Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Pura Vida in Costa Rica

Smooth entry to Costa Rica with our white faces and our red passports...we just walk through the border, get our stamps smile gently to the policemen. Like in Panama, hitchhiking comes easy...we just wait a few minutes before a car takes us to Neilly, the first town. There, a strong rain starts and we find refuge in a restaurant where the person in charge kindly invite us for a salad. It looks like a deluge outside, so much rain...and no one to collect this water. When it stops we recycle a pizza, some bread and we head towards our destiny. We get quickly to Golfito, a small city situated on the pacific coast. The night has come and we decide to stay there with the firemen who receive us with big smiles and offer us a room with bathroom...a 4 stars room that launched a wave of happiness in the group! They even offered us a shirt for everyone with the shield of the firemen of Costa Rica! Golfito is a charming town surrounded by nature, all constructions are in wood and the atmosphere is quiet...We recycle some food and wander around for two days.

We relax a bit and then hit the road again to go further north. Along the road we are amazed at the nature, so green, so dense and we land in Domenical, another small town in the pacific invested by surfers! Lot of tourist there and open minds...a hostel managed by a Spanish family host us for two nights in exchange of some help to carry some woods. The place is really humid...and suddenly the rain comes in a morning and doesn't stop. The whole place gets flooded...We decide to brave the elements to keep our journey going. We hardly find a ride to get us in the middle of nowhere under a bus stop where we wait for some hours, under the rain, hungry...the landscape is beautiful, smoky clouds everywhere, everything is grey...we don't get desperate and finally a truck stops ahead! We run towards this unique chance and get a ride to Jaco! We get invited by a nice Argentinean who just decided to stop eating meat because of the water consumption. He still manages a "parrilla" but that's a good start! The rain doesn't stop...48 hours without any break! We sleep in the fire station.
Jaco is a city invaded by the North Americans. They come here for vacation because it is one of the safest countries in Central America and most people speak English. There are casinos and discos everywhere...sad stories of prostitution with the old retired Americans and abandoned hotels and residences here and there due to the crisis of 2007. Americans have chosen Costa Rica for their paradise; some come only for holidays while many others choose this destination to build a house in the nature, escaping from the craziness of their country. Close to Domenical, we meet a lot of them, doing perm culture, trying to live as much as they can in harmony with the nature. The place is indeed a real paradise, so green, a perfect climate where everything grows...a nice beach close by to surf...and peace all around. We meet for instance a great woman who was a stripper before in Miami and made a lot of money this way to then come here and buy her piece of paradise. She lives happy now with her schools, almost outside of capitalism...trying to find harmony.
In the morning, we leave our dear fire men and go back on the road. The "ticos"(costarican) are friendly and generous, everyone give us food...and once the rain stops hitchhiking becomes a lot easier. After a great recycled breakfast in a gas station we are taken to the center of the country and immediately to San José, thanks to a crazy friendly truck driver. We wander around in the city looking for the houses of the Couchsurfers who accepted to host us...the girls need some rest and there is nothing better than Couchsurfing to meet great people and relax for some times. San José is seems pretty different from other main cities in Latin Costa Rica is pretty different, quite special...less corruption, more ecological consciousness, a bigger middle class...
Everything obviously started with the Spanish...the lands of Costa Rica where not as rich in minerals as the others and therefore the rich landlords preferred to take Nicaragua, Honduras...and the one who came to Costa Rica were the farmers and workers from Spain who emigrate here for a better life. They started building a society that was quite fair given the fact that everyone was working; there was nothing such as a feudal state. This historical fact might have made the whole difference. It explains why the country was at peace for the last 80 years, there was no "bloody revolution", no military "coup d’état" or guerillas...For the last 60 years they don't have an army. A majority of the people belongs to the middle class and has enough resources to live. The education is free and accessible for everyone...only 3% of illiteracy. Compare to other countries in Latin America, there is a really high ecological consciousness, they recycle, streets are not full of garbage and there is a real attempt from the government to educate the people...corruption is not so present...
Costa Rica is neither a perfect state. Still, salaries are unfair, some earn less than 300 dollars and months while other more than 2300 $, the average salary is up to 600 or 800 $. No army but the US are close by and will intervene if something happen, the country lives mainly from agriculture, huge fields of Pineapple, palm oil and coffee...everything produced in the least ecological way to ensure Europeans and Americans citizens will buy their products, strong discrimination towards the black people living in the Caribbean coast...until 79 there were not even allowed to come in the center of the country...
Politically, the country is controlled by the Arias family, a coffee family who basically ruled Costa Rica for the last 20 years...corruption, financial controversy and no opposition. The People follow without protesting, everything is not so bad, why bother.
We spend a few days in San José, recycling is hard, most of the time the owner is not there or the restaurant don't have any left-overs. We enjoy the time with Rafael and Hellen, two adorable beings who work all day along but know how to enjoy life, they invite us in their circles of friends and we can have an insight into the Costarican society, we discover with surprise that the people are indeed pretty conscious about the environment and they want to do something...just don't know how... San José is not really beautiful...streets are loaded with people running around to buy stuff, some crazy people in the squares, fanatics praising god with a big sound systems... We don't spend too much time there and after a short interview with the TV of the campus we hitchhike outside of San Jose to try to find our way to the volcanoes area. The first car that stops is driven by Juan, an art director who insists to take us into his place and offer us a warm vegan meal to celebrate the vegan day! Raphael and Benjamin decide to become vegan to get closer to harmony with all the beings and mother earth. After a fresh night in the mountain we head towards the Arenal volcano. On the way we enjoy the goodness of the "ticos", hitchhiking is really easy, we sleep at the fire stations, red cross...

