A Travellerspoint blog

An end to our adventure...........

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Jan 16th - So on our last day, we headed out back toward San Jose. I was consulting the map and the Lonely Planet book in search of cool stops. We found a couple. LP says of Villa Caletas " If you have your own wheels, it's worth stopping in for a quick drink....arguably one of the most spectacular hotels in all of Costa Rica."

Well, it was on our way and that piqued our interest, so after driving past the entrance we turned around and made the slow journey in.

Described by LP "Since it's perched on a dramatic hillside, you'll first have to navigate a 1KM long serpentine driveway adorned with cacti and Victorian lanterns. The drive will be worth is as upon entering the property, you'll be rewarded with panoramic views of the Pacific coastline."

When we got there, we went to their amphitheater restaurant there as LP suggested and got a table and sat down to take in the amazing view. We ordered french-inspired breakfasts and a passion fruit smoothie that was divine. Everything was top of the line at this place. I actually felt a bit out of place: I tried to put on a cute top, but it was difficult hiding my dirty shorts and mud-covered hiking boots. I thought I did a good job staying under the radar, until a young woman stared at my shoes, and the jig was up!

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Apparently a wealthy young American couple was getting married there, so slowly all their friends filtered in as they arrived at the resort. It became very loud, so we quietly left after our meals and wandered around a tiny bit. I took video.

There was a tremendous iguana and the staff put him into a trap so as not to disturb the socializing yuppies there. I didn't mind him and approached the waiter to ensure they didn't hurt him, but they didn't. Steve and I seemed to be the only ones to notice little guy. In fact, we saw him walking around when we explored the resort later. It was a magnificent place. They even had an air conditioned gym enclosed in glass so you can see flora of the rain forest as you work out. This was as foreign to our experience in Heredia and Ostional as you could possibly get.

So we got back on the road. Our next stop would be a waterfall and botanical gardens.

We decided not to hike to this waterfall as we wanted one day of relaxation, but we did end up doing some light hiking on their rain forest trails (Faerie Falls Trail). it was hot and humid and we were tired, but it was beautiful rain forest there. It was a little brighter then the forest in Manuel Antonio- maybe this was a newer forest? Anyway, we saw the big waterfall from a distance, got acquainted with a few parrots and then checked out their botanical gardens, which is something I always like to do. We saw so many exotic flowers and colors.
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We were hoping to make it to Snake World, which LP said was a legit place trying to help snakes. Little did we know that the "Main" route to San Jose would consist of windy roads up and down mountains. Steve couldn't get the truck out of 1st gear, we were going so slowly. Here is a view from the ride:

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Needless to say, Snake World didn't work out, by the time we got to Garrita. So we went back to the B&B in Cariari and Laurie suggested a Peruvian restaurant nearby. We never had Peruvian food and the owners are from Peru, so it would be authentic. It was a delight! The ambiance was cool inside, with ancient pottery and stuff around. A bunch of American businesspeople had a large table inside. We got amazing food. I will definitely be eating more Peruvian stuff. I can't explain what it was, but it was good. I had a suspiro for dessert (a traditional Peruvian dessert, like a sugary, custardy parfait, and heavy) and Steve had ice cream over chocolate nougat for dessert. The entrees were like 10-11 bucks each! Those are diner prices here.

In the morning, we relaxed before heading to Alamo to drop off the car. We drove through a very sketchy neighborhood to get to Alamo. All of the inhabitants surrounded their homes in bars to protect themselves. Can you imagine caging yourself in like that? It must be a very difficult life.

Still, Costa Rica is paradise. Even the airport is decorated like forest. People who go there generally enjoy nature and that is what they are visiting - the open-air museums of flora and fauna. Costa Rica is one of the most biologically diverse places on the planet, so it was cool to see all the colors there, and the smells and the sounds. Everything seemed to work out for us on the trip, usually we have a few more glitches, but this ran pretty smoothly. The hardest part is always leaving the girls behind. We always run through the front door in search of them when we come home.

What is cool about our travels is that we always meet people along the way - people from all over the world and have made friends on our journeys - friends who have experienced the same unique adventure we have and that binds us together in a way. It's a cool gift to take home from each place.

We learned a lot on this trip; about nature, about other cultures and about where we fit in the whole thing. Each of our international journeys have been agents of self-discovery. I highly recommend traveling to you for these reasons. Thanks for following along!

Posted by stevedana 13:28 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

Pura Vida!

sunny 85 °F
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Jan 16th - We are checking out of Mimo´s right now. Steve is handling that while I am here. It has been a great stay here.

Yesterday we got up, went back to Manuel Antonio National Park and hiked out to a lookout (Cathedral Trl). It was slippery and muddy all the way up and down. We ran into a couple from Chicago who didn't have a camera - I'd email them photos. We were soaked with mud and sweat and we took a dip in the ocean upon arriving at the little alcove. That's the cool thing about this place. You can rest by cooling off every now and then. It was back to the trail.....and we hiked to a pristine waterfall and put our feet in.
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There was no one around (well 2 girls took our photo when we got there and then left).
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It is hard to get to so I don´t think many people go back there. At one point, we weren't sure where the trail even was, until we saw muddy footprints later on, which confirmed we were going the right way. We crossed a few rivers and I had hiking boots on since my Tevas were hurting my feet. So I'd take off my shoes and socks and walk across and then put them back on. At no point during the day were we dry! Steve helped me across a couple times so I wouldn't have to go through the shoe ritual again. The hike was nice and we were surprised because we knew this was a popular park, yet saw not one person on our way to the waterfall! It was well worth the trek. It really was beautiful and we were in the rain forest which created beautiful scenery and interesting sounds.
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We made our way back out and took yet another dip in the ocean. It´s so clean and pristine here.....we never did actually dry off yesterday! In the afternoon, we went back to Mimo's and had pasta dishes by the pool, with mango refrescos (of course!). Being in Manuel Antonio has been an excellent experience.

