Goodbye, Costa Rica!

On the morning of our departure from the Mawamba Lodge, we discovered that Favio would be our escort all the way to San Jose, where, the next day, we would catch our flight. And, we discovered that a slightly different kind of boat was waiting for us. It had a roof!

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Of course, it was raining, but we were a merry band anyway. As usual, Dianne and I were in the front.

The good news was, that we would not be heading south back to Limon’. Instead we would be heading west to La Pavona. Of course, no one told us this. I had to cipher it out when we got back.

So here was our trip:

La Pavona

We started out on the Tortuguro River headed north past San Fransisco. We then took a sharp left to the bottom of the “V” where we entered the Rio Suerte.  This river appears as a squiggly line that runs to La Pavona. Those squiggles are not an exaggeration. Here is how things started out as we made ourselves comfortable on the Rio Suerte:

As it turns out there are two boat companies that regularly serve the Tortuguera area and they make daily runs up and down the river ferrying passengers to La Pavona. The total cost for the 1.5 hour boat trip is $3.

Here is part of our encounter with another boat servicing the same area:

Clearly there can be no fish in the entire  Rio Suerte that does not suffer from PTSD on a daily basis. Boat traffic like this is not something you expect in such an eco-friendly country.

Along the way we encountered these guys along the river bank, filling bags with sand, presumably for construction purposes.

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Eventually a boat would come and pick of the load, but this was all hand work. Nothing more than a shovel and two guys.

After what seemed like a long time indeed, we arrived at our destination!

Thankfully, it had quit raining! But it was still a little on the muddy side. I played the geezer card and soon Favio and some of the other guys helped me with our bags.

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The white bus at the top of the hill was waiting to take us to San Jose.

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To their credit, this was a smooth operation and it took no time at all to get our luggage to the bus, which Favio helped make sure went to the right destination.

So, here is La Pavona:

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By which, I do not mean to say, here is a restaurant in the village of La Pavona. This IS La Pavona in its entirety. And it is a very nice place which charges for use of the restrooms and serves good food. Also it provides parking for anyone with business in the Tortuguero area.

 

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Here is a telling sign about the problems of providing such a service out in the middle of friggin’ nowhere:

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When the power goes out, we switch to batteries!

Soon we were on the bus and heading for San Jose!

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It is a 2.5 hour trip which started out on a well-maintained gravel road that eventually took us to the state highways, all nicely paved and well marked. This trip gave us a chance to see the interior of Costa Rica. Here are some random photos:

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The worst poverty I have ever personally witnessed was back in 1971 when some friends of mine and I walked across the Mexican border into Tijuana. That route takes you on a bridge over the Tijuana River. I remember looking over that bridge onto what appeared at first to be like a landfill full of trash. Instead, what it turned out to be was hundreds of people living in appliance cartons in a small cardboard city. Then, a few years later Dianne and I with some friends took a train from Ojinaga, Mexico to Chihuahua. The train stopped at a number of small villages where the luckiest families were privileged to live in old boxcars.

These are things a Holmes County country boy never forgets. I am pleased to report that nowhere in Costa Rica did we see poverty at that level, but clearly not everyone is enjoying the prosperity of the modern age. On some of the Costa Rican web sites  the authors clearly identify themselves as part of the “third world”. But, in many parts of the country improvements in infrastructure and are plainly visible. Speaking only in regard to what we actually saw, Costa Rica appears to be a country on the upswing. So, to answer the question about what our turtle tour guide considered to be the two worst problems facing Costa Rica today? Drugs and corruption. So, let’s all name places where those things are not a problem!

 

We were not far along on our journey when all of a sudden this steel gate comes down across the road like a railroad crossing:

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So,we’re all like, “What the…?” Then, along the gate comes a long string of banana bunches! This is a banana crossing!

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After all the bananas had crossed safely, we were allowed to continue.

We passed through several more villages

A rare 2-story

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A school:

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Never like to see bars on windows and doors:

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A butcher shop:

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A police station. The quote below he window reads: “Educate the child [so as] not to [have to] punish the adult.”

