Sunday, November 26, 2006

El Verano

El verano, summer, has arrived here in Guanacaste. The rains of October and early November have subsided for the most part. The trees are beginning to change color and are just beginning to drop their leaves. The sky is deep blue with few clouds and the breezes have picked up a bit. The volcanoes have giant cloud waves breaking over their tops.

For those unfamiliar with the geography here, Guanacaste is the driest province in Costa Rica, located on the northwest Pacific side of the country, bordering with Nicaragua to the north. The rainy season, or green season, starts in May-June and lasts through October-November, with October being the wettest month. The tropical dry forest that covers the hills along the coast is deciduous jungle. When the rain stops, many of the trees shed their leaves to conserve energy over the long, dry summer. Some burst into bloom, covered in brilliant flowers with not a leaf on the tree. The hummingbirds swarm. It will not rain here at all for about 4 months or so! It's guaranteed sunshine for tourists seeking warmth from the harsh cold and short winter days up north. The hills turn brown to reveal the cactus growing beneath what was dense green canopy a month ago. My favorite time of year to hop on the motorcycle and take a ride.

It's also fire season. Burning is part of the culture here in Guanacaste. Ranchers traditionally burn to clear pasture for their horses and cattle. The grass roots, and some of the low, scrubby trees, are resistant to fire and turn green again when the rains return. It's becoming a bit controversial now with the ecotourism boom, population growth and the proximity of fincas (farms) to national parks. Sometimes when the pasture burns, it sets off fires in the parks. Now people in gated communities on what used to be a finca are becoming concerned about their property when the next door neighbor torches his pasture. Another one of those culture clashes we'll have to work through together.

Today is a beautiful day. Nothing but blue sky, blue water, green mountains and volcanoes. I hear the wahoo are running. The beach should be crowded with ticos and visitors alike. I have a big week coming up with a move to a new house so I'm going to live for the day and enjoy it with my tico family and friends. Maybe I'll get lucky and score a tamale or two, and spike my pipa with a bit of Centenario. Tuanis! Pura vida!

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