Tag Archives: Costa Rica

Random thoughts/ month 17

30 Sep

To the end and now back! This month we:

IMG_2663.JPG

+ explored the Panamanian beaches of Las Lajas, Albino Grande, Santa Catalina and surf haven Playa Venao. In Las Lajas, we had stretches of sand and surf and palapas to ourselves…until some jackass parked THISCLOSE to Skyhorse, blasted their horrible music and walked away. Fab. In Santa Catalina, beach front parking was limited and it was too hot not to park on the water so we parked here (next to the public garbage cans)

IMG_2615-0.JPGIMG_2614-0.JPG

with a view of this:

IMG_2612-0.JPG

And some local kids fell in love with our dogs (and our chairs)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

+ kayaked in Santa Catalina out to an uninhabited wild jungle island and down an estuary rumored to be home to crocodiles.

DCIM100GOPRO DCIM100GOPRO DCIM100GOPRO DCIM100GOPRO

+ found hoards of hermit crabs and this guy wearing a toothpaste cap. Fashion at its finest.

DCIM100GOPRO DCIM100GOPRO

+ bought lobster and conch from fishermen as they were pulling their boats up to the town. $10 for 2 massive conch and 4 lobster, which became a raw conch app and a heavenly garlic-butter lobster pasta dinner.

+ visited the small mountain town of El Valle.

DSC_0191

We relaxed in the hot springs with mud masks twice, saw multiple sloths booking it down trees in a rainstorm, visited the zoo/rescue center, and bought a ton of local produce at the market. The zoo was something else. It’s set in a botanical garden with immense mountains as the backdrop. The diverse range of animals in the zoo was pretty awesome– monkeys, parrots, golden frogs, and sheep with all different pitched voices (see our Facebook page for a hilarious video).

DCIM100GOPRO

IMG_2625.JPGDSC_0140DSC_0092

 

DSC_0097IMG_2623.JPGDSC_0115 DSC_0151 DSC_0174 DSC_0186

+ ate the most delicious meal at Casa de Lourdes. If you find yourself in El Valle, you must go! People drive the four hours round trip from Panama City just to eat there. The restaurant is inside a mansion decorated like a home. We dined on the patio overlooking the pool and gardens. I had the most spectacular salmon (it’s so hard to find in Central America and I’ve been missing it) and Hani had a perfect bacon wrapped fat steak. Martinis and dessert… Ahhhh!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

+ really enjoyed Panama City. It’s one of the only major cities that was clean and easy to navigate, probably because we relied on taxis. We parked with all the other travelers on the street outside the Balboa Yacht Club and took $3 taxies around the city. Our first night in town, we connected with Hani’s friend Corina who gave us a driving tour of the major neighborhoods. We then walked around Casco Viejo, a cool cobblestone neighborhood with lots of restaurants and bars. Even on a Sunday night, the city was all lit up and lively. It’s been a long time since we’ve experienced real nightlife.

IMG_2633.JPG+ watched a massive cargo ship cross the Miraflores locks and enter the Panama Canal. From the beginning of our trip, I was most looking forward to visiting the Canal and seeing the locks in play. Panama City is situated on the Pacific Ocean, so huge tankers anchor at the entrance of the canal, waiting for their turn to go through. The ships are guided into the locks by “mules,” tiny trains on tracks that have cables running out to the ship. Once inside the lock, the gates are closed and water fills from underneath, lifting the ship up to the level of the next lock. The same thing happens in the second lock until the ship is at the same level as Canal. It doesn’t sound as impressive at it actually is but watching the ships pass truly was amazing, especially because all this technology has been unchanged and still efficient for the past 100 years.

DSC_0214DSC_0206 DSC_0209  DSC_0227 DSC_0223 DSC_0241 DSC_0248 DSC_0257

+ toured Panama Viejo ruins. You can climb up all the ruins, which are right on the water, for spectacular views of the new city. The contrast between the old demolished city and new gleaming high rises was my favorite.

IMG_2653.JPG

IMG_2655.JPG

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

+ met up with my godmother and her husband in Panama City for a wonderful dinner. It was so nice to see family and catch up with them for a few hours. It’s funny, they live in south Florida and we finally get together miles and miles away from home in a city where both of us are vacationing.

+ had the leaf springs recurved and a reinforced shelf made for the battery bank at a mechanic outside of Panama City. The leaf springs were pretty much straight and needed curving for a more comfortable ride. And the bottom of the battery bank shelf was basically falling out. So a fix on both fronts was necessary.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

+ celebrated our mechanic Fernando’s 35th birthday with him. His shop was behind his house so we parked in his driveway. At sunset, with half the job complete, a tire off and the truck on jacks, he announces that it’s his birthday and the party is at his house. Awkward. Guess we are invited. No but the family was super nice and dragged us out of the truck to join in the festivities. They kept pouring drinks, pushing overflowing plates of delicious food and included us in conversations, speaking slowly which became more and more difficult as everyone drank more. We walked the few steps back to the truck later that night with full bellies and a few new friends.