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As we got closer to San Jose, the true passion of the locals began to show.

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And, if you need some tires for the big race!

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It turned out that the people who run the Mawamba Lodge have other holdings as well! Soon our bus pulled up to:

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We were treated to a very nice buffet at no additional cost!

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After a fine feast we were ready for the trip to be over. Sure enough, we were soon in San Jose!

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As it turned out the bus took us right through downtown:

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As you can see, this is a bustling capitol with high energy. It is renowned for its theaters and museums, none of which we saw. Next time for sure!

And, like all cities, there are less prosperous areas:

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Here is something funny that happened downtown:

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The red car in front, a taxi, pulls up to the intersection at a red light. the bike pulls up behind him. The guy in the other red car comes in too fast, hits the bike and drives it into the taxi. The biker is not hurt. They all get out of their vehicles and inspect the damage. The taxi driver sees no major problems, gets in his cab and drives off. The guy who hit the bike and the biker look things over. They don’t see any damage. They start laughing, get on or into their respective vehicles and drive off also. All this in slightly more than one minute. In America there would have been cops, fistfights, insurance adjusters and, more than likely, gun play.

From here we headed out toward the airport. More and more San Jose became like a typical American city:

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Well, Anywhere Costa Rica put us up in the Adventure Inn Hotel, near the airport. And, while not all adventures are of a positive nature, this one was! what a nice place to spend your last night in Costa Rica!

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But here’s the best part! They even have a special sink to wash out your socks and underlovlies!

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AND a fabulous free breakfast:

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So, after breakfast, and in typical fashion our ride to the airport showed up right on time. Soon we would be headed home!

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Interestingly, while countries like Argentina charge you a $160 pp fee to enter the country, Costa Rica charges you $29 to get out! Well, in spite of that, we were sorry to leave. This trip was, in our view, a great adventure, something you don’t just turn off when you get on the plane.

So, why go to Costa Rica? First, it is hard to imagine anything you would want in a vacation experience that can’t be found here. You want rugged, beautiful scenery? Beautiful beaches? Exotic wild animals? Luxurious hotels? Great food? Relaxation? Adventure? Safe travels? A great place to take the kids? It’s all here. And more.

And, I should add, there is no substitute for visiting a country with a tourist oriented economy. It is one thing to have the incomparable services of a company like Anywhere Costa Rica to help with the planning. It is quite another to see that plan executed to perfection by a multitude of drivers, wait staff, hotel managers, guides and more all over the country. Costa Rica tourism is a well-oiled machine that we have experienced nowhere else.

And, on top of that, the cost of travel is probably about 10-20% cheaper than comparable travel in the US. So, start collecting those free airfare points and get out there! You won’t regret it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Great Turtle Hunt!

Tortuguero National Park is the most important sea turtle nesting area in the western hemisphere and each year from July through October mama turtles come from as far south as Brazil and as far north as Florida to lay eggs on this 22 mile beach. And, since we were there in early October, we were advised that we could sign up for a night visit to the beach to witness this miracle of nature. So, of course, we signed up. Just because we signed up, though, did not mean we would be approved. The tour was to begin at 8 pm, shortly after dark. If we were approved to go we would be notified at 5:45 by a sign placed in the office window. So, at the designated time, we nervously approached the window. Yay! We were in!

So, by now you are looking around this blog post and perhaps you are saying to yourself, “Where’s the pictures?” Well, there aren’t any (hardly). Here’s why:

Tortuguero Turtle Rules

You will need to click on this to read it.

Nor surprisingly, some years ago tourists got wind of this miracle of nature and fell over each other and the turtles trying to see it. Even worse, before then hunters killed the turtles for soup. So, only recently has the government stepped in to stop all this foolishness. In the national park these rules mush be followed. So, no cameras or cell phones. You actually have to go and just look. What a shock to the system!

To set the scene for you, here is what the beach looks like in the daytime:

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Somewhere down there is where we were, probably about where the fog starts.

