Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas on the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

The family is spending Christmas vacation in the beautiful Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica, where the rainforest comes right down to the shore of the Pacific on one side and the Golfo Dulce on the other. We're staying at Lookout Inn, and right now Leo and I are enjoying sunshine and breeze on the outdoor deck of the lodge, watching scarlet macaws fly by and and white-faced capuchin monkeys come mooching for leftover fruit.

I'll try to write fast, because the solar-powered internet was supposed to be turned off ten minutes ago.

This is our third day here. The first two days began with yoga before breakfast - led once by our older daughter and once by a lady who started yoga centers all over this part of the forest. After breakfast comes a three-hour hike. The first day we climbed the "Stairway to Heaven," which continued so painfully long it could easily have another name. Then we walked along a ridge, slid down a muddy slope, crossed a stream, and followed a steep path up and many times across a river until we came to a series of three waterfalls. Feeling foolhardy, we climbed to the third waterfall and stood in it. Pulsating water pummeled my lower back, better than any massage.

The next day one of the staff led us to see the encampment of a family of gold miners along the edge of the Corcovado National Forest. There we met two little girls, ages eleven and thirteen, who took us to where some friends were panning for gold in the river. Their morning's take so far was about three grams. The girls offered to take us farther, to see their own parents and a waterfall. "How far?" I asked (in Spanish). "One minute," said one. "Half an hour, very slowly," said the older one. So we agreed, and they led us up an extremely steep and slippery trail of wet clay. The younger one led me by the hand half the time. We passed another lodge and came upon a group of four miners digging a deep hole in a pool at the top of a waterfall. They offered another demonstration, but we had to turn back for lunch. Our little girl guides kept promising us they would bring us back to the road very soon, but in fact they led us down, across, and through the river many times to show off all the small falls of the river. Finally we reached the collection of cabins with plastic sheeting for roofs where we had fist met them, and we parted ways with hugs and kisses.

Today, we dispensed with yoga and went straight for the guided hike into Corcovado, 22 km roundtrip, with a packed lunch. The path begins on a dirt road past the local airstrip, then for a mile or so along the beach to the park entrance, then into the rain forest on well-marked paths, crossing streams and small rivers and dipping onto the beach again. We saw scarlet macaws, a family of coatis digging for land crabs, a yellow and black poison dart frog, an iguana, a Jesus lizard, an anteater high in a tree, a pair of Great Crested Curacao, spider monkeys and capuchin monkeys, and the track of a baby puma. On the way home, the high tide had swollen one of the rivers to waist height, so after fording it we all gave in and went for a swim anyway, floating upstream and down as the waves flowed in and out.

Now I'm resting my feet, and the children, unbelievable as it seems to me, are down in a field near the beach, playing soccer with the staff and the new soccer ball that the owner's son got to open early for Christmas.

(I'll add photos to this post when we're in a place with faster internet.)

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