Category Archives: Costa Rica

Photos and posts about my week in Costa Rica.

What I learned in Costa Rica

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There is something to be said ab out traveling outside of your native country and getting the world from a different view. Over the past week I spent all lost all of my time on the Nicoya Peninsula. For a small country there is a lot of land that is reserved for wildlife, mostly due to foreigners who came in the 70’s and couldn’t believe that these reserves did not already exist.

The people there are very friendly and open. They wave when you drive by and are  willing to talk to you. There is a general sense of contentment that would not be found in a community so poor. Most of the people on the peninsula don’t own a vehicle and rely on huge buses, bicycles or ATV’s to get around. Those who do have a car drive 4 wheel drive SUV’s because the roads are so bad.

Speaking of the roads, this was one of the first things that showed me how different these people are from a lot of Americans I know. There was a small bridge out, the locals had gotten together and put a huge concrete pipe in the stream next to the bridge and covered it with rock so that it was  pass-able because there are very few public work crews and nothing happens fast there. This would not have happened in America, at least not the parts of it that I know.Another time after a big rain, the road we were traveling on had a huge ditch washed out and filled with muddy ruts. There were local men waiting in the side of the road to make sure that if anyone got stuck they could help them.

I don’t mean to paint this place as without inconveniences or discomforts but in the face of all that these people seem a lot happier that a lot of people I know who have more. It was refreshing to be in ap lace where happiness comes from the people you are with and the beauty that surrounds you, not the stuff in your house or the amount of money in the bank.

So as I prepare for my own move to a new place this week. I will try to remember that less is more and I have a choice where I place my value: on things that rot and fade or on love and memories that won’t.

Thanks Eve for a wonderful week, you are a great tour guide and friend.

Day Five: Cabo Blanco

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Day five: Cabo Blonco nature reserve

Later in the day we drove down past Montezuma to a huge nature reserve that surrounds the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. It was raining but we decided that we would go for it any way. I mean how many people can say they hiked through the rain forest while it was raining?

The hike was long and challenging, mostly up hill. Now let me say that I am NOT a mad hiker. In fact I usually shy away from anything that looks to arduous but there was something about the rain, the silence and the hugeness of the trees that kept me going.

We hiked for two and a half hours (the whole trail) all the way to the beach. I had brought my camera and we stuffed it in a backpack. When we got to the beach I realized that it was soaking wet. Digital and water don’t mix. I immediately took the battery out so it couldn’t turn itself on and them the memory card. It is now drying with as many parts open as I can get too in the hopes that it is salvageable.

So as I mopped and fretted on the beach; Evie got smart and went swimming in her underpants. (There was nobody else on the beach or at the park for that matter.) We ate our picnic lunch and headed back. That was the challenging part. At least most of it was downhill this time, but we were both tiered. This is when I good hiking partner comes into play. We chatted and shared stories and philosophies between gaspy breaths and sooner than we expected we made it back to the beginning, with a cheer that startled the guy at the ranger station.

I learned a lot about myself yesterday and what I can do when I believe in myself. I am a strong person inside and out and for me this day showed that I can do a lot more than even I think I can.

Day five: RainSong

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Day five: RainSong Sanctuary http://www.rainsongsanctuary.com/

We headed out early to get to RainSong while they were feeding the baby monkeys. Evie got to hold a baby howler named Eve on her shoulder. I was wearing bug spray so I wasn’t allowed to. The people at RainSong take in injured and abandoned animals. They had squirrels, porcupines, white faced and howler monkeys, toucans, iguanas and a guinea pig. All of these animals are being rehabilitated to return into the wild or given a safe home because release is not an option due to injuries.

There was a sweet white faced monkey with one arm. He had been a pet and then when his owners no longer wanted him they let him go in the wild. Without a troop or family group to protect him he was attacked by a group of howler monkeys and lost his arm at the elbow. Now he lives with people who will love and care for him for the rest of his life.

