Makin the most of the Caribbean coast

By | December 23, 2010

The last 3 days have been filled with some incredible adventures. Jungle hikes, Costa Rican cooking classes, surfing in the Caribbean and much more.

We arrived at the Shawanda Lodge just outside of Puerto Viejo early Sunday afternoon. Unpacked our bags, grabbed the boogie boards and headed for the beach. The surf was a constant, 2-3 foot waves every 20-30 seconds. A good way to settle into our new digs. The lodging itself is a few acres of property in dense jungle forest which houses a dozen or so Teak bungalows. With hammocks on the porches and surrounded by wild life, this is the place to be on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica.

An evening of crib and banter followed. 11 guys (all atheletes) playing card games, let’s just say there was a little verbal repartee throughout the evening.

The following day we woke early to a breakfast of fresh fruit (as in picked the day before), eggs, and toast. Mango, banana, papaya, pineapple, and watermelon to round it off.

We loaded into the tour vans, and headed out for some day hikes. My group headed deep into the jungle with our guide Mauricio, to the Kekoldi Indigenous Reserve next to the Cohita National Park. We saw poison dart frogs, monkey ladder vines, and walking palm trees that actually ‘walk’ to where they can get more/better sun light. We smelled the plants of cilantro and citronella, and the flower in which Chanel No 5 comes from. We tasted a fruit with the flavour of blue cheese, an orange that was really a lime, and the bark of a cinnamon tree (which tasted like cinnamon, duh?

The rainy season in Costa Rica has is coming to an end in late December, so the trails are still a little muddy. The terrain was less than smooth. The mountainous layout of our hike had us scrambling up the hills, and sliding down them. All of which added to the over all jungle experience.

That evening our local friend and host, Junior, took the group to a disco down on the beach called Mango Sunset. With an eclectic mix of Latin and R&B, the dance floor was packed until closing time. After an entertaining ride home in the tour van, everyone settled in to watch the lunar eclipse. Most of the group had never seen one, and a few of us had only seen it once before in our lives. A really enjoyable way to cap off a great evening.

Our second full day in Puerto Viejo was a day off from scheduled activities. A crew of 8 headed for a local beach known for it’s surf. We rented boards, $10 for the day, and hit the water. Surfing is a rather enjoyable sport, which is easier said then done. The ever changing water, timing of the entrance, and ability to actually get on the board while being in front of the wave makes for a challenging day in the water. We returned to the lodges to shower, nap, and prepare for our cooking class.

Sharon (Sha-roon) was our host for the evening. Along with her mother, they put on a spread of fish (seabass), salad, rice & beans, followed up by a delicious rum cake that was amazing. In her modest 2 bedroom, single floor house with a kitchen on the back porch, she cooked a feast for us (her 12 guests) along with her mother, 2 daughters, son, and neighbour. That meal won’t soon be forgotten.

This brings us to Wednesday, day 5 of our adventure in Costa Rica. After another delicious breakfast, the groups split into their respective vans and headed off for another hike. This time we were headed to the coast for a walk along the coast. We started the hike along the beach then headed into the jungle. There are 120 species of snakes in the country, 9 of which are deadly. We saw 3 eye-lash Vipers (deadly) and 2 vine snakes. We saw 3 species of frogs, 1 poisonous, 2 deadly. Some of our group ate termites, one even let a Golden Orb spider crawl on his face. All in the name of a good time.

From beach to jungle, jungle to beach, up muddy hills, down muddy hills. We saw Caymans, turtles, goats, chickens (on a farm) and monkeys. From drop off to pick up it took about 8 hours. Wow, long day, but well worth it.

The group readied themselves for the rondon (BBQ, Cookout, Dinner party) at Juniors. In the company of family and friends, Junior made us a home cooked meal Caribbean style. Lobster, Snapper, and 20 different kinds of fruits and veggies, no one was going to bed hungry that night, not even the dog (heh).

Thursday morning we left for Arenal, the active volcano. As I write this article we are passing trough sprawling foothills and Palm tree forests. Rustic houses, small farms, road side restaurants and boutiques. This country has a thousand stories I could tell, but I think I’ll just sit back, stare out the window, and let you enjoy them for yourself once you get here….