01/27/2012, Pamana City, Panama
Domingo bringing spinach to the Lisa Kay
Nov. 19, 2011
Panama; Land of Islands, Malls, and People
Never before have I felt such a distinction as we passed from one country to another. Immediately as we crossed into Panama, we started to see fish, dolphins, and no more long line fishing vessels. Phew...the world is right again. Deserted islands with white sandy beaches, palm trees, and emerald green water enchanted our eyes and minds. The chain of deserted islands as you enter into northern Panama just seemed to go on forever. Ben was so excited he was like a kid in a candy shop. He loves being an explorer. One of his best discoveries was quicksand in the Islas Secas. He could have stayed on the beach forever, playing in the small river that ran out of the island on the beach therefore creating this liquefaction of sand. I, however, had met my annual contribution of blood for the no-seeum/mosquito community and we dinghied back to the Lisa Kay for a boat cooked dinner. Larry and Ben= 0 bites. Lisa= 54 bites (mind you this was a quick cursory count by Ben only in areas that weren't covered...if 'ya know what I mean.) I looked like I had the chicken pox! Every night for a week, Larry would patiently dab cortisone on each spot when the itching became too intense.
Islas Secas was actually our third stop in Panama, the first being Isla Parida and the second Isla Gamez. Parida was beautiful, but a bit wild and rolly due to the current weather conditions. That's the way it goes with anchorages, one day it can be the most amazing, calm, beautiful stop with incredible snorkeling, and the next day with a slight shift in wind or ocean swell and it can become a washing machine. Isla Gamez was truly picture postcard perfect though. We had never seen anything more beautiful when we pulled up. Excitedly we got on our bikinis, lowered the dinghy and...here pulls up a panga full of eight men who proceed to jump out on OUR private beach(!) unloading several coolers and immediately stripping down to their underwear (ewww!). "No way," said I! "I am not going on a deserted island like that with all those men!" Knowing they were just daytime tourists we thought we would just wait 'til they left, taking advantage of the time while we waited for them to leave and doing school with Ben. Several hours later as Ben and I are sitting in the salon we hear a sneeze outside one of the portholes. Hmmmm...that's weird. I stick my head out above, look around, see the men still on the beach... but I didn't do a head count. Several minutes later Larry comes out from our cabin thinking he hears a noise. Going up on deck to look around he suddenly yells at me to come up and help. Turns out one of the men has decided to swim out to our boat but is now drowning and barely has been able to cling to our dinghy, for God knows how long. Larry and I, with much difficulty, are barely able to pull up this wet, slippery, VERY large man, and next thing we know as he topples inside our dinghy he says in a thick accent, "I am Russian!" Well, I didn't care if he was from the moon because he was drunk, I mean REALLY drunk...like falling down drunk and he shouldn't have been swimming. We pick up his other friend who had supposedly swam out to rescue him and drive them both back to the beach. I am angry, to say the least, and storm up on the beach looking for the panga driver who brought these men out here for their "drunk fest". When I find him, in my best Spanish I try to explain how dangerous this is and he looks at me and says in perfect English, "I know, I can't get them to leave." So, this goes on for a few hours more. Our special Russian friend tries to swim back out to us several more times. Their panga driver intercepting each time, only he could not pull him into the panga by himself so he would just have him hang on to the side and drive him back to the beach. (See the picture in our photo gallery to believe this!)
Our next stop was Islas Secas, which I mentioned before with the quicksand and itchy things. I don't feel totally comfortable in this chain of islands we are traveling through. Not sure if it's just me, or the constant gray cloud cover that gives you this ominous feeling. The water is emerald green, it is beautiful, I have never seen anything like it. However, slightly murky with the runoff from land, lot's of debris in the water, and the quite frequent log/entire tree to maneuver around. With it still being rainy season, every hour of every day is sort of touch and go as to whether we are able to get off the boat, snorkel, explore the islands, and stretch our legs. Each time we did manage to get in a snorkel, the jelly fish stings would run us out of the water pretty quick. November is just the wrong time of year to travel through these islands and really enjoy all that they have to offer.
