Skies, Weather, Clouds

All photos and artwork included in this Web site are copyright-protected and the exclusive property of Eric Schickler Photography. No downloading, use, reproduction, manipulation, sale and/or distribution permitted without express written consent.

© Eric Schickler Photography

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Colorado Mountains *

People don’t move mountains.  Mountains are considered to be static, motionless, rock-solid, constant.  But they do change. Sometimes they rise in elevation.  They also crumble under the forces of nature, be it weather, erosion or earthquakes.

People don’t move mountains.  But mountains move people.

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Every mountain has multiple personalities brought to life by a viewer’s angle, perspective and elevation.  The mountain changes with the time of day, the type of light, the season, the location relative to other geographical features, the direction it faces, the altitude, the geography, the weather.

Mountains don’t just sit there. They are dynamic, slow as it may seem.
Mountains don’t just sit there. They scream!
They create weather, they shed their skin, they harbor wildlife.
They lure the curious, the admirers, the unwary.
They create addictions —  some beneficial, others risky.

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THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS:  “Backbone of the North American Continent”

What treasures do Colorado’s mountains and forests harbor?

Wind-driven snow and ice crystal patterns on a west-facing rock.

Morning sun reflecting on a thin layer of overnight ice on the creek.

Afternoon light accentuating the colors of rainbow trout shifting direction one foot below the creek’s surface.

Erie, distant echoes of howling coyotes.

Nights marked by such complete stillness and silence that you feel guilty for breathing.

Stars so plentiful and bright that your body surges with intergalactic intrigue.

Cool nights that send bugs and mosquitoes packing for Arkansas.

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In the mountain valleys, creeks surge with ferocity in the afternoon and evening, then retreat after midnight as the cooling temperatures slow the melting process.
Then they surge again as the process begins again the next day.

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Wildflowers of so many varieties that they turn mountainsides, meadows and creek banks into masterpiece theaters.

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Cool, damp moss draping creek banks.

Old-growth forests that create cool, cavernous hollows.

Rock formations that turn imaginative glances into surrealistic movie scenes.

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Winds you can see with your ears as they trace a path across a valley and dance through the lodgepole pines and stands of aspen.

Mountain climbs that offer greater dividends as you increase in elevation.

Creeks and rivers reborn or reactivated with spring’s cascading snowmelt create a thundering, never-ending roar.

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Afternoon thunderstorms that temper and refresh the heated day, abating the dust and triggering the landscape’s fragrances.

Rainbows dazzle the eyes as a passing storm moves east and the sun re-emerges in the west.

Africa: Botswana & South Africa (Part II)

All photos, text and artwork included in this Web site are copyright-protected and the exclusive property of Eric Schickler Photography. No downloading, use, reproduction, manipulation, sale and/or distribution permitted without express written consent.

© Eric Schickler Photography

Related Posts:

http://ericschickler.com/2013/11/11/bull-elephant-rampages-our-african-tent-camp/

http://ericschickler.com/2013/04/23/africa-bostwana-south-africa-part-i/

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Africa: Bostwana & South Africa (Part I)

All photos, text and artwork included in this Web site are copyright-protected and the exclusive property of Eric Schickler Photography. No downloading, use, reproduction, manipulation, sale and/or distribution permitted without express written consent.

© Eric Schickler Photography

Related posts:

http://ericschickler.com/2013/11/11/bull-elephant-rampages-our-african-tent-camp/

 http://ericschickler.com/2013/04/23/africa-botswana-south-africa/

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Vail Mountain, Colorado – On the Edge of Autumn 2012

Vail Mountain, Colorado – On the Edge of Autumn 2012

Two wheels, two legs, three hours, one lens, one quart of lemonade, two Nature Valley granola bars, two miles uphill from top of gondola, too beautiful.

Related Posts:

http://ericschickler.com/2013/04/29/autumn-colors/

 http://ericschickler.com/2013/12/02/autumn-colors-2/

http://ericschickler.com/2013/04/10/october-colors-in-upstate-new-york-2/

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Super Ball

Not only was May 5, 2012, Derby Day at Churchill Downs, and Cinco de Mayo for Mexicans, the evening brought us the so-called “Super Moon” in all its full glory.

