Thursday, September 30, 2010

Costa Rica trip - Preparing to hike in Corcovado

"Wow, its a small plane. We can chit-chat with the pilots as we are flying. So I am going to find a seat just behind the pilots" gushed Gautam
"Oh! But Gautam, I dont think we should be distracting them. I am not sure if talking to them while flying is allowed. It does seem like a bus journey to you, eh?" was what I said.

Yeah, this was Gautam's and my excitement seeing that tiny plane.

That day, after we got ourselves seated in the ferry that was bound to Puerto Jimenez, we were still worried about what to do and whom to approach on our intention to visit Corcovado National Park. We were overwhelmed with the nature, the surroundings and the people at Golfito. It was drizzling. As the ferry was waiting for few more passengers, entered a guy who seemed in his early 30s while munching a snack; which seemed like fish.

At least that whats Gautam thought. The meat was tender and Gautam thought it looked delicious. "Oh look at that food. Its so tempting. That guy is just enjoying it" was his comments.

The 1 hour journey started and this guy with food in his hand approached us and initiated conversation in his heavily Spanish accented English. "You tourists? Where are you going? Oh you want to see Corcovado? Guide?"

"I am the guide"

This revelation made both of us a bit apprehensive. How do we trust a person just like that? Will he charge nominal price for his services? Should we dismiss him and approach a travel agency? But we started talking. I was so tired that I left Gautam do all the blah-blahs. By the end of the journey, we got convinced that he would be our local guide. We confessed that we trust him completely and he can plan for us.

Our guide Mr.William told us the plan. He helped us rent an accommodation, took us to the government office to get entry tickets to the national park, took us to the bank to make the payment. He took us to the travel agent to book our return flights. He went to the supermarket to get 3 days of food supply for our trekking. He told us he would take care of our trekking equipments like camping, stove and other utilities. We went to a nice restaurant by name "Carolina" where the chef took extra care of me to prepare a nice veg meal of pasta with primvera sauce. It was decided that we get ready and assemble at 5.30 AM for our trekking. After hectic day of flight and travel, we rested to begin early the next day.

Day 2 - Corcovado National Park

We were alive and kicking, excited to visit Parque Nacional Corcovado. Its a national park in Osa Peninsula. Its the crown jewel of Costa Rica. Whats unique to this place is its ecological variety. Its is "the most biologically intense place on Earth" as quoted by the National Geographic. This park has the largest primary forest on the Pacific coastline and is one of the lowland tropical rain forests remaining in the world.  It is richest in biodiversity. One can find wide range of flora and fauna in this small area.

More on Corcovado - Parque Nacional Corcovado

We had a stomach filling heavy breakfast of omelet, arroyo pinto and bread with coffee at 6 AM in a cabinas. William was dressed for hiking with a machete hanging by his waist, gum boots and all. Gautam was dressed in shorts and T shirt. I for one dressed as if I am going to walk the ramp!!; in a jeans capris and a T shirt. I got a disapproving look from my guide. At least I had my walking shoes. While having breakfast, saw a old man; trim and smart with cowboy attire. I could not help but admire him and clicked a photo with him.

The hiking was from Carate which was 2 hour bumpy ride in a red flaming Mitsubishi Prado. I have to tell about my guide William here. He is gregarious, spoke so much better English than others we met. He would not spare himself from stealing looks at women. Costa Rican women are pretty generally and for him, every women seemed pretty. He could easily lose his context when he sees any girl walking by. Seems this taxi driver had a beautiful daughter and he was saying that he wanted this man to be his "father-in-law" sometime in future.

The potential "father-in-law"

Our first awe and disbelief was when we saw a Morphus. The morpho is a jewel in the Costa Rican rain forest canopy. The upper wings of an adult male are of a iridescent blue that appears to flash with every wing beat, reflecting the light and making the butterfly very easy to spot in the rain forest. Its underwings resembles the color of foliage - grays, blacks, browns. This coloring is a built-in mechanism. At night, the butterfly folds its wings up, so only the mottled underside is visible. This helps conceal itself from predators. By day, the bobbing incandescent flashes of blue visible makes it hard for the predators to track.

That was exactly how it was, it was huge for us to keep our eyes follow it; even though it was fluttering right in front of us and around us. They were huge. This amazing optical engineering has fascinated observers for long time. Today, research is done in attempting to reproduce the dazzling blue of its wings to create counterfeit-proof colors for credit cards and money.

Next, we saw Spider Monkeys. They are large, and their arms are significantly larger than its legs.

We stopped at a shop and had cafe kaliente con leche. Thats 'hot coffee with cream/milk". (I am brushing up the Spanish I learnt :-D).