+ took the dogs to the vet. Shae was sick, of course on a Sunday, when everything is closed. We hung out in David where we found a vet with good online reviews. We camped in their driveway and both dogs were seen first thing Monday morning. Shae had a parasite, probably from something she sniffed or licked off the street. Nothing a bunch of medicines wouldn’t fix and was back to her old self several days later. We brought Olivia in to the vet to have a growth near her eye removed. As the vet did the blood test to make sure she was fine for the surgery, he found that her platelets were very low. After another test, he determined that she had a worm. Ultimately, Olivia was fine to proceed with the surgery, was a cone head for a few days, and had to take a round of deworming meds.

IMG_2671.JPG

+ spent a total of 29 out of a possible 30 days in Panama.

+ arrived back in Costa Rica with 10 days left on our vehicle permit and ended up using 7 of them. But instead of heading toward the Nicaragua border, we back tracked around the Golfo Dulce across from the Osa peninsula, hugging the Panamanian border. We found the cool surfing village of Playa Pavones and parked our happy butts on a sweet spot at a point on the water.

DSC_0124

DSC_0001 DSC_0054

+ continued down that peninsula instead of going north and hit the official end of Costa Rican road at Punta Banca.

IMG_2677-0.JPG
We saw monkeys playing in the trees. The water was clear blue. The breeze was scrumptious. And we “borrowed” a wifi signal from the only thing out there, a small eco lodge. That night, I walked up and down the beach with a team out to rescue turtles. Apparently robbing turtles nests is a big problem in that area because the money is good and there is no police presence. There are a group of locals who rescue and a group who rob and each team paces up and down the beach all night hoping to be the first to lay claim to a turtle coming on land. Though we didn’t see any turtles coming to nest, it was a great experience and felt awesome showing the turtle robbing locals that the good guys are growing.

DSC_0079DSC_0065DSC_0091 DSC_0089

+ have been waking up at 6…and going to bed at 8. We are so lame.

+ bottle fed a 3 month old sloth. Other overlanding friends have been raving about Finca Canas Castillo, a working farm right at the Costa Rica/Nicaragua border that has cabinas and allows travelers to camp on their property. We spent our last night in Costa Rica there, admiring the jungley grounds, listening to howler monkeys and praying the baby sloth they rescued would wake up. It had fallen out of its tree and now the owners were caring for it to eventually release it back into the wild. In the mean time, this ridiculous creature sleeps and feeds on goat milk. She (they think it’s a she) is super light, feels like a muppet and kept falling asleep as I fed her. Hani barely touched her. He was afraid she was going to claw his face off. Seriously.

IMG_2701-0.JPG

+ crossed back into Nicaragua on September 22.

IMG_2703.JPG
And even thought we have done this particular border before and knew where we needed to go and what we needed to do, it was STILL unnecessarily long and annoying, sending us running around in circles.

+ beelined for San Juan del Sur. This town was a food Mecca for us so we had our list of “must hit” restaurants, pretty much the same places we ate at 4 months ago when we were there. All checked off, in case you were wondering, with a .40 chocolate covered frozen banana daily.

IMG_2715.JPG

+spent much of our 4 days in San Juan del Sur doing this
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
and this

IMG_2718-1.JPG
and this

IMG_2709.JPG

+ celebrated Hani’s birthday early by buying a ukulele. Nica Tiki Ukulele in San Juan sells gorgeous handmade wooden ukes. Hani picked out a rosewood uke, his new pride and joy. We also bought a local handmade bag for our Hani’s new buddy. Now the only thing left is to learn to play it!

IMG_2721.JPGIMG_2720.JPG

IMG_2732.JPG

IMG_2713.JPG

IMG_2736-0.JPG

 

The Costa Rica breakdown

24 Sep

IMG_2206.JPG
We spent a total of 88 days, from May 31 to August 19, 2014 and then from September 16 to 22, 2014 in Costa Rica. We began our journey heading south on the Pacific coast in Penas Blanca and ended on the Caribbean in Sixoala. We traveled through Panama and reentered Costa Rica in Paso Canoas to spend the next 7 days driving north along the Pacific coast and exiting where we first entered, in Penas Blanca. We could have easily spent longer but are only granted a 90 day vehicle permit which can’t be extended. For every 90 days a foreign vehicle spends in Costa Rica, it must be out for the next 90 days before it can come back. Otherwise you have to nationalize your car which is crazy expensive. So as we drove south, we had to leave enough time to drive back north after finishing Panama. Here’s a bit of a recap of our time in the country.