At night we took a reptiles and amphibians tour at a rain forest reserve (Rainmaker) 30 minutes from here. That was freaky, because there were huge tarantulas and poisonous snakes......argh! We went just the two of us with headlamps and a guide of course.....a guy from the DC area, actually. We had to sign a release before going in. I was a little apprehensive about the fer de lance snake! The naturalist guide didn't appear to have anything with him besides a headlamp. I wondered if he had any anti-venom, but didn't ask, because it didn't appear so. So we carefully trodded through the forest at night and spied a number of cool things, among them, secedas morphing - and we saw them in every stage. We also saw a ton of tiny frogs and bigger frogs, like the tree frog that Costa Rica is famous for. He said that you'll rarely see one during the day time, so I guess most visitors don't see them (unless they go to some crappy zoo, I guess)? I only want to see animals in their natural habitats, instead of ripped from their habitats and caged up, so that's why I am willing to go to these lengths to see them. of_50_590_393134.jpg We also saw a small snake in the process of eating a smaller reptile. Steve particularly liked that. In fact, he was the one who spotted it. He saw the ill-fated reptile sticking out of the leaves and on further inspection, you could see it was in the snake's mouth and then you could see the rest of the small snake's beautiful, scaly body. The sounds in the rain forest at night are quite loud. There is a lot going on in there after dark, among the secedas and the many insect and amphibian species. After our hike, we drove back to Mimo's in Manuel Antonio and then went back to El Avion for a snack. We were tired, but hungry.

So we´re alive and well this morning and heading back to San Jose, but not before making a few stops. I think we´re taking it easy today and no hard hiking. Although we will be checking out another water fall....apparently the tallest in the country! We won´t be hiking to get to that one. If we have time there a few sights closer to the B&B we are staying at. We´ll check in with everyone tomorrow night.

Thanks for keeping up with us. We have some awesome pictures to share. Missing the girls, too!!! Bye!

Posted by stevedana 06:42 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (3)

Hiking Manuel Antonio

sunny
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It is nice here, but there are security guys everywhere which is so weird. There´s a guy outside the supermarket with a shotgun and a sidearm. Loco!!!!!! There are even people who watch your car after you park it. Personal security is an unfortunate issue here. We knew that going in so we took necessary precautions - like leaving wedding rings and any other jewelry at home. It is so odd, because in the country you can hitchhike! So this is an entirely new experience and for the first time, we feel like tourists. It's actually nice to be a tourist.

Yesterday (Jan 14th), we were the only people waiting to get into the national park at 7am. When the tide is high, you can wade through thigh-level water to get to the entrance or for $1, an old man takes you on a boat, so we took the boat since we didn't want to be dripping wet - although we'd wade in and out thereafter during lower tides. We hired a wildlife guide as suggested by Lonely Planet. That was a good move! A local guy named William and his friend (a little boy) took us through the rain forest and he spotted all kinds of stuff....sloths, 47b8df38b3..ZN3LZzo27.jpg
monkeys, bats,
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spiders,
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a purple crowned fairy hummingbird,

Jesus Christ lizards running across water, 47b8df38b3..ZN3LZzo15.jpg blue morpho butterflies, and a once in his 11 years there....two green sea turtles mating in the ocean. It was amazing! He really seemed to care about the wildlife and the park. Later, another guide was using a laser pointer to point out the animals and William "no-no"ed that. When we got there, we were the only people in the park, so it was nice to have the whole place to ourselves. It was misty and a tiny bit drizzly. We could hear the morning sounds of the misty rain forest, unhindered by other visitors. It was very serene. I got William's email address, so I could send him pictures of the animals we saw and the mating turtles!
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After the tour we hiked around as the sun came out. We trekked out to this beautiful spot that required ropes to help you get through the trail and then a knotted rope to get down to the beach and back up to the rain forest, due to a tree that was down. It was drizzly in the morning, so all was very slippery, but we scrambled up and down. It is a REALLY cool place - imagine the rain forest butted up against the ocean? The sounds of the forest and the ocean in tandem are pretty cool. The smells of the rain forest are very fresh - a fruity-woody scent - if that makes sense. It is also very humid (as you can imagine) and hot here, so the hikes can be sweaty and we're also on the lookout for poisonous creatures.

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We saw a lot of monkeys later on. Unfortunately, people feed the monkeys so they can see them closer, even though it shortens their lifespan. Steve saw a monkey jump down from a tree onto the beach, open a woman's backpack and steal a sandwich from it! She proudly climbed to a nice spot on the tree and feasted away. People really need to properly stow their food. In fact they have monkey-proof garbage cans. Feeding the monkeys allows for great photos ops, which I took advantage of when others fed them, but it is extremely detrimental to the monkey population and there are signs everywhere pleading with visitors not to feed the monkeys, yet people of all kinds were feeding them.

