Personal Journeys


August 08, 2004|By Special to the Sun

A Memorable Place

Cozying up to nature in Costa Rica

By Peg Silloway


The swirling, latte-colored water of the Sarapiqui River tugs at our low boat and tries to pull us toward the lush growth along the riverbank. Here on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, our guide Carlos says there are two seasons -- rainy and very rainy.

Lucky for us, today it is just rainy.

My husband and I, along with 18 others in this shallow craft, have come from Limon, where our cruise ship docked this morning. During the two-hour trip to the river, our small bus passed mile after mile of banana plantations. The palms are shorter than we expect, less than 10 feet tall.

Along the way, Carlos talked with pride about his homeland. This Central American country is a stable democracy with no military force and a 96 percent literacy rate. Never have we had a guide so knowledgeable about plants, animals, geology and history. Soon we learn why -- Costa Rica has a university-level training program for its tour guides.

Costa Rica is an eco-tourist's delight. Smaller than West Virginia, the country has set aside more than a quarter of its area as protected land. Here live hundreds of species of birds, and many more visit during migration to and from North America.

As our boat drifts by, sloths masquerade as clumps of brown pine needles in the trees. Above them in the highest branches are howler monkeys. Neither seems to notice as we point fingers and cameras at them from below. For ignoring humans, though, the champions are the iguanas. These reptiles lie along branches with their stubby legs dangling.

Carlos points to an iguana longer than my arm and says it is a male. The iguana will turn orange, he says, and we can see the blush beginning on the dorsal spines.

Further down the river, the forest recedes. Our boat noses in, and we climb wooden stairs up a flower-bordered walk to lunch. We enjoy barbecued chicken and steak, black beans and rice, salads, potatoes and corn tortillas made by hand as we watch. Dessert is warm fried plantains swimming in sweet honey sauce and rich Costa Rican coffee.

The requisite gift shop offers wood and woven and painted local handcrafts; I cannot resist a small domed box made from cocobolo -- a type of rosewood -- for my collection. Then it is back on the boat for the trip up the river and the bus back to our ship.

For a few hours, we have been transported to a simpler, more elemental kind of living. By staying quiet and open to the sights, sounds and tastes of the day, we learned about plants and animals and other ways of life. The rain alternated between drizzle and downpour but did not dampen our enjoyment or the wonder of the day.

Peg Silloway lives in Columbia.

My Best Shot

Beverly Bauhof,


A splendid sight in any season

Something as beautiful as the Grand Canyon is easy to photograph. The temperature when this picture was taken in April was about 72 degrees. By the time we left the canyon an hour later, it had dropped below 32 degrees and was snowing.

Readers Recommend

Verde Valley, Ariz.

Jerry Rabinowitz, Bel Air

Visiting Montezuma Castle National Monument, in the Verde Valley of Arizona, I was amazed by the skills of the Sinagua Indians. I can only imagine what it took to build this cliff dwelling early in the 13th century.

St. Martin, Caribbean

Callie Vondersmith, Westminster

During a vacation on St. Martin, we stayed at the Grand Case Beach Resort. The restaurant there is called the Sunset Cafe, and the sunsets are breathtaking. The resort offered good food, water sports and a very private beach. It was the most enjoyable vacation we had in a long time. We can't wait to go back.

Let Us Hear From You

We want to know about your travels, your experiences, your pictures. Here's how to participate in this page:

My Best Shot -- Send us a terrific travel photo with a description of when and where you took it. (Cash value: $50.)

A Memorable Place -- In 500 words or less, tell us about a travel experience that changed you; about the nostalgia a certain place evokes; about a favorite beach, the mountains, a city cafe. Include a photo. (Cash value: $150.)

Readers Recommend -- Briefly tell us about places you've recently visited that you'd recommend to other readers. (50 words or less; photos are welcome.)

Because of the volume of responses, photos and manuscripts cannot be individually acknowledged or returned. Submissions from all categories may be used for Readers Recommend, and upon submission become the property of The Sun.

Send by fax to 410-783-2519, or write to: Travel Department, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, MD 21278, or e-mail to Be sure to include your name and phone number.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.