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Archive for the ‘Central America’ Category

view-from-caana3

Who: Christine Sarkis

Where:  Belize

When: November 2006

What: There’s so much to love about Belize. Drive down any of the five (it’s a small country) main highways and you’ll see the cultural and ethnic diversity as you pass Maya villages and Mennonites wearing straw hats and overalls walking along the side of the road. Snorkel off the coast to discover the world’s second longest barrier reef. Head into any restaurant anywhere and savor the country’s magic condiment: Marie Sharp’s Hot Sauce.

The dense jungle of the Peten district in western Belize is yet another thing to love about the country. If you know where to look, you’ll find incredible wildlife and the soaring remains of ancient Maya civilizations. This photo was taken at the Caracol archeological site, accessible via four-wheel drive vehicle, patience, and a high tolerance for rutted dirt roads. The city, still under excavation, may have once been home to 140,000 people and was larger than modern day Belize City.

This photo was taken atop the Caana pyramid. To get a sense of just how high it is (nearly 150 feet if I remember correctly), look across to the smaller pyramid on the left of the photo. See the even tinier person in blue way down there? That was our six-foot-tall guide. See how small those palm trees in the center of the photo are? Yup, this is one substantial piece of 3,000 year-old architecture.

Off in the distance is the jungle that separates Belize and Guatemala. On this day, the visibility was so good we could see into Guatemala. Not that there was much to see. Aside from more trees.

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Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica (Photo by RaeJean Stokes)

Who: RaeJean Stokes

Where: Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

When: January 2009

What: Looking at this picture, I can close my eyes and hear it. Waves crashing in the distance. The buzz of insects and lizards. The goodnight calls of the howler monkey and countless other unseen animals stirring at our porch step.

When my husband and I travel, we usually combine low-end and top-end; hostels in the places where we’ve got a lot to see and do and nicer places where relaxation is the M.O. Last month’s long overdue vacation to Costa Rica was no exception. After ten days of hiking, lava-watching, kayaking, and other active pursuits, we treated ourselves with three nights in heaven: the Osa Peninsula.

While Costa Rica itself is definitely discovered (Chick-fil-A in the San Jose airport is a sure sign of that), the Osa Peninsula remains decidedly off the Gringo trail. Part of the reason for that is its inaccessibility. The roads in and out are terrible, and it can take the better part of a day to get there. That leaves one option: flying. Even though the flights are regular, and affordable, the planes are small and can only ferry so many people to and fro. Let’s hope it stays that way.

We arrived at the tiny airstrip in Puerto Jimenez (which borders a cemetery) and were immediately whisked into a weathered LandRover for the bumpy ride to the Bosque del Cabo. It’s not the most exclusive (or expensive) of Osa’s wilderness lodges, but the Bosque del Cabo was exactly what we were looking for. Each of the three nights we were there, we sat on our bungalow’s private porch soaking in the view. While the sun set over the Pacific Ocean—its fantastic reds, yellows, and oranges lighting up the sky—spider monkeys flew through the trees above before retiring for the night.

And then as the sun dipped below the horizon, the jungle’s noises perceptibly changed. Every night was a free show a la Animal Planet, and the perfect antidote to our worker bee existence in the other jungle back home—the one made of concrete.

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