Today we will dive into the flora of Costa Rica and I am very certain that I didn’t even capture .00001 % of what grows everywhere. I mean, seriously, it’s like diving into the ocean and trying to take a picture of every fish, every coral, every grain of sand. The variety and abundance of flora in Costa Rica is staggering. I will attempt to identify as many plants and trees as possible.
Bromelia growing on a huge tree
Monkey Tail Fern (these are the fronds before they unfurl, kind of like fiddleheads)
Not 100% sure but it’s either coconut flowers or betel nut flower
Hot lips plant (Psychotria elata)
the lowest part of the base of the tree I’m hugging. You could house a small child in that space
Shama Macka aka Sensitive Plant
Heliconia (although I can’t figure out the genus)
I think this might be Mahogany. I love the lacey affect of the canopy…very airy and fluffy.
Don’t know what the plant is but I love that the leaves are red when they are first emerging from the bud.
Cardammom flower and pods with seeds
Cardammom plantation/field of plants
Red Banana. Not eaten by people because it’s very sour but little bats love them
Alpinia purpurata (red ginger)
Jamaican Yellow Bell Flowers
Palm tree coral stems and berries
According to the tour guide, this tree is being slowly suffocated by all the winding vines and plants sucking the life out of it, whereas, in the rain forest, all plants on trees have a symbiotic relationship.
more Travelers Palms on the pond at Arenal
The trees and foliage often canopy each side of the road as you drive up, down and over the mountains. Note the vines crossing from one side of the road to the other. These vines are used by monkeys
Oil palm fruit
coconut washed up on Funky Munky Beach. I was tempted to see if anything was living in it but then I remember snakes and spiders lol
Nice wall of cactus in Montezuma
These hung down from the arches that lined the path to the beach at Banana Beach. Very magical environment. I think they are Cuitlauzina pendula
Palmatum flowers arranged by me because they kept falling from the tree into my hammock
Almond Tree , Almond nut
Banana tree flower fallen on the ground
Banana flower on the tree with young bananas
Trees grow like this in the mountain to adapt to the constant wind. The branches grow on the side of the tree that flows in the same direction as the wind
Heliconia rostrata, Lobster claw or Parrot’s beak
I couldn’t resist the perfect semetry of these trees and I think it might be Yucca
Blue Ginger (no, I do not need to flip the photo, it was growing upside down)
Yellow Shrimp plant
I couldn’t find the name of these but I found the way this canopy caught the light mesmerizing
Well, life got in the way of writing yesterday. It was my first day back to work since landing back in Canada. It took me several days to get over the sinus infection and other not so attractive side-effects of travel but I’m feeling more human now.
The main difference I immediately noticed the first morning I woke up in my own bed was the utter silence. I was used to birds, motors, people, dogs, cats and hustle and bustle by 6am for the past ten days. The silence was deafening, and I did not like it one bit. I thought my worst nightmare of waking up deaf had finally come true. I jumped out of bed and flung open windows and patio door only to be greeted with more silence plus extremely chilly air. I don’t think we’re in Costa Rica anymore!
Today I want to share with you the colourful and melodious variety of birds in Costa Rica. I got quite a few pictures but none that do the bird justice, so, I’m also going to give you stock photos of the birds I identified with my Merlin Bird ID app that I used while walking through the rainforests, parks, beaches, and mountains of Costa Rica. While I didn’t see every bird, I most assuredly heard them. My favourite songs come from the Great Kiskadee and the Melodious Blackbird. The most familiar call I heard was from the Brown Jay which sounds very much like our beloved Blue Jay. I managed to capture a video of one in Tilaran. I also saw a Blue Jay, but it was much bigger than the ones I’ve seen in Canada. One can also compare the Great-tailed Grackle to the Mockingbird of Calgary with its pesky and mischievous nature but this Grackle is also very aggressive and preys on its own kind and other birds for sport or food. Nasty bird but endless hours of entertainment just watching their showy tail feathers swooping and diving. There were flocks of them everywhere and especially at the beach.
It will surprise you to see just how many plain and dark coloured birds there are. And the most ominous bird I saw were two black vultures sitting on someone’s yard fence in Guatuso. Just hanging out waiting for something to die. I was happy not to stick around and see what it was.
So, on with the show. Please say hello to the birds of Costa Rica. And if you are an avid bird person like me and my father, you will benefit greatly by downloading the Merlin Bird ID app so you can hear the songs and calls of all these wonderful birds. I surely miss waking up to the Great Kiskadee every morning.
Black and White Owl
Common Pauraque in La Fortuna
Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher at cabins in Avallanas
Slate Throated Redstart in Monte Verde
Bananaquit in Santa Cruz
Scarlet-rumped Tanager at Los Lagos joining us for breakffast
Well the final two days in Costa Rica have arrived. With much resistance and sadness we packed up our belongings and left Vagina Beach. I really did not want to leave. I could have lived there for a month at least. But onward we must travel. It’s off to Santa Cruz for the last leg of this amazing journey.
Here’s a little background for you. I’ve worked at Engineers Canada with my friend Alex for over 20 years now. Over those years we’ve become very good friends and I consider him to be my brother from another mother. His ex-husband is my travel partner, Mickey. I fell in love with Mickey the first day I met him. I was there for his and Alex’s wedding reception, Mickey’s Canadian Citizenship Ceremony, I became Madrina (godmother) to their two dogs Nano and Coco and when they sadly divorced, Mickey became my next-door neighbour. Last year, Alex had to spend 7 months in Costa Rica to move and take care of his parents. During that time, Mickey and I co-parented Nano and Coco. You could say we are one happy family in three different households.
