Stick with me and I hope the relationship with gardening becomes clear, but at the same time I hope it gives you an insight into one of the most beautiful countries I've been to and also gives you a taste of just what adventures are there to be had when you put down the plants and pick up the passport...
Don't be fooled by pretty colours and enticing pictures of bikes and rafts on the map below, as I was.
Having completed the 300km trip without the aid of an engine, or for most days hot water or sleep, I can now confirm that 'Traverse' is shorthand for 'muscle-burning, swear-inducing, exhilarating, humbling and occasionally heart-stopping flight across a land where the term 'flat' does not apply.
By way of introduction, the tales below are of an intrepid group of 14 hand picked athletes, led by the indefatigable Juan Carlos (lead guide), the unassuming Vito (bike mechanic par excellence) and the assured Darwin (driver).
There may be an exaggeration in there. For athletes read 'people who think they're fit enough to take on any challenge but hadn't read the small print'. Hence the swearing halfway up a never ending rocky hill on mountain bike in 90% humidity. But that's for later, for now it's on with the tales and I hope you enjoy...
#1 Why did the sloth cross the road?
Why did the sloth cross the road?
Sloths have a bad name and it's not deserved.
Meet Tico the Costa Rican sloth:
You may well ask yourself what a sloth has to do with gardening, and I'm sure I'll have found a tenuous link before this post is out, but just pause for a moment and reflect on your perception of a sloth...
Slow? Yes. Lazy? Almost certainly. On benefits? Without a doubt.
I'd barely started my adventure when a small group of us came across this curious character. Had it not been for Don's chain snapping within seconds of leaving our starting point we would have missed this charming fellow.
Indeed, I would have missed him anyway had Karen not screamed 'Sloooooooooooooth' causing us all to stop, take a break and a photo (I soon discovered this wouldn't be the last time I'd have to take a break on the bike...).
Most sloths hang from trees in a little bundle. However, this go-getter decided the time was right to see if the grass, or possibly trees, were greener on the other side. He looked left, he looked right, he waited for a car to go past. Time to cross? Not just yet, got to pose for the tourists taking photos first.
It got me thinking, what would you do in this situation? Me, I took photos of the charmer with the intention of getting back on my bike and continuing my adventure. The old Costa Rican lady with a walking stick in the back of a car that pulled up, and Vito with a stick pulled from a tree, had other ideas.
Before my eyes, I saw the locals carefully place a stick under the front legs and one under the hind legs, lift and cart this pampered pretend primate from one side of the road into the long grass on the other where it made like Usain Bolt on sedatives to its new home. I was so stunned and it happened so quickly I forgot to capture the moment.
Unfortunately for those whose chains didn't snap, this top sighting passed them by. Juan Carlos was like a patient parent to the cries of 'when are we going to see a sloth', every day until the final day - the day he said we'd see one. We'd be crawling up hills - 'do sloths hang out here?' and racing down mountains 'was that a sloth? Crash. No.
But thankfully I had this thrilling video to keep them happy until the next sloth sighting.
Three garden-related things struck me about my sloth experience.
Firstly that if you don't keep your eyes open you'll miss more than you could possibly realise. It's hard sometimes, but I think the same applies to the garden. Often, I'll get totally caught up in weeding that I'll miss the cat leaving a parcel in the veg bed behind me. Or it might be a new bird quietly checking out the food on the bird table.
Secondly, that the famed Costa Rican care for their natural world was evident in the simplest of gestures. Next time I'm rushing for work, no harm in taking a bit longer to soak some bread and leave it out for the birds, or to put some slug pellets down (you know, to help the plants...).
And finally, that it's ok to be a sloth. Sure the garden may not stay as neat and tidy, but things will take care of themselves. And when you're as good looking as this, what's the rush?