Thursday, September 10, 2015

Singin' In The Rain....Forest And Playa Bandera........

When visiting the rain forest during the rainy season one should expect some rain.......perhaps? So yesterday we headed out to another national park not too far from our house sit home.  As we made our way to the ticket booth the sky grew cloudy and we thought, "uh oh." But many times here the rain can be seen all around us but never lands on our heads, so maybe this would be the case today?
The short trail was only supposed to take us about an hour so we walked slowly taking in the sights and sounds trying to catch some animals.  But then we spotted an off shoot of the main trail that took around about off the beaten path, until we feared we were lost.  It began to rain but we felt nothing as we trudged through the dense cover of the jungle that acted like an umbrella.  We stopped to take photos of a pack of monkeys before the skies opened up and soon we were drenched.

Lizards, Lizards Everywhere

Carara National Park was established in 1978 as a biological reserve, but it became so popular the government turned it into a national park. Located about 30 miles west of San Jose and 15 miles north of Jaco, for us it was too close not to explore. The park is said to have one of the largest remaining populations of scarlet macaws in all of Costa Rica, but we didn't manage to see one.
But we did catch a glimpse of a poison dart frog, tons of leaf cutter ants, an agouti, and monkeys so we consider our day a success.

As we come to the last few days of our time here in Costa Rica I thought we should post some photos of our neighborhood.  The house sits in the tiny pueblo of Playa Bandera, which in English simply means, "Flag Beach." The tiny village has a church, two small stores, a school, a few small restaurants, public swimming pool owned by a gringo, rice fields and thousands of palm trees filled with monkeys.

Automatic Entrance Gate To Our Home Sit House 

The House 

Backyard Pool 

Local School Called Playa Palma 

Another School Building

Soccer Field Donated By The Water Dept.

 Another View....AYA Is The Local Water Dept
Warning Signs On All Beaches 

Playa Bandera
Lovely Park Area Near Beach

Views Of The Beach 

In Costa Rica We Could Afford To Buy A Beachfront House
Ok So It Might Need A Little Fixing Up

"Basura" Trash Receptacle On The Beach 

A Road In Our Neighborhood

Local Family Run Store 

Another Tiny Store In Front Of A Home With Tree Blocking Sign

Rice Fields And Homes

Local Church Across From Where We Are
We Can Hear The Singing And The Two Hour Sermon Of Yelling On Sundays

The public beach is kept clean and tidy with picnic tables for the public to use.  Since we're on the Pacific Ocean most of the beaches come with warnings of riptides and are more geared toward surfing than family swimming. While we've enjoyed our time here walking on the beach everyday we both realize that we're not beach people. We won't feel clean again until we can dig the sand out of our toe nails and anywhere else it's been hiding.  Tomorrow we'll say good bye to our furry friends and head into San Jose to pick up the homeowners from the airport. After some drinks and chit chat they'll drop us off at a hotel for our flight back  to Panama on Saturday. Sadly though I do suppose I'll have to put on some clothes for the flight home, a practice I haven't been used to lately while sweating our butts off in Costa Rica......along the gringo trail.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Sand Dollars And Other Money Misconceptions.......

Never in my life have I spent as much time on the beach as I have in these past few weeks in Costa Rica.  While all beaches come with a certain beauty of the sand, surf and sunshine there's also the darker side to coastal life. Here on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica signs are posted on every beach that say, "corrientes peligroso," also known as "rip currents." So while one of the dogs we're taking care of loves to romp and frolic in the surf we prefer to just get our toes wet and walk along the shoreline. While our bodies are glowing with a tropical tan our toes are permanently embedded with sand that we can't seem to wash out. Even with the many hours we're spending in the pool at the house, that daily double dose of beach walks has blackened our nails.

Getting My Feet Wet.....The German Shepherd Has Taught US
To Fetch A Stick....See Me Get The Stick To Throw Again

Bolle Found This Giant Palm Branch That I Needed Two Hands To Life

He LOVES To Run  After Sticks, Rocks, Coconuts But Doesn't Always Bring Them Back 

Fisherman On The Beach

And while we've learned to pack light for these trips for this one we really could have arrived with much less.  I begin each day with a bathing suit top and shorts, no shoes needed for the beach walks.  When we get back to the house we strip down naked, hose off the sand and jump into the pool.  From there I wrap myself in a bathing suit sarong, with no need for much more.  It's so hot here that we frequently go in and out of the pool and since the land is private there's no need for bathing suits. Today I did some laundry which included my wrap and hung it out to dry.  Of course I hung the laundry outside naked too then cooled off in the pool again.  But I was in a quandary now since I didn't have my wrap to put on.  What was I to do?  What would I wear? Then it dawned on me that I could actually put on clothes....what a strange idea.

