Adventures with Erik

We had a great time with Erik!  On early Sunday morning, we drove south to a small town called Sierpe. We had arranged for a 8:00 a.m. mangrove boat tour along the Sierpe River; it lasted for four hours.  The tour was fabulous!  We learned all about the different types of mangrove trees and swamp flowers.  We saw many different species of birds, a few caimans, small tree boa snake, Two-toed sloth, and three different kinds of monkeys (Mantled Howler Monkey, Squirrel Monkey and White-throated Capuchin).

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A Green Iguana

A Green Iguana

A White Ibis

A White Ibis

The White-throated Capuchin (commonly know as the white-faced monkey) were the highlight of our tour!  They got up close and personal.  The boat captain was friendly with a troop of the white-faced monkeys and we stopped beside a group of trees where the monkeys were sleeping.  Our captain woke them up and encouraged them to come close by calling out and holding pieces of Guayaba fruit he had picked off a tree along the way.  Erik tried to feed one of the monkeys some fruit, but the monkey was more interested in the sandwich that Erik held in his other hand.  We had to put the sandwich away!

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Captain Jose and his monkey pal

Captain Jose and his monkey pal

After lunch, we drove to the Sphere Museum between Palmar Sur and Sierpe.  It was very interesting!  Eddie and I first noticed these huge stone spheres several years ago when we visited the Osa Pennisula.  They were in odd places…in parks, fields, hotels to name a few.  Someone told us that they were ancient artifacts.

At the museum, we learned that the spheres were likely made by ancient indigenous populations from 300 to 1500 AD.  They are almost perfect spheres that are thought to have been made by slowly chipping away at their surfaces with stone tools.  There are almost 300 spheres known to exist and range from a few centimeters up to 2.5 meters in diameter and up to 24 tons.  Admittedly, the museum’s archaeological experts are not sure who, how or why the spheres were made.  Some people say they came from aliens.

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One of the spheres in the park in Sierpe

One of the spheres in the park in Sierpe

The following day we were up early again to go on a ATV tour through mountains.  It was an awesome day!  We were the only people on the tour, which was really nice.  If you ever come for a visit, this is a must on the to do list.  The scenery was fantastic!  We climbed up a waterfall, which wasn’t easy, but a lot of fun.  This could only be possible during the dry season since during the rainy season the water is raging.  While we were on top of a mountain  ridge, we saw a para-glider take off and fly away high into the sky and then ultimately land on the beach far, far away from where he started.  Our ATV tour lasted almost five hours and we were very dusty when we returned!

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After our ATV tour, we stopped by a restaurant in the mountains that has a great view.  Instead of sitting at a table, we sat along a tile bar overlooking the valley.  While we were there, a pair of Scarlett Macaws flew right in front of us and landed on the roof about 10 feet away.  They peaked under the roof.  Then a waiter put some rice and french fries onto the tile bar and the Macaws came down from the roof to eat.  Everyone was thrilled to see them up close.  It was a fabulous end to our day!

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Iguana by the pool…and more!

Monday morning while we were packing up to leave for Villa Margarita in La Garita (part of Alujela just outside San Jose), we heard our caretaker’s little dog Lucas barking wildly…it was a frantic bark and we were so surprised to hear it since Lopez was home.  So, we stopped what we were doing to take a look outside and we were amazed at what we saw!  Lucas and Pacho, the cat, had somehow cornered a big Iguana to the edge of the pool.  The iguana was clutching the side of the pool and Lucas was running around the pool barking.  Pacho was stalking the iguana; he would advance and when the iguana would move, Pacho would jump back a few steps.

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Finally, both Lucas and Pacho ganged up the iguana and he fell into the pool.  We had no idea that iguanas could swim, but he did swim and quite well, too!  We were impressed at how long the iguana could hold his breath, but still we feared that he would drown.  Lopez came to the rescue with the pool net.  He tried to steer the iguana toward the pool steps, but that didn’t work, so Lopez scooped the iguana up into the net and then placed him on top of a small tree outside the pool area away from Lucas and Pacho!

Shortly thereafter, we left for Villa Margarita’s.  It was only a 2:45 hour drive this trip. We stopped by our B & B before meeting up with our Spanish teacher for lunch.  We met at a cute Italian place called Sal y Pepe in Escazú.  The food was fabulous!   It was wonderful catching up with her in person instead of our usual communication – Sykpe.  As I’ve mentioned before, Charlene is an awesome Spanish teacher.  If you want to learn Spanish, check out her website Skypespanish.com

After our lunch, we drove to our attorney’s office to pick up the title of our pickup truck, which we needed for our inspection that is due in February.  We had an appointment for the inspection on Tuesday morning at 8:30 a.m.