So, anyway, a group of about ten of us met a little before 8 pm at the lodge where we met our guide. He was not one of the lodge staff, but a specially trained guide from the national park. He led us to our boat and off we went into the night. I should mention something else about our group. Included in the count were these two children and their parents:

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The girl, I would guess was maybe seven and I doubt that the boy had blown out his fourth candle. Later, when I complemented their mother on how well they managed on this somewhat difficult trip, she said that this was their reward for being good. That was how much it meant to them.

So, anyhow, we’re out on this river and there is not even a hint of moonlight. The only lights at all are the running lights of the boat. We round a bend and there is now another lodge in sight. We pull up alongside it and the first thing we hear is a loud dance music! So, I’m thinking maybe the band is going to be dressed up like Mutant Ninja Turtles and this is all some kind of elaborate hoax.

But we soon were snapped back to reality. This was only a place to disembark. Once we were of the boat our guide said to stay together, keep quiet and follow his light. Then off he goes in to the darkness.

We were soon well past that lodge and winding our way along a path, sort of, through the bush and the trees. The guide was the leader, of course, and he directed his flashlight behind him to theoretically light our way. Well, he lit the way of the first three or four, but the rest of us, farther back, soon found ourselves tripping over tree branches and who knows what else. We yelled at him to slow down and eventually he got the idea that he had lost of few. Then he asked if anyone had a flashlight and the family with the two kids did. That helped.

We continued on like this for maybe twenty minutes, although it seemed longer. All of a sudden we found ourselves at some kind of park entrance with fence around it. Our guide told us to wait while he went and talked to the park rangers. A quick glance around revealed that there were maybe five or six more groups like ours standing around waiting. Well, he starts talking to a nearby ranger and while my Spanish is not exactly fluent, I could tell by the volume and the tone that this conversation was not going well. In time, though, the guide came back and told us it would be a while before we could get out to the beach.

So, if you read the rules above (there’s still time), you may have noted that, once you are in the park the rangers are in charge. In addition, there are people who roam the beach, called spotters, and they are the ones who find the turtles and report back the location. And, the beach is divided into five “bases”.

Anyhow, we are waiting around killing time and I started up a conversation with the guide, a very nice guy really. At one point he said he loves Costa Rica and it’s a wonderful place to live, but it has its share of problems. I asked him what he considered to be the worst problems. He gave two answers, which I will reveal in the next and final chapter of this blog.

Well, all of a sudden the walkie talkies start cracklln’ and we are off! This time we are joined by somebody from the park. He and the guide start up another Spanish conversation and, once again, it seems a bit more passionate than the situation calls for. We wind our way through more trees, but this time white lights are forbidden. Both our guide and the park guy have red flashlights. But, they are not making a race of it, so we are able to keep up. We eventually end up in a clearing, at the edge of which is another path to the beach. The park guy goes down the path while we wait, with one red light remaining. We wait about fifteen minutes. The park guy does not return. Instead there is more crackling of the walkie-talkie. When the conversation is over our guide says, follow me.

We walk down this clearing for about twenty minutes till we come to another trail. The guide stops and says they think they have a turtle. He is going to check and make arrangements to get us there. His last instructions were, “Stay here!” Off he goes.

So, here we are, 10 people including two small kids, out in the forest on a pitch black night, left alone. As you might imagine, most of us saw the humor in this situation. In our various travels Dianne and I sometimes find ourselves saying, “You know, I’ve been a lot of places and I’ve seen a lot of things, but I never (fill in the blank).” This was one of those occasions.

After about another fifteen minutes, all of a sudden we see a red light. Our guide has returned. They had found a turtle. We were on our way!

Once again we were winding our way through bushes and trees, but this time we soon found ourselves on the beach. This is not South Beach, though. There is plenty of driftwood, coconuts and other stuff to trip over. We wound our way through these things, then suddenly the guide stopped.

Now here we were surrounding a square hole larger than a card table and about two feet deep. Down in that hole the red flashlight revealed a very large sea turtle. For her, the egg laying process was done. Now she was covering the eggs with sand. I happened to be right behind her and can testify that she could throw sand in high volume and considerable force. Our guide estimated that she was about three and a half feet long and probably weighed about 300 pounds.

