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Sloths, Cacao, and A Waterfall in the Rainforest

6:55 PM
Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
Cabinas Guarana
Listening to re-make of “Hey Jude” played on Pan flutes, playing from a CD player here in the hotel lobby.
Today is probably my favorite day in Costa Rica so far. Between seeing sloths (so cute) watching how chocolate is made in the natural way and learning the process, going for a hike through an amazing rainforest and seeing a beautiful waterfall, and sleeping in the hammock this afternoon for an hour and a half to the sound of falling rain – today has been a fantastic day. Glad I’m feeling a bit different than I was when the day started out, since we’re headed to Panama tomorrow. Gives me hope and good feelings to leave Costa Rica with, and lets me know that there are definitely things I’ve missed seeing here which I’ll look forward to returning here to see.

I suppose if I had thought about it, I would have assumed that all plants that we get in the grocery stores in the states are grown in fields of crops, and that it would be possible to see any plant growing in the way that America grows wheat and corn, or in the way that Italy grows grapes. However, as I’ve never really had that thought until today, I was simply astounded to see hundreds of millions (billions?) of bananas growing on what must have been at least half a million banana trees. I found myself asking our driver for the day, Marcela, if she could stop so that I could get out. When I walked to the side of the bridge, I was overlooking fields of banana trees all the way to the horizon. This view is one which I’m not likely to forget anytime soon

(Just in case I do forget, I took some pictures. After all, the faintest ink is better than the best memory.)

Sloths at the Sloth Sanctuary near Cahuita (outside Puerto Viejo) – I’ll have to talk about sloths at some other point in the future, but suffice to say, I was very happy we went to the sloth sanctuary.

I would like to spend more time with these amazingly affable creatures.
I knew a lot of work went into making chocolate from scratch, but had no idea what the native Americans of this area had to go through in order to make their own Cacao powder, nor all the uses they had for cacao both medicinally and socially.

For example, did you know that in Bribri culture, a woman in labor is unclean, so she has the baby and goes through labor by herself (if she needs something during labor, they hand it to her with a long stick). Once she’s had the baby, she has to spend 30 days using cacao oil and cacao butter to purify herself and the new infant before she’s allowed to return to her tribe.

I learned a lot at the Cacao house, and highly recommend you go visit this tour. It’s run by Priscilla, who at the age of 19 speaks English, Bribri, and Spanish. She conducts presentations in both Spanish and English, her family makes the chocolate themselves, and she spends a good part of the year in the mountains harvesting the things which go into the various flavors of chocolate they have for sale.

If you go to see the waterfall near Bribri (ouside of Puerto Viejo) and you have hiking boots, be sure you take them. I knew we were going to see the waterfall, but had no idea we’d be on a 30 minute walk through the jungle.
And when I say jungle, I mean 200 year old trees on all sides of you, banana trees with leaves as long as a school bus (not exaggerating), and vines and moss everywhere.

On the way, we saw a coral snake, which I nearly stepped on. Turns out it was dead (someone had chopped it – looked like earlier in the day) which was a good thing since coral snakes are some of the most venomous in the world.

The waterfall is absolutely fantastic and not to be missed.

Take a tripod for your camera – we recommend the GorillaPod, which has proven extremely effective in all climates. This was our first time using it in the jungle and we were very happy with its performance.

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