I was moved by this woman and her mission to protect the native animals here from painful deaths and abuse. Most of the monkeys she cares for are there because of electrocution. They walk on power lines that are not insulated or the power lines break. Them a family of howlers looses their alpha male they have no protection and when they lose the alpha female they have no structure. They will not survive in the wild without their family group. I was happy to sign a few petitions and give a donation to this worthy cause. I hope that animals everywhere have people just like her fighting to give them a safe space to be.

Curu

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Day Four:  Curu Wildlife Refuge

About an hour from where I am staying there is a wildlife refuge. Eve and I started out early with our pick-nick lunch to hike and see some animals in the wild. We parked at the main area and took a quick rest stop before heading out. While there I met a sweet cocker spaniel, eager to be petted and doted on.

As we hit the trail the dog decided to come with us, three hours later she was the one who lead us back to the park entrance after chasing some raccoons up a tree in our defense.  She never left our side and dutifully scouted ahead making sure we were safe and that nothing interesting passed us by.

Through the course of the afternoon we saw: Howlers, white faced and spider monkeys, white tailed deer, raccoons, agouti (large rat that lives in the marshes like a capybara), variegated squirrels, Jesus Christ lizard, iguanas, black hawk, laughing falcon, crested Caracara, humming birds, great owl butterflies, giant atreus owl butterflies and these amazing rainbow colored crabs.

We hiked through jungle, fields, over creeks and up hills with breezes and stifling humidity. It was an amazing day. Later that night, we decided to head down to Montezuma to do a little shopping and walk the beach before heading home to make black beans and rice.

Rustic Beauty

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Tuesday:

Today we went to the beach. After a leisurely morning of yoga and granola we headed out for the Pacific coast (west). We drove about 15 min to Montezuma (the nearest town) to Playa los Cedros. It is a public beach that is not used very often but stunningly beautiful.

When I think of a beach I think of sand, nine years of Florida has this embedded in my brain. But that is not what I beheld when I stepped out of the truck. The coast line was dominated by huge chunks of rock, jutting out of the water and land. The surf surged and pounded the rocks and a lone pelican was fishing beyond the breakers. The ground was covered in various sizes of stones, from smooth thumb sized pebbles to what looked like sand but was really crushed rock.

After exploring the rocks, we decided to walk up a fresh water stream that borders the beach. We turned a bend and found a magnificent water fall. The juxtaposition of this fresh water wonder flowing to the sea surprised me. We played for a while in the water fall before heading back to walk the other end of the beach.

Slightly sun burnt, but happy we headed home for showers and the grocery store.  While hanging out on the porch, heard footsteps over head; as I looked out a whole family of Howlers made their way down the power line to the trees below our house. First, were a mama and her baby. Then, two young ones, and I could still hear more on the roof.

The next thing I knew the daddy monkey was sitting half way down the line staring at me. He stayed there for a moment and then went back. I went inside fearing that I had startled him and separated him from his family. A few moments later another female with a baby trotted down the line with papa drawing up the rear. He huffed at me a few times and then made his way off to join the others.

I was thrilled to get a few shots of him, hope you like them.

Into the clouds

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Once outside of the city the landscape took over. It is hard to describe the wildness that exists here. I come from a place mostly dominated by man and the things that make his existence easier. But here the land is so mountainous and wild that it defies change.

The sheer amount of vegetation is shocking. I’ve seem moss growing on trees and vines draping themselves about but this goes far beyond anything that I have seen before. There are layers upon layers of life here. About 45 min to an hour away from the air port we entered what is known as “the cloud forest,” the altitude is so high the clouds literally sit on the mountains and you drive through them.

We stopped many times along the way to snap shots of coffee growing on the sides of the mountain in rings all the way up. There were numerous small waterfalls cascading down the steep hills to the valleys below.  It was so breath taking, I was literally lost for words.

