Puerto Viejo is a tiny beach town with a big Afro-Caribbean culture. Come visit the streets, waters, and the tropical rainforest with me! But don’t forget your helmet, because we are going for a ride!
Weather Tally (enter the # of days for each weather type):
Partly cloudy: 2
What is the air temperature right now? 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
How was the weather this week? The wind has died down and rainy season is on its way! We are getting rain about half of the afternoons now, but in the mornings it has been sunny and sticky hot.
What animals did we see this week? I saw a lot of animals this week, but I still don’t know what a few of them are called! I saw geckos, frogs, sloths, leaf-cutter ants, lizards, crabs and bats! These geckos are little, but they make a loud chirp.
What was the coolest thing we saw in nature this week? I have to say the bright green tree lizards were pretty amazing. I wish I knew what they were called! Can you help me?
This Week’s Nature News: Last weekend, my friend Meghan and I took the bus to Puerto Viejo, a small town on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. There we got to go on a nature walk in the forest, ride a “zipline,” and take a canoe ride around a stream! Costa Rica’s tropical rainforests are bursting with so many different kinds of plant and animal life. One quarter of Costa Rica’s land is made up of national parks and wildlife reserves, which helps to protect Costa Rica’s species. It turned out that Meghan and our guide are both studying plants in college, so she asked him about 1,000 questions, while I tromped around behind them and took pictures. The sounds or crickets and birds echoed off the tall trees that surrounded us. Our guide helped by pointing out animals that we would never have seen! Many of the frogs in Costa Rica’s rainforests blend in with their surroundings very well, so that predators won’t spot them and eat them for lunch. I wanted to tell you what kind of a frog we saw, but while I was riding the zipline, I dropped the paper I was taking notes on! Sometimes this happens to explorers. Maybe you can do some investigating and help me to find the names of some of the plants and animals in these pictures!
What languages are spoken here? In Puerto Viejo, Caribbean English is spoken just as much as Spanish. Jamaican settlers brought Caribbean English to Puerto Viejo in the mid 1800’s.
How much does a bottle of water cost? A bottle of water costs 500 colones, which is about a dollar.
What was the best meal this week? The best meal this week was a whole fish, cooked over the grill on the beach at a little restaurant! It tasted smoky and delicious, and it was served with coconut beans and rice, and salad.
What music did we listen to this week? Lots of reggae drifts out of the restaurants and bars as you walk down the streets.
What activity was the most fun this week? Ziplining through the rainforest canopies was by far the most fun thing we did this week! Meghan and I got strapped into harnesses and got to zoom along the canopy (or top layer of trees in the rainforest) on long wires. We were up really high, and we went so fast that we had to wear helmets to protect our heads! Our guides were funny and fun to hang out with. One of them showed me how to flip upside down and ride that way.
What did I read this week? This week I read a book called Anam Cara, A book of Celtic Wisdom by John O’Donnohue. I am Irish American, and some of my ancient ancestors were Celts. It’s been cool learning lessons about the Celts from this book.
What games or sports did I play? I played pool a few times while I ate lunch this week. Pool is one of my favorite games. Have you ever played?
This Week’s News: Meghan and I were so excited to come to Puerto Viejo that as soon as we got off the bus and had dropped our bags at the hostel, we headed straight to the beach. When I was walking down the little dusty streets, I could really tell I wasn’t in Heredia anymore! People were dressed more casually, in shorts and T-shirts. Grown-ups rode bikes around, sometimes with one or even two kids balanced on the bar in front of them. Along with the salty, fishy smell of the ocean, the delicious aromas of food served in the tourist restaurants and local sodas (diners) were different than the smells of Heredia. That is because the history of Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast is very different than the rest of the country.
To give get a quick idea, look at a map of Costa Rica that shows its seven provinces. A province is like a state. Puerto Viejo is part of the province of Limon, which covers the whole east side of Costa Rica, and borders the Caribbean Sea. Now can you find the capital, San Jose? Up until about 30 years ago, Limon didn’t have electricity, and there was no road connecting Limon to San Jose. That meant that it was really hard to get there. The province didn’t have a lot of outside visitors, and the people who lived there had a very different culture than the rest of Costa Rica. Most people who lived in and nearby Puerto Viejo were either indigenous Bribri and Cabecar people or Afro-Caribbean folks, whose families are from the Caribbean islands, mostly Jamaica. They lived off the land as farmers and fishers. 40 years ago in San Jose there were electricity, modern buildings, television, telephones and cars. 40 years ago in Puerto Viejo, you would not have seen any of these things. You would have seen more fishing canoes, farms, and houses with roofs made of palm leaves. You might have heard African music, and seen a British game, cricket, being played outside.
Since the road connected Limon’s coast to the rest of the country, more modern technology and tourists have come to Puerto Viejo. Now there is Internet, cars and plenty of little hotels. But we could still taste and feel the unique history of the region. We ate coconut beans and rice, as well as jerk chicken, both traditional Caribbean dishes. And we walked down the street next to Rastafarians with long dreadlocks. One owner of a restaurant chatted with me in Caribbean English about plants used for medicine, which she had learned about from her mother. Meghan and I had a blast on the beach, and riding the bikes we rented around town. We felt really lucky to be there.