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Best Times on the Farm

In no particular order:

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!

Rudy!
Rudy!

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!!!

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!!

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!

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!

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

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!

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!

Worming Failure
Worming Failure

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:)

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;)

Gabrielle
Gabrielle

Of course there are many more, but since this post is getting rather lengthy, I will leave it at that!

On to Wildlife Park & Jenolan Caves

Back to Australia

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Kamikaze Cockbox

In my previous post I’d mentioned how the bungalow Anna and I chose to stay in on the island of Koh Phi Phi Don had a few unwanted guests…  It was in fact our first night there that “the event” occurred that made us question staying there any longer…  Personally, I can handle a cockroach or two with no bother.  However, Anna fears them like I fear spiders and in understanding that, I can’t simply brush her fear aside but rather must respect it.

After returning from the beach and exploring the town of Phi Phi Don, we arrived after dark to our bungalow in the jungle.  Knowing that there may be “beasties” as Anna calls them, I approached the bungalow first turning on all lights to check for any critters (hopefully not seeing any spiders in the process as well!!).  With no cockroaches in sight, I called the all clear for Anna to come on in.

As I sat on the porch with my tablet (the bungalow was very hot inside and had yet to cool off from the days heat despite the fan blowing) Anna, who just came out from a shower and was in the bungalow changing, let out a yelp and ran on the porch in her towel announcing that she’d spotted a cockroach on the churning fan.  The fan in the bungalow was mounted on the ceiling and gently rotated around the room at varying angles.  As Anna remained on the porch in fear, I went in to investigate…

At first I didn’t see anything on the fan as it gently rotated about.  I thought perhaps she’d just seen an odd shadow that appeared to look like a cockroach, but nothing else.  I kept watching as Anna persisted that she’d seen one.  Nothing… I still didn’t see a thing.  I persuaded her to go back in the room and get changed as there was no cockroach there.  But as she started to go in and I was going out, once again she spotted it.

Sure enough, a cockroach just over an inch in size became visible on the INSIDE of the fan between the churning blades and the wire mesh across the front of the fan.  Now there was an issue… The fear essentially was that at some point as the cockroach skittered along the wires of the fan, it would be catapulted out somewhere in the room at a great speed from the force of the fan…  What to do, what to do…???

As Anna paced on the porch, I turned the fan off hoping that when the blades stopped the roach would figure out a way off the fan.  It perfectly contentedly stayed on the fan however changing course here and there making its way along the wires and rim of the fan, showing absolutely no signs of going anywhere.  I tried hitting the fan with items to knock the roach off but the fan was mounted too high on the ceiling for me to get anywhere near reaching it.  I waited as the roach made its way to the edge of the fan where the gaps between the wires were greatest and in that instant turned the fan on full blast to try to force it out with the wind from the blades to absolutely no avail… Seemingly we were at a complete standstill.  There wasn’t anything to be done.  All the while that I was inside trying to get the roach, Anna started referring to it as a kamikaze cockroach since she was sure it would come flying out of the fan at any second…

However, with no other feasible options in sight to get the roach out, I coaxed Anna to come back into the bungalow to at least get her clothes so she could change in the bathroom.  I agreed of course to stay in the room with her while she got her clothes together in case the roach suddenly did make a ground floor appearance.  I positioned myself directly under the fan with my open tablet in hand going about things I wanted to look up while Anna gathered her clothes.  She kept making references to the kamikaze cockroach and how it would surely get her.  Staring at my tablet I started to chuckle at Anna and how dramatic she was being when within a split second, the roach suddenly dropped directly on my tablet!!!

I let out a scream just from the surprise and shock of the catapulted cockroach suddenly being on my tablet and subsequently flung my tablet to get the roach off of it.  Anna, having heard my scream and then seeing the roach being flung off my tablet in (ironically and unfortunately) her direction went absolutely ballistic!!!  She started letting out a series of long and loud scream as she tried in vain to get away from the roach as it skittered across the floor directly to her and toward the bathroom.  All the while I was furiously trying to brush the roach away from running toward her, but it just kept on trying to get past her to the bathroom!