We also saw these raccoon-looking animals. Anyway here are some close images of the monkeys (los monos)
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After our long, muddy hike, we came back to the hotel and took a refreshing and relaxing dip in the pool. We were the only ones around, so that was nice. The pool is shaded by various palm species and it's very peaceful back there. The hotel was an excellent value. We got the cheapest room, but we had the same access to all the extras that everyone else had. For an early dinner, we shared a Greek salad and got really good pizzas from the hotel's restaurant, "Mama Mia" (Italians own the hotel). I have to say, during this whole trip, we had ample access to the ocean, which makes things so nice for me!

After freshening up, we went back into Manuel Antonio (the little town) and watched the sun set and did a little shopping from the street vendors in town, before grabbing a snack at this cool restaurant called El Avion. The sun sets right over the ocean and casts oranges, yellows and pinks into the sky and the water. Local musicians play reggae music on the beach and everyone is enjoying la Pura Vida (the pure life) that Costa Rica is known for. On the way to the beach, we saw an enormous lizard confused and in the middle of the road. He must have been about the length of my fingertips to my elbow. I put our four-ways on to alert others of his presence. We honked the horn at him to no avail. Then we slowly rolled toward him and he scurried into the brush on the side of the road. Well, here is the sunset!
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Here are some photos I took of sarongs swaying in the breeze...the rainbow of colors caught my eye.
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Evidently, the restaurant (El Avion) is an airplane that was used in the Iran Contra affair in Nicaragua. They moved all the parts and reassembled it for this restaurant. What a dark spot in America's history! I think that they think it's oddly amusing - this aircraft. So we had a snack there and headed back to Mimo's (it's a short 5 minute drive up and down a windy narrow road) and off to bed. Tomorrow the park is closed, so we are taking a day trip.

JAN 15th - This morning we got up around 6:30 and drove about an hour on dirt roads, dodging potholes, crossing creaky ill-maintained bridges, and passing shady palm plantations during the teeth-chattering ride to Hacienda Baru, which is a private wildlife reserve. Lonely Planet strongly recommended it and I am glad we went. We first checked out their butterfly garden of_50_590_393754.jpg
and hiked a trail through the rain forest out to the ocean. By the time you get to the ocean, you're pretty hot and sweaty, so it's nice to cool off although we wouldn't go into the water until later. The beach went as far as the eye could see and there was neither a person nor a building, just rain forest-lined beach with the clouds reflecting in the soft sand. I never saw anything like it before.

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At 11, we had tickets to do a zip line tour through the canopy. On the hike up to the 1st platform, the guide, a naturalist, pointed out some cool stuff, chocolate trees, worker ants, spiny cedar trees, a group of spiders hanging out on a tree and other cool stuff. We hiked to the soundtrack of talkative secedas. The canopy thing was awesome! There were 8 platforms and they called it the "Flight of the Toucan" and it does feel like you are flying through the rain forest.
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On the 7th platform, I took film of my journey through the canopy, so you can see also.

The guide helped me position my camera as he set me up for the trip through the trees. So you can see what we saw up there. I thought I might be apprehensive once I got up there, but not at all. Steve loved it too. I highly recommend doing something like that! It was cool and small group we were with: A twenty something couple from San Diego and three Canadian women. We actually did see a toucan in the canopy and I got a distant photo of her. What I liked about Hacienda Baru was that they really care for the environment and also the zip line was slow, so you can actually enjoy yourself. In fact, you could stop out there and have to pull yourself back in. I was going fast - I tried to go more slowly by moving my feet a bit and sitting up more. In fact on the last one we went backwards and I had to pull myself in the last few feet because I went so slow as to stop. That was a trip highlight for us both.of_50_590_3938.jpg

When we returned, we went to the little restaurant there at Hacienda Baru. It is actually like a little wilderness resort with cabins and stuff. It's nice because it is hard to get to, so there aren't many people there. Still, there was a security guard watching our cars. We had sandwiches and naturales refrescos. That's one thing I will miss - they basically take a fruit and throw into a blender with ice and make fresh fruit drinks and they cost about $1.50. We were drinking them the whole time we were there. This time, Steve got papaya and I got pineapple. It was so refreshing.

We were hot and sweaty after the canopy tour, so we hiked back through the forest to that beach (Baru Beach) and took a tiny dip in the ocean.....to cool off....about knee-high. Rip tides are a problem and tourists die, so we didn´t take any chances. In fact, one crazy man went in there with a snorkel - I mean waaaay out. I wonder if he ever came out? There was a woman and a baby on the beach with him. Still is was nice to site in the ocean and cool off on the sunny beach. Besides the lady and the baby, we were the only people there as far as the eye could see. That place was so pristine and beautiful. It was about a half hour hike in the rain forest through Hacienda Baru to get there and the trails are gated off - more security to let you in. I figure that tourism is so important to their economy that they don't want anything slowing tourism down.

We came back to Mimo's, showered and had an amazing dinner at Si Como No, a pricey, but green-friendly hotel in town. LP recommended them also. That as our best meal yet! The whole place is ecologically-sensitive. They use solar power and whatnot. I inquired in November and they were fully booked. Still, I thought we could have a dinner there. The place was top notch. We had sangrias and then our meals. I had a seafood and spinach stuffed ravioli. Hummmm....what did Steve have? So now we are stuffed and tired and heading off to bed. In the morning we go back to the park to hike the Cathedral Trail and head to the ocean.

We´ll check back. We are sooooooooooo missing the girls!!!

