Tag Archives: wildlife

Time to Leave

Though I had an absolute fantastic time in Puerto Viejo and met a bunch of people whom I consider life-long friends, after about 10 months of living there, it was time to pack up and see more of the world once again.  I still to this day miss a lot of Puerto Viejo and Costa Rica in general, namely the wildlife and captivating nature that surrounds you daily there…. But, if I had stayed there I wouldn’t have had the chance to continue traveling and exploring as I originally planned to do.

Truth be told as well, just as in many places you first go to then get to know better, the rose colored glasses came off.  While there was and is a lot of beauty and great things about Costa Rica and Puerto Viejo, there are also a lot of drugs there.  They are after all in the direct line of drug trafficking, so it’s really no big surprise, but still there gets a point where enough is enough.  Looking around knowing that the majority of people were on one drug or another, just started to wear on me.  And looking at people who had lived there forever and seeing how squirrely they had turned out, just made you wonder if that was the only future to look forward to.  So for that reason and wanting to explore and travel more in general, I packed it up and headed out.

Since I’d already done Bocas del Toro, I decided to simply head back to David, then on to Panama City, then head to Portobello on the Caribbean coast of Panama to catch a sailboat through the San Blas Islands into Colombia…

So the travels continue…

On to Panama City, Panama

Back to Puerto Viejo

Favorite things…

Again, because I lived in Puerto Viejo for an extended period of time, it’s hard to recall everything, so on this page I will simply mention my favorite things about Puerto Viejo and why I lived there for as long as I did…  The below is in no particular order..

Cabinas Garibaldi

  • Absolutely my favorite place to live!   Just down the street from Tasty Waves in Cocles beach, Cabinas Garibaldi was absolutely fantastic!!!!  I can’t say enough about this place!!!  They have short and long term rentals available and the family that owns the land and properties lives on site!  Mancho (aka Martin) is the son of the elder woman Dona Rosa who originally owned the place.  Martin along with his mom and wife take care of the property and no one messes with Martin!  He once noticed someone trying to break into one of the bungalows and he chased him down with a machete in hand!  No one since that event has tried to rob any of the places in Cabinas Garibaldi since:)  Why do I love the place so much??  Simple: private apartment with kitchen, bathroom, hot water, WiFi, across the street from beach (literally) all for about $260 a month!!!!!  The people were fantastic, my neighbors were great!  Dona Rosa even did our bed laundry weekly… just superior and super place!!!

 

Wildlife

  • Howler monkeys, spider monkeys, capuchins,  toucans, sloths, agouti, iguanas… Literally everywhere you looked nature was alive and beautiful around you!!  Puerto Viejo literally was the perfect blend of beach and Jungle right at your finger tips… The nature there is just so captivatingly beautiful and alive!  So splendid!

Beaches

  • Just north of Puerto Viejo was playa negra, the black beach, and as you moved into town the sand turned white all the way down the coast line to Manzanillo, the town furthest south in Costa Rica on the Caribbean coast.  The sands were wonderful and the water was always warm!!  Great snorkeling and scuba diving areas too!  Only word of warning: beware the currents as they could be quite strong!  Oh and lots of great surfing for those who enjoy either surfing or watching the hot bodies of surfers;)

Riding Bikes

  • Everything was accessible by bike or public bus!!  I never for one second missed having to drive a car anywhere!!  I loved simply riding around town, to and from work, etc on a bike!  And for those times where I needed to get out of town, public busses did the trick.

Caribe del Sol

  • Located just outside my house in Cabinas Garibaldi (aka Anna’s front yard) was the best restaurant Caribe del Sol!!  Great Italian cuisine and local casado menu!!  The floor of the place was all sand so it felt as if you were just dining on the beach with a view of the beach while not getting soaked by sea spray:)  The people were great and actually I just heard that the owner of the place married his long-time girlfriend (my friend as well) and moved to the States!  So hopefully the place is still as tasty as I recall it being!

Caribe horses

  • I spent some time riding with the Caribe horse club and loved every second of it!   You just simply can’t beat the views from horseback and the places you can get from the seat of a horse!  Great jungle and beach riding on safe and fun horses!!

Dogs, dogs and more dogs!!

  • Ah, I LOVE animals!!  So to live in a place where all animals basically were wild and free, I absolutely adored it even more!!  You see, while each dog had an owner, they were allowed to run free daily and do whatever they pleased!  Run along the beach, beg for food, run rampant on the streets, etc.  At night however, they all always seemed to simply disappear since most had an actual home where they would stay at during the night.  Or if the owners were going into town, the dogs would accompany them and chill with them in town before turning in for the night!  Each dog had their own personality and name of course, and you literally greeted them as if they were people wandering around town!  Now of course, this kind of life for dogs while great was also rough… Many did get hit by cars, damaged by other dogs, get mange attacks, etc. and they were treated as dogs, not necessarily as family members as we tend to do in the States.  So if an animal was injured, they wouldn’t necessarily be taken to the vet.  It was just part of the jungle life!