So, it was a no brainer that we would spend our final 2 days with Alex’s parents, Alfonso and Theresa Olivas in Santa Cruz.
It was a short one-hour drive to Santa Cruz and the town was very small but very colourful and there was a Pollo (chicken) shop on almost every corner. Pollo Campero, Pollo Frito, Pollolandia, Pollos Star, Rico Pollo, POLLO, POLLO, POLLO ! Unfortunately, I didn’t get to try any of the pollo but I will next time I’m in town.
The Olivas were super excited and happy to see us. Big hugs all around. We sat on the patio and drank tequilla and beer and snacked on the snacks we brought from Avallanas. It was nice to listen to Mickey and them catching up on things. My chair was near the edge of the patio and Theresa kept fretting that I would fall off the edge. She is “such a mom” and I totally recognized how much Alex talks like her and has some of the same facial expressions as her. We talked and then the last few days of travelling caught up with us so Mickey and I went for a nap. It was super hot, almost 36 degrees and there was no AC. I had a fan but it didn’t help much. We slept for about an hour and when we woke up it was time to go for dinner.
Mickey had chosen a very nice restaurant, La Terraza. The meals were very nice. I had grilled chicken with veggies and mashed potatoes. Very Canadian lol but it was very good. So was the Imperial Light beer, as always! Mickey had a seafood pasta and it looked amazing. We did not share plates this time. We played it classy and civil this time. Theresa’s cousin had joined us. She talked up a storm and I loved her laugh.
We went left with full bellies but the night would not be complete without desert so we drove past the oldest church in Santa Cruz across the street from Heladeria Jervahos (Jervahos Ice Cream Shop). I was too full for ice cream but everyone else had some while I looked around like a lost tourist. I still can’t get over how different the air smells in Costa Rica. It has a sweet taste in your throat when you breathe in.
The food was good, the company was good and we were both very tired. The trip was winding down and so were we. We headed back to the house to put the car inside the gates where we sat earlier that day with drinks and snacks. Mickey’s cousin insisted on seeing him, so he got changed and went out for the night with his cousin.
I was glad for the break and not having to go, go , go again so I sat on the couch, beside Alfonso in his arm chair and we watched a comedy show on tv. It was full of canned laughter and goofy characters. There were three women in the skit and they were all young, beautiful and clearly, all had breast implants. None of them spoke, they only nodded or shook their head in response to the male actors. It was a surprise birthday party and the women were the surprise for an olde married man. It was sexist, but it was funny because of the facial expressions and the slap schtick. I didn’t understand the words, but I got the concept of the skit.
When the show was over, Alfonso switched it to Theresa’s favourite Tella Novella (soap opera), Meryem. She quickly sat down in her chair, in her jammies and we watched it together. Again, I didn’t understand the words but the drama and storyline were clear. The villain was obvious and the heroine was also easy to spot, especially when she knocked out a man twice her size!
I was falling asleep watching so I popped off the couch and told Theresa I was going to take a shower and go to bed. I gathered my towel and toiletries and heading into the shower only to be shocked by the biggest bug I had seen so far in Costa Rica. And it was in my shower! I yelped and Theresa came running. Alfonso was right behind her and they were quick to act. Well, Theresa was anyway. She grabbed a big can of Raid and went after the critter while me and Alfonso stood outside the bathroom. She was fearless and Alfonso told me, “they bite hard, you know?” I almost laughed because he actually looked afraid while his wife chased down the bug and it scurred away to die. We all had a good laugh and Theresa hugged me. I didn’t know how to tell her that she was strong and courageous so I pointed at her and flexed my arms like a muscle man and she laughed very hard.
I was on the alert but I still had my shower. I had to, I was melting and needed to get all the sweat off my body before bed.
My hosts were tired too, I could see and I knew they wouldn’t be far behind me in sleeping. I hugged them and said buenas noches and fell into bed to watch a few reels and tik toks and dozed off. I surely would get a good night’s sleep and was glad because tomorrow was the big day. I had to leave this paradise and do almost a little over half a day of travel. 5 hours to Toronto, 2-hour layover and then half an hour home.
I didn’t hear Mickey come in so I wasn’t sure what kind of sleep he got. All I know is, when he got up in the morning, he was ready to rumble. I think Mickey had enough of his home country and was anxious to get back to Canada. He was also still sick. I’m sure he just wanted to land and stay put for a few days.
The flight was uneventful and we discovered some fun games to play on Air Canada’s entertainment screen. All was well until we had to go through border security in Toronto. Unfortunately, Mickey shares the same name with a man from New York who is on the “no fly” list. We got held up for a while until they cleared him. He kept telling me to go catch my flight because if they detain him, I won’t get another flight as I’m just his travel partner. He would be given a new flight if they detained him, and he missed his connection. I told him I would wait another 15 minutes and then go if they hadn’t cleared him. Five minutes later, we were running through the airport trying to find our connecting flight. We had missed the baggage check, the counters were closed but a nice clerk who was on her way out, helped us find the nearest baggage conveyer for our plane. That sorted, we really boogied and we made it on time! Omg, that totally felt like the Amazing Race!
All aboard the final flight and we were grateful that in 30 minutes, give or take, we would be in Ottawa. Our friend Mimma was picking us up at the airport. Let me tell you, there are not too many friends who would drive you to the airport at 3am to go to Costa Rica and then pick you up at 1:30 am to drive you home in Ottawa. I have some amazing friends and these two, Mickey and Mimma, are top of the list.
