Costa Rica

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I arrived at the airport – it was small like Victoria – I immediately felt relief, waited for what felt like hours for my bag to finally come around that corner. I always get the sinking feeling – what if this is the time they lose my bag –  I think about the meager, light weight packing I did with my carry on and my heart sinks for a moment and I immediately move my thoughts to something more positive.  Customs was very informal, funny how they have what look like x-ray machines but there is no one sitting watching a screen just one fellow helping the bags go through.  Reminded me of Mexico, a few armed guards standing by with visible guns ready for action should someone get out of control.  The average age of the travellers – 50 and above.  Following the instructions I was given, simply step outside the doors of the airport and you will see someone holding a sign with your name on it.  Got it.  I step outside the door to see swarms of men, all men, jammed up again the make shift fence, like at a rock concert when the front row is being pushed and squished so the people behind can get a better look, all holding signs yelling and screaming, I felt like I had just stepped onto the red carpet.  I scanned the signed for my name, my heart pounding and a little sweaty.  I did the first swoop, no Jodi Mellott, a little wave of panic washes over me.  I remain calm and confident, my mind is rushing with ideas of what I will do if my name is not in this swarm of men … suddenly I hear “Judi Mellotte” I swirl around and face a young man holding a sign with my name on it; relief rushes through my entire body.  We walk toward a Mercedes van in perfect condition, I am happy.  The driver takes my bag gently puts in in the back and comes around to open the door for me, his name is Jeffery.  Jeffery is a wonderful man, 41, desperately wants to learn and become fluent in english and is a natural born teacher.  We converse all the way there his is teaching me Spanish and I am teaching him English, an hour long journey in the dark, windy, narrow roads and Jeffery keeping me entertained, we laughed, we giggled and we hugged when he dropped me off.  A wonderful first experience in Costa Rica.

We are staying in a private B & B; is a small cottage with two queen sized beds, a kitchen and a bathroom.  It is perfect, we each sit on our beds and converse each night until one of us falls asleep. We are staying in a little town called Playa Potrero with little dirt road and nothing commercial anywhere near.  It is a step away from the conditioned.

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We have bananas growing in our backyard, only they are not like the bananas we would eat at home they are cooked like a potato and served as yucca.

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behind our bungalow lives the maintenance man, in this little blue cabin/cottage

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this is a view of the property between our place and the little cottage above …

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there is no grass to mow …

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First day of exploration we walked the beach from Playa Potrero to Playa Flamingo; a beautiful little village with a circle of boutiques and lots of commercial hotels.  La Flamingo beach is the most beautiful around these parts with a golden sand beach, very few, if any shells, or rocks, the waves lapping up to the shore, villas, mansions and castles nestled into the landscape, the sun beaming brightly in the sky kissing my cheeks and warming my body.  We enjoyed a  beautiful walk along the beach laughing until our bellies hurt, enjoying some fine food and sharing ourselves with one another.  A beautiful day with a beautiful friend.

Today we headed to

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a tourist area filled with hotels, restaurants and shops lining the streets for the eager and hungry tourists to spent their hard earned money on trinkets and treasures to take home and eventually be thrown away.  I know this because I was once one of those people rushing around trying to make sure I got something for everyone on my list, purchasing things that were “authentic” bringing them home to only wonder what the hell I was thinking when I HAD TO HAVE IT!  It was interesting watching people come in to stores and buy buy buy.  I watched a mother and daughter scour the store looking for the perfect thing to bring back home, the mother rushed over to the clothing rack and took a shirt off the rack and put in on the counter, she had clearly sized up tried on earlier that day, “I’ll take this” she walks over to her adult, full grown daughter and talk about what to buy, the mother decides against the item she put on the counter, they could come back tomorrow the daughter reminded her and you can get it then. Interesting watching people.

We walked the strip and looked in each and every shop just like everyone else only this time for me it wasn’t about finding the perfect gift for all my family and friends it was watching, observing and filling a few needs.  I left home without a bikini; I was on the hunt.  I threw all of my bikini’s away while downsizing yet again.  No more underwire, no more skimpy, no more ass hanging out.  After an entire day of hunting I settled on a simple black bikini, no underwire, a little cheeky but the best I could do under the circumstances.

