I am sitting in my hostel room in San Jose, Costa Ricas capital, eating cookies and drinking coffee that I just bought from a small supermarket around the corner. I landed in San Pedro, very close to the Costa Rican University, full of students of all kinds and colors, which means I unintentionally found the perfect disguise as a white girl in this city. I receive hardly any attention here. I would recommend this trick to anyone that is looking to stay in a foreign capital who prefers not to be subject to curious looks and strange questions from locals.
This afternoon, I sat in a Subway in the outdoor seating area and watched the surreality of the central american realities. Local buses named “Lion of Judas” driving to bus stops named “Outlet” or “San Pedro Mall”. Loud motors are detonating along the roads, black smoke coming out of the exhaust, a conglomerat of honks and sirenes complete the rush hour symphony. Missing traffic lights for pedestrians who run sideways over three-laned roads (or walk, thus earning themselves a bunch of honks from the driver in hurry). Everybody owns a car, but nobody dares to leave it on the street at night. Every house and window in San Jose is strongly fenced and secured with metal locks, however sweet and painted in pink they often are.
Uvita, the place I lived for these 3 months is hard to describe, but it is representative for all places in that area, maybe even in all coastal Costa Rica, that are not as developed as San Jose. First of all, imagine a constant humidity of around 80 to 90 percent with 26 (night) to 32 (day) degrees celsius. Imagine a strong, strong sun that burns every living being that doesnt search shade quickly. (Every other day we had people return to the hostel from the beach looking lobster red) Imagine a lush, green rainforest reaching straight down to the beach, that looks a bit like in the tv show LOST. Imagine that the only street along the coast has been paved completely just within the last 20 years. Imagine that the only way to move around was and often still is by a 4×4 SUV. Imagine steep jungle roads up the mountains, washed into stoney car-destroying paths. The development of the area was made almost exclusively by Americans of Europeans. Before there were only a few fishing towns.
Video: Jungle Road
And this is how the result looks like today. All kinds of contructions stomped out of the earth somehow in the middle of a rainforest at the beach. Sweat dripping down from anyone who dares to move around in this climate. Big cars, strong motors. American folk songs and Kombucha. Bars and Cafes run by travelers in american spirit, tea for 3 Dollars and a Passionfruit tarte to die for. Beautiful clothes from Thailand and Tinamaste are sold along the beach.
Most export money is made by palm tree plantations (Palm Oil). Kilometers of plantations share the space with the wild jungle. At the same time, Coconut Milk is imported from Thailand and the Dominican Republic. For expensive prices, of course, as importing into Costa Rica is due to low demand and low development very expensive. For those who need to work, minimum wage is 3 Dollars per hour. A typical meal, consisting mainly of rice, beans and bananas, costs 6.
In Uvita, for example, a couple dozen Gringos (white folk, immigrants from the US) rented a warehouse, and every few months order a container with a huge amount of construction material they need for building their houses, and by uniting their orders, saving a lot of money on shipping costs. Uvita and the adjacent places like Ojochal, Dominical and so on are full of rich immigrants from, lets say, first world countries. They even opened their own private schools and pre-schools for their children.
It goes without saying, most money enters the country through tourism. Middle and upper class tourists from western countries go see Tucans, Sloths and Whales, and dont mind paying the high costs for doing all of that. And of course, Surf is big. Waves are strong. As a contrast, on the Pacific Coast it is still very normal to just camp at the beach, which is allowed even in the national park and doesnt cost a dime. People build basic huts to live in all around the land that is still virgin and free.
Beers are sold for up to 6 dollars per bottle, for example for local craft beer. 2 weeks ago, the famous Reggae band “the Skatalites” from Jamaica were playing in Dominical, for a cover of 24 Dollars, and I am doubting that more than a hundred people would even fit into one of the few bars they have. A night in a cabin with aircondition costs between 70 and 200 Dollars. A cheap hostel bed you can get for 12 (I tried it once, at it was fun) but to be honest, with the incredible heat when sleeping at the beach, and with the aggressive sandflies, you can only do that for a counted number of days.
Living in Cascada Verde Hostel, namely in the Volunteer House, means being straight in the jungle. Open construction, windows facing the deep green. It means being woken up by Howler monkeys at 5 in the morning. It means seeing a venomous snake in the shower and scorpions on the stove. It means ants. Many ants, crawling, flying, biting ones, big and small ones, red and black. It means geckos laughing and spidernets. It means mold. It means moldy mattresses, pillows, shoes, suitcases. It means showering outdoors under banana trees. It means eating bananas and pineapples from the garden. It means drinking river water. It means peaceful nights, it means seeing moon and stars on the way to the bathroom. It means great coffee, annoying teenager colleagues, cleaning up after others and having a beer on good friendships. It means drinking Mango Smoothies and Coconut water. It means falling asleep with the sound of rain and frogs. It means an experience I can not be grateful enough for.
Video: Outdoor Shower
Here are a few nice pictures and videos from Uvita and Dominical, the neighbor town where the river Baru flows into the Pacific, and I must say, I did learn to appreciate this place, with its merciless hot climate and its raw, unimaginably powerful natural beauty.
Video: Dominical Beach
It was quite an experience to again immerse myself again in a place that is so different than where I grew up. I got a tan, which was one of my intentions to come here, also to be in nature, lie in hammocks and swim in rivers. All that I got and much more, so I am happily leaving – Uvita & the Cascada Verde family, thanks for having me! Mexico, here I come. <3