Guanacaste & Tamarindo

May 29:

Today we had a variety of activities to chose from. Some of the group went to the beach at 5 am to surf. Some of the group decided to relax and hang out at the beach for the day. They were amazed how the different terrain on the coast and ocean floor was composed of volcanic rock whereas North Carolina’s coast contains sandbars. The different substances play a huge role in the strength of the wave, volcanic rock creating the best surfing waves. They also noticed how geothermal heat affects the waves. During the surf session, they spotted several waterspouts during an approaching storm. They observed that the spouts were all located outside of the storm. At the mouth of the river, there was a man meditating. After observing the encounter, they reported back to the manager of our hotel to find out what they had seen. They learned that the man was probably trying to bring positive energy to the mangrove because of the last major earthquake. It caused the volcanic rock to elevate, essentially locking the the water in the mangrove, driving out the animals, and harming the environment.

Playa Avellanas.

Playa Avellanas.

In the afternoon we went into Tamarindo. There were many locals there surfing and tanning on the beach. We walked up and down the street and visited several shops. The locals in the shops were so welcoming and full of life. They had amazing coffee and fruit juices at this small cafe we stopped at. During the bumpy ride home we saw a dog almost get run over by another van.

Today we encountered many animals. The surf group met a puppy named Jackie on the beach as well as many marine animals. They observed a huge silver fish jumping out of the water, several types of crabs, pelicans and a sea slug. Other members of the group also saw a hooded, blue and white large bird. There are many Howler Monkeys around the villa that make loud noises that “sounds like a Great Dane who has been smoking Newports for 20 years”,(Kyle). There are many lizards, bats, iguanas, frogs and insects around the hotel. The group that tried to go horse back riding saw horses, cows, donkeys, and other typical farm animals.

– Taylor Daniels

San Jose to Guanacaste

May 28:

The day began with a visit to the National Museum where we learned about pre-Columbian peoples and viewed an exhibition of beautiful paintings by contemporary artist-environmentalist Gerardo Valerio. We then returned to the Central Market downtown to explore further its offerings before checking out of our hotel and hitting the road for Guanacaste, which lies in the northwest of Costa Rica.

Our route out of San Jose took us first west through Escazu, a former coffee region now undergoing suburban development, and Oratina, an important fruit-producing region. Fruit and vegetable stands offering mangos, pineapple, plantains, avocados and water squash line the road. We then turned north on to the Pan American Highway and very quickly observed a dramatic change in vegetation typical of a tropical dry forest. Teak plantations, grazing cattle and dry rice fields permeate the landscape, and our guide tells us that pineapple fields have recently made an appearance as well.

Roadside soda (cantina) near Tamarindo

Roadside soda (cantina) near Tamarindo

Guanacaste is the land of Costa Rican cowboys – its history of cattle production is about 200 years, and the region is one of the most deforested regions in Costa Rica as a result. After some time we again turned west and traversed the Nicoya Peninsula, crossing the Rio Tempisque, to arrive in Tamarindo — on the westernmost part of Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. En route it rained heavily, and a flooded, unpaved road gave us a bit of an adventure, but we finally reached our hotel, Cabinas Las Olas, around 7:00 PM where we were fed well and housed in very comfortable cottages.

Downtown San Josè

May 27:

We were dropped of at a barricaded street entrance. We saw many places, but the central market and the central business district stuck out.

The Central Market was a labyrinth of pathways through vendors and shops. They were selling piggy banks, herbal medicines, raw meat, toys, and more. It was comparable to an unorganized Wal-Mart.

The central business market was crowded and noisy. Vendors and store employees were verbally advertising discounts and products. Our group weaved in and out of crowds to reach destinations like The Central Bank, historic Post Office, National Theater, and Cathedral. Tommy bought an ocarina with the shape of four different animals. After touring the notable areas, we left to visit UCR.

-Tristan

Outside the National Theatre, downtown.

Outside the National Theatre, downtown.

Shaky start and San Jose Excursions

Visiting the National Biodiversity Institute to learn about Holdridge life zones and ecological processes.

Visiting the National Biodiversity Institute to learn about Holdridge life zones and ecological processes.

May 27:

Overnight a few of us woke to our beds shaking. It lasted about 10secs, just enough to be a little disconcerting. At breakfast we found out that there had been an earthquake near the Panama-Costa Rica border (5.6 Richter scale- the epicenter close and shallow enough to shake us in San Jose.) No harm done here but a welcome to an active seismic zone!

Today we visited the InBIO Parque to learn about biodiversity. The range of life zones, habitats, and climate combine to explain how a small country can hold almost 5% of the Earth’s biodiversity- the impetus behind Costa Rica’s renowned environmental initiatives. We saw our first wildlife (green iguanas, hummingbirds, and a sloth) and some amazing plant ecology- strangler fig, bromeliads, heliconias, and edible to poisonous fruits and flowers. The butterflies were astounding.

Later we also visited the University of Costa Rica’s ProDUS- the research program for urban sustainability- and Dr. Rosendo Pujol, learning about complex environmental problems and planning challenges that nonetheless persist. UCR ProDUSPolitical boundaries and watersheds seldom align, although it was interesting to hear the CR-Panamanian border does. Demographic changes and development’s environmental impacts must be balanced against the natural resources and nature protection.