A local tour company’s manager told us that he would drive us into Tamarindo for $20.  We arrived just as he was leaving to go, we had not made any prior arrangements, it just all worked perfectly.  It was a 45 minute drive in an older model van, very dirty seats inside, the driver had to open the sliding door from the inside, the windows did not open, it was stifling as he drove like a maniac at very high speeds along a very narrow, windy road passing cars that were driving too slow, narrowly moving in behind the next too slow vehicle while the car in the other lane whizzed past us, my heart dropping, a sound escaping from my lips only to realize it was a breath, I was not breathing.

Relief swept over me as we entered the village and the driver had to slow down, he dropped us at the end of the strip.  First stop the Ocean of course …

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My poor friend has not been feeling so good since we arrived, we spotted a pharmacy and she went inside and to our good luck there was a doctor available to see her right away; meanwhile I was waiting outside sitting on the stairs eating an extremely large piece of pizza when a very cute little man wearing a high-visibility yellow polyester reflective safety vest came and sat in the green plastic chair that sat empty beside me.  He gestured for me to take the chair, I waved him off and said I am happy sitting right where I am, he sat and guzzled what was left of his 1 litre bottle of Sunkist orange drink.

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I was taking advantage of the time and writing out postcards to my precious babes.  I asked him where to get stamps, it took awhile but he managed to figure out what I was saying and started with directions of which I understood nothing, I just nodded and smiled; we started conversing in our broken tongues and carried on a conversation for about 20 minutes.  It is absolutely amazing to me how two people can can carry on a conversation unable to speak each other’s language.  We may speak different languages but our body language, facial expressions and gestures are the same and sometimes it is enough to get by … we talked about our children, our marriages, his job, we smiled, we laughed and we hugged, we connected.  He begged me to go dancing with him at the Wild Monkey, I politely declined.

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We continued our shopping excursion in and out of shops all day long; it was exhausting.

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After a full day we were ready to head home, I found a guy wearing a bright orange vest with “seguridad” written on the upper right hand corner I assumed it meant security, I was correct.  I asked him if he could get us a taxi, the only word out of the sentence we mutually understood from each other was taxi, he said give me a minute and he walked away dialing numbers on his cell phone.  He comes back about 20 minutes later and says taxi coming it will be $60, I said no no we paid $20 to get here, he says he will all another guy and off he goes again, comes back and says $40, I say no no we paid $20 to get here, he say ok wait, walks away dialing his phone again, comes back and says $30, I say yes we will take it, a beat up old, purple Mazda 3 is waiting for us, again the door behind the driver does not open so he goes around to the passenger side and opens the only door the works.  I am afraid, worried, skeptical, unsure, we get inside and the young driver all of about 25 years old put the car in gear and we are off to Playa Potrero.  He drives like a maniac, he passes cars so close that each time he does it a sound comes out of my mouth and the driver glances back and smiles.  We needed to stop at this store on the way back but we can’t communication with this young man because he speaks NO english at all.  We watch the road like hawks hoping to see it in enough time to somehow alert him to stop … we spot it, I touch his shoulder and Linda eloquently says …

“Alto Senior Supermarket Por favor”

he pulls the car into the lot and stops, we get out buy what we need and get back in for the remainder or the Indy 500 and we make it home safe and sound.  I get out of the vehicle grateful for so many things; we profusely thank the drive and give him a good tip.  Trust is building.

A wonderful adventure with my Linda loo hoo!

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Sunday – yesterday the plan was to get up and walk to the Banco, it was a ways away but we were up for it, we put on our running shoes and off we went.  As we were walking up the road I asked a guy walking into the local store if he could point me in the direction of the Banco, he explained in his broken english and off we went. A few minutes later a van pulls up with the man I asked for directions sitting in the front passenger seat and an older gentleman driving they asked us if we wanted a ride.  My common sense said this could be a sketchy situation, my intuition said yes.  I looked over and at loo hoo, she nodded yes, we got in the van.  I just want to clarify that if my daughters were ever in this situation – don’t get in the van!!!!  We started conversing easily he said something about us walking and not having a car, we told him we didn’t rent a car it was too expensive so we were just going to explore on foot.  He said said it was better to see the country with a car and if we wanted to rent one we could go to Econo car rental and just tell them that Jorge sent us and they would give us a good rate, he was the one who started the company here in Costa Rica.   I was digging in my purse for a pen and paper to write his name down, he noticed and said hey why don’t I drive you right over there and we can talk to the guys so they know when and if you decide to rent a car.  We drove to Flamingo to Econo car rental and he got us a deal we could not refuse.