Finally, it managed to make it to the bathroom and went between the floor tiles to the outside and after a few seconds of calming herself, Anna and I both started to laugh hysterically!!  What made the whole thing worse is we were both now standing inside the bungalow in full view of the front door, Anna still in her towel, laughing our rears off as the man from reception came tearing up the path to our doorstep asking if everything was ok!  Bless his heart for coming!!  He seriously must have thought we were being murdered by the initial look on his face, which turned disinterested rather quickly as we tried in vain to explain that it was “just a cockroach” that we were screaming at and then laughing at hysterically!  He wasn’t amused…

Luckily that was the end of our odd entertainment for the evening and after that night, we didn’t have any further cockroach events so we stayed in those bungalows for the next 3 nights of our trip to Phi Phi.  However we did rename our bungalow the “kamikaze cockbox” from that night on.  It was a combination of the words ‘kamikaze cockroach’ for the above event and ‘hotbox’ since that first night was absolutely boiling inside despite the fan!  The kamikaze cockroach prediction came true after all!

On to The Quiet Sides of Phi Phi

Back to Thailand

Smack First, Ask Questions Later

I’ve noticed recently that I’ve been practicing what I’ve now coined as the “smack first, ask questions later” action… It really has nothing to do with the recent Muay Thai training I’ve been doing (just finished session 5 today and it’s a real rear-kicker!!).  And when I think back I’ve been “smacking first and asking later” since arriving in Thailand last December.

So what am I referring to exactly?  Well, you see, not every place has a mosquito net covering the beds.  And even if they did, they don’t prevent 100% of whatever night critters decide to come out and join you bedside… And since I’m arachnophobic, I would rather not actually see what it is that’s crawling on me, because if I ever visually found it to be a spider I would absolutely lose my mind.

Enter the “smack first, ask questions later” motto.  It’s a simple concept that I use more often than not.  Whenever I feel something on my skin while in bed or hanging about, without looking to see what it is, I simply smack the area where I feel the unknown critter.  Sometimes that’s the end of it.  But sometimes I do feel a body beneath my hand in the area I’ve just smacked so just as quickly as I’ve hit the unknown creature I swiftly grab the body and chuck it as far away as possible from where I am.  It’s become such a common movement that I don’t even notice I’ve done it sometimes.  And yet I wonder where that bruise came from the next day, lol!!

Thankfully I’ve never come across the body of whatever I’ve hit and thrown off me the next day, which really means one of two things: either the creature was just stunned by the hit and limped away after recovering OR its body was eaten by another critter during the night.  Neither of those scenarios are very comforting really, but that’s jungle living for ya!  All part of the joys:)

Back to Thailand

Lochgoilhead

As my time in Glasgow was coming to an end, and since again Anna and I do enjoy a good hike, we asked Anna’s dad if we could stay a few days in his cottage in Lochgoilhead.  Thankfully he said yes, and was even kind enough to let us use his truck to get there!!  He and his wife also happened to be going when we were planning to go, so we got to spend one of the nights with them:)

Her dad and step-mom were already at the cottage by the time we were able to go, so we took a cab to his house, picked up the truck and headed on out.  The drive there was all along normal 2-way lane roads, but just before we got to the turn-off where the road was only 1 lane (for 2 way traffic!!) with the little side pull-offs for people to pass, we stopped for a little lunch… There at the “Rest and be Thankful” landmark we had a bite to eat and I had my first taste of black pudding… Also known as blood sausage… Ick!!!  Is all I have to say about that!!!  I really didn’t like it at all!!  Perhaps it was mainly due to me knowing what it was to begin with, I don’t know… I think it’s just one of those things you have to grow up with to actually like…!!!  Anyway the “Rest and be Thankful” stop goes back from quite a long time ago!  Those words are inscribed on a stone (see the pictures) placed there by soldiers who built the original military road in 1753.  Apparently the original stone  was destroyed and replaced by a commemorative stone instead… This point marked the turning point to get to Lochgoilhead.  And after our nibble, we headed on to the village where the cottage resided.