Green sea turtles live most of their lives in the ocean. Every two years they come down to Costa Rica to lay eggs. And, while the ladies are onshore, depositing roughly a hundred eggs in the sand, the gentlemen are swimming about a mile offshore, smoking big cigars and playing cards. Where they learned that kind of behavior no one knows.

So, we watched our turtle throw sand for a while and the kids were getting quite a kick out of it. We all were, of course. Suddenly the turtle decided she had done enough and began to crawl out of the hole. Even though it was plenty deep, she had no problem getting out. She took a look around, found the ocean, and began her journey back to the sea. After she cleared the hole we followed along behind her. The guide insisted that the kids follow immediately behind her and we all filled in behind them. Of course, it would have been that way had the guide not said a word.

Here is a Google photo that comes pretty close to what we saw. Just imagine it all dark and the turtle red.

Well, it was an incredible thing to witness. As she pushed her way through the sand, she left little plow marks. In just a few minutes she made her way to the surf. She didn’t even slow down. The waves covered her and she was gone. We all said our goodbyes and wished her well. Hopefully, though unlikely, she didn’t even know we were there.

Favio

 

 

DSCF6110By the time our boat pulled into the Mawamba Lodge it was hot enough to blister paint and the humidity was high enough to leave a wake in the air as we passed through. Imagine our surprise, then, when we found that our room, in fact none of the rooms, was air conditioned.

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There was the screen you see and another on the opposite wall with a fan in the middle. OK, so here is what we discovered about the Mawamba Lodge. It is kind of like going to camp. True, the pool and lounge are not generally camp features, but the rest of it seemed quite familiar, in a Band Camp kind of way.

And, you know you have to kind of pay your respects to our adventurous predecessors, like, say, Ferdinand Magellan. Did HE ever complain about the lack of AC? Of course not!

It was not, entirely, the lack of AC that proved to be most daunting aspect of our stay at the lodge, however. It was something else entirely. In the picture above note the wall behind the bed, a pleasing reverse batten style of woodwork. Well, At the lodge, each housing unit contains two rooms such as ours, separated by a repeat of the aforementioned wall.

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Here we are, peering into the as yet unoccupied room of our neighbors.

Turns out that the only separation between the two units was that wall, which, simply put, consists of a nicely trimmed out sheet of 3/4″ plywood. This means that the slightest of sounds generated in one unit is transmitted in its entirety to the next. It may even be amplified. Moreover, this element of construction carries all the way to the bathroom in the back. People, when you are in a country, the staple of which is rice and beans, lets just say the anxiety level can get mighty high in such living arrangements.

Later, in our comings and goings, we would introduce ourselves to our neighbors, a very nice Dutch couple, on this very porch.  By that time, though, it is an understatement to say that we already knew them intimately.

Shortly after we moved into our room I looked out the back screen and, to my surprise found this guy basking in the sun:

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Iguanas were all over the place, all well fed. It was always a pleasure to come across them. After all, who couldn’t love this face?

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By the way, those growths on the side that look like cue balls apparently, in some way, help the iguanas keep cool. By the end of our stay we all wished we had them.

 

When we checked in we were told that we were signed up for the morning tour, the next morning as well as the lodge tour and the afternoon tour. In addition, it was now nearing the end of the time of year when sea turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. If we wanted to see that, the cost would be extra and the tour would be a night. We thought, you know, why not? So, we signed up.

We were then told, that since out boat had arrived late (news to us) they were holding dinner for us at the cafeteria. Once we got there we were to sit at the table with the name of our guide, who was called Favio. So off we went.

In true camp tradition, the food was served cafeteria style. There was always a nice selection and soon our plates were filled and we headed for Favio’s table. There were still people there, none of whom were Favio, however. And, this was not the outgoing talkative bunch that we had experienced elsewhere in Costa Rica. So we started in.

Soon, a tall slender man came over and introduced himself as Favio. We gave him our names and he said we were signed up for the morning tour, as was everyone else at the table. He said, to us all, “Well, they are calling for rain tomorrow. BUT, what’s the worse that can happen? We get WET! Ha ha”. Then he left to join the other guides for dinner.

