^^ Wild monkeys hopped into our boat looking for food. It had been five weeks since they’d made an appearance during these boat tours, so we felt extra special. ^^^^ Crocodiles always on the prowl ^^^^ Iguanas populate the treetops like birds^^I don’t like the idea of being a tourist. I like to think of myself as the kind of girl who is interested in eating with strangers, sleeping on peoples’ couches and finding my own way home. On recent trips, though, I learned to embrace my tourist side, and I have learned, that like everything in life, you have to have balance when visiting a new world.
I went to Costa Rica without any plans, basically. I was cautious of filling my calendar with long day trips and Americanized excursions instead of morning-til-night beach days or exploring Costa Rican life on my own. This has happened before, where I’ve gone some place and felt like I experienced everything they had to offer, except for the way the locals live and perceive their home. I didn’t want Costa Rica to be that.
And it wasn’t.
It was balanced. Plenty of time to float in the waves. A sufficient number of evenings drinking the local cerveza and rum on Coco’s main street. Downtime for people watching at the Internet Cafe or soaking in the pool outside of our front door.
Without a car (I have decided I will rent one next time), I quickly learned that the tours were one of the main ways non-locals see Costa Rican life, ecotourism, environment and that splendidly lush countryside. So we signed up, first for two tours and then we added a third one later in the week.
Each tour took the majority of the day. And because of that, they didn’t feel like the quick, hop-on/hop-off experience you often feel on tours in the States. On every tour — most of them small in size, the tour guides and fellow travelers became like close friends fast. The drives in vans and small buses were like roadtrips with friends, and you talked about everything from their homes so far from yours, careers and what drew people to Costa Rica. Because everyone has that story to tell.These photos are from the first tour I took in Costa Rica on the Tempisque River, starting in Palo Verde National Forrest. There were six of us on this trip. A couple from Ottowa, a couple from Oceanside and us. Our driver, who didn’t speak much English at all, drove us through the hills on a rainy morning to another town (that we all meant to figure out the name of, but never did). The driver hopped out of the van for a while, and went into the panaderia across the street. Maybe he’s picking up our lunches, someone said. Maybe we’re picking up the tour guide here, we guessed. Before we knew it, they had us switch vans and we were off once again.
After a long ride through rain and mudpits — and with only one stop in which all of us English speakers tried to explain that the heater was muy caliente and burning the lady in the back seat — we made it to the river. Our tour guide, a local with a wide smile who drank Britt iced coffee out of a box (that I would later discover in the market and stock up on), hopped in to the passenger seat.
This river tour was the most touristy of all the tours. But I sat back, and embraced it, and took pictures of every floating alligator, every monkey, every crane — not because I necessarily needed to remember every bird, but because our guide was so excited every time I showed him a photo and he would loudly gasp, “Yes,” every time he saw my camera pointed at wildlife. It was great. We became friends, and we talked about cameras and shared the pack of cheese crackers I found stashed in my backpack.
It was so great to see all the wildlife, especially the monkeys jumping on our boat and the crocks, too. Here are two Instagram videos I posted of the monkeys and the crocodiles eating at our boat. At the end of the day, we went to a family-owned restaurant near the river. We were served a family-style Tico lunch of fresh meats and veggies. It was a beautiful day, and our first full day of experiencing Costa Rica.