ellensagh

Costa Rica 2015

COSTA RICA EXPERIENCE Jan 7-26, 2015

3 am; lucky a friend gave us the flashlight for Christmas. Bob used to shut off water. That friend also gave us this journal for notes; another friend appeared at 3:30 am; had us at the Phoenix Sky Harbour Airport. Bob could not take his water through security even though he tried.

$50. for 2 checked bags that could have been carry on; but then we’d have to buy toothpaste/shaving cream/sunscreen/etc/ well maybe would not be smarter to do that. We don’t want to carry the backpacks. We’re watching tv before boarding; deadly shooting in France.

We tried out the Dallas SkyLink Train; fantastic views; guy in skidoo suit filling plane with fuel. 33 degrees. We have a great breakfast. 1/2 hour delay announced; so hope there’ll be the arranged pick up still waiting for us at the other end. We talk about being ready for a holiday; after the non-stop new retirement experiences; Christmas and the big birthday party ( good reason for this holiday).

Looks really rural as we’re landing; some farmland, a lone tree, then like a dry forest; an orchard, different jungle; wild scrub cattle country. Weird high grass; higher than the plane we’ve just landed in. Through immigration; change some money. Landed in Liberia; we are 4 hours from San Jose. Turkey vultures, cows, chickens as we leave airport. Guy there to meet us; tells us 1 hour to hotel. Grass is sugar cane fields. Not always this windy; about 25-30 mph right this moment. Small paved 2 lane road. Reminds me of Columbia as we drive. Driver says they have 2 seasons. Rainy or Hot. We pass watermelon stands, cows on road, small town called Philadelphia. Bob wants to know the best local beer. Drive by a cemetery full of people. Like big coffin boxes above ground due to water table. Bikes are in and out of traffic; kids riding horses. Driver explains colones; their money; $2500. is like $5. US; $ 10,0000; about $20.

Our hotel is an incredible little hut with banana and mango trees. A fat puppy lulls on the deck; lots of palm trees around the pool; quiet and peaceful when we checked in. Went for a walk down a road/sidewalk; could be in Mexico/Cuba/Thailand and it’s full of young people. See the beach and this is like a surfer’s paradise . We are at the ocean in about 10 minutes. Seafood sunset dinner on the beach. The big sun ball slides into the Pacific. About 30-50 pelicans are swooping up fish. Sailboat lights come on for the night as darkness surrounds us within an hour.

How do you describe the maid cleaning a pool lounger in a tropical paradise while I am eating breakfast of pancakes with papaya, pineapples & bananas. I guess I just did. Great coffee. 2 dogs not bothering anyone wandering around the restaurant. It’s balmy out. Feels and smells tropical. Birds unlike any I’ve heard. Orange flowering bush right beside us. Slept good even tho 9 -12 pm, a rock band was right outside our door. Bob did not sleep as well. I woke up at 11:30 pm; saying to Bob, “that was a good song.”

In the restaurant; sign: “Do not drink water. Fish chit in it.” That was how it was spelled. Breakfast is included; but we are still trying to figure out the money; all colored bills. Prices seem to be similar to Canada. There are 2 guys fixing a thatched roof of the restaurant; the Spanish flowing between them sounds like singing.

Carved wooden teak doors all over. Even the bathroom. Throw the toilet paper in the bin provided; not the toilet; wherever you go. The young man who checked us into the hotel; made us breakfast this morning; said he was here till 1:30 last night; his 3 month old baby was happy to see him; he walked her till 2:30 am; and was back here at 6:30 am. WOW! We go for a walk. Mitzubishi, Hyundai and Toyota type cars. Bob looks at real estate. I listen to birds. We find a 2nd hand book store where Bob shares Mickey Mantle stories with owner. We walk along a rocky beach that was water last night at high tide. Watch the surfers till the wind comes up and is blowing stinging sand on our legs.

Sitting outside by the pool; listening to a rooster crow. Bob reading a baseball book; and me one by Mitch Album called “Have a little faith” I can’t read tho. The foliage and the trees are so beautiful. I just want to sit. Later an afternoon swim. Refreshing. Bananas hanging right over my lounge chair.

