Where there is smoke! Dry season in Costa Rica

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYep you guessed it there is fire!!!!! So I have been living here in Costa Rica Atenas area for 13 months now. We are now deep into our 2nd dry season. Last season we didn’t personally experience too many fires. What we did experience were either far away or done by the time we knew about them. This year we had a scare. A fire came very close to our home in Atenas. So that got me to thinking, “Why are there so many fires? How do they start?” So I started to look around as we travel though our daily lives paying attention to the burnt areas and current fires and I have picked my top 3 reasons which I will go into later.

The reason for this blog is to explain to people who are thinking of moving here or visiting why we who live here now are not that thrilled with dry season and why we like Rainy season so much better. Lets look at it from the perspective of someone who is coming here for a vacation or to check it out. You are going to come during dry season. So what you are going to see is black hill sides WP_20140311_14_17_05_Pro, brown grass and just a very dry place. You won’t have rain no doubt, which is what you are trying to avoid, but Costa Rica is so pretty in the Rainy season. You must come and visit both times of the year if you are thinking of moving here.

Now because most people avoid coming here during Rainy season prices jump! Hotel prices, food prices, everything goes up in dry season. Yes it is all your fault you vacationers. 🙂  So those coming to live here see it as expensive. Those vacationing see it as a little expensive, but expect it as its a tourist area they are in and are only going to be here for a short time and they budgeted for the costs so no worries on their end. You who have come to visit to see if you want to live here really did pick the bad time of year to experience it.

Now those of us who live here we do love our Rainy season. The landscape is lush and pretty and colorful. _DSC4952OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese same areas are now black from a fire and brown from no rain. The rainy season varies from area to area. So right now I can only speak from my experience here in Atenas. Last rainy season we got a lot of rain, but it was in the afternoon for an hour or two. The morning was bright and sunny and so was the afternoon. It did rain every day like this. We only experienced one day where it was cloudy and rainy all day and even then the rain was light with the exception of an occasional heavy down pour. The afternoon shower isn’t just a shower. Its like the heavens opened up and is just dumping huge buckets of water on your head. Its amazing and it is beautiful to watch when you are up in the mountains like we are. I love watching the clouds move in and cover everything. The cloud actually comes into the house. Now it is as scary as it is beautiful. The lighting is crazy! Its beautiful and deadly. We do usually have power outages, but the longest it has ever been out is 4 hours. Our home back in the states we needed to put in a generator as if the power went out from a storm it could be days before it comes back on.

The other issue in rainy season is insects. They do come out more as they are looking for a dry place to be. So that is a bit of a challenge. If you are coming to live here and have pets you will need to be watchful of cane toads. They are deadly to pets like dogs who may bite them. They are always here, but you see them in large quantities during rainy season as there are more insects for them to eat. If a small dogs bits one they will die in a manner of 15 minutes if they do not receive treatment. Larger dogs you have a little longer. So while rainy season is beautiful and wonderful it does have its challenges. We currently have 10 dogs and I am not looking forward to the cane toads.

Rainy season may not have fires, but they do have landslides. So you do have to be very careful when walking or driving in rain storms. The landslide can come out of no where.

This dry season we had a fire that came very, very, very close to our house. It started on one of the main roads out of town and worked its way up the hill to our community and started down the hill toward our house. Here is a picture.

WP_20140310_08_59_23_ProThis picture is from our yard when we began to smell the smoke. There is a White house with a red stripe at the top of the hill. That is the house where it began to come down into the community. The house to my knowledge thanks to the bomberos (gringo speak fire department) only had smoke damage and lawn burned. The house I believe sustained no fire damage. It began to travel down the hill side of that house and toward our house. It go so close we could hear the crackle of the fire. In most cases this wouldn’t be an issue. We have insurance that covers fire and things are things. All our memories are on a hard drive I can grab and run, but we have 10 dogs! 3 large and 7 smaller. So fire makes this not a fun idea for us if we need to run. I know, I know have less dogs. That isn’t going to happen so we have to figure out how to get 10 dogs in a car quickly and get out of dodge. This fire has made me realize the need for speed! It came quick and fast and we hung in there, but we were just minutes away from saying lets get the fuck out of here! Here are just a few more pictures of the damage that happens in dry season.

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This is the hill it came down. So it went up to here and then down.

This is the hill it came down. So it went up to here and then down.

This is where it started and made its way to our house.

This is where it started and made its way to our house.

So why are there so many fires in dry season, well other than the obvious that everything is dry? Fires don’t just start something has to cause them right? Yes, I would say that is a good assumption. So then why so many and how do they start. I have a couple of theories and these are my top ones.

  1. During dry season they harvest Sugar Cane. When they do this they burn the fields for one reason or another. They have been doing this for many, many years. It is actually illegal to do it, but no one says anything and it continues to happen. So they do their “controlled” burn. Well winds pick up and carry embers to other areas that than hit the dry ground and start another fire.
  2. Litter is one of the biggest reasons, in my opinion for these fires. You will drive along the road and see the side of the road a fire had been there. You look around and can’t see why it would have started. There are a couple of factors when it comes to litter.

  • The 1st and most dangerous is a lit cigarettes being tossed out the window. I would hope the locals would know better, but people can be stupid. Now tourists have no clue so I think they are more at fault with the throwing of lit items out the car window.
  • The second is glass bottles discarded on the side of the road. They are as dangerous as a lit cigarette. The sun here is very hot and very strong. A glass bottle will act as a magnifying glass, so the sun will start a fire just as quick as if you put a match to the dried grass. I do believe this is how a lot of those road side fires start. Broken glass anything laying in the ground that could magnify the sun.

So lets wrap this one up shall we. Dry season is just that dry. Everything is brown and dirty and dusty and there are fires. Rainy season don’t avoid it, it really isn’t that bad. Everything is lush and green and much more beautiful than dry season. You do have increased insect activity and landslides. So nothing is perfect. If you are just a tourist come dry or rainy season you will enjoy it. If you are looking to live here, be sure to visit at the peek of both seasons so you know what you are getting yourself into.

Pura Vida!

Categories: Costa Rica Life Experience, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Where there is smoke! Dry season in Costa Rica

  1. We LOVE the rainy season here and are not quite sure why people try to avoid it. It’s beautiful in the mornings and the warm downpours with thunder and lightning in the afternoons and evenings are incredible to watch. The creepy crawlies were hard to get used to but I like them a lot better than the fires.
    Here in Guanacaste, we have had fires since December. We have heard every reason from the ones listed above to lightning strikes (haven’t seen lightning in months), no place to take yard debris, and trying to get rid of the creatures. Costa Rica has one of the highest rates in the world for asthma – surprise, surprise. I am looking forward to the burning being over so my kids don’t have to breathe it anymore.
    There are certainly pros and cons to both the wet and dry seasons however I prefer the rainy season.

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  2. Totally agree and forgot to add the roadside trash and yard debris burning as another source. 🙂 I have to say it is amazing how the nature here recovers from the burning. Its so fast and so amazing. Love this country.

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