“Jungle”

  • Ok, now the following is not in any way intended to be racist, so I don’t want to hear about people complaining about it being so!  If anything didn’t work well or wasn’t quite working as it should, it was called “Jungle”… For example, the pool table in Tasty Waves was called a “jungle table” since it wasn’t quite level.  “Jungle coffee” referred to coffee made in the morning that had floating ants in it because I forgot to put the sugar away in the fridge! (First time that happened I was appalled!  Second and subsequent times I simply scooped the little buggers out and enjoyed my coffee:) Plumbing issues? “Jungle plumbing”…. you get the point!

Lazy Mon Sundays

  • I’m sure I’ve mentioned somewhere else already how every night was a different businesses night to draw in the tourists and crowds.  Well Sunday night was dedicated to the Lazy Mon hostel and restaurant almost smack “downtown” Puerto Viejo.  It is basically an open-mic night where people can come to perform.  Truth be told, it’s really more of a usual crew that come and perform for the tourists and my absolute favorite part of that show is the fire show!!!  Several men and women dancing to music while twirling various objects on fire!  Absolutely mesmerizing and was always a thrill to watch!!

A REAL community

  • People took care of each other in Puerto Viejo in a way that I hadn’t yet experienced.  People supported each other, their businesses, causes, etc.  You really couldn’t get away with much!  If you were a bad customer, didn’t pay your bill (many places allowed locals to run tabs and pay at later dates) or tabs or tried to screw someone over, everyone heard about it immediately and you would be shut out just as fast.  Of course not every society is perfect, but the people were always friendly.  People would look you in the eye and say good morning to you daily (imagine!!)!!  The sense of community there was brilliant.  You felt as part of something, and you did your part to take care of others as they did for you

Ahora…

  • “Ahora” in Spanish means “right now”… This is a very general term in Puerto Viejo and really Costa Rica in general… If you want something done or are waiting for the bus and ask “when will xyz happen?” and are told “hora”… that could be anywhere from “now” to two weeks from now… if you are told “ahora” it could be anywhere from “right now” to about a day from now… Love that relaxed nature!!

STREET MEAT!!!

  • I don’t know what the heck they do to their meat but MAN, I absolutely LOVE street meat!!!  Mind you, the street meat vendors only come out on the street as the sun starts to set because lord knows it’s way too hot to stand over a BBQ in the heat of the day, and luckily they stay open until the wee hours of the morning for all those stumbling out of the bars in search of something yummy to eat.  Basically they only sell chicken or beef on a skewer.  Sounds super simple, I know, but the spicy sauce they put on it is absolutely to die for!!  You can get it extra spicy or just regular spicy (I always got it extra spicy!!)!!  And I promise this basis of critique on the food is not because I was always drunk when eating!!  There were in fact several times that I went into town just to purchase a couple skewers of street meat spicy chicken for my dinner completely sober!!  My mouth is salivating at the very thought…

 

On to Characters in Town

Back to Puerto Viejo

Crocs

The following morning I rose early and went off looking for my usual cup of delicious Costa Rican coffee.  I went back to the soda I had been to the previous day and after enjoying my coffee headed out back to a portion of the town I had sort of explored the day before but not entirely to my satisfaction.  It was down a dirt road from one of the restaurant/bars along the coast line about 200 meters south of the boat dock.  The dirt path led to a bunch of vacation bungalows.  It wasn’t the bungalows that had intrigued me the day before, but rather a little sign I noticed off to the side of the parking area for the bungalows.  The sign read “Nature conservation area.  Please limit your visit to 15 minutes”.  I was very interested in this area the day before, but since it was starting to get dark by the time I had fist discovered it, I thought it best to save going in the area for a day activity.  Now that it was daytime however, I wandered in…

The little trail led through a dense jungle area that lined a river running toward the Gulf.  Birds and several lizards, army ants and spiders could be spotted everywhere.  As I wandered in obviously taking in the beauty of my surroundings, a sudden spotting out of the corner of my eye froze me in my place.  There, along the bank of the river just about 10 feet from me was a crocodile!!!  No fence separated us, it was just him and I.  Now, I have lived in Florida and have been to Gatorland and have seen many a Gator in my time but all from the safe distance or a separation by either a fence or my being locked in a car while they swam in the surrounding swamps.  Never before had I been so close and without any barrier between a croc and myself.  As all of the little tid bits I’d heard about crocs started coming to mind (such as do not run away from them in a straight line but rather confuse them by changing paths often, crocs have tiny brains, try to gouge their eyes out if attacked, etc) in case it decided to start toward me I continued to simply stay frozen and watch the beast.  It hadn’t moved at all and my only choice of path was either to go forward past his area, or retract.  Of course I chose to retract!!  I had only wandered about 5 minutes into the area so getting out wasn’t difficult at all!!

Quite startled by what I had just seen, I decided to head back to the safety of the hostel to regroup and obviously tell the others about it!  When I got back, the others were awake and starting to plan their day.  And “F” had also made an appearance.  He was completely back to his normal congenial self as he was the day before prior to the drinking and again kept trying to get me to go with him on a special tour through Corcovado Park with him.  I again turned him down and instead joined the two Belgium men to tell them of the crocodiles and to simply get away from “F”.  Upon hearing of the crocs, of course the guys asked me to immediately take them to the area and I agreed.

