Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cahuita Photo Essay

Cahuita wasn't my first choice destination for an Autumn getaway, but almost all the others I'd investigated to the north of Antigua appeared to be far too waterlogged in late September. (I'm particularly glad I stayed away from Veracruz for example.)

By the time I made it down to Costa Rica there was a tropical cyclone sliding down the Pacific Coast. They have fewer corrupt politicians and senseless killings down there, so the evening news bulletin treated the weather situation to the in-depth treatment.

The Caribbean side has a number of advantages over the more visited Pacific littoral, light-coloured sand and fewer surfers and sex tourists among them. The bus from San José was packed with mochileros and I envisaged having to dash from the stop in Cahuita to secure the cabina I was after, but in the end only me and one other passenger got down in Cahuita — so the others must have been Panama-bound. (The border is only another 30 minutes further down the road.)

The population of Cahuita features a dominant Jamaican heritage and an English-based patois is spoken there as well as Spanish. The first setllers were turtle hunters from Nicaragua and Bocas del Toro who appeared seasonally and lived in provisional camps. The Smith family then created a more permanent fishing camp in 1828 at 'Punta Cahuita' and the site of the present township (which I'd estimate at around half the size of the one on Caye Caulker) was granted in perpetuity to the locals after they assisted President Alfredo González Flores when his ship was wrecked en-route to Sixaola. The town's main street is named after the grateful leader who served Costa Rica from 1913-17.

There are two restaurants in this tiny seaside spot which I would recommend to any visitor to Central America....which I guess is one more than I can think of in Antigua. The first of these is a place called Cha Cha Cha run by a talented Haitian-Canadian chef resident in Cahuita for fifteen years. The other is a more traditional Caribbean eatery run by one of those well-entrenched and well-respected viejitas: Miss Edith's. She specialises in Jamaican dishes, such as jerk chicken and fish.

The other significant reason for bothering to come is the Parque Nacional lying just to the south of the town and incorporating a beautiful beach lined by almendrales. There are pathways through the forest behind the sands , but these end rather abruptly thanks to overspill from the Rio Perezoso during the wet season. As you can see from the pics, the White-Faced Capuchins are far from shy. Entry is free, though donations are encouraged.

The distance isn't actually all that daunting for anyone based in Guatemala. You can catch the early afternoon Ticabus from the terminal on the Calzada Aguilar Batres and be in San Salvabore some five hours later. There's a cheap and comfortable hotel attached to the Ticabus stop in the smart suburb of San Benito in that city, but you could be brave and stay awake, because the journey continues at 4am the next morning arriving around 8pm in San José.

The following day you can catch a ride to Cahuita from the Gran Terminal del Caribe, which will take around three and a half hours and involves a bathroom break in
Puerto Limón.

Overall the isthmus south of Guatemala conforms to my expecations of being fundamentally less fascinating than the lands to the north which were more deeply penetrated by ancient Mesoamerican culture. That said, Costa Rica is interestingly different to Guatemala. For example, the vegetation on the hills outside the capital more resembles a botanical garden turned cancerous than the pine-clad hills separating Guatemala City and Antigua.

1 comment:

scott said...

Hmmm, glitch in the photos?