Day 77 – Cost and Costa Rica

If travel was based on intentions rather than actions I would have been around the world by now. The flexibility that is the cornerstone of the Gump Method has resulted in a series of loose travel plans which have been rehashed and abandoned as quickly as I came up with them.

A few months ago I was set on Nepal after reading that October was a great time of year to see the Himalayas. Kathmandu then became Kathmandon’t as I chose an unconventional alternative: Spain.

Yes, I wanted to improve my Spanish, but there was also an economic angle – with a mid-November wedding in London I only had 3 weeks to play with and decided against the expensive return flight to Nepal for a short trip. I then proceeded to spend so much money in Spain that it probably would have evened out financially. And I didn’t learn much Spanish.

My trip to the Americas would definitely be starting with a month in Cuba, until I was put off by it’s reputedly terrible internet access. Yep, Jonesy aka Phonesy aka Blog Boy just couldn’t handle the thought of being away from his one true love: the world wide web. Ok two true loves – I forgot Nandos.

Next on the magical list of countries I would talk about and not go to was Nicaragua. I found a perfect flight but then hesitated on making the booking and it went up by £200; another plan scuppered for financial reasons.

Finally I found a cheap flight to Nicaragua’s southern neighbour, Costa Rica, and pulled the trigger. Landing in the capital city, San José, I soon realised (and had been warned) that Costa Rica, as with most countries frequented by American tourists, is quite expensive. My saving on the flight was another false economy.

Looking back on all this – Cuban internet crisis aside – I have clearly allowed financial considerations to take too much precedence in my decision-making. With a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do whatever and go wherever, I’ve been letting Skyscanner determine my itinerary.

The added irony is that money isn’t even the major constraint in my travel planning, at least not at this early stage of shunemployment while the coffers are still in good shape. Having zero income for the first time in 12 years seems to have had a disproportionate impact on my decision-making. The real constraint, as always, is time.

Costa Rica

After all this self-flagellation one might assume that I did not enjoy the start of my Central American adventure, but thankfully Costa Rica’s incredible collection of wildlife ensured that was not the case.

Swapping a cold, wet and windy London for a warm, wet and windy San José didn’t feel like a good deal, until I made my way up into the mountains to a town called La Fortuna which thrives in wet weather conditions (as it must with average annual rainfall of 3.5 metres, approximately 6 times that of London).

With constant rain forecast for four days I cursed Skyscanner and my schoolboy decision not to bring walking boots or a rain coat, but refused to let the weather win by signing up for the first activity I could think of for which fun is directly proportional to rainfall – whitewater rafting.

The river was high and the rafting was exhilarating, but what made it for me was the wildlife. While paddling frantically I spent most of my time looking upwards as the guide pointed out howler monkeys, cuckoos, kingfishers and a large iguana chilling out in a tree.

The highlight for me was a sloth descending for its weekly poo. I know many people who take pleasure in going about their natural business but just look at the pride this sloth takes in its work. Observed by two teams of rafters it took its sweet time and maintained its idiotic but endearing perma-grin while we captured the moment.

Sloth

After getting a taste for what lay within, my second day in La Fortuna was also spent in the jungle with a nature walk around the base of the Arenal volcano.

I had spent a lot of time watching hummingbird hawk moths during the French ayahuasca retreat, mesmerized by their dexterity. Here I was treated to the real thing as a team of hummingbirds drained pollen with absolute mastery.

Hummingbird.jpg

Costa Rica is also a lepidopterist’s dream with over 8,000 species of butterflies and moths. We saw more than I could count, but I was blown away when a Blue Morpho flapped within a few feet of me – one of the largest butterflies in the world, it was the size of a human hand, and a real treat to see in the wild.

We saw two varieties of toucan, one better camouflaged than the other despite its ridiculous multi-coloured beak, and a wild turkey that was visibly delighted to be running free in the Costa Rican jungle on the day of Thanksgiving. On percussion was a solitary woodpecker.

Toucan.jpg

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When the tour was officially over we made our way back to the bus and witnessed one of the best spots of the day. A young ocelot, which hadn’t got the memo about being a wild nocturnal hunter, was scavenging for food at the back door of a restaurant kitchen.

Ocelot

For my final “things that are good to do in the rain” activity I took advantage of the ‘hot river’ in La Fortuna. Naturally heated to around 38 degrees by the volcano, there is plenty of room for everyone as locals and tourists bathe side-by-side in nature’s hot tub.

la-fortuna-free-hot-springs.jpg

Returning to the town I passed a curious looking coatimundi – another first for me – as it scraped the dregs from a discarded coconut.


In just a few days I was lucky to be treated to a fantastic array of natural beauty for very little effort. Following on from my ayahuasca-fuelled visions of the rainforest a couple of months earlier, Costa Rica was the real deal and I loved it.

A local guide book claims that Costa Rica has 5% of the world’s animal species, an incredible fact (if it is one – I haven’t been able to verify it) for such a small country. While the line between wild and tame was a little blurred at times, the Costa Ricans appear to be doing a great job of protecting their natural treasure, with many designated national parks and high quality, professional guides.

Despite travelling to Costa Rica for the wrong reasons and spending far too many Colóns while I was there, it was money well spent and I would highly recommend a trip into the rainforest. 


Next Stop: Nicaragua

What is The Gump Method

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