Posted by stevedana 18:29 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (1)

Patrolling and cleaning up the beach

sunny 86 °F
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We last left you in Nosara. When we got in with Kat and Paul, we stopped to get snacks. We got some ice cream and washed it down with cold water as it was sweltering hot. We were in a little market store with pineapples hanging from the ceiling and mangoes occupying barrels and shelves. It must be so nice to have access to fresh fruit all the time!47b8df38b3..ZN3LZzo4.jpg
We were in the internet cafe and some of our roommates came in as well as some of the MINAE guys, so they gave us a lift back, which was nice since my feet were already pulsating (I have had Achilles tendon problems since I was kid).

Oh, yesterday we had an orientation with the others. They explained what they do there and then took us to the hatchery to explain how that works. They are trying really hard to protect these animals.
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Steve and I went into town and ordered something to eat since I thought I was missing dinner to do my hatchery shift. The research assistants (Sue, Megan and others) live in the town in an interesting house/cabana. It's colorful, has open windows and hammocks hanging from the upstairs ceiling. Everyone has mosquito nets here, but we didn't seem to need them. Our neighbors used them. The folks in town did also, but they had no screens and there are more lights there.

Steve did a night patrol and met an Aussie named Emma. He walked for 11 miles this time on the southern end of the beach. I stayed at the hatchery with Freydis. It was hard staying awake. The hatchery is on the beach and it is dark and you can't use lights, plus the sounds of the crashing waves invite you to drift off to sleep. On the way there we saw the sun set and the colors of the sky and sand were pink. We HAD to stop to admire the view.

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We stopped to take pictures, and a dog began following us to the hatchery. We relieved a guy who was sitting on a log at the hatchery. The eggs are from the critically endangered leatherback and they are watched 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to ensure they are not poached or destroyed by predators. There was a batch there that was due to hatch at month's end.
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So, I propped my head up against a log - THAT was a mistake - stiff neck anyone??? The sounds of bats fluttered above our heads. They control the insect population, so it was a welcome sound. For the first 3 hours, Fredyis and I talked about life, relationships, philosophy, Iceland..... I was glad to be there with Freydis. Andres, who is one of the people in charge there stopped by and chatted with us - he is from the Caribbean coast and his family is from Jamaica. It's common on that side of the country for people to have immigrated from Barbados and Jamaica, so it's a very different vibe on the Caribbean side. Next, came some night patrol people. Megan, the Aussie Research Asst, there said the dog was Sacha and she belongs to some of the villagers who own a pizza shop in town. The reserve is in the village. The turtles are their way of life. They are very friendly to us. No one besides turtle people go there. There is the occasional tourist, but not too many. It was nice to have Sacha laying with us - she barked every time someone approached us. The next 3 hours were a test of endurance. Freydis only had 2 hours sleep the night before so I let her sleep for a while, while I pontificated on my life as I waited for the luminescent waves to light up the ocean. We were relieved at midnight by Tara and Paul and began our journey back on the dark beach to find our dorm.

We had a helluva time finding the MINAE building at midnight when our shift was over. We were actuallu making jokes about it. It is pitch black out there and our principal landmark was the expansive ocean. After about an hour, we found the little opening in the brush to the MINAE building. We stumbled upon a huge piece of driftwood that I had studied earlier as a possible photo subject, so I knew we had gone too far. At 1 AM I quietly climbed into bed.

Four hours later I got up with Steve to do a beach cleanup. I was tempted to stay in bed after Steve left, but our roommates all got up and when I asked them if they were doing the beach cleanup and they said yes, I dragged my butt up and crawled myself down to the meeting point to join everyone. We raked sticks and wood onto empty rice sacks and dumped them off the beach. We are in there on our hands and knees and Steve encountered a scorpion! Yikes!!!!! Megan then announced to everyone to be wary of scorpions. I was in there too, on my knees throwing sticks into the rice sacks! We did that until 8:30 AM and headed back for breakfast.

We would again, see baby olive ridleys emerging from the sand. That is a magical experience. Apparently they make their way to the ocean by observing the horizon line. Two Aussies were quickly helping the turtles out of the nest to make room for the others to emerge. Apparently there could be up to 60 in there all trying to get out - and it takes about 2 hours for everyone to filter out. You also need to take care where you step, so as not to crush an emerging turtle baby. They can be anywhere, and they were!

After breakfast, we washed our laundry in an insect-laden basin outside and hung it to dry before showering and taking a little nap. We ran into Wendy (our Costa Rican roomie) after we did laundry and she was telling us she wants to visit the US one day. It is always fun talking about our country with non-Americans.

Oh, I saw that little dog I mentioned the other day. You know, the emaciated one, shivering with his tail between his legs? I saved a package of crackers from dinner hoping I'd see him again, so I fed him those. I also gave him Steve's granola bar. I know it's not good for him, but I thought it was better than starving (I hope I did the right thing!). I don't think Steve was happy when he searched for his granola bar in his backpack to no avail (tee hee). I tried to give him water, but wasn't interested. Megan explained the the MINAE castrated the male dogs since there is such a problem there, but there are still strays running around. In fact, the locals put poison on the beach to cull the population. It is a REALLY sad state of affairs for dogs there

When we awoke from our early siesta nap, the girls asked us if we wanted to go to Playa Guinoes (a surfers paradise near Nosara) - Paul had a hatchery shift. We were really lucky hitching rides. We were with Freydis on the way in as we thought splitting up wold facilitate better hitchhiking. So we met up again on the beach. Playa Guiones is an interesting place. It's in the middle of nowhere and retired American hippies live there with surfers. It is about 20 minutes by car from Ostional. It's the nearest town from Ostional. There is a laid back feel, but also some North American money there as well. We got in and there was an upscale cafe there where we got killer ice creams. It was a very different experience from Ostional where we were staying. Freydis and I got lime-coconut sorbets. Steve got a oatmeal caramel ice cream. What is interesting is the aggressive sales campaign to get North Americans to buy property and/pr condos in Costa Rica. We saw signs and billboards everywhere. I wonder what it will all look like 10 years from now?