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On the way he said I want to tell you a story about my time in Vancouver, Canada; he started to tell us about a time he came to Vancouver on business and he took a taxi from the airport to this house in Vancouver he was staying, the taxi driver stopped at a obscure location and said we are here, Jorge questioned the driver as he could not see the house, the driver pointed and said up there behind the trees, the fare is blah basically get out we are finished here.  Alone at night in the streets of Vancouver, a foreign Country to him with no house in sight.  He started walking up the side of the road having no idea what would come next suddenly another man was walking beside him, he asked for assistance in finding the house, the guy said oh yeah thats just over there come with me to my house I will drive you.  This kind, generous, helpful soul drove Jorge to his location without a second thought.  Jorge said if you are ever in Costa Rica look me up, they never saw one another again until one day in Costa Rica…

Jorge was the general manager of a hotel in La Flamingo, one afternoon he noticed this man and his family in line to check into the hotel (what are the chances) Jorge instantly recognized him, the unmistakable birth mark on his neck confirmed it.  Jorge went behind the counter and collected the kind stranger’s paperwork, checked him into the finest room with an Ocean view walked over to him and said “could you please step out of line Sir”, the man immediately defensive “I haven’t done anything wrong”; Jorge called the bellman over to collect his bags and asked the man to follow him.  The man and his family followed as Jorge took him up to one of the most beautiful suites in the hotel – ocean side – he opened the door and gestured for the family to come inside, they trepidatiously walked through the door.  The man arguing that he did not book an oceanside view, he booked mountainside, he could not afford this room.  Jorge asked him if he remembered when he helped a man a couple years walking on the side of the road, lost … the man’s face lit up, tears welling up in his eyes as he recounted the events of that evening.   Jorge explained that he was  the general manager of the hotel and this is would be your room for the entire stay along with dinner on the house.  Enjoy your stay!   A absolutely beautiful story of Pay it Forward.  My heart was in awe as I listened to this kind gentleman relay this heartwarming story to us, my intuition was bang on we had stumbled upon a gem with a beautiful soul.  It brings me to TRUST and the thought that if we don’t have trust all the opportunities we miss out on in our lives.  There are so many beautiful people in this world, so many kind hearts and yes I know there are also a lot of not so beautiful people and not so kind hearts but in trusting our gut, listening to our intuition we have a built in guide to show us the way.

We headed to Conchal Beach, otherwise know as shell beach, millions of tiny shells make up the beach.  Its was a bit tricky to find which I am finding is the case for most places here.  Most street signs and business signs are homemade, old pieces of wood nailed together, words and images hand painted and pounded into the ground close the where it would typically be located.

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We parked the car in the little village called img_5308and walked along the beach, the same beach that cars were driving down, hoping we were headed in the right direction following the signs nailed onto the side of a building with an arrow pointing off in some direction.  We trusted.  We walked the length of the beach side by side with cars, ATVs and motorbikes and simply followed the cars, we continued onto a dirt road with cars now passing us in either direction causing dust and dirt to storm all around us.  Just over the hill we saw a plethora of coloured canopies with plastic lawn chairs underneath and people everywhere, clearly a popular spot for the locals.  We continued along the beach stopping to sort through the array of shells, my sister’s heaven.  We walked to near the end of the beach and found a less populated spot,  sampled the ocean, then we sat and enjoyed the beauty that surrounded.  The winds can pick up and suddenly and before you know what is happening it is roaring past you at 30km per hour, this was the case today, it whips by so quickly its like a 1,000 little stinging bees all stinging in tandem.  A very satisfying day indeed!

img_5273our only indication the beach was somewhere beyond that building, a sign hammered onto the side of the building, Conchal beach this way …

img_5282 img_5283 shells galore …

img_5290 Loo Hoo and me …

img_5279the ominous trail …

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Next up a journey out to see the turtles …

The green turtle makes Costa Rica her home and trusts the land enough to lay her precious eggs in the sands along the shores of Riel beach every two weeks, five times in a season.  She ventures out of the water and onto shore in the dark of night to find the perfect spot, clear it, dig it and drop sixty to eighty eggs into the perfectly chosen spot.  She leaves her unborn babies and crawls back to the water hopeful her offspring will make it through the grueling process of becoming an adult in this fascinating species.  One in a thousand make it the full life cycle.

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The most important factor in the hatching of the babies is the temperature, it has to the perfect temperature (27°C to 33°C) for the babies to hatch.  She will generally pick a spot under a tree, dig it out (at least 45 minutes), lay her eggs, cover it up, gently pack it down and finally cover it up with debris to camouflage her precious babies who will start the process of coming into this world as a green turtle.  Two week later, if the temperature is just right, the babies, all or some will hatch and they will make their great escape to the water and begin the journey in the life of a green turtle dodging predators on land and in water.  Michael tells us that 1 in 1,000 make it to an adult sea turtle, their beginning inauspicious.

