Saturday, January 06, 2007

Costa Rica

I visited Costa Rica for a short vacation in the last week of December. We spent 4 days in Manuel Antonio, book-ending our visit by a night and a day in San Jose, the capital. Costa Rica is a beautiful, peaceful country with the unique distinction of having abolished its military in 1949. It thrives today on eco-tourism, which attracts a large number of visitors from North America and Europe.

Manuel Antonio is a small town catering to the tourists coming to Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio, a rainforest preserve at the very edge of the Pacific Ocean. The beaches are some of the best in Costa Rica and the scenery is spectacular. We stayed at Hotel Coco Beach in Manuel Antonio. The hotel is functional at best, but is only a five minute walk from the beach and the national park. Being on a hill, it offers some good views. I managed to catch some dramatic orange hues one evening:

At the park itself, I got the feeling that there were very few animals. Perhaps they stay away from the well-trodden tourist trails. Perhaps the park authorities herd tourists through a stretch where the animals won't be disturbed. You also need a park guide with his telescope to point out the monkeys, sloths and birds high up in the trees. While pointing out the three-toed sloth, the guide told us that Costa Ricans believe that it is a close relative of their bureaucrats.

We got our best view of the sloth that night, when we noticed it making its slow progress while hanging upside down from an electrical wire by the roadside. This roadside sighting is not unusual, as we noticed another sloth the next day on a fence.

The highlight of our trip was the zip-line canopy tour at a forest in Quepos, about 10 km or so from Manuel Antonio. They use a harness and pulley system to suspend you from a steel cable set up between two tall trees. The cables are usually about 100 feet above the ground. Once you jump off the tree platform, you are literally flying above the forest canopy at a pretty decent speed. It is an exhilarating experience. And of course, the views are spectacular. The tour can be taken by most people; the guides usually ride along with children five and under. In our group, we had a 55-year-old woman and a 4-year-old girl. Don't miss it if you ever get a chance.

The people of Costa Rica are quite laid back and incredibly friendly and helpful. Enough people speak English, though we did have a couple of occasions where we wished we had some translation help.

Thanks to a colleague at work, I also had a list of fruits and fruit juices to try when I was there. Among the drinks I sampled were cas, mora en leche (blackberries in milk) and agua dulce (warm drink with sugarcane juice).

If you go to Manuel Antonio, make sure you visit the El Avion restaurant and bar. It is set up in and around a C-123 US cargo plane abandoned during the 1980s just when the Iran-Contra scandal came to light. You can enjoy the superb views while sipping some delicious fruit juice and pondering the ethics of US intervention in Latin America.


Blogger zorba said...

Namitji, you are a good photographer too! :), was thinking to buy a camera infact was getting enroll myself for a photography course,can you suggest me of what make ,pixel and which model ,one should go for? it seems you posses a very good camera

1/20/2007 4:05 AM  
Blogger VP said...

My name is not Namit. I think you have me mixed up with my friend Shunya, whose website is here and whose blog is here . He has a lot of superb photographs on his website.

1/20/2007 10:03 AM  
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1/23/2007 1:27 AM  
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2/23/2007 6:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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8/29/2007 11:09 AM  
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