Our globe-trotting correspondent Margaret Patten relives a last minute trip to Central America and the promise of a wedding.

If you are thinking of a visit one day to Central America I would recommend Costa Rica. It has it all. Beauty, spectacular views in parts and beautiful Rain Forests. It a safe and peaceful country. Of course sensible precautions need to be taken as a tourist as there is opportunist crime.

Costa Rica translates to ‘Rich Coast ‘. Bordered by Nicaragua and Panama, it is a sovereign state in Central America and was heavily influenced by Spanish colonization.

I was travelling for a very short visit to Dominical due to my son suddenly deciding that he would marry his girlfriend (now his wife) there. Now I am not saying that he doesn’t get his priorities correct….but.  Check fishing tackle – tick.    Check Surf Board –tick. Check Marriage Documentation – forgotten!  

Airport check-in was chaos, when I was joined by thirteen of their friends who were travelling with an array of surf and camping gear. I kept well out of the way when excess baggage costs were discussed. We eventually arrived in the capitol San Jose to experience yet more “mayhem” when booking our hire vehicles.  By this stage I would have been more than happy to be travelling alone! We stayed the night in San Jose before travelling down to Dominical the following day.

San Jose became the capital in 1823, originally being Cartage. It stands 3800 feet above sea level. A vibrant city with large Victorian mansions. These were built during the tobacco and coffee plantation era.

Do you know the way to San Jose?

Leaving the City the roads quickly became more difficult due to very heavy rain, and landslides, but this was made up for by the truly lovely greenery all around us. The views were wonderful as the road was higher than the trees.

Domincal is very much a typical surfing area. It is wild and beautiful. There are 4 miles of beach surrounded by forest. However surfing here is for the more experienced practitioner, as the sea can be rough. There is plenty to do, mostly associated with the sea, such as diving, kayaking and snorkelling to mention but a few. There’s also horse riding…but more on that later! It’s all very laid back with camper vans and campers’. There are plenty of restaurants and a wide menu choice. Everyone has Gallo Pinto on the menu which is the National dish. It translates as Spotted Rooster. Don’t get confused it is rice and beans. Usually a breakfast dish but can be eaten at any time.   

Dominical beach is a surfer’s paradise.

We had Bed and Breakfast booked in a delightful area at the far end of the beach. Set in several acres of wild garden that led to the sea. Breakfast was something to look forward to as it started off with a coconut with a small hole in it with a straw. Then endless just baked pastries and copious amounts of coffee. The owner had a Great Dane. We never did learn his name but called him. ‘Big Dog’. Wherever we went ‘Big Dog’ was with us. It was rather nice having him with us to watch over us.  I spoke earlier of opportunist crime, the owner told us that local lads used fishing rods to hook goods out. Who wants to be left with two left shoes!

Our friends had set up camp by the side of the river near the edge of the sea. At the time no one gave any thought to the caiman (part of alligator family) who are common in this area. We saw plenty on other river banks at a later date. It was so relaxing sitting by their camp fire in the evenings. Would we have been so relaxed if we had known about the giant reptiles watching us?

On the first full day we were there we took the vehicle to explore. We were on a very quiet back track when we noticed a sloth in the road. Not sure what it was doing there, but it had to be moved as they are so incredibly slow. They spend most of their time hanging from trees in the rain forests. My son picked it up. It made low protest noises and smelt terrible, but at least it was safe.

Then we decided to hire horses. We are all experienced riders but accidents can happen! It was wonderful we went up into the mountains, swam in a waterfall pool and enjoyed parrots flying past. Time to descend the mountain. A snake was in my path the horse reared one way and I went the other. The horse owner gave me animal ointment to rub into my bruised body.

The wedding of course didn’t take place as my son had forgotten some part of the documentation, so it was time for my daughter and I to fly home. Everyone else was staying on. Before going to the airport my daughter had agreed to visit a large refuge in San Jose. Some time earlier she had acted as an interpreter for the Director at a Conference. Arriving outside, local lads wanted coins to protect our car. Against principles we paid them due to it being a hire vehicle and we didn’t want complications for any damage once returning it. Off my daughter went leaving me with the residents. I was the cause of much fascination as I had black eyes and a broken nose (thanks to my fall). Although my Spanish is fairly limited I gathered they all wanted to know who had beaten me. It caused much laughter when my daughter returned and explained.

Time to leave and fly home, I certainly must return but perhaps alone next time.