We travelled half time on a paved road and half time on a dirt road with large pot holes leading to the middle of nowhere in the jungles of Costa Rica, the destination Riel beach in the darkest of night.  We finally arrive, Michael parks the van and we all get out, its pitch black we cannot see anything and our eyes do not adjust, we walk to the beach, I hear the ocean, I see figures of other people sitting in a circle to our right waiting for the turtle to make its way up the beach and lay her eggs.   As I look up I see the stars scattered throughout the darkest night sky, I am elated.  I setting into the sand and lay back and enjoy the show -s twinkling of the beautiful sky, I am captivated.  I settle in and converse with the universe, the galaxy, the vastness of space and know that I am a tiny part of all of this, we are one.  The stars start shooting across the night sky, again I am captivated.  Unfortunately, the turtles did not come and we did not have the pleasure of witnessing this miracle of life.

Our tour guide was Michael was absolutely wonderful, he was friendly had excellent english speaking skills, we conversed easily and spoke on many topics, he truly enjoyed sharing his knowledge on many topics and so willing and happy to answer any and all of my questions.

A very interesting night!

It started out as a day or exploration, no destination, just going out for a nice drive to see what we see.  Less than 10 km along the way we stumbled upon

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a beautiful, secluded cove with a beautiful shoreline, clear waters and very few people …

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Brown Pelican Birds Costa Rica

One of the most incredible things I have seen here is the birds; there are many species and so different from home but the fascinating one to watch is the Brown Pelican Birds. They are large birds, not as big as pelicans we would know in North America about half the size with really long, sharp looking beaks.  They fly above the ocean searching, spotting, fishing and once they have spotted their prey they dive bomb full speed into the ocean, bounce back up into a sitting position and and gulp down their prize.  It was fascinating.  I had seen them at Flamingo beach but only a few here and there but Sugar Beach seemed like the fishing spot of all fishing spots, there were many and they put on quite the show.

The day was filled with entertainment, laying in the sun, playing in the ocean, conversation with a friend and simply enjoying life.

Tuesday, our last day with the car, we decided to take a road trip to the Arenal volcano, a good 3 hour drive from Potrero.  We were up for the trip – literally up at 6am and out the door by 7am;  a wee bit early for my loo hoo she’s a sleeper inner but today she was up at the crack of dawn, packed and ready to go.  We only had a tourist map map and used it to plan our route, in hindsight probably not the best idea but at the time it seemed like a good idea.  We headed off in the direction that looked like the shortest route only to discover, we stopped and asked some road construction dudes who spoke no english and called over a young female who spoke a little bit,  that the roads did not go through to Liberia that way we had to turn around and go back the way we came and go out the other way, the long route on the map.  Thirty minutes or so later we were passing through home base, Potrero.  We head out in the right direction but still no map so we stop at a store in Brasalito to purchase a phone card for for navigation.  This woman spoke no english and had a bit of an attitude, first one encountered since arriving in Costa Rica.  I excitedly went back to the car and opened the package to find a teeny, tiny phone card which I had to insert into my phone, realizing I had nothing to open the tiny drawer I had to go back inside the store  and charade my needs to the non speaking clerk who clearly did not want to help me.  It was my lucky day and she seemed to understand and handed me a safety pin, I poked in into the tiny hole and nothing happened, once, twice, three times, I looked up at the clerk who was watching with a look of distain;  I gesture for her to try, she reluctantly takes my phone and pops open the tiny drawer. Gracious, gracious.  I eagerly go back to the car with the drawer slightly open and carefully take out the old phone card and start to put the other card in the tiny slot and realize its the wrong size too big.  I saunter back into the store one last time and show her my situation, she shrugs and I walk back to the car with my tail between my legs, get inside and drive away.

For those who don’t know, I cannot see anything anymore without my glasses and even with my glasses its difficult to see anything tiny and close up, I struggle. For those of you who do know, you can stop laughing anytime now.

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I, like many people my age, would be considered technology challenged, so at this point I am a little concerned, worried that if I take out my Telus chip all of the information on my phone might be gone, disappear, forever gone and my camera might not work.  I am freaking out a little bit inside as all of this is going on but not letting on; acting as thought I got it all under control.

