After leaving the farm I stopped by to see my friends ‘J’ and ‘A’ once more before departing Australia for good. During that portion of my time with them we got our adventurous spirits on once again and visited the Featherdale Wildlife Park just about a 20 minute drive from Marsfield and the Jenolan caves nestled in the Blue Mountains.
For this post I will let the pictures do all the talking as my words won’t be able to give the proper justice to the beauty found at the Jenolan caves! As for the Wildlife Park, it was both awesome and sometimes a bit nerve-wracking to be in such an open area with kangaroos and wallaby bouncing around! Though they were all quite used to humans, I was still pretty nervous to pet them. The variety of native birds, mammals and reptiles were quite impressive and was a wonderous way to spend the day! Both would recommend both of these attractions for anyone visiting the area.
Playing I spy (and mostly winning, though another would disagree ;)) on the way to Victoria with horses in tow. Mind you it was a 12-14 hour drive each way, so we had lots of time to kill:)
Rudy: A rooster on the property that just one day showed up and staked his claim on the land was one of the many creatures that roamed around. Though I had never really had an issue with him (I bribed him daily with food!) any time a new person came on the property, he would try to attack them. He was rather sneaky at it too, even going so far as to attack unsuspecting people who had been on the property before from behind! Many people had stories of their encounters with the rooster ending in bloodshed (on the humans part, not the rooster’s!) or very close calls. Luckily I was never one of them, so from my perspective it was extra entertaining to hear about others close calls!
General wildlife on the property: goats (ham and cheese), burger the bull, bats, wallaby, kangaroo in the valley, snakes, huntsman, frogs, moths, bunnies, foxes, black cockatoos, parrots in the valley… the beauty of the wilderness that surrounded us daily was unbelievable and amazing!!
Dried bat: I had been used to (somewhat) encountering many a huntsman spider while opening and closing gates around the property as the sneaky buggers loved to hide out in the wood. They mostly stayed away from gates that were opened often, but ones that weren’t operated daily were havens for the gigantic arachnids. So one day while very cautiously going to open a seldom used gate, as the wood plank slid back and a giant fuzzy THING dropped out from the gate, I couldn’t help but scream and run away! Of course I was laughed at and for good reason that time… It turned out the furry thing that fell out wasn’t at all a huntsman, but a flattened dried, very dead little bat:( Poor buddy!!!
Mama and Baby
Goodness snakes alive!!! I had about 6 close encounters of the slithery kind while on the farm. Luckily though they were only encounters with the shy red-bellied black snakes! While they are still quite poisonous to people and animals, thankfully their first line of attack was to simply slither away. My two most harrowing encounters go as follows: one evening while enjoying a cocktail (or two) as I was sitting outside, one appeared from under the truck heading directly toward me. I didn’t know whether to move or stay still! Options raced through my drunken mind as it got closer and closer. Finally I made my move and very slowly lifted my legs off the ground to the chair. Thankfully that was enough to alert the snake to my presence and it abruptly lifted its head, flipped 180 degrees in the opposite direction and scurried away! My closest encounter however was while I was walking across the lawn (again a wee bit intoxicated, though a different day). I was taking confident strides to my destination until I noticed a coiled red-bellied black snake not three feet in front of me sunning itself in the afternoon sun. We literally didn’t notice each other until we noticed each other! I stopped and squealed and it uncoiled at warp speed and hauled away from me as quick as it could, lol!!
Red-bellied Black Snake
A wallaby sighting: in the valley around sunset it was a common sight to see several dozen kangaroos in the fields just off the main road. But never had I seen any ‘roos’ or their smaller counterparts in the mountains until one early morning while collecting one of the horses from their field. Normally this horse was always calm and relaxed as we walked out of her field, but on this day as we exited she startled quite abruptly and stared in wonderment behind her. While wondering what was wrong with her, I followed her gaze behind us only to spot a little wallaby at the entrance to her field staring back at us. We all stood frozen for a few moments checking each other out until the little guy hopped away. Very cool!
