San José to Puerto Limón
Nina Simone had it right when she sang:
‘It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me.
Yeah, it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me.
And I’m feelin’ good.’
A good night’s sleep and we were both out of bed and sorted long before the driver was due to pick us up but that was okay as we had time for a walk outside where we saw a huge spider sitting in its golden web. Unfortunately you can’t see the web very well in the photograph, I got as close as I could but it was quite high up.
Now not so many years ago I would have beat a hasty retreat at first glimpse of the spider but living in Australia put paid to that behaviour. There are only so many steps you can take to escape a spider before you bump into another one and then another and you end up looking like a robot hoover bouncing of objects.
So now I am braver, I can’t say I like them but some of them are very beautiful. It wasn’t until much later that we identified it as a Golden Silk Orb Weaver.
When we were in Australia we were lucky to see huge golden webs spun by the Golden Orb Spider, I have been known to contort my body into unusual shapes in my pursuit of the best angle to get the sun shining on their golden web.
A phone call informed us that our driver would be about an hour later than expected so we went into the restaurant for a leisurely breakfast. Our drivers were a father and son team, one drove to San Jose and the other did the return journey back to the project as they were making the journey twice on that day. Dad was a very knowledgeable man and over the next two hours he told me about the history of Costa Rica, farming, education, the army and many other subjects too numerous to remember them all.
Ask me a question about Costa Rica? Any question and I’ll know the answer. At least that what it feels like.
We drove up into Braulio Carrillo National Park and the highway carved through the mountain; on one side there is a sheer towering mountainside carpeted with thick, green, intertwining vegetation, and on the other side at some points it falls away in a steep drop. If the weather had been clear I could have seen the rainforest but the mountains were covered in low cloud, mist and fog with the added bonus of some rain. Despite that, what I could see was amazing.
I’ve been doing a bit of research on Highway 32 the road from San Jose to the Caribbean Coast, it has a couple of nicknames ‘The Highway to Heaven’ and the ‘Highway of Death’ because of its accident and fatality record.
The road is often wet and slippery because of the weather conditions and visibility can be reduced in seconds when fast descending mists coat the mountainside. In the rainy season the road is prone to suffer landslides and the road can be closed for periods as the debris is removed.
Despite all of this it is probably the most well maintained roads in Costa Rica and the government do close it if there is a perceived danger. They do get caught out sometimes, I found a newspaper report from September this year stating:
The decision to close Route 32 follows a dramatic emergency on the highway that began last Thursday and continued over the weekend. For eight hours, at least 40 landslides on the highway trapped thousands of motorists. Miraculously, no one was seriously injured. Officials closed the highway for two days while crews removed debris and engineers evaluated further threats.
As we left the park the road flattened out and small towns and plantations began to appear, our driver’s father had finally run out of things to say and I was able to concentrate on what I could see. Every now and again we would pass plantations, the best ones as far as I was concerned were those that grew bananas not because of the fruit but because of the blue plastic wrapping. Each bunch of unripe bananas is covered in a perforated blue plastic cover to protect them from birds, squirrels and protects the skin from damage as the bananas ripen.
Now to my mind – which has been known to go off on flights of fancy (see my previous blog from Vietnam), this strange blue fruits looked like the farmers were cultivating plastic bags. Now this isn’t as silly as it sounds, having just left the UK where all plastic bags have a charge of 5 pence attached to them growing them as a crop would be profitable. Each bag on the tree looks bulky and bulgy and I can imagine the farmer cutting the bags and freeing the crop ready to make a nice profit.
Luckily for all of us despite two hold ups for road works which added another hour to our journey we finally arrived at our destination. Finally the end of the road, but no we weren’t going to be that lucky. The permissions had come through for the quarries on the other side of the country to be used.
For ML and I that meant we had to return to San Jose and then the following day drive another 3 hours north to Gauanacaste. Our time on the Caribbean coast was going to be about 36 hours so I guess we had better make the most of it, ML was going to show me the highlights and finally I would get to meet Colin.
To be continued.