Oh man, it felt good to be home but I was already wishing for more Costa Rican adventures, knowledge, nature and sweet air. I most definitely will return as soon as I can. First, I want to explore other areas of the world. I’m thinking of heading to the UK and Spain next. I have roots in the UK, I might even pop over to France to visit Caro before I go to Spain. In the meantime, I will scrimp and save and sell things to finance what I know have an extreme case of……the travel bug!
Thanks for coming along this journey with me…until next time ……..Pura Vida
We rose late on our first morning at Vagina Beach. I was up before Mickey, and I let him sleep in. His body needed it. I prepared our lovely fresh fruit breakfast and wrote some more. Then I lay in the hammock trying to get a sound bite from the howlers but they were just not loud enough. So went for a short walk to take pics of flowers. I was startled by one hibiscus bush when a large lizard was startled by me and bolted out and across my path. We both let out a little gasp.
It was not yet 8am and the heat was stifling. That’s not a complaint, it is a fact. By noon it would be unbearable, and my skin was already getting a little lobster hue to it. At breakfast, I made the suggestion we should do some exploring while the sun beats down on the earth and head to the beach around 3pm. With this plan in mind, Mickey suggested we go shopping in Tamarindo. Excellent idea!, because I had not yet found a dress or sandals I like and I had people to buy gifts for. To my surprise, as we wound down the road into Tamarindo it was like driving right back into Santa Theresa but the roads were paved and in good condition. The air of commerce was all around us, it felt even more American than Banana Beach and most of the people who owned quaint little shops were not Costa Rican. The local people could be found working in chain stores like Maxi Pali, akin to Loblaws. We had to stop in there to stock up on water and necessities. Another first, underground parking for the Maxi Pali. It was in a mall that had lots of restaurants, furniture stores and opticians, among others. I fell in love with a partition wall made of blue glass bottles and a food court with a sand floor. So fun !
First stop was for coffee. We hit up this cute little vegan café. It was very good espresso and of course Mickey had fresh juice. That down our hatch, we ventured into the multitude of gift and clothing stores. I finally found the dress I wanted (seen in the picture with Alfonso) and a pair of sandals that didn’t give me blisters between the toes. The ones I bought in Arenal, I left for someone to have at the Banana Beach Cabin. I’m sure I’ve had the same reaction to sandals that go between your first two toes before but I didn’t learn from it. I have crossed this type of sandal off my list FOREVER.
I also bought for myself a chorreador (coffee maker) because I had used Mickey’s back home, used one when we stayed with Alan and Luis and I liked the quality of flavour you get from it. Personally, I like my coffee cold, but this is a nice change of pace.
Shopping was fast and efficient, so we now had time to explore the rich and the poor of Tamarindo. The differences in dwellings from one end of town to the other was obvious and clear. I often wonder how the extremely poor, anywhere cope with having to live next to opulence and privilege. I know I am privileged to live where I live and it’s true that when you travel, your perspective shifts. I am now more profoundly aware how privileged I am and look to the homeless of Ottawa. I will do better to treat people with kindness.
This is the first time since being in Costa Rica that I have seen anything above 2 stories. There were hotels here that were 10 to 15 stories high. I wouldn’t want to be staying in that place during earthquakes or volcano eruptions.
After checking out the overcrowded beach of Tamarindo, we were hungry. We drove around until something spoke to us. Up until now, I had consumed casados, chiccharonnes and many other traditional dishes and I was just craving a good burger. The aroma from an Argentinian Restaurant named La Boca beckoned us. They had burgers! They had delicious burgers! And I had my first french fry since landing in Costa Rica. I was also pleased to see a pepper grinder on the table. If you know me well, you know how much pepper I put on my food. All of the places we’ve been so far had salt but no pepper. Instead, I spiced up my food with the hot sauces that were always next to the salt. Funny thing too, the Sodas also have packets of mayo at every table. It’s a very popular condiment here. The burger and fries were exactly what I wanted. I love when that happens.
Mickey spied the wood oven off to the right of us and we went over to check it out. It’s just like the wood stoves my mom used to cook on when we lived on the farm. Beside it was an open, round bbq with a pig and a pineapple roasting, I imagine, for the dinner rush? I kind of wish we could come back for dinner. Mickey and I had started to eat perhaps twice a day now because we were constantly on the run and, being sick, Mickey didn’t have much of an appetite. We ate more out of necessity rather than hunger. I’m happy to say that with all the carb rich meals we’ve eaten I have not gained any weight. With all the hiking and swimming being done, I actually lost a few pounds!
Lunch down the hatch, we drove back to Avellanas and got ready for the beach. We had 4 hours of sunshine left so we parked at Lola’s and swam for an hour. A couple of beach loungers opened up so we grabbed those and a couple of drinks. Beach loungers are $10 for the day which I found very reasonable. Mickey had a raw tuna dish as a snack and then we just relaxed in the sun until we needed to go back in the water to cool down.
This swim was the most enjoyable one so far because Mickey took more time to teach me how to swim in the ocean. I was getting the hang of it finally but never get too cocky when it comes to those massive waves. I was still knocked on my ass once or twice, but I learned to dive into the white water and let the wave bring me back up the other side of it. I was really enjoying the pirouettes I was using on the rolling waves. I felt like a ballerina. We danced in the water for another hour, and I decided to get out and say goodbye to the ocean from the shore. This would be our last swim because tomorrow we are headed to Santa Cruz to visit Alex’s (a colleague and friend of mine in Ottawa) parents. I got to know them virtually but meeting them in person is not something I thought I’d actually ever do.
We took in another stunning sunset with children climbing trees and waving at a drone, dogs playing in and out of the water, trying to capture the perfect picture of Mickey swimming in the sunset, crabs of all sorts picking up scraps left behind by humans, the Great-tailed Grackle whooshed just above our heads from tree to tree and singing a sunset song. Ahhhhh yes, this is paradise.