Coiba Island we did not want to miss. This is a national park which a lot of sailors miss because it is rather expensive to stop here. Just to anchor, they charged us $180/night, plus $20/adult. Ben was free. We talked them into letting us stay for two nights at this price. Woo hoo! There were several park rangers/men that just hang out on the island (we're not sure!) who just sit around with a sort of "guerilla" type look, one of them taking us into a very dark room ('ya know, the kind that has the single light bulb hanging from the ceiling?) and proceeded to write our names down in a school book folder and take our cash. Oh well, after all we came all this way, wouldn't want to miss it right?! Coiba is the largest island in Central America and was inhabited as early as 500 BC. The island held a penal colony from 1919 until 1995, at which time the Panamanian government decided to remove all the prisoners within the next 2 ½ years. Apparently many of the prisoners tried escaping from the island, swimming to their death trying to reach land unless an unlucky fisherman happened to find them and then I could only imagine what happened. Yachts were warned at that time to not pick up anyone they found drifting in the water. All of this prevented exploitation of the island, preserving the ancient forest and wildlife, making it the perfect spot now for its ecotourism and scientific research. To me, it still felt a little creepy here. Getting in a rather challenging, muddy, slippery hike to the top of the island and then finally some better snorkeling later on made us feel better, however being able to see the crocodiles just around the corner certainly added to my uneasiness. I suspect the scuba diving from here is amazing.
We moved on after two days, still in the rain and the murky waters from all the runoff because of the rains. Dodging whole trees floating in the water, we were now just seeking a peaceful, non-rolly anchorage for a much needed good night's sleep. Ahhhh...Bahia Honda was just what we were looking for. Once inside the bay the conditions were pond like. Immediately we were greeted by two canoes, each had been dug out from a single log. Was this the infamous Domingo, an elderly man that lives on the shore of this beautiful bay that we have read about in our cruising guides? No, Domingo was apparently resting, but his family that came out to say "hello" assured us he would be out to see us in the morning. Domingo's sons, daughters in law, and grand children were lovely, and certainly were not shy about asking for some needed supplies! What was the first thing they asked for you ask? Cookies! We were delighted to lighten our boat, knowing that whatever we gave away could be replaced as soon as we reached Panama City. Flashlights, batteries, medicine, long sleeved shirts, hats, fish hooks, reading glasses, rice, beans, and spam were just a few of the items. I promised them fresh baked cookies the next day. Ben never fails to amaze me in how giving he is. Here is a kid who has given up so much to live on a boat, yet he will part with his favorite toy cars, sunglasses, fishing lewers and the occasional fishing pole, knowing that by having these last two items can be the only way they might be kable to eat. In turn they asked what our needs were, offering eggs, fruit, fish, and a promise of spinach! That night we had the best night's sleep feeling safe, secure, and kind of loved by this family.
Waking up the next day, being Thanksgiving, we felt a little melancholy for our family back home. But soon enough Domingo showed up with a huge bowl of fresh spinach (see how happy I am in the photo above!), 2 pineapples, limes, oranges, and grapefruit. He had been suffering from a cough so we made him tea with honey and lemon, and gave him cough syrup and cough drops. We visited for quite some time, us with our less than mediocre Spanish, and Domingo with his non-existent English. I'm not really sure what we talked about but in our eyes he was a legend and we were tickled pink to entertain him! "Get some candy", he said. Candy? We've been sailing for almost a month, our food supply is critically low...hmmmm...well, if I chop up marshmallows, mix in some chopped up baking chocolate and add butterscotch chips would that work? Sure!! And off we went with Domingo, up a river in our dinghy to an indigenous village to bring our candy to the children. Now we're talking Thanksgiving! Sharing, giving, smiling, admiring how others live in a world very different from our old life.
Another great night's sleep and we leave our peaceful anchorage and are off to Cebaco Island, where the books say there is a barge that you can sometimes purchase drinks and fuel...specifically Diet Pepsi...because Larry has been out for days and is truly in withdrawal, and fuel would be nice. We are running low and we're about to round a notorious point and sail over 100 miles up wind and into a strong current.