The ocean was magical at Guinoes. Few people are on the expansive beach and the sand is soft, the water is warm and glistening, and the waves gently carry you to the shore. Steve picked up a sand dollar from the ocean and showed her to me and we put her back in. That was pretty cool! It was so therapeutic for our feet which are full of blisters and I have some foot problems, so......if felt good to bury them in the soft sand and the water to massage them as it lifted them out.

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It was so nice being in the ocean. Jamie, Tara and Kat met up with us on the beach. Steve must have looked like such a stud!! We all hung out at the beach and then all filtered back into the ocean. Afterwards, Steve, me, and Kat headed back to Ostional, since we had shifts we didn't want to be late for. An American ex pat in a dusty late-model Land Rover picked us up to where he was going and then some local Ticos (Costa Ricans) picked us up next. We all got into the back of their pickup. They picked up a couple Canadians also, so there were a bunch of us back there, with a boy and a family member of the Tico family, and some roofing material. We noticed the driver throwing back a few beers as he was driving. Yikes! It was interesting thumbing for rides....but everyone is so nice in the country. On the way we had to ford a few rivers and a small bus was stuck in one of them.

The hospitable Ticos literally dropped us off at the MINAE entrance (sweet - no walking!!!) Sue, who is the volunteer coordinator there (from Switzerland) gave us a hearty goodbye and said she was happy with us and that she likes volunteers like us. So that was cool. (Incidentally she had a similar knee surgery as Steve's.)

We ate dinner & said goodbyes to everyone and exchanged online website information. By the way, Jamy, pronounced "Yummy", prepared all the meals and she did a beautiful job. Everyone raves about her cooking. She is 38 years old and a grandmother. But that is the normal culture there in CR. I was grateful to have homecooked Costa Rican fare for the time we were there. Our workmates were a very cool group. We were really happy with our experience in Ostional with all these people - we could have stayed longer. At night, Steve and I headed out in the dark for another beach patrol with some ISV volunteers, but this was shorter, only about 4 miles. We showered and returned to bed afterward and I laid in bed with my feet hanging over the edges so no pressure would be on them and drifted off to sleep looking at each other in the dark and listening to the ocean.

We got up at 5 this morning (and ran into Tara who was going out to a hatchery shift). A local from Ostional walked us to his house and drove us to Nosara's Playa Guiones (where we were the day before). We sat on our backpacks on the beach and got a bite to eat before Interbus came and got us at 8:45 in front of the Harmony Hotel (where I had made the arrangement for them to get us). 47b8df38b3..ZN3LZzo14.jpg

We took 2 buses and at the switch off point I saw some amazing parrots in a tree and took photos. Actually, I hadn't realized there WAS a switchoff point. I thought we were stopping for snacks, so Steve got off the bus for the bathroom and when I noticed everyone get off, I did as well and asked around while Steve was getting snacks and found that we needed to get onto another bus! Steve returned surprised that I was waiting for him outside.
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The 2nd bus was interesting. We were with Germans, Canadians and two women from Argentina on there. At one point, single lane bridge was backed up due to construction and we waited 40 minutes to cross it! Finally, we got Quepos to get the rental car.....a very nicely run operation in a run down town. I mean, this place reminded me of Paterson.

In Manuel Antonio, it is like a whole other world: people speak English and there are tourists, we have hot water for the first time we are here and we can put paper in the toilet and flush. It is also more expensive here, but that's not saying much as compared to Ostional! So this is like a 2nd vacation! I arranged for us to stay at Mimo´s hotel for $75 a night. I thought it was a great value! It is very nice - like I said hot water and a toilet you can flush paper in! They also have a restaurant, a pool, free internet, and beach towels and all kinds of little perks. After settling in we went into town (7KM down a windy shady road) and watched the sun slowly set on the beach before getting something to eat.

Tomorrow we rise early to be the early at the national park. They allow only a certain number of visitors per day so as not to destroy it. We stopped at a supermarket for snacks for our pack tomorrow and we plan to spend the day there. They suggest to hire a guide to point out the wildlife. We are very excited!!!

Internet is free at the hotel, so I will try to check in each day. A man is waiting to use it, so I am checking out. So glad that the girls are happy. We love love love hearing stories about them. Thanks to everyone for checking in with us.

Posted by stevedana 17:04 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (1)

Ostional: glowing waves and turtle babies

sunny 90 °F
View Steve & Dana's Map on stevedana's travel map.

