Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Up to Monteverde

Monday, May 28

Alarms woke me again in my room in Hotel 1915. I was still sleepy. I showered and started packing until 7 am, when I went to the lobby for breakfast. Coffee and the tipico (eggs, rice, beans, fried plantain, fruit) again. We were a larger group as more of my fellow seminarians had arrived: we were now 7, plus the three seminar staff. The ten of us ate together and enjoyed more time to get to know each other.

We loaded into two large diesel Toyota tourist vans at 8 am, one for us and one for our luggage. Drove out of town and onto the very modern turnpike heading north. Beatiful scenery of hills where cattle grazed. Descended down to sea level by the Gulf of Nicoya and observed large container ships at anchor in the sea. We eventually left the turnpike for the famous Pan-American highway to the small town of Sardinal. From there we ascended up into the mountains on switch-back roads. Part of the road was unpaved but well-graded gravel. Nice. However, it occurred to me as we reached the mountain town of Santa Elena that THAT was the "bad road" the tourist guide books had all warned of. Note to tour guide book writers: do NOT go to Belize, ever. That road would be one of the best in Belize. The ornithologist along had just flown down from Nicaragua and concurred: a "bad road" in Costa Rica would be an excellent road north of the border.

We wound through the curving streets of Santa Elena to our hotel for the week, the Monteverde Lodge. Unloading from vans, happy to have arrived: DSCN0445

And the front of the hotel: DSCN0444

And my room: DSCN0440 (OK, I admit. This is NOT what it looked like when I checked in. I am inserting photos from later in the week here to tell a story.)

View out the room's window: DSCN0441

We then loaded back into a van and drove into town for lunch. I ordered the casado con pescado and enjoyed fried fish with rice, beans and salad. Filling! Coffee to drink, of course. (Note a pattern?)

After lunch we went to the classroom building where we watched a fascinating video documentary, "Cracking the Golden Egg" produced in 2009 by the folks at CREST, Center for Responsible Tourism (http://www.responsibletravel.org/home/index.html). Apparently they have distanced themselves from it; I cannot find it on YouTube. (If you find it online, please comment with a link). The video was pretty hard-hitting on environmental and social issues. I'll try to go to the area of the Guanacaste district on the Pacific coast discussed in the video next week to see for myself, on the ground, the issues raised by the video.

We continued our discussion of the responsibilities (if any) of tourists to the communities they visit. Very interesting conversation ensued; some strong but respectful opinions were expressed by the CIEE IFDS Sustainability seminar participants and the Costa Ricans present. It is going to be a good week.

We return to Monteverde Lodge for dinner. It is just us seven seminarians we continue getting to know each other over a fine meal. We are all from medium-sized Universities, but from across the U.S. Three are from the East coast, myself and another from Oklahoma, and three from Oregon.

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