.

The jungle canopy rises more than a hundred feet on either side. Simply spectacular!

              We were told maybe Colonel Kurtz lives here. Needless to say, 
               we didn't knock on the door to find out -- we let him be.     ;-) 

        We fantasized with Adam and Cindy about SCUBA diving on Cocos Island, about 350 miles offshore. It is a world-famous SCUBA destination and a fantasy spot most divers only dream of. The problem is, it would cost us about 3 grand each for the privilege. 

      Fortunately, Isla Cano lies only 11 miles offshore, and we heard it's almost as good. 50-100 foot visibility, tons of fish, sharks, and the hope of a manta ray sighting, which none of us had yet experienced, enticed us to book a trip out with a dive master. 

      Luck was on our side, and we dove and swam with four giant manta rays, 15 feet across. This is a dream most SCUBA divers never get to experience. We were ecstatic! 

        After our two dives, we anchored at Bahia Josesito for a picnic lunch. Mel Gibson's Costa Rica home is just behind this beach. Isla Cano is in the distance.

         Lunching on the fringe of Mel Gibson's property, I half-hoped he would come running outside in boxer shorts, drunk and carrying a shotgun telling us to get the bloody-hell off his property -- but alas, there was no Mel sighting in the cards that day.

     So now we're moored in Golfito, Costa Rica with Swift Current (pictured above), Camelot, Talaria, Blue, I Yam What I Yam (I love that boat name!), and Palm. This will be where we finally check out of Costa Rica in preparation of heading even further south, to Panama.

   Costa Rica -- what can we say? She's a wild beauty. Chris and I lost not one, not two, but THREE pairs of glasses in this country -- or should I say, three pairs of glasses were knocked off our heads by walls of water. 

  This place is literally bursting with life! It screams vitality and life so bloody loud that it's practically indecent.    Big waves, big lightning, torrential rain -- all of which bring LIFE with a capital "L" in forests, flowers and trees that grow several feet a day. Let your guard down and it will literally overtake you.

    Thank you, Costa Rica. We will never forget.

 Pura Vida, indeed.