Saturday, September 24, 2005

Caribbean Life

For the past five days I´ve been experiencing the heat and humidity of the Caribbean coast. On Tuesday morning I left San José for Tortuguero, a long trip which involved two bus rides through the thick tropical forests, and a ride in a small boat from which we saw lots of birds, iguanas and CROCODILES! Big ones with scary looking jaws! We even saw a crocodile stalking a group of flamingoes, but our boat´s motor scared him off before we got to witness a National Geographic-style crocodile attack. Tortuguero is a tiny town of about 1000 people, with no cars and only one main street, on a little strip of land between the jungle canals and the coast. I took a canoe ride in the canals and got a closeup view of three different kinds of monkeys and other tropical animals. But the main point of Tortuguero is the turtles (tortugas, hence the name). At night, I took a tour with a nature guide to watch a female green turtle laying eggs. We waited and waited for the signal from the Park Ranger, and then were able to approach the turtle, who was about three feet long, and watch her laying egg after egg into a hole she had dug in the ground. It was an amazing sight to see.

After Tortuguero I spent two nights in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, at the far Eastern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. It´s gringo heaven there, with lots of Americans and Europeans who stayed and set up shops or restaurants, and live the relaxed Caribbean life alongside the locals. And there, finally I got to a beach, and went swimming and snorkeling in the warm waters of the Sea. Today I crossed into Panama to the Bocas del Toro islands, another gringo magnet, and expect to spend another couple of days in the water, trying to escape from the oppressive heat and humidity!

The interesting thing about the Caribbean coast of these countries is that a lot of the residents are English-speakers who came from the West Indies. It´s hard to get over the idea that people are speaking English to me because it´s their first language, not because they think I don´t speak Spanish. Life is very tranquilo here, and reggae is the music of choice. Viva Bob Marley, mon!