Friday 7 am; our tour was to start now; but driver didn’t come. We phone; and they said had sent an email; coming at 8 am; so we can have the included breakfast. YEAH! We are happy we don’t have the smart phone/i phone/tablet/etc etc stuck to us like most.

Breakfast has a flower on the plate and a green leaf; looks nice. Rice, beans, scrambled eggs and fruit. On a 2 hour road trip from beach to middle of Costa Rica in northern zone. Much of it rural. Lots of individual enterprises. Instead of large cement trucks like we have; one site with 50 little cement mixers. Deluxe office building beside a farm. Not many buses. Thatched roof shelter beside soccer pitches. (found out later it’s the school). Then Westin Golf Resort & Spa. Drive by horses on the road. Beautiful yellow bird bigger than a woodpecker. Pick up a lone guy and add to our van of 7 people; keep driving miles of rural; farmers hacking something with a machete. We are now climbing; slow down for a little black monkey in middle of road. Service workers picking cantelope are from Nicaragua. Yellow flowered trees; long wavy grass on the hillside. Saw white egret by a cow. Farm worker for sugar cane gets about $ 8. an hour. Bob gets his hockey fix; (maybe) listening to an Edmonton French Canadian. We find out we drove an extra 100 bouncy miles to pick up 2 people. Now we are seeing the other side of the road as we drive about 40 km/hr. Turn off; as if on a 1 1/4 wide paved road up and down hillsides. Wind has made the tall trees into a bent shape. A wind farm established here.

Now on a gravel, bumpy road; like at the top of a lake. A man made; Lake Arenol. Could look that up on Google. We are bouncing around so much in the van; like a tropical rain happening. Hope tires okay. I’m in middle of back seat; Bob by door in middle. Sometimes it’s like he’s going over a cliff. Tropical gardens and lawns of something other than grass. Cows nearly on road; then cows on road. Quit raining. In tropical forest can’t see through. Stop for road building. Statues of Jesus, Mary and Joseph on a patch of grass; set up by the workers. A mile or so later; a young man jumps out of the bush to try to stop van. We did not stop. They said it doesn’t happen often; but would not be good to stop. We do stop for QUATI; looks like a funny raccoon; there were lots of them; Bob takes pictures.

In our hotel after 5 hours of driving. Fancy dancy. Went for a walk; didn’t realize walking down a mountain till coming back up again. Our room, hot tub outside on edge of a volcano . It is warm outside; even though top of volcano in cloud. Yellow birds entertain. I ask Bob what I can say about our supper tonight. “Pretty damn awesome.” High caliber I’d say. Seafood; my mouth waters thinking about it. Creme brule’ flan or something for dessert. WOW! Sat morning there are birds everywhere outside the hotel room. Heavy tropical rain during night; but would not know it in morning.

Van shows up with Christian, the tour guide, who says we’re going to the flat plains. People in van from France/England/Sweden/China/Holland & Quebec. Fields of papaya & plantains. Big Conservation area; told 5 universities in country. Used to be virgin forests; settlers came; burned fields; planted rice and beans; guides grandparents helped make 27 national parks. 200 families of trees and about 20 members in a family; altho 200 species of palm trees. Canada & US together don’t have as many birds as Costa Rica. Pineapple and oranges exported. Sugar cane. Sugar cane machine now takes the place of 50-80 men. There is 6 million population; one million are Nicaraguans that have come to work in last 10 years.

100 years ago; San Carlos river main highway. We stopped to see 100s of orange iquanna, on the ground; in the trees; by a river. Serious camera people in van with us. Pass through a teak wood forest; part of reforestation. Fences are live trees; five kinds can be used. NO hunting any more. Can get a license to fish. At border; lots of Nicaraguans stopped by border patrol; let us go by; we are staying on this side of the river. 20 miles of rocky, stony road; sugar cane on both side of road.

See tiger heron right after alligator with it’s mouth open. Cara Cara; type of vulture; great Egret; huge hawk, great tailed grackle, 3 turtles; then we stop for a Snake on road; Boa with spots.