A snap by the shop. William in his proper hiking attire. Check out his machete by his waist.

Even before reaching Carate for our hiking to begin, we saw birds like egrets, ibis, toucan. Nothing excited us as much as two Scarlet Macaws perched on a small tree. We could see it at close range. I have only seen macaws in cages, seeing them flying free in twos made me so happy. They are so gorgeous and beautiful. They feed on the almond fruit tree which is lined throughout the border of the Pacific sea coast. Their constant chatter is a music in its own way. Could not capture them as we were lost seeing them, by the time we got our camera at work, they soon flew away.


Chestnut-mandibled Toucan

Scarlet Macaws. They are always in pairs and partner for life.

The actual hike in the next post :-)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Trip to Costa Rica - Part 1

You know they say you are lucky if your dreams come true. But what is it when you end up with something you consider it remote possibility even to dream.

Its more than luck. Its called being blessed. I would say that I am blessed. We had Labor Day long weekend during 1st week of September. Generally, people from the Bay area go to San Diego, Los Angeles or Las Vegas. Few stretch and manage to visit Niagara or Washington or Seattle or Chicago.

But I ended up going to an exotic place very few would even dream to go and still fewer mortals who would actually go. Got once in a lifetime opportunity to visit the Central American country of Costa Rica. It was decided that Gautam and I would go ahead with the trip after all the initial indecisiveness and miserably failing in ticket cancellation. We had no other choice but go on the trip.

No plans, no bookings, dont know where to go and what to do. We just set off with a vague idea that we wanted to trek through the rain forests of Corcovado and watch an active volcano.

The moment we landed, we realized language would be a huge problem. Not many speak English, even in the capital of San Jose. But people are very friendly and helpful. We could do our way through gestures and during our course of stay, learnt decent Spanish to survive. To ask for drinks, food and route.

Day 1

Landed in San Jose from San Francisco. We knew we wanted to go to Puerto Jiménez. It is the largest town on the Osa Peninsula where the Corcovado National Park is situated. There were no direct flights to Puerto Jiménez from San Jose that day. We were suggested to take a flight to Golfito (meaning little bay) and take a ferry ride for 2 hours. We did not want to waste any time further. So bought tickets; we had 2 hours to wait.

 Decided to go to San Jose downtown, have breakfast and exchange for dollars for Costa Rica's currency Colones. San Jose is a nice city, people ride 2 wheelers which look like the ones we had during early 90s. Had a scrumptious Costa Rican breakfast and got our dollars exchanged. Roamed around a bit; the taxi driver was trying to explain me through his gestures not to be careless with my belongings. His efforts I must praise, he had feraful expression on his face to show this place had thieves and that I be careful.

Spanish everywhere. People, learn Spanish. It would help. Its going to one of the major languages of the world!

This roughly translates to "to make peace is to reduce the speed"

Costa Ricans are very obsessed with their 'bandera nacional' :-) National flag that is. Its draped everywhere and anywhere, its showcased wherever possible.

A traffic signal in downtown San Jose

Typical Costa Rican breakfast - Arroyo Pinto which is Rice with Black beans, fried sweet plantain, omelet.

A famous cathedral. No time to go in

 City Square

A government building. 


 Thats the flight :-) It was so much fun to travel in a tiny flight. The 2 pilots. They were sweet.The flight journey sitting behind the pilots is a totally different and new experience. Its like commuting by bus! :-P

 Matchbox size buildings

 As seen from the flight. The fluffy clouds playing hide and seek. Those rivers criss-crossing the green landscape to join the sea. The foamy wave bordering the ocean like a delicate lace.

The flight radar screen

Arriving in Golfito. It was raining. Initial reservations about going to Golfito vanished the moment we landed there. It was so beautiful

The port.

Now why would I miss the chance of getting clicked with the flight in the background and 2 handsome and smart pilots for company!!

Waiting for the ferry to Puerto Jiménez

A slab which reads Republic of Costa Rica, Central America

Ferry arrives

The ferry ride just proved how the unplanned and hasty decision can also be worthwhile and thrilling. The most beautiful journey and I kept pinching myself to make sure all this was true.

The town of Puerto Jiménez. Largest in Osa peninsula with a population of 1780. The country is close to the equator and has tropical climate throughout. The season now is rainy in this southern part and hence the rains. 

That evening, we had to book return flight back to San Jose. At a travel agency, this man was amused trying to pronounce our names. Captured his amusement.

