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February was spent in and around the Puntarenas area in the Gulf of Nicoya, Costa Rica. While we were there, Nancy managed to get the house in Santa Barbara re-carpeted and re-rented, quite the process from overseas! In Puntarenas, we were staying at the Costa Rica Yacht Club. We had access to a pool, running water at the dock, showers and internet connection (some of the time). One funny thing about being there, was that it is way up an estuary and is quite shallow. During the extreme low tides, the boats are resting on the bottom and are all at crazy angles o. It was quite something to see. While we waited for the water maker parts from the states, we had to fill water with a couple of jugs. Luckily, the water in Costa Rica is potable, so we could just fill the jugs from a hose and then dingy the jugs to the boat. The kids had a new chore o! We did get our parts in for our ailing water maker, and it did work when we got back into clean enough water to test it! What a relief. Also in Puntarenas, we ended up renting a car for a week with another cruiser. We used it half the time and they used it the other half. This worked out great for inland travel, and stocking up the boat with food and propane. While we had the car, we went to visit a cloud forest reserve and to see an active volcano. It was fun to be driving and to get up to some cooler, higher climates. We left early in the day and headed up this wild, windy, dirt road for a couple of hours up to the cloud forest. It was a beautiful, sunny day. Quite opposite from our last rainy cloud forest hike in Nicaragua! We did put out long sleeve shirts on, but it was quite comfortable. We saw a sloth, lots of birds and lots of green, green, green o. We stopped for lunch in the cute little town of Santa Elena before heading for Lake Arenal. We drove all around the lake. It is so beautiful there! Tons of flowers growing everywhere, the soil is so fertile. What a gorgeous area. We found a hotel that was quite nice not too far from the Volcano. The deal is that you drive back to the volcano after dark and watch the red hot lava rocks getting spewed out the top and rolling down the sides. We had a quiet dinner of some meat pies (empanadas) that we had picked up from a bakery earlier in the day, and rested up for our night time excursion. After dark, off we went to find the best viewing spot. During the day, the volcano was quite clear o, but at night the clouds filled in and we only had intermittent views of the top of the volcano. We drove to one spot, but since it was dark, we were not quite sure where to go. We kept driving and found a spot where there was a trail going across a river. We saw some people walking back across towards us and decided to go where they had come from. The only issue was that they had a guide and had started out while it was still light out. We, on the other hand, were by ourselves, in the dark, in the jungle, over rough terrain. Sounds like the perfect Desiderata adventure! We were able to borrow a flashlight as a back up, just in case our batteries died. So, with adrenalin rushing through our veins, off we went to find the very best volcano viewing spot. The adventure was the best part of it, but we did see some good, red/orange hot lava boulders shooting over the rim of the volcano and rolling and bouncing for miles down the sides. One of the best parts of it was hearing the volcano grumbling and growling just before the next eruption. We were all exhausted by the time that we got back to the hotel and fell asleep to the sounds of the volcano. The next day we did some more daytime excursions around the lake and volcano. There is one bend in the road where every time that a car comes, this gang of cute little critters called Pizotes (aka Coatis) o, lumbers out into the road, stops traffic and begs for food. We also stopped and dipped our feet into a hot water river that flows out of the ground o. Yes, it is a full-on river of hot water, just the perfect temperature. After some water play, we began our journey back to the coast. The folks that we were sharing the car with were watching the animals and then when they had the car, we would watch their animals. It worked out pretty well. Only one problem came up, when we returned to the boat, we could not find our credit card. We had some high stress days of searching and searching and checking accounts on line to see if there were any charges. After a few days, we heard of another cruiser that had some friends coming down and decided to cancel our remaining card and have the new ones sent to the person coming down. It was a scary few days trying to track the new cards and make sure they got to the right place before the plane took off. While in Puntarenas, we also got a few parts for the boat that we had been needing. Puntarenas is a working fishing town. It does have lots of small shops and is a good place to find some things for boats. It is not very scenic or tourist oriented, although the cruise ships do stop here. While we waited for the credit cards, we spent a couple of days down the coast at some other anchorages. We loved Punta Leona area and spent several days there. There are two beautiful beaches where there is often surf, however, it was flat while we were there. But, we had two birthdays to celebrate and made our own fun. On Fletcher's birthday, we had all of his favorite foods, starting with cream cheese stuffed french toast. There was skurfing o to do and surf movies to watch. We took the whole day off of school and had a very nice day. The next day was Valentine's day and we had found some heart shaped caramel candy that was yummy. We also had to finish eating Fletcher's cake and bake Mike's cake. This week is always sugar overload for all of us. Fletcher had yellow cake with caramel frosting o, while Mike had chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting stuffed with strawberry and chocolate in the center o. Both were quite rich. We were extremely busy trying to coordinate all of the details for the carpet and rental of the house in Santa Barbara. It was quite something to try to get things fax'd, scanned, connect to email, send and receive, make phone calls, etc... It was lots of time, frustration