7 Weird Things I Found in Costa RicaPosted on 14/10/2015 : 17:20:52
"Costa Rica has many things I'd think as being 'normal' here in the UK: a good health care system, regular rainfall, a diverse culture and population... but being in the Latin Quarter of the world, 8,500 miles from the UK, there are still things which surprise."
First on my list of weird things is a beverage called 'chan'. The drink is bought as seeds which look like mini coffee beans - very appropriate for the coffee-producing and coffee-loving country of Costa Rica! The instructions are to fill a large jug with water and drop a good handful or two of the chan in. Mix with sweet syrup (e.g. cola, lemon) if desired, but it's a bit sweet for me. After a minute or two, the seeds will have expanded in the water to resemble a cross between fluff and immobile sea monkeys.
Apparently, chan is good for your stomach, but it's not to my taste. It's like drinking a sickly mixture of frogspawn. Ick!
One evening, driving through the Costa Rican central mountains, this incredible view appeared. I have yet to fathom what exactly it was: A natural light show? Odd weather? It clearly wasn't a rainstorm as they don't focus down from the sky in a triangle shape, more often the other way around as the water disperses through the air. Do you have any other ideas what it might be? It occurred at sunset, but looked totally extra-terrestrial - one weirder thing to add to my collection of Costa Rican curiosities.
Among other things, Costa Rica is famous for its domination in ecology. (Costa Rica Embassy).The country holds 6% of the world's biodiversity, while the country makes up only 0.03% of the Earth's land mass. As you can imagine, this gives rise to a wide variety of weird and wonderful flora and fauna almost everywhere you look. Along with the tropical climate (hot and humid, lots of sun, which encourages fast growth), the wildness of the remote regions, the reserves and protected rainforests encourages more diversity.
A great example of this is this exotic flower, found in gardens and parks around Costa Rica. To my eye, it looks like something truly (beautiful but) alien. For more photos of local flowers, check out 'Costa Rica: A Fantastic Floral Delight' over on my blog, Born to be a Tourist.
Tunes in the street
The abundance of xylophones is weird here - I had no idea it was a traditional instrument. Take a look at this You Tube video www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYPBDqnQsbw for a sample of the type of tunes you'll hear if you visit Costa Rica. Originally used in Mexico, Central America has adopted it as one of their symbols of musical heritage. When I was at school, a xylophone was a geek's instrument, for advanced pupils who had some musical nous about them. Therefore, this musical instrument is something I found quite incongruous to Costa Rica. If played at length, the sound of the plinky-metallic notes, for me, is akin to nails down a blackboard. I certainly had my fill with the Independence Day parades in September.
Being what I thought was a seasoned camper, I was surprised by the odd arrangements needed when camping in Costa Rica. Four of us went camping in Guanacaste (north-east Costa Rica) and it was quite comical, yet practical, the way the camp was constructed.
The photo shows our two tents huddled under a huge tarpaulin erected between the trees acting as a pitched roof. Even if our tents had boasted an actual roof themselves (don't ask - father-in-law's oopsie!), we would still need the extra layer of protection, apparently. Not to protect us from the strong sun - it wasn't big enough to relax in the shade beneath it - but as protection from the rain. And boy, does it rain in Costa Rica. It sure can take you by surprise creating havoc in cities and countryside, often causing wide-scale flooding and landslides. We definitely welcomed this extra layer of roofing, never needed before in my camping experience in Europe.
Another thing which caused raised eyebrows while camping in Costa Rica was the discovery of a pop-up disco. In the more remote, sparsely populated areas of Guanacaste, I stumbled across a 'Super Compro', close to the town of La Cruz. This was the medium-sized supermarket we occasionally popped into for fresh fruit and ice, but on Saturday nights the car park turns into a daytime nightclub. It draws in the locals with a DJ, plenty of alcohol for sale in-store, and free popcorn - a real crowd pleaser! It's a real community event, if a little odd. Imagine this at Asda!
A diet begins back home!
Finally, a blog about the odd things in Costa Rica wouldn't be complete without mentioning the food. You can read my post about eating my way around Costa Rica over at my blog. The diet and ingredients here is so different to what I'm accustomed to in the UK: different blends of flour (for empanadas), many types of previously unknown-to-me fruits (ever heard of 'guanabana'?), national beers (Imperial and Pilsen), delicious plantains, rice and beans to accompany almost everything - I struggle to have rice for breakfast, though! Costa Ricans have a serious carb obsession - I've seen them treble carb on one plate (chips, rice and bread!) but the main observation I made was the sweetness of everything. Unlike the UK, there's no fluoride added to the water supplies (harvested from the mountains, for the most part - so fresh!), and a lot of sugar in the diet, so dental problems are common. However, this makes for awesome holiday food! I've discovered cinnamon bread (similar to brioche), foreign flavoured boiled sweets, and more recently, weird flavours of ice cream. You can find everything from chipotle berry to sour cream, but my new favourite is orange. Very weird for my palate, but still, sweet heaven.
When you take your inevitable trip to Costa Rica (you need to visit this incredible country!!), do take the time to notice the odd things there. Like any other country, exploring it is all about seeing and experiencing new things. Try everything offered on your plate and keep your eyes and ears open - you won't be disappointed.
Louise Gibney - Guest Poster