Watching My Kitchen Rules with ‘S’ and getting drunk: I had discovered the TV reality show My Kitchen Rules while in Thailand and it quickly became one of my favorite evening shows to watch and relax to. I introduced my house mate ‘S’ to the show and it wasn’t long before we started making nightly ‘dates’ to enjoy our meals and company while watching the show together. Often times we would get (or already be) a bit tipsy on our drinks of choice and would laugh hysterically throughout the show with our added commentaries. Loved it!
Scratching on Mom
T’s account of Rudy’s beating by the farrier: Just the visual of this one still makes me laugh! T, a French rider at the farm, while very good at speaking and understanding the English language still had a few things here and there that he was learning along the way. The phrase “beat the $h!t out of…” was one phrase he was introduced to. It came about as the farrier told ‘T’ about how Rudy had attacked him relentlessly one day, forcing him to retaliate in self-defense. As the rooster continuously attacked the farrier, he defended himself by striking the rooster until one particular blow ended up knocking the rooster unconscious. Hence, the phrase “he beat the $h!t out of Rudy” became a new phrase in T’s repertoire, and his recounting of the story the farrier told him was simply hilarious, lol!! And don’t worry readers- Rudy is just fine!! He is alive and well and still attacks who and when he pleases!
Enjoying a scratch
Out to Field
Listening to music on the front porch and talking for hours with A: ‘A’ was another groom I had the pleasure of working with. We had so much in common that I called him my male twin. Evening after evening we would sit on the front porch after a long day with drinks in hand and conversations for hours while listening to music from all ages and genres. One particularly fantastic night, ‘A’ put a blanket on the front lawn and we just lay there listening to music while watching a gloriously beautiful night sky, sparkling bright with every star from the heavens. Absolutely gorgeous!
Jumping over jumps drunk: ok, so I’m noticing that many of my stories here involve drinking… But hey, there really wasn’t much else to do on the property after finishing with the horses and drinking just brings out the fun in myself and my company! On this particular night, it was myself, ‘S’ and the Australian ‘T’ who got our drinks on thought it would be a great idea to try to jump over the jumps set up for the horses! In all reality however, it was mainly ‘T’ who was doing the jumping while ‘S’ and I simply laughed our rears off while running around the arena. Good times!!
Sunsets on the bench: Self explanatory
Home sweet Home
Smokes falling asleep on my hands: One of the shows I had the privilege of being a part of was down near Melbourne and unlike previous shows, it was 4 days long. All our horses were doing really well and one in particular, Smokes (my nickname for him) made it to the final round as a contender for Champion of Champions. After his jumping round I stood on the sidelines holding him while watching the other contenders being ridden. Now, Smokes since I’d met him had a habit of always wanting to lick, whether it was our hands or arms. Normally I wouldn’t allow this behavior in case it led to a nip, but he had been such a good boy all weekend that I allowed him his guilty pleasure. I stood to his side with my hands clasped under his muzzle allowing him to lick the salt off while I watched the others do their course. A couple of minutes later I realized that his licks had subsided and that he was simply resting his muzzle in my hands. A few minutes after that I started to notice how heavy he was feeling in my hands… It was about then that I noticed his eyes were closed and his body had a very gentle sway to it… He had fallen asleep in my hands!! I gently woke him giving him some loving pats while whispering in his ear that the show was almost over. Bless him!! By the way, he did win the Champion of Champions!
Champion of Champions!
Worming a young stud: I think the picture says it all! While I thought he had swallowed, he apparently didn’t and instead spat all the medicine right back on me!
Reconstructing my San Blas anklet: my anklet from the San Blas Islands had at some point come undone, so I made it a project to reconstruct. Since we had a road trip coming up, I brought it along to help kill time. What I wasn’t expecting however was how involved ‘T’ (Australian rider) got into the project himself! Along with providing helpful suggestions on how to make the slow and sometimes painful process of stringing hundreds of teeny beads on a teeny rope, he was also my cheerleader, egging me on to keep going and get the project done! It was on the leg back to the farm that I finally did complete the anklet and got it back to its place around my ankle.
