Thursday, June 12, 2008

Costa Rica with Baby

I spent today seeing some of Costa Rica by bus. Not my favorite way to travel, but it was better than the other option I was considering – hanging out in the hotel for the day.

The tour bus picked us up at our hotel, took us around and returned us back to the hotel. With one exception, most of the meals and the opportunities to buy things were at large developments, owned by people who already have a lot of money. Only the final stop, a small shop at the end of a boat ride, was owned by locals. I bought my water there. We’ll be leaving for Panama tomorrow and never walked outside of our hotel (not much reason to, it’s just a freeway outside) or changed any money. Dollars are accepted easily here.

We traveled with a group of about 20 tourists, all of whom were picked up from their hotels on the outskirts of the city. Several were attending an epidemiological conference. Quite a few were taking several of these day trips. Despite having quite a bit of time in country, they preferred to see things from the comfort of a bus, then return to a comfortable hotel in San Jose than to spend more time in other areas of the country. I suppose one can see more that way, but I think the level of understanding is less. I wished for the opportunity to talk to the local residents and thought if I had more time, I’d head right for a small town.

We saw a nice variety of things – a coffee estate, a wildlife and waterfall garden, the Poas volcano crater and a boat ride down the Sarapiqui river. My favorite part was the volcano. The crater was one mile wide, with a lagoon within it and white smoke emerging from fumaroles. It was raining when we arrived and we had to walk ten minutes in the rain to arrive. I was carrying River in a front carrier and using an umbrella. I couldn’t believe how well he held up, even laughing when we arrived.

The La Paz Waterfall Garden is a man-man tourism center, constructed by its very wealthy owner. It is well designed though and offers visitors the opportunity to see many birds, butterflies, snakes, monkeys and frogs at very close range. It’s a very good place for families to visit.

They told us when we entered that we should remove any earrings. One woman in our group didn’t listen though and a bird grabbed her earring right out of her ear, then returned to its post to eat it. Even River, at six months old, seemed to enjoy the indoor butterfly sanctuary, with the colorful creatures flying in front of him, and the area where the hummingbirds gathered at feeders, darting around us like little high-powered bees.

The series of waterfalls are of courser natural. The owner purchased the land and made it into a private reserve. He also constructed a series of walkways and stairs (1600 of them, mostly heading downhill) that make it easy to descend the series of waterfalls and get very close to the powerful sprays.

The river trip was short, but relaxing and full of wildlife, In and near the olive-colored water we saw an iguana in a treetop, monkeys, a caiman, an aninga bird, and long nosed bats, small bats that look like butterflies or moths and perch upon wood and rocks on the river’s edge.

River was amazingly well behaved and captured the hearts of many on the bus. They couldn’t believe how happy and content he was and seemed amazed when I said he was usually like that. I said we lucked out that he was born that way; But a woman from Spain, upon seeing me changing him on a stone table and River laying calmly on the hard surface, thought the way the parents acted had some effect. “A lot of people wouldn’t even come on a trip like this,” she said, “because they think they need so much stuff or that their child must eat or sleep at certain times. You seem to have gotten him used to adapting.” Maybe, or maybe he was just born a great traveler. In any case, I’m proud of him and grateful to have a companion.

We didn’t bring a stroller on this trip, since I could only carry so much on my own. Without a stroller, swing, jumper or bouncy seat, I’m holding or carrying him the vast majority of the day. That can get tiring, however, the Ergo baby carrier is working very well.. River is content in there and it’s quite comfortable for me and leaves me with two hands free.

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