Once we arrived and settled in for a bit, we headed off for our first hike!  Again, we aren’t really the kind that prepare the way we should prepare for hikes… Honestly though we didn’t really expect the hike we ended up doing!  We simply set out just behind the cottage on a trail that led to some lovely waterfalls!  From there we saw some signs pointing this way and that, and thought, why not?  So we headed uphill, and up and up… Eventually we came to an area that looked like it could be a good place for a ski slope in the winter!  Two older people were coming down the way fully geared in proper hiking attire including ski poles, proper wind pants and hiking boots.  As we passed them we stopped them and asked how long to the top?  We didn’t get an exact time, but they did warn us about how wet and mucky the way up was and how windy it was at the top, and they further warned us not to go past the stile!  We thanked them for their input and headed on our way, figuring that if/when it got too tough for us and our completely inept sneakers/clothing for us to continue, we would turn back!

Up and up we climbed!  The slope was pretty decent, nothing really to laugh at by any means and while the land did slosh under our feet (sometimes water did sneak into the sides of my sneakers from the amount of water that pooled from some of the steps) we made it to the stile (don’t cross it!!) in good condition and basically dry.

Once at the stile there really were only two ways to go… Back down or up past the stile… Neither of us was terribly tired at this point and though the view from the stile was nice, you really couldn’t see all the way around because we were surrounded by dense forest on both sides.  And since what appeared to be the top of the hill/mountain was just a little ways beyond the stile we thought, heck, why not??  So past the stile we went!

Up and up and up we climbed!!  And it was during this hike that I was properly introduced to Scottish hills!!!!  You see, what appears to be the top of any hill/mountain in Scotland isn’t at all the top once you actually reach it… For once you get to what you thought was the top, you realize that the top is actually just a wee bit further on… And again just a wee bit further on… And again!!!  So literally we went from one “top” to another and another and another until finally what looked like would be the actual top appeared, but by that point it would probably take another hour to get to it and as it was starting to get late in the day (sun was getting lower on the horizon) we opted to give up that mountain top and do the sane and safe thing- turn back toward town!  First we had to take some picts of the surroundings and later estimated that we had probably walked about 20-25 kilometers on that hike!  We never could actually see on a map where the heck we went, but isn’t that part of the fun??  However, from the position that we made it to, you could see the town below, so we had at least some perspective of where we were!

We made it back to town just as the sun was setting, and after a pint in town we headed back to the cottage for a homemade meal!  We watched a YES!/No Thanks debate on the tv, then headed to bed (after Anna’s step-mom cleared a rather large spider from our room!!!).  The next day we rose at the rear-crack of… about 11am, lol!!  Anna’s dad and Step-mom were downstairs with trail maps/paths of the area and they gave input on where we should probably go.  We took their advice and around one or so (after packing something to nibble on- how sensible we became!!) headed out again for a hike.  Her dad and step-mom joined us for the first half-hour or so of the hike, then headed back while we headed up the trail to the steep/climbing bits.

After the hike from the day before both Anna and I were interested and pumped to climb a hill/mountain once again!!  And we thought that this particular trail would allow us to do just that… However, the trail never really led to any mountain base.  It simply wound around the base of several mountains.  Each time we tried to get to a base we were cut off by marshes or terrain so thick with heather/brush that who knew what was under!  Finally we did come to the end of the trail that basically dead-ended on the tip of a kind of peninsula.  Yet we were still quite determined to get up a hill!!  The end of the trail happened to end at the base of a mountain, but the way up was quite steep!  Did that stop us??  No, not really… We scaled part of some sheer rock on the side of the mountain up a little way… Then we came to our senses… That we were probably being really daft!!  So we gingerly made our way back down.  Seriously, the only real way to get up that particular mountain was with proper mountain climbing gear!  But again, once at the base we thought surly there MUST be a way up!  Anna happened to find a little sheep path, which we followed for several yards until it literally dead-ended at a drop hundreds of feet below us!!  Yup, we were being daft in trying to follow the sheep path…