Last night, we were at the house and Sonia prepared dinner.....a bean spread on tortillas with pico de gallo. It was very good! Before dinner, they were kind enough to let us sit in their bedroom where the TV was and watch some TV. So we watched the Spanish version of VH1. The floor was unfinished concrete and Sonia came in to put a little towel under my bare feet - I motioned to her that I was OK, but she insisted. Considering they wash everything by hand, these people were incredibly generous. We found that to be the case in this country. There is a high level of generosity and hospitality by the people (reminded me of the folks in Fiji)

We presented them with a box of nice chocolates that we bought in Santa Barbara as a thank-you and they seemed pleased by the gesture. We were under the impression that candy was a bit of a luxury there. Still, I felt we couldn't fully thank them for opening their home to two strangers. In fact, we didn't even know we were staying with them until well into that day! We had a long talk with them. We explained the changing seasons here and what happens during each one. That was fun to explain. Stuart told us he was a painter and he likes the mountains and also about their own flora, fauna, and seasons in CR. I asked him how they celebrate Christmas (the house had Christmas decorations up everywhere!) and it is very similar to here, minus the pile of gifts. It was an experience to be there. Amistad wants to create international citizens out of people to broaden their worlds, hence the home stays. I think it was a very cool experience spending time with these kind people. I would recommend staying with a local family at some point.

JAN 8th - So we rose at 4 am and left our host family in Heredia. They were the nicest people!!! We walked in the dark down their steep road and Rebecca's dad drove us through some seedy neighborhoods in San Jose to catch the public bus from San Jose for the 5 hours to Santa Cruz. Robert and Rebecca from Amistad told us that bags "disappear" on buses, so we purposely packed backpacks and duffel bags, with only clothes in the duffel bags, so if someone stole them, all we'd lose is clothing. We were fine the whole trip, but we were told repeatedly to take such precautions.

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We get on the bus and we were so happy to have seats! A lot of people were standing for much of the trip. Little did we know that we would be standing on the 2nd 3-hour leg of the trip on the 2nd bus for about 2 hours of it. We tried to stay awake since we were instructed NOT to fall asleep and leave bags unattended. we each took turns dozing off, but were alert for much of the trip. It was hot and loud on the bus, anyway.

So we waited in Santa Cruz for about two hours for the next bus, but not before I wrangled our bags out of the bus so they wouldn't disappear. There were bathrooms with no running water or TP. I had to pay a girl 50 cents for a few squares before going in......I did successfully ask for extra. There was a little market and a place to get cold drinks. We hung out with Kat until our bus rolled up. It wasn't signed. I asked the guy..... Ostional???? He said Yes, but by the time we got on, all seats were occupied. So we were standing.

That was an experience. It was sweltering hot and dusty on dirt roads in this rickety bus, balancing our backpacks and duffel bags on the floor. I wanted to take a photo, but needed both hands. This one old lady was kind enough to hold up my bags when a guy selling stuff out of his cooler to the occupants squeezed by. He was selling frozen slushie-type stuff in tied-off sandwich baggies. People would suck on them to keep cool. I noticed that there is a lot of poverty, but the people are clean and take pride in their appearances. Especially the women - some even had pedicures. You'd see woman dressed to the nines riding a bicycle on a dirt road! It was very bizarre to me. The bus was a bit of an adventure and I am glad we did it. Unbeknownst to us, Megan was on the crowded bus with us we we'd learn upon disembarking, that she is one of the research assistants there - she is from Melbourne in Australia. Here is the building we worked in/lived in.
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We got to Ostional and wandered for a bit and caught up with Kat and then met Paul right away. 47b8df38b3..ZN3LZzo25.jpg
He is a South African Canadian who quit his job and sold his house and is traveling until....whenever to the Galapagos and then to Patagonia. He is inspiring and such a sunny personality. At dinner, we would meet the others who would be working with us. First, we met Freydis. She is starting a PhD program in April in her native Iceland in biology - she specializes in birds. He boyfriend is a marine biologist there and will be meeting her in CR after she leaves Ostional. We then met the other two girls - Jamie a grad student in writing from Brooklyn and Tara an undergrad from southern CT. Nice girls!

The food has been good. Rice and beans is eaten at every single meal....and a lot of eggs. They have cool juice here. Cas and tamarind are among the juices. The have a big bucket in the fridge with a ladle, and you just help yourself. We are sharing a room with 4 Costa Rican students. There is zero privacy, but everyone minds their own business so it has been doable. There are 4 girls and 2 guys in our room in total. At first we weren't sure of bathroom protocol since we're married and all, sharing facilities, but we just do as we always do and in a couple days, they did as well (2 of them are a couple) so it wasn't so awkward. Only one is a speaker of English and they were in a different program doing different things while were were there, so we passing ships in the wind. Wendy spoke English, Carmen spoke a few words, and our other two roomates spoke no English at all.

This is our room.
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Our neighbors were our primary workmates and comrades....Kat, Paul, Jamie, Tara, and Freydis. It has been really cool to be with people from all over the world. There was a huge group of Aussies as part of the ISV (International Student Volunteers), and their work overlapped with ours, but they stayed in a building about a hundred yards away. We were working specifically for the MINAE (prounounced min-EYE) - the Ministry of the Environment. This was a very different experience from Africa. There is less interaction with the staff and absolutely no alcohol is allowed. One wasn't better then the other.....just entirely different, so it was cool to see how another place does things. It was useful to have done this type of thing before however. There are a few things it is helpful to know.
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JAN 9th - Early in the morning, we rose to collect driftwood off the beach. There were about 20 of us out there from.....Australia, Switzerland, Iceland, New Zealand, Canada, Britain, Costa Rica, and us along with two other Americans. That was tiring!! Evidently, the turtles can´t make nests past the driftwood, they can´t make the trip, and consequently, the tide may wipe out the nest.....so we are trying to clean things up. Some logs were so big, it took and international consortium of volunteers to move them. I took a photo of one such effort and then quickly joined in....there were about 10 of us.