It is so rainy, visibility low, rolly seas, but we manage to pull into the unprotected bay where the barge is, anchor, drop the dinghy and...no fuel, no soda, no supplies whatsoever. Next week, they say, that's when "the season" begins. So, off to Bahia Naranjo, to drop anchor again for a night's sleep and then our big passage around Punta Mala, Panama City here we come! But ughhh!! Things have gone from bad to worse. It has not stopped raining, and I'm not talking light rain people, I'm talking biblical rain, FOR 24 HOURS! The anchorage we are in is not comfortable due to the direction of the swell, and we cannot get our anchor to bite. All this = major ughhh! And, a lot of worry...and a lot of, "What are we doing?" Cruising is definitely NOT fun at times like these. Our feet have not touched land for days, we've been eating canned food for a week, it's gray and rainy outside and everything inside the boat is damp. Ughhh! I mean I really love my husband and child but being confined like this in such a small area can really push the psyche to it's limit. Larry thinks we should leave our anchorage and peek around the corner to see what the conditions are like. "Are you kidding me," says I? I cannot see the bow of our boat from the cockpit and am not comfortable driving our boat out into a shipping lane where we know there are huge container ships heading to Panama City and yet they won't show on our radar because all we can see is rain! So, we sit...and sit...with no internet...no contact with people...no idea what is going on with the weather. Oh, did I mention the satellite TV works great, except while it's raining? So after the second night, "What's that?"...the rain is starting to lighten..."Let's take off at first light in the morning". And, off we go...hopeful.
So, let's talk about Punta Mala. First off, this translates into "bad point". Need I say more? Now, most sailors treat points on land with a lot of respect. High winds and large waves tend to occur where ever the land protrudes out into the ocean. They call it the "cape effect". The wind and water accelerates as it is compressed while it crosses over the point of land. In addition to this, the equadorian current runs up the coast of Panama, follows the curve of this country and heads straight down this section of coast that we are trying to sail up! Did I mention we were low on fuel? The first part of the day was pleasant enough. The water literally looks like chocolate milk. There are so many waterfalls spilling off the steep cliffs into the ocean, it is spectacular. We start to breathe easier. By 1630 (4:30 PM) from the log book Larry writes: Boat speed - 6.8 knots. Conditions - raining. Wind speed - 8 knots. "Approaching Punta Mala. Hope visibility improves as this is the most dense area for shipping leaving the Panama Canal." We motor on, still hopeful. Log book - 2110 (9:10 PM)Boat speed - 3-4 knots. Conditions - cloudy. Wind speed - 20 knots. "2 knot current on the nose with steep breaking waves slowing us down to 2.5 knots at times. Seem to be making 3.5 knots. Lots of shipping traffic to the east. Breaking waves over bow. Companion way boards in place." (This means he was concerned with getting water IN the boat...never a good sign.) 0045 (12:45 AM) I write: "AWFUL WIND AND SEAS!" Later at 6:10 AM I write: "Sustained 27 knot winds." (Which probably means we have gusts up to 40 miles an hour by the way the water is spraying/slapping our cockpit). Let me sum this up in English - we got our asses kicked! It was SCARY! It was dark, there was poor visibility, the seas were crazy, the wind was roaring, the boat was being tossed...it was awful. AND we knew we were low on fuel. (You're probably wondering where Ben is during all of this? Well, he sleeps...sometimes for 12 hours...must be nice.
My next notes say: November 30, 2011 -1045: "Almost there! Can see skyscrapers! Wow! Food! Drinks! Movie theatres! Shopping! I'm in love already!" Now, you're probably thinking I'm a rather shallow person with those types of observations. But, when you really haven't been a part of civilization for almost a month... when you get excited because you see a plane fly over head...well it's the little things...'ya know?
Bottom line is, we survived. All the other boaters we've met have their own unique story about coming around Punta Mala. Some good, some not so good. But, when you have to hail the Flamenco Signal Station (the equivalent to the air traffic control for the approach to the Panama Canal) to ask for permission to enter the canal area, when you see the Panama Canal in front of you and catch a mooring ball at the base of the Bridge of Americas...it somehow makes it all worth it. We've accomplished something that most people would never even dream of and for us...no matter how tired and beat up we are, we're glad we did it.
Pictures for this section are in the photo gallery under "Western Panama"
11/20/2011, Golfito, Costa Rica
Monkey in Manuel Antonio Park
November 20, 2011
Goodbye Costa Rica
Suenos to Quepos was a quick, six hour, uncomfortable run, which made it seem much longer. Motoring in a steep swell, on our beam, never makes for a comfortable ride. The boat rocks back and forth, beam to beam, and every dish, glass, can, pan, bottle, and toiletry is tossed within its' compartment making a loud crashing noise. But, as awful as it sounds it doesn't create the anxiety it used to with us because we know what's going on and we're not afraid. I have complete trust in the "sea worthiness" of our vessel, but what I don't trust are long liner fishing boats!