We get to a river; about 20 of us onto a boat; white and blue swallows dart around it. Spider monkeys with long legs, arms & tails and an Iyanga bird; looks like a heron; but guide said called piano or snake bird. See a baby blue heron about 1 foot high. Huge Caman on edge. Then 2 white faced monkeys playing. A green and blue kingfisher, blue heron; ant or termite nest near top of tree. An orange iguana and then 3 howler monkeys; that are kind of black; and it started to rain. Bats wobbling on a tree. A yellow flycatcher and a tiny warbler. An Annie that looks like a grackle. A green kingfisher; crested head; then an Amazon kingfisher and a cormorant. A type of Night Jar same color as the tree; neo tropical bird. Casta Toku or something. Large kingfisher; a tree swallow, more baby monkeys and female iguanas. 2 tree swallows resting on a branch which they say is rare. . Next thing they say we’re seeing is a Jesus Christ Green Lizard; called that as it walks on water. Rain is coming straight down. Looks cold but I am not cold.

What is happening is I see the bird, Guy in front of me ID’s it; then his wife comes from back of the boat and shows me the bird in a book. Ended seeing red winged black bird. Quiet evening back at the hotel in La Fortuna. Watched some bullfighting; Simpsons in Spanish and TV Tennis. CNN News is only thing in English.

Sounds as we walk around the town; population of 11,000. Rooster crowing, kids playing, dogs barking; car mounted loudspeaker is blaring; motorcycle rumbling; man saying, “taxi taxi” to us; and the birds chirping.

Next day: Guide talks about the 1968 Volcano by our hotel erupted and killed 78 people; lava stopped 4 years ago; active but no lava. We go in vehicle to La Pas Waterfall; 70 mtrs; 480 steps to bottom; no heart attack; was steep. A 3 inch blue butterfly loved us. Tour guide telling us the story of his life. When he hugged me at the end; he said last time he talked this much; he had to pay for it. On to a farm; 3 hour tour of a botanical garden the farmer has made; a horticultural paradise; told the owner he is like a medicine man; all the herbs and he knew the uses.

He had me saying “Vamoos” to the oxen I had moving in a circle while Bob fed sugar cane through a crusher; (actually a sugar cane extractor from Chattanooga, Tennessee.) We drank the juice with a bit of added moonshine. Pigs, guinea fowl, emu, goats, lovebirds, cows, burro, water buffalo, and the oxen; with all types of near extinct trees planted and animals cared for on this small acreage. Whitetail deer big there and there were a few inside a fence. Costa Rican lunch followed; rice, beans, pork, yam; lettuce salad and rice pudding.

That night we go in van that has free wi-fi; we are only ones without a phone; and go up side of volcano. Sign says, “Keep in Silence, Keep in Order. Please No Smoking Inside the Trails, Do not extract plants.” It’s an evening hike and just before darkness falls in the rainforest; see turkeys in trees; scarlet tanager and the state bird – a brown robin. We end the night with 3 hours at hot springs and supper. My hair does not dry overnight in this rainforest area. Bob’s does.

Notice sign on restaurant door “ We reserve the right admission.”

A kingfisher poses as our boat leave to cross Lake Arenol; the lake that provides power and water to drier Costa Rica. We’re carrying 6 beer we never drank; there are about 40 on open air boat; no one wears life jackets; although are above our heads. Wearing a t-shirt; warm enough on the water. My new to me binoculars are working well. A pink tree; a white tree amidst the dense, green forest. Last glimpses of the volcano we slept under. 1st Great Blue Heron. Hills on the side of the lake remind me of the Australian Alps. See 1st Gull. Happy to pay for the bathroom by the time the lake crossing is over. (only one I paid for whole trip) Now on hilly, rocky roads; within an hour my body is feeling bruised and beat up. Next holiday, go for comfort. Speckled chickens, mother and a foal; farming country. Winding gravel roads; like mountains of Peru. Go in ditch to meet someone. Go with the bounces instead of go with the flow. Saskatchewan hardly has potholes is my thought. Up and up; then down to the bottom between mountains by fast rapids river. Climb to next one. About 2 acres to farms here; 10 cows, dog.