We headed back to our paradise cabin. We each took to our own corners to catch up with family and social back home and then settled in for a great long sleep. Tomorrow we would leave this, my favourite beach and cabin so far, but tomorrow would be epic when I finally get to hug Theresa and Alfonso!
Checkout wasn’t until noon from Banana Beach, but Miguel wanted to move on asap. I must admit that it was a very noisy, dusty and crowded location.
As we drove to our next beach destination, Avallanas (aka, Vagina Beach as previously stated in my last entry) I tried to capture the Brama cattle strewn all over the countryside but Mickey was driving like a bat out of hell and I didn’t want to request that he stop. He was on a mission! I really love how the cows find the one shady tree in the middle of the field and are always there when the sun is the highest, noon. This part of Costa Rica was very brown and the cattle had to search all day for patches of green to eat.
We were highly rewarded with a fabulous Casado before lunch. A huge open kitchen with a cafeteria style service. You just pointed to what you wanted, and they heaped a generous portion on your plate. Casado is the perfect way to start your day especially if you do not know when your next meal will come. It keeps you going. This Soda also came with its own local stray dog. It dog looked like a German Shepherd/ Malnois mix and was very gentle. It was also very skinny so when it sat down beside me to beg for food, Mickey and I shared a lot of our chicharonnes. Then it laid down at my feet and allowed me to give it some cuddles. I swear I could have taken home at least three stray dogs by now. My sister Lana, the perpetual dog rescuer would love this place, but I think she would go home with at least a dozen dogs. Not all are strays though. If they have a collar then they belong to someone, but dogs roam free of leash or chain, and I have only encountered one so far that wanted nothing to do with human beings and was aggressive with other dogs. Just one.
Off we went again to a secluded cabin 5 minutes from the beach at Las Avellanas Villas. I was super, duper pleased with this one and I could tell Mickey was too. It really looked like something out of a travel magazine but had a very homey feel to it too. At every place we have stayed we would quickly dump the luggage and go out exploring. But this one, this one begged us to stay a while, kick up your feet, lay in its hammock, cook something yourself, hug a cement pillar in the shower. It was gorgeous, relaxing, and secluded. There were only about 4 other cabins on the property, so we had plenty of quiet. The only flaw with this one was that there was only one bed. Mickey said he would sleep on the couch. I felt bad and was determined to convince him to sleep in the bed. I mean, it’s a huge bed, a King size I think.
Mickey asked me, “You wanna do something?”, to which I replied, “I just wanna hang out here and relax and write and maybe nap or maybe swing in the hammock till the sun goes down. How about you” He said he wanted the same and for the first time all day he smiled and his shoulders relaxed. We did, however, need supplies and there was a tiny pulperias (convenience store) Frutas y Verduras store (fresh fruit and veggies) store only a 4 minute walk away. We still had some of Flori’s homemade Empanadas de civerre (sweet empanadas). We loaded up on:
• Bizchochos – a bag of super dry and crunchy corn cookie but bagel-shaped
• Chiralitos – a bag of something that looks like hickory sticks and of course made of corn
• Queso Crema – cream cheese
• Patecito – liver pate in a convenient tube dispenser
• Imperial Light Beer in giant bottles
• And of course Agua !
• Giant fruit – mango, oranges and bananas
We hauled it all back to our paradise cabin to spend the night doing absolutely nothings since we arrived in Costa Rica. We lounged on the patio taking turns swinging in the hammock. Of course, Mickey had a great time laughing at me trying to get in and out of the hammock before teaching me his technique. It was so quiet and peaceful until…the howler monkeys started growling. I was thrilled but Mickey didn’t even bat an eye. It is sometimes embarrassing how excited I get over things that Mickey almost doesn’t notice! I swung upside down in the hammock hoping to catch sight of a howler in the canopy but at the very least, capture the sound on video. I did but it was a little more faintly than I hoped for. Still, the howler was present for the rest of the night. We could even hear them inside the cabin where we retired after sunset when the bugs started to be too much. This was also the first night we did not run to the beach for sunset. Mickey was laughing at his phone as he watched reels from Insta and Twitter and I happily wrote about our adventures. The WIFI connections in all the places we have stayed so far is excellent by the way.
Here is a plug for a local Avallanas photographer named Isabel Amador. Her photos are up all over the cabin. Not sure if she is in all of them but her work is very interesting. They are beach photos but the top half of the photo is somehow distorted. You can find her website at https://www.isabelamador.com/ , however the photos from the cabin are not featured there. She’s talented for sure and I was tempted to buy a photo from the cabin. I am not regretting that I didn’t.
Mickey had fallen asleep on the couch as I pecked away at the keyboard on my iPad. I decided to put my jammies on. In the bedroom I rolled down the blankets and discovered that the King bed was actually two beds side by side. I was thrilled that Mickey would not have to sleep on the couch. When he woke from his nap on the couch we quickly separated the beds. I saw the relief in Mickey’s face because that couch was not “good night’s sleep friendly”.
Back home, I was always perplexed about why Mickey took three showers a day. I no longer need to wonder. When it is as hot as it is in Costa Rica, all day, every day and most of the night, you need to rinse off all that sweat, sand, dust, you just need it, especially in the dry season, Now showered and refreshed, the howlers and cicadas singing us to sleep, we quickly dozed off for the night, to dream of the beaches we would dance on tomorrow. What a fantastic day today was.
Up an “attem” early. The sleep was good, but our backs were starting to pay the price of sleeping in so many different beds. The birds, as always, started to sing and wake the world at 5am. By 6am the motorcyles and atvs chimed in.
