We traveled last weekend. The bus ride to San Jose was cramped with bodies and luggage, but we all still managed to nap. The trip took a little less than three hours. Less than three hours of the verdant countryside- of the traffic and the turns and the stop and go. We arrived and promptly began our tour.
San Jose is quite different from Sarapiquí. It's arteries are thick with vehicles and it coughs with the exhaust. It smells strange. The entire city is a giant mural. Walls are decorated with faces and colors and words. The paint is a little chipped, a little graffitied.
It's a different kind of forest. Bright buildings litter the sidewalks. People litter the streets. The earth works tirelessly to reclaim the land. Green creeps away from its designated patches and crawls up brick walls. It breaks the sidewalks and tries to hide the buildings behind outcroppings of tall grass.
Our group walked the city for hours. We were the only ones looking at the city; the natives strolled past the statues we gawked at, apathetic towards their existence. We crowded together, listening to our guide recount the history of every structure, park, and displaced rock. I can't recount the facts he spewed, but I wouldn't mind listening to them again. I'd like to go back.
We spent the night in a family hotel where they strive to be as sustainable as possible. The owner was friendly and welcoming. The food was good.
Another long bus ride took us to the Pacific edge of the country. The sun beat down on us, more severe here than it ever has been in the States. The heat is manageable, but the light is so direct that sunburns are hard to avoid. Collectively we waited for a boat to take us out onto the river where we would see crocodiles.
The wait seemed to take forever, but we eventually stepped aboard. Life is even richer and more vibrant around the river. Something almost always flutters just out of view, perches quietly on a brach, slithers through the water.
The ride was surprisingly refreshing. We crept close enough to the giant reptiles that a mere foot separated their flesh from my fingers (or rather my fingers from their mouths). These massive reptiles (which can live upwards of 80 years, grow larger than 20 feet, and have existed for millennia) make me feel young, small, and meek. It's a strange feeling. I have seen alligators before, but age always shines a new light on life's experiences.
Our tour of the Pacific Coast continued to the national park of Manuel Antonio. The park itself contains a few sandy shores and a few hiking trails. We toured one trail- an intensive hike which included many stairs and much sweat on my part- and managed to witness the ocean from a small peak. I was again reminded of how small I am- how small we all are.
This entire country makes me feel small. I can stand at the base of a tree, extend my fingers to the sky, and still be meters from the lowest branch. Even from miles away the mountains tower over me.
Stepping into the forest is like letting go of society, of time, and of your 'otherness' as a human. Danger lingers at your heels as you walk. The life there demands respect; it mocks the elegance of our cities with the intricacy of its vines and leaves. It brings into perspective my mortality, my frailty.
I fall more in love with the heat and the discomfort of Costa Rica every moment. The more you suffer here, the more beautiful the place becomes. The harder you struggle to be 'apart' from nature, the more she pesters you with her existence. I am bitten from head to toe, and I'm still scratching. I am sticky with sweat, but I'm adapting- and that's the whole point.