From Puerto Veijo to the Panama border culture, wildlife and water abound but racism still bubbles in the core.
24.01.2009 - 26.01.2009 25 °C
Concerned that we would be snorkeling and that I would have to leave my camera on the beach, we decided to leave our precious belongings in the hotel safe. Well we saw some great stuff, so we will go back tomorrow.
(updated April 5, 2009) - There are 2 reasonable ways to see this stretch of coast and we did them both. The first day bicycles were the preferred form of transport and to get an upclose view of the trails, toucans and monkeys this would be the way to go. At any time you can deviate from the road and go for a splash in the ocean, or just sit quietly to observe the sloths and monkeys overhead. Birds are in great abundance and a few restaurants and mini marts are there for cold beer and local nosh.
The other method to get to Manzanillo is by bus. This takes about 45 minutes and costs about $2 each way but if you are planning an excursion to the Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre Gandoca-Manzanillo (picture #1) 10K+ down the beach, you will need the full 6 hours between bus times.
Stark differences in facilities and services on the Caribbean coast open your eyes to the still prevalent racial divisions in Costa Rica. Time and the efforts of many brave people have enlightened the privileged powerful white governing classes to the inequities that have caused so much social unrest since the 15th century but there still exists a gulf of ignorance on what it is for your skin to be anything other than white. (picture #4)
Poverty and limited opportunity pave the way to humble appeals for your travelling dollars, whether it be for accomodation in a home, a meal in the family kitchen or writing supplies for the local school.
Standing with about 12 others for the afternoon return bus to Puerto Veijo, it was casually suggested by a black man sitting on a concrete bench nearby, that we move up the road about 20 meters as the bus would not stop where we had all gathered. I turned and thanked him, acknowledging my appreciation for his help and then realized I was the only one actually taking his advice. I stopped, waited and with that, another traveller not of colour, repeated the suggestion that the bus stop was further up the road. The group moved in step to his suggestion and the black man just looked at me and shook his head. (picture #6)
We have the opportunity to bridge racial intolerance, dig deep to make changes.
from the beach in front of Maxi's restaurant you could walk for about 12 kms to eventually reach the town of Puerto Veijo Talamanca which is the hub of the bar and shopping activity for the region south of Limon.
The dusty sand beach is without a soul in places and except for a few well appointed resorts and surfing beaches you could pound a lot of sand before seeing other tracks. The swimming can be dangerous along this stretch because of the rip currents but staying close to shore willl keep you out of trouble. The sun rises and sets parallel to the beach keeping you in the shade of the palms for the whole day. You may wish to venture out just long enough to suck in a few rays. (updated April 5, 2009)
from the beach in front of Maxi's restaurant you could follow the beach another 10kms or so to the Panamanian border and in the process you will find several interesting reserves and eco initiatives. (updated April 5, 2009)
The most usefull option on my new Fuji camera is the panorama feature. You are able to take 3 images in a horizontal sequence and the processor in the camera is able to balance the exposure and give you a composite image over 5000 pixels wide.
Example - This stretch of highway which runs about 15 kms from Puerto Veijo to the Panamanian border is the most relaxed and welcoming of anywhere in this country. We rented bikes for 2 days and covered all the remote beaches and neat retaurants. There is a strange mix of Spanish and Caribbean culture that coexists and provides a harmony of cultural not found elsewhere.
The beach is easily reached by auto, bike, scooter or just hiking from the intermittently paved main road and has many access points. Care should be taken not to leave valued possessions on the beach or in your vehicle while you are engaging with the ocean, although we never given the impression that our stuff was under surveillance.
There were a number incidents we had heard about in other parts of the country which would give me second thoughts about vehicle rentals. There is no escaping the fact that travel in a small 4X4 import is the most comfortable and flexible form of travel.
Two similar incidents of "theft of convenience" occured and were related to me by the actual victims. Montezuma on the Pacific saw 3 of our fellow travellers relieved of all of their gear and documents which had been left locked in the trunk of their rental car in a very populated beach area. The theives, having taken everything, left the car locked. The second occured outside of Liberia on a family of 4 just having arrived from Canada. They were robbed of absolutely everything they had brought with them, again from a locked car. Be on guard in those popular tourist spots or stick to the grounds less explored.
On our first day in Puerto Veijo we scanned the farmers market for the ripe fruits we had to wait for days to ripen when at home. Not disappointed we were able to get pineapples, papaya, banana and organic coffee as well as huge array of vegetables. The market is open 2 days a week and has a lot of serious growers and purchasers.
Drowning sorrows on an afternoon of torrential rains. A litre of Pilsen goes for about 2 bucks here so it doesn't cost a days pay to drown.
We are in the tropics! advised the bike rental coordinator. We narrowly missed a total drenching as we pedalled furiously back to the cabin after a brief return to the beach at Cocles to video the surfers.
A most natural breakfast this morning presented Carolyn with a tub of fruit and granola and I with a typical eggs and jonnycake. The food here is the best we have had in Costa Rica, in part because of the Jamaican influence and a fusion of world cultures.
Peurto Viejo is peopled with many nationalities from the Americas, the Caribbean and Europe. A variety of languages can be heard with English being the default tongue of necessity and Spanish the peferred tongue of choice.
The owner of the Caribbean coffee stand near the bus station mentioned that although the reputation prevails of danger lurking around every corner there is little reason to discourage the idea as it works well in keeping the area from being overrun with tourists.
We have felt very safe here and apart from tall men in Rasta hats inquiring as to my stash of ganja we have felt no imminent concern for our safety or property.
Not appearing to have much goes a long way to not losing too much.
Going out on a limb in South Eastern Costa Rica.