Las Vistas Lindas – Gorgeous Mountain Drive
Sunday, January 31st, 2010
I’m a Rocky Mountain girl. Although I love living near the ocean, I have lived in the mountains of Montana for twenty years. I just wouldn’t be happy in flat land. The other day I did one of my absolute favorite things to do in Costa Rica. I grabbed a friend and took an afternoon mountain drive through one of my favorite places, the Talamanca mountains, up behind my home in Puerto Viejo. Driving with the top down and soaking up the incredible views, with my Salsa music blasting puts me in a state of bliss. Life just doesn’t get any better. Come on along, I’m going to show you all about it! (Float your cursor over the photos to see their captions.)
My friend and former guiding client, Ed, was visiting and wanted to see Bri Bri. It’s a little town nearby, named after the local indigenous. It’s just a small town, not much to see. “There’s the bus station.” I said. “Over there is a really good bakery. That is the way to the waterfall. The bank is up the street.” And that was about it. Then I got an idea. “How would you like to go to Panama?” I asked Ed. “It’s fifteen minutes away!”
”We’ll be gone all afternoon,” I said. “Let’s stop for lunch.”
Restaurant Kaya is a nice little soda in Bri Bri, with good food and an upstairs, airy atmosphere.
Sodas are what they call the local, family run restaurants that serve typical Costa Rican food. We had patacones con frijoles( plantain bananas with bean dip) and arroz con camarones (rice with shrimp). The drink is Mora, a natural berry fruit juice.
These little guys provided some lunchtime entertainment.
We’re on our way! There are many rivers and streams running through these jungle mountains. The first one we cross is the Rio Carbon, at the edge of town.
We’ll take the first left here, after the river and then we’ll end up coming back from the opposite side. We’re going to make a huge circle.
Within a few minutes we catch our first glimpse of the sprawling Sixaola river. This river It flows from the Cordillera Talamanca out to the Caribbean Sea east of the border town of Sixaola. For part of its length, the river forms the border between Costa Rica and Panama. In the photo, you are looking at Panama, across the river.
Next in our series of bridges.
We passed a local kid on horseback, still wet from swimming in the river. He invited us up to his house, but we declined and traveled on.
Lots of people live up in these hills. Everywhere we went, we saw the new government houses built for the Bri Bri, often right next to the old ones.
Driving along the river.
Nature in Costa Rica is vast and dramatic. Everywhere you look is another awesome sight! The blue spots in the photo are the bags used to cover and protect the bananas growing on those banana trees in the background. Mature banana trees are about 15 to 20 feet tall. By comparison, that would make this giant tree 60 to 70 feet tall!
After a fifteen minute drive we come to the town of Chase. Why do they call it that? I don’t know. It is not a Spanish word. Maybe because that’s where the chase begins, for illegals crossing from Panama. Did you know you can cross here with no customs or border officials to bother you? That is just what we’re going to do.
Take a right by the bus stop and drive down to the river. (There are no signs.)
We’ll park the car here and hop on that wooden boat. We must pay 1000 colones to park and another 1000 colones for the boat (about $4.00 total).
Riverside fishermen, one with a rod and the other with a net to catch bait.
Our “ship” is called El Titanica de Gran Piedra (The Mamouth of the Great Rock). I asked the “captain” if he knew the story of the Titanic. He assured me we wouldn’t sink.
El Gran Piedra
I asked the kid if there are crocodiles in this river. He confirmed it. Definitely, there are. “And you swim in here?” I challenged. He grinned an enthusiastic yes!
We arrive in Panama at the town of Las Delicias. Well, it’s hardly a town. It is a cluster of shops, there for the sole purpose of selling cheap electronics to Costa Ricans. Computers and TVs – and all imported gadgets – are very expensive in Costa Rica. These items are priced lower in Panama, although often still higher than in the USA.
Before the floods of 2009, there were four, well stocked stores, packed with not only electronics but anything and everything else you could think of. Now there are three, and in one of them, inventory is meager.
