San Jose^2

Kieran and Denise's Blog of their adventure in Costa Rica. Start reading from the bottom if you want it to make sense.

Monday, August 30, 2004

San Jose to San Jose

We had a nice breakfast on the lagoon. I saw our plane fly overhead and suggested to Denise that we better hustle to get to the airport. When we arrived the plane looked full and they seem hesitant to even wait for us even though we were 20 minutes early. We got on board and they started the engines and readied for take off. Just then a boat pulled up and the resort guide manuevered around the propellars to negotiate with the captain to let his guests on.

We spent the day in San Jose wandering around the downtown and visiting the National History Museum. It was good museum with a very rich history and collection of items demonstrating the anthropology of the people who settled Costa Rica. We spent some time in an internet cafe, and enjoyed some good food and shopping before heading to the airport.

Well we are back now if you want to drop us a line. I'll be moving the pictures to somewhere more permanent so let me know if you want to see more of them.

Canoeing the rainforest, Eh?

The two Canadians, Ross and I, and Denise got up 4:45AM to get ready for our Canoe trip. Viktor's father was very sick and since he was looking after the hotel we helped him settle the bill as he rushed to catch the earliest flight out. prepped the giant 8 person canoe and headed off without breakfast. The canals were full of motor boats and their tourists by 6AM.

Shortly after entering the canals, Ross realized that he had left his special expensive binonculars back on the shore. With encouragement from Denise and I we urged him to return to pick them up before the locals woke up. Ross had an earing in one ear and a long pony tail. He explained that he was the descendant of Irish pirates. He also explained that the native Tortuguerans were decendants of pirates as well, and even speculated that thievary should be the national sport. While that wasn't our experience we believed that his 5 years in Tortuguera exposed him to the truer nature of community.

Ross was grateful that we interupted our tour and credited us an additional hour in our tour for returning. He was a fountain of knowledge and we were overwhelmed with his mix of behavioural ecology stories of flora and fauna scientific names. He would point out flowers that were only pollinated by a single type of humminbird. He informed us that half of Costa Ricas mamals were bats and most of them lived in the rain forest. He explained that the forest germinated primarily with large seeds that fell into the water and were washed into shores. He gave us a couple of seeds that were considered good luck. I was sure to hold onto them until we were safely home in San Jose.

He told us that he had discovered a new type of Orchid, but that there were over 35, 000 types of Orchids and that a serious botanist would not rush to publish finding a new Orchid. He even stopped at a fallen branch and pointed out 10 different types of Orchid's on the fallen tree branch. The orchids were not what I had come to expect. Instead they were small plants, not parasitic, almost like grasses with or without tiny flowers.

Later that morning we pulled to the shore and got out of the canoe for a walk around the rainforest floor. Denise was of course thrilled to getting touched by random things ;-) He pointed out monkey droppings and the tracks of a 600 pound Tapir. Denise and I got eaten by mosquitos and so we let Ross wander in his element while we returned to the canoe to get some insect repellent.

We kept paddelling up increasing narrow canals and through tight turns with rapid currents. The canoe was just too large and Denise and I were too inconsistent in our paddeling to be predicatable. As a result, we kept crashing into trees and hanging foilage which on one occasion deposited a spider on Denise. Shortly after that we stopped for a break and then decided to turn around. Denise's elbow was hurting and so she was paddeling sporadically and I was paddeling too hard. As a result, the canoe was girating wildly in the streams. I took Denise's paddle and moved it up front in an effort to achieve some consistency. She protested briefly, but was happy to chaffeured by paddle.

On the way back I spotted another caiman, and we got really close. It was Denise's 5 caiman sighting and she was happy to get as close as she did. Ross and I got talking and he started telling some great river stories.

The first story was about an Israeli tourist who kept swimming in the lagoon. The locals warned him there was a big crocodile but he didn't listen. Each day as he went for a swim the locals started to gather in increasing larger crowds to watch this tourist swim in the lagoon. Finally, one day in front of a large audience an 18 foot crocodile came up and grabbed him. It dragged him down in front of a large crowd. A quick recovery effort was attempted to get his body, but the crocodile protested and came after the body. Unfortunately, they had to kill the crocodile to recover the body for burial. A Darwin award candidate for sure.