Mickey was still feeling shitty so I left him in silence most of the morning. I know how I am when I’m sick. The best thing you can do for me when I’m sick is walk away and come back when I feel better. Unfortunately, when you are sharing tiny quarters and travelling in the same car, even the smallest irritant can make a sick person quite grumpy. I did my best not to be excited. Not an easy task considering we were in one of the most Bohemic settings I’ve ever seen. My mind was curious and amazed and how young all the travelling women were. They were teenagers and Uni kids, there were young couples with very young children, there were out and out hippies and surfer boys everywhere. I kind of felt a little old but then I remembered, “I come from this kind of community, these are my kind of people”! Alas, my mind settled and gently took in the free spirits all around me.
We wanted to have breakfast on the beach, so we walked about a kilometer along the shoreline. There was nothing open beachside yet, so we ventured up to the main drag to find coffee, at the very least. We passed by one shop with a Canadian flag flying from it. The owner waved and asked where we were from when he saw us pointing to his flag. We had a nice little chat. He is from Calgary and owns a sports clothing and surf board store.
Finally, brewed yumminess were located in a roastery which was very similar to a Starbucks. I started to sense that the commerce here was mostly North American. The Roastery was American and another cute clothing store further down the main street was owned by a cute young man from Calgary as well. He had some very nice dresses and homemade crochet clothing. I will be sending him one of my samples as soon as I can.
It was only 9am and it was already 28 degrees, so we decided to hit the first beach on our path. It turned out to be the Funky Munky beach and we swam until we cooled down a little. I mean, it’s not like a cooling down you get in Canadian lakes because the ocean is not cold, it’s quite warm. But the wet skin in the breeze makes it worthwhile. I still could not get the hang of the waves, so I opted to sit in the shade and watch the surfers while Mickey danced with the waves. He’s quite graceful. I was astounded what surfers need to do to catch a wave as well. They swim for about 5 minutes on their boards and each time a wave (not the big one they want but still big) is about to pound down on them they dive and swing their board over themselves. It was fascinating to watch them do this. Finally, when they get the wave they want, they squat jump onto their boards and ride the wave back to shore only to swim back out and catch the next one all over again.
Mickey wanted to take me to a cove where the waves were not as aggressive and we found one called Playa Hermosa. It had a turtle crossing and lots of tiny little hermit crabs. I was thrilled to hold one in my palm and giggle as it tickled my fingers with its tiny little claws. These were not the same crab that scared the shit out of me in the dark. Those are land crabs, (stock photo used because they are too fast to capture on camera) and they can be seen everywhere, mostly splattered by vehicles all over the road, but I digress. The beach was very nice, and the waves were a bit calmer. I was still not getting much enjoyment from being knocked around by water, but I stayed in and tried my best. The water was warmer in the cove. We swam for another hour and then needed to refuel. We set out in search of sustenance.
The thing about driving around these small towns is, one leads to another and then another and there is so much cool scenery along the way that before you know it, you’ve driven past breakfast, straight into lunch or dinner. We intended to stop in quickly at a Soda (la mom and pop eatery or café with homestyle cooking like casados) somewhere near Cobano but we really didn’t find one that shouted at us so we drove to Montezuma. This is where we experienced our first traffic jam. In each town there is a speed bump just before every school and right after the school area to slow down all drivers. Trust me, people drive super fast in Costa Rica so this is a good idea for kiddies. The school was on the road we needed to access but the parents picking up their kids jammed up the very narrow and busy road for about half an hour. We were getting hungry and now Mickey was on the hunt for a seafood soup he remembered having once upon a time. Best place to get one of those is right by the ocean, right? Damn Skippy!
We came upon a restaurant that was right along the ocean, but the sign said closed on Mondays, so we walked for a bit to find something else. We came upon a cute little Soda called Soda Artesano and we were equally happy to see a very large Great Dane making use of the cool ceramic floor for her nap next to her Parisian parents. She was very large and very quiet. I automatically thought of Mimma Saffioti‘s Zeus. This was the female version of Zeus.
Service was good, the place seemed to be a local favourite as many people stopped to chat with the owner, shouted from the street their loud Spanish salutations and generally, a very happy environment. Mickey was satisfied to see the seafood soup in coconut milk on the menu and I opted for some fresh tuna with curry sauce. The food was absolutely delicious. The tuna was grilled to perfection, I tasted Mickey’s soup and instantly regretted not ordering it. DEEEVINE ! Yes, I spelled it like it tasted ! Mickey and I had established another mealtime tradition. We both made sure to taste one another’s dish and we almost always split each plate between us to get a variety of flavours in one sitting. I am also growing very accustomed to the Imperial beer, they have light and silver as well. I like the light. Mickey had fresh mango juice and it tasted nothing, I mean nowhere even in the vicinity of fresh mango juice in Canada. I imagined the cook squeezing juice from a mango tree behind the restaurant, that’s how fresh it tasted. Wow ! I can 100% say that the food in Costa Rica is outstanding. You will never, ever go hungry.
After the lovely meal we decided to head down to the beach to check it out. This beach was different from any I had seen so far. There were large rocks and more boats. I guess you could say it was a bay or a cove. I captured a man and his dog playing with a coconut. Ahhhh paradise!
We discovered on our way out that it was indeed Tuesday and not Monday so we could have eaten at the restaurant on the beach. I tell ya, you quickly loose track of time and days in paradise.