We carry along the way hoping desperately to find a map, my co-pilot assures me if we find a map she can and will navigate. We pull a tourist company next and ask for a map – no maps at a tourist company.  I ask for assistance with the phone cards because I could not get that little tiny chip into that little tiny drawer and I needed to see my phone working again to calm the anxiety that was mounting.  The young clerk behind the desk spoke no english but she understands phones and sees my dilemma and is happy to help, she takes my phone, she plays and fiddles with it for a few minutes and suddenly it clicks into place, closed the tiny drawer and hands my phone back to me.  I immediately inspect my phone to see that everything is where it should be – check – wipe my forehead, sigh a huge sigh of relief.  We still have no map and no source of navigation and Costa Rica does not believe in road signs.

We are off again looking for any place that might sell a map or any place that might be able to assist with the phone card dilemma.  A few more miles up the road we see a large supermarket, pull over and walk inside, there is a phone/dvd store attached to the supermarket, I walk in and ask do you speak english, “little bit” the young man behind the counter manages in broken english.  I show him my phone and the phone card and say its too big do you have phone cards here that will fit my phone, he says I can cut it and pulls out this punch that looks like the exact replica of punches that line my white craft drawer at home.  I am elated, so easy, you just cut it, wow who would have thought.  He helps me put it into the phone and tells me you have to call this number to get it activated, my heart drops, I don’t have an active phone to make the phone call. He says he has to go, he is on his way out and has to get to the bank but before he leaves he goes next door to the money order booth and asks his colleague if he will help me, his colleague agrees but currently has a customer, so I wait.  Finally, I step up to the counter and ask if he speaks english “little bit” in even more broken english than the last kind soul but he knows what I need because the kind fellow already explained it to him, so he takes my phone, the chip packaging and makes a phone call, fiddles with my phone and hands it back, I was so excited … here we go.  I check the phone to make sure it still works, my camera, my contacts, yup all still there and working then a message pops up, the sim card is not activated.  I wait in line again. Upon my turn, I show him the phone and the message, he takes the phone and calls the number again and hands me back my phone prompting me to put in my apple id, no problem, for once I know it, put in my password, updating, updating, updating, it starts showing me a plethora of languages but won’t let me choose one and then the window pops up again, phone card not activated.  For flying fuck sakes, we have been in the store for over an hour and we are back to square one … I get in line again.  I am feeling frustrated, I just want to go with or without the phone card, by this time it is 9:30am already and we are literally 9kms from our B & B with three and a half hours to drive; suddenly the volcano wasn’t looking so desirable anymore.

A quick decision – this was not meant to be – Santa Cruz it is … the further we got the more road signs there were, although ambiguous, much more plentiful than the meager signage we had encountered thus far.   We found a little park that looked like some vendors were setting up, we parked the car and headed out on our journey looking for the festivala that was suppose to be happening!  We asked several people and not one person spoke any english.  We walked up and down the main street and looked in all the shops.  This was the real deal, no tourists, real Costa Rica.  Bands started setting up along street, more and more people started to gather along the streets and before we knew it a parade had started with an ambulance and full sirens blasting followed by big paper mache puppet characters marching up the street, followed by cute cowboys on horseback – the horses were dancing wildly, followed by policia on horseback and then hundreds of Costa Rican people all walking toward the rodeo ground that sat near the end of the road in the middle of the city.  Everyone clustered in the rodeo area, the stands were instantly filled with people; people filed under the stands and filled the areas below, people were sitting on the fences all the way around, loud music filled the streets, people were dancing, singing, clapping their hands, everyone was happy.  It was beautiful to witness and be a part of this event; we were treated as though we were one of them.  After about 20 minutes the music stopped playing in the rodeo grounds, the crowd instantly disbursed from the stands, from under the stands and filled the streets.  Bands were on nearly every corner playing music, people were dancing, smiling, laughing and celebrating each other, celebrating community.  I felt honoured to be part of this culture, to witness the joy and happiness this community was reflecting.

A nice relaxing day at home resting, reading, writing, recharging.

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Adventures galore … today another great adventure, a boat ride up the river to see the crocodiles, monkey, iguanas, and many species of birds.