Town: school, soccer field, bar, 6 houses, restaurant, living tree fences between each farm. Man from France, his wife from Poland, who live in UK share seat in this 8 passenger van. Bob is in front. Farmer gathering hay with a pitchfork. Cows on the road. 10 minute comfort stop. Lots of leather goods for sale.

Now lots of rich looking acreages with flowering hydrangeas; coffee hillsides. Solar panels. Man putting fencepost in by hand. Digging.

We get to Monteverde. Means Green Mountain. Will look at that on Google when I get home. Sunshine and wind. Burrito lunch and lay my bruised feeling body down. Back in Van for coffee tour. See three 2 toed sloths in one tree. Tried eating coffee and cocoa beans; as a young woman explained the whole process re coffee and chocolate; ended up trying Dark and White Chocolate and Light, Medium and Dark roast coffee.

Went back to our one room cabin with kitchenette and bathroom; all natural woods, satin curtains and a TV. Hot water only in the shower; not in kitchen sink. The wind outside is roaring as if the horriblest blizzard but it’s warm outside.

It’s hard to hear it and think we are warm enough. Feel like we need to cuddle. Howls most of night. Sitting at breakfast this Jan 13/15 morning: pancakes, scrambled eggs, banana, pineapple and watermelon. Review that after the lake crossing yesterday; 60 km journey took 3 hours of bouncing. My whole body aches; average was 20 km/hr.

Hearing the wind here doesn’t want me standing outside waiting for our ride to cloud forest. Hotel staff so friendly; say only about 25-40 mph this morning; they’re used to it; don’t hear it; more mph up in the cloud forest where we’re going.

Impressive guides; so well-informed; passionate about saving the planet, eco-systems; the interconnection of all; able to explain it. The tours are well organized; small; punctual; paths up and down; even though rain forest trails are clay, stony, leafy trails, they are not slippery.

5 hour incredible adrenaline experience. A series of 4 hanging bridges; could never see the canyon floor; guide stops us out on these bridges to share incredible sights, birds nearly touching me once; they explain flora and fauna on our 2 hour nature walk; then we’re on a gondola; up into the clouds at top of forest canopy – see all the cables. Harness up with a helmet; had a practice zip line experience. Bob gets his hand caught in the stopping cable but keeps going; we did a series of zipping across the canyon; but with the wind at 60km; and going straight into cloud, like a fog whiteout; wasn’t sure what I was doing. Did a series of 7 cables across and down the canyon; after the 3rd in the clouds; could see for miles and the trees: they get 28 feet of rain a year.

Bob has a 12 inch scrape/bruising from elbow to shoulder; wrist got a twist; but he says he’s okay. He says again later for sure, he’s okay. Out of the 7 ziplines, twice we had to go down as a pair to slow it down. It was all okay. When it was done, I’d had enough. Bob saw it as more exhilarating than he figured it would be. Before we went they offered us free cocoa or you could have liquor if you so wished. Next time might take the liquor. What an incredible 5 hours; most of the time we were so far above the ground.

Supper tonight in a tree house. One of those huge, old trees. Bob says I’m an expensive date; my wine twice as much as his beer. Walked home in the dark; streets are worse than pothole roads in Sask; did I say that already. They don’t need speed signs; you could not speed. Wind howling so much can hardly hear tv.

Rainbow as we leave Monteverde. Full sky rainbow. Back in a van. (Can’t read my writing.) Houses: tin roofs, brick, stucco, doors and windows that open to the elements; hard wood furniture in and out. Still thinking of the zip-lining and the ghastly, looking white face of the Colorado woman as she left the first platform.

Our driver lives in the country we’re going through. He said 12 families; each grows different vegetable & trade. Clay ovens outside houses. Clothes hanging on the line. Today the roads are high mountain roads; overlooking all green hillsides; like Ireland or Scotland. Nothing like in Canada. Very picturesque. White faced monkey jumping from tree to tree.

Drive thru a gold-mining town; Las Juntas. Left the mountains behind; stopped to see about 30 Macaws; great colorful birds; maybe like parrots; seemed to be all sitting in pairs; all lovey dovey.