The inspection went well!  The truck passed without any problems, which was a relief.  It was an interesting experience…after checking in and paying the bill, which was about $18, we drove into a service bay and stayed inside the car.  There are several stations and at each station there is a different service technician. One guy was in a bay where he could look under the truck.  We were fortunate that they were all very helpful and willing to show us what to do as we didn’t know most the auto part names in Spanish.  The technician smiled when he realized I knew the word for brakes, which I learned from a roadside sign!  The entire process took us about a half hour.

After the inspection, we stocked up at Price Smart.  Later, we drove to Cartago to pick up our 5 boxes that were shipped down from the U.S.A.  It will be so nice to have our desk top computer, printer and scanner!!!  We also shipped various kitchen items, our Spanish notebooks and other odds and ends.  We ended the evening with a lovely dinner with our architect and his wife.  We discussed some changes to our plans…look for another post about this!

Erik arrived on Wednesday morning!!!  It was absolutely wonderful to see him.  Right after we picked him up at the airport, we drove to the Pacific coast.  Along the way, we stopped at Tarcoles River Bridge to see the HUGE crocodiles.  We arrived “home” in time to enjoy a dip in the pool before dark, which is about 6:30 p.m. here in CR.

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Today was a low key day since Erik needed to catch up on his sleep as he had a very early flight to get here.  We found out he didn’t sleep the night before arriving because he didn’t want to miss his very early flight.  Anyway, after nap time, we drove to Uvita for lunch and to pick up a chair we had ordered.  On our way back home, we had to stop on our road to wait for a truck to unload some oxen.  I walked up to the truck to take a photo of the male and he was as interested in me as I was him!

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Not long after, we were back in the car headed to the beach so that Eddie and Erik could play in the ocean with the new boogie boards.  I walked along the beach while they were in the ocean.   It was a great day!!!

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Ballena Beerfest

Yesterday (February 15), we spent all afternoon at the first annual Costa Ballena Craft Beer Festival near Uvita.  It was a fun event!  There were over 200 people there, mostly expats and tourists, but there were Ticos, too.

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We sat a table with a group of young Ticos, who drove from San Jose just for this event.  One of them commented to me that it was strange being a minority in a sea of foreigners.

Interestingly, Costa Rica doesn’t offer a wide variety of beers in the stores.  There are three Costa Rican brands that dominate here – Imperial, Pilsen and Bavaria – all made by the same company.

Costa Rica's main beer offering.

Costa Rica’s main beer offering.

There are a few imported beers available, such as Heineken and Corona, but are more expensive.  Craft beers in Costa Rica are still very much in their infancy.  Eddie had a great time sampling all the different beers and learning where to purchase beer making ingredients here.

Eddie discussing beer brewing with one of the vendors

Eddie discussing beer brewing with one of the vendors

There were five breweries pouring samples of their beers.  As each attendee registered they received a complementary beer glass with the event logo that they would then use for sampling the brews.  The samples were very generous, sometimes a half glass instead of the typical 4 ounces.  I enjoyed taking a few photos, people watching and hearing all about the beers (which I don’t drink).  Designated drivers were able to get into the festival for free, so I signed up for that and received a free glass, too.   Fortunately, Eddie didn’t need me to drive home, for which I was very grateful!  I’m still nervous about driving here…look for a post on that topic in the near future.

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There were several bands playing and they were all very good.  After a couple of hours (and a lot of beer for some), there was dancing and everyone was in a happy mood.

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Enjoying the day.  The guy in blue was sleeping or passed out - not sure which.

Enjoying the day. The guy in blue was sleeping or passed out – not sure which.

We met some interesting people at this event, as we have on many of our travels here and there, though we don’t always see them again.  Just as we were leaving in the late afternoon, we spoke with a group of Peace Corp workers who were from UNC Chapel Hill!  It’s a small world…you never know who you’re going to meet.

Woman with pet parrot who likes to ride around in her purse

Woman with pet parrot that likes to ride around in her purse

This morning, Eddie made some banana pancakes and fruit smoothies for breakfast -Yum!  Afterwards, he froze the rest of the ripe bananas – about 30 of them.  The frozen ones are perfect for our smoothies and for baking, too.  The bananas all seem to ripen at the same time, so freezing them works out well.

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I have a feeling we may run out of ideas on how best to use them.  Not long ago, Eddie found yet another rack of bananas ready to cut from the tree and hang up to ripen.  I spent this morning, cleaning around the house, doing laundry and catching up on emails.  Now it’s time to get cleaned up for a late lunch at Ballena Beach Club with our friends George & Susie and another couple we met recently.

