Costa Rica, Parte Final: Campanario Is Not For Everyone!

You know an ecolodge is pretty hard-core when they tell you that right on their website. Then again, Campanario is not exactly an ecolodge. It’s a “biological station,” catering especially to student groups (middle school through grad school), but they will also take tourists ready for “off-the-grid Rain Forest adventure.” Like this:

Don’t worry–Son One checked it out with his flashlight first.

Since Son One worked as an intern here and brought us to visit six years ago, we knew Campanario would be the centerpiece of our tour once more. We found nothing changed, from the stunningly scenic beach…

Arrival = the boat backs in, and you splash ashore!

…the electricity-free cabins…

No going barefoot in the jungle!
Also, don’t forget your flashlight when you go back down to the main lodge for dinner!

You reach Campanario via an hour-plus boat ride out of the mangrove-filled mouth of the Sierpe River and along the base of the Osa Peninsula. A handful of other establishments connect via a public coastal trail, but essentially Campanario exists in a little bubble of wildness, adjacent to Costa Rica’s largest National Park, Corcovado. The spider monkeys were there to greet us on our arrival…

I really do need a zoom lens. 😦

…a male curassow paraded for his mate behind our cabin…

(about the size of a small turkey)

…and a coati helped itself to palm fruit nearby. (Coatis are kind of the Costa Rican raccoon–except they have raccoons too, lucky them.)

Hey cutie.

Campanario has its own trail system–the place where, in 2015, we saw that tapir featured in my last post. They’re pretty rugged…

So many reasons to watch your step!

…and rubber, snakebite-proof boots are so strongly recommended that they have dozens of pairs to loan to guests.

Hot, but worth it.

It was wonderful to see Son One in his happiest of Happy Places.

After taking this photo, I stuck my head in that waterfall. Ahhhh…

Hiking into Corcovado N.P., visitors are required to have an official guide. Son One doesn’t have that credential (yet), so Campanario provided one of his old friends, former station manager Freiner, to guide us.

Freiner is the BEST.

Not only did Freiner lug a hefty scope on his shoulder during our multi-hour hike, he also let us take pictures through it. (He’s especially fond of trogons, he told me.)

Trogon, courtesy Freiner & his scope.

It was still Son One’s idea to go inside that tree root, though.

totally…safe…

I should pause a moment here, though, to make sure I’m not giving the wrong impression of Campanario. Yes, there’s electricity only in the kitchen of the main lodge. Wifi, are you kidding?! There is plumbing, but showers are…let’s just say refreshing. Dinner is eaten by candlelight. But the food! Campanario also boasts the best meals of any we ate in Costa Rica. “Just” basic Tico dinners, lunches and breakfasts like:

Todos los días: huevos, gallo pinto, plátanos fritos, tortilla, queso fresco, frutas…

Even for our day hike, Flor (Freiner’s wife) packed us gallo pinto (rice & beans) along with our sandwiches!

I’m a new convert to rice & beans as trail lunch. (Note Freiner’s scope in the background. That thing was heavy!)

At one point in our long Corcovado hike, The Mate and our traveling buddy opted to head back, so Son One guided them, leaving me to realize my goal of chatting in Spanish with Freiner for the rest of the route back.

Cocodrillo gigante
cascada refrescante

I did notice, however, that my verb conjugation went all to hell as the heat & mileage caught up to me. Still, what a huge difference from six years ago, when I could only manage basic niceties! This time I got some of Freiner’s life story. Of course his English was better than my Spanish, but I’m not sure he would have opened up as much in English. Speaking the local tongue makes a statement of comradeship, I think.

Speaking of comradeship, we were especially lucky on this visit to have Campanario to ourselves! No big group of college kids as we’d hung out with last time–just us four, Freiner & his wife & cute little daughter, three other young local staff members, and Nancy, La Directora. Nancy treated us to a special sugar-cane pressing. We “had” to do the work…

crude but effective press

…but our reward was delicious cane juice, mixed with Cacique and served in special bowls with a starfruit garnish .

starfruit from the tree by our cabins

What a special, family feel that afternoon had!

Lodge in the background. Foreground: all the rest of us revelers. (The young lads kept trying to sneak more Cacique.)

When it came time to leave…I didn’t want to. Three days of flashlights at night, rubber boots, warnings about prowling pumas and fer-de-lances on the trails, cold showers, no wifi…and it really felt like Paradise. Son One’s deep affection for the place seeped into me, big-time.

Waiting for the boat to take us back to civilization. Do we hafta?