Not entirely believing the advice from “F” about the park being closed either, the boys wanted to go to the official park office and inquire about its status for themselves.  So we also incorporated this portion to our outing as well.  By this point, since I had acquainted myself with the little town the day prior, I was able to lead the way via the shortcut to the airport that led to the park office.  There the boys discovered the news that indeed the park would be closing in just another day and that they were only allowed to go there, stay one night and return the next.  They asked if I wanted to join them on the trip, but I declined as first the price ticket for such a short trip was rather large ($10 per day plus all sorts of extras that I don’t now recall…) and second, it was too much of a rushed trip for my taste, especially since camping was involved!  I much prefer to spend time camping rather than hiking 8 hours only to sleep one night and return the next day.

In any event, the boys happily signed up (they were seriously the MacGyver types!!) and after all the bills were paid and formalities signed we headed back out to the crocs.  Along the way we enjoyed the numerous scarlet macaws that we passed in the surrounding trees.  They are quite easy to spot as their noise is unmistakable as is the sudden thuds of rock hard almond seeds dropping to the ground below from snacking macaws.  Finally we made it back to the croc entrance and this time, being much wiser, I made the men go first!!  We walked in following the winding path once again until we reached the same bank that I had been to before.  This time however, I wasn’t just looking ahead of myself to watch where I was walking.  No, this time I was also looking at all of my surrounding areas in case any crocs were lurking in the dense jungle around us!!

Go figure that when we got to the bank, the croc was gone!!  Great, I thought, now I look like I’m making stuff up!!  Luckily I was validated quite quickly however, as just as I was standing there stammering that “it was just HERE like 30 minutes ago!!!” like a petulant child, from two separate directions, 2 crocs swam nonchalantly to the edge of the river on the bank!!  The boys of course were fascinated and wanted to try to coax the crocs out of the water!!  Crazy boys, I know!!  And honestly I’m not at all a fan of harassing wildlife in any fashion, especially if they could easily kill you!!  But I stood by as one the boys (the more adventurous MacGyver one) picked up a stick and slap the water in front of the crocs to try to “tick them off” enough to get them to come forward a bit.  As he was doing this, I was several feet behind and started to take better notice of the slow-flowing river.  To my utter shock, it wasn’t just 2 crocs in there, it was dozens!!!  Not just crocs either, but caymens as well!!  Now really there isn’t much to fear from caymens as they are MUCH smaller than crocs and will never grow to the full size of a crocodile, so they didn’t concern me much.  I just found it so fascinating how many live creatures were and had been just below the surface of the river.

After several minutes of unsuccessfully coaxing the crocs out, the boys became bored and decided to continue on the path.  Of course as I started to cross the bank area, the crocs who had turned away from the stick slapping suddenly decided to turn back toward the bank and come toward me!!  This of course freaked me out as one of the boys stated “I think they like you!”.  Yes, for dinner no doubt!!  I once again froze in my steps but was eventually convinced to keep going, keeping a very keen eye out for my new “friends”.  The trail surprisingly was not that long at all after that spot.  We shortly thereafter encountered a barbwire fence that forced us along another part of the trail that was definitely less traveled.  Eventually we made our way back out to the main road after carefully navigating our way over and under the various jungle that was in our way.

The rest of the day was spent playing on the beach, enjoying the macaws, saying goodbye to the Belgium boys who were packing up for their Corcovado Park adventure, and meeting the French man who had come in the night before but had finally decided (yes, it was almost dark again) to wake up!!  Another couple had also joined the crew at The Corner in hopes of also going to Corcovado Park.

Funny side note here, my wonderful landlady Berta had been told by “F” as he had told me that he wanted to take me on a private tour of Corcovado Park.  Berta knew his nature however and had thankfully already become protective of me, especially after hearing of the previous night’s strangeness, and instead offered “F’s” private tour offer to the newest guest couple that had arrived.  “F” was quite furious about this as he told me, because he had told Berta specifically that he only wanted to offer the private tour to me.  I however, was delighted that Berta did what did, and I once again had to tell “F” “thanks, but I was never interested in the private tour with you” all the while thanking Berta profusely for stepping in as she did!!  For all the potentially dangerous situations that I have found myself encountered with while being in Costa Rica, there has always been a more benevolent and protective force in the form of the elder ticos and ticas!!  For this, Berta and others along the way will always have a very special place in my heart.

The night was thankfully uneventful as I simply lingered around The Corner keeping Berta company and chatting with her as best I could.  I only hopped out momentarily after my dinner at a soda for some homemade ice cream Berta had told me about and after chit-chatting a bit with Jul, the man from France, I headed off for some lovely sleep!!

Once again, I neglected to bring my camera for the croc event as I have grown quite accostomed to traveling the town with as little in my possession as possible, but fear not for the adventure continues…

On to Beach Adventure

Back to Costa Rica