Love love LOVE Costa Rica! We visited 5 years ago for a few weeks, spent nearly 3 months this time around and would definitely come back again. We stayed 6 weeks in the Nicoya peninsula on just about every beach possible. We spent some time around Lake Arenal, Monteverde cloud forest, the touristy cities of Jaco and Manuel Antonio National Park, passed through San Jose and then enjoyed the beaches and towns on the southern Caribbean coast. On out way north, we spent 4 days on a peninsula on the Golfo Dulce just outside the Panamanian border. Each place was better than the next.

The country is very Americanized, most prices are in dollars, people speak English and it’s not hard to find things you get stateside at US prices. Most travelers race through because it is more expensive than it’s neighbors but the beaches here CANNOT compare. Gor-ge-ous!! Sure everything is tourist driven and you’ll be annoyed with all the whiteys but the wildlife is spectacular and topography is super diverse. You can see monkeys swinging from trees are you drive down the road, red macaws flying over a beach and a sloth settled above you as you dine. And there are so many pristine beaches it’s not hard to have one all to yourself. Part of this is because the government prohibits building up to 200 meters from the high tide mark.

And even though this is the most traveled country in Central America, the roads stink. Potholes galore. Uneven patches. A lot of roads are still unpaved. The bridges are only built for a single car to pass at a time. In the rainy season, roads are washed out and river crossings become necessary. Nightmare.

Though it is the most expensive country in Central America, it was surprisingly the cheapest country for us. We spent a total of $5,061 while in the Costa Rica, coming out to $57.51 a day. That month long rental in Potrero is what made this country so inexpensive for us. We rode the motorcycle around and weren’t tempted too much by the 5 restaurants in town. Our major expense in Costa Rica was food, which is priced similar to US prices.

BORDER
When we entered in Penas Blancas, got fumigated (free) and then had to beg the visa guy to grant us each the maximum of 90 days in the country. We drove right past the sign telling us what to do next so we ended up driving around in circles and backtracking to complete the process. Asking workers where to go is futile. Vehicle insurance is required so after buying that ($63 for three months) we showed the dogs paperwork to the agriculture guy and made our way to pretty much where we started to have the truck inspected. The best part of this process was when another car pulled up to get inspected and a drunk passenger stumbled out of the car–still drinking his beer–in a 420 shirt. Our inspection consisted of an old man leaning into the back of the truck and taking a crooked picture on his personal cell phone. Strange. I don’t remember how long this nonsense took because it was so irritating but probably close to the typical 2 hours.

We left Costa Rica in Sixoala on the Caribbean side. It was a complete breeze. The one office has the only two windows you need. First, you paid the $7 a person exit fee. Apparently this is new within the past few months. They slide your passport in an ATM like machine and ask for a credit card to pay the fee. The problem is your bank will treat this as a cash advance and fine you $10 (or more) per transaction. I didn’t know this until we got our card statement. There was no option to pay in cash at the machine but I would press the cash payment next time to avoid the card fee. In the next window, we suspended both the truck and motorcycle permits. That way we have some days to drive back through the country. The whole thing took a painless 20 minutes.

As we headed north and reentered Costa Rica, we crossed on the pacific side at Paso Canoas. The entrance was fairly simple: get fumigated (free), visa stamp (free), and reactivate your vehicle permit. Two things annoying about this: first, even thought we suspended our permit, the mandatory vehicle insurance cannot be suspended. It continues to run. So you have to get new insurance. And they cannot prorate the amount for the days you have left to drive through the country. I know because I asked. Thankfully, part of the insurance that was paid when we entered initially is a once a year fee and since we weren’t going to use the motorcycle, I didn’t buy insurance for that. Second annoyance, they slowly input allllll your information into their system yet again, asking for the original documents to make their copies. We were given a 10 day vehicle permit, paid $16 for the mandatory insurance for the truck, showed the agriculture guy the dogs papers, they stepped into the truck to do god knows what and we were done an hour and ten minutes later.

Exiting from Penas Blanca was pretty much like our entrance: unnecessarily irritating. We paid the exit fee at the Finca we camped at the night before, so that was one less hassle to go through at the border. Exit stamp was no problem. BUT we drove past the building where we needed to cancel the vehicle permit. And just in case you are wondering, yes, we are dumb, but nothing is marked. You have to figure out which building is for what by asking a bunch of people who know nothing. So I hiked to the place to cancel the permit and they say Hani must do it because everything is in his name. Totally not an issue in ANY other Central American country but here, they must be official. Bs. I marched back to the truck pissed and tell Hani to just go, it will cancel automatically and who cares. He wants to do right so annoyingly turned around and HE went back to the office I just cursed out. 45 minutes later and with a bad taste in my mouth, we left Costa Rica for the last time of this trip.