This moon appeared 14% larger than other full moons you’ll see in 2012, and 30% brighter. Scientists call it a “perigee” moon because of its proximity to Earth. Apogee occurs when the moon is farthest away from our planet, and perigee occurs when it is nearest. The moon was as close to Earth as it will be for some time, a mere 221,000 miles away! Ha. Ha. Right around the corner if I owned one of those now-grounded Space Shuttles.

Having just moved to back Vail, I saw this as a photo opportunity I’d better not miss. I pondered various locations that might provide a good foreground profile for the images. I wanted the moon to rise directly over the majestic, jagged Gore Range east of Vail, but had no idea where or exactly when it would rise over the mountains.

At dusk, I ventured up a dirt road on Vail Mountain in my car to a regular and trusted overlook and photographic vantage point. Interestingly, it was the same path I skied down on my final run of the season just 3 weeks ago. I couldn’t help but notice the irony as I drove down the trail a few minutes later.

As I arrived at the spot, a woman in a parked car waved at me to stop. I sensed she was observing some wildlife. I turned off my headlights and engine, glanced to my left, and by golly, here come two fuzzy, clumsy moose calves skipping playfully across the grassy ski trail in front of us. What a completely unexpected treat! If I didn’t capture the moon shots, I was content to know that just trying got me out on the mountain to enjoy this gratifying wildlife experience.

After 30 minutes, I sensed that the moon would be rising far south of the Gore Range, so I left this location, drove down into Vail Village and up a road on the north side of the valley. After seeing yet more wildlife–a fox in the middle of the dirt road–I saw that the sky was generally clear, except for some obscuring cloud banks on the eastern horizon over the Gore Range and Vail Mountain. I realized I would not get the shots I was hoping for. Not in this area of Colorado at this time.

Disappointed, I drove back home.

Twenty minutes later, as I ventured back out to join a friend for some Cinco de Mayo celebrating, I spied a bright glow over the mountainside directly to the south of my West Vail condo. Here comes that full Super Moon after all, in a place with no major clouds. It couldn’t get any easier than this! I set up my tripod and camera smack dab in the condo parking lot and grabbed a few good shots.

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Snowy Scenics – Evergreen, Colorado

Winter in Evergreen is remarkable, and scenic beyond belief. Within one mile of my home are the most scenic spots, that take on a magic quality when the blankets of white fall from the sky. I find subject matter that is simple, grand, intriguing, soothing, peaceful, invigorating, quaint, inspiring and fascinating.

These images were taken in, around and near Alderfer/Three Sisters Park, and along Bear Creek, just east of Evergreen.

The park has 770 acres of ponderosa pines, silver-plume quartz outcrops and scenic open meadows, accessed by 10 miles of gentle trails. The primary early landowners, the Alderfer family, named the landmark rock outcrops after their children: the “Three Sisters and the “Brother.” The park has become very popular with mountain bikers and hikers, many of whom drive up from the Denver metro area on weekends.

I find endless moments of adventure, exercise and solitude in the park during the week, when you can often explore for hours without seeing a solitary person. Animals represent a higher percentage of the population at these times. I’ve seen coyotes, deer, elk, fox, bear, marmots, and plenty of hawks and eagles.

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One of my favorite little critters is the Abert’s squirrel, distinguished by its black coat and fuzzy upright ears. It is named after Colonel John James Abert, an American naturalist and military officer who led the Corps of Topographical Engineers, which mapped the western U.S. in the 1800s. The squirrels are found primarily in ponderosa pines forests, which they use for food, protection and nesting.

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One inhabitant I’m happy to have never met on the trail is the mountain lion. They are known to inhabit the park, and I have heard a few growling off in the distance. I learned early on that it’s not a great idea to run the wooded trails at dusk or dawn.