This is Favio:

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Well, Dick Goddard himself could not have predicted the weather better. By the time we assembled at the boat docks at 6 am it was absolutely pouring rain:

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Our boat was ready. Wait a minute. Where’s the roof?

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Dianne and I were once again in the front. Good time for a selfie!

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This time, there was no poncho supplied. We wore waterproof, or quick-dry stuff we had packed And, of course, it was a warm rain. But waterproofing does not solve every problem.

We were soon winding our way through the jungle:

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So, let’s say that you’ve had a hard day in the jungle and you decide to lean up against a tree for a little rest. Well, if the poison toads and snakes don’t get you, there are always these guys to liven up your day:

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Bats.

The upside is, in these waters we did not see any crocodiles (not that there weren’t any). Instead we met a few of these guys:

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This is a caiman, a closer relative of the alligator. Not quite as big as a croc, still a most unwelcome swimming partner.

In time, it quit raining and the river was quite pleasant:

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On our later tour we saw both new and familiar faces:

This bird is called an aninga.

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It is a water bird, famous for being able to dive deep and stay under for very long periods of time. To help it dive, however, it has no water repellent on its feathers so, after a tasty meal, it has to sit on a branch and dry out.

It did not take long till we were back among the Howler monkeys:

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But, for the first time, we found a family of White-Faced Capuchin monkeys and they were quite active:

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Favio, of course, explained in detail all the qualities of the various animals and much more. He is a guides, guide. Extremely knowledgeable, he is a take-charge, no nonsense, high energy guy. He is another in a string of outstanding Costa Rican professionals that it was a real privilege to meet.

Between trips into the jungle, Favio took us on a tour of the lodge grounds:

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Yes, the lodge has its own park. Here are some of the things you can see:

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These look like the sweet, yummy mimons we had eaten earlier. Not so fast!

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Instead of the candy-like insides, there were berries instead. Turns out these are very different plants and the berries are used for red dye.

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Toucans are everywhere.

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They also have three houses to support wildlife in the area: one is a butterfly house

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And the other is for amphibians:

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Speaking of frogs, Favio found this guy sleeping on a leaf:

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He’s just like any of us when the nap is just a little too short!

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Well, after three tours in one day, it was time to rest up for the Great Turtle Hunt!

 

 

Up The Lazy River

Our destination was the Mawamba Lodge in Tortuguero National Park. And we were a long way from our destination. On the trip from Puerto Viejo to Limon our driver, a young man in his twenties, told us story after story of his life in Costa Rica. He grew up in Bribri near the border with Panama. He said that in his younger days he and his friends liked to slip across the border, where booze is cheap,  and sneak it back home to sell for a tidy profit. He was full of adventure.

So, we are chatting away about all kinds of things. Eventually we enter Limon, which has done nothing to become more appealing in the three days since we last were here. Our driver took us by the docks and we were still telling tales when all of a sudden he pulls up to this place:

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And, guess what? It is still pouring rain. No matter. it was time to head north. We said goodbye to our driver and threw our luggage on board. A nice day for a cruise. As luck would have it, the two front seats were available. The crew stuck our luggage into plastic bags and gave us rain ponchos.

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About fifteen other people climbed on board and off we went. Here is where we were going:

Map to Tortuguero

You will notice a nice road leading out of Limon heading west. Well that’s the wrong direction. You will notice no roads connecting Limon to Tortuguero. That’s because there aren’t any. Instead there is a series of canals connecting to rivers for the entire fifty miles of coastline. We settled in for a mighty long boat ride.

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Although the rain did little for our respective complexions, we remained otherwise dry. And for the early part our captain, another young man, stopped to point out wild life. But we couldn’t do that all day. In time the rain let up and the captain poured on the coal.