Total: $109–$79 vehicle insurance (twice) and $30 exit fee (twice)

SAFETY
A complete non-issue in Costa Rica. There is no military so it was nice to enjoy the absence of armed guards on the walk into the grocery. Although we’ve had our only incident of theft in Costa Rica (both pairs of flip flops were stolen), it was our fault for leaving them outside at night. The country thrives on tourism so locals want to make sure everyone is always safe. Local police drive around just to let you know they are there if you need them. And you won’t.

Total: $0

CAMPING
Our month long house rental in Potrero was $500, the going rate during low season. So for the remaining 2ish months, we only paid to camp a handful of times, totaling to $22. We paid $2 a day to park in Montezuma so we would have piece of mind leaving the truck in a secure place as we explored on the motorcycle. We also paid to park in Manuel Antonio to be close to the park entrance and beach and paid our last night in the country to camp at a cool farm that had tons of wildlife.

Total on camping (including 1 month house rental): $527

FUEL
So so so expensive, just like everything else in the country. Diesel cost more than $5 a gallon and was cheaper than regular gasoline. But because we didn’t drive the truck for a month, fuel costs were low.

Total: $1,003

SKYHORSE REPAIRS
We got a flat on one of the back tires. Thankfully a $10 patch did the trick. We also had the thermostat on our small fridge replaced. We bought a bunch of parts hoping something would work and eventually one did.

Parked at the secluded beach of Punta Uva, we noticed oil leaking from the back tire. It needed to be fixed right away because it meant that we weren’t braking on that side. So in the small nearby town of Puerto Viejo, we had the rear axel oil seal replaced. It definitely cost more to have it done there because it was a smaller town and our options for mechanics were limited. Also, they charged more because they had to drive an hour to Limon to pick up the part we needed. That repair cost $205.

Total: $329

ENTERTAINMENT
Outdoor adventures are a must while in Costa Rica but can be expensive. There are ATV tours, zip lining, hot springs, scuba and snorkel trips, great fishing, white water rafting, canopy adventures and a bunch of national parks. We went zip lining, explored Manuel Antonio National Park, visited an animal rescue center, and found free hot springs.

Total: $120

LAUNDRY
I’m including this category because I’m proud to say that in the 3 months we spent in the country we didn’t pay to have our laundry done at all!! For the first month, we relied on the generosity of friends and had our own accommodations while at the house the second month. Towards the end of our time in Costa Rica we were at the beach and wore swim suits everyday.

Total: $0

FOOD
All food–groceries and in restaurants–were the same as what you’d pay in the states. Expensive for us. Street food isn’t really a thing here and I missed the local markets of other Central American countries. Grocery stores were decently stocked with the local Pali stores being cheaper than the more American Mega Super. In the beach towns, we bought fresh seafood right from the fishermen.

As usual, I cooked mostly but we did have our moments when we were dying for a pizza or the experience of a restaurant (or McDonalds in Hani’s case). Sodas (local restaurants) are plentiful serving casadas, typical plates with meat, beans and rice, salad and plantains for around $4. We spent $1,523 on groceries, $136 at the bar and $938 eating out.

Total on food and bev: $2,597

WATER
The beauty of Costa Rica is you can drink the water from the tap. Finally!! No need to buy purified or bottled water. We would simply go to a gas station or find a spigot and fill up both our tanks and garafone. Perfect! (And none of us got sick:) )

Total: $0

PHONE/INTERNET
Costa Rica has 3 competing companies: Claro, Kolbi and Movistar. We opted for Movistar and had pretty spectacular coverage, even on the most remote of beaches. For one month, it cost $18 for 3 gb. But, like with most other countries, wifi was pretty easy to come by in cafés, bars, restaurants you name it because every place caters to tourists. So buying a SIM card isn’t necessary since free Internet is easy to come by.

Total: $51 for a local SIM, 3 months of Internet and some extra local talk/text time

DOGS
The girls needed some dog food so we bought yet another overpriced giant bag of crummy quality dog food.

Total spent on the dogs: $62

NOT TO MISS
The Nicoya and southern Caribbean beaches. Neither are centrally located so most people bypass both areas but they really are the gems of the country.

The Nicoya peninsula: Playas Brasilito, Carrillo, and Islita and Bahia del Pirates were our favorites.

