A Travellerspoint blog

Costa Rica

Pura Vida in Costa Rica

From Sand Bar to Suenos: 3 weeks meandering Costa Rica

semi-overcast 79 °F

Well it´s been a whirlwind two weeks for us since we left our isolated volunteer spot on the Carribean coast. Since our departure, we´ve been able to raft down the Pacuare River, soak in the hot springs in Arenal, zip line (and tarzan swing) through the cloud forests of Monteverde, wade and drive through torrential downpours in Mal Pais, pad around in tropical forests in Manuel Antonio and swim at its beaches, and finally, accomplish as little as possible while staying at Los Suenos Resort in Playa Herradura.

Costa Rica has been an amazing experience for us. I think that the primary take-away from our time in Costa Rica will be the wild abundance of nature that this country has to offer. Though there were brief times when we felt the tico ("pura vida") lifestyle may be a bit slow (and rustic) for us, these times were consistently eclipsed by planned and unplanned moments of complete awe for our surroundings. Long drives on rocky roads that made even the toughest stomach car sick would be interrupted by two monkeys crossing the road and a macaw flying over head...pretty incredible.

Now we prepare for the next leg of our trip – building houses in Pisco, Peru. We fly to Lima tomorrow and take a bus on Saturday to Pisco where we will stay for about 12 days to build houses with an organization called Pisco Sin Fronteras.

Arenal Volcano in La Fortuna

Arenal Volcano in La Fortuna

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Hot Springs at Tabacon in La Fortuna

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"Cow Crossing" on way to Monteverde

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Ziplining in Monteverde

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Ominous, but beatiful, clouds rolling in in Mal Pais

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Little roadblock leaving Mal Pais and the reason we had to take the alternate "road" through a river

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Amazingly scenic back road

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More of the open road

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Tim and his trusty steed...drove through a little river in this - very impressive!

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Ferry ride sccenery from Nicoya Peninsula to Puntarenas to continue drive south

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Drive from Puntarenas southbound, passing through Jaco and cross this bridge...to see some very big crocs below

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Vistas in Manuel Antonio

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Quick! It´s a Sloth! :)

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Monkey! One of about 3 dozen we saw in Manuel Antonio

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Hiking in Manuel Antonio!

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Sunning in Manuel Antonio!

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Fancy room at Los Suenos..and our laundry drying on the balcony (keeping it classy)

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View from our room

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View of Los Suenos from the Marina

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Haircut in Alajuela (town nearest the Int´l Airport) afternoon before we depart

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Cathedral in Alajuela

Posted by PetCon 16:30 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (6)

To save the turtles and back again

One week of doing Good, and smelling Bad

sunny 92 °F

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Hello!!!!

We are back in civilization and excited to update you all on the adventurous week we had! So, we thought we knew what we were getting into with this whole turtle conservation project but I (Kate) was not quite so ready to be literally in the jungle in a very remote and practically inaccessible (only by a 25 minute speed boat ride) part of the caribbean coast. The project site is on a sandbar known by the locals as Isla Pacuare just north of the mouth of the Rio Pacuare.

Just to give you an idea of our first impressions of the place...we arrived by boat where were greeted at the dock by a half dozen dogs and all the other volunteers who had been there from anywhere between 4 days to 9 months. Everyone had a slightly dazed and vacant smile and we couldnt help but begin to make comparisons to Lost and the Dharma Initiave..it felt like we were arriving at the Other´s camp when they were pretending to be roughing it except these people were not pretending...(sorry for the Lost analogy for those who didnt watch it..there may be more to come). Anyway, we started with a safety talk that began with a briefing about what to expect and life at the project...dangers included scorpions, giant spiders, the most poisonous type of snake in costa rica, giant crabs, poisonous toads, bull sharks in the water near the river mouth, and, of course, the infamous current and vicious rip tides. Kate´s reaction - #$%@!!!! Then they told us how they had not had rain for 2 weeks and we would need to fill buckets up in the canal in order to flush the toilets and to watch out for crocodiles...mind you all this was relayed to us by the project lead who kept a completely straight face throughout the entire "indoctrination" process. We both searched her face for some hint that she was just kidding about all of this or at least some of this...and got nothing. Needless to say, we walked out of this welcome meeting and I was pleading with Tim to leave...only problem was there was literally no way to do so because the boat only came and went on Mondays and Thursdays.

We spent the next hours settling in, meeting the other volunteers (about 10 total), and Tim trying to keep my spirits up by telling me that I was brave and could do this and that he would protect me from all the spiders...then I saw the spiders and wanted to cry. My first day was not my best, I was literally tip toeing around the place trying to avoid webs, crabs, and frogs which there were plenty of. Luckily, we actually never saw a snake or a scorpion. The other volunteers quickly understood I was not kidding about my fear of spiders and helpfully pointed out all the webs of the giant Golden Orb spiders who they said never left those webs and were also not poisonous so there was nothing to worry about...but that their bites did hurt like hell.