Peggy the possum: Possums were common creatures to see during the night but usually only from afar. A couple of them however ended up becoming quite brave! One particular evening as we sat on the front porch having a few drinks, we noticed this creature walking along the stone path directly up to the front porch steps. It came up so confidently in its movement that we all at first thought it was a cat! But no, it was a possum!! It stopped just shy of getting on the porch, perching itself on the stairs. It looked at us, we looked at it in amazement, and it simply turned away from us, scampered to a nearby tree, climbed it to the roof, ran across the roof overhead us, down the tree on the other side of the porch to a little spot we often threw bits of old bread or muffins. Absolutely surreal! We named this possum Peggy:)
In her nest
Possum with baby
Gabrielle the frog and T’s reaction to the frog: The French rider ‘T’ may kill me for posting this, but we had a frog that seemed to appear nightly in the same spot, so it was named Gabrielle. One particular night, ‘T’ left the porch and entered the house and let out a scream that put 5-year-old girls to shame! ‘A’ and I went to investigate what happened and it turned out that one of the frogs (maybe Gabby?) got into the house and startled ‘T’. Needless to say I was cracking up over the sound of ‘T’s’ scream, and once he calmed down he too had a little chuckle over it;)
Of course there are many more, but since this post is getting rather lengthy, I will leave it at that!
The next morning started bright and early. The couple that had arrived the day before had set out for their private tour of Corcovado Park with “F” and the Belgian boys had already set out the day before for the park, so it was only Jul and I at the hostel with Berta. Jul had actually gotten up in the morning on this day and since we were the only two there, we ended up joining forces to explore new areas of the town.
After a breakfast of coffee and fresh, delicious pineapple, we decided to go on a hike to a beach about 7 kilometers from the town. Jul had heard of the beach from others as a particularly nice one so we opted to give it a shot. Berta suggested that we ride bikes there, which in retrospect ended up being advice that we should have followed but of course didn’t, thus beginning the grand adventure for the day….
We took off on foot heading South toward the road that led to the beach. However, instead of taking the “long way” (i.e. correct road), we thought to take what we thought would be a shortcut. Instead we ended up at a deadend and had no choice but to trespass on private properties, cross fields with knee-high grasses (perfect for snakes to hide in) and shimmy under barbwire fences to get back on the road we should have just taken in the first place. In any event, after perhaps a half hour of “misguided” time we got back on track and set off for the rest of the hike.
We crossed property after property, some brand new, others quite old and shabby, through back roads of the Osa Peninsula. Not too much wildlife was spotted on our walk but certainly some interesting sights. The first was of a young girl, probably 3 years old standing in the front yard swinging a machete around as if it were a stick she was playing with. Amazing our cultural differences!! While that sight nearly gave me a heart-attack, I very much doubt locals would flutter an eyelash at it. The other sight was quite humorous. As we walked past one of the older and poorer homes there were two young boys on the front porch, probably 4 or so. One was squatting on the porch playing with something on the ground and the other was proudly standing at the front of the porch buck naked and peeing off the edge into the grass below. The best part of that was that all the while he was peeing, he was watching us walk by and had the biggest smile across his face as he waved excitedly to us. We chuckled to ourselves and simply waved back, returning the greeting in waves that we were given!
I’m not entirely sure how much time it took to get to the beach, just that we finally made it at some point and it couldn’t have come at a better time! We were both getting rather tired from walking the entire way (we tried hitchhiking several times with no success) and welcomed the rest that the water and beach provided. We took some time to swim in the water relax and rejuvenate our spirits. Looking back now, I can’t really say that this particular beach was really that spectacular, but I do recall that the waves were quite impressive as many avid surfers were also out enjoying the gift of the waves. Either way though the coolness of the water was definitely welcome after the long walk there!!
After some time swimming both Jul and I were quite hungry and decided to find somewhere to eat. We walked along the beach, thinking that surely there would be somewhere that we could grab something… Unfortunately we were quite wrong in thinking this as well!! We walked and walked and walked along the beach reaching one place after another that was either closed, didn’t serve food, served food but at a phenomenal expense, or simply wasn’t a restraunt!! By the time we thought to give up the hunt we figured that we were probably almost back to the town of Puerto Jimenez and that we should just continue on along the beach because surely we would end up there soon!