The Caribbean coast: Cajuita, Playa Negra, Puerto Viejo and Punta Uva beach.

The beaches around the Golfo Dulce/Panama border are pretty special too, Playa Pavones and Punto Banco.

The Monteverde cloud forest is truly unbelievable. Outdoor adventures in this area are a must. Even though we had been zip lining here the last time we came to Costa Rica, we had to do it again. Sailing through the clouds with the lush forest below suspended by only a thin cable is quite exhilarating. Watch our zip lining video to get the full effect.

WHAT WE’D DO DIFFERENTLY
Don’t do vehicle repairs in Costa Rica unless absolutely necessary! While the cost of labor wasn’t horrible, parts are expensive.

Maybe it’s best not to travel here during the rainy season. It can really downpour, which ruins a lot of the outdoor activities. We welcomed the rain most of the time because it cooled us off but I can see how it would get old if you are wanting to be outside.

And we’d spend more time on the Caribbean beaches.

MOST TYPICAL SITE
Every community, no matter how tiny, has their own full sized soccer field on prime real estate with immaculately mowed lawns. They don’t mess around here. Soccer is some serious business.

NEXT TIME WE GO TO COSTA RICA
Long term rental is definitely the way to go. When we come back, I think the plan would be to park it in a small surfing town around Pavones or Puerto Viejo and learn to surf.

BEST MEAL
Our best meal was the spicy garlic mussels at Sobre Las Olas in Playa Negra. Our best breakfast was at Bread and Chocolate in Puerto Viejo (they had real bagels!!). The best brownies were at Agua y Sal in Potrero (we ate like 15). And the best ice cream (heavenly Italian gelato) was in Potrero as well.

THE BEST BEACH
The practically unreachable Playa Zapotal in northern Nicoya. Don’t know how a truck would fair on this road because it’s so awful. SO FREAKING AWFUL! The road, if you can even call it that, is extreme uphill and downhill, pure gravel with large rocky crevasses broken in the road. We were able to reach this ridiculously remote beach on the moto only once. We had the entire bay to ourselves. No businesses, or people for that matter, were anywhere around. The water was extremely clear and beach clean because no one can get out there. It was truly paradise. The second time was when we lost traction and slid down the first big hill. The third and final time we attempted to reach Zapotal we got a bit farther down the road than the second time but since it hadn’t rained in a while, the ground was super dry and cracked and we were slipping and sliding everywhere. I hiked up and down the majority of the way because I was scared we were going to spill like the last time.

FOR YOUR OWN COSTA RICAN ADVENTURE:
+ dip in the free local hot springs outside Arenal
+ surf! Oodles of awesome surfing beaches up and down the county
+ zip line in Monteverde
+ visit Manuel Antonio National Park
+ explore the beaches on the Nicoya peninsula and Caribbean coast
+ go to an animal rescue center. They are all over the country. Kinda like a zoo but for injured animals. You’ll see animals up close you won’t see in the wild. But prepare yourself for tiny cages.

Random (belated) thoughts/ month 16

15 Sep

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

At the beginning of our trip, if you’d ask me where we would be in one year, I would have said Panama. If you’d ask Hani, he would have said already home. Crazy to think that it took us SIXTEEN MONTHS to crawl our way to Panama. This month we:

+ reluctantly left the house in Potrero, air conditioning, pool, friends, bakery with the good brownies and all. That was a sad day.

+ made our way to the towns in southern Nicoya: Montezuma, Mal Pais and Santa Teresa. When we came to Costa Rica 5 years ago, we LOVED Mal Pais/Santa Teresa and were lukewarm about Montezuma. We were so obsessed with this community, I thought this time around, we would buy some business and settle there. The town of Santa Teresa was just ok this time around. Too many people. And much more touristy now. We parked on the public beach and explored other beaches, restaurants and the crappy coastal road (if you can even call it a road) on the motorcycle for a few days. We loved Montezuma! We found a sweet spot in the center of town right on the water and again took the bike down to check out the surrounding town and beach of Cabayu. But as far as settling there long term, meh. Our feelings on the area have definitely changed.

IMG_2472.JPG

IMG_2469.JPG

IMG_2490.JPG

IMG_2483-0.JPG

IMG_2491.JPG

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

+ learned yet again there’s a different mentality when you travel on vacation versus travel via camper long term. And what worked well on a vacation once doesn’t really do the trick the second time around. BUT finding the same cabana you rented 5 years earlier for a fraction of today’s price is still pretty satisfying.

+ ferried from the Nicoya Peninsula to mainland Costa Rica. It’s been a while since Skyhorse has boarded a boat.