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The elk population in and around Evergreen has grown significantly over the past several decades due to their protected status and the small remaining number of mountain lions, their primary predator.

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Human-elk interactions are a daily occurrence in Evergreen, where the concept of “Rush Hour Traffic” is very different from that found in the city. Rush hour in this community often refers to a herd of elk in the middle of the road, on your driveway, sidewalk or in your backyard. Automobile traffic is stopped by both traffic lights and elk herd crossings.

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The funniest Evergreen “rush hour” moment for me was watching five elk parading aimlessly around a traffic circle in the center of town at 5 p.m., paying no heed to the well known rule that vehicles already in the traffic circle have the right of way! Fortunately most resident drivers are very alert to sudden elk appearances, and show great patience in allowing them their migratory freedoms in and around town. Letting them ravage one’s deciduous trees and gardens is another matter altogether.

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When snow covers the park, hikers strap on snowshoes, skis and ice & snow crampons to tackle the trails. Some hardy mountain bikers continue to ride the trails when the snow is hard-packed.

Winter is such a highly rewarding time for photography. That’s when I experience and document unique contrasts, the mix of cool and warm light, soft gradients, the visual delights of falling snowflakes, the juxtaposition of stark blue skies and sheets of white, and the dance of snow clouds as they rake the mountaintops.

Then my lens moves to the fascinating formations of snow on the sturdy ponderosa pines and aspens, the gentle lines and reflections along the waters of Bear Creek, the sparkle of Colorado’s dry champagne powder, and the soft draping of powder on exposed rock outcrops.

My most successful winter images are those that actually capture and convey the hush that exists when a deep blanket of snow covers the landscape. That peace and serenity is also why I so enjoy braving the elements to bring you these images. Which brings me back to the primary reason I am a nature photographer. It keeps me outside and away from the computer!

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As I get older and find myself staring down yet another winter, my mind drifts to thoughts of a warm tropical beach and all the comforts that come with it. But then I look out my door and find scenes like these in the Colorado foothills. I could never move to a one-season location. Look what I would miss!

Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula – Part 2 – Our Exotic Adventure

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Eric Schickler’s full-length travelogue,Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula”

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Exotic Adventure on the Osa Peninsula

Our Costa Rican fun started with a rather turbulent, attention-getting flight on a de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin-Engine Otter (capacity: 19 people). We flew out of the capital city of San Jose at mid-morning, up and over the Talamanca Range (Cordillera de Talamanca).

Even with turbulence, the 45-minute, 236-mile flight was visually rewarding, thanks to the special over-sized viewing windows Nature Air installs on its planes. The final leg took us over Corcovado National Park, one of Costa Rica’s largest, and the crown jewel of the Osa Peninsula.

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The second half of the flight was along the Pacific coast, southward to the small port town of Puerto Jimenez, home to just 1,780 people, but the largest town on the peninsula.

It is best known for its gold mining and logging that started in the 1960s and, as late as the 1980s, was considered a frontier cowboy town bustling with commercial activity and gun-toting miners. Even today, with some gold mining still occurring (much of it illegal), rough-and-tumble gold diggers add a wild west feel to the bars at night.

The mining and logging decades caused considerable damage to the natural beauty of the area. When the government designated the peninsula’s lands as protected nature reserves, the influx of conservationists and adventurers caused a revitalization of the town as a staging grounds for area eco-tourism.

The airstrip in Puerto Jimenez was more like some farm’s back cornfield than an aviation center. I thought the pilot was confused about our landing, as we came in so fast and dropped so quickly into a narrow gap in the treed costal area, onto a hidden strip of pavement on “the farm.” I learned that our plane was a STOL aircraft (Short Take Off & Landing). It was aptly named.

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The terminal was nothing more than an open-air lean-to with a corrugated tin roof, tucked snugly under some trees—built for shade and that’s it.

Children on bikes and clueless animals intermittently cruised along or crossed the very small runway.

The airstrip was adjacent to the town’s cemetery, leading me to wonder if its close proximity is related to occasional mishaps between aircraft and runway inhabitants.