At first gradually:

The first part of our trip was along a canal. Here is a typical view:

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Often, as you will see, they were much narrower. Now the captain picked up the pace:

Frequently the canal would empty onto rivers large and small. Here is a typical river view:

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About ten miles in, we suddenly found ourselves at the mouth of a very large river, the Rio Matina, as I later learned. It had plenty of wild life:

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But it also emptied out into a very unwelcoming Caribbean:

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Here is how it looks from space:

Rio Matina

Well, we, of course, knew nothing about these canals; rivers, or any of this. We had been expecting a bus ride. My first thought, after casting eyes on the pounding surf was that this dude wanted to put out to sea. In which case I, and I’m sure others would happily and heartily  have broken into a loud chorus of Zevon’s “Mutineer” as we threw the captain overboard.

Fortunately, such action was not required. The captain bore hard to port and took us up the river for a while till he found another canal entrance.

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From here we crossed the River of the Mother of God, who fortunately, we did not meet, a few canals and finally a very large river, the Parismina.

The Parismina is a big river:

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There are a number of resorts in the area, and lots of boat traffic:

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Now the captain felt it necessary to show these nimrods what we could do:

We would have preferred to just tell them. Now, about two hours in, the captain decided it was time for a break. We tied up at a little, I don’t know, dance hall? Anyway, they were serving cold beer and I was more than ready for one.

Here is the captain, re-securing the ship:

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Here is our vessel, nicely moored:

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During our stop, the captain came up to me and said, “My job is to take you to Tortuguero Village. For an extra 20 USD’s I will take you directly to the lodge.” Well, Anywhere Costa Rica had warned us about just this kind of thing, where vendors already paid would try to earn themselves a bonus. I told him that I had paid to get to the lodge and I was going to get what I paid for.” He did not argue. Later I saw a couple women hand him cash for something, but I wasn’t close enough to hear what it was.

After we got to the village, he came up to me and said we were close to the lodge. He would just go ahead and take us over.

Otherwise,  our stop was very welcome indeed. For one thing, they had bathrooms.

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We were glad to see a couple local boys heading out to fish. One had fishing gear, the other a machete. That seemed odd.

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Eventually it was time to board again. Not far from our stop we met this guy:

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Makes you wish you had a machete.

The Parismina river has a number of resorts like this one:

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And, while we loved highballin’ up the river, we soon were back in the canals. But getting into them was not always easy. We actually ran aground and our captain, to his credit, did the heavy lifting himself.

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Soon we were in canals that were very narrow indeed:

Yet, there were always reminders of why we keep our piggies in the boat:

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Finally, Tortuguera Village hove into view:

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And just up the river, after just under four hours at sea,  our destination, Mawanda Lodge:

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Gettin’ Ziggy With It!

I had read that the best surfing in the area was down at Manzanillo, and, while neither of us had any interest whatsoever in hanging ten with the locals, we thought it might be fun to run down there and check it out. So, after we left the rescue center we called a cab for the roughly ten mile trip. What we found was a little less than exciting.

Here is the parking lot:

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There is one main bar in town which plays reggae so loud even Bob himself can probably hear it, tho he’s been dead for many years.

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There is a grocery around the corner from the bar and then this is the residential area:

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Down the street is the local church:

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That’s it, folks. You’ve just seen Manzanillo. Except across from the bar there was this little soda. We stopped for lunch.

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The food was great! Clearly this was the best place in town.

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We ran into a Canadian couple here and mentioned how surprised we were to find essentially nothing here. They said to wait till Saturday. Ziggy Marley was coming to the area to play a concert. Day after tomorrow they said, there will be thousands of people here. Well, that was also the day we were leaving so all we could say was, “Good luck to them all!”

Having been disappointed by Manzanillo, the next day we decided to rent some bikes at the lodge and ride into Puerto Viejo. It was still steaming hot, but the town was only about a mile from the lodge. So, off we went.

Puerto Viejo is a boomin’ little town and quite colorful.

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Sanitation was not quite up to the standards of other Costa Rican towns we visited, but we have seen far worse elsewhere.

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This is a combined youth hostel and restaurant.

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The town is literally right on the beach.

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We decided to settle in for some ocean-front dining. What better choice than the Krazy Lobster?

