I’m working a little bit backwards today since I am behind on my posting. I took a bit of a hiatus from blogging while I was in the U.S. for a month and a half! Good times were had there. Went on a family vacation with my best friend, her husband and their two children (my God-babies!) to San Antonio. We went to Sea World, the Alamo, the Riverwalk (where we got TWO free desserts for the kiddos), Splashtown waterpark (MUUUCH cheaper that Schlitterbahn, people!) and Natural Bridge Caverns on the way back. I also got to see some of my Chi Delta sistas in Arkansas one weekend for the first time in years, was a part of my best friend’s bachelorette party and WEDDING, and on a lower note, I celebrated my late grandfather’s amazing life at his funeral. He was such an accomplished human being. It really inspires me to want to do more for the world! Whew, so much covered! Here are some pics to prove it 🙂
I had a blast visiting home, but I have to admit that I was beyond ready to get back to Costa Rica when the time came. Oh, yea, and we went to Missouri to visit with Peter’s family before heading back. While we were on “The Farm” we got to witness gardening and canning of veggies at it’s finest. I actually learned a lot and I have to admit, it left this self proclaimed “City/Suburb Girl” wanting to move to the country, get some land, a cow, and a few chickens and start up a farm of my own! I just think there is something so rewarding about not having to rely on grocery stores and big businesses for 90%+ of my survival. Don’t worry though, I haven’t given in to it quite yet. You have to be committed to that kind of lifestyle and, let’s face it, Peter and I are obviously still in a “Nomad” phase, as I’m sure my dad would call it. Here’s a photo or two from The Farm!
Ok, this is obviously a long post, about halfway done…lol.
On to Tortuguero! LEt me start by saying that this is the place Peter has been wanting to go to for a while now. I wanted to go too, but I really just wanted to go see either Giant turtles laying eggs on the beach, or baby turtles making their way back to sea! We tried to go the week before, and there were land slides on the road to Limon (it’s on the Caribbean coast that’s a major shipping port). So, we were originally going to go for three days one night, but since we had to reschedule we decided to go for two days and only one night.
We looked at a few different deals online, and decided on The Riverboat Francesca at http://www.tortuguerocanals.com. It’s a company run by a married couple, Modesto and Fran. Modesto is originally from Nicaragua and Fran is from Wisconsin. Modesto was with us almost the entire time, speaks English fluently, and had the most friend;y personality! He really made our trip great by working with what we wanted.
Our alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. Friday, August 3rd, and we headed out by 5 for the bus to San Jose. It only took about 15 minutes to get to our stop. It usually would have taken longer, but there’s hardly any traffic at 5-5:30 a.m. We got off the bus and walked to the hotel we were getting picked up at and waited there for awhile (since we got there earlier than planned). Modesto picked us up in an 8 passenger van and already had a family of three in the van. It was a family from Spain! I was proud of myself for picking out where they were from based on hearing their Spanish accent. Go me! They did speak some English, though. It was a mom, Carmen, and her two sons Luis (about 20), and Alejandro (13). Luis spent a year at a community college in Michigan, so his English was pretty good! They were a sweet family. We also picked up another older couple and the husband, Gale, was hilarious. Well, he had a lot of corny jokes that we couldn’t help but laugh at.
After picking everyone up, we hit the road to Limon! Along the way we passed a few banana farms. You can see these bright blue bags covering the the banana bunch growing on the tree, so we asked about them. I remember thinking: “They must be a sort of mesh or something that keeps bugs off but still allows sunlight through.” I was wrong. Turns out that from a seedling until it grows into a tree, and all the way through the fruit’s growth, they soak and cover the plant/fruit in pesticides and fungicides! Apparently the perfect-looking bananas found at your local grocery store are a hybrid from the original banana. These hybrids are extremely weak and susceptible to bugs and fungi, so the growers have to keep ’em covered in a bunch of crap so they stay pretty and don’t lose their crop. I will definitely think of bananas differently from now on. I also now wonder what the original banana looks and tastes like. I may have to look it up.
The next cool thing we talked about on the way were these trees called a “Naked Indian” lol. You can basically take a stick from one of the trees and stick it in the ground and it will start to grow another tree! So crazy. The people here plant them and place barbed wire around them to use like a fence. Once they grow bigger, then they take the barbed wire off and it makes a natural fence line.