Before we knew it, it was close to sunset and we didn’t want to be on the road for that, we wanted to be at Banana Beach. After snapping a quick shot of a picturesque church and some graffiti, we headed back to the cabin. We swam again for a little while and I was starting to get the hang of the rolling waves without the white water. I could just lightly jump, or pirouette and the waves would gently lift me up and over. I liked that feeling. It was very “floaty”.
I am not a great swimmer so I tend to take a lot of small dips, whereas Mickey could ride the waves for hours. I managed to get some stunning pictures of the sunset. One thing you can always count on in Costa Rica, the sun sets at 6pm faithfully and everyone and their caballo (horse) comes to the beach to watch. I felt like part of the landscape being on the beach with tourists and locals alike. Everyone loves a sunset.
Another fine day in paradise. Tomorrow, we set out for Playa Avallana (which when pronounced in Spanish sounds very naughty) Phonetically it sounds like Playa Avagina so Mickey and I quickly dubbed it Vagina Beach! I can get behind that, quite frankly, in paradise, and quoting Gordon Downing, “I can get behind Anything.
After all the pampering we received at Los Lagos and the late fun night in San Jose,it was hard to leave it behind for our next leg of this amazing journey. Puntarenas? At long last I was about to check off swimming in the Atlantic Ocean from my bucket list.
It was about a three hour drive from the city to the coast. I have to admit that I felt guilty and helpless about how sick mickey was. He just wasn’t his bright, kind self at all. He was quite miserable so I kept pretty quiet and let him process his pain.
The stark and heartbreaking picture of Puntarenas as you come down to ocean side was hard to grasp. This is an ocean town that should be rich with tourism dollars but is sadly and obviously impoverished.
Mickey seems to have some sort of recall going on. We’ll be driving along and then all of a sudden he’ll veer off to the left or right like a sudden flash back is steering the car. This time it was for a super sweet iced drink at a seaside sugar shack. He didn’t explain or describe what we were doing there, he just ordered something like he was in a dream. It turned out to be, mounds of shaved ice with mega pumps of sweet syrup, followed by scoops of ice cream, topped with condensed milk. My teeth ached just looking at it but Mickey slushed it around and he actually ate/drank the whole thing. I was in awe.
All sugared up, we were ready to take on the coast! We spotted a large Ferry and then Mickey went for his phone and exclaimed, “Oh! It’s free!” Almost immediately we pulled into a long line of cars which he instinctively knew was for the ferry. A man came to our window to write down our license plate and give us a ticket to board the ferry. He told us it would leave in two hours so we decided to walk around the town, take in the local flavour. It really was not tasty. Pretty depressing and a tad scary. We dodged into a restaurant named Coco. It was time for a cool drink and real food. Mickey ordered a fish ceviche and I ordered what I thought was a plantain ceviche. My Spanish is horrible and l ended up with an oyster ceviche. I had promised Mickey before we left Canada that I would keep an open mind and try new things, including food and drink. So, in I dove and was pleasantly surprised at the taste.It wasn’t anything like the smoked oysters I love at home. It was similar in taste but a completely opposite texture. I ate the whole boat! The crispy plantain was sheer joy in my mouth.
It was timed to board the ferry which would take us across to where our
accommodations were. I was impressed and worried at the same time
when I saw 4 tractor trailers being loaded on with all the cars and hundreds
of people. I resolved not to fret and to enjoy the ride and the views. We were
almost all boarded when a security guard asked a man to leave because he had dog, that was not permitted. They argued for quite some time but
ultimately they were allowed to stay.
The day was rather dull and cloudy so the trip was like a hazy river voyage.
Lots of mountain ranges, a few oddly shaped islands, but all in all, meh.
Across the ocean in Paquera, life is quite different. Tourists are fucking everywhere! And right behind them are locals providing goods and services on a large scale. Farming and tourism exist side by side.
And everyone and their abuella drives a motorcycle! In fact, I wager that dirt bikes out number cars and trucks in Paquera! As well, these 2 wheeled riders take the road as their own. They’ll pass you on the right, they’ll pass you on the left in between on coming traffic, they basically weave their way to where they need to go. Watching them do so with no fear was a nail biting experience. Kind of like waiting for the jack-in-the- box to pop out.
Finally we arrived at our cabin at Banana Beach. As soon a we drove into Santa Theresa we knew we were not in Kansas anymore. It was like a chaotic circus complete with ATV’s, dirt bikes, jeeps and us in our Rav4 rental ! People were everywhere, there were no sidewalks and the road was not anything more than a logging or camping road infested with pot holes and boulders. But there are shops , restaurants, and surf stores as well as super mercaditos and a few Ronnie’s Licor stores. It is a rustic Venice Beach!
I could see the instant shock and disappointment in Mickey’s face as we lugged our bags up a flight of stairs to our very rustic but charming cabin. I had gone back down the stairs for the last bag when something the size of a large bullfrog scurried past my feet. By the number of legs, my mind registered, TARANTULA!, but after a flashing second I could see, in the dark, that it was a small crab. They move pretty fast!
I really liked the place but my buddy did not. I could tell he was just going to bide his time here but I was determined to help him see something good about Santa Theresa.
First order of business is a night dip in the ocean. I must admit, I was a little nervous swimming in the dark in such a vast body of water but I trusted Mickey and he really wanted to swim. He told me to take the waves standing sideways and I would be fine. I followed his instructions but no matter what I kept getting knocked on my ass and had a hard time gaining my balance because it’s wave after wave after wave! We finally just sat closer to shore and took in the stars and waves, and knowing my buddy has done all of this with and for me and, the tears came. I was utterly aware of all that Mickey has done to get us here and I was deeply grateful. I never ever thought I would do half of the things I have done in the time that I have been in Costa Rica.