Wrong again!! Or rather, we forgot one teeny tiny detail… Yes, the beach did eventually connect from where we were on the beach (7 Km South) to the beach along the town of Puerto Jimenez, but it was separated by a river about 2-300 meters wide!! So there we were, we had finally made it back to a point on the beach where we could see the town but all we had to do was cross the river… Now, had we hit it at the right time, the tide would have been low enough to simply walk or wade across, but of course since it was late in the evening (yes even the sun was starting to fade so it was about 4:30-5 pm at this point with us both only having eaten breakfast and thankfully a glass of water offered by a nice home owner along our way back) the tide was quite high making it impossible to walk or wade through…
So we had a choice: either walk all the way back down the beach, back to the road on which we had walked earlier to the town which would have certainly taken us several hours and we would have had to walk in the dark, OR swim across the mouth of the river to the mangroves and private house across the way.
We chose plan B… Swim across the mouth of the river. I had luckily brought a plastic bag with me that contained sunscreen and stuffed my clothes (keeping the bathing suit on of course) and shoes in it. After everything was secure, I walked into the water with my bag overhead and started to swim. The plan was to swim to the mangroves that were closer to us than the shore and after who knows how long of kicking and paddling and back-stroking and praying we both made it to the mangroves! We stopped there for several minutes just trying to catch our breath and rest for a little while. While I obviously do know how to swim, I hadn’t done that much swimming in a long time and this particular swim was quite challenging as I had to keep one arm overhead holding all my clothes and the current from the river kept pushing us (or trying to) out toward the ocean.
But the worst was definitely over and I was quite thankful for it!! Truthfully there were several moments while I was kicking my way across where I thought “WTF was I thinking?!?!?!” and several times I wondered if I should just turn back!! And there were several times that I wondered what kind of critters were swimming in the waters with or below me, but luckily I kept with it and little by little keeping patient and calm I made it across!
We weren’t out of trouble just yet though as the mangroves were submerged in the river water quite a bit as well, and I still couldn’t reach the bottom of the river/ocean so had to hold myself above water my clinging onto the mangroves and standing on large exposed roots. And Jul had so wonderfully mentioned that snakes and potentially crocs could be found in the mangroves so there was definitely much more motivation to get the heck out of there!! So while I was exhausted, I wasn’t going to hang around any longer than I had to!! After a few minutes of gathering our strength back up, we made our way around the mangroves, half swimming-half clinging to the submerged trees and finally made it to shore!!
Three children were playing in the shallow water of shore that we ended up on and at one point stopped to point us out and giggle at the silly gringos who seemingly came from nowhere but now appeared with blood-shot red faces almost crawling out onto the land. I had never been so happy to be on land before! We made it to a little bench and sat for a few minutes, laughing at how crazy what we had just done was!!
To be honest I don’t recall the rest of the night, only that I’m sure I slept well and that I was quite thankful all turned out well!! What an adventure that day turned out to be!! I do recall chuckling with Jul at one point on how each day seemed to hold an interesting new adventure, and lo and behold, the next day too had a little adventure in store for us yet again…
My initial plan in getting to Puerto Jimenez was to take a bus down and around the upper part of the Peninsula through Rincon to Golfito. However on the way down, as usually has been the case during my bus rides, I struck up a conversation with a local. He was a very friendly older gentleman who is a local Costa Rican but who now lives in Panama. He was in Costa Rica just checking on some properties of his that he rents out to tourists and such.
Again most of our conversation was a mix of Spanglish and charades. It was great to chat with him and to pick his brain concerning the best route for me to get to Puerto Jimenez. My original route was to go to Chacarita, then to Rincon and down to Puerto Jimenez. I was strongly discouraged to take to this route however as it would have taken over 8 hours since the terrain in this path was mountainous and rough. Instead, I was instructed to go to Golfito and take the ferry across. This route would save my 4-5 hours of travel, and upon hearing this I was definitely most grateful to my chatting partner for the information. Once we got to Chacarita, he instructed me to get off the bus and told me where to find the bus for Golfito.
