14.01.2008 - 15.01.2008
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,
a purple crowned fairy hummingbird,
Jesus Christ lizards running across water, 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!
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.
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)
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!
Here are some photos I took of sarongs swaying in the breeze...the rainbow of colors caught my eye.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!!!