Again we had to give up our quest for the day and headed back.  All the while that we headed back we kept looking for ways to get up a dang mountain to no avail!  It was probably best though that we didn’t find one… By the time we got back (after a brief scare with some hairy coos- well I wasn’t scared but they are known to be aggressive when babies are around, and as we walked through the field one of the coos spotted us, turned and started walking toward us.  I thought it odd behavior and then spotted some baby coos to the right… yea… we hustled a little bit out of that field!) it was almost dark again.  We had some drinks and dinner in town then wandered back to the cottage in pitch beautiful darkness!!  The kind of darkness where you can see every star!!  Just wonderful!!  Though Anna was scared out of her wits over walking in the dark and barely let me a few feet away from her, especially when it came time to cross the river, lol!!  All in all that day, we estimated we walked about 30-35 kilometers that day!  We left the next day and headed back to town (with a brief stop in the lovely town of Luss) where we had a lovely and delicious curry dinner with Anna’s mum!  Good times!! 🙂

I almost forgot about the ticks!!!  While at the Cottage, Anna’s step-mom left us an article about ticks… Beware the ticks when you hike!!  You can get Lyme disease from them!!  We laughed it off and didn’t really get bothered by the potential for ticks, though we did check ourselves for the potential of some… I never found any until a few days later when I was in Gatwick!!  4 on my arm!!  Ewww… I know!!  But they were babies and I plucked them out, watched for signs of Lyme disease, and luckily I can report I’m Lyme disease free!!  Yay!!

On to Most Random Street Signs

Back to Glasgow

Back to United Kingdom

 

Manuel Antonio National Park

The next morning thankfully turned out to be a sunny one and we prepped ourselves for the Park.  As mentioned in the last post, the walk to the National Park was only about 300 meters from our hostel.  As we walked toward the Park up ahead in the Park trees a bunch of the tree tops began to rustle and a deep, penetrating roar could be heard coming from the rustle…  It literally reminded me of a scene from Jurassic Park with a T-Rex about to emerge from the dense forest, roaring as it did!!  It was a little unnerving until I was informed that it was only a Howler Monkeys making the noise and that there was nothing to fear.  When we arrived at the entrance (about 8am) there were already a ton of tourist groups lined up in various places getting their troops together to enter the Park.  B, A and I purchased our tickets (again $10 for tourists though this time I paid with colones and paid less than $10… perhaps it was because of the current daily exchange rate that the Parks do pay attention to) and entered the Park.

A few things we were told through the grape-vine about the Park prior to entering was #1 do not hire a private tour guide as many other tourists do this so you can always “bum” in their tours by simply looking where their tour guide is pointing to find something interesting and #2 go off the beaten path when possible away from the rest of the tourists and you will be guaranteed to see much more!

Keeping that information in mind we set in our walk without a guide.  Both pieces of advice above came in great handy as alone the main path of the Park several tour guides had already set up shop with their binoculars on tripods pointing out insects and crabs to their hired tourists or pointing high in the trees sharing interesting information on a particular plant or tree.  Luckily for us, B was a botanist (there is actually a more accurate name for his title, I just can’t recall what it is… Sorry B!!  But I do know that his work involves cataloging every species of plant and tree!)  and he knew just about everything there was to know about every plant so in a sense we already had a fabulous guide for that portion.

We made our way along the path sighting many spiders, a scorpion eating a wasp, a variety of crabs hidden in a variety of clever places, a toucan (YAY!!!) and lizards!!

At a certain point we came across a point of crossroads where we could either go straight, right or scootch our way around the “closed” sign of a path to our left… Well of course we chose the path to our left!! 😉  The path was closed because it hadn’t been groomed recently, but it didn’t bother us at all.  We made our way up the path to a quiet area where no sounds except that of nature could be heard.  It was amazingly blissful!!  So quiet with only the sound of the wind rustling gently through the trees.  It is quite an amazing thing to stop and just listen to the beauty of nature!!  We stayed there for a bit taking in the sounds until some new sound caught my attention high in the trees.  Of course curiosity took over good sense as I followed the noise only to spot my first Howler Monkey!!!!!