As we started to descend out of the clouds, we passed a small arid place. There hanging out in the sun was this huge lizard. I have never seen anything to cool in my life. He was several feet long and looked like a mini Kimoto Dragon. I was thrilled. I told my husband that there were three animals I wanted to try and see while I’m here: an Iguana, a monkey and a sloth. I have managed two out of three so far.

The drive to through the mountains was amazing. As we got closer to the gulf the land flattened out and the vegetation became less lush. In order to get to the peninsula you have to get on a ferry that takes your car across. It runs in fairly regular intervals. We arrived about an hour early for the next one, so we walked and talked a bit, to eat up the time and stretch. The ferry takes about an hour to cross. I got lots of pictures of sea birds and various small islands as we passed them.

The last hour of the trip was crazy. Eve warned me about the roads before I got here, but until this point they had been well maintained and familiar in every way (less the Spanish). Not so on the peninsula, it is pothole heaven. I’m talkin’ ones big enough to cross the road and loose a whole wheel in. Thank God she was driving, it’s like go carts only full sized.

By the time we reached the house I had a head ache simply from being shaken. But I was rewarded for my trials by the Howler monkeys that live in a tree next to her house. There is a family of about seven. A few moments after I got out of the car they dropped fruits from high above announcing their presence. I don’t have a good picture of them yet…but I will.

We had dinner that night in the nearby town of Montezuma. It is small and filled with mostly ex-patriots of all kinds. We ate at this nice little restaurant that shows movie for free if you arrive after seven.  I had some wonderful black bean soup and a tomato, basil and mozzarella salad. It was so good!

After that we headed back. I made my first phone call using “Skype.” My friend pays a flat rate and through her computer she can call anyone in the US. So I called my husband and chatted him up about the day happenings.

I am so excited about all of the new things that I am learning. I now know why a Howler monkey is called a “Howler”, that geckos make a clicking noise when they talk to one another and that open air is good. I think that covers the bases…for now.

Across the boarder

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The flight to Costa Rica was 4 ½ hrs, pretty smooth and uneventful as flights should be. When I got to the air port in San Jose, I went through customs (which was easy) and walked out of the air port. Apparently in Costa Rica you are not allowed to enter to air port unless you are actually getting on a plain. I saw Eve even before I got out the doors, she’s hard to miss.

In a sea of moderately tall, brown faces there was one Amazonian white chick, with a lion’s main of golden hair. I knew this was going to be a great trip at that moment.

We stayed the night close to the air port because it is a six hour drive to the southern part of the northern peninsula where she is living. The B&B that she chose was wonderful. It had a celestial theme and commanded an amazing view, high above the central valley that I experienced the next morning.

I don’t know if I was restless or just not in sync with the local time yet (it’s an hour earlier here) but I got up at five am when the soft light of day started to stream in the huge windows that surrounded our room. A bird started singing outside my room and I felt the call to get up and go do some yoga. This was interesting to me. With all the moving and traveling madness, I haven’t had a lot of time to work on my practice, but I got dressed and carted myself pool side.

There was no one else there, in the still cool air I could see the mist filling the valley, the sun slowly breaking through the clouds and the parakeets talking to one another as they flew by. As I warmed up and moved through the familiar postures, I was grateful: to myself for honoring the need to take some time at this moment and for the trip in general, for the beauty of the earth and all the creatures that walk upon it.

As I finished my meditation, I listened to the sounds around me familiar and strange. There was the whirr of humming bird’s wings, various birds calling to each other, dogs and cows in the distance calling out. When I opened my eyes a bush nearby was covered in butterflies. I do mean covered, there must have been 20-30 of them hovering and tasting the flowers. They were very particular, just this one bush got all the attention. I have never seen so many butterflies not in captivity.

We had a wonderful breakfast of juice, toast, coffee and some egg thing that was really yummy before we hit the road. I couldn’t have asked for a better beginning.