“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

TravelHaven Journal – Costa Rica Adventure 2

The Road to Tortuguero

Before we leave the hotel at 6:30 a.m. to start our road trip to Tortuguero, the early risers get a quick breakfast—a plate of papaya, pineapple, and melon along with eggs, a triangle of what might be pressed ham, and a small wedge of cheese. The fruit was great, as was the fresh blackberry juice.

On our trek to Tortuguero we see two active volcanoes—Irazu and Turrialba. There are five active volcanoes in Costa Rica; Irazu is the highest and Turrialba is the second highest. Arenal, which we will see later in our trip, is the most active. These two do not have lava flows—just gases coming out. The volcanoes are all in the central and northwest part of Costa Rica.

We also pass through the only tunnel in Costa Rica. And we cross the Continental Divide, where all the water on the east flows to the Atlantic Ocean and all the water on the west flows to the Pacific Ocean.

We stop for a real breakfast about halfway to Tortuguero and get scrambled eggs, rice and black beans, yucca, and sausages (a lot like our hot dogs) in tomato sauce (like the sauce in Campbell’s Baked Beans). Although for us, it was a very non-traditional breakfast, Eddie assured us that this was a typical breakfast for Costa Rican residents. He also told us that by the time we left Costa Rica, we’d never want to see rice and beans again since they will accompany every Casados meal! But the food was really good!

Then the van takes us through banana plantations. The bunches of bananas still on the trees had blue plastic bags around them and the bags had holes in them. Eddie explained that this keeps the insects off and also creates a micro-climate effect so the bananas ripen quicker. Each banana plant is fruitful for 7 or 8 years, producing several crops a year—all year long. When they stop being productive, they are dug out and the soil is tilled and new plants are planted. All of the work is done by hand! So the banana plantations in the central part of Costa Rica employ about 90,000 people directly in the fields. With secondary jobs, like processing, the work force grows to over 250,000 people.

Bananas are the second largest industry in Costa Rica, second only to tourism. Chiquita bananas come from Costa Rica and Chiquita furnishes homes for the workers, as well as schools, soccer fields, etc. Families live in very small single-family houses and single workers live together in one house—usually 8 to 10 people to a house.

After the banana plantations, we come to the town of Sequilles—and the road turned to rocks! Until this point, the roads had been really good, but that came to a rude end. It was the bumpiest road I have ever been on and we travel it all the way to Caña Blanca—about 45 minutes or an hour. Eddie said it was much worse in the rainy season (September to December). I can’t imagine riding on it then!

At Caña Blanca we board a boat to Tortuguero, which is reachable only by boat or small plane. The boat ride (about an hour and a half) was wonderful! It was like what I imagine a trip down the Amazon would be—like the Disney Jungle Cruise, without the animatronics. With plenty of real animals and birds to see we didn’t need any stinking animatronics. It was very beautiful and very serene, especially after the bumpy road.