I just can’t say enough about the people of Costa Rica they are so similar to Canadians, just great.  Today our tour guide was Jay, he was full of energy, full of knowledge, and full of funny!  This man had a laughing out loud on many occasions and english is his second language, he was an encyclopedia of knowledge sharing with us all the native plants & trees, plantations, farms – below in the first column is a canteloupe farm all harvested by hand, in the far right picture there is a tractor with a driver and two workers inside the truck on either side are workers on the ground walking alongside the truck bending down and picking two cateloupe at at time and toss them to the workers on the truck with a simply squat – twist – stand and toss.  Now there is a workout.  Jay tells us that these workers make very little money for the hard labour work they perform each day.  He explained there are three levels of economic status in this country, very wealthy (imports – Canadians and Americans), middle class with incomes ranging from $500 – $1,000 per month.  Costa Ricans pay about $20,000 for their homes, they do not rent they buy or most often their homes are passed down from generation to generation.  The elders of taken care of by the family until they pass and everything is left to the children, if they farm their children are expected to take over the farm.  Jay explained that health care and education are free in this Country and education is highly encouraged although there is a very high drop out rate.  In the smaller communities, like Potrero the schools are small and well run.  He told us a story of when he was 16 and not interested in attending school anymore, a typical 16 year old, he was the youngest of 7 children, his father suggested that life would be difficult for him without an education and put him to work in the fields with his grandfather, who ran a sugar cane farm.  Jay explained that working in the sugar cane fields is arduous work, the workers works a long hot day in the fields hacking down sugar can with machetes day after day.  He told us where there are frog, there are snakes; in the sugar can fields you will find a plethora of frogs and snakes so prior to the workers spending day after day hacking down the sugar can by hand with machetes they burn the sugar cane fields to rid the fields of all the squirming creates the have made it their home.  It did not take Jay long, three days, until he had his nose buried into the books.  He obtained a degree in biology and is one of the most knowledgable person I have yet to come across in his field.  We all seem to have this core limiting believe that we are not good enough, not smart enough until we challenge that believe and come to see that buried inside of us is intelligence, gifts, talent and everything we need to succeed in life.  Often all we have to do is move over and get out of the way.

Jay had had the driver stop many times so he could get out and grab a leaf, a piece of fruit, cashews, paprika, and sugar cane to show us, let us smell and touch.  Above, cashews (the little hanging balls), star fruit right off a tree and paprika.  He shared stories of his grandmother and all the remedies she made for him and his 6 brothers and sisters, as children, when they would take ill, she had a plant based remedy for everything and taught her grandson the value of the native plants and their medicinal uses.

We drove about 1.5 hours to the river, one stop for fruit and a bathroom break where I had the pleasure of eating lunch with friend.

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We finally arrived at the river already so much knowledge sinking into the brain, so many things to thinks about.  I am such a processor I almost wanted to take a break and just think about everything he had already told us.  The Costa Rican people are patriotic and love their Country, they are proud and enjoy sharing its history and inner workings with anyone who will listen, I gobble up and digest each and every morsel of information and remain hungry for more.

On the journey to the river we drove in a comfortable van with air conditioning; myself, Linda and  a wonderful couple from Saskatoon, Hatch & Lori, along with Jay and our driver, Juan.  A comfortable trip with Jay chattering all the way.   Upon arriving at the Tenpisque river, is 260 km long, we boarded a river boat images with Amondo who has a skill for seeing creatures along the side of the river, in the river and up into the trees, this man can maneuver this large water craft into tight spaces to ensure his four passengers were offered the best look possible.  A gift, a talent.

The draw for me on this tour was crocodiles, I love these animals from a distance of course but to see one in real life was a rock my socks off kinda moment.  We got to see them lazying in the sun, swimming in the river and one even dove into the water from the shore as we approached.  I wanted to purchase a good digital camera with a wicked zoom lens before I left but did not.  This was one of those adventure that I mourned not having such a device, my iphone did not do it justice.  Nevertheless, a memory that will be with me forever.  Jay explained the differences between an alligator and a crocodile.   He explained that the easiest way to tell is the shape of their jaw, alligators have a wide “U” shaped, rounded snout and crocodiles tend to have a longer more “V” shaped snout.   The alligator is designed for strength capable of withstanding stress to crack open hard shelled animals, like turtles, which are included in their diet.  The pointed snout of a crock isn’t quite as strong but still capable of exerting massive biting power.  cbd-faq-q1aA=alligator B=crocodile

The female crocodiles lay 70-80 eggs 10 to 15 times per year and at least 60% of them survive to become adults crocodiles.  A frightening statistic.  Anything is on the menu for a croc, iguanas, monkeys, snakes anything the roars on or near the river is at risk of becoming the next meal.  Birds have the luxury of their feathers being an inconvenience to the croc so they are the only living creature that escapes the diet of the aggressive crocodiles.