That was very hot, tiring, and sweaty. The benefit of working by the ocean is the obvious setting and the fact that you can wade through the glistening water on the way back. We did feel like we were doing something concretely beneficial for these animals. The exciting thing is that we saw maybe a hundred little olive ridley turtle babies emerging from the sand and on their way to the ocean. I can´t explain how exciting that was. I took photo and video!
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The middle of the day is down time/"siesta". I went by myself after napping with Steve a bit to the beach to watch the sun set. I saw vultures circling around a known turtle nesting area and chased them away as I walked down to my spot on the beach. Then I took pictures......

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Last night we did a beach patrol. It was a briskly-paced 9 mile power walk back and forth on the beach in the sand in the dark. Everyone wears black and carries flashlights with red cellophane on them as the turtles aren't as sensitive to red light. It was dark and quiet. We are hurting pups, but it was an amazing experience being near the ocean in the dark. We walked north to Punta India. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and stars were out in full force. I hadn't 't seen anything like it since Fiji.

There is bioluminescent (sp?) algae on the beach, so when people walk, they kick up the glowing flecks in the sand. The real feat of Mother Nature´s genius, is the light show (as Steve calls it) from the ocean. The waves rustle up the algae and they consequently glow in the dark as they rise and disappear into the dark surf. I have never seen anything like it in my life.

During the walk, we stopped when we reached each side of the beach for rests - the shift was from 7 at night to midnight of power walking and then resting and so on. We fell asleep a couple of times on the beach to the sounds of the waves crashing as our eyes closed to the star show in the sky. On one trip down the beach, we encountered some tourists who appeared to have moved an adult olive ridley female onto the beach and took flash photography of her, disorienting her - remember, they don´t respond well to lights. We saw bright flickering lights and angrily and quickly trotted over there making jokes about kicking butt when we got there, but the researchers are very non confrontational and the tourists moved away from her shortly after we got there.

We tiptoed into our room so as not to wake our sleeping roommates, showered and climbed into our bunk beds.

JAN 10 - This morning, we have the day off. We started the 2 hour walk on the dirt road to Nosara with Kat and Paul which has internet and stuff. That is where we are now. Apparently hitchhiking is not so bad out here in the country. We 4 thumbed a ride on the back of a pickup truck by two tourist surfers who gave as ride partly to town. We walked the rest of the way into town seeking shady spots on the side of the rural road. That was exciting for me. Hopefully, we can hitch a ride back.
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The people out here are very friendly. In the village we are staying in, Ostional, the people all know we are turtle people, so they are cool. A bunch of the research people live right in town so they are used to us. We live in a dorm on the beach and can hear the waves crash as we sleep. Steve and I have the top bunk bed next to each other so that is nice. And our roomies were all very cool.

This has been a real test of endurance....it´s different from helping people. You get a smile or a thank-you. But with animals, we´ll never know or see our impact here (or in Africa, for that matter). Olive Ridleys are endangered. They also have a leatherback program also and they are critically endangered. Apparently, by 2015 they will disappear if we don´t do anything. This is an important area for both turtles.
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Tonight Freydis and I are watching over the hatchery from 6pm to midnight. I expect to learn a lot about Iceland since there are no lights or loud noise out there. They collect the leatherbacks' eggs and simulate the nest and they have a 30 percent success rate. On that stretch of beach, there is a zero percent success rate. Vultures eat the turtles, the heat gets them, shrimp boats, poachers; there are a lot of obstacles.
Here is the hatchery:
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Steve on the other hand has another beach patrol from 7-midnight. It´s hard work here, but everything is optional, so no one pushes you. On Friday morning, we clear wood.
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The 2nd half or our trip here is going to be fun also. I feel like we have experienced so much already!! Dón´t worry about us people do this all the time. We met a guy from Seattle at the bus station traveling only with his ukulele. People live here and are happy. It is a very simple lifestyle.....much like in rural Mexico. They don´t have much and don´t need much. I am inspired (again) to discard stuff when we get home. Too much clutter complicates my life. I feel like material things get in the way of our humanness. Does that make sense? It just seems like these people are much closer to the human experience here and it aren't hindered by synthetic needs, like lattes and brand name gear.

PS - We have to let the turtles (tortugas) be - I saw one whose one rear flipper had been eaten off by a vulture and she was slowly making her way to the water. We have to let natural selection take its course however painful it may be to see. Working on these things has brought me closer to animal suffering in a weird way and that has been hard.....like the emaciated dogs here. One approached me shaking with his tail between his legs hoping for food. I am still upset about that. Our girls are so lucky! We are so lucky to be Americans.....we have so many blessings....you can´t conceive of how many blessings we have in America. It reminds me to be grateful everyday.

We miss the girls fiercely. That is the hardest part for me. I think about them all the time. That is a hard part of traveling for me. Can someone tell us how they are doing???? I miss them!

Adios!

Posted by stevedana 10:08 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (7)

Spanish immersion with our host family

sunny 80 °F
View Steve & Dana's Map on stevedana's travel map.

Right now we are at Amistad Institute´s offices in Heredia. It´s been an interesting journey. We got picked up from the airport by Gerardo and as he dropped us off at our B and B, the theme from "Great American Hero" was playing in the van.....that was weird. We noticed bars on every house and window as we rolled in at night and this was in the outskirts of San Jose no less. I particularly tried to avoid the big city due to the endemic crime there. Evidently, this neighborhood (Cariari) is where diplomats stay, but there must also be problems.