The drive to the coast was about three hours, including a stop for an included breakfast of rice, beans, and eggs. Our next part of the journey was taking a motor boat another almost three hours through canals and waterways. I was a little worried about this part because Peter get very motion sick. I mean, him in a boat on a lake is BAD news. Luckily, it was like riding on a river most of the time, and rivers are much more calm than lakes and oceans.
These boats were used to transport cocaine. There were a bunch of them piled up. The coast guard said that they have found something like 3 TONS of the stuff! They are driven up to the coast and abandoned, where then another person is suppose to come pick it up, but sometimes the coastguard picks it up instead!
Emerald Basilisk Lizard. It’s also called the Jesus Christ lizard because it can run on top of the water!
After dinner, we went and met Modesto at the dock and headed for an evening of Turtle watching! You have to bring a flashlight for the first part. Our group was led by a tour guide that works with Modesto’s company. He called himself Black Cat (Gato Negro). Very secret service like…lol. Anyway, our group as well as some other tourist groups met up on the SMALL runway for airplanes with no lights. Luckily the moon was almost full and shining really bright that night. We had to wait for the Nat’l Park staff check our tickets and the other groups’ tickets before entering. The way it works is the Nat’l Park workers go along the beach using red-lighted flashlights or headlamps. They are looking for giant Green Sea Turtles who are in the process of laying their eggs. If they find one (or more), then they walkie-talkie to the tour guides where they are at. Only two tours go at a time, and all you have to follow is the red head lamp. It was so cool to step out on to the beach at night, with nothing but the glowing moon lighting your way. Oh, and the lighting from a very distant storm (so cool to see!). Peter and I were lucky enough to get to see many turtles, all in different stages of the egg-laying process! We saw at least 4 come out from the water and crawl to find a spot on the beach. One or two we even had to dodge so our group wouldn’t get in their way or interfere with the process! Next, we watched a turtle that had just finished laying her egg, bury them. They spend SO LONG doing that. It just means they are a good mama though. That’s about all they can do to help keep other animals (like Jaguars) from finding the eggs and eating them!! And last, we got to actually watch a turtle lay her eggs. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, but also a very awkward one. You see, in order to see them lay their eggs, the Black Cat had to lift one of her back fins up and expose her while she is hovering over the hole she dug! It kind of felt like I was going into a delivery room while a woman was in labor, grabbing an ankle and moving her leg out of the way in order to see all of her business go down! I definitely didn’t expect to feel that way, but none the less, it was one of the top experiences of my life! The rest of the time, Peter and I just gazed at each other in the moonlight on the beach, taking in the whole experience, until it was time to go. The whole process took about an hour and a half.
When we got back, we were the only ones who needed a ride back (via motor boat) to our hotel further up the canals. Well, Modesto hadn’t expected us back so soon, so he had a full glass of wine in front of him and was hanging with about 4 or 5 other local guys that either worked at the restaurant of the hotel we were currently at, or just lived in the village. So of course, once we were invited, Peter and I sat down with them and had a glass of wine and a beer with them! It was so fun! They didn’t know hardly any English, if that, and we were trying to communicate with each other. I knew more than my new Spanish speaking chef friend, Noel, gave me credit for! But we still had a hang up or two here and there. See I understand more Spanish than I can speak, so when I don’t respond quickly people think I don’t understand them. Modesto did a great job of translating when needed as well. We sat there for a good hour visiting with them, learning each other’s language, making jokes back and fourth. It was SO much fun and such an authentic experience! Then, we got to have a chilly, night-time boat ride back to our hotel room and went straight to sleep because we had to be up at 5 a.m. again the next day for the canal tour of Tortuguero National Park!
This is where we stopped for lunch. I took this pic because I wanted people to have something to compare the size of this spider to. It’s huge! And there were at least 10 more hanging from the rafters of the roof over the dock. And you HAD to walk under them to get to the restaurant…yea, talk about chills going down your spine! I would have freaked if one of them fell on me!!
Alright, this was a long one. I was going to include how my first week of school went, but that’s just going to have to wait for another night. Maybe this week or next weekend, depending on how hectic this week gets!
Hope you enjoyed! I also plan on posting prices and such of things we did, just in case any of you out there are tempted to plan a trip like this! I love to encourage travelling, and any information I can give that would be helpful to you, please let me know!