Even more interesting, the Century 21 Real Estate office is next to the cemetery. Yet another coincidence?

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The puritan architecture of the lean-to terminal left me confused about where to get our luggage.  No problem, there’s the pilot himself getting them out of the storage compartment for us. What service.  What multi-talent.

Wait, isn’t he the same guy who had the judge-and-jury attitude back at San Jose International Airport? The man who eyed the luggage scale so scrupulously as my bag’s reading hovered near the 27-lb. limit? What a champ. What a transformation of character.

“Your bags, sir. Enjoy your stay on the Osa Peninsula. Pura Vida.”

The Osa Peninsula is one of just a handful of ocean-piercing peninsulas found in all of Central America. There are also just four or five gulfs. The rest of the continent’s shoreline is fairly smooth and consistent. The peninsula is far away from civilization and very close to the border of Panama to the south.

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Remote, sparsely populated and almost entirely protected as forest preserves, the Osa has but a few small towns, which are accessed only by air, sea or primitive, dangerous roads. Some mountain roads get little or no maintenance, and can be impassable during the rainy season (May-November), when they turn to mud and nearby rivers over-run their banks.

The Osa is described as pristine, peaceful, beautiful, rustic and adventurous.

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Don’t expect huge five-star hotels with modern-day accoutrements. Located in the south portion of the Puntarenas Province, it is bordered on the Pacific side by Drake Bay and by an inlet known as Golfo Dulce.

Drake Bay, discovered by Sir Francis Drake of England when he circled the globe in the late 1500s, is at the northwestern end of the peninsula and the expansive Corcovado Park, which covers one-third of the peninsula.

The tiny town of Drake offers a few places to eat, a scattering of small stores and tour-business shops. But most importantly, it has an airport and several luxury resorts and lodges nearby.

IMG_8265.JPGBeach lovers will feel as if they have escaped civilization on Playas San Josecito and Cocalito. Walks in the rain forest nearby will take you up close to kinkajous, sloths and monkeys, to name a few.

Cano Island, just 12 miles off shore, boasts outstanding snorkeling and diving, and is a biological reserve. Its waters are almost always crystal clear. Look for white-tip reef sharks, needle fish, sea turtles, dolphins and whales.

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Golfo Dulce (“Sweet Gulf”) runs along the southeastern coast of the Osa Peninsula, and is the tenth deepest gulf in the world (600 feet in the middle).

It captured the attention and passion of marine conservationist and explorer Jacque Cousteau decades ago for its pristine beauty, biodiversity and abundant animal and marine life. He believed it was a close runner-up to the Norwegian Fjords, and called it a “tropical fjord,” one of only three such “fjords” in the world. Although technically, fjords are carved by glaciers.

It is one of the most humid and wettest parts of Costa Rica, receiving 200+ inches of rain annually. The entire gulf shoreline (27 miles long and five miles across) is virtually uninhabited by people and development, but rich in flora and fauna.

The Osa Peninsula is home to the largest concentration of Scarlet Macaws in the world. Locals call them lapas.

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They are the largest member of the parrot family, are monogamous and pair for life, 35-45 years. If one mate dies, often times the other dies shortly thereafter. Their appeal as pets and the impact of deforestation have kept them on the endangered species list.

The gulf is a calving area for the north and south Pacific humpback whale groups and attracts schools of whale sharks from April to May. Bottlenose and spinner dolphins are also abundant.

Swimming is very popular, as the gulf is very calm and smooth and contains a great amount of fresh water from nearby rivers. Thus the name Dolce, meaning “Sweet” or “Fresh.”

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It didn’t take long to get a feel for the area, and a feel for tropical relaxation.

Our Toyota touring truck moved slowly through the small town, and we instantly noticed the slow pace and friendliness of the people. Children smiled and waved. Automobiles were few and far between. Horses, motorcycles, bicycles and feet were the main modes of transport.

We were beyond the town in mere minutes and suddenly out in wide-open plantation country. All we saw were a dozen dwellings over the entire three-mile ride.

