15 June 2011 | Costa Rica
Marina Papagayo at night
June 15, 2011
Costa Rica...or should I say, Pura Vida!
You say, Pura vida, what's that? Pure life of course. And that about sums up Costa Rica so far. It's beautiful. It's clean. The people are happy. Life is good. Pura vida is more than a saying here, it's a way of life, and we really like it so far!
In 2007 the Costa Rican government announced plans for Costa Rica to become the first carbon neutral country by 2021. Achieved by balancing their carbon dioxide releases with an equivalent offset by clean technologies and the preservation of their beautiful land. According to the New Economics Foundation, Costa Rica ranks first in the Happy Planet Index, which basically is an index of human well being, and is the "greenest" country in the world. Their literacy rate is 94.9%, being one of the highest in the world, and Costa Rica is known for their medical tourism (or as Larry likes to say, "medcations"), with their healthcare system ranking higher than the United States.
The Lisa Kay and Perfect Wave spent 10 glorious days at anchor in Bahia Santa Elena, the most popular first stop in Costa Rica. This is a national park and the bay is enormous, calm, isolated and surrounded by nature. And what a treat to catch up with our old friends on S/V SOMF and S/V Windfall! Off in the distance we can hear howler monkeys, and these small green macaws that fly back to their roosts in the trees every evening in pairs (apparently for life), chatting and chatting away. It really is a very funny sound. I could listen to them forever.
Hiking, including a walk up to a small waterfall and pool, exploring, and snorkeling were our priorities here. And some wonderful dinners with our friends, including a bonfire on the beach one night that Eric (the dad of Perfect Wave) put on with the kids. T-shirts soaked in diesel and wrapped around limbs for torches, a raked clean beach, a giant log to sit on, a bonfire etc....They all worked so hard, we felt like we were in a scene from the TV show Survivor! Sadly one day we came across a hammerhead shark that had washed up on shore and yes, every fin had been cut off. All for a bowl of shark fin soup I guess.
Once again Larry and I were attacked several nights by these flying (enormous) ant kinda thingys. They simply come out of nowhere! A year ago I probably would have freaked out but adaptation is a wonderful thing. They're harmless - not biting or anything, but they land on you and crawl and you slap them and kill them and pile them up by the side of your bed. Ughh! It seems we're the only boat that gets them. (Do 'ya think they might be crawling in through our retarded wooden slat doors into our salon?) But Larry blames me because I read at night with a light on!
The snorkeling has been fantastic. Unbelievable! I have never seen so many different colors of coral and different beautiful fish. The kids just love frolicking in the warm, clear water exploring. To see the land formations, literally from the earth's crust up, being pushed and formed from ancient volcanic activity is a sight to be seen. Costa Rica means "the rich coast" and now we see why. We felt like we could have stayed here forever, but alas our fresh food supply was running out quickly so we thought we should start moving on.
Next stop, a quickie snorkel at the Mucielagos Islands, also known as the Bat Islands. We probably really should have paid attention when there was chatter on the radio about a gigantic bull shark that was in the area, but we really didn't think much about it...well okay...I did...but the "new" brave me didn't want to miss out, and we did have some amazing snorkeling! I saw not one but two moray eels! Later however, sitting at the bar in our current marina talking with a local dive instructor, he makes a casual comment about how he would never snorkel at the Bat Isles because they're known for bull sharks and he would rather be at the bottom diving so he could look up at them rather than floating at the top snorkeling! Aaaaggghhhh!!! Oh well, as we all like to joke, we cheated death again!! (You Tube "Bull Sharks at the Bat Islands" and you'll see!)
So, as I previously mentioned, yes we have ended up parking in the loveliest marina called Marina Papagayo after spending a few more nights in several different anchorages to get here. Paying the small amount extra to hire an agent and have the officials come to our boat and check us into the country was well worth it. Checking into a country can be quite laborious and costly. You often have to travel from the Port Captain's office to Immigration & Customs, back to the Port Captains etc...with time and transportation costs adding up. Seeing as there were two boats (us and Perfect Wave) checking in at the same time, we took advantage of that and asked the agent for a multiple boat discount. Well, ask and ye shall receive! Thank you Eric, for reminding us to never be afraid to ask!
Being able to leave the boat safely at the dock gave us the perfect opportunity to rent cars and spend a few nights in the glorious Marriott at Hacienda Pinilla about a 1 ½ hours drive away. What a cool place to celebrate Ben's 11th birthday!
We are so happy here. This country and the marina just have such a great feel. We go for long power walks up some very steep hills seeing all kinds of wildlife. I tell Ben we're doing PE but it usually turns into a science class as well. We hear and sometimes see monkeys in the trees, different birds with some amazing hanging nests, raccoons, iguanas of course, the occasional dead snake on the road, and thousands of teensy tiny frogs that seemed to have hatched every where when the rains first came. We can do our own laundry for a change! What a treat! And what a bargain! Since Puerto Vallarta we have only been able to drop our laundry off to be done by a service which always seemed to cost at least $50 every two weeks for the three of us.
Once again we are blessed with a marina staff that are so friendly and really look out for us. Ben has made friends with the waiters at the Dive Bar, riding his rip stick in the nearby parking lot and discovering his new favorite drink, the tamarindo margarita (virgin of course!).
Rainy season, May to November, is now upon us, although the northern part of Costa Rica receives much less rain. Hence the less likely chance of a lightening strike, which is kind of any boaters biggest fear at this time of year. With that in mind, we feel this is the perfect place to leave the Lisa Kay while we make a two month trip back to the San Francisco bay area to visit our mom's and for Ben to fill up his "love bucket" with his friends.
Looking back on this past season of sailing I can't believe how far we have come (not necessarily in miles), the countries we have traveled through, and the people we have met. And yes, a few dogs along the way as well. Land travel hadn't really been something we had thought about when we decided to go cruising, but now we have learned how it's as equally rewarding as being solely on the water. We have become so comfortable with each other, in extremely tight quarters, and much more relaxed in our second year as boaters. And yes, in case all of you were wondering...Ben and I graduated fifth grade! I know some of my friends out there, (yes, I know who you are!) laugh at the thought of me teaching Ben math...and English...and whatever else...but the truth of the matter is we are doing really well. He is getting an education of a lifetime and for now we wouldn't change a thing!
San Francisco here we come!!!! Pura Vida
Look in the gallery under Pura Vida Costa Rica for pictures from our travels so far in Costa Rica!!! Don't forget to write us a comment, we love hearing from you!!!