In The Pool....Yes I'm Naked As Usual

Over the past few weeks we've found some lovely whole sand dollars on the beach  While I'd found smaller ones before I'd never found large ones that are maybe four inches in diameter. My wonderful hubby Clyde is a plethora of useless knowledge, as he himself says.  He began to tell me about the angels that were hidden inside of each sand dollar, a tale that his Mom told him as a little boy. He tried breaking apart a few broken ones that we found but no angels flew out so of course I thought he was crazy.  But since everything can be found on the internet these days we came back here and found out about the legend of the sand dollar.

Broken Sand Dollar And Doves

Turns out the so called "angels" are actually "doves" in the legend which in reality are the teeth of the sea creature.  For the full story here's a link to the scientific version along with the religious legend and even a poem about the marvelous creature of the ocean.

Part of the travel experience is having to deal with foreign currency and here in Costa Rica it's been rather challenging. Costa Rican money is called the "colon" which is named after Columbus.  Currently one US dollar is equal to 536 colones which means we're having to deal with very large numbers in Spanish.  While our Spanish teacher back in Panama would be proud of us for talking to everyone in Spanish fairly easily, she'll be disappointed to know that we're stumbling with large numbers.  For example when we go to the grocery store we might spend 77,562 colones which in US dollars is about $144.70.  But the cashier would tell us our total is, "setenta y siete mil quinientos sesenta y dos." And we would stand there and think, "ahhhh yeah....." and hand over 80 thousand colones. brain hurts just thinking about it, thankfully though it's Clyde that pays the bills. Personally I'd just use the credit card whenever possible since we get reimbursed for all foreign transaction fees.

Colones......Ten Thousand, One Thousand, Five Thousand And Two Thousand

While travel is new to us and something we've just discovered, it's been a valuable learning tool.  Not only have we learned about the places and things we've seen but it's helped us discover a little bit of ourselves and our relationship.  Having to move out of our comfort zones, speak a different language, deal with foreign currency, in new surroundings might just put a bit of hair on our chest and sand under our toenails. Time to put on some clothes and head to the beach again to dig our toes in the sand.......along the gringo trail.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Went To Jaco For A Taco And Spent A While With The Crocodiles.....

Today was the first day that we woke up to rain instead of the usual thunderstorms at night.  But it soon subsided and we were free to head outdoors and explore. After our morning walk on the beach with the dogs Clyde suggested that we hit the road to find the famous Rio Tarcoles.  Located outside the town of Jaco the river is known for it's many American crocodiles that call it home. We parked the truck and made our way to the bridge where the other tourists were standing only to be amazed by the view below.  At any one time I counted 25 huge crocodiles floating in the water below with a few sunbathing on the shore. Rumor has it that this river has the largest concentration of crocodiles per square foot in the whole world.

Warning Sign On Bridge 

Spotted A Lizard Nearby Too
Sunbathing Crocodile...That's A Full Sized Tire Next To Him To Give You An
 Idea Of How Big He Is 

One Croc Making His Way Onto Land For A Bird Snack

After we'd taken enough photos of the gruesome creatures we headed into Jaco where we knew we could pick up a taco for lunch.  Seriously though, Jaco has no shortage of taco joints that opened up apparently just because the two words bring a smile to ones face. Our first stop was Jaco Taco which was closed down perhaps since it's on the far end of town where no one goes? From there we remembered another taco joint from our last trip there.  An open air restaurant called, "Tacobar," specializes in fish tacos but also has a variety of other things on the menu. We settled on a two taco dish to share.  Clyde's taco was spicy tuna while mine was coconut shrimp. Included along with all meals is the famous salad bar that includes taco toppings, salad fixins, breads and even French fries. The food was really tasty and different but a bit expensive since Jaco is a touristy town.