IMG_2499.JPG

IMG_2498.JPG

DSC_0129

+ caught up with our So Fla friends Huda and Jason in Jaco. They, along with a group of friends, rented condos in Jaco and we were lucky enough to get included in their activities. Huda and Jason put us up in their plush rental (thank you guys again!!) and we enjoyed meals and down time with them and their gang. It was nice to be reminded of home after being away for so long.

IMG_2503.JPG

IMG_2502.JPG

+ arrived in Manuel Antonio National Park on a crowded Sunday. We didn’t feel like battling all the people so we planned to go Monday bright and early. Monday morning we packed a bag and lunch, walk the sweaty 10 minutes to the entrance only to find out the park is closed on Mondays. Whaaaat?! So we spent the day with all the other idiots who also probably tried to go the the park and found it closed–at the beach.

IMG_2560.JPG

+ explored Manuel Antonio National Park. We had been to this park before but were eager to do it again, since the wildlife is spectacular. As we hiked through the steaming park, we saw loads of birds, monkeys and raccoons. Yes, nasty, greedy raccoons that were trying to steal food right out of peoples’ hands. So gross.

IMG_2562.JPG DSC_0035 DSC_0054 DSC_0095 DSC_0098

+ fixed the thermostat on our small fridge. It kept freezing on the lowest setting and ran constantly, draining the truck’s battery. After Hani took it apart, we searched for a repairman in Quepos and then in San Jose. Through a series of fortunate encounters (including running into a mobile refrigerator repair guy) and conversations of not taking no for an answer, we bought what we believed to be the right part, found a repair guy and waited the 3 days near the shop to test and retest the fridge to make sure it was REALLY fixed. It eventually was.

+ parked in a cul de sac in San Jose for those 3 days while the fridge was being repaired. The weather was cool. We were around the corner from the fridge repair shop. The cul de sac was peaceful and neighbors super sweet.

+ were gifted a bag of limes, then gallo pinto, and then invited to breakfast by Miriam who lived in the cul de sac. We were so grateful to be welcomed into their home and in their little neighborhood.

+ arrived at the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. A-MAY-ZING!! Definitely our favorite area of Costa Rica. While there, we camped on the beaches at Cajuita, Playa Negra, Puerto Viejo, and Punta Uva. The beaches were immaculate. The towns of Cajuita and Puerto Viejo had a Key West-y chill caribe vibe with delicious food and friendly people. Punta Uva beach was filled with coconut palms and the water had some cool areas to snorkel. Only a sandy tree covered track lead out to this remote beach. And there were many days we were the ones out there.

DSC_0166 DSC_0168 DSC_0170

IMG_2527.JPG

IMG_2509.JPG

IMG_2519.JPG

+ dined (twice) in Cajuita on the most scrumptious spicy garlic mussels…with a sleeping sloth above us.

+ met John and Jeanine from California who have been living in Cahuita and are now selling their home. We spent a great afternoon with them checking out their house, having a beer on their deck, going to their favorite restaurant and walking the town with ice cream.

IMG_2510.JPG

+ toured the Jaguar Rescue Center in Punta Uva. Though no jaguars, we saw rescued monkeys, toucans, sloths, monitors, big cats, colorful snakes, baby ant eater, and owls. The monkey playroom was the best–these little guys swing and jump and wanted to be cuddled. We weren’t allowed to bring cameras in because they would destroy them so there’s no picture of the baby monkey jumping on my head and nesting in my hair.

DSC_0130 DSC_0136

IMG_2538.JPG

IMG_2539.JPG

+ got soaked daily. It was a pleasant reprieve from the heat.

IMG_2544.JPG

+ spent 81 days in Costa Rica and crossed into Panama on August 19th. Our southernmost country!! We made it!!

IMG_2554.JPG

IMG_2550.JPG

IMG_2557.JPG

+ left Skyhorse parked in Almirante (because it would have cost $200 one way on the vehicle ferry) and boarded a small lancha with the dogs to Bocas del Toro. It was a pricey 2 days of staying in a hotel and eating out for every meal but TOTALLY WORTH IT! We would have stayed on Bocas longer had it not been so expensive for us.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

+ mingled with locals and took water taxis to a few of the surrounding Bocas islands. After eavesdropping at breakfast, we learned that Emma had a restaurant/bar on a mangrove island 10 minutes off Bocas with a reef around it. We snorkeled for hours and ate and drank on this remote little restaurant island, Blue Coconut. Robin was kind enough to give us a ride back in and showed us the ex-pat nightlife. Very Key West and very fun!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