It was late, we were tired, Mickey was still sick so we tucked ourselves into bed shortly after our swim. I stayed up and wrote for a while but by the time my head hit the pillow I was out like a light. We must have been dead to the world to have not heard the symphony of motorcycles below our windows.
I woke around 7am to find Mickey already dressed and ready to roll. He has been up since 4am because of his throat infection from the day before. It has gotten worse so he hauled ass to the public clinic which was not yet open. So he went to a private clinic, saw a doc, got some meds and came back all while I slept. I heard nothing. Poor Mickey.
But we had places to go and people to see. I swear Mickey had a relations in every town, villa and city. We drove through a fairly flat and straight road until we didn’t. All the names of these towns we drove through escape me and all I know is we started with the up, up, up, down all over again. Mickey had planned to visit family and then find the waterfall and volcano at Poas national park. It just so happened we drove to it on our way to visit family. We stopped and took a quick pic of the waterfall. The flora surrounding it was as impressive as the blue water at Rio Celeste. Then we climbed more and passed walls of hedges topped with hydrangeas. In Spanish they are called Hortensia. Every time we see a great display of them we both chant Horrrrtennnzia! Unfortunately I seem to have deleted the video of said wall. Hopefully I can recover it. We climbed a little higher and twisted every which way on the mountain road and passed many dairy and strawberry farms. The view into the valley near the park is impressive. On the other side of the valley was another mountain range and on the other side of that range is Nicaragua. Many people were stopped on the side to take in the view and families were having picnics on the edge of the mountain. Incredible visage. We climbed once more to take view of the volcano Poas which has a lake but the lineup was incredibly long so we decided to postpone this tourist attraction. Down, down, down we spun, stopping to pick up some palmito queso (cheese). It was very similar to cheese curds only it is made into a ball of, wider than string but smaller than rope, ribbon of cheese and it not as salty as North American cheese. I almost bought some strawberry red wine but once I had a sample from the very helpful sample, I didn’t trust myself to not drink the entire bottle.
Down, down we drove on our way to San José now too visit an aunt, a brother, a cousin and two friends. It was a very misty and foggy drive from Poasito so it was slow going for once.
The aunt lived in a rather posh gated community in a very nice and bright apartment complex that she owns. She has two apartments she rents out. I have “an in” if I suddenly decide I have to move to San José!! Very nice people and the uncle spoke English and was excited to have someone to speak it with. I was grateful to have him to speak with too. He was kind and funny and smart. It was a quick visit but at all visits Mickey presented his family with Canadian gifts and the family loved it. And it was his uncles’ birthday so he was doubly happy to get a gift of good Canadian whiskey.
Next we tracked down his brother at his sister in law ‘s house because it was her birthday. More gifts and a birthday song and cake. His neice Daniela had just returned from a student exchange in Germany and she spoke English too. It was nice to her about her adventures abroad and after our coffee it was time to find the next gift receiver only this was one of Mickey’s close friends, Adriyana. She lived in a little sketchy looking neighborhood so we had to cover all our luggage with our coats in the car. Her apartment is adorable and so is she. They limed for a while so I edited photos and took a break from trying to follow the conversation. Big hugs and we were off to visit and stay with Mickey’s good friends Alan and Luis. Their friend Garry was visiting from Canada as well. Alan is from Ottawa and his partner Luis is from Costa Rica. They live in both countries. Gary is also from Ottawa.
Their home was incredible, right out of Unique Homes magazine. But I felt right at home and was instantly drawn to Alan who just celebrated his 80th birthday. Are we sensing a theme here yet? Duhhhh
Mickey had one more cousin to see and they had planned to go out for dinner and dancing but since Mickey was sick he opted for just dinner. I went to dinner with the other three boys and we had a blast. We went to a posh food court HA! I had ceviche, Gary had sushi, Luis had pasta and Alan had nachos! All was delicious!
Back to the palace we went for more vino and fantastic conversation. We stayed up rather late and I’m glad I met Mickey’s friends. I do hope to see them again in Otown.
What a great night.
Next morning Alan made breakfast and I did our laundry and then we were off to finally hit the beaches in Puntarenas and Paquera in the Nicola Penninsula.
That is where I am typing this travel log in a tiny beach cabin in Santa Teresa in the dark while my sick friend catches up on some much needed healing sleep. And tomorrow I will tell you all my first experience in the Atlantic Ocean in the dark.
Mickey was still not feeling well but he had relatives he wanted to see and I just wanted to flake. He headed out and said he would be back by noon. Funny thing about this vacation, I didn’t and couldn’t sleep past 7am. Not just because of the unfamiliar sounds and the sun beaming into the room by 5am., it’s also because I don’t want to waste one minute of filling my head, heart and mind with everything Costa Rica.
I started with a small hike around the resort. This is another first, my first ever tropical resort. It’s not an all inclusive though. You get your cabin and breakfast but you pay for anything on top of that. It’s nice to just walk around and charge things to your room. I did manage to find one of those waterproof bags to keep my phone and keys in while at the pool or hot springs but ultimately, I didn’t really need it for anything but my phone to take pictures. Mickey teased me that I would even take pictures of the garbage bins, I was being the ultimate tourist.
Flowers, trails, birds and then a dip in the pool. What a great morning. When Mickey returned we slid down the water slide a few times and then it was off to finally see the sloths.
The choices at the Sloth Reserve were a self guided like or hiring an experienced guide and you are guaranteed to see a sloth. It’s kind of a no brainer because I was still adamant about seeing a sloth before leaving this beautiful country. Our tour was named Kanji and she was very sweet and knew so much about sloths, lizards, snakes, ants, owls, bats. I surely got my money’s worth from this tour guide.The bonus was having a one on one guide instead of a large group.