We are 12-14 miles off shore, and there are these thin sticks sticking up in the water now and then, with a small black triangle hanging sideways simulating a flag. Sometimes we get excited when we see one with two black flags ..."Does that mean it's the end of the line?" But I'm talking tiny, people! You could so easily miss this tiny black dot in the ocean and not realize that you're running into a trap, miles and miles of fishing line, an inch or so under the surface, that has fishing hooks hanging off of it to try and catch fish...or birds...or turtles...or sharks? These hooks are very indiscriminant. We try, we stand on deck, we look through our binoculars, trying to figure out the web they have spun and which way we can go without getting caught up and wrapping one around our prop, therefore making us a sitting duck. We stop the boat, we back up, we turn left or right, we proceed with great caution. But all of this leaves us with a very sour feeling in our stomach. This is ridiculous. Who has the right to do this? I'm not talking 40 or 50 feet, I'm talking miles. And they're out here at night too, in the pitch black. I'm really, really tired of this. It just seems like the water around Costa Rica is dead. We have not seen a dolphin, whale, or turtle, nor has Ben caught a fish. It's kind of eerie. We know that Costa Rica has sold out to the Chinese and is allowing them to rape and pillage off their shores, so is this what the locals are having to resort to get something to eat? (Please read Ben's article on shark finning for more on this subject)
We pulled into the new, sort of completed marina in Quepos and paid for two nights, almost $400. Even though it is nothing to write home about the staff was really nice. It is just nice to be tied up to a dock sometimes and stop the motion of the ocean, if you know what I mean. We were super excited to do a tour of the Manuel Antonio National Park and it did not disappoint. Hiking around felt really good on our sea locked legs, and the animals were everywhere. Ironically, we actually saw the most animals in the busiest areas of the park where the most people were. Monkeys, sloths, raccoons, pesoti's, and deer. The monkeys and raccoons were stealing peoples backpacks as they rested on one of the many beautiful beaches, people were hand feeding them, it was kind of sad. It did not seem natural at all and we wondered, where are the park officials and why is no one monitoring this? I have to say it was kind of weird.
We pulled out the next morning at 0600 heading for a safe anchorage called Drakes Bay for the night, as we continue to work our way to Panama. We are trying to only travel during the day so we have better visibility for those, "you knows". Then on to Golfito, our last stop in Costa Rica.
More long liners, more stopping in the middle of the ocean, exasperated. This time we were traveling around 3-4 miles off the coast thinking we might avoid them. Nope. Only this time we were determined to just take our boat hook, pull the line up and cut it with a knife. However, this time we could always see a panga off in the distance, and we would just aim our boat at them (probably scaring them to death!) getting as close as we could and raise our arms as if asking the question,"Where should we go?" They would nicely guide us, or point us in a safe direction. I still felt like my blood was boiling.
Golfito is our last stop in CR. This is where we will officially check out of the country and get our International Zarpe. It's kind of a cool stop. VERY wet. We made several hikes up into the rainforest, seeing titi's, apparently the smallest monkey in CR, and toucans! Very cool. And, something I had been dreaming about for a long time, a tour of the Osa Wildlife Sanctuary by Carol who runs the center. We were picked up in a panga and driven around the peninsula for about 45 minutes to this stunningly beautiful little bay where she lives and nurtures various wildlife that is brought to her. These animals have either been injured in some way and hopefully rehabilitated and released, or have been confiscated from people who have kept them illegally therefore rarely being able to be released due to the emotional trauma that often accompanies the captivity. We loved every minute of our tour and instantly connected with Carol. Kudos to you Carol, for devoting your life to these animals in need. You are awesome!
Bruce, the owner of Banana Bay Marina where we anchored in front of, was so helpful and nice. We really appreciated him. Check out was a breeze, and we were on our way at 0415 the next morning...in the pitch black...rain...fog...with Larry standing on the bow with a flashlight, giving me direction on where to go through our headsets, as I steer blind. One way or another, Panama...here we come!
For pictures go to "Goodbye Costa Rica" in gallery
11/08/2011, Bahia Herradura, Costa Rica
National Geographic M/V Sea Lion in Los Suenos
November 8, 2011
Los Suenos, The Dreams
We have "dreamed" of coming to Los Suenos for 15 months, that is since we met Zephyr! Zephyr happened to be one of Ben's instructor's when he took sailing lessons at the Puerto Vallarta Yacht Club last summer and we instantly fell in love with her. She ended up living with us for a week, as the summer camp finished, filling in as our surrogate daughter as we miss our own Jessica so much. Since Zephyr (I just love saying her name!) is from the Los Suenos area, we vowed to her we would come to visit...and here we are!!