Some invite us to their house to eat, we shower in a small river in the mountains...and we suddenly face the Arenal, a majestic smoking volcano. Great scenery, we achieve to get closer thanks to the generosity of the owner of the park. Then we follow mother destiny who take us to the Rio Azul, a mysterious river where water from the volcanoes mixed resulting in a beautiful turquoise some parts there is also hot waters and we enjoy a great bath in the middle of the jungle. The people in this area of Costa Rica are all really friendly and welcoming...closer to nature and willing to help us. We meet Nelson, an angel who gives us a lot of love and energy with his sweet and simple words. He has been working his all life to deforest his lands and cultivate monoculture...he recently realized that is not fair and he is now replanting trees to give fruits to the animal. We hitchhike further discovering the craziness of the pineapple world. In the fields we see some "astronaut” diffusing some chemicals in the plants.

Destiny put us into the car of José, a pineapple producer who explain us everything we have to know about the pineapple. We discover that the queen of the fruit with its crown is causing a real ecological and social tragedy. Europeans and Americans require beautiful pineapple with nice crowns without insect bites, yellow and big. Therefore, the producers in Costa Rica are obliged to use a lot of chemicals, pesticides and fertilizers to ensure they could produce pineapple every 9 months without plague that are conform to the European standards. We are all connected...every time we are buying pineapple in the supermarket we don't understand where does this pineapple come from, we ignore about the three weeks journey into a refrigerated container and all the pesticides used twice a week to ensure the skin remain yellow...In the fields, workers are exposed to all those chemicals and earn a few dollars per day...and a considerable part of those pineapple end up in the trash...Let's be conscious of the social and ecological cost of our caprices...

After this sad story we get closer to Nicaragua...we spend our last night with the fireman in a small town and get ready to say goodbye to the Ticos. They have been all great with us...the country is definitely one of the most beautiful we have seen, great scenery, pretty clean, a great diversity of landscapes and good hearts everywhere...pura vida! Ticos and Nicas are like brothers, they can't stop to tease each other. There is about 1 million Nicas in Costa Rica, mostly working in fields and low-wages jobs...and at that moment the two countries had a border conflict talking about a river that belongs to Nicaragua but where Ticos have businesses...Reading the news it looks like they are close to war! Some says the governments of both countries use this kind of disputes to distract the people from the actual situation in the respective country...

At the border we face our first visa needed bu a tourist tax. To "maybe" find a way to go around this tax we would have to go back to San José...we can't do much about that and Nieves have some dollars we add an exception to our journey confirming that if we were not Europeans travelling around the world without money would be much harder! We decide to pay to pass freely into makes us sad for a moment, not just because we had to use a few dollars but because borders are definitely one of the most unfair place in the world. Earth is the mother of everyone...and we should have to present any document to go from one place to another.

Read previous articles:

Read next article:
Photos of Costa rica: Link

1 comment:

  1. Muy bello final. Me dan enormes ganas de ir a Costa Rica después de leer sus aventuras.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.