Sand Crab Art

A couple times a week, we drive to the beach called Playa Linda in the late afternoon.  It’s not a far ride, maybe 10 minutes.  We have been lucky and the tide has been all the way out.  The wet sand is hard, which makes a nice flat walking surface.  We usually walk about three miles or so.  While walking, we have noticed really pretty and interesting designs in the wet sand.  They are made by small crabs.  We aren’t sure why, but some crabs leave the discarded sand right next to entrance of their house (little hole) and others scatter the discarded sand all over and form unique designs.  We found the designs fascinating and have taken quite a few photos of them.

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The crabs are very skittish and when they feel the vibrations of your feet pounding the sand as you walk, they run for their houses to hide.  If you stand there motionless for a while, you can see them pop in and out checking their surroundings.  Eddie managed to get a photo of a crab who couldn’t get to his house in time and played dead.  As soon as we backed off a bit, he ran into his house.

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We became very curious about these little crabs wondering what happens to them when the tide comes rolling into shore.  We did a quick search on Wikipedia and here is what we learned:  Sand Blubber Crabs live in burrows in the sand, where they remain during high tide.  When low tide exposes a beach, crabs emerge from their burrows beneath the sand.  They begin feeding by collecting sand and quickly sifting it in search of microscopic food between each grain, inadvertently cleaning the sand.  When the sand is stripped of any nutrition, the crab gathers it into a sphere (or “sand bubble”) and tosses it behind its legs.

Another beautiful sunset at Playa Linda

Another beautiful sunset at Playa Linda

(Just an FYI…you can enlarge any of the photos in our blog by clicking on them)

This and That

It’s hot, hot, hot here!!!  January, February and March are the hottest months in Costa Rica on the Pacific side.  We don’t have a thermometer, but we’re guessing the temperature is close to 90 degrees and quite humid, too, so it feels even hotter.  (Costa Rica is only 9 degrees from the equator.)   It’s so hot, that there isn’t any point in using make-up. It just melts off your face…waterproof mascara included.  It doesn’t take long for this to happen,either.  It’s melted off in a half hour or so.  The only time I use my cosmetics now is when we are going out for the evening to a special restaurant.  Otherwise, my make-up and body lotion is 50 SPF sunblock!

This past Friday night we had dinner at Roca Verde Bar and Restaurant in Dominical. (Yes, I wore some make-up for the special occasion!)  The band called Tropi Howlers performed and they were fantastic!  It was a fun time.

Enjoying an evening at Roca Verde

Enjoying an evening at Roca Verde

The Tropi-Howlers

The Tropi-Howlers

The other day, Eddie decided to try out his new machete that he bought in San Isidro to chop a new bunch of bananas.  A day or two before, he found a few bunches that appeared to be close to harvesting. In the end, he decided to cut off a bunch from a tree that had recently fallen down.  No point in wasting the bananas.  They are now hanging up near the hammock on our wrap around porch. We used the first one that turned yellow today in our morning fruit smoothie.

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On Saturday morning, we decided to drive to Quepos to check out the farmer’s market.  It was very nice!  We bought a cantaloupe, 3 ripe tomatoes, 2 huge bunches of lettuce, a large pineapple, a bag of white potatoes, bunch of fresh cilantro, 3 baskets of ripe strawberries, a bag of blackberries, onions, 3 avocados, 2 large papaya, and 2 large mangoes.  All for about $12.00!  We ate some of the strawberries for dessert last night and they were delicious.

This morning, we walked up the big HILL to our lot to check on the progress of the installation of new cement drainage gutters.  Our handyman hired his friend who has a backhoe to dig the trenches for the gutters.  It was finished and the cement gutters were partially laid out, but not installet, yet.  That is supposed to happen next weekend.  The walk up took a hour (a 5 minute truck ride).  I had to stop and rest a couple of times…not Eddie, though.  He could do it without stopping at all!  The lot looked very nice after a good chop.  Hope the gutters look nice, too.

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We have been in Costa Rica for 35 days and I’m really missing my children, family and friends.  I’m not used to being so isolated from them.  Face Time, email and the phone help, but it’s just not the same as seeing everyone in person.  So, it’s so exciting that our son Erik is coming to visit us for a week this month!  I’m really looking forward to seeing and spending time with him 🙂

Uvita, Power Outage and More…

This morning our power went out just as we were getting ready to leave for Uvita, a small town about a 20 minute drive from us.  We were meeting up with our handyman at one of the three local Ferreterías (hardware stores). He was helping us buy concrete drainage gutters for our property.  He and a couple of his guys will install them for us.  As we were driving along the Pan American Highway toward Dominical, we noticed at least nine ICE trucks (ICE is the government power company).  The ICE workers were working on the power lines, so obviously, they had to shut off the power to do their work.  From the way things looked as we drove by, we figured that the power would be off for most of the day.  It amazed us that several of the workers were not wearing any protective gear like helmets or special gloves!  They like to live dangerously here, guess.