and energy, but it all worked out in the end and was certainly easier and less costly than flying back to the states. This all could not have happened without the help of the wonderful current tenants, who did all of the leg work! The next day, we headed back to Puntarenas to connect with our new credit cards. Just after we set out, right at daybreak, Fletcher caught a Sierra o, one of our favorite fishes. We all get very excited when ever there is a fish on. Even Hopper likes to get in on the action o. While we were in Puntarenas, there was a festival with a big horse parade. After we took care of business, we headed off to the parade. It was really something to see. There were so many horses and they would dance to the rhythm of the band that they were walking in front of. Honestly, it was just as good as the Lippizaner Stallions! It was incredible. We were just amazed by all of these incredible animals. Of course, we partook of the delicious, local, festival food booths that were set up along the streets. It was very fun, delicious and entertaining. Supposedly, there was an ocean swell building and we headed back out to Punta Leona to see if any waves were hitting there. Mike and Fletcher really wanted to find some surf! They are now addicted. On the way there we did manage to catch another fish, this time a Mahi Mahi. We had a delicious dinner that night. We next headed to famed Manuel Antonio park to see the critters. We got up at 3:30am in order to get there before dark. We pulled in by mid-afternoon. It is a beautiful anchorage and we were the only ones there. Really a special place. That first day, we went to shore just to get oriented and ended up seeing about twelve sloths! We were quite impressed by these great sightings. There were several mamas with babies holding on across their bellies o. They were so cute. We also ran into (or rather almost ran over) an old friend of Nancy's from Santa Barbara. Small world! She was out swimming and we were going by in the dingy. Somehow, she looked up and recognized Nancy when we buzzed past in the dingy. She called out "Nancy" and Mike somehow heard it over the sound of the motor. It was very fun to catch up. The next day was devoted to exploring all of the trails and beaches in Manuel Antonio. Our first sighting of the day was really special and rare, an albino agouti. These look like giant guinea pigs. This one really stood out in the underbrush since it was all white, with pink ears and nose. We had our best sightings at the same trees that we had seen so many the day before. We saw more sloths, many monkeys o and some beautiful blue morphos butterflies. We heard many interesting bird calls although it is very difficult to actually see the birds. One sounded just like the "Wipe Out" song from the '60's. We spent all day in the park. After leaving Manuel Antonio, we headed for Dominical, another famous surf spot. The surf was too big now! We continued down the coast to a small, rolly anchorage, but it was better for surfing. Dana and Fletcher went out and had some fun. Mike stayed on the side and coached. The next day we headed down to Uvita which has one of the only developing coral reefs on the west coast of the Americas. Another beautiful spot. Two long, long beaches that meet over a sand spit that ends in a coral reef shaped like a whales tail. Fletcher managed to catch some waves here too. The next day we had our best snorkeling of this trip. Great coral and fish. The water is quite warm and we stayed in for a long time. This is a very interesting anchorage as at low tide it is calm as can be, but at high tide the waves wash right over the reef and create the rolliest anchorage that we have ever been in! But, it was worth it for the beauty of the place and the surfing and snorkeling. We put a stern anchor out and it helped a bit, but at highest tide, for a couple of hours twice a day, it was like being in a washing machine on the most aggressive cycle! Next stop was Drakes Bay. This is a pristine little community that is so beautiful. This is one of the rainiest places in the country, therefore also one of the greenest. The local boats all have barrels around them for the night time o. If it rains and the boats fill with water, they will be held afloat by the barrels. There is a neat little river that you cannot see unless you know that it is there. We went up in the dingy and saw some birds, monkeys and a sloth. It is a very pretty dingy trip. We went on a long hike along the coast. The trail that we were on is how many people get to their homes. It is quite a neat trail from one beautiful beach to another. There is supposedly a surf spot down here along the coast, but we searched and searched by land and sea and never did find it o. However, at the river mouth, because the swell was so big, there was a swell wrapping in and Fletcher got his longest ride yet. It was a beautiful, wrapping left and he had so much fun. We headed out to Isla Cano, but the swell was too big for either shore landings or snorkeling, so we headed on down the coast to our last stop in Costa Rica, Golfito. This was an overnight trip. February rolled into March over the course of this beautiful night. We saw lots of yellow bellied sea snakes in the water and we were about four miles offshore! It was pretty neat. Fletcher did a long night watch, followed by Mike. Nancy tried to take watch a few times, but the boys would not give up the post, they were enjoying their evening to themselves too much.
Please click to enlarge!
Puntarenas, where low tide meant resting on the bottom. The system for filling water until we get our water maker fixed.
Our inland trip: Cloud forests, interesting critters, active volcanoes and hot water rivers.
The birthday week, first Fletcher and then Mike. A Desiderata holiday was declared and there was skurfing to be done.
Underway at dawn and boom... fish on! Hopper gets excited by the fish too.
Mama and baby Three Toed Sloths, and Capuchin Monkey at Manuel Antonio Park
We really had fun at Drakes Bay, one of the rainiest spots in the country. We explored by land and sea. The local boats are held up at night by barrels, as it rains so much the boats fill with water and would sink!
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