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By this Author: sussesimis

I'll never sleep again...

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. (Robert Burns)

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Okay, my title is a little over-the-top: after all, I do get to sleep every third night a good six hours. It's the other two, mostly sleepless nights that have me acting like a zombie during the few daylight hours in my current location, eight time zones eastward from Costa Rica.

I'm no stranger to jet lag, but this time it's a real killer. To make matters worse, the sleep deprivation triggers migraine attacks. Poor baby, me.

So my writing has come to a standstill, and I'll have to ask my thesis supervisor to push back the deadline. Jeez. Not one of my finest moments. I tell myself, she'll be okay. At least she won't have trouble finding something better to read in the holidays.

Also, there were some travel stories I still wanted to share with you, I think (but cannot remember). And more photos, too. But I'll have to get back to it a bit later. That is, when my brain defreezes.

Meanwhile, let's all have a Very Merry Xmas - Happy Holidays everyone!
⛄❄❄❄

Posted by sussesimis 05:08 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged me travel_plans Comments (1)

Low-key marvels

What the camera did not capture

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I started this memo on my first night in Costa Rica when the soft darkness of rainforest and its heavy, humid air gently enclosed me. It was one of those passing moments that just cry out for an impressionist painter or a poet. There were many such moments, low-key marvels, I call them. My non-native English won't do them justice, of course, but I'm feeling brave, so here goes!

When dusk settles on the forest pathway, hundreds of tinker bell lights flicker on and off. You can almost hear the fairies giggling.

A coconut rolls in the surf on a secluded beach, lulling you to sleep, until the tide rises to tickle your feet.

Geckoes of all sizes vanish with a flick of the bathroom light.

You feel the tinies breeze on your left shoulder. Hummingbird, he says smiling from the other side of the table. You stare at him, then over your shoulder, incredulously. I'm blessed, you think to yourself.

A whole fried red snapper seasoned in Caribbean style, served with calypso sauce and fried yuca (cassava). A glass of dark, smoky Malbec.

Hammock on every Caribbean porch. Rocking chairs up in the mountains.

There's a trail of ants carrying leaf cuttings on the pathway. It's feeding time in their fungal garden.

A very practical bit of rainforest wisdom: "hear the wind, open the umbrella".

A big, stunningly beautiful butterfly with iridescent blue wings. It's the elusive Blue Morpho. It'll fly past you, kind of dipsy-doodling, and flashing those brilliant wings. It won't stop to pose and it won't come back.

The moment you learn that the cold water pool next to the hot springs is +27 °C. Hilarious.

Out for dinner in the dark with rain pouring down, you suddenly have your flipflops sucked off your feet and end up anckle-high in the mud. And you find it amusing!

Posted by sussesimis 07:03 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged beaches animals birds food rainforest drink weather Comments (0)

Potholes and other bumps

No Pura Vida on the roads

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Don't know why, but the tico way of life - Pura Vida - does not apply to the roads.

I've been very happy with my decision to use shared shuttles and public buses to get around in Costa Rica. Rail transport in Costa Rica is very limited, and according to my calculations, renting a car made no sense when you travel solo for a month and spend several days at each stop.

I've heard people argue that having a car gives you more freedom, but I think it's more a burden really. Now I've been free to enjoy the few (too many) hours on the backseat as I please: watching the scenery, dozing off, listening to music or audio books. Had I spent those long hours behind the wheel trying to stay alert, I'd been exhausted - especially considering the condition of the roads and the crazy tico driving habits.

Roads in the rural areas of Costa Rica are often narrow, curvy and in poor condition. Except for the most populated areas, you'd best have a 4WD, a jeep or something that you can maneuver around - or over - the frequent potholes and other hindrances thrown on your way. And it's not just the roads, it's the driving and traffic that get crazy from time to time. I think most people forget Pura Vida the minute they sit behind the wheel and roar the engine.

The traffic rules in Costa Rica are not that different from most of Europe and North America. It's just that you rarely see anyone following the rules. It's too hot for helmets, right? And sometimes you just have to fit your family of four on a moped. You see motorcycles zigzag between lanes. Drivers recklessly pass each other in blind curves, and other places with zero visibility of upcoming traffic. But where's the seat belt? -Sí sí, es obligatorio.

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On the other hand, the drivers very dutifully, even devotedly, honk their horns, flash their lights, let the emergency lights blink to signal recognition of various sorts to each other and to the passers-by. All very unofficial, probably unlawful, and certainly quite unnecessary practices.

See the car in the photo, flipped to its side in a ditch? It got pushed there by a school bus. The bus driver was distracted by someone about to cross the street on his left side and made a too wide turn to the right.

No passengers in the bus, luckily. No one got hurt. The driver of the smaller car and two passengers climbed out of the ditch a little shaken but unharmed. Lots of people saw the accident and came to help. I was there too, on the backseat, sideways in the ditch, surprised. I'd just gotten a lift to town from my very nice neighbours. And got helped by some very nice townspeople.

Lucky us. Seriously, I'm all right, mum.

Posted by sussesimis 20:36 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged traffic roads travel_plans Comments (0)

Pura Vida

The tico way of life

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Pura Vida! You hear it a lot. Like when you get out of a taxi, or when someone nearly falls off the path, or as the first thing in the morning, or even, when you sneeze - Pura Vida!

Although the direct translation would be "pure life", it's more than that. And whatever it is, it's good for all occassions. Whether your business is yoga, bracelets, organic food, tours, whatever, you can't go wrong naming it Pura Vida Whatever.

Intrestingly, the phrase was adopted from a Mexican movie from 1950s. I learned it from this article Costa Rica is “pura vida”! by Nuria Villalobos.

Ticos (or ticas, female) is what Costa Ricans call themselves. I'm not sure why exactly, or what it means. But I find it cute. And just like Pura Vida, Tico is popular in advertisement and business names. You could take a Tica Bus to a Tico's Bar reading the Tico Times, then go home to your Tico Tico Villa. How cute is that?!

There's also la hora tica, tico time. You might hear it when you're waiting for a bus and ask from a fellow commuter if he knows when the bus is coming? - At 10:30. Well, tico time. This would be said with an affectionate smile.

Posted by sussesimis 14:18 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged beaches people language Comments (0)

A secret worth sharing

The lodge earning its "eco" argument

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Ecolodge San Luis - gotta love it!

A fair warning: if you crave for Caribbean rythms, disco lights and rum, Ecolodge San Luis is not for you. You'll find other places in Costa Rica that will offer just that: one good place to look for a chill-out beach party with reggae, ganja and guaro flowing freely is Puerto Viejo de Limon. Or that's what I've been told - I only had a lunch there. Also, if you expect valet parking, a la carte restaurants, and chocolate on your pillow, you'll be better off elsewhere.

If you instead appreciate a unique nature experience in nice, rustic housing perfect for their settings, and being amongst some warm, friendly, and knowledgeable people - you just gotta love UGA Ecolodge San Luis. UGA stands for University of Georgia. The ecolodge is administered by UGA and located within the campus. To me, it was a perfect combination of science, education, and ecotourism. You find lots of accommodation in Costa Rica calling themselves "ecolodges". Mostly, I think, it only means that the place is cut into the forest, rustic, small or just greenwashed. This one, though, is the real thing. An eco-gem.

Keel-billed toucan

Keel-billed toucan

You are free to explore the entire 70 hectares area with many trails, gardens and an operating farm on the campus grounds. You also get to enjoy typical Costa Rican meals - it's full board - with the campus staff, resident naturalists, and other visitors in the campus cafeteria. The list of on-campus activities is astounding, and they are all included with your stay. You get to do as much hiking and birding - at least 230 different species recorded on campus grounds, as you wish, or just enjoy the view while snoozing in one of the rocking chairs on the porch. But you can also arrange to visit local farmers and homes with a translator provided by UGA, or one the reserves, such as the neighbouring Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.

This blog article goes against my original idea of just writing about my own experiences and not offering travel advice or reviews. This one just had to written. If you are looking for Costa Rica travel advice, there are other, more substancial blogs I found very helpful when planning for my trip, such as

* Costa Rica Guide by Ray and Suzanne Krueger Koplin
* Two weeks in Costa Rica by Jennifer Turnbull-Houde and Matthew Houde

There's more good info on the web, so keep googling. And of course, there are several Costa Rica guidebooks published. Mine is the ebook by Lonely Planet.

Posted by sussesimis 11:10 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged birds rainforest travel_plans Comments (0)

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