The truck had an open rear bed with two long, cushioned sightseeing benches.  We loved the great views, but there was a risk of getting clipped by overhanging roadside tree branches. Better pay attention, stay close to the middle of the truck, and look ahead!

Weather on the Osa is fairly predictable.  The nicest months (the “dry season”) are December through April. The May through November “green season” has higher rainfall totals, especially August through September.

The May through November “green season” has higher rainfall totals, especially August through September.

 

To continue the travelogue, click here to go to Part 3:  http://ericschickler.com/2011/06/20/costa-ricas-osa-peninsula-part-3-iguana-lodge/

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© Eric Schickler Photography, Communication & Design

All photography, text and artwork seen here is copyright-protected and the exclusive property of Eric Schickler Photography, Communication & Design. No downloading, use, reproduction, manipulation, sale and/or distribution permitted without express written consent.

 

 

Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula – Part 1 – Overview, Demographics & History

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Eric Schickler’s seven-part travelogue,Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula.”

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Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula

Text  &  Photographs by Eric R. Schickler

 

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Pura Vida!

It’s the most common expression heard in Costa Rica.

Translated literally—Pure Life.

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But like many expressions, it goes well beyond the literal, and can also mean:

“Purified life.”

“Full of life”

“Enjoying life”

“Letting go.”

“Cool.”

“Happy days”

“This is the life!”

After my trip there, I might add these to the equation:

“All’s peachy, mate, going great”

“Right on!”

“Rock on!”

“Get after it!”

“Can I stay forever?”

and, “Where can I buy a place around here?”

Well, you get the idea.

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Pronounced  “poor-ah vee-dah,”  Pura Vida is used to say hello, good-bye, and to express happiness or satisfaction.

Many visitors view the phrase as an expression of an easy-go-lucky lifestyle, great friendliness, and a laid-back attitude toward time.

Residents translate it as “strong community, perseverance, enjoying life at a leisurely pace and celebrating all good fortune.”

In James Hilton’s novel, Lost Horizon, the imaginary city of Shangri-La was an earthly utopia, a paradise, an endlessly happy land, removed from the outside world.

Its inhabitants were said to be almost immortal, barely showing any signs of aging and enjoying very lengthy lives.

Hey, that sounds just like Costa Rica!

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I had the good fortune to visit this Shangri-La once. Since that memorable vacation, tropical daydreams are common, usually triggered while viewing my Costa Rica photo library. But I’m nearing the maximum-views-allowed limit for these images. I can’t stand it much longer. We all know photos are great souvenirs, but they don’t do the land of enchantment much justice. I desperately need a follow-up Pura Vida fix, and a new library of photos.

To temporarily satisfy my appetite, to buy some time until I go again, I added adventure stories, background information and commentary to the photos, creating this detailed travelogue. I view this document as a long-needed bookend for that first voyage, and a first step in planning my next trip to this trend-setting Central American nation.

It’s a place with a unique history, a flourishing present and a very promising future. And I definitely see a few more visits there in my future.

If you are lucky enough to make a visit, heed this warning: You may forever be haunted by its magic, magnetism and psychic influence. You will never look at where you currently live the same way. I live in a spectacularly beautiful place in the Unites States—Colorado. You’d think I’d count my blessings.

Yet the breezes of Costa Rica still swirl around me, tempting me to leave the mountains and return to the Rich Coast. I’m just not sure what the length of my next visit will be. Let’s just say, that decision is still up in the air.

 

Costa Rica Through Time and the Tico People

Costa Rica was populated for thousands of years by North American Aztecs and South American Incas.

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Christopher Columbus’s fourth and final expedition to the New World in 1502 brought him to Central America and what is today the Republic of Costa Rica. He called the area “The Rich Coast,” after the precious metals he believed were plentiful there. That abundance, however, did not materialize.

But starting in 1522, a long period of Spanish conquest and settlement began. Costa Rica became valuable for its agricultural bounties.

Over the next 300 years, there was a tragic reduction of the indigenous population, cutting it from a half million to just 2,000.