IMG_2572-0.JPG

IMG_2582.JPG

+ saw the real Bocas. Way outside the tourist center that’s basically Key West circa 1974 live the local locals. Their homes are shacks tucked into the mangroves. To access the homes, a series of practically rotten planks are set up above the mucky trash-ridden waters. You need pretty good balance to navigate this path, especially when someone is coming in the other direction. We followed the plank path a while and it just got too depressing. Garbage was everywhere and no one was doing anything about it. Tons of tourists pour money into Bocas and it’s doubtful that this community ever sees a cent of it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

+ found the Cangilones de Gualaca, a canyon hidden in a nondescript part of Panama. The river below begins as rapids, gets super deep and narrow through the canyon, then widens into a lazy river kinda thing. The jump in was pretty high and scary, though it doesn’t look it from these pictures. We had the place all to ourselves to jump, float and splash for several hours before a bus load of students arrived.

DSC_0006DSC_0013 DSC_0011DCIM100GOPRO DCIM100GOPRO

+ are impressed with how well stocked the grocery stores are in Panama. I can pretty much find anything I would ever need in ONE store! That hasn’t happened since leaving the states.

+ landed in the cool mountains of Boquete. There we explored the city on foot, drove high up into the mountains, hiked a trail, ate some delicious German sausage, and explored the local farmer market.

IMG_2586.JPG

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

+ have yet to escape the rain. Oh well.

+ hate Claro, the cell service we choose when we entered Panama. Sure it was cheap, but we’ve had an “extended” signal everywhere in the country. Thus, few postings and this belated blog entry. Forgive me.

Random thoughts/ month 15–Playa Potrero

7 Aug

20140731-130613-47173342.jpg

This month (meaning June 26 to July 26…another belated post) was extremely tranquillo since we spent the entire time at the rental house, Casita Naranja, in Playa Potrero. This was the longest we’ve stayed put since we began our trip. We:

+ vegged in the house the first week, watching tv (I’m so sick of Two and a Half Men!), playing in the pool and just enjoying the air conditioning. Maybe we left twice.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

+ lost power 3 times over the course of the month. The first was a week into our stay at the house. Go figure, the moment we are paying for electricity and relying on the a/c, it’s gone. There was a massive storm and the entire yard flooded. A tree down the block took out 2 poles completely, knocking out the power lines. Within 3 and a half hours, new poles were installed and power was back! We were completely impressed with their speed and efficiency, as the workers and replacement poles came from another town. The second time the electricity went out we weren’t home and were scrambling to find out what had happened. We thought the culprit was the dead iguana under the power lines in our backyard but apparently another animal had chewed the wires somewhere else. Within 2 hours it was fixed. The last time we woke up with it out. Felt like sleeping in the truck and was fixed before we got out of bed.

20140731-123857-45537824.jpg20140731-123858-45538696.jpg

20140731-123859-45539609.jpg

+ cheered on Costa Rica in the World Cup. We’re not big sports fans but it was exciting to watch the team advance, screaming at the bar tv with other Ticos.

photo

+ motoed back to our favorite beaches and explored new ones all within 30 minutes of the house. We went to Playas Penca, Danta, Flamingo, Conchal, Brazilito, Grande, Tamarindo, and our new favorite Bahia del Pirates where we snorkeled with some beautiful fish.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

20140731-133320-48800264.jpg

20140731-133317-48797729.jpg OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

20140731-133318-48798505.jpg

20140731-133317-48797577.jpg

+ swam in the pool practically every day this month. I would start the day with coffee by the pool followed by a swim. We thought with the beach right down the street, we would swim in the ocean more. Not so much. I think we only took a dip in Potrero Bay twice this month but our pool swim was a daily event followed by a rinse in the outdoor shower.

20140731-133509-48909857.jpg

+ fought less. Maybe because we had the ability to independently entertain ourselves with either tv, the pool, or Internet. Maybe because we could escape the heat into the constantly air conditioned house. Maybe because we had 4 times the indoor space to hide out in. Whichever way, it was nice.

+ enjoyed time with our Potrero friends Tim, Heather, Gorav, Valarie and Claudia. We beached together, BBQed at the house, invited them over for swims and all around had a wonderful time with them. They all will be missed.

photo 4

+ bought countless kilos of fresh tuna, sea bass, conch and clams and ate more brownies than can be imagined.

+ finally, after over a year of cyber-stalking each other, met Victoria and Jason and their pups Neli and Maya from Neli’s Big Adventure. They hung out with us all day in our backyard, swimming, drinking, eating and chatting. Hani and I tried to get them to stay longer than a day until they realized their visas were about to expire and had to run to the border the next morning. I’m sure we’ll meet up again as we all head north.

20140731-125803-46683713.jpg

20140731-125802-46682866.jpg

20140731-125801-46681943.jpg

20140731-125804-46684520.jpg

+ celebrated Shae’s 10th birthday. And she’s still a wild lil pup!

