Costa Rica, San Jose area

 ... a preserved heritage

by Russ Priestley

Two Golden-age Swingers survive the Canopy Trail in the rain forest jungle of Costa Rica. Left, Russ Priestley, SilverStringer editor; right, companion Barbara Bennett.

It started with Christopher Columbus who was on his fourth and final voyage in 1502. All of you will recall Chris because he was the weird one who thought he could get to the spice-rich East Indies by sailing west across the Atlantic. He, along with Ferdinand Magellan, convinced doubters that the world was actually round.

His first voyage of 1492 consisted of three ships, but his second voyage carried many potential colonists in 17 ships. It was on the fourth voyage when he went beyond the Caribbean islands to meander down the Central American coast and anchored at the present-day port of Limon. Five major tribal groups were encountered, but Columbus bartered trinkets for gold disks which the Caribs wore as pendants. So impressed was Columbus with this rich, verdant area, he named it Costa Rica, or rich coast. Two years later Columbus died, in poverty and virtually forgotten.  

When seeking an ideal place to visit, consider this small republic in South Central America, located just north of Panama. It is accessible by airline or cruise ship but I recommend you go by air and have a guided tour from the capital of San Jose to the west coast. I have just returned from the latter choice on a tour arranged by Grand Circle Tours of Boston. My description of this very enjoyable trip follows.

But first, as they say on TV/radio news before a commercial, a little background. Costa Rica is smaller in area than West Virginia. With rainforests disappearing at a rate of 100 acres per minute, they have shrunk to 2%. Costa Rica, Panama and Mexico have a mere 200 square meters under protection. Nearly a million of the known species on earth live in tropical rainforests. Many types of our medicines, ranging from anesthetics to antibiotics and cures for heart disease, malaria and various other illnesses, come from the forest trees, shrubs and flowers. Pharmaceutical companies are funding Costa Rica INBio's efforts to protect the rainforests.

Our tour group flew to Miami, with others flying to Dallas. We were then flown to San Jose, Costa Rica. Here in this capital city, we were met by tour greeters and bused to our hotel. This would be our home for three nights. On Day 2 there was a morning briefing followed by a bus tour of San Jose, including the National Theatre and the National Museum. The afternoon was on our own and a welcoming dinner was held in the evening. With a previously provided list of names and home towns, plus name tags, we were able to get acquainted with our fellow travelers, numbering 32. Here I must break to reveal a very moving personal experience.

The free afternoon allowed time for me to call an old friend living in Cartago, about 14 miles away. We had not seen each other for 34 years but had kept in touch with Christmas cards. He was an exchange student from Costa Rica attending college in the U.S. and our family had him as a house guest during his spring break. He did not feel alone then because our six sons were living at home at the time. I took him to a Boston Celtics game and he follows them now on TV.

It is interesting to note that in their culture your last name is that of your mother, preceded by your father's last name, his first name is Luis. He was overjoyed to hear from me, but then I did alert him by a previous e-mail. Luis with daughter Maria drove to our hotel to meet me and my traveling companion, Barbara. He drove us to his home in Cartago where we met his wife Vicky and another daughter, Alejandra. Both daughters spoke perfect English. Luis is a very successful lawyer with an office in San Jose.

Our tours on Day 3 were to a sleeping volcano and the craft center of Sarchi. Here even the trash cans and bus stops are painted into works of art. We were able to watch artists working in various crafts, but my thought was I wished I had owned a paint store in this area. Vivid colors are everywhere.

In the photo above, most of our attractive and efficient Program Director Olga Nardone is shown. Other photos of her by me were ruined by my photo finishing service.

We had the evening free which means buy your own dinner. Our friend Luis invited us to dine at a fine steak house for a most enjoyable reunion dinner.

Please return for the next chapter which will be on this site on June 6.

May 2, 2003             

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