This was only about a three hour passage for us across the Gulfo de Nicoya and we screamed. Yes people, we actually sailed! Sometimes hitting 8 knots! Just us and the breeze, it felt like a beautiful thing. We had a lot of fun. And after anchoring in Bahia Herradura and paying a $200.00 fee to Marina Los Suenos for the privilege of using their dinghy dock for a week, who do we run into but our Zephyr!
Now let me tell you, it is stunningly beautiful in this bay, surrounded by steep, very green mountains. Stepping on land at the marina is like stepping into "little America", and it kind of takes you back for a moment. But the village they've created is lovely and everyone was very nice. We just weren't used to so many gringos and such a large upper scale area. This is truly a sport fisherman's heaven.
There were two things that Ben was so excited to do with Zephyr. One being the first kid to try out her first Opti sailboat for the youth sailing program she is starting up, and then surfing of course, at the well known Jaco beach. He had such a great time, and even mom and dad managed to get in a little surfing as well! Meeting Thomas, Zephyr's fiancée, sharing great meals and catching up really meant a lot to us.
Before we left Islas Tortugas we ran our water maker to refill our water tanks. After two hours it just stopped working (sh_t!). Now at anchor in Bahia Herradura, Larry is troubleshooting the problem with help from Rich Boren from Cruise RO Water & Power. Rich has been great and we love our 45gph water maker we bought from them and installed in Ixtapa last year. After some elbow grease the water maker is up and running and off we go to Quepos, and Manuel Antonio National Park for some flora and fauna...with full water tanks!
See Los Suenos photo gallery
11/07/2011, Isla Tortugas, Costa Rica
S/V Lisa Kay at anchor, Islas Tortugas
November 7, 2011
You guessed it, Islands of the Turtles (not!). As usual this once upon a time turtle haven no longer has any turtles, but despite that I think this is the loveliest anchorage we have ever been to. Solitude, beauty, powdery white sand beaches, palm trees, and turquoise water...awww....Thank you to Len and Erin on S/V Maestro for encouraging us to stop here!
After a short two hour scenic motor over from our last stop, anchoring in front of the secluded island, we couldn't wait to get in the water and explore the beaches. Islas Tortugas is two islands, one uninhabited except for the chattering parrots that would return in the evening to roost, and the other that has a daytime beach club for the tourists that are boated over for a day of snorkeling and relaxation on a lounge chair. Needless to say, Ben jumps on his surf board and paddles over to the empty beach, finding the biggest hermit crabs ever! And, unfortunately, piles of (mostly plastic) garbage that has washed up on shore with the tide, over and over.
We notice another sailboat pull in, drop anchor, and a single man jump off with his dog and swim to shore. How cute. Gotta go meet him, and for those of you who know us, pet the dog! Nice man from Germany, living and working here for many years, who just loves to sail to these islands for a one night get away. We also meet another tourist couple here from Kentucky, who really just came to Costa Rica for a dental vacation. Yep, what would have cost them over $20K in the States, cost a little over $6K here, was finished in a few days and with all the latest and greatest in technique and hardware. They were very happy and had met many tourists doing the same thing. Something to think about for those of you who want some work done.
No sooner do we return to our boat when a panga pulls up offering fresh oysters. "No gracias", says I, and no sooner do I say this and the guilt creeps in. I just should have bought some, even if we don't eat them just to help these people some. Oh well...next time. I really do wish we were more adventurous when it comes to seafood. But like I've said before, it really grosses us out. No matter how fresh it is, it still seems to smell fishy, and we just love seeing things alive, not dead.
We proceed to have a yummy dinner, with a clean conscience, of something vegetarian and it just so happens the movie Dead Calm is on TV which Ben has never seen before. What fun to be all snuggled in this cozy little anchorage watching this scary movie while swaying on the hook on our creaky boat!
About 8 AM the next morning we hear a tap on the hull and here is one of the men from yesterday who was offering oysters, now all alone in a sort of dugout canoe, offering some sort of beautiful white meat fish fillets. "Okay", says I, "Cuanto questa?". We settle on $6.00. (For the record, we did eat this fish the next day and it was yummy...minus the 8 MILLION BONES!!...Sigh...) Our new friend with the name of Roja, or something like that, asks us if we would like lobster for dinner. "Si", we say excitedly! (Hey, I never said I was a perfect vegetarian!) "Comida," he asks? He wants some food. Now let me explain, because this guy is quite a sight. First of all like I said, he is in this canoe that looks like it shouldn't even float. His oar is a stick with an old street sign attached. He has on some tattered shorts and a very small long sleeved wool sweater (seriously in this heat?!). It looks like a child's size on this man, and the holes are sewed together with fishing line! Well, what can lame me pull together? A banana, an apple, two nut granola bars, a large box of juice, and a cold glass of water. Our boat suddenly reminded me of my mother's pantry, which means it is virtually empty. We don't have a lot of "snacky foods", just things that we prepare fresh. He simply says, "Gracias," and is on his way.