The first night we didnt do any work..biggest task was just falling asleep on a bed that was permanently damp from the humidity and reaked of mildew, but our second night Tim had a shift in the hatchery with a long-term volunteer Marlena from Germany from 10pm-2am and I was from 2am-6am with Tim W from England. Both of thse volunteers were long-term and endearlingly excited about the bugs, eggs, turtles, crabs, everything. The duties at the hatchery (or "The Hatch" as we began to know it) included checking the 40+ turtle nests that the project had for flies, maggots, ants, and anything else that could infect the nests, and then cleaning them out if we found anything. It was not so bad, but kept you busy.

Over the next days and nights, in addition to "Hatch" duty and other assignments, we patrolled at night with the local Tico guides - most of whom were former poachers themselves. These patrols generally followed the pattern of waking up to the alarm in the middle of the night, groggily tiptoeing past the crabs and poisonous frogs, and meeting up with one of the local guides to begin a moon-lit march 7K up the coastline before turning back for home. It was a bizarre but educational experience to get up in the middle of the night to walk 14 km in the dark of night with a local man who spoke no English and smelled of a mix of marijuana and cologne. It was definitely good that we spoke some Spanish. Don´t get me wrong, the guides were nice and very respectful of the fact that I am a married woman there with my husband. The somewhat intimidating part was passing the poachers (hueveros (direct translation - eggers)) on the beach. There was a very strict no confrontation policy which we thought indicated that it was a very amicable relationship between poachers and conservationists, but in reality, the rule had to exist because as we were told most of the poachers were addicted to crack and carrying machetes and it would be very dangerous to talk to them and start something because there were way more of them on the beach than there were of us....again, sweet.

Luckily, the first night was the only patrol Tim and I did separately, after that, we were assigned to the same time slot and guide. The patrols consisted of walking the beach simply looking for turtles who had emerged from the water to lay their eggs. We saw many tracks of turtles that were either dragged off by poachers or some that just returned to the sea without laying their eggs (usually because something spooked them or they couldn´t find a good spot). On Tuesday night Tim and I had the 9pm - 1am patrol shift. At 10:20pm we actually spotted a turtle coming out of the water, it was amazing! She was massive! She slowly made her way up the beach toward the brush line and we saw a poacher in the distance (luckily we had dibs because we were closer). We got closer to her, but made sure to stay out of her line of sight or she would have just started to return to the water without nesting. We sat with her for over an hour before she finished selecting her spot and digging the nest, and then she began to lay her eggs. The guide used a giant plastic bag that he placed inside the dug up sand and catches the eggs as she lays them. She laid 130 eggs!!! This is a lot! She was also huge for a green turtle (just the shell was 116cm x 105 cm). Another patrol shift came along and carried the eggs for us the 5 km back to the hatchery while we stayed and waited for the mama turtle to go back to the sea. This whole time the poacher stood in the distance and would have killed her if we left her alone. It was really exciting and fulfilling to witness this act of nature.

I am so grateful to Tim for putting up with my yelps, clinging to his shirt, whining about my rank bed, and making him escort me to the outdoor bathrooms in the middle of the night. It was a very challenging week, but we are very happy we did it! Now we are ready to explore the rest of Costa Rica! Tomorrow we go river rafting on the Rio Pacuare and then get dropped off in La Fortuna (Arenal) to hang out in the hot springs and go on a tour to the Arenal Volcano.

Sorry this update was so long...we will try to keep future ones more succinct!

xo,
kate and tim

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Posted by PetCon 21:32 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (6)

San Jose - check

Looking forward to the turtles!

semi-overcast

Well we've been in San Jose for a day and we've celebrated Costa Rica's national Independence day by viewing a student marching band parade, over paying for a traditional CR dinner, and witnessing a police chase on foot through the crowd. San Jose - check. We look forward to adding our next post from the "Amazon of Costa Rica"!

Posted by PetCon 17:20 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (10)

First stop: Saving Turtles in Costa Rica

Because they are cute and endangered

80 °F

Writing this post in advance because once Tim and I arrive in San Jose on Wednesday morning we have less than 24 hours there before we take a bus and boat to our next destination - La Tortuga Feliz - www.latortugafeliz.com - where we will stay for 7 nights at the mouth of the Rio Pacuare on the Caribbean coast just north of Puerto Limón. We are volunteering turtle conservationists!

The organization's mission is to protect the sea turtles and their eggs that are at risk because of poachers in the area. We do night patrols each night in 4 hours shifts. No electricity means we will not be able to call or email while we are there...so we thought it best to give you the heads up!

Posted by PetCon 10:54 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (2)

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