Once in Chacarita we said our good-byes and thanks and parted ways. Now as a traveler, even though I was engaged in conversation with another person, my observations of my surroundings never stop. It was on the bus down to Chacarita that I noticed two younger men consistently looking back to see me on the bus. When I departed the bus for the bus to Golfito, I noticed the two men also depart and after I got on the Golfito bus, so did they. They sat next to me and tried to talk me up. I wasn’t going to be rude, but also I don’t have a lot of patience for people who make me uncomfortable. So mainly I ignored them and feigned ignorance for the Spanish language. Luckily they didn’t know a whole lot of English so ignoring them was easier to show them my disinterest. My instincts told me to stay on the bus until they got off at their stops and I did so. While this action did make me feel better, it also took about an hour to backtrack to get to where I needed to be.
I had completely missed my stop for the ferry to Golfito but was thankfully guided by a very nice older tica on which bus to take and where to get off. Of course the stop I should have gotten off on in the first place was one of the stops that the men I was getting away from got off at. Luckily however enough time had passed that they were nowhere in sight and I continued on my way to the ferry. This little detour however did cost me to miss they ferry by about 10 minutes and thus I was left to wait a few hours for the next one.
It was while I was hanging out near the dock enjoying a soda that I met two guys traveling Costa Rica together. Though they didn’t know each other prior to a few weeks ago, they evidently had enough of a bong that made them decide to travel together for the rest of their time in Costa Rica. One guy was from Austria and had an unbelievable amount of energy, and the other was from England but looked as if from India. These two travelers (whose names have totally escaped me) were trying to get a group of people organized to take a whale watching boat tour. Despite my better judgement on this occasion, as I really am not the biggest fan of boating around for the sole purpose of trying to catch a glimpse of a whale or dolphin, I agreed to be part of the crew.
The boat was to take off from Golfito the next morning which meant that I would have to stay the night there. The two guys knew of a good place where they were staying right along the main road called El Toucan (honestly it seems every town has a place called El Toucan) so I went along with them so I could also get a room and settle in.
At this point it was about 5pm, so we opted to take a small boat ride to another part of the gulf area and do a hike that the boys had heard about. Golfito has almost a gulf within a gulf as there is a large vast area of ocean at the town, but to actually get into the Golfo de Dulce, you have to cross the mouth of the smaller gulf into the larger. On this boat ride we stayed within the smaller gulf area and crossed to a more secluded and foresty area. Only a few tico homes were lined along this beach area and in fact, the man who boated us out there lived in one of the homes. Once we arrived the very energetic Austrian and his friend found the hiking path they heard about and started on their way. I opted to just hang about the coast area and simply take pictures of my surroundings close by. I opted to do this for two reasons: first, because I honestly needed a break from the overly energetic duo, and second I knew that it would be getting dark pretty soon and didn’t want to get stuck walking along hiking paths as it got darker when the threat of potential snakes on the trail was possible.
As I was hanging about, I was fortunate to hear and see a troop of Capuchin monkeys come by. I indulged in taking several photos of them as well as photos of the many crabs hanging along the beach. And just as I had predicted, about a half hour after the two guys headed out on the trail, they returned because they heard some noises that they couldn’t identify from some large-sounding animal and got frightened back down the trail. A little while later we made our way back to Golfito and went shopping for dinner. The Austrian whipped up some pasta for us along with some carrots, onions and mushrooms. He was quite upset however when he left the watch of the food to his friend who then ended up burning all the veggies. It was by far the most interesting meal I had had as the pasta sauce he chose to use was ketchup! I almost opted to just skip the meal altogether, but in not wanting to be rude, I ate it and it surprisingly wasn’t as terrible as I had thought it would be.
The next day we headed out early for our boat ride and not to my surprise but to the great disappointment of the guys, we didn’t see any whales or dolphins out in the vast and large Golfo de Dulce. The Golfo de Dulce (sweet gulf) is one of the deepest gulfs and due to the calm and protected waters in this area, it is a very popular location for many whale species to come to during birthing season. We drove around the gulf for several hours and while nothing was spotted, I still enjoyed just being on the water. My two companions were not at all content on not having seen anything and were becoming increasingly annoying as they kept trying to get our tour to go here and there for potential whale spotting. Needless to say I was probably more happy when the ride was over with and I was able to part ways with the energetic duo. Once back on land I boarded the 1pm 40 minute ferry across the Golfo de Dulce (which if I had been smarter, I should have just asked to be dropped of there during our whale tour) to Puerto Jimenez.