Such amazing creatures!!  These small, black monkeys with faces so familiar in human features and hands even more so familiar are just an incredible sight to take in!!  They travel in troops usually anywhere from about a dozen to a dozen and a half!  There is only one alpha male of the group and the rest are females or young males and it’s also pretty common to find a new mom in the troop as well.  Their hands and feet, as well as the underside of about the last 6 inches of their tail do not have any fur on them so they can easily grip surfaces.  The roar of the alpha male can be heard from great distances around!  I have since found out that they only roar early in the morning or to announce to another approaching troop that they are coming too close to their territory, or if rain is approaching!

As I gazed above me in wonder, they simply gazed right back wondering what it was I was up to!  I of course took a few photos and kept my voice low as I called my friends over to see them as well and then we continued up and up and up the path again passing many other lizards and even an Agouti or a Tapir that ran off too fast to take pictures of (hence why I’m not entirely sure which it was exactly… but it was definitely a land mammal).  The path ended on a platform at what seemed like the top of the world!!  Though it wasn’t a 360 degree view, it was still magnificent!!  You could clearly see the bay below and the jutting rocks that formed it, as well as a little cave carved into the rock, as well as the land clear south of us all the way to what we speculated to be the Oso Peninsula!!

After several pictures we headed back down the path to the main portion passing many other tourists who had also opted to take the “unbeaten” path.  Now sadly, it was about this time that the batteries in my camera started to fail… I was able to get a picture or two in, but then would have to shut the camera down, take the batteries out to rest for several minutes then reload them and pray they would work again for a few more pictures!!

There are about 5 walking trails in the Manuel Antonio National Park and we ended up taking each of them to their various destinations.  Along another path of interest, we came across a tourist and his young son.  They were surrounded by a large troop of Capuchin Monkeys!!  The Capuchin monkeys are most famously recognized from their white faces and black bodies, as well as their “star” quality.  They can be seen in movies such as Outbreak and the Hangover Part II, as well as in the TV show Friends.  Now I don’t advocate the use of wild animals for our entertainment, nor was I thrilled about the scene we had encountered.  Despite the Park rules that warned to NOT FEED THE ANIMALS this father was blatantly ignoring them as he and his young son continued to offer the monkeys a variety of fruits.  While it was quite an amazing feeling to have so many monkeys coming at you and around you in every direction all trying to get their piece of fruit, I opted to remove myself from the center as I do not agree with feeding wild animals, and this next bit is part of the reason why: At one point the young son was trying to offer one of the monkeys a piece of fruit.  The monkey was quite reluctant to simply take the piece of fruit from the boy’s hand, so it didn’t.  The boy, probably too young to understand the wrong in his behavior and not being told otherwise from his dad, continued to push his arm forward toward the monkey, trying to entice it to take the fruit.  A few moments later, the monkey had had enough and literally slapped the outstretched hand of the boy away and screeched!!  The father finally stepped in and told the boy to no longer feed the monkeys and they headed away.

Wild animals are wild folks, and should remain that way!!  We have no business interfering with their nature and even less business trying to tame them.  Ok, I’ve said my peace on that topic for now… moving on!

This particular path ended at a magnificent lagoon-like beach!!  Unlike the black sands of Manuel Antonio beaches in the “city”, this beach had white powdered sand!!  Hermit crabs were everywhere by the hundreds as well as a variety of crabs once again.  Sadly, myself nor my two companions had realized there were beaches in the Park to swim in, so none of us had our suits on to be able to swim!!  So for all of you out there who are planning to visit the Park, please take that bit of advice as your #3 lesson:)

We hung around this beach for a bit wading around the water and taking pictures (camera battery pending) and then started to head toward the exit.  The exit path went right along another large and lengthy beach portion that once again made me “tisk” at myself for not thinking to bring a suit.  Many tourists were lined on the beach taking in the sun and enjoying the water.  We even spotted some caper bandits (i.e. raccoons) going through some tourist bags that were left on the beach for some goodies they could eat.