20140731-130440-47080696.jpg

+ got a flat. 20 minutes, a patch and $10 later, we were on our way. Easiest fix yet.

+ ate at the McDonalds in Liberia for the third time. First was with the Chlobys when we entered Costa Rica. Second was on our way to Potrero from Monteverde last month. And this last (and final) time was as we waited for Peter to land. They’d since redecorated (totally disturbing that I recognized this). We hunkered down in the kids playroom–the only area with air conditioning–and sat for 2 hours using their wifi. Too bad they didn’t do free refills anymore.

20140731-133831-49111213.jpg

+ hosted Peter again. It had been almost a year since he met us in Alaska and were excited for him to visit at the house for a week. He brought us a bunch of goodies (some delivered to him from my mom) the best being 2 six packs of our favorite beers: Shiner Ruby Redbird and Abita Strawberry. It was an awesome surprise! We had a fabulous time with Peter, as we always do, showing him our spots, the best beaches, introducing him to our friends, singing karaoke, and even finding time to “mingle.”

20140731-130222-46942666.jpg

20140731-130221-46941817.jpg

20140731-130225-46945551.jpg

20140731-130226-46946453.jpg

+ yoga-ed overlooking the ocean. It’s been too long since that happened.

+ pushed two strangers’ vehicles out of the sand after getting stuck trying to drive on Playa Conchal. After getting stuck ourselves many times on the road, it was time to pay it forward. Hopefully the good karma will continue.

+ heard howler monkeys practically daily but saw them once, watched herds of cattle roam the neighborhood, saw tons of colorful birds and found a dead iguana in the yard.

+ scrubbed down, cleaned out, and bathed Skyhorse from head to toe. I can’t even share how long it’s been since we’ve peeked into every nook and cranny and washed all out bedding and couch cushions. You’d be disgusted. I know I am.

+ packed back into Skyhorse on July 26, turned in our keys and headed back out into the great (hot) unknown, moving further south.

DSC_0093

Ziplining in Costa Rica

26 Jul

This video needs no introduction. Make sure your volume is up at the end for the tarzan swing 🙂 Enjoy!

Casita Naranja

2 Jul

Welcome to our little orange house in Playa Potrero!

20140707-105649-39409539.jpg

After melting for too long, we decided to rent this sweet little house for a month.

We stocked up on beer and happily moved Skyhorse’s contents inside.

20140707-103357-38037473.jpg
(We bought 30 more after this picture)

For $500, we have plenty of space to stretch out, air conditioning, washer and dryer, cable, wifi, and a garage for the motorcycle.

20140707-102733-37653315.jpg

20140707-102556-37556719.jpg

20140707-103613-38173041.jpg

20140707-103612-38172213.jpg20140707-102557-37557741.jpgEven a suicide shower with hot water.

20140707-103016-37816916.jpg

Skyhorse is parked right out front.

20140707-110410-39850376.jpg

The best part–a fab backyard with fruit trees, shade and sun, POOL and an outdoor shower!

20140707-103210-37930372.jpg

20140707-104428-38668317.jpg20140707-103208-37928478.jpg

20140707-103209-37929300.jpg

The big house is unoccupied for the month we are here so the entire outdoor space is ours.

So from now until July 26, you’ll be seeing a lot of this

20140707-105410-39250601.jpg

this

20140707-103847-38327447.jpg

And this

20140707-103935-38375693.jpg

20140707-103936-38376707.jpgPura vida!

Costa Rica river crossings

1 Jul

Let me start off by saying that the roads here are CRAP! Costa Rica is the wealthiest country in Central America and locals pay pretty high taxes. There are hordes of tourists that travel to this country by either giant tour bus or navigate on their own, but for some reason, none of the wealth here flows to repair or maintain the roads. So it shouldn’t be surprising that a lot of roads continue through river beds.

During the dry season, this isn’t an issue. But from May until November, the rainy season, some of rivers flow so high, the normal road is impassible. Instead, drivers are forced to go 3+ hours out of their way to cross to a city that is right on the other side. Minimal measures have been taken to make travel on these roads more effective. One of the rivers we crossed had the base set up for a bridge but no work had been done to complete the bridge in about 30 years.

When Hani learned that we would encounter some rivers we may have to forge, he was pumped. Actually, pumped was an understatement. He paid close attention to the locals’ description of how to cross the river and not how to avoid it.

So without further ado, I give you our river crossings:

Crossing a river around Lake Arenal

DSC_0093

DSC_0087 DSC_0092DSC_0088

 

Crossing a river between Islita and Carrillo

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA