Costa Rica – 1983, ’87 and ’90. Costa Rica … what a great country! As raft company owners, we were invited to take advantage of an offer being made by an American-owned company that had been established in Costa Rica – Costa Rica Expeditions. As part of the offer, the government of Costa Rica was subsidizing air travel there and the company subsidizing raft and other trips. The package was very affordable, and in exchange we would solicit business for the company in the USA. The idea was to put Costa Rica on the ecotourism map … and, as we now see, this has occurred.
The capital of Costa Rica is San Jose, which enjoys a marvelous climate, thanks to its altitude of 3845′.
The Mercado Central, in San Jose, in 1987 (and a few photos from 1990). It was very crowded. I had my passport in a pocket of a shoulder bag, which pocket got slit with a razor, and bye-bye passport. “It’s the Colombians who are the thieves”, say the “Ticos” (nickname for Costa Ricans).
Also, in San Jose:
A steep mountain range runs northwest to southeast through the interior of the narrow country, with rivers running down to both coasts. The highway from San Jose east passes through Cartago, on the way to Turrialba. From there we boated two rivers: the Rios Pacuare and Reventazon. The former is a Class 3 and 4 overnight trip, the latter was a very popular day trip, until the year 2000, when it was dammed.
We ran the Rio Pacaure on each of our visits. Survey work for a proposed dam was seen on those trips, but the dam has yet to be built, and hopefully, will never be built.
More flowers at Pochotel.
After our 1983 Pacuare trip, we visited Manuel Antonio National Park, on the west coast, near the town of Quepos. The easiset way to get there was by air from San Jose, and we flew there and back in a DC-3 – a twin-engine tail-dragger, vintage WWII.
We next visited Monteverde, a high-altitude cloud forest preserve, known for its golden toads and the Resplendent Quetzal (a bird). We saw neither, but it was a nice forest to hike around in. The evening after our hike there, an earthquake made the lamps swing at the hotel.
In 1987, we first took a day trip to the Gulf of Nicoya, from Puntarenas.
We did two trips on the Rio Chirripo – in 1987 and ’90. The Chirripo drains to the west, and the route to the river crosses over a mountain pass at 10,892′, called Cerro de la Muerte. The first town we came to, on the other side, was San Isidro, and known as a place for older American men to find and marry young Costa Rican women.
We came to a spot where, on river-left, a ledge of rock extended into the river. Not far from shore, this ledge created a very smooth pour-over. Below the pour-over, a powerful shear between the eddy current (going upstream) and the main current (going downstream) created a large deep whirlpool on the eddy line. We all eddied-out to watch, play and photograph the action. This was the largest play-able whirlpool I have ever encountered on a river.
The campsite was just downstream and across from the Ledge.
Cartago is a small city located 16 miles east and uphill from San Jose, at an altitude of 4,707′. We visited the orchid garden and cathedral ruins there.
The ruins of the Cathedral.
Barva Volcano is located 13.6 miles north of San Jose, and is the centerpiece and high point (97oo’) of Braulio Carillo National Park. We hiked to the two summit crater lakes.
Poas is an active volcano (8,885′) located 54 miles from San Jose.
Tortuguero National Park, and the Tortuga Lodge, is another great destination, which we visited twice – in 1987 and 1990. One of its foremost attractions for us was the fishing for tarpon, snook and jack crevalle. We fished both in the river- the Rio Tortuguero – and in the ocean just beyond the mouth of the river (the “boca”), and on one occasion motored north to the mouth of the Rio San Juan (which river is the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua). We would be fishing at sunrise and sometimes at sunset. When fishing the river, we either trolled plugs or cast plugs at the boca. In the ocean, we jigged. I started with fly tackle until a jack broke my 9 wt. rod. We never landed a tarpon, but hooked a number, some of which were huge. In the ocean, a hooked tarpon would leap up right next to the boat, since we were jigging straight below the boat. That was exciting! We caught snook, as well. You could also cast from the dock, and night was a favored time for this activity. A hazard of such fishing, however, were the large fishing bats that might (and did) get tangled up with your line. The staff at the hotel were, for the most part, English-speaking blacks, which made things easier.
We fly from San Jose to a grass strip just across the river from the lodge. There is no road access to the lodge.
Critters seen around the grounds:
One of the great things about fishing is seeing the sunrise while on the water:
There’s dense jungle in the vicinity of the lodge:
And we saw some howler monkeys along a narrow channel.
We walked the short distance to the hill down by the boca, seen here:
Tortuga means turtle, and this is one locality where sea turtles come to lay their eggs. They lumber onto the beach at night, and so we visited at night.
We had three great trips to Costa Rica, but have yet to go back. The world is a big place, with lots of beautiful places to visit. Those who follow this blog already know that.