Sunday, September 28, 2008

Volcan Poas

Yesterday we took a day trip out to Volcan Poas National Park, just North of San Jose. It was pretty cloudy when we got there, so we couldn´t see the crater at all, but, after a few hours of walks through the lovely trails (in the rain!), we went back for another look to find it had revealed itself! As you can see, it´s a strange sight and looks like something from outer space. It´s also still very active and spurts out plumes of sulphurous gases which smelled really bad!!

Rachel x


After Puerto Viejo, we took a trip up the coast to Tortuguero national park. It was pretty difficult to get to; there are no roads! A 3 hour bus ride took us up as far as Puerto Limon, and from there we had to go out to the nearby port of Moin. From there it´s a 4 hour boat ride through the canals and lagoons to get to Tortuguero. As the guide book says though, the boat ride is at least half the experience and we saw some incredible wildlife on the way there...

Emerald basilisk lizard. This is a male- you can tell by his crest on his head. They can run on water!

Crocodiles! We saw 2 up pretty close and they were very impressive. We trusted our guide, Eddie, knew just how close to get!

Spider monkeys including a mother and baby. They´re really agile and swing from tree to tree using their tails.

Beatiful birds like this humming bird.

The most amzing thing that we did there, though, was watching enormous green turtles nesting on the beach. It was a beautiful moonlit night with the occasional lightning flash and thousands of stars and our guide led us through the darkness to see the turtles with special infra-red torches. We saw one turtle laying her eggs - you can get scarily close because they go into a sort of trance while laying so, as long as you´re quiet, they won´t be disturbed. Then we rushed off to another part of the beach, where rangers had found another turtle. This one was covering her eggs with incredible strength - she showered us with sand! Then, the most moving bit, she dragged herself back down the beach and swam out to sea. Sadly, no photos, of course, but we´ll never forget it!

Unfortunately, that night, Rob was really unwell, so was confined to our incredibly basic cabinas for the next three days. He´s fully recovered now, though, thank goodness! I did manage to get out on a canoe tour on the river, though, which was great. I saw loads more wildlife like caiman, a sloth, an iguana and a mountain toucan.

A great place but we´re glad to be back in relative civilization and preparing for the next leg!

Rachel x

Friday, September 26, 2008

Yorkin Indigenous Reservation

While in Puerto Viejo, we arranged a tour of the nearby Yorkin indigenous reservation. Here, Bri-Bri indigenous people run a centre to promote traditional life on the reservation. It was quite a trek: after a couple of hours on two bone-crunching bus rides, we boarded a small boat that was to take us up the river to the reservation. It was just the two of us, no other tourists in sight. It felt like a real adventure!

This is the "Estibrawpa" centre, run by a co-operative of women from the community. The aim is to strengthen the community and foster their traditions.

We took a walk around the centre, through the jungle to the river. Our guide, Cesar, took this photo of the two of us. Back at the Estibrawpa, we were given some delicious (and vegan!) typical food. Here´s Rach enjoying it!

Childcare Costa Rican style! This baby is the same age as Regan and Paul´s baby, Eden.

One of the highlights was learning about the chocolate making process. Cocoa is one of the crops the Bri-Bri grow around the centre, along with Banana and many other fruits. It grows in pods, like this one. Inside, the beans are surrounded with a white jelly-ish flesh, which is quite nice (just don´t eat the beans - as we did - which are not nice!).

After the beans have been fermented for six days, and dried in the sun for a day or so, they´re roasted and ground, just like coffee.

Then the tricky bit; the husks are sifted out. They get fed to the chickens!

Then you have to grind the crushed beans in a sort of mincer. It turns into a thick paste. This is pretty bitter if you eat it!

The best way to consume the chocolate (I think) is to mix it with hot water and sugar. Lovely! Pretty high in caffeine though we think; I had a terrible headache afterwards!

Also tastes pretty good mixed with sweetened milk and with a banana dipped in!


All in all, it was a fantastic experience: probably the best thing we´ve done so far. The people were very welcoming and really friendly. They wanted to know all about England!


Adventures of the spade #2

The spade enjoyed the Caribbean beach this time, in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. Where will he show up next?

Jungle bike ride

We spent a wonderful day cycling along the coast from Puerto Viejo to a tiny place called Manzanillo. The route took us through lush jungle and past palm-fringed beaches and we saw loads of wildlife. The highlights were the beautiful Morpho butterflies (as big as my hand and vivid blue and black) and the Howler Monkeys that bellowed at us from the trees above. However, for me, the achievement of the day was over-coming my fear of bikes (I haven´t ridden one since I fell off in California seven years ago!) and, I´m pleased to say that, after a few wobbles, I actually enjoyed myself! Dad, you would have been very proud. Video evidence as proof.
Rachel x

Monday, September 15, 2008

Adventures of the spade #1

When Rob left work, he was given a bucket and spade to take on his travels, with the idea that we could take photos of it on the way. The bucket didn't quite make it (no room!) but the spade is having a great time! He loved the pool at our first hostel...

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

We're now spending a few days down on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica in a place called Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. We took a bus down from San Jose, about 4 and a half hours, but some fantastic scenery on the way. Puerto Viejo itself is a fantastic little town with a real Caribbean flavour - incredibly relaxed with lots of reggae! We're just chilling out and enjoying the atmosphere - and the beautifully warm sea which makes for fantastic swimming. The place has quite a new-age hippyish vibe so there's loads of vegetarian food :)It's Costa Rican independence day today so there have been lots of celebrations, parades etc. On our first night we went to a great party on the beach and Rob even danced!! Tomorrow I'm hoping to conquer my fear of bikes for a cycle along the coastline to spot some wildlife. Watch this space for photos of injuries...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

San Jose

Well, the guidebooks aren´t totally right about San Jose. It´s true that there isn´t much to see here, and not that many tourists. People are mainly stopping off here en route to other parts of the country. However, there is quite a bit to enjoy too, and we´ve been relaxing and recovering from the flight nicely by the pool. The hostel is great and a real oasis in the chaos of the city. Rachel's new camera is fun for underwater shots!
Today I had my first Gallo Pinto breakfast, consisting of Gallo Pinto (rice and beans), scrambled egg, cheese, tortillas and fried plantain. Nothing could be more authentically Costa Rican, and I certainly enjoyed it! Food is proving pretty good in general so far and we even found a vegetarian soda, a typical Costa Rican diner!

Setting off!

We left the UK on September 10th 2008. It was an early (6.00am) checkin at Birmingham International for a 9.00am departure. Thanks to Pete and Ele for taking us and to my parents for meeting us for final (and very emotional) farewells. After a minor panic regarding visas and travel arrangements for Costa Rica, the less said about which the better, we took off on time and had a good flight to New York Newark airport, which took about 8 hours. Man, staff there are surly! I complained to a guy about the fact that, while checking our passports and boarding cards, he hadn´t said a single word to us but spent the whole time flirting with his co-worker. His response? "What do you want me to say to you, sir?" I presume the "sir" was meant ironically. The flight out of Newark was delayed for about an hour and a half, but we got into San Jose, Costa Rica ok in about 5 hours. Took a cab to our hostel and checked in, then went straight to bed!