All in all we had already spent about 4 hours walking around the Park, so each of us were ready at this point to exit and get something to eat and of course a cold brew.

When we reached the exit, we were greeted by a few men with little row boats.  Indeed the only way to exit the Park (unless you were willing to walk ALL the way back to the main entrance) was to cross a little river, too deep to wade through (another reason the suit would have come in handy!!) for $1.00 a piece!  With no other real choice we all paid and took the maybe 15 meter boat ride back to the “main land” and headed back to the hostel.

The rest of this day was spent simply relaxing, enjoying good food and of course some good beer on the beach!!  It was quite a nice ending to a fantastic Park day!  It was during this afternoon that B, A and I shared our plans for the next day.  “A” had only a few more days in Costa Rica and planned to spend them in Montezuma (on the tip of the Nicoyo Peninsula).  “B” opted to spend his remaining days in Costa Rica in Manuel Antonio, and I planned to continue heading South to Uvita.

Back to Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio National Park Pictures:

Manuel Antonio

All the way down to Manuel Antonio I chatted up with the two fellow travelers, henceforth known as “B” and “A”.  They were from the States and were traveling friends down in Costa Rica for vacation.  Together we made our long journey through a long lay-over in Puntarenas and a drive through Jaco (which has been recommended to me by several people who have previously visited Costa Rica but locals have said not to travel there and frankly consider it one of the scars of the Country because of the large party and drug atmosphere there) and finally arrived late in the afternoon to our final destination of Manuel Antonio.

Upon exiting the bus (a small 15 minute and 250 colones ride from Quepos) we were instantly “attacked” by several people trying to get us to go to whichever hotel or hostel they worked for.  Backpackers are targets for these workers who get commission for every person they bring to whatever hotel or hostel there is in the area.  At first we were quite reluctant to follow the advice of the individuals who met us as most looked drugged out and some reeked of alcohol.  Nonetheless, since it was a backpackers hostel they were recommending to take us to, we followed.

We were led to the Costa Linda Backpackers, about a 500 meter walk from the beach and a 300 meter walk to the Manuel Antonio National Park and after checking out the accommodations decided it was a nice enough place to stay for the weekend.  We had also agreed on the way down that we would share a room while staying there to cut down on our costs.  For the first night we were able to score a private room with a private bath for $15 per person, but as this room was reserved for the next few nights, we had to move to another private room with shared bathrooms for $10 per person per night for the remainder of our stay.

Despite the initial sketchiness of the place, this area turned out to be one of the best places I had visited so far.  But I am getting ahead of myself…

As it was late in the evening with the sun already starting to set, there really wasn’t a ton to do except, well what else but get drunk!!  Ok, one other little factor played into our decision to leave the exploration to the next day, and that was that within an hour or two of us arriving there a fantastic thunderstorm erupted!!  So since we were bound to stay under shelter by a beautiful storm we opted to stay in the restaurant that was just at the entrance and part of the Backpackers to toast the day and the beauty around us.  I really don’t recall how much beers were at this location, but I do recall them being cheap as we had several rounds that night toasting the lightning and thunder as it clapped and struck around us and chatting the night away.

As all the drinkers out there know, once you get started the inevitable million trips to the bathroom begins.  I had not yet “broken the seal” but had need to at one point and borrowed the keys to our room so I could use the bathroom.  I happily made my way into the room, went into the bathroom and even though I was the only one in there, I closed the door to the bathroom…

BIG MISTAKE!!!  Or well, perhaps really it was much better that I did as you will soon learn… You see, behind that door on the wall was (no joke here) a spider with a leg span of about 5 inches!!!  I know that as an arachnophobia our memories and stories tend to make these fearful creatures out to be much larger than they actually are, but in this case I’m not exaggerating!  And this wasn’t one of those large daddy long-legs with large leg spans but teeny bodies… No sir!  This one had a long but slender body!!