We arrived early for our meet up with our handyman, so we looked around for a hair place as Eddie needed a haircut and he didn’t trust me to do it!  We found a nice little place and the owner cut Eddie’s hair.  She did a fantastic job!

After buying the concrete drainage gutters, we decided to go to the bank.  The ATM is open 24/7, but we can only get the local currency from it.  We wanted to have some US dollars and to do that, we needed to go inside and see a teller.  The branch in Uvita is small. They are only open three days a week and close early (about 2:30 p.m.)  As you enter, the first door leads into a small foyer and then you have to press a button to activate the door into the metal detector.  It slides open and you step in one at a time.  A woman’s voice tells you to remove all metal objects from your pockets and to put them in a tray, except there is no tray.  You either hold your stuff in your hands or open you purse so the guard on the other side can see you and your stuff.  When the metal detector door slides open, the guard gives you a once over and in this particular branch, he tells you where to queue up. (The larger branches have a ticket machine.)  In this branch, there were two rows of chairs.  Only one person can see the teller at a time.  So, Eddie sat in the first row of chairs where the guard motioned him and I sat behind him.  There were two teller stations today, a regular one and one for special services, which is for the elderly, disabled or pregnant women. They get special treatment in Costa Rica and can jump ahead of the line.  The guard kept up with the special services line on who was next.  For the regular teller, it was who was in the chair closest to the end of the row.  When the next person went up to the teller, then everyone got up and moved a chair closer to the end (think musical chairs!).  We waited 20 minutes for Eddie to get up to the teller.  It didn’t take long for him to complete his transaction, but for some, it took a long time.  It was nice that the bank was air conditioned!

Afterwards, we stopped at a thrift store that I had noticed on our way to the hair place.  I bought three books for $1 each.  The proceeds from the store help buy food for the needy.  I was hoping to find some used kitchen things, but they didn’t have any.  They mostly had clothes and books.

When we returned to our place as we suspected earlier, the power was still out.  It didn’t come back on until 4:30.  Good thing we didn’t have anything urgent where we needed power to do it.  I was a good excuse to read my Kindle and for Eddie to play solitaire on his tablet.

Our caretaker, Lopez, has two pets – a dog named Lucas and a cat named Pacho.

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The only time we see Pacho is when he is hungry.  He jumps up on the window ledge and meows loudly.  We see Lucas at every meal.  He seems to know when I’m thinking about food!  He is like any other dog…he begs.  We suspect that Lopez doesn’t always feed his pets on a regular basis, which is not uncommon here.  Finally, we bought some cat food (which Lucas likes to eat, too) for “emergencies.”  Before we bought the cat food, we tried giving Lucas some left over french fries. He spit them out right away…not sure what to think of it all. I don’t think Lopez feeds him table scraps. Eddie decided to go find Pacho and try giving him a french fry.  Lucas followed along happily as he and Pacho get along really well. The cat loved them!  When Lucas saw Pacho eating the french fries, then he wanted some, too.  Go figure!

Flying into Quepos.

Yesterday, we decided to visit Quepos, a small town about a 30 minute drive away.  We hadn’t visited Quepos in a couple of years and thought it would be fun to go there.  Now that they have a new port, many cruise ships stop there.  We didn’t see any cruise ships, but had a nice time visiting the shops and having an ice cream.

On our way into Quepos, we passed by the little airport and the small hospital.  The airport was quiet and the hospital was very busy!  On our way out of town, the hospital was still busy; all the parking spaces were full.  The airport didn’t look busy at all , but an airplane was approaching.  So, we decided to pull over to watch it come in for landing.  We weren’t the only ones to stop…there were several locals, too. (It’s a big deal to watch the airplanes land.)

The entrance to the Quepos Airport.

The entrance to the Quepos Airport.

A Nature Air flight landing in Quepos.

A Nature Air flight landing in Quepos.

Costa Rica has two regional airlines, Sansa and Nature Air, and they both fly into Quespos on a regular schedule several times a day.  It’s only a 30 minute flight from San Jose to Quepos.  Driving time is about 3 hours.  If you decide to fly from San Jose to Quepos to see us, this is the type of plane you will flying on.  It’s a 12 passenger plane and not as scary as it looks!

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