I really wished we got closer I would have loved to see their mouth open, their skin up close but apparently they are quite aggressive and we got as close as we could. This is the biggest dude in the river, the guides know his name, unfortunately I do not remember, too much information all at once and my 50 year old brain.

Saturday … January 20th … a day I will never forget, the robberty kinda put a damper on things but here I am 11 days later ready to make my exit from Costa Rica and make my way to Panama but before I go and leave this post forever I want to share another adventure that was had before the massive roadblock hit.

My travelling companion, Linda loo hoo and i took at catamaran boat trip which included snorkling, lunch and the beautiful sunset. The day started out very windy, Costa Rica can be very windy sometimes the winds getting up to 30km per hour, quite uncomfortable when you are sitting or lounging on the beach, the sand hurts going at that speed. Throughout the whole time in Costa Rica I have been looking out to these islands with curiosity, I really had a yearning, a draw to be near them, to see what they were all about, low and behold the catamaran started heading straight towards them, I could barely contain my excitment as we got closer. As we approached I realized that they were massive boulders that went straight up, steep walls that climbed so high into the sky, istrigued by their massive nature I just had to get a closer look. The sail out to Islas Santa Catalina was beautiful, peaceful, gentle and very relaxing. Above and all around soared the magnificent frigate birds, they were wonderful to watch, I was mesmerized by their beauty and their size. I always thought if I were given a superpower it would be a tie between being able to fly and being invisible. I would certainly get in much more trouble with the invisability but flying would be the most serene experience I could ever imagine. As I watched these graceful beauties soaring above us I dreampt that maybe one day that could be me. The boat anchored a distance away from the island, snorkle geared up we were on our way out into the vast ocean. I had not snorkled since my honeymoon many many moon ago I had forgotten what an gift it was to see the inner workings of the world below, a world we know thing of, a culture of itself, a magical place that I had the priviledge of spending some time exploring. I jumped out of the boat all snorkled up and started to wander on my own, the first thing i was was a 3 foot shark, he swam right by me. I realized in that moment that snorlking is a solitary experience. I was so excited I wanted to tell someone but everyone was in their own space, their own capsule, this experience was to be mine alone. I swam over to the guide and his many followers just in time to see him bring up a puffer fish completely puffed up, she was so pretty, so precious, I was awestruck at her absolutely beauty. Next, he brought up a sea urchin and put it in my hand, as the sea urchin struggled for solid ground to vibrate his tentacles in and around, my hand tickled. An experience I will take with me for always. A crowd is a crowd and it was time to go off on my own and explore, many times I was so engrossed in the beauty I was witnessing, I would pop my head up to realize I was completely alone; I would see some head bobbing and head off in that direction. Once everyone had their fill of the island I paddled over and walked onto the shore of a tiny private sandy beach. A giant crater was worn through the rocks and the magnificant ocean came crashing through, I climbed through the rocks to get a closer look but the protective ocean continue to pummle waves at me to kept me back; I enjoyed from a distance. We were treated to a delicious lunch, all the booze you could drink; there was a time in my life I would have consumed beyond my capacity, not anymore, gingerale was as reckless as I got. As we sailed back enjoying the breathtaking sunset, we encountered a pod of whales, blowing and splashing just behind the boat, a spectacular show. Grateful.

We were treated to a couple days at the B and B owner’s guest house after the robbery, it was delightful. A beautiful two bedroom cottage complete with a private pool, laundry, beautiful kitchen and a living room big enough to host a large family. It was good place to rest and recuperate, to start the administrative nightmare required to replace my computer, get it shipped, start the insurance claim, cancel credit cards, try to piece my trip back together. I had been so diligent, so careful, so meticulous putting all my travel paperwork together both in paper and electronic, all gone. I started piecing it togther through emails, all toll this event has stolen alot more then personal items, it has been a theif of precious time. We move on.

I stayed in the bungalow for two nights after Linda left but I was unnerved, terrified actually, every sound, every noise had my skin crawling. Knowing there was a couple moving in I tried to feel calm, I tried to believe that I could handle it and all would be fine, the battle inside my head was a battle that was robbing me all over again. I met the couple the second day of their vacation and shared my experience with them, I thought they should know, at leave be given the opportunity of knowledge, they left and never came back. The owner emailed me the following day saying she didn’t think it was going to work out for me to stay at the bungalows anymore, I think perhaps she was pissed. I was in the same place and ready to move after finding out I would completely alone, the unnerving went deeper and I simply had to move to another location. I spent a day doing research and trying to find a reasonable place to rent, my so called budget is suddenly non existent with all these additional expenses but I have to keep telling myself safety is much more important than any amount of money. I moved to Flamingo, the village next to Portrero and stayed the final four days in a safe, guarded hotel where I spend the days walking the various beaches, swimming in the pool and believe it or not alot of time inside writing, resting, meditating and simply relaxing and pulling myself back together to continue this journey. There have been times that I questioned myself, felt extreme home sickness and longed for the safety and comfort of my home, my family, my friends, my comfortable and my life back home.