Jaco's Tacobar Restaurant With Swings Instead Of Barstools.......Just A Swingin' 

Clyde's Taco Before Toppings Were Added

If you remember my last blog about the Tico lasagna with ham, chicken, beef and vegetables that was a bit odd?  Well last week we stopped in the town of Parrita for a pizza and noticed that the only choice on the menu was "jamon y queso," or ham and cheese pizza. Clyde asked if there were any other options and was given a menu with other varieties.  He looked at me and said, "how about a Hawaiian?"  "Sure," I said, "but you do realize all they're going to do is top one of those ham and cheese pizzas with pineapples?" The pizza was better than I expected it to be which is always a pleasant surprise.

After we finished with the crocs and the taco's we headed back along the highway to visit a few more beach towns. While all of the beaches here are different in their own ways they all sit along the Pacific ocean. We visited a few others, took some photos and headed back to the casa to tend to the dogs.

 Kayaks For Rent On A Beach

More Surfer Dudes

Two White Puffballs Getting Dirty In The Sand

Clyde took some amazing photos of the crocodiles as well as beautiful scenery of this lovely country. While similar in some ways to Panama, Costa Rica is cleaner and more geared to tourism. All roads seem to lead to the beaches that are easy to find and clearly marked.  So sit a while  to enjoy the crocodiles that hang out under the bridge of Rio Tarcoles, Costa Rica.......along the gringo trail.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Hiking Thru The Jungle Of Manuel Antonio National Park.....

One of the most famous tourist destinations in all of Costa Rica is Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio.  Located just south of the city of Quepos, about an hour from where we're staying made it too close not to visit. So yesterday we headed out early to try and beat the crowds as well as the sweltering heat that gets worse later in the day.  The slightly overcast skies were a welcomed sight which I thought might keep it just a tad cooler, although we were soon drenched in sweat.

We Had To Take A Photo Of The Park Map....No Handouts
Pack Of Monkeys

Lovely Waterfall 


We had heard the park is rather pricey with vendors trying to sell everything from fresh coconut water, guided tours, food and anything else you might imagine right outside. The entry fee was $16 US dollars each and parking was an additional $6.  We passed up all the tour guides along the way opting to see the park on our own.

Views From The Overlook Of Pacific Ocean

One Of The Trails

Manuel Antonio National Park was established in 1972 and welcomes some 150,000 visitors each year.  Known for it's hiking trails and beautiful beaches it was listed by Forbes Magazine as one of the 12 most beautiful parks in the world. Soon after entering the park we spotted a deer just a few feet in front of us.  She seemed accustomed to getting her photo taken by gawking tourists and we followed suit like the rest.

Can You See The Deer?

Doing The Limbo Under A Limb

Manuel Antonio Beach
Video Of A Blue Morpho Butterfly

The hiking trails were very well maintained and signed and despite the crowds we were often the only ones on the trail.  Each trail came complete with wooden pathways, steps, handrails and non slip walkways. But of course with all hikes come the highs and lows of climbing up to see the views and then back down. The thick, lush jungle kept the sun from shining down on us and blanketed us with a moisturizing coat of humidity.  Along the way we spotted many iguanas, lizards, birds and more culminating with a pack of white faced monkeys. And although we didn't see any howler monkeys their screams were evident all around us.  Even after exiting the park and driving through the town of Quepos we could hear their loud howling resonating from the jungle.

A Restaurant In An Old Airplane Called El Avion

 Costa Rican Lasagna Filled With Cheese, Ham, Beef, Chicken And Veggies
Different But Tasty

This Large Jar And Ladle Was On All The Tables In The Restaurant
What Is This?......I Asked The Waitress
"Chile," She Said.  I Asked, "picante?"  asking is it hot?
She Said, Si.....muy. (very hot).  That's ALOT Of Hot Sauce!

It was a day of beautiful vistas, white sandy beaches and working our leg muscles as we climbed through the jungles of Costa Rica. By the time we left the park we were exhausted and soaked in sweat.  Ready for some lunch we headed away from the tourist areas to find something less expensive.

After lunch we headed over to the town of Dominical since another gringo we met here said it was really nice. Like many others here Dominical is a beach town lined with bars, restaurants and surf shops offering lessons. Back along the highway we made another stop in the tiny pueblo of Matapalo which had little to nothing.  It too sits along the beach with one tiny grocery store, a tiny school, church and not much more.

We headed back here before dark in time to take the dogs for a long awaited walk on the beach at sunset. Back at the casa we took a well deserved dip in the pool for a night time swim before cleaning up for the night.  Some rain came in to cool things off nicely and for once I was actually comfortable. For the first time since we've been here we went to bed chilly, tucking ourselves underneath the sheet for a cozy night of sleep.......along the gringo trail.