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From the Rain Forest to the Urban Jungle

18-7-12crhut23-7-12prizefishcatchPrize Catch23-7-12butterfly223-7-12toucan23-7-12monkey23-7-12elavionEl Avion restaurant23-7-12ericaziplineupsidedownErica Simone – zipline clown23-7-12rainforest23-7-12rainforestwaterfall23-7-12rainmakerAdrian on a suspended bridge23-7-12jetskiJet ski on the Mangrove Reserve
(all photos by Erica Simone)

The swing on the porch of our Costa Rican resort bungalow became one of my favorite spots. The veranda was ensconced in plants living outdoors that I had grown indoors for years and would never weather a Paris winter. One could hear the birds chirping, the bullfrogs croaking and the cicadas singing as the suspended chair gently swung with my laptop in position. The last morning the hummingbirds flitted from one newly-opened white flower to the next extracting their nectar.

As we walked down the narrow paths to the pool and outdoor restaurant, the lizards, some as large as iguanas, others tiny geckos barely visible, would cross our path. The frogs would jump aside into the flora and some swam with us at night in the cool green pool. There must have been dozens of varieties of birds we’d never seen before and even big black vultures along the dirt road that led to the resort along the ocean.

The first morning in Costa Rica we did absolutely nothing except walk along the wide, beautiful palm-lined Playa Paco Seco and found shells, sand dollars and other treasures. There was only one other person on the beach — an old gentleman missing a few teeth who had been fishing and had one small prize catch. It was truly paradise like we’d never seen before.

That afternoon we jet skied on the Mangrove Reserve just adjacent to the beach with our French host’s son, both natives of Montpellier who moved here, recently constructed and now run the Clandestino Beach Resort. It seemed strange to be speaking French in a place where Spanish is the natural tongue. At the reserve, we were hoping to spot crocodiles and monkeys, but they were hiding from our noisy motors.

Palo Seca is gray volcanic sand. The beach is wide, nine kilometers long and the waters shallow. Our first day the sea was calm and we could walk far out before the water reached our knees. The famous Costa Rican sea turtles come ashore here to lay their eggs. The first night we arrived they had found 70 newly hatched on shore at the resort, one of which we held in the palm of our hands.

Thursday morning we trekked out the long road going east to the town of Quepos and beyond to take a guided tour through the Manuel Antonio National Park. There on the well-paved touristed path we discovered sloths, Howler and Capuchin monkeys, toucans, venomous snakes, a variety of bats, lizards of all sizes and shapes including iguanas, Golden Orb spiders and others, crabs, birds of many feathers, butterflies, etc., etc….we didn’t miss much. It was hot and the path was long, ending at the beautiful white sand beach, where people were swimming and picnicking amid the Capuchin monkeys which stole their unattended food and seemed comfortable among humans.

To top off the morning, we lunched at “El Avion,” a new restaurant with fabulous views of the park and sea built around the Fairchild C-123 cargo plane, part of one of the biggest scandals in the 1980’s involving the Reagan Administration, a bizarre network of arms sales to Iran and NSA official Oliver North. All the evenings we spent at the Clandestino, taking in light dinners near the pool and sea and relaxing in the spacious air-conditioned room, too tired to do much of anything else, falling asleep as early as 9 or 10 p.m.

La madame reserved a “Canopy Safari” for us on Friday — five hours of jungle adventure including 10 “zip lines,” two “rappel lines,” a suspension bridge, a “Tarzan Swing,” a butterfly farm and serpentarium, not to mention a sumptuous lunch of regional cuisine. Before we left for Costa Rica, everyone wanted to know if we would “zip line” — one friend confessing that he ‘chickened out’ on the last minute and regretted it. My daughter was afraid I would, too, being the usual wimp!…but I surprised her.

I didn’t hang upside down on the longest zip (like she did, even with her camera in hand video-recording it all along), but seriously got ‘the hang’ of it and decided 10 zips weren’t enough — I could have done more. The scenery is stunning as you’re on tree-top level over the park, ‘zipping’ from one monstrous tree to another. There are lots of companies that provide these adventure tours. This one claims to be the “biggest, safest, oldest” of them all, never having lost a single ‘zipper.’ Yes, it was one of those ‘once in a lifetime’ experiences one shouldn’t miss if given the chance.

Our last day we opted to visit Rainmaker Conservation Project. There is a small sign along highway 34 easily missed if you don’t know where you’re going. A long rocky road takes you there and for a mere $20, you have entry to an almost three mile hike into the rain forest and a Costa Rican style lunch. The hike is challenging — lots of steps, numerous suspended bridges and rocky, slippery paths, but well worth the adventure to see the waterfalls, the raging rocky river and the lush rainforest. It was humid — everything dripping with moisture, and quiet — except for the sound of the running water and the wildlife. Every couple of minutes, one of us was compelled to say something inane, like, “This is sooo beautiful,” simply because it was overwhelmingly so.

Yesterday we drove through the lush terrain to the airport at San Jose and flew from the rain forest to America’s favorite urban jungle — New York City. We knew it would be a shock, so instead we dreamt of eating sushi at first chance to make up for it. This is where you will find me until Wednesday when I’ll be back in Gray Gay Paree, another kind of urban adventure.

A few tips for traveling in Costa Rica:

* Rent a four-wheel drive vehicle to navigate the rocky, muddy roads.
* Be prepared with bug repellent and bug bite creams — drugs are expensive.
* Have good, solid hiking shoes and lightweight rain gear.
* You can manage on U.S. dollars and credit cards in most places.
* Don’t be surprised when you have to pay a tax to LEAVE the country (payable on credit card at the airport).

A la prochaine…

adrian tarzanAdrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris

(playing Tarzan)

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