Traveling from the Pacific Ocean, through rain forest, dry forest and valleys, I found it truly amazing how one country the size of West Virginia has such a vast landscape and several climates.
With many different types of animal, bird and plant species, volcanos and the magnificent Caribbean Sea on its eastern border and the gorgeous Pacific Ocean on the West, it’s no wonder so many people from around the world visit Costa Rica’s paradise each and every year.
If you’re not familiar with Costa Rica, it’s the volcanos that created the landscape. Looking at the map, you’ll see them lined up, kind of in the middle of the country. The photo (right) is Irazu, one of six Costa Rican active Volcanos.
After a 5 hour bus ride from Tamarindo, I finally arrived in the capital city of San Jose.
I’ve always been in love with great coffee and today was a history lesson at the Britt Coffee Plantation in Heredia, Costa Rica just a short drive away…
Coffee originated in Ethiopia in S VIII-XV, then Saudi Arabia in SXVI, Italy in 1615, France in 1660, Martinique in 1723, Brazil 1727 and finally Costa Rica in 1750.
The next stop was The Museo Nacional Costa Rica in downtown San Jose. It’s amazing that so many people bypass these historic places but, I’m guessing it’s because San Jose isn’t on the list of great places to visit according to the internet and most travel agencies. And, I suppose for most people, it’s looked upon as a large congested hub city that most fly in or out of to get where they’re ultimately going. However, there are several museums within a short distance of each that provide plenty of history to foreigners. As the taxi pulled up to the museum, I noticed bullet holes on the walls and immediately began snapping photographs. This building use to be the military headquarters before its demise in 1948 during Costa Rica’s civil war. And, as I stood in front of this old building full of stories, in a country without a military, I wondered why America lives in such fear that their weapons will be taken away…
Anyway, as I walked from building to building learning about ancient Costa Rican artists and their talents way back when, I remembered the Volcanic rock on many of the Pacific beaches I’d visited the past six weeks. What an amazing art form, carving furniture out of Volcanic rock!
Check this out: Grinding stones or platforms (hereafter metates) and the mullers or hand stones used on them were made of porous volcanic rock. The grinding process and water produced a doughy mass usually of maize, but also of certain other seeds and tubers, like cassava. Grinding stone against stone produced recognizable patterns of friction wear. Both metates and mullers (manos) became common in the archaeological record approximately 500B.C., and their sculpted forms are recognizable as coming from different regions of Costa Rica. Check out the cool face under the table to the right! Cool huh?
There were also special purpose ceremonial metates and in fact became the favored form for high-status sculpture during this period. These metates highlighted the importance of the control over agriculture and its products as a major power base for the leaders. I think the leaders back then were cool! Anyway… Such metates were destined for only occasional ceremonial use, and in fact some of them may have been utilized as altars for display or even seats for powerful leaders during these ceremonies!
In this period, the ceremonial metates of NW Costa Rica highlighted carving on the underside of the working grinding plaste.
Some of these very complex carvings show ritually costumed high-ranking shamans or chiefs with fancy headdresses, feathered capes, staffs, weapons and other intricate clothing of leather and cloth.
In Costa Rica, the oldest golden objects date from the first century after the time of Christ, and were made with techniques that originated in Panama and Colombia.
Colonial Costa Rica
The colonial period in Costa Rica was characterized by a relative situation of isolation and poverty that affected commerce and the acquisition of produce goods from other provinces. This situation is a reflection of the austerity of that period which contributed directly to forge Costa Rica’s way of being.
Stay tune for more of Tony’s World…
Gallivanting around Costa Rica the past five days or so has really helped the brain juice. And, living in the jungle definitely has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
You see, fifteen days ago, all of my possessions were packed neatly in storage, handed the Jeep keys to a friend and off I went to Costa Rica, the first time without a home in the US and carrying one backpack, film gear and a laptop. Crazy as it may sound, not having a true time line and no place to live upon the return home has been nothing short of a liberating rush.