We spend our day attempting to snorkel at the nearby pinnacle, but the water is very murky and we give up after a short while. Instead, we bring a large hefty bag to the deserted island to pick up garbage. Again, another lame effort on my part because we fill the bag within ten minutes and only make a dent in what was there. We know our next stop we'll be near a marina where we will be able to bring all of this and it will be recycled, but I have to admit that the fear crawls into my mind of bringing bugs on our boat. Ben enjoys an afternoon of "skurfing", that is surfing behind our dinghy, water ski style, and then we turn in for the day. Suddenly who's there but Roja! And with enough lobster to feed an army and he wants $50.00.! "No,no,no," says I. "How's about I pick out what we want and pay you $25?" ( now stop yelling at me you fellow boaters, I know we probably way over paid) but, we had a delicious dinner and were very grateful for it.
Later on in the evening, as Larry and I were swinging in our hammocks, watching the sunset, we are astonished to see Roja, paddling across the bay, the BIG bay, for a long, long time...wow. The next morning we ask him, as he visited us again, "How long does it take you to get home?" Two hours says he! Whoa! I pack him more food, this time rice, beans, and canned corn, and a chocolate bar, and tell him we are leaving. "Buen viaje" we say, and really mean it.
After a few hours of fantastic snorkeling, and going back to pick up more garbage we wave goodbye to these beautiful islands, feeling so blessed that we came.
For related pictures see gallery titled: Isla Tortugas
11/03/2011, Bahia Ballena, Costa Rica
Goodbye Marina Papagayo!!!
November 3, 2011
The Adventure: Season Three
The time has come to bid adieu, and ouch...as Ben says, "This one is gonna hurt." Marina Papagayo has only been our home for the last five months, minus the two we spent in the States, yet it feels like so much longer because of the friendships we have made. Thank you, thank you to: the management- Dan, Brian, Shirley, Jesse, and Raquel, the Ship Store - Herman, the fuel dock crew- Ermine and Flo, the Dive Bar staff- Johnson, Adrian, Luis, Tony, Francisco, the best dock workers EVER- Eric, Luis, Jesus, Carlos, and Douglas, my two best "tican" girlfriends- Kattia and Nasira, AND all the security guards - who faithfully have watched over us. We have shared many great meals and laughs together and we will never forget you!
After almost two months of pretty intense labor on our teak decks we have stopped all of the leaks in the boat, and though we are not 100% done the time has come to start working our way to Panama before our time runs out on our passports. We decided to stay and celebrate Halloween at the marina which turned out to be a big hit with the kids, who not only got to carve pumpkins but play a sort of Amazing Race/scavenger hunt game, followed up by some trick or treating. Then we, the remaining boating group getting ready to move on, were thrown a party, authentic Costa Rican food with all the fixin's, by the marina that was so generous we were just blown away! Four days later we untied our lines for good, after many hugs and kisses goodbye. This truly is the hardest part of the boating life.
