Hugh Erle Smith
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Favorite Forays

Costa Rica Adventure, 2011

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I don't really have time to write about my latest Costa Rica. It seems there's never enough time to do all of the things I want to do. I don't watch television. I am rarely idle.

But besides not having this time to write, I never know where my writing will take me. I try to keep it relevant to whoever I am writing. I usually start with a few ideas that I've taken note of along the way and then I try to incorporate them into a story, hopefully interesting and meaningful. Some ideas get kept, some get thrown out because they have no place. Not everything I have written necessarily gets published at all! Sometimes I just throw them away. I always hope to include the mushrooms I find because I'm interested in them and you people (you people?) are my greatest audience and the original reason I write... at all. Then there is everyone else (those people!) who have no interest in mushrooms. It can be difficult to please everyone, but I
really want to share my adventure.

A story could end up being mostly about mushrooms or maybe the wonders of the natural world, the miserable heat of a sub tropical place or the joy and elation of a new discovery. It might end up being mostly about the way the people drive (see my story on Puerto Rico, I might end up getting accused by someone for ranting (again?). Those kind of comments might cause me to stop writing at all if it wasn't for the rest of you.

Thanks for listening.

This is our second trip to Costa Rica.-

February is Costa Rica's driest month and historically, my slowest (for The Phone Smith). In actuality, I don't think I've ever been so busy. 

With this economy, this was not a good time to leave. But it was historically my slowest month, so that's when the trip was planned.

We started our trip in Tortuguero, the trackless, roadless jungle on the Caribbean side of the country. We got here by taking a bus over the Continental Divide and then boarding a big flat canopied boat for a one and a half hour 25 m.p.h. boat trip. It was the driest month of the year. At night, it rained so hard you couldn't hear anything else. Then just as suddenly, it stopped. What a wondrous place! In the morning, hardly a sign of such a downpour.

Everything is damp. And the smell of the jungle! But hardly a puddle. Canals are the only way to get around here. Of course, these are BIG canals, rivers, just a hair above sea level, and the only means of transportation is boats (there is one ATV here, probably the same one that was here 5 years ago). Boats take you to the air strip and to the jungle, and bring you back when you're ready. Boats can take you to town but the town is close enough to walk. And you see things when you walk. Monkeys, Sloth's, Reptiles, Amphibians, Flutter-bys, other insects, spiders and Fungus.

We met up with a guide we had 5 years ago when we were here in Tortuguero. This is a small place and everyone probably knows everyone.

I doubt there's any crime. There's one main road in town. It's actually  a wide sidewalk. It's even mostly paved now! Well, mostly.

Steve was not difficult to find. We talked to some of our new guides and they said they knew him and would tell him we were looking for him. (I had sent him a copy of "Mushrooms Demystified" 5 years ago).

We walked into town... and there he was! He had heard the day before that we were looking for him and he had said he remembered "The Mushroom Man". We hired him for another hike through the jungle, away from where the tourists go. It was hot, humid, muddy and fantastic! This is a REAL jungle! Sure it can be miserable, but this is the real thing! 

That's what makes it so exciting to me. Thanks for being Steve.

After 4 days here we flew back to civilization and rented a car for the rest of the trip. Our next stop was the Cloud Forest at Monte Verde where, so much unique life was discovered in the 70's that the scientific community was suddenly alerted to the fact that there is a lot of life on this planet we know nothing about. This is now an International Heritage sight. Sometimes you can see the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean by just turning your head! There's always some clouds up here on the Continental Divide at 4500 to 5000 feet. But that doesn't mean it's raining all of the time. Besides, this is the driest month of the year in Costa Rica. The hotel in Monte Verde (mountain green) said it hadn't rained for a month. It rained and rained and rained, not heavy, but pretty constant. The wind was howling the whole time (three days) even when it wasn't raining. The forest canopy protects you from a steady rain AND the wind though, and when I'm awake, I'm not idle. So I spent a lot of time out there, mostly alone. No one wanted to go out in the wind and rain. But the entire country is so different from anything we know here at home! I didn't come here to sit inside. There's always surprises for those who dare. It wasn't always raining and windy , but the weather was not generally in our favor. 

So we left this awesome place a day early. 

On to Arenal, the volcano that erupted a couple decades ago and surprised everyone, killing 80 people and wiping out the town of Tabecon. It's been going off steady from 2007 through 2010.

But when we arrived, no activity. The local economy is really hurting because of this. Arenal is a perfect cone. The top is always shrouded in clouds (it could be sunny everywhere else) and the travel books say you probably won't get to see the peak. But we did! And it IS the driest month of the year here in Costa Rica. We were told it hadn't rained here for quite a while, but it rained...a lot. The jungle in this place is fantastic though, and the wildlife different than anything at home. Even though we kept saying to ourselves, "No Rain, No Rainbows", we had enough rain. We left here a day early too.

On to Quepos (KAY poce) on the Pacific coast.

This place is humid, sultry by definition! Excuse me, I'm only Hughmid. I poured the whole time I was here. Air conditioning is always running, all night long, and always in the car too. The housekeeper would turn off the AC, and when we got back to our room every day, it was hotter inside than out. So we would turn it on, go outside and pray for rain.

It never did.

Quepos is one of the most awesome places to be though. Besides the humidity and a great ocean, this is where many of Costa Rica's animals
are. Quepos should be included in any itinerary.

There's monkeys above you, three kinds! There's two kinds of Sloths (there are only two in the world), reptiles of all sorts, exotic birds (they're not really exotic here), including Hummingbirds (Hummingbirds are indigenous only to the Americas), 60 species of Stingless Bees, giant beetles, and snakes (5 species are deadly). Oh, and mushrooms too.

So, that's all I have time to write. Sorry it's not really a complete account of the trip.

I wonder what your impression of Costa Rica will be.

Pura vida!!!

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