By Eric Robinson
Most tourists prefer the luxurious hedonistic accommodation options in Costa Rica but amazing indigenous-discovering adventure options are available. Forget the luxurious hotel room and see how the indigenous live on an adventure tour that will change your life. Most tourists require their hotel room with air-conditioning, even in the Central Valley of Costa Rica where the temperature hoovers comfortably in the 60’s and 70’s year-round. Upon arrival at their destination, the more first class the treatment, the better.
They are on vacation and will worry about global warming when they get home. Most opt for fine dining by candlelight on imported foods and umbrella drinks prepared by workers making barely $2 per hour. They relax in hotel rooms with orthopaedic beds, watching CNN on a flat screen TV, there’s wireless internet, exotic views, and please, room service. They take comfy organized excursions in guided tour buses, and from their protective bubble environment, with their noses pressed against the windows, they view pre-chosen attractive corridors of Costa Rica . After leaving Costa Rica, they tell friends how much they enjoyed (and endured) experiencing the real Costa Rica. These people have worked hard to be in Costa Rica and there is nothing wrong with this scenario, fulfilling their dreams of a well-deserved vacation.
But there are those who look outside the norm and ask themselves if they want all the comforts of home, why travel in the first place? If a change is as good as a rest, why not really experience something different, and authentic? This new kind of tourism is still in its infancy, and is falling under the coined term, ‘Rural Tourism’.
On one of the more extreme rural adventures, imagine taking a dug out canoe for three hours up a rainforest river, fording shallows, dark tanned natives jabbing long poles into the river bottom, their skinny muscles shoving your boat further upstream with each push, dense jungle on both sides screaming with the shrill sounds of a million crickets and a thousand frogs together, and the occasional volcano view when the vegetation recedes, humid and clammy, mosquitos bumping into your insect repellent skin. Once you are out of the boat, there is a further walk on muddy paths through thick vegetation, your guide leading the way, slashing branches with his machete as he temporarily silences the nearby jungle.
As night sets in, you finally reach your destination, the pueblo of Yorkin, hot and exhausted, scratched and sweating. It is a small village with coal oil lamps, and open door huts, tame chickens, big eyed children, irregular paths and a clear night sky so full of bright stars that you are humbled deep into God’s universe. Take a quick shower from a gravity fed tank, eyes in the jungle watching your every move, and crawl into some clean, dry clothes. Your intense hunger for nourishment from the excitement and energy expended is amazingly satisfied by a simple bowl of home-grown rice, beans, unknown exotic root vegetables, and a bit of chicken (because you are an honored guest). Too tired to do anything else today, your eyes get heavy, and the safe feeling of sleeping on a bunk inside a mosquito net is so comforting, the next thing you know, you are dreaming of the stresses of office life oceans and millenia away.
You wake at first light at 5am with the sounds of warbling and squawking birds somewhere nearby, howler monkeys hooting in the distance, and a man chopping firewood with a machete outside your door. Everyone gathers for an early morning walk through the jungle to a cool refreshing waterfalls, where with your biodegradable soap and toothbrush, you start the day feeling wonderfully fresh. Piping hot strong coffee made over an open fire, sugar from local cane, fresh exotic fruit juice, fresh baked bread, ‘imported’ sour cream, gallo pinto and fried eggs await your return to the village.
Today you will learn some of the secrets of real jungle life, no electricity, no cellular signal, crystal clean drinking water that is diverted from a nearby stream, the heat and humidity, the simple survival techniques of collecting jungle fruits and tubers, and hunting with poisoned tipped arrows that have kept your indigenous hosts alive for generations, the communal living and the love and respect families have for each other and the interaction with nature around them. Today your group’s project is to help write directional signs for several walking paths stemming from the village for future Yorkin adventurers to explore the area.
Where once, basic subsistence living kept these indigenous people doomed in primative poverty, rural tourism is opening opportunities for them, doubling their basic incomes and unfortunately for us, but wonderfully for them, drawing them into modern society.
To experience this tour above going to Yorkin, and similar ones, go to actuarcostarica.com. Also, try any of the following links for other Costa Rica rural tourism options greencoast.com/atec.htm, cultourica.com and turismo-sostenible.co.cr. One can be certain that as time goes on, more and more rural tours allowing visitors to experience authentic indigenous Costa Rica life in the depths of the rainforests will become increasingly popular.