Bahia Ballena, Bay of the Whales, is where" the adventure-Season 3" begins. After getting caught in a fishing long line for our very first time just after we rounded Cabo Blanco (thankfully it got caught on our keel and we were able to back off of it before it got into the prop) we pull in and anchor around 9:20 AM, 17 hours after saying goodbye to all of our friends. All of a sudden we feel exhausted and all alone. It is a beautiful bay, empty besides some fishing pangas tied up to a high concrete dock. There is a long curving beach, surrounded by lush green mountains and palm trees. There is a scattering of homes, some even built on stilts over the water. It looks rather deserted. And this is where the fear starts to creep in for me. We constantly are fighting, in our minds, other people's fears (and sometimes legitimate experiences) of theft usually. Now in our logical mind we realize that this can happen anywhere at any time, and that no matter where we are we need to be prudent in not letting items that are easily picked up to sit out and all other things should be locked up therefore, in theory, being very inconvenient to take. We are still hearing of, and meeting boats that bypass Costa Rica for this very reason...fear. But we don't want to be this way! So after a short nap, we pull ourselves up by the boot straps and forge ahead with our plans - the reason we stopped in this pretty little anchorage. We were told not to miss the funky sort of hippy surfer town of Montezuma, and hike the waterfalls. The only place to leave our dinghy here is to tie it up to that concrete dock that has about 15 panga's already attached to it as well. It is slippery and slimy, covered in sharp barnacles and bright red fish blood and just the smell alone, of the fish market up above is enough to gag even the strongest stomach. We know that even if we tie our dinghy to it, we also need to set a stern anchor, thus stopping our dinghy from getting sucked underneath with the tide and then popping on the barnacles. No sooner are we there, and up comes this nice, twenty something year old man, named Norberto, that speaks pretty good English! "Can we leave our dinghy here for a few hours," we ask? "No problem", he says, "I'll even keep an eye on it with the outgoing tide". "Can we catch a taxi here to Montezuma?" "No problem," says he, "I'll walk you to town to pick one up." Hmmm...this is going far too well...can we trust him...? So, off we go with our new friend, chatting the whole way, walking on a long, lonely dirt road, cutting off on a path that runs along the shore...fear creeps in...and next thing we know we're in the VERY small town of Tambor. And sure enough Norberto calls his friend, who happens to be the local taxi and off we go, Norberto promising to meet us back on the dock at 5 PM.
Now we were told that Montezuma was like Carmel, California. That, it is not. Funky, yes it is. We met several young tourists there, from Australia, England, Germany, Canada, (how do these people hear of these places?!) and after a quick lunch off on a dirt road we went looking for the waterfalls. Near the base of the trail to the waterfalls here comes a man bringing back some other sucker/tourists and asks if we want him to be our guide. "Sure", we say, "Why not?" Sam, this crazy looking dude, turned out to be awesome! Only working for tips (we paid him $6.00 at the end and bought him a coke), he safely guided us up the very muddy, slippery trail where at one point, after walking through the strong rushing water, we had to climb on the hillside hanging onto only a thin rope. The waterfall was awesome, and Sam took Ben in to swim under the falls, then climb the rocks behind it and dive in. He had a great time. But time went by fast and I was anxious to find a cab that would take us back to our boat before dark. Well, guess who took us back to town to find us a cab? You guessed it, Sam. He said he was done working for the day after we paid him our money, he now had enough to feed his family. (Awww...) Well, Sam found us a friend/taxi driver of his that drove this...how can I describe it...worst piece of dump of a van we have ever seen! Seriously, most of the windows had been broken out (natural air conditioning the driver called it!), the sliding door side had been totally bashed in - barely being able to slide open, and the sputtering motor sounded like it was gonna die at any moment. He wanted $30.00 to take us back, $4 more than we had paid to come, which we quickly negotiated down to the original $26. "Adios Sam, gracias and buen viaje!" and off we go, Larry and I looking at each other, silently thinking "Oh my God!" The van barely makes it up the steep mountain to get out of town, and next thing we know he turns down this narrow, very muddy road. I clear my throat and say over the very loud engine, "This is not the same road we came in on!" (What I was really thinking was, "Okay, now we're really dead!" and "Crap, maybe we should have agreed to pay $30!") "Pura vida, pura vida," says the driver. Then, after sliding down a steep hill, we actually crossed a river in this piece of junk and climbed back up the other side! (I had to close my eyes for this one) And sure enough, we're back on the main road, knocking off a huge chunk of the trip and make it back to our dinghy right at five! And, bless his heart, there is Norberto, who has taken very good care of our dinghy. We happily pay him $10.00 and a big muchas gracias!
We really are exhausted now, but feel exhilarated. It's good to be back in the game again! Hopefully, after a good night's sleep, it's off to Islas Tortugas in the morning, and another adventure!
For pictures with this story go to the photo gallery then to album "Marina Papagayo & Bahia Ballena"
09/28/2011, Papagayo Peninsula, Costa Rica
Where are we?
September 28, 2011
The Haves and the Have Nots
It's hard being us. And part of the reason why is because we have so much. I feel ashamed of this often because I wonder...why us? We stop in countries, and we can't help but become close with people we meet. But on a daily basis, we are reminded of how much we have, and how so many people will never be able to have what we have. And I guess what's weird about it is that the people that we meet, most of the time, are people that see the way we live. We talk with them daily, or they come on our boat for a cold drink. They are our peers...and they become our friends. We develop deep bonds, and they will always remain in our hearts.
