In yesterday's post, [Green Water for Green Energy], I covered geo-thermal energy with a visit to the hot springs.My next activity was a rafting trip down the Peñas Blancas and San Carlos rivers, heading towards Nicaragua, to discuss hydro-electric power. Half of the hydro-electric power in this country is driven directly by river flow, and the rest relies on stored water in lakes. Back in 2007, Costa Rica had a drought, and this affected the hydro-electric capacity, resulting in brown-outs and power outages. When more than 80 percent of your energy comes from this source, droughts can be devastating. Rain patterns for Costa Rica have a dry season from mid-December to April, lots of Rain in May and June, a "short summer" (called affectionately El Veranito) with little or no rain in July, and then more rain the rest of the year, averaging over 150 inches of rainfall per year.
This was billed as a "Safari Float" ride.The water level was low, "Class I", the slowest possible rating, giving our raft guide Pedro a chance to point out a variety of birds, monkeys, iguanas and crocodiles. Iguanas and Crocodiles are protected endangered species in Costa Rica, and are notsupposed to be killed for food or sport.
(Hint: don't bother, both taste like chicken)Joining us in our raft is Pamela, the 9-year-old daughter of one of the employees of the rafting company, [Canoa Adventura]. This wastheir version of take-your-daughter-to-work-day, as her parents want her to learn the rafting business, and get accustomed around English-speaking tourists.
Along the way, we saw a bulldozer knocking down trees and scooping up the rich soil.Costa Ricans consider trees and soil as renewable resources, reducing the need to purchase foreign fossil-based oil for cooking and chemical fertilizers.The name of the country, Costa Rica, literally means "rich coast" in the Spanish language, and with a string of 112 volcanos, the silt has plenty of mineral content that is good for agriculture, from coffee and bananas, to sugar cane, oranges and African palm.
Midway down the river, we had an "energy stop" to rest from all the paddling. This involved a visit to Don Pedro's farm, he is 98 years old, has four daughters, five grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren, the youngest of which just born 15 days ago. We had coffee, [fried plantaines], and Yucca cake. We have Yucca in Arizona as well. If you've ever seen a [Yucca] plant, you would never think to eat it, but it is a staple here. To make cake, just grate the Yucca root, mix in enough milk and sugar, and bake in a pie tin. The result has a consistency similar to coconut macaroons.
On the ride back, we stopped at the famous "Iguana bridge" where we could see up close and personal a dozen or so of these huge lizards. Our guide Marcos fed them some papaya. Agreat way to appreciate bio-diversity in action!