Walking out of the airport in San José, you suddenly realise you are in the tropics as the warm, humid air hits you. Things don’t sink in sometimes until we are in the moment, living it. That smell of hot wet tarmac took me back a decade and brought a tear to my eye – reminiscent of the smells and feelings of living in the Dominican Republic when I was fifteen.
Throughout the past two weeks I have travelled a somewhat comprehensive journey around Costa Rica, beginning in the capital San José. I made my way to the Caribbean side to Tortuguero, then Puerto Viejo, and Pacuare. I flew to Quepos to stay by Manuel Antonio, then to Perez Zeledon, then the Golfo Dulce, Atenas, Bajos del Toro, Boca Tapada and finally, Sarapiqui.
Staying in one place for too long gives us blinkers, limits us. The thing that travel does is remove you from your safe place, and you grow. Even in the ‘ordinary’ in Costa Rica is a delight: driving along a road lined with thick forest, far, far away from “home”; rafting down a tropical river to the place you’ll lay your head that night; trusting someone, and the ropes they have latched you on to, to take you soaring through the forest canopy safely. And then there are the ‘big’ moments, amazing moments, which peppered my trip to Costa Rica. There were so many special experiences that I had to scribble them down.
During a night walk at Playa Cativo our guide lead me away from the lodge into the dark gardens. He told me to stop, turn off the torch. It was pitch black. Wait….look up. I slowly tilted my head back, my face to the silky black sky, covered by a thick haze of stars. Incredible.
There was the morning a hummingbird landed on my finger. A beautiful green-crowned brilliant with feathers like emeralds, its minuscule claws gripping my index finger as it leaned in to feed.
My favourite was on the half hour crossing the Golfo Dulce from Puerto Jimenez to Playa Cativo. I asked out to the world on during that short crossing, to please, please let me see a dolphin. My prayers were answered not with one but lots of them – both bottlenose and spotted dolphins – circling the boat, darting out and under us. I leapt up, leaning as far over the side of our small wooden boat as possible and then sprawling myself over the prow to watch these magnificent creatures playing. I still get choked up when I think about it.
It is these ‘moments’ which change and move us in some small way, easily accessible memories which we sustain and nourish us. To travel is to live indeed.