More in the next post :-)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


When you have lot of work in hand, or when you are feeling so tired and your body is not cooperating; you happen to lay your hands on an old photo album or a nearly torn letter or that one page of a book in which is hidden a dried rose but still exuding that volatile fragrance...............................Your eyes sparkle and your lips bloom with a faint smile.

I bet this must have happened at least once to each of us. When you are frantically searching for some important document; you come cross an old letter from your friend; when you are searching for some important email; you have that one last "Good Bye" mail from your loved one. Then, you forgot that important work waiting for you and get lost in time and thoughts.

However bitter those moments were; how much ever pain and sorrows those moments caused; reminiscing them brings a smile on your lips even though tears flow out. You recall those days of intense emotions and true feelings. Now, it would seem silly or funny. It would make you wonder "Aww!! we fought for such a stupid thing!! " or "Oh! I was a die hard pursuer, wasn't I?" It would make you chuckle "Gosh!, Did I express such intense feeling for him/her?"

Its not that the feelings were false, its just that you have evolved. You learn from it and move it. The feelings remain but its not as intense as it were earlier and it loses its relevance as you move on.

After few years, you get an opportunity to meet the same person; when things have changed with each other and each one seemed to have moved on; there is that pinch within you whenever those days come in to your picture. If you have a very good photographic memory; when you could recall each and every moment; then its a test to your restraining capability and will power not to get intoxicated by the person's presence. You try hard not to go overboard and not get exhilarated.

I was reading few emails this morning at 12.30 instead of sleeping. My body wanted to hit the sack; but I carried on reading emails after emails; 3 years older ones; most of them seemed silly now. But how much sense it made then; how serious I was when typing each word then; how it came from the bottom of my heart. But now; it seemed funny.

Oh yeah! I attended a karoke club anniversary show this Saturday where my dear friend sang as well. It was a 6 hour show and being passionate about music, my senses were treated with wonderful songs. Here is a piece of one of the songs he sang. If he comes to know that I put it here; I don't know what his reaction would be.

So folks, hear to it and depending on the comments I get; I will decide whether to confess my action to him or keep it under wraps. :-P

The video and the audio quality is not that great as it was captured with my camera. Yet, its pretty decent, so please put up with the quality :-)

By the way, the song just suits this post.

Monday, September 20, 2010

AR Rahman's Jai Ho Concert

Have not been going out to places much this time. Been to most places here during my previous trips and nothing much left out to explore. So indulging in different activities.

Its been attending music sessions all the way. One of them was AR Rahman's Jai Ho world tour concert that was held on 12th this month in Oakland. How could I ever miss!! I knew about it just couple of days before the concert and immediately got tickets booked. Wanted a seat very close to the stage so that I could see the action at a close range.

I have always wanted to see ARR in real. If I am getting a chance here; the last thing I would do is to miss that. Who doesn't like his music? Apart from that; I really like him as a person for he is humble and grounded. Ultimately; its not what you do but what you are as a person. I have immense respect for him just because of this.

That day, the BART to Oakland and the area was crowded with people; mostly Indians. The arena was nearly full; amazed that he was supposed to perform here in July and it was postponed. So I was sheer lucky to be here at the right time.  The show was grandeur; he was on stage most of the time. Performed really good songs; I dont recall what all; as I lapped up everything and anything he had to deliver.

I was flabbergasted; I could not comprehend if what I was witnessing was true or not. It was my dream to see a concert live and it was a surreal experience now that it is ARRs concert. His mom and his sister were 2 rows ahead of me; spoke to his mom. She is a lovely lady.

I should say I was totally disoriented throughout as I was not ready to believe where I was. He walked past me to the stage and when Gautam nudged me and said "He just walked past you. Did you notice?" I was like "huh!!...hmmm...errrr....who?" He was like "Rahman!! " and me "eh? ....ohh!! hmm..."

This was my reaction. Only confusion and shock. Couldn't believe!! This sort of disorientation has never occurred to me prior to this. He performed for "Irumbile oru idhayam" from Robot near the aisle I sat. During the fag end of the show, walked closed to the stage and saw him perform. Phew!!! I cant explain my happiness level. Managed to click few pictures without flash; camera was not allowed. But somehow managed to click few.

ARR, Blaaze and Benny Dayal. Dont know who the lady is

A solo drummer from the troupe.

A song from Rang De Basanti

The acrobatics were awesome as well.


This was a duet by Lataji and ARR. I loved this concept.

Forgot which song was this :-)

Hmm Black or White? I forgot again. But this was MJ number.

Performed a BGM from Vinnaithandi Varuvaya

This was a Jugalbandi session

Jai Ho!!

Vande Mataram.