Both the Nahuatl and Chibcha cultures were basically eliminated by diseases (primarily smallpox) and mistreatment by the Spaniards.

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Sadly, people who descended from those indigenous tribes represent just 1% of the population today, a mere 30,000 people.

Because the epicenters of Spain’s trade operations during colonial times were in Mexico, Guatemala City and in the Andes Mountain regions of S. America, Costa Rica’s great distance made trade routes difficult to establish. The area was therefore largely ignored by the Monarchy of Spain and was left to develop on its own.

While this allowed Costa Rica a level of autonomy, it also contributed to its poverty. It was also instrumental in helping it develop its own egalitarian society, free of a ruling class vs. oppressed class system that resulted in other nearby Spanish colonies. Wealth generated from coffee and banana cultivation was a driving force in creating these wide class variations.

1821 – Costa Rica and the other Central American provinces declare independence from Spain, forming The Central American Federation.

During the next 15 years, provincial border disputes and conflicts are numerous, and the Federation collapses.

1838 – Costa Rica asserts its sovereignty.

1899 – Peaceful democratic rule blossoms with the first honest and free elections.

1948 – A presidential election won by challenger Otilio Ulate was disputed by the incumbent, Rafael Ángel Calderon, who refused to cede power. This led to a public revolt, a bloody 44-day civil war and 2,000 deaths. The uprising was led by Jose Figueres, (known as Don Pepe to Ticos) and resulted in a victory for democracy, a new constitution, voting rights for all adults (incl. women and blacks), and elimination of the military.

Figueres became a national hero and became the provisional president for 18 months, after which he handed over rule to Ulate, the rightful winner of the election.

Figueres then won the presidency in 1953 and again in 1970. He is considered the most important political figure in Costa Rica’s history.

Jose Figueres Ferrer (Don Pepe) 1948 –

Commander in Chief, National Liberation Army

(photo by www.elespiritude148.org)

Don Pepe 1948 - Jose Figueres Ferrer- photo by www.elespiritude148.org

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Imagine a nation that has overcome the ravages of Spanish conquest, decimating disease, slavery, border conflicts and civil wars, and today sees no need to keep a standing army?

How could this country of four million people also become an envied model of simplistic, nature-loving, health-oriented and content living?

The local people, known for their festive and gregarious nature, call themselves Ticos, and still take great pride in their cultural heritage. They have a passion for dance, celebration and music.

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The population is a varied and robust mix of peoples:  Mestizos (Spanish/American Indian), Afro-Caribbeans, Spanish descendants, indigenous Indians, and the modern-day influx of North Americans, Asians and Europeans. Nearly 12% of the population is Nicaraguan.

Today, most Costa Ricans describe themselves as white, the result of Spanish/European influence. However, natives maintain a strong connection to their Tico heritage.

The expression “Tico at heart,” “Muy Tico,” doing things “a la Tico” or “the Tico way,” are all common expressions of Tico pride.

The Pura Vida concept is also an extension of the Tico attitude toward time, conflict with others and the word “no.” Costa Ricans like to talk and act with a bit of conciliatory ambivalence. They don’t like conflict. They prefer to speak softly.

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“Yes” is much more preferred over “no.”  Answers to difficult, contentious or negative questions will elicit replies like “more or less,” “maybe,” “possibly.” Sometimes, Ticos will say “yes” even when they mean “no” or “I’m not sure.” This confounds many tourists, but sure sounds like a perfect place to meet women.

Following in this wake is the concept of “Tico time.”  Pura Vida is casual, and so is Tico time. There’s no rush. No urgency. Time moves slowly here. However, the pressures of participating in a modern global economy, and running tourism businesses, have slowly eroded adherence to Tico time mentality. But it is still common in personal interaction and affairs.

 

A Society Worth Emulating

Since 1949, when Costa Rica abolished its military, it has impressed peace-loving and environmentally conscious nations with its governmental support for public education, healthcare and land preservation.

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It has often been called the “Switzerland of the Americas.”