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We were served by a young local man who was quite the conversationalist. We were chatting away when I brought up the subject of the big concert tomorrow, which we later learned was actually going to be in Puerto Viejo. But, when I mentioned it, he got all serious. “Are you going?” he asked, somewhat alarmed. I said no, we were leaving tomorrow, but had heard about it. He said, good. You don’t want to go down there. There’s going to be lots of gang fights. That’s how it is with these concerts, he said. Back when Ziggy played reggae, no problem. But when he changed to roots and funk, that brought in a whole different crowd. Now all they want to do is fight. But, he said, maybe they will keep the fights out on the edges. Then it will be OK to be near the stage. I said by the time the concert starts we won’t even be near the town. But, I thanked him for the advice, even though I was more than skeptical that somebody like Ziggy would come down here without tight security.

So, anyway, after lunch we went on a shopping spree and bought our usual post cards. I do love the colors down here, though.

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There was even a nice little mall with air conditioning!

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And, lots of sodas and coffee shops. This sign spoke the truth about Costa Rican coffee.

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Down the road a piece we ran into a coconut man, selling a fresh drink. For a 500 colonie piece you were one whack from the machete and straw away from paradise!

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Yummy!

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We headed back to the lodge for dinner and looking out over the front desk we observed about twenty people with dreadlocks who, we guessed, were either part of Ziggy’s entourage or some of his fans.

Later in the evening we observed a woman about our age pushing a stroller with a very restless young toddler inside. The woman was doing her best to keep him happy, but with little success. We also observed two young ladies, always with fruity drinks in their hands, who would stop an talk to the older lady from time to time and then flit off somewhere. It didn’t take long to conclude that one of these young ladies was the toddler’s mother. The old lady was either paid help, in which case a poor investment, or, a close relative.

As the evening wore on both the toddler and old lady became increasingly unhappy. At last, one of the girls came back and took over. We went back to our cabin, though, and did not see the conclusion. Sweet Dianne, as you might guess, kept a running commentary throughout.

The next morning I came down early for breakfast. I could not help but observe the guy next to me was feeding his young son and was every bit the opposite of the “parent” we had seen the night before. I was afraid he’d be gone by the time Dianne arrived, so I discretely took a picture. By then the child’s mother had arrived, but the dad kept right on with his son:

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Dianne came down and we had a pleasant breakfast, but it was time to get ready for our long trip to Tortuguero. Soon the bags were packed and we were sitting in the lobby waiting for our ride. It was pouring rain.

As we were sitting there we noticed some camera flashes. Somebody passing through asked if we wanted our pictures taken with Ziggy Marley! We stood up, looked around, and sure enough there he was. Unfortunately, by the time we made it up there the photo session had ended. He saw us, though, and came back just for us. A waiter took my camera and ouila! I wished him well with the weather. He smiled and gave us one of those signs with palms together like they do in India. A very nice guy! Also, it was obvious he was the person I had photographed earlier.

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Soon our ride arrived and when he climbed in the driver said, OK, I’m taking you to Limon and then you have a three hour boat ride to Tortuguero!

I was like, Wait! What?

I pulled out my ever-present Anywhere Costa Rica itinerary. It said something about a boat captain, but it sounded like it was near Tortuguero, AND “exact logistics vary from day to day.  Surprise, surprise!

On the way out of town the driver stopped by Ziggy’s venue. It looked a little damp:

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It was clear that the only gang fights on this day would be with mud pies.

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On the way out we passed a couple of go-getters arriving early for good seats.

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Later, we were unable to find any evidence on Ziggys Facebook page or his web site or any other site, that the concert was ever held.

 

To The Rescue!

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At our request, Anywhere Costa Rica did not schedule any tours for us in Puerto Viejo. We planned to make this part of the trip more of a time for chillin’ instead of exploring. But in 90+ degree heat and 600% humidity (it went up), there is only so much chillin’ you can do. Our peeps from Tripadvisor strongly recommended a visit to the Jaguar Rescue Center, which was not far from our place, so we called a cab and went down there. The cab driver, by the way, was one of the indigenous people and, as it turned out, he knew William. Small world!