One more thrilling boat ride, back to Sierpe, and from there our journey just kept going, as Son One drove us all the way back to San Jose for our required COVID test, our scramble to re-book a cancelled flight, our red-eye to JFK and even longer flight back to Seattle…all those delights of modern travel that I refuse to complain about because it was such a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful gift of a trip.

And now I have a new happy place too.

If most of this description leaves you thinking “No thanks!”, I don’t blame you one bit. But if Campanario excites you–as an individual or an educator–I encourage you to be in touch.

Even more, if the thought of tailoring your OWN Costa Rican adventure–maybe without rubber boots?–excites you, please enjoy this shameless plug of Liana Travels!

Costa Rica, Part 1: ¡Que Sorpresa!

Would you put this in your mouth?

Alien egg? Tree gall? Exotic cocoon?

How ’bout now?

EWWWWW.

If these images gross you out, you probably wouldn’t have enjoyed the kind of Costa Rica tour The Mate and I just went on, led by Son One, as a beta-test of his budding ecotour company, Liana Travels. Some of what we did required…let’s just say…trust. But in every way, our trust was repaid. Like putting that weird glop in my mouth, which just happens to be passionfruit, and just happens to taste…

…magnificent.

Tangy, sweet, magical–ok, still a weird mix of gloppy and crunchy, but that flavor! Later, when we saw passionflower vines in bloom, I fell even more in love.

Encantada

So I decided that passionfruit was a pretty good metaphor for Liana Travels. Go ahead, take a bite. First comes the surprise, then the reward.

Some of those surprises, I have to admit, were NOT pleasant, but those had to do with travel during COVID, not with Son One’s planning. Example #1: Upon arrival at San Jose airport, we stood in the Immigration line for 2 and a quarter HOURS, because there were only four clerks processing many airplanes’ worth of travelers. (I was certain we were catching COVID every moment we stood there. We didn’t.) Example #2: While waiting for our required test results to exit the country, our flight was cancelled. But the stress of those surprises was made up for by watching Son One’s calm, competent responses.

Nuestro guia

In upcoming posts, I’ll give a more conventional travelogue. But as an intro, here are two more surprises. #1, have you heard of the famous invasive Cane Toads of Australia? Turns out they were imported from Central America! I hadn’t known that, and found the information as fascinating as the huge toads are ugly.

also nocturnal

And #2, how about this flower? Here it is closed up:

…ohhhhkay…

And here it is open. I asked Son One its name. His answer: “They call it Butthole Flower.”

Well alrighty then.

Watch this space for more on our off-the-beaten-path Costa Rican adventures. ¡Puravida!

False Friends and Other Delights of Attempted Bilinguality

In one week, The Mate and I are off to Costa Rica, unselfishly pitching in to help Son One kick off his new ecotour company, Liana Travels. 🙂 I’m excited for SO many aspects of this trip, but one of them is the chance to practice my Spanish, which I’ve been honing with a tutor for a couple of years now.

the budding tour guide, a few years ago

My tutor, Claudio, introduced me to a wonderful language term: “falsos amigos,” or “false friends.” It’s a delightful way to describe those words that SOUND like they mean the same in English, while in fact meaning something different. Sometimes embarrassingly different. Like, for example, the word “embarazada,” which does NOT mean “embarrassed.” It means “pregnant.”

There are so many such words! (Question for others wiser than I: do “falsos amigos” exist in other languages, or is it just Spanish that’s so tricksy?

Por ejemplo/For example:

  1. Discutir does NOT mean to discuss. It means to argue.
  2. Asistir does NOT mean to assist. It means to attend, as in a class or a meeting.
  3. Compromiso DOES mean compromise. But it also means commitment. Confusing much?
  4. Ropa does NOT mean rope. It means clothing.
  5. Equivocarse does NOT mean to equivocate. It means to be wrong.

Those are just a few that popped into my head. For other fun ones, I consulted Spanishobsessed.com, which gave me:

  1. Sopa is soup, not soap
  2. Jabón is soap, Jamón is ham
  3. Excitante DOES mean “excited”…but in a sexual way, like “aroused.” Whoopsie.
  4. Emocionante–that’s the “excited” you want to use. It doesn’t mean emotional.
  5. Educado means polite, not educated. (Though I’m sure there’s some connection there.)

You get the idea. Which one of these will Gretchen walk into? ….(pausa embarazada)…Vamos a ver/We’ll see!

“I want Gretchen to get here soon and make me laugh.”

Please hit me up with some of your own “false friends,” in any language! Love this stuff.