These stores are owned and run by Middle Eastern families. I was astonished to see the women behind the counter wearing layers of traditional Muslim clothing, with everything but their faces and hands covered, in ninety degree weather. That is devotion!
On this trip I met a very sweet, woman shopkeeper. She told me her story. She is a Tica (Costa Rican). She met her husband, who is from Jordan, in another part of the country. In 2002 they decided to settle, with their four children, in Las Delicias, Panama. The flood of 2005 brought four feet of water into their store. They cleaned up, bought more stock and started again. The flood of 2009, which I lived through, here in Puerto Viejo, inundated them with six feet of water and ruined almost everything again. Today, a year later, Mari’s store is far less full than when I saw it before the last flood. Much of her merchandise is water damaged, too.
She was so helpful and kind, talking with me as I browsed around. No, they did not have a machine to take credit cards but if I found something I wanted she would be happy to give it to me, on my promise that I would deposit the money into her bank account in Costa Rica. I was amazed. “Ed,” I exclaimed, “She said she’d let me walk out of here without paying, as long as I promised to pay later!” At that point I had to find something to buy – but honestly, there just was not much that I needed. I gathered together a pretty crystal glass, a ceramic planter, two decorative bookshelves and a cracked candle holder. She gave me the candle holder for free and charged me $20.00 for the rest, which I paid for on the spot.
Mari converted to the Muslim religion when she married her husband. The family is devout. They send their children to Jordan six months out of the year, for religious education. I wanted to take her picture, but photos, she said, were not allowed. We talked for a bit longer about family and life in Costa Rica, while Ed and Mari’s son struck up a conversation about his iPhone. The handsome teenager was well dressed, in regular street clothes, like most Muslim men. He loved his iPhone and was lamenting it’s recent demise. Ed is going to find him a new chip for it and send it from Florida when he gets home.
How many more floods will they endure? Mari doesn’t know. They like living here, in this isolated place by the river. But every time the river begins to rise, she gets very nervous.
In this spot stood a huge store and a restaurant. All that is left is rubble.
We’ve spent a good hour in Las Delicias. The afternoon is waning and we’ve got more ground to cover, so back to Costa Rica we go. The sun is hot and the water is refreshing. I wish I had my swim suit – even if there are crocodiles in here!
Las Delicias From Back Up on the Costa Rican Side
There’s lots of pretty little mountain homes along the way, many with dramatic views of the river.
Now we are going to go through the mountain. This tunnel was built almost 100 years ago, in 1914.
We are miles from Bri Bri now. A bus comes through occasionally, but not many cars. People are often seen walking or riding into town for supplies.
The road takes off, away from the river and into the jungle…….
a new river view bursts through the green, warm with the afternoon sunshine.
Further along we come to the town of Bambu.
More homes with a sunset view.
Thatched Roof Tour Center
Some rivers have no bridges.
As we climb higher, the river is still in view.
Traditional Wood House
Passing Through Bratsi
Lisa: Ed, do you think we should get out and see how deep it is?
Ed: No, it will be fine.
Lisa: Ok……. but maybe we should check. It might be deep.
Ed: You can make it.
Lisa: I guess so but maybe I should go on the right of those rocks. I’d better go check.
ED: JUST GO FOR IT!
I did and we were fine.
Suretka has a clothing store, complete with mannequins. You can see them in the back of the photo.
As I slowed down to take this picture, a woman approached the car. “You like horses.” she said, in Spanish.
“I do.” I replied. “I love horses and I love this place where you live. It is so beautiful!” She thanked me.
Ed was having a wonderful time. ” That’s what I like about this place,” he said, “People are so friendly. They just come up and start talking to you.”
Old House / New House – What a difference!
Pastoral Scene as Evening Approaches
It’s a luna llena – full moon.
Another Bridge on the way down the mountain.
Playing in the River in the Late Afternoon
As soon as work is done and the evening cools down, the futbol players come out. Even the tiniest village has a field.
It’s dark now and time to head back to Puerto Viejo. It has been a magical day in Paradise. I am so grateful to be here!