Welcome to this week’s Postcard From – the feature where I chat to some lucky explorer about their recent travels.
This week’s postcard comes from Derrick, a 27 year old Australian who graduated university and began work straight away in his field as a scientist. After several years of the same routine, generally feeling bored, and with lots of savings, Derrick put all his belongings into storage, quit his job, and began a year of travel – the gap year he never had. Derrick started a blog – Derrick’s Adventure – to let people at home know where he was, but it turned into more of a creative writing project. Within a few weeks of travelling, Derrick met his girlfriend – a French traveller named Cindy – and over the following year and a half they visited 5 continents together.
Welcome Derrick! So, you’ve been all over the world- but which destination are you sending us a postcard from?
Osa Peninsula, a tiny peninsula sprouting off the west coast of Costa Rica. We stayed in Puerto Jiminez, a small town at the gateway to Corcovado National Park. It’s basically all jungle. In short, it’s the place to see Costa Rican wildlife. Despite it’s reputation for great wildlife watching, due to its location and accessibility, it’s not very touristy.
I have to confess I’m very jealous – Costa Rica is one of my dream destinations! How was the weather?
Where did you stay?
We stayed in a place called Celvante jungle hostel, about 5km outside of town and accessible by car (or walking, if you’re feeling spirited). It’s run by two young American guys who hustled us at the bus station, and we decided to give it a try. They even do two car trips to town per day, to pick up supplies and transport guests.
The best thing about Celvante is that it’s just completely enveloped in the jungle. We saw a lot of Costa Rican animals there, and heard them during the night too. There’s a big common area with a bar, hammocks, a great view, and a nightly communal dinner organised by the owners which is a great way to meet your fellow travellers, but the really cool thing were the cabins. They were wall-less and window-less. Just a wooden frame, a roof, a bed and a mosquito net, and the smells and sounds of the jungle are right there, all around you.
So, what did you get up to on the Osa Peninsula?
We took a day trip onto the neighbour’s property, a friendly tour guide named Michael, who took a small group of us into his jungle. He pointed out a lot of cool things, things that we would never have found by ourselves. He uncovered poison dart frogs from leaf litter, explained a thing or two about the plant life, and caught a turtle when we went swimming in the river.
There are several beaches nearby and they’re stunning; all deserted strips of white sand and turquoise water. We formed a group with some other people staying at the hostel and took a taxi (about $40) to the beach about half an hour away. The water was bathtub warm and our photos look like postcards. To save money we hitch-hiked back with some passing tourists in a rental car; surprisingly a very easy process considering there were 5 of us.
It all sounds amazing! Do you have a highlight?
How did you find the cuisine in Costa Rica?
Costa Rican food isn’t bad, but not something you would write home about. We ate mostly at sodas (a type of cheap local diner), and ordered a casado, a mixed plate of various foods. A typical casado plate consists of rice, black beans, salad, beef or chicken, a tortilla, and sometimes a banana or other vegetables. As for the best food, on a hot Costa Rican day? The supermarket in Puerto Jiminez does cheap ice cream cones, just what we needed.
Were there any embarrassing moments on your trip?
More of an embarrassing confession; even though we were right on the edge of Corcovado National Park, we didn’t actually go inside. Accommodation is booked in advance, and the truck (a cattle truck) takes three hours to reach the park entrance. The hike is long and challenging, but by all accounts, absolutely incredible. Why didn’t we go? I put this down to a bit of fatigue after 10 months of backpacking, we were comfortable relaxing on the hammocks, and were already very happy with our day trip to the neighbour’s jungle!
Were there any disasters?
No disasters to speak of; but for those who don’t like insects, beware the huge kamikaze cicadas that dive-bomb the light bulbs at night!
Eep, avoid sitting under lights then! Any other advise for people headed to Costa Rica?
Always keep an eye on expensive things if you’re at the beach. Thieves materialise out of thin air to ‘borrow’ your camera. At one point, I walked 10 metres away from our towels to take some beach photos, and already a guy began creeping up to where I was sitting. I looked at him and he finally saw me, and he stalked back into the trees.
And finally – did you pick up any bits of the lingo while you were there?
‘Pura Vida’, meaning ‘pure life’ in Spanish. A country motto of sorts, used as a greeting or a goodbye, but it just sums up perfectly the laid-back Tico (Costa Rican local) attitude!
NB – all images are owned by Derrick.