Let's take music for example...who doesn't like music? But, I know it might be hard for some of you to believe, but there are people in this world that will never have an ipod. Or a nice little plug-in Bose system to play their ipod on. If they're lucky, they might have one or two songs of their favorite musician to listen to on their phone. And the only reason they have a cell phone is because that is their only form of communication, since most don't have a computer, and certainly not a house phone. We are frequently asked, "How much did you pay for that?" It floors us and depresses us that electronics, once you leave the United States, cost double. That is if they're even available. A car? (Insert sarcastic laugh here) You can pretty much forget it for the average person. It just gets to me sometimes.
After two months visiting family and friends in the San Francisco Bay Area, we came back to the Lisa Kay feeling exhausted and somewhat overwhelmed. Our visit was fantastic, don't get me wrong! But, it also was an affirmation to us that we are exactly where we want to be and doing exactly what we want to with our lives. I know that is hard for our families to accept sometimes, but just because we're doing life differently doesn't make it wrong. Our good Aussie friends, Cheryl and Peter on S/V Stolen Kiss, have the perfect saying, "Those that wander are not necessarily lost." We love that, and it certainly sums it up.
What a whirlwind our visit was back at our old home. We were blessed with homes to stay in, cars to drive, and love and friendship by all! Thank you everyone! We cherished every moment. It warmed my heart to see Ben, just pick up exactly where he left off with his friends two years earlier. He absolutely had the BEST summer ever!
We literally ate our way through the bay area, knowing we wouldn't be able to have this or that for at least another year, so we went for it! We sort of had to learn to drive again. I mean, I simply could not go over 50 MPH on the freeway! My foot just wouldn't press the gas pedal any harder! I really had to concentrate to try and keep up with the flow of traffic, but everything was just whizzing past so fast! Noise pollution, now I get it. Cars, planes, sirens, and the shear noise of people everywhere. I couldn't stand on a sidewalk and not reach out and grab at Ben as if he were a young toddler. I was not used to the sound of cars flying by. At first we were in sensory overload. But after a few weeks, we weirdly adapted back. Grocery shopping you ask? Can I just say, American grocery stores are obscene. The look, the lighting, the selection, the ready made food, the PERFECT fruit and veggies, the 18 different choices of the same item...I almost cried the first time we shopped. And, California wines...there is nothing like 'em!
Well, we returned with 10 suitcases weighing EXACTLY 50 lbs each, and $390 dollars poorer in excess baggage fees. Totally worth it though because we know if we tried to ship this stuff in it would have been well over a grand. Thankfully, customs hardly gave us a second glance and we waltzed right back in to Costa Rica! And ahhhh...the quiet, the peace, the beauty of this country. We totally felt like we had returned home.
Our agenda now, as we wait out the wet season, is to stop the leaks we have in our decks. This means painstakingly removing the caulk between the teak planks, sanding, cleaning with acetone, taping off, and re-caulking. Section by section...slowly...back breaking...sweating profusely...day after day. After that we'll need to replace every (almost) screw in the deck, then we'll be good to go! (As of this writing we're over half way done!) But we do have a lot of fun too including meals with friends, surfing with Ben, snorkeling, and paddle boarding with whales???!!! YES WE DID!!! I am still pinching myself, because I never would have believed I would spontaneously be on the water, close with a mother and baby humpback whale for like thirty minutes, even getting in the water to put my head under to hear them communicating! It was unbelievable...and then it was over in a flash when dolphins came by...and that's when you sort of look back at land and see how far out you are...and blink and say, "Did that really just happen?"
I immediately was taken back to when I was a sixteen year old girl, working at Marine World, and buying a record (yes I'm THAT old!) called Songs of the Humpback Whale. (I also vaguely remember my old ice skating buddies making fun of me, imitating the noise...yes you did Brian!) And guess what? They sound exactly like I thought they would! Once again, here was a moment when I wished all of you could have been with me, and once again here was an experience that reminded me of why we are doing what we are doing!
When someone asks you how are you doing in Costa Rica you are supposed to answer, "Pura vida." As we reflect back on the 9/11 anniversary, remembering all those people that lost their lives that day, I am pretty confident that each and every one of them would tell you if they could, to follow your dreams. As we enter in to our third season of living on the Lisa Kay, I can honestly tell you that we are living a dream...and are definitely pura vida!