An American ex pat from Boston runs the Cariari B and B. The house was very cool - Spanish Hacienda style. We arrived at about 9:30 PM. She was telling us that the night before, at about 8:30, a bunch of masked gunmen broke through the front gate and stole everyone's stuff. We'd learn that personal security is a bit of an issue in this country. There is a gang presence that comes from Colombia evidently. Plus, we are essentially walking ATM machines in a poor country. It was nice to relax and get settled in however.

We awoke to the sounds of a cacophony of birds in the morning. And at breakfast, we met two women who run a series of cabins near where we are going so they said to call them and we will maybe arrange a tour with them. Breakfast was a delight. We had homemade banana bread, Cas juice, fresh fruit, omelettes and the gallo pinto on the trip. Gallo pinto is probably the most popular type of rice and beans they make there. Little did we know, we'd be eating A LOT of rice and beans. Anyway, we had a pleasant stay and would be returning to the B and B at the end of the trip.

Robert from Amistad picked us up this morning and took us here to Heredia. Incidentally, we are not going to Ostional until tomorrow. It´s going to be a long day of catching multiple public buses starting at 5AM and we need to stay awake to mind our belongings. So we get to Heredia and meet 3 other girls - 1 will be be coming with us on the journey to Ostional and the other 2 are staying in Heredia to work with kids there. Kat, from the UK is a very mature 19 year old and she is going to Ostional for 10 weeks!!! Avie is an actress in San Francisco and Heather is a student from Bayonne. What a small world! Victor, from Amistad took us into Santa Barbara and we got some incidentals and basically hung out. So we got some essentials in town, like a new toothbrush, since Steve dropped ours down the drain at the B and B. Oops! And we got some shampoo and stuff.

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We´re on the street and there is this lady with a puppy Chiuaha ' I mean we´re talking a pound or two and its ears were pierced! It was so bizzare. We are admiring the little dog and she spontaneously decides to plump the dog in my arms.....so there will be photos.
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We tried to use the ATM to no avail. Apparently, increments over $20 are just too much to handle out here. At first, we were like Uht.....oh.....not again with this ATM card!!! After a visit at a bank, some scratching of our foreheads, and the advice of an American tourist, it finally worked out when we did small increments. Getting into the bank was no easy feat. There is an armed security guard there who instructs you to lock up your bags/purses, remove hats and sunglasses, and then enter one at a time through automatic glass doors. Actually, no hats and sunglasses is probably a good idea here as well!

So here´s the cool thing, we just found out that we´re staying with a local family tonight in their home. We knock on their door and they are the nicest people, named Sonia and Stuart. They have 2 children (a son in his late teens/early 20s named Steve, which they pronounce "ehSteve") and daughter we never saw (perhaps she's grown and out of the house?). They made us a HUGE lunch, and to be polite we tried to eat the whole thing. I thought we were sharing the large plate until Sonia put another plate down!!! It was gallo pinto, eggs, and what we would call pico de gallo here, but I am not sure what they call it. It was all very good and they were soooo hospitable.47b8df39b3..ZN3LZzo16.jpg

It´s interesting to be in their home. I get an extremely good energy from these people. They're just a pleasure to be around. They speak pretty much no English, so we've been making major use of the phrasebook and dictionaries here. We actually have been able to communicate with them and it has been working out. We have learned a lot about Espanol here and are committed to learning to speaking it fluently when we get home. Here they are:
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Stuart drove us back to Amistad where I am typing this now. Amistad is cool. There are lots of young people here and it's very organized. I didn't realize it at first, but after chatting with them for awhile we learned that Robert and his wife Rebecca own Amistad and started it about 6 years ago. They are the same age as Steve and me! Very inspiring. They were very cool. Here they are:
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We hung out with everyone for a bit before going down to a river which was really nice. Some dogs followed us down there. The river was loudly flowing over the rocks and when the wind blew, the bamboo trees creaked and swayed. Costa Rica provides the most interesting sounds. An observation I made is that there are dogs everywhere in this country. These dogs were well cared for, but not all of them are. Many were emaciated. It was very heartbreaking to see. On a good note, there was a lazy Chow Chow hanging out at Amistad......likely the cutest dog I ever saw.....like a big teddy bear. I particularly like the big fluffy dogs. I took his picture.

Tonight we go back to our host family´s house and in the morning we´re off. We thought we´d be in Ostional, but flexibility is a necessity on trips like these. So tomorrow we are on buses for the better part of the day with a girl from Bristol in the UK. It will be the 3 of us. This is all very exciting.

Anyway, it has been interesting and Steve´s brushing up on his Spanish, big time with Sonia and Stuart and I have been learning a lot!! Total immersion. I pretty much have a dictionary on my lap the whole time. This is their kitchen. They live a clutter-free life, unlike us Americans!
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Argh!!! We miss the girls. The best way to communicate with us is to leave comments here. We may or may not be checking emails. We´ll be back as soon as possible. We have more to tell but not until we return so no one worries!

Hasta luego!

Posted by stevedana 12:59 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (3)

Here's a link to a video on the project we're working on!


View Steve & Dana's Map on stevedana's travel map.

According to ELI, we will be working with a Sea Turtle conservation program in Ostional de Guanacaste. We will be assisting with some of the administrative work in addition to field work including beach cleanup, monitoring nesting activity, and assisting with night and morning patrols on the beach.

Here is the link to a video on the project from YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJ9htUy2j84

GypsyCat wants to come with us.
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We'll have a blog up ASAP!

Posted by stevedana 16:00 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

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