So there I was, one hand on the button of my pants, my eyes focused steadily on the spider, my body frozen in fear.  Thoughts began to pass through my drunken brain… “What do I do?!?!?!”… “Perhaps I can just pee really, really fast then tell someone about it when I leave cause I really, REALLY need to pee!!”.  The showdown continued for probably another 30 seconds like this with me staring at the spider and the spider staring back… I was about 2 seconds from just peeing really fast then leaving when the spider moved a single leg about 2 millimeters to the right.  And that’s all it took, I was out of there!!  I flung the door open and ran as fast as I could to the exit of our room, out the hall and back to my friends at the table who were still chatting along happily.  I sat for a moment wringing my hands waiting for a moment to interrupt their conversation.  Then I shyly told them that we have a HUGE spider in our room and that I need it removed immediately!!!  I of course told them too that I was arachnophobic and was sorry to make such a deal out of it, but it had to go!  “B” got all excited as he was quite interested to see the large arachnid (Lord only knows why!!) and he said he would go take care of it.

While he was gone, “A” and I exchanged stories of fears, which for privacy purposes I won’t reveal hers here but I will say it was quite an unusal one!  We continued to chat until “B” finally came back and said “sorry it took so long, I first wanted to get some pictures of the spider, and then it took quite some time to get him out of the room as it kept trying to bite me!”  Thankfully he didn’t go into too many other gross details of how he removed the spider but as my relief for knowing the spider was out of the room set in, my now even more extreme need to pee returned!!  But before even thinking of returning to the room, I had to know exactly where the spider was taken too…  “B” then informed me that since it was so hard to get it out, he was only able to get it as far as the hallway… “I’m sorry, WHAT?!?!?!?!  You mean it’s in the HALLWAY right OUTSIDE OUR ROOM?!?!?!?!”  This made me even more paranoid and though I really didn’t want to have to go back to the bathroom, my body was telling me otherwise.  So I begged “B” to come with me and walk ahead of me to the room just in case the arachnid was in the hallway or on a wall of the hallway on the way to the room.  Such a nice person he was as he acquiesced and allowed me safe passage back to our room so I could finally relieve my bladder:)

The night continued much happier and arachnid-free from there as we continued to fiesta the night away until we all finally crashed and slept soundly.  We awoke to a stormy morning the next day and therefore opted to wait to go to the National Park until the next day when we hoped the weather would cooperate.  After breakfast and taking a picture of a “cute little guest” (see below picture) we moved into our new hostel room (private room with shared communal bath), met a local lizard who was always hanging out in one area and whom I fondly named Miguel, and generally hung around waiting for the storm to recede.

“A” had to get to a bank for more money, so about mid-day when the rain finally stopped, we all headed on a walk back up toward Quepos where the only ATMs were found.  Along the way we spotted several Capuchin Monkeys making their way across man-made ropes that stretched from one side of the road to the other.  These ropes are part of the “Children Saving the Rainforest” project and can be found throughout Costa Rica.  When electrical wires were first being erected to provide electricity to various areas, the monkeys thinking they were useful items to climb across to get to where they wanted to go, would often get electrocuted and die when they gripped them.  This was quite a large problem in the beginning, but it was quickly remedied as the “Rainforest” group stepped in with their fantastic idea of providing safe and non-electrical passages for the monkeys to use.

After our walk back up into town and a nice lunch and beer, we headed back to Manuel Antonio and A and I spent the rest of our afternoon “butt surfing” in the ocean!!  Now for those who don’t know what this is, Butt surfing is where you sit in shallow areas of the beach and allow the coming waves to toss you around the shallow beach as if you were simply a grain of sand.  It really is quite amazing the power of the Ocean as we literally were tossed and pushed and pulled and pommelled by the tiniest of waves!!  Due to the anywhere from small to large rocks and pebbles on the beach however, at times it was quite painful!!  But still fun nonetheless:)

Our night was spent again with good food, good conversation and company, and of course many great beverages.  If our hopes were to come true, the next day would be a sunny one so we could visit the Manuel Antonio National Park.

Back to Costa Rica

Pictures of Puntarenas and Manuel Antonio (including Costa Linda Backpackers Hostel and critters of the area):