Today I took a 6 hour bus trip from Flamingo to San Jose. The driver spoke no english so it was a quiet drive which I appreciated at 730 in the morning. as i have mentioned before, driving in Costa Rica is like being on the Indy 500, insanity is putting it mildly, people drive very fast, the roads are very narrow, no sidewalks anywhere and people walk down the size of the road, dogs wander out at any given moment, diver’s stop in the middle of the road, people back out of driveways and parking lots without looking,each time I get into a vehicle I say a prayer. To add a little salt to the already terrifying experience, my driver is preoccupied with his two cell phones, he had one or the other in his hand at all times, either dialing, readying, texting, he is constantly glancing from his phone to the road, to his phone to the road, I am in the back white knuckled praying. We stopped after about 3 hours, I had just reached over and said, senior bano Por favor, he pulled into the rest stop for a 30 minute break, perfect timing. A tour bus pulled in right after we did and a load of grey hairs stumbled off the bus, I noticed they were all taking pictures madely so I wandered over to see three macaws squaking at one another in a tree; absolute beauty vibrant reds, greens, blues, yellows, a rainbow before my eyes. There were several others in a fenced area beside the tree, as I watched one of these beauties started walking directly toward me, he stood, he posed, he showed off,he climbed up the tree right in front of all his admirerers and perched himself on a branch not much higher than eye level and posed while everyone desperately grasped pictures of this beautiful creature. It was quite something.

I was loaded into another bus with more passengers for the rest of the journey, a new driver, there is someone watching out for me. I started a conversation with another sole travellor, an older gentleman who had a nack for talking, he talked the entire way, pausing everyone once in a while to allow me to get a word into the conversation, made the trip go faster, although car sickness was setting in, the conversationalist beside me had admitted that he consumed more than his share of alcohol the night before and it was seeping out of his pours and the stentch was putting me over the edge, he got out just past the airport. I continued on to my hotel I booked online it was 35 minutes past the airport, I immediately does it make sense to go that far and then come all the way back in the morning, right away my mind went to money, dollars, you have already paid for your room. I sat back pondering this conumdrum, traffic hit a stand still and we snaked along for the next 40 minutes then we hit the downtown area, my stomache dropped, my skin started to crawl, my solar plexus started burning and churning, it was a sight to behold, I was terrified all over again. As we moved deeper and deeper into the war torn, dilapidated structures were getting worse, garbage lined the streets, massive amount of people lined the streets, homeless people sleeping in doorways and coridors, the deeper we drove the worst it seemed. My heart was pounding,my head was screaming you can’t stay here, you must to back to the hotels near the airport. I leaned over and asked the driver if he could please return me to the hotels by the airport, he made a call and affirmed he could do that, relief flooded me.

I saw the business centre as soon as I walked in and I rejoiced! I sat down at a computer and started pecking away at the keys to be shut down, shut out, all the words were in spanish, help I yelled (not really but really), little could be done, I finally get into my email, password hell again (always my own fault if there is a brain block for me its passwords). I finally pull all the information and documents I need from various emails and put together two final packages to the insurance companies,scanned and emailed. I have google translate open as I muttle my way through this spanish speaking computer. I know all you digital junkies are screaming you can change it to english, believe me I tried and so did everyone else in this place, but the command keys still show up in spanish as I scanned documents, attached documents, renamed documents, deleted documents all using google translate. One more challenge, the keyboard is completely different, the symbols and puncutation are not in the same place, sometimes I couldn’t find them at all, anywhere on the keyboard, challenge after challenge. I am ready for some easy.

As I write this I am enjoying the comforts of the Holiday Inn right across from the airport where I fly to Bocas de Toro in the morning for a month of something different, something else, a new adventure, a new place, new people, new experiences. I am excited.

Pictures will be added once I am up and running with my new laptop that should arrive a couple days after I do, fingers, toes, eyes, absolutely anything that can possibly be crossed, cross!

Goodnight!

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