The first two weeks was full of challenges and more to come for sure, mainly the cultural differences as well as learning a new language. Or maybe, it was the stolen cell phone and losing all of my contacts or that most Costa Ricans think gringos are rich? But, after taking it all in and slowing everything down a few notches, I’m more grateful than ever to do what I’ve always wanted to do: Live in jungle, slow down, write and photograph. So far, I don’t have a cell phone or a landline, a watch or an alarm clock, so losing track of time and what day it is has become extremely easy.
The tree house is a great place to view wildlife in the jungle and having a bedroom on the top within the tree canopy is super cool. It’s totally a Tico house, with shells inlaid in the walkway, a cow skull, hammocks, cactuses and Guanacaste Trees, rose bushes and other neat stuff around the property.
The beach is a short 2 1/2-block walk down a dusty rocky road with two Spanish schools, two yoga shops and the very friendly and delicious Kahiki Restaurant & Bar on the corner. My neighbor Nicole is a yoga instructor and her cute 3-legged dog Luna keeps a watchful eye on the place. It’s a great place to live!
Costa Rica is definitely relaxing and as the locals say: “Pura Vida” which means Pure Life. And speaking about life, it’s WAY slow here. Everything happens in “Tico Time” or as some of you might know it as: “Mexican Time.” Things just don’t happen the way some American’s think it should happen.
Here, it’ll happen, when it happens…
From the veranda on the second floor of the tree house you can see monkeys, parrots, iguanas, parakeets, squirrels, and other interesting critters everyday. I’ve even learned to prepare a few Tico dishes and, it just doesn’t get any better than eating home cooking and hanging out with the camera in the jungle! The little brown building behind the house is where the washer machine is located and we hang our clothes on a wire to dry.
Along the coastline there’s lots of black Volcanic rock jutting out from the shore and islands and just the thought of living on a fault line 2 blocks or so from the ocean is exciting to me! I’ve always loved adventure and the most enjoyable things are not for the weak at heart.
So, last week I left Tamarindo and Langosta for the first real adventure on a public bus to the Nicoya Peninsula. Perhaps you’ve seen the little stickers on fruit at the grocery stores labeled “Nicoya”? The Nicoya region is plentiful with mango as well as other fruit and vegetables. A spectacular ferryboat ride with seagulls, brown pelicans, hawks, eagles, turkey vultures, and sea turtles highlighted the party on the boat. And, yes, there was definitely a party on the ferry! This way cool ferryboat has a bar and grill and many different decks to view anything and everything.
There’s also an air conditioning restaurant inside with soccer games on TV! Oh, by the way, Costa Ricans can party! When we finally arrived at the port city of Puntarenas, my new Tour Guide Yami grabbed my arm and said we’re going to eat dinner at Kimbos Restaurante Marisqueria & Steak House on the beach! It was the best meal I’ve ever had in Costa Rica. The appetizer was: Ceviche de Chucheca’s (Black Conk Ceviche) with plantains and the entrée Al Gusto: A La, Plancha, Ajillo, Mantequilla, Vino (mixed dish of seafood in butter, garlic and wine with a few veggies thrown on the top) Topping it all off with fresh Mango Margaritas and Pineapple and Rice drinks. I’m talking – The Bomb! Total tab $ 24.00 US.
Day 3: Left Puntarenas on Sunday and after a spectacular time traveled back to Nicoya on the ferry. Then, called my Tico buddy Gerald and his crazy friends in Santa Cruz to pick me up, so they did. You see, every year there’s a week long festival in Santa Cruz that’s famous for its rodeo, parades, bull fighting and overall — one big party! The road signs are very confusing and if you’re not watching out, you might wind up on a one-way bridge with on-coming traffic like we did! Potholes, narrow bridges and wild drivers are dangerous to everyone, especially to new comers! Anyway, Gerald and his amigos wanted to party. So – we did, until 5:00 in the morning in Santa Cruz! Ah, so that’s why everyone calls Santa Cruz –The Fiesta!
Hence my given name in Costa Rica is now, officially: Loco Gringo.
Stay tuned for more of Tony’s World……..