Ok, here we go… There were pit vipers that were hanging out around the base of the trees, which we were told was a rather lucky sight as they are ususally much higher up during the time of year I was there. There were tarantulas; one female that was nestled in her burrow on the side of a little hill whom the tour guide tried to coax out with a stick (I had to use extra zoom to get a close-up picture without actually getting in close, hence why the photo is a little fuzzy) and one male who walked across my path and decided to halt directly in front of me!! Now, of course I didn’t want to make a fool of myself in front of everyone else because of my fear but then again I was so paralyzed that I couldn’t actually move. Luckily one of the other girls on my tour stopped with me to lend some moral support even though she too was terrified of the critter. Even more lucky was that another tour guide and group was coming by so the guide wedged the tarantula between his feet (not actually touching it but rather providing a barrier between it and me) allowing me to make a literal run for it!
Now one thing I did learn about tarantulas that made me feel quite sorry for the little buggers had to do with their worst predator… No, not humans in this case but rather wasps!! Wasps apparently will land on the back of a tarantula and inject it with a tranquilizer of sorts thus paralyzing the arachnid but not killing it. The wasp will then lay eggs on the back of the tarantula and as the eggs hatch, the newborn wasps will feed off the tarantula, eventually killing it after 8 whole days!! Being eaten alive… now that’s just NO way for any creature to have to die!! Poor little buggers!!
Moving on however, another spectacular sight was the mama sloth and her baby! The mother looked absolutely HUGE but apparently only weighed like 20lbs!! These sloths (2-toed) are all fur and have the look of being humongous but really aren’t. Her baby was really hard to see as unlike its mom, the baby was a dark brown color that blended in perfectly with the dark night. What really suprised me the most about this pair however was how active the mom and baby were! Sloths are named as such because of their slow movement and the fact that they sleep a lot. But apparently at night they do become more active as we saw as there was a ton of grooming and movement, especially by the baby!
The tour guides were amazing and were able to spot the tinniest of critters from great distances!! One such example was spotting a foot long walking stick!! We were all huddled looking at this dense forest and the guide kept going “look, there is a giant walking stick”… We were like “where?!?!?!” It blended in perfectly with the tree it was on and was only about 4 feet in front of us, yet it took a good 10 minutes for everyone on the tour to actually see what the rest were looking at!! Quite impressive!
Another area we visited was the nest of a colony of army ants. We were not able to walk on certain areas as putting too much weight on the ground had the potential for collapsing the Earth under us, plunging us into the depths of a million angry ants!! If I recall my stats correctly, scientists have estimated about 2 billion ants in this one colony alone!! What was most impressive about this spot was when the tour guide went to catch a soldier ant. These ants guard the entrances to the nest and are the most fierce of all. He picked it up by the body making sure to have a good grip on its head so it couldn’t bite him. Then he picked up a stick that was about 4 feet long… He put the tip of the stick to the pinchers of the soldier ant and it immediately clasped on! The ant was so strong and had such a good grip that it was able to hold on to the stick entirely on its own!! Even more interesting, the ants were used by Indigenous people as stitches! If someone got a cut that needed stiches, they would use soldier ants by making them bite on their skin to bring each side of the wound together and then they would pinch off the heads. The head of the ant would not fall off for 8 days!! Once they did fall off the wound was healed! Quite impressive of the indigenous tribes!! But also quite painful!
Perhaps the most interesting of all the things we saw on this tour was what we couldn’t see with out lights on… The tour guide picked up an old moldy piece of wood and stared at it with awe and fascination. He said it was the most beautiful part of the forest! We were all confused and wondered why an old piece of wood was so interesting, until we turned our lights off… Right before our eyes the wood began to glow!! It was covered in rare bioluminescent algae!!! We all stared in wonder and as we began to look around us in the dark, you could see all of the forest lit up in different areas by this spectacular algae! We also spent part of our time chasing after a rare cat who, like most nocturnal critters, hunts at night but is very fast and therefore hard to see! Even though we didn’t get to see it ultimately, the chase was rather fun!
Now for each tour it is never guarenteed of course that you will see a large diversity of animals, but again I would definately recommend it!