The Jaguar Rescue Center was started by a couple of European zoologists who had witnessed the destruction of habitat in Costa Rica and its effect on wildlife. The first animal they tried to rescue was a baby Jaguar whose mother had been killed by local farmers. The baby was too far gone by the time it was rescued and did not survive. The center was named for it, but jaguars are rare, so don’t go there expecting to see one.  No problem, there are plenty of other creatures to meet. Starting with this guy:

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The Center is located in, and connected with, the national forest. As soon as these animals recover they are reintroduced back into the wild. Sometimes they will choose to reintroduce themselves back to the Center, but mostly they stay out there. This sloth is about ready to go.

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I find that, other than the obvious behavioral similarities, one other thing I have in common with sloths is that neither of us are favored by extreme close-ups.

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No jaguars were in attendance, but cats were still well represented by this margay. Although he is not nearly as large as a jaguar it still would be no fun prying him off your keester.

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And we were glad to see a pair of spectacled owls.  Not always the best photo ops in this place, though.

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This Fiery-billed Aracari landed on some kid’s back pack!

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And what a cute anteater!

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No nature place would be complete without a poison dart frog!

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And more toucans! This one could leave any time, but likes to hang around the gift shop.

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This was our guide, busy taking a red-eyed frog off a leaf.

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Most of the staff are volunteers, typically students who come from Europe, US and Canada. There are a number of monkeys here for rehab, injured by a predator or human. The morning we were there a monkey just showed up from the forest. He had not been rescued. He just stopped in to see what was going on!

When the rehab is complete they take the animals back into the forest for a trial. They may come back many times, but eventually they find their way. The few who don’t stay at the center indefinitely.

A visit to a place like this is something you don’t forget, not only because of the unique animals they work with, but also because of the commitment of the staff and volunteers. It is a ray of sunshine.

Here is a link to their web site: http://www.jaguarrescue.com/english/about-us/

 

 

Puerto Vijeo

Well, people, the first thing we noticed as, at last, we piled out of our little bus was that the cool mountain air was gone. On the coast it was H-O-T with somewhere between 300-400% humidity. And, while I am no fan of these conditions, sweet Dianne tends to wilt like a little flower. So, the first thing on our minds as we checked into the Cariblue Lodge was A/C!

The Cariblue is located south of Puerto Viejo, between that town and another called Manzanillo, very close to the Panama border. It is also almost up against the Gandoca Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge which is a combination rain forest and jungle. As a result, wildlife is abundant.

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The central feature of the Cariblue is a huge tiki lodge. This is the dining area.

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The rooms are actually little bungalows. This was ours:

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Quite cute, AND, with A/C which struggled to keep up with conditions. They also have double units:

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Plus, there is a combination recreation area/gift shop:

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But, getting back to the subject of wildlife, there was plenty around:

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No shortage of these guys, but they kept to themselves.

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In spite of the clearing done to build the lodge there is still a substantial amount of canopy overhead, and, as I mentioned, this place is well connected to the rain forest. As we suspected, there were monkeys all over the place. What was our first clue?

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It didn’t take an e-mail to Tarzan to figure  it out. Specifically, these were Howler monkeys. How did we know?

Well, as we have learned, the Howler monkey is the loudest mammal on land (second only to the loudest animal, the blue whale), and a male can be heard for miles. The message he is broadcasting is that this is his territory and other males are invited to scram. Which apparently they mostly do.

Unfortunately, the broadcasting of this information begins well before dawn and often right outside our cabin. Having heard about this before we came down here, I brought along a recording microphone and stuck it out on our porch. The monkeys were not as close that particular morning, but, if you follow these simple instructions, you’ll get the effect. First, take whatever device you are reading this on and move it into your bedroom. Turn up the volume full blast and set the timer for 4 am. Then, to quote Axl and Slash: Welcome to the jungle!

Hope you found that to be as refreshing as we did!

Across the road from the Cariblue, is a very nice beach, largely deserted the entire time we were there:

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The Caribbean is always beautiful. This coast is famous for its rip currents, though. Typically, the locals didn’t seem to care. Maybe they looked at it as a cheap way to get to Panama. But, if you did happen to get pulled out, you could be assured that someone would soon be at the rescue:

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As they have for centuries.