Driving through hot farmland; flat; take off my coat and sweater. Hot and dry. Good roads; few birds; at Pacific Coast; turn on to beautiful highway. Went from grassy, dry country to hilly, green palm trees; big rolling hills. Towns: each house has a satellite dish; every area a cellphone tower. Most houses have outdoor areas for sitting; big arm chairs or hammocks. Purple and yellow ornamental shrubs; bougainvillea all over.

Stomach and rib muscles sore for a few days from the ziplines. They had cancelled the top 3 lines due to wind. Up in the clouds was 100km winds. We have left the wind behind and are in the heat. Has to be in the 30’s. Spent yesterday afternoon at the beach and the pool. Bikini came in handy; would not want anything else. T- shirt too much. Long walks, long talks. Beautiful Hotel Gaida in Sumaru. About 3000 population. Beach town. We have a balcony of flowers overlooking the pool; no other rooms or buildings. Yeah! Take laundry across the steet at 7 am; pay $ 7.00 a kilo or something; get it back late in afternoon. Bob and I both have coughs from cloud forest or more likely the air conditioning in the vans.

Only a sheet on our bed more than enough. Ocean is warm. Sitting here listening to the surf. Bob and I are having a much deserved drink is how I feel after snorkeling. I can’t believe I did that; jumping off a boat; sure he said 300 metres to the bottom and it seemed like two. Tropical fish and coral could be seen from the boat. A turtle about 2 feet around was right beside us as the boat stopped. Before that we had up to 7 dolphins going round and round our boat. Guide said they were eating calamari eggs and red snapper. White spotted black dolphins; even a baby between two. Said they mate for up to 30 hours. Getting back into the boat after snorkeling was my exercise of the day.

No; it was when Bob said we’d walk home. I’m happy to listen to the Spanish music and feel the ocean breeze. Last night watching beach volleyball; today paddle boarders and surfers. Lots of guys have long hair. Many dreadlocks. Most travel by jeep, motorcycle or atv. Bob and I are usually the oldest wherever we are. We found a margarita. Forgot we probably should not have ice.

Our coughs are better. My stomach/ rib muscles still sore; Bob’s wrist and arm are okay; just green bruises now. Bob got sunburned on the boat. Realize we don’t know what day or date it is. Feels good to get the sunscreen off; dress up each night for dinner. Bob pays $ one night for 4 man band to serenade me at the table. The trumpet and vocals overpower the surf as we watch the sun set on the ocean.

A 5” grasshopper flying type thing is on the wall outside our hotel room. Scared us a bit. A two and a half foot green lizard greets us on our deck; after the kayaking trip. When Bob goes near the balcony doors it is gone into the greenery in a sec. We were in the water for 3 hours. My shoulder has a big knot in it; not used to the paddling. We saw birds! Sometimes a half dozen at one time in one tree. Isis, blue heron, egret, belted kingfisher, pink spoonbill (that was my highlight), brown something sandpiper; green heron; yellow birds, 3 kinds of vultures. Monkeys in the trees; iguana: brown and green. Guide showed us where the turtle nesting happening at the river mouth; three kinds of turtles; they come out of the ocean; lay 2 eggs; 45 days to incubate; little ones attempt to get back to the ocean.

Pineapple snack and a beer. Kayaking was not scary for me; altho I thought it would be. I was nervous even before the trip thinking about it. When we first got going and were heading into trees; no clue what to do; but got it straightened out. Bob and I were in one and guide in front in another.

Near end of our trip; guide pulls to shore; and jumps in to chest deep water. So we did too. Was so good to cool off. We asked Alex, our guide, how much money a Costa Rican family of 4 would need to be able to have a house. He said if they made $6000. US a year; could save for a house. He said probably making $400. a month; have to pay $ 300. for rent. He is 26 years old; gets Sundays off; studied for 4 months the flowers, fauna, birds and wildlife of this area only. We had the same driver today and yesterday. Our tour today was just the 3 of us; driver left and came back hours later. This whole trip has been good.

