Today, we had a chance to stroll around the Kerahe and have breakfast at the hall. The weather was wonderfully warm and already I was sweating a bit in the humidity as I tucked into beans and rice, sausage, mango, papaya, pineapple, scrambled eggs and the wonderfully delicious aromatic Costa Rican coffee. Allan mentioned that since Costa Rica could not compete with Brazil and Colombia for volume of coffee, they, like Hawaii, tend to concentrate on making it the best tasting coffee in the world. Without a doubt, I would have to say that Costa Rican coffee happens to be the best tasting coffee I have ever had.
Some of us decided to take it easy and rest at the lanais of their rooms, reading or took a stroll along the Pacific ocean, the beach of which is open to all and stretching for miles. About 12 of us took the tour into Manuel Antonio National Park. The Park is right at the end of the little burg of Manuel Antonio, which is chock full of restaurants and shops for tourists. This park is the smallest of all the national parks in Costa Rica. But it makes up for its size by two things: amazing diversity of over 100 species of animals and 100 species of birds and an unequalled white sand beach. It was named for a conquistador, named Manuel Antonio who was part of Ponce de Leon’s expedition. Though the conquistadors saw the area, they were kept away from landing due to the fierce Quepos (kay-pos) indians. Apparently the sight of women warriors with blowguns would freak out any tourist in the 1500s.
History aside, our guide, Andres took us up to the gates. The park size makes it hard to allow large groups inside. So amazingly, the rangers close the gates once 800 people enter. The rest queue on the outside until enough people leave that they can enter. Luckily we made it inside and with his telescope, Andres picked out the first inhabitant of the park, a nocturnal two-toed sloth. It was in a tree literally ten feet inside the park. So for the next mile, we walked about 20 feet and would stop to see what Andres could expertly pick out in the forest. He had worked as a guide in the park for 13 years and could see with his naked eye what nobody in our group had a chance to see, even if it was five feet in front and waving both arms. Three-toed sloths lounged around, basilisk lizards hovered by pools and even delicate Morpho butterflies with blue iridescent wings were revealed. Even a young raccoon made its presence known. Smaller than its North American cousin, it was none the less equally as bold and made attempts to grab plastic bags from tourists in search for food. We kept clear of it and was happy to see it tire of thwarted attempts and amble off into the jungle.
It was hard to believe that so much could be in such a little space. Sort of like taking Yellowstone Park and compacting it into a shopping mall. We were all amazed by the beauty of the plants and wildlife. Finally we stood beside a huge red gash in a hill about the size of a school bus and were floored when Andres said it was one leaf cutter ant colony. The Orkin man would have a heart attack if he had to tackle this, I thought. Down a hill beckoned Manuel Antonio beach, and we changed our clothes at the cabanas to the chatter of capuchin monkeys as they assessed the crowd for unsuspecting tourists. Then, we all headed into the water, which was pure bliss. The temperature was perfect in the ocean and we all commented on how fantastic it was to be in Costa Rica. Brian’s son Chris called to report a wind chill of 35 below in Lansing, Iowa and at that point, we congratulated ourselves on picking the right place and right time of year for the tour.
After we came out of the water, we changed back into our clothes and headed into town for lunch at the Marlin restaurant, considered one of the best places for true Costa Rican fare. We indulged in some more locally caught seafood and Aine had some barbecue chicken that was out of this world. Every dish in Costa Rica has the now familiar rice and beans and plantain, sort of the Costa Rican answer to the Irish and their potatoes. Both countries take pride in their food, the quality was more than excellent and the quantity always more than adequate. We headed back on the bus to the Karahe and spent the rest of the afternoon swimming in the Pacific.
Around 6 p.m. we boarded a bus to take us about two miles to La Cantina Barbeque. This was a restaurant with a huge open air wood-fired grill. The centerpiece of the restaurant was an original train car that brought pioneers into the region. It was basically the trucks and frame and the beams were all hand-hewn, so it was the most fascinating art as well as area for diners to eat on. We had another feast that evening of mahi-mahi, salad, rice and beans, plantain, steamed vegetables and an apple torte. Mexican Coca-cola and drinks of every kind flowed and the candlelight against the beautiful wood interior created a warm, glowing atmosphere. The waiter and waitress, Marco and Brigette, entertained us by dancing traditional dances to a local group that played all sorts of local favorites. By the time dinner was finished, we took to the stage and for about 90 minutes proceeded to give our fans, visitors and locals alike a down-to-earth American Roots, Celtic Soul Switchback show. Some visitors from Europe took Brian aside after the show. The lady said to him, “You are an American endangered species, true entertainers.” That was a fantastic compliment. The local band was equally generous in their compliments and were totally taken aback by Brian’s guitar expertise. Our fans were flat out happy and we all gathered for a huge group photo with our fans, Costa Rican and European friends.
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