Raphael Kessler

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South East Asia 1999

  1. Vietnam - February 1999
  2. Thailand - April 1999
  3. Malaysia and Singapore - May 1999
  4. Indonesia - June 1999
Africa to home, the long way
- Africa
  1. South Africa
  2. Namibia and Botswana
  3. Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya
  4. Uganda
  5. Ethiopia
  6. Egypt
- Middle East and Balkans
  1. Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey
  2. Balkans
  3. Turkey
  4. Iran
- Asia
  1. Pakistan
  2. China
  3. Tibet
  4. Nepal
  5. India 1
  6. India 2
  7. India 3
  8. Sri Lanka
  9. Bangladesh
  10. Myanmar
  11. Thailand
  12. Cambodia
  13. Laos
  14. China, Macao and Hong Kong
  15. Mongolia
- North America and Caribbean
  Caribbean, USA, Mexico and Canada
- Scandinavia and Eastern Europe
  1. Russia
  2. Sweden
  3. Baltics
  4. Poland and Czech Republic
South America 2002
  1. Brazil
  2. Argentina
  3. Chile and Easter Island
Central America and Mexico 2002
  1. Panama
  2. Costa Rica
  3. Nicaragua
  4. Honduras
  5. El Salvador
  6. Guatemala
  7. Belize
  8. Mexico
South America 2003-4
  1. Trinidad and Tobago
  2. Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana
  3. Venezuela
  4. Colombia
  5. Ecuador and The Galapagos Islands
  6. Peru
  7. Bolivia
  8. Argentina
  9. Uruguay and Paraguay
  10. Bolivia 2
  11. Peru 2
Specific Pacific
  1. California to Fiji+ French Polynesia & Cook Islands
  2. Samoa, Niue and American Samoa
  3. Tonga and New Zealand
  4. Australia 1
  5. Australia 2

Costa Rica


Once again, now that I am in a different country I will write to you with what happened in the previous one. Which in this case is Costa Rica, having arrived in Nicaragua a few days ago.

My first stop in Costa Rica was Puerto Viejo, where I last wrote from. The place could be almost anywhere in the Caribbean, with many people speaking English and a large number of Rastafarians. I spent just a couple of days there as I am not such beach person and the owner of the dive shop there was very unenthusiastic about what I might see, so I didn’t bother diving either. From there I went to San Jose the capital (if you ever hear the Burt Bacharach song as sung by the Carpenters “Do you know the way to San Jose?” and are curious about the answer, in Costa Rica it is simple almost every bus is going there which sometimes means you have to go there too).

San Jose is not a particularly attractive place and doesn’t pretend to be either. The locals all warned be to very cautious after dark as it has become quite dangerous at night with regular robberies, particularly of tourists. The favourite style these days being to put a choke hold on the victim, making them feint so they can be robbed easily and no real physical harm is done. Thankfully I didn’t get the opportunity to witness this technique first hand. At the cheap hotel I was staying in there is a small restaurant where I met Susanna a (French, German, American, Dutch) expatriate who has been living in Costa Rica for the past seven years and after several drinks and talking into the early hours, she convinced me I should see where she is living and building some tourist Cabañas in the South West of the country in a village called Dos Brassos del Tigre. So the following morning we took the bus to Jimenez the nearest town and from there went to her place which is right next to Corcovado National Park. I spent a few days there as it was interesting, tranquil and with nature all around. It was also interesting to stay in a real village with no tourists and see how the Ticos (Costa Ricans) really are and how they behave.

After an enjoyable few days there I went back to San Jose as all roads lead there and also as I had some administration to catch up on. I then went to La Fortuna a small town at the base of Arenal Volcano. Arenal is a very active volcano and at night one can see the red hot rocks being spewed out and rolling and splintering down its slopes. It probably happens during the day too, it’s just easier to see at night. The noises emanating from the volcano are eerie, sinister and disturbing, so quite interesting. After seeing that I went to the hot springs which are in a hotel complex and have been re-modelled and are tiled with stools facing a bar, so one can bathe in the natural geothermically heated water and have a beer and a cigarette. It is quite odd and is the first time I have seen hot springs so crassly commercialised.

From La Fortuna I went to Santa Helena via taxi boat taxi, which took me across the
Arenal lake which afforded lovely views.

In Santa Helena the cloud forest is the main draw and there are different ways of seeing the forest at canopy level. Those who want an adrenaline rush and a bit of adventure go along zip lines flying from tree to tree, whereas I chose to take the sedate option of a walk through the forest and over several suspension bridges. I was interested in seeing the canopy at my own pace and hopefully seeing some wildlife, without just flying past it. I have been in several dense forests before but this was the first time I had the opportunity to really check the thing out at canopy level, which is where much of the life is. It was interesting to see the diversity of flora at that height and one could also hear and occasionally see some attractive birds. In addition to this I saw a really attractive beetle and a tarantula that looked like a cross between the Zebra tarantula and Mexican Red Knee. It was very big and had attractive colouring that will hopefully come out in the pictures I took of it. Later on I went with some girls who were staying at the same place as me to a butterfly garden where it was possible to observe many of the insects and particularly butterflies that can be seen in Costa Rica. I tried a beetle that apparently produces antihistamine (it tastes peppery) and got to see at close range some of the more interesting six legged residents of the forest. From there we went to Bajo del Tigre, a rainforest preserve. There we saw white faced Capuchins, Quetzals (the national bird) and some Blue Morphos (a particularly lovely, large butterfly with satin blue wings on the top side).

I then went onto Playa del Coco where I had been told there was some good diving and can certainly confirm that there was. During the two dives I did I saw Eagle Rays (2m across 3m tails), Southern Sting Rays (1.5m across) Round Rays (60cm across). White tipped reef sharks up to 2.5m long, Panamic Green Morays (about 2m), white faced Morays (1m), different types of Nudibranchs, Octopi, Scorpionfish (one particularly massive one), a red seahorse, coronet fish, schools of yellowfin tuna and jacks, and much, much more. Although the visibility was not great (less than 10m) and the coral was uninteresting, it was one of the most interesting dives I have had with regard to the underwater fauna.

Playa del Coco being a touristic beach town it was not difficult to find the nightlife and my final night in Costa Rica was spent there in the company of some English girls volunteering in the national parks and some Kiwis I had previously met in La Fortuna and a few Ticas.

Next day I headed off to Liberia with the English girls where we parted company and I headed north to the border with Nicaragua and they went south to another forest. The border was absolutely stifling and had a real frontier feel to it, but the process was not too lengthy before I entered Nicaragua for the next chapter of my Central American travels.  



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