Sitting by the pool relaxing. One of us left patio door open this afternoon. Now I’m looking for lizards in our room. Forgot to write; when we were waiting for our ride this morning; sitting outside in restaurant; all of a sudden 6 horses and a colt run down the street; no owner. We walk by the soccer fields later and there they are eating grass. My 60th birthday day: sitting outside for breakfast; woman brings Brown (guava I think) juice to our table. Watching the vendors setting up colorful stalls; displays of sarongs, beach towels, surf boards; souvenirs across the street. People of all races everywhere around us; walking up and down the street; cycling; motorcycles; lots of Honda vehicle; palm trees, yellow trees, flower hedges, coconut tree across the street. Bob having pancakes & eggs; I continental; lots of fruit added; and we both had cereal. The fruit juice was DAMARINDO. I asked. Tasted okay. Milk is 2 % or whole milk. We’re watching the birds; a squirrel walks the power line above us. Watermelon, pineapple delivery across the street. The three French men kiss in greeting at next table. Motorcycle drops off morning paper. About 10 % of people we see smoke; no smoking in restaurants.

When we go out at night; places are all lit up; we see stores we don’t even notice during day. Next door to us is a health food store/ yoga studio/ home schooling centre/smoothie restaurant/ souvenir designer shop/art gallery. Now whole families are headed for the beach.

We go for a walk; Bob can still spot a tire changer at 100 yards. To change money, we go into National Bank of Costa Rica. One at a time. Man with Gun uses security wand to pat me down. After 3 other people get to the teller; realize we need to take a #; guy waiting actually let us know that. Show passport; take going rate of day. Airport had been a bit of a rip off.

No need to buy anything; feel filled up. No interest in anything in the thrift shop I found. Ambulance goes by and we comment only saw 1 accident in 2 weeks of touring. No sirens yet. Two days ago, I went into hotel pool for less than 10 minutes. I have burn where bikini was not. Our theory is I have burned myself sitting in the shade; maybe it’s from the sun’s reflection off the pool.

My birthday supper was a barbeque chicken breast and baked potato. First time for a baked tomato and zucchini. Now, our last travel day before a week on the beach and then head for home.

Heard a crash in the van; and Bob looking behind, says, “He’s okay, he’s getting up.” I thought we’d hit a cyclist. It was an iguana. We saw a bunch that day; and they were all well over 2 feet. Bob had a sauna night – he must have had a fever and it broke. Lucky we are in a place with 3 beds.

In morning, big noise on roof. Bob’s investigation; either iguana pushed out of tree or fell on top of roof. We are hearing like a roar of a lion in the mornings; a howler monkey.

We met two 45 year old women; twin sisters from Minnesota. Lots of story sharing about their car rental/ trip experiences here; their lives re children growing up and relationships; so fun.

We are in Tamarindo; a beach town on the Pacific side; having breakfast; a hibiscus flower and palm frond on our plate of eggs, fruit and toast Two fat dogs amble by in this outdoor restaurant; tropical birds chirping; pool shimmering; babble of people from France and Manitoba. Last night sunset dinner at the beach; orange sky and then the bats came out above our heads where we were dining on the sand.

May go back to the book store today. Other people say amazed to see us reading. Others wedded to I pad or I phone. Lots of kindles tho. I’ve read lots of magazines; reception had stacks of them; photography, art, travel. Tonight is rock band night; Monday was a sax player and jamming but only 7 -10 pm. We’re looking at the palm fronds/ trees; some of the palm trees look like a two foot diameter cement pole all the way up and then the palm fronds. I love looking at them as I’m lying in the pool. Turkey vulture does flyby; then a butterfly. “I can’t drink this shit”, Bob says about the coffee. I have to add water. I’m seeing the hugest butterfly; brown with orange lines and an eye like a marble.

The no see em sand flies have gotten me; it better not be bed bugs. The place is clean; guess it could happen. Maybe it’s the heat; which is beautiful; but pretty hot. In the 30s.

We went window shopping where the rich and famous might shop; WOW! I guess it helps me recognize quality when I see it. I had a lay-awake 6-hour night. NO idea why; watched Obama’s state of the Union address. Maybe it was all of his “We can do better; everyone matters; things have improved.” I can relate to that.