More than 25% of their lands are protected from development (one of the highest worldwide). Their literacy rate is an astounding 95%! The infant mortality rate is the best in all of Latin America. Life expectancy: 79 years. Its energy production is well on its way to becoming carbon-neutral.

It is a nation that has attained much higher human development than other countries at the same per capita income levels, according to the United Nations Development Program.

Its land, roughly the size of West Virginia, represents a mere 0.03% of the world’s landmass, yet it harbors nearly 4% of all plant and animal species—more than 500,000!

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The International Environmental Performance Index ranks Costa Rica #1 in the Western Hemisphere and #3 in the entire world.

Costa Rica ranks #1 in the entire world in the Happy Planet Index.

http://www.happyplanetindex.org/news/archive/news-2.html

The Happy Planet Index measures how much of the Earth’s resources a nation uses and how long and happy a life the country’s citizens enjoy.

The three criteria for measurement are: Life Expectancy, Life Satisfaction and Ecological Footprint.

Costa Rica is also the greenest (most environmentally conscious) country in the world according to this study.

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USA’s ranking was 30.7. Norway was at 40.4. China: 57.1. Costa Rica’s index was 76.1.

www.happyplanetindex.org/explore/global/

The 2010 International Human Development Index (hdrstatshttp://hdr.undp.org/en/humandev/ ) ranks Costa Rica at #62 out of 169 nations. This places it in the “HIGH” category at a 0.73 index level. (The four categories are: Very High, High, Medium, Low).

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Compare with…..

Norway (1st) 0.94

USA: 0.90

Japan: 0.88

Switzerland 0.87

Costa Rica 0.73

Russian Fed. 0.72

Brazil 0.70

China 0.66

Egypt 0.62

S. Africa 0.60

India 0.52

Madagascar 0.44

Afghanistan  0.35

Ethiopia 0.22

Zimbabwe (#169, last) 0.14

A sample of IHD Index CRITERIA:  robbery rate, percentage of protected lands, literacy rate, GDP per capita, homicide rate, education, spending on health care, Internet users, poverty rate, unemployment rate, adjusted net savings.

While most Costa Ricans (70%) are Catholic, the official religion, people are accepting of all faiths. Protestants constitute about 13%.

Costa Ricans make great efforts to preserve their country’s cornerstones of life: education, democracy, peace, tolerance, equality for all, stability, prosperity and a strong sense of family.

No wonder the nation’s residents have been categorized as “the happiest people on earth,” based on their view of their overall quality of life. As a result, some areas of Costa Rica boast the world’s longest-living people. Healthy lifestyles, spirituality and lack of stress obviously have great benefits.

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They invest heavily in theater, cinematography, and are crazy for futbol (soccer). In most towns, the futbol pitch (field) is at its epicenter.

Almost all villages are equipped with all the basic public utilities and services for residents: schools, electric power, water and phones.

Spanish is the official language, but schools require students to be bilingual. English is the most common second language because it is most often used by visiting tourists, followed by French. Creole, a kind of Jamaican English, is the unofficial second language on the Caribbean coast.

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Tourism is big business in Costa Rica. Nearly a million foreign tourists come here annually, spending about $1.3 billion. Unlike most Central American destinations, prices are higher for almost everything due to the higher standard of living. But, hey, it’s worth it—you can drink the water and eat the foods without fear of stomach ailments!

The geography is characterized by rugged forested mountains and the continental divide in the center, coastal plains, volcanic regions, dry forests in the north, and lush wet forests in the south.

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It doesn’t take long to catch on to the Pura Vida spirit in the natural areas of Costa Rica.

Its popularity as a vacation destination is growing annually, attracting people from all over the world.

If the complete aura of peace and tranquility doesn’t wrap your mind, body and emotions in a comforter, the Pura Vida friendliness and contentment of the people will.

To continue travelogue, click here to view Part 2:  http://ericschickler.com/2011/06/08/costa-ricas-osa-peninsula-part-ii/

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© Eric Schickler Photography, Communication & Design

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