I recently went on a trip to Costa Rica for two weeks exploring the Nicoya Peninsula, Manuel Antonio National Park and beaches, Las Termales de Bosque overlooking Ciudad de Quesada, then drove up and down the Tenorio and the Rio Celeste that flows from the volcano. According to the US embassy, Costa Rica has .03% of the world’s landmass yet 6% of the world’s biodiversity. Nature is truly the highest authority and it seems like Ticos have adopted a lifestyle that relatively preserves that natural abundance.
My family and I flew into Liberia and drove to my sister-in-law’s farm near the beach village of Montezuma. We stayed at her farm for just under a week and went to some local beaches and to the Curu National Park. This was truly a tropical rainforest climate abutting a beach situated on a cove of the Nicoya Peninsula. Wildlife was quite abundant from a curious, unusually lonely Spider Monkey, Capuchin monkeys abounded and deer. One aspect of hiking in this tropical rainforest are the ants. There was a mega highway crossing the hiking path at a particularly narrow spot. My son got caught up standing into the middle of their masses and I nudged him along while I personally received a substantial bite on my exposed toe. The bite stung for the rest of the entire walk. This experience gave me a feeling of humility, on the one hand privileged to stand in different places and climates, on the other humbled by the forces of nature in every one of these places.
Eight members of my wife’s family and I hopped into a Hyundai minibus with my driving and set off across the country. After passing the ferry to Puntarenas we traveled down the coast to Manuel Antonio National Park. The biodiversity in this park is incredible and the beaches are pristine! The crowds of people and tourist trap feeling surrounding the place is overwhelming and the expectation of seeing all of the animals is hyped up, especially since there are so many visitors to this park. We took a trail that brought took us away from the crowded areas, up to to cliff-side views of the Pacific and when we got back to the beach, it had cleared out. There was a large male capuchin monkey that stood on a bridge on that trail and seemed weary about letting us through, but eventually yielded.
We set out from the biodiverse Manuel Antonio beaches of the Puntarenas Peninsula toward our next destination at Termales de Bosque, but before we left the National Park’s tourist village, we went for the obligatory zip line tour of the forest. The ride was a minute and a half, in a thrilling zip through the treetops together with the resident squirrel monkeys. Since I was too heavy to participate in the the slower electric propelled zip line tour, I spotted some sloths in the treetops.
We made our way to Ciudad de Quesada in the Central Mountains and stayed at a bungalow with hot springs from the refreshingly cold water of a stream then starting at 32 degrees C then successive pools with each one raising by 2 to 4 degrees. The hottest of the pools for bathing was 44 degrees C. The recommendation for bathing in these pools was to start off as cold as your can and gradually work your way hotter until you found a comfortable temperature. Termales de Bosque had a very local feel with a complimentary breakfast of gallo pinto, wonderful and traditional rice and beans. The next day after our arrival and the evening before of bathing in the hot springs, we made our way to La Montaña Sagrada, the Sacred Mountain. This place was a relatively challenging hike toward a green lake called La Laguna Pozo Verde. I had carried my daughter on my shoulders for the entire hike and then when we came to a fork, either to head back to the car the way we came or to take a detour through an ancient old growth forest, my sister-in-law and I decided to go through the ancient forest. Without too much thought, I carried my daughter with me on the extended hike through the old growth. She was nervous immediately, anxious from leaving the rest of her family. I carried on though and entered into the old growth. The forest was growing in multidimensions. The massive trees and their roots were the substrate of growth for a myriad of ferns, moss, orchids, airplants, fungi, lichen and of course massive communities of microorganisms unseen. The bursting forth of life from every possible corner was overwhelming, my senses and my balance failed me and I slipped. My daughter came tumbling down off my shoulders, but I caught her unscathed. I continued on, with mud patches staining my jeans. I hadn’t taken another step and a half before I slipped and fell again, daughter remained up top as I put my knee into the soil and paid my respect before the ancient organisms and their vast wisdom.
We said goodbye to my sister-in-law and niece and headed back toward Liberia by way of the Tenorio Volcano. The switchback roads were thrilling to drive along, with river crossing every 500 meters. When I drove over a river that was a color of blue that I had never seen, I pulled over to get out and admire this river from its banks. We had crossed the Rio Celeste, who pure blue waters are the origin of mythologies for the Maleku indigenous tribe and the result of a phenomenon of volcanic minerals exposed in the currents and bends of the river.
When we flew back to Ohio from Liberia, one of the first things that I wanted to do was visit in the local old growth forest. My expectation was to encounter the same spirit of old growth that had brought me to my knees in the Costa Rican Old growth. I concentrated and led my usual forest meditation, and I recognized a faint hint of what had been so majestic there, and still it was whispering, “Welcome Home”.