Thursday morning walk: Road is covered with molasses to keep the dust down. We talked to waiter from Nicaragua re his hopes and dreams. He is working here and building a home there for his wife, Rose and his 2 children who are under 2. Dreams of building a tour business; explained sand boarding; told us to look up on Internet; new thing in Nicaragua that they do in Dubai.

We then went for a beach walk; that was interesting. Where there were rocks all the time; is now all water at high tide; teeny fish lying on beach as water recedes. As we walk, see a police van; but really no police presence here. People park and drive every which way; stop in the middle of the street. We walk by a peacock, chickens and rooster crowing in the middle of the day. It’s been hot every day morning to night; we eat outside every meal. We are sitting in a French restaurant. Service is incredible. Even the tour guides; will walk across the street the next day and shake our hands. There is no kleenex anywhere; although napkins all over the place in all the restaurants.

I have read a book about size of War and Peace; about the last 100 years of China’s history. Bob read another baseball book. Costa Rica Time; if they say music starts at 7; maybe after 8. Another woman went on a turtle nesting tour; said would be over at 8 pm; she came in at 10:30 pm. All interesting all the time. Listening to the other guests; nearly all Spanish or French. Surprises me how much I enjoy rice and beans; scrambled eggs and fruit for breakfast. Neat that the hotel manager also cooks the meals, is singing or whistling all the time; chatting with the always changing hotel guests at this 20 villa complex about 10 min from ocean. We’ve had quite a few days with no agenda. Quite like it. Time is going fast. Went to a farmer’s market: furniture, vodka jello shooters; jewelry, clothing and big fresh fish. Bob liked the gigantic, fresh looking vegetables best; wanted to take a picture of the huge tomatoes and carrots.

Last night we had oysters in the shell. We’ve enjoyed every meal we had and each has been different. Last night we were in restaurant that caters to young families. Bob couldn’t believe some of the things happening; his expression when a grown woman landed on the floor; we’re not sure why; either she was trying to catch a kid; or a kid pulled her chair out; it was quite chaotic. They had a whole sand playground with a swing set that was like inside the restaurant too. We had a seafood pasta full of shells. A 3 year old walked straight into our table.

Only English TV in 3 weeks is CNN – Asia; Canada’s been mentioned once. US is hardly mentioned. Watched Bouchard win twice in Australia Open.

Bob’s Birthday: Boat ride with Victor Hugo Tour Guide who we had seen every day on the beach for a week; and every day Bob would say Maybe. Mangroves; hundreds of roots come down from the red, white and black mango trees if I understood the guide right. Termite nests; guide explaining kinds of vultures we’re seeing, martinez bird; 3 colored heron; then a blue heron; then a green heron. Saw a 1 metre crocodile; then one size of boat. So much for “Don’t stand in a boat.” Bob is up taking pictures. Guide takes boat into channel; estuary – where 3 rivers meet. He pulls to side; reached in a tree; takes out a crab ; orange ; size of my hand; calls it a grub; says would eat it. See 4 different kingfishers; another crocodile. If Bob says “ Isn’t this incredible” again. I’d say, “ A little scary.” The trees are like if you saw the most tangled tall willows that are totally flooded out and the bottom half the trees are all grey/black tangled roots.

Victor stops boat at side; we get out and 3 of us go for a walk; see howler monkeys, another tiger heron and fly catchers galore on our way back. Victor is so happy the birds/ animals/ nature came out to see us. He keeps saying, “Bullah, bullah” which meant “Happy, Happy.” I would agree. It’s our last night. We have a red snapper meal. Sunset on the beach. Gorgeous night and as we walk back to hotel have Hagen Daus ice cream for desert.

We drove through the dark into a mountainous sunrise; leaving at 5 am for airport. As we see familiar landmarks close to the airport, realize we do know a bit more about this country than when we landed 3 weeks ago. We would not change anything. $6000 for the trip with $29. each for departure tax to get out of the country. We will collect our bags to go through customs in Miami. Only thing to declare is Bob’s new t-shirts and my $6. coconut bracelet. LIFE IS GOOD!

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