Friday, April 9, 2010

Passover in Costa Rica

I just returned from a short vacation in Costa Rica. I was invited to spend the week of Passover in a nice resort called Ocotal Beach, on the pacific coast of the country. And while I’m currently burned almost to a crisp, and stung like I haven’t been since my army days, I definitely give it 2 thumbs up.

Costa Rica is a democracy, without an army. Sounds quite Switzerland-like, but in the Central American continent where it resides, bordered by Nicaragua and Panama, it’s quite an achievement. The country itself is beautiful, with jungles, volcanoes (clearly visible from the plane on arrival) and long beaches. It’s well taken-care of (people are aware of the fact tourists come to see nature, so they do their best to preserve it) and the locals are nice and welcoming.

My room was a 100 feet from the beach, allowing me to wake every morning to a beautiful blue vista.By every morning, I mean 5:30am – the exact time that our monkey neighbors decided it’s a great time to run over our roof and howl. And by “monkey neighbors” I mean actual monkeys smile

As a general rule, if you don’t like animals, you won’t really like Costa Rica. Other than the aforementioned monkeys, Iguanas rule the grounds. They are extremely fast, and like fruit.
A beautiful blue bird called a Magpie-Jay would be happy to share your breakfast.

At night, a raccoon-like animal called a Mapache would come out asking for some meat leftovers. And then, of course we have the mosquitoes, crabs and scorpions (of which I’ve only seen one all week long).

After lazing in the pool for a couple of days, and eating well (the fruit juices are to die for), we headed for the rain-forest for a day excursion. One of the famous Costa Rican adventures, similar to New Zealand’s Bungee, is zip-lining. It’s quite simple: you climb a tree, tie yourself through a harness to a wire leading to a platform on another tree, and let gravity do the rest. Stepping over the edge about 30 meters above ground sounded crazy to me, until I saw 7 year old kids do it. at that point, I was basically doomed. my tour included 10 platforms, of them I probably enjoyed the last 5.

We proceeded to riding horses down to the thermal springs. I haven't ridden a horse since I was a kid (I rode a mule last year in Ecuador, but it was tied to the mule ahead of it, so I didn’t really drive). Well, unlike riding a bicycle, you definitely forget how to do it. My horse did whatever i felt like, went wherever it wanted, and generally tolerated me. While it did follow the rest of the herd, it did its best to squeeze between other horses, and stopped for a snack once in a while. When I tried kicking it once, it turned its head around, as if saying “really??”. Eventually we reached the spring, and I opted to return via tractor. It seems like zip-lining and horse riding are activities designed to make sure you never have kids, if you catch my drift smile.

The next day we took a boat to tour the small islands. We saw a couple of lying fish (to fast to take a photo of), some dolphins, and several sea snakes. Groups of us were let off on several of the small islands, were we swam and snorkeled. I stole a sea-shell from a poor crab (to my defense, I didn’t know it was there) and saw some puff fish, some tiger-striped fish – and luckily, no snakes.

The next day I took off from the Liberia airport. Essentially an airstrip with 2 big hangars (departures and arrivals) it reminded me of the airport in Israel the way it looked in old 60’s new reels. You have to pay a $26 to leave the country. And there were a couple of US Navy and Coast Guard planes there, probably assisting in the anti-drug war.

All in all, it felt like too short a vacation (aren’t they all). I’ll be glad to return again, and visit the eastern side of the country next time.

Here are the rest of the pictures I took. I blame my laziness for the small number of pictures.

I’d like to thank my cousin George for inviting me on this trip (enjoy the new laptop!), and the entire Goldring family for making me feel welcome. Thanks guys!

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