The guides carry with them a super powerful one lens binocular. They basically know where to find the sloths before the reserve opens inthe morning as sloths sleep 20 hours a day and only move to scratch, eat or change position. They only come down from the tree once a week to deficate.In this reserve there are 2 different species of sloth; 3 and 2 fingered sloths. They do not mix and mingle and they each have their own territory which they defend fiercely.
The 3 clawed sloth will hang upside to sleep, eat and give birth. Kanji explained that often when it is their time to pass they can be found dead hanging from the tree.
So the photos I have were all taken from the lens of the binocular.All of the tree dwelling creatures were up too high to see with the blind eye although Kanji was able to spot a huge lizard sunning super high up and off in the distance, all 5 sloths and and a black+ white owl. She showed me amazing creatures on the ground as well, like the line of ants carrying leaves back to the hill or another ant colony that was cleaning house which she called trash day. She was able to show me how they carry out the carcasses of ants who have died
She then found the Paraque bird that builds its nest on the ground and is so well camouflaged that I walked right past it and had to really look hard to see it. Then we were startled by a Jesus lizard, you know the one that walks on water. A few feet away she spotted the Emerald Basilisc lizard that I would have thought were a bunch of bright leafs on a tree. A few more sloths in trees, some red frogs, a giant ant that is poisonous but our guide had no problem handling it on a stick and a tree loaded with small bats that eat those sour red bananas.
It was one and a half hours of raw, one on one education and I found it fascinating.
I finally was able to check this off my bucket list and the rest of the day was dedicated to another chicharon dinner in La Fortuna, it was better than the night before and then we hit the wet bar and hot springs until the wee hours. I must admit, I got a bit tipsy this time.
What can I say about Arenal and La Fortuna. The most obvious two words is MEGA TOURISTY! But you have to experience that level of pampering at least once in your lifetime.
After our rainforest hike and soak we stopped at what was supposed to be a wood oven restaurant. Unfortunately, we were steered wrong by the fruit stand man. Apparently wood oven venues are rare. But the restaurant did not disappoint. When we pulled up there was a tourist group and guide just finishing up. We sat down with our menus and watched the overconfident guide showing off. Someone has spotted a tiny red frog in the parking lot and the entire group rushed to take a picture. Poor frog must have been freeking out. Then the guide did something unexpected and dangerous ( again, showing off). He scooped up the frog in his hand and brought it to safety from the road. Not only is it dumb to pick up any coloured in Costa Rica because they are poisonous, but I later learned that it is a death sentence to the frog. Their skin is so thin that they will absorb any bacteria from your skin and die. El guía era un idiota!
We continued to enjoy our casados while marvelling at the hill across the road covered in a very pretty plant. We asked our server what it was and she was pleased to tell us all about the cardommom plantation. She brought us a flower and seed pods to look at and taste. It was an educational and delicious moment. I recommend having fresh cardammom as a breathe mint after meals.
We then drove at least another hour to La Fortuna where Mickey ordered flowers to place on his Uncle’s grave. He recently passed and he was one of his favourite uncles. Then we checked in to our resort, Los Lagos, at the foot of the most popular and youngest volcano, Arenal. I was amazed at the size and slope although it wouldn’t be until the next day that we would see the peak as it was shrouded in mist and clouds.
We settled in to our room and headed straight for the thermal pools heated by Arenal of course. The higher up the mountain you went, the hotter the spring was. The first was also where the wet bar was. We had a drink there and then continued onward and upward. The final pool was super hot and thankfully, was adjacent to a pool of cold water. It was pretty fucking awesome, I must admit. I felt like a pampered princess in a size XXL tropical print bathing suit and pedicured toes. Completely out of my element and loving it.
The sun stays in the sky from 5:00am to 6:00pm. By the time we left the hot springs it was dark. We headed down into Fortuna for some chícharon, aka flame bbq’d pork. What a great dish and Mickey’s favourite. Complete with patacone ( fried plantain), mole (chocolate bean sauce), and my new favourite ceviche, green plantain. They didn’t have the traditional chicharone, but the ribs were still pdg ( pretty damn good). We vowed that we would have true chicaron before we left this area.
After a great night sleep, Mickey left to visit his uncle’s grave and after another cousin while I hit the trails the resort boasted of. I was a bit disappointed because in my mind, trails meant what we had just hiked for the past two days. They were more like tropical gardens to walk through which is nice but I wanted away from people for a while so I struck out climbing the mountain on my own. I stayed on the road but did my bird and flower watching. I will be posting all of the birds I identified in a later post and will be researching more about the flowers when I get time.
It was scorching hot by 10am so I headed back to get poolside at the regular pool. I dipped in and out for a couple of hours. Really relaxed. When Mickey returned we headed to the wet bar and had two cocktails that really buzzed me lol. So what does one do when buzzed? Head to the water slides!! We had so much fun. Giggled like school kids and did a few slides. Then back to try all the hot springs again. We found one we missed. It has like individual grottos and in each, two reclining loungers with water jets. Hot tub heaven! I couldn’t stay in too long cuz I was still buzzing lol. So I left Mickey there and headed to the next, then the next, and kept climbing till I reached the hottest one. I think that one is my favourite because you can go from one extreme to another. Reminded me of steam baths in northern Ontario in the winter. It was super relaxing and invigorating at once.
Both feeling like overheated bags of mushed bananas, we headed back to our room for a long rest. We were pooped. Especially Mickey because the poor guy got sick from the rain in the rainforest. Wait, what? Isn’t the tourist, the gringo, supposed to get sick?