Sunday, July 19, 2009

Costa Rica: Day 3

After just two nights in the same place, we were starting to feel more comfortable. We had figured out how to get around and we had come to realize that the heat and humidity called for a nice, slow pace. I’m used to rushing around a lot during vacations, but I quickly decided that the slow, relaxing resort pace could be a very nice one.

Marin had decided that she wanted to go snorkeling. It turns out she tries to snorkel wherever she goes, and as a result has now had the pleasure of seeing another part of Alaska, Egypt, and now Costa Rica. I almost went, but I wanted to see Manuel Antonio Park one more time and I actually had to think about Day 4, in which we had to travel to Arenal, an active volcano.

Our breakfast, like all hotel breakfasts I’ve had in the last several years, came free with the room. I’ve also noticed that the quality of these breakfasts really varies. So, from all I’ve said about the Gaia so far, it will come as no surprise that the breakfasts were really good. I think we liked the Huevos Rancheros Costa Rica Style breakfast the best. Two crunchy tortilla cups (about the size of a cupcake paper) had black beans in the bottom topped with some salsa, then a single poached egg in each, topped with a little melted cheese. It was very good. I think Marin most fell in love with the coffee. She stopped sweetening her coffee here because the flavor was so good it didn’t need the sugar. Later we found out that it wasn’t just Costa Rican coffee, but an especially good brand of Costa Rican Coffee called Milagro.

What made the Huevos Rancheros “Costa Rica style” was apparently the black beans. I tried to eat Costa Rican food as much as I could, but found a lot of it unsatisfying. While I could probably live pretty well on black beans and white rice, I was surprised by the blandness of the beans. When I cook black beans at home, I add some onions and garlic, and some cumin or coriander, and a little citrus. At one place, I ordered Costa Rican style chicken. I got a couple of pieces of chicken in a very bland gravy, a little salad, and mashed potatoes, and crowded onto this plate was a helping of black beans and a small pile of white rice. I guess we can think of it as their bread. There is fruit everywhere, but it doesn’t figure into the foods at all, except as a little thing on the side. And, where there’s coffee, there should be chocolate, but it seems to be found mostly in the imported Milky Way Bars. The crops we passed on the roads were pineapple, sugar cane, rice and coffee.

After Marin and I had breakfast, we parted, and I decided to take my laptop poolside and check out facebook and figure out how we could get to Arenal the next day. As soon as I got there, I realized I’d made a perfect choice. There was no one else around, and the forest right next to the pool was full of squirrel monkeys. There was one on top of the umbrella that was shading my table. I watched them play for a while, then, after making our reservations for the next day’s bus trip, I wrote a bit and read a bit and asked to be taken to the National Park.

I wanted to see if I could figure out how to find the animals the way that our guide did the day before. I couldn’t, but I was glad to go again. This time, I didn’t have William to protect me from people insisting I buy goods or tours from them. It wasn’t so bad though. People were a little pushy, but took no for an answer, and if the no was said with a smile, I got a smile back.

On this trip, I couldn’t find any howler monkeys, but I did see two sloths and a coatimundi, which looks like an elongated, pointier raccoon. I also got to enjoy the plant life more. The diversity is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. There are light greens, dark greens, huge leaves and small. There are many plants that I recognized as indoor houseplants back home. There are many plants that have found a home by growing high in the canopy on the side of a tree. It actually roots itself into the tree. My favorite thing is the vines that hang down from the tall trees—the Tarzan vines. I had always thought this was just a handy movie device. Nope. On top of that, there are plants that send roots down from high in the canopy, trying to root in the ground. One plant, rightly called a strangler fig, actually starts out by growing in a tree, sends roots down on all sides, and then eventually kills the tree that it was growing on, leaving behind what looks like a tree, but with a kind of hollow inside.

After I returned to the hotel, Marin returned from her trip, excited by the bottle nosed dolphins she had seen. She said that they even were jumping high out of the water. The snorkeling was just okay; the water was not too clear, but the dolphins were clearly the highlight for her. She had also been fed a nice lunch of grilled fish skewers on the boat. Marin followed her adventure with a long nap, I read and watched television. We went swimming. I went online and found many nice birthday wishes. We had a nice birthday dinner, though I missed Cameron and PJ. My birthdays are always nice, and this one was definitely no exception.

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