The second story was about some tourists in Corcovado national park where we had been before we came to Tortuguera. A couple of hikers were coming to a big river crossing. In front of them was a large group of percaries(sp) a small wild pig like animal. They began crossind as a group and when they got to the middle of the river a group of sharks attacked and ate all the pigs. The tourists waited for a day before attempting to cross the river.

We started getting hungry and so Denise and I picked up our paddles and power stroked back to shore. We been out for a good 5 hours at that point and had really gotten a lot out of $30 guiding fee. We joined Ross for breakfast and ate heartily.

We decided not to hike through the local park and instead visited the Carribean Conservation Corporation Museum which was an excellent display of the local fauna and had some great displays of the Turtle nesting process.

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering through stores visiting restaurants trying to decided where the best and most authentic carribean meal was to be had. We settled on splitting a dish at a chilean restaurant and I had the world's largest carribean shrimp, which Ross confirmed for me. These shrimp were about 12 inches head to tail, like a small lobster. Hmmm, yum.

We learned that our Turtle guide Viktor's father had passed away at 11 that morning. We headed back to the hotel for an early night and our final day in Costa Rica.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Mid-wifing Green Back Turtles

Thursday night I dragged Denise out of her slumber with much convincing to see the famous Tortuguera giant sea turtles. We were required to dress in all dark colors, and were strictly instructed to not bring a camera, or light of any kind. I felt like we were going to a cult party as almost a hundred tourists outfitted in black came streaming past us on the way to the beaches.

Denise held my hand as we headed out into the darkness of the Tortuguera national park beach. The park had set aside some 19 miles of beach. This area was identified by an american biologist Archie Carr who pioneered studying of several giant sea turtles. His book the "Windward Road" created a community of influential activists who work in the US and Costa Rica and created protections for the nesting grounds of atlantic ocean sea turtles. The sea turtles live for decades and are one of the few animals that have outlived the dinosaurs. However, they are extremely sensitive to having their breeding cycle distrupted when they attempt to lay their eggs on beaches at the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in Florida and here in Tortuguera.

We walked out to the beach and were inspected by the national park rangers. Denise and I were both impressed with how knowledgable and serious our guides and the rangers were. Victor, our guide, kept us informed of what was going on as we waited our turn. He told us that we were allowed to see only one turtle nesting and that there was no guarantee we would see one. We had access to 5 of the 19 miles of beach and two hours to see a turtle nest and return. However, he suggested it would not be a problem since there were a lot of turtles at this time of season.

Sure enough, within 5 minutes a giant sea turtle came up on the beach. We lined up on the beach staring at a black lump in the rough carribean surf. We all watched intently, but our eyes hadn't yet had 15 minutes necessary to reach the first stage of night vision. The mass moved slowly up the beach to the edge of the tide. Suddenly, it turned and there was a comotion as we were told to rush towards the black lump.

Victor pulled out a red light and shined it on the back of the turtle as it quickly plunged back into the sea. I wondered if that was our one chance. Had we missed it? The rules of engagement with the turtles seemed very odd to me. We regrouped once the turtle dissapeared and waited as another group was instructed to hudle around a large impression in the sand. All I could see was a wall of black clothes. It felt like junior high recess and I was on the outside.

Soon enough Victor told us to move close to the hole in the sand. I dived in and got down on my hands and knees. Out came his red light and I was looking up the personal end of three and a half foot diameter female turtle. The logic of having to wear black but also being able to look up the shell of the turtle evaded me. I was fascinated. There were two large holes, the first was a large dug out trench that the sea turtle had made for herself. Then she has created a small deeper triangle shaped hole another 2 feet deep. I looked into the hole and I saw her birth an egg. It was the kind of shocking experience that biting on a bare wire would give you. I felt like I was going to swallow my jaw. Denise was almost in tears. I felt part embarrased, part pride of being a living creature. Watching life being created before you is an intense feeling that puts everything else in perspective.

We continued to watch as more eggs, they looked like hardboiled eggs, dropped into the sand. Victor told us this turtle would lay around 100 eggs tonight. She would return to Tortuguero 6 to 7 more times laying 100 eggs each time. Approximately 70 of the turtle eggs would hatch into turtles and 1 in a thousand would reach maturity and return to these beaches to lay eggs in 30 years. She would repeating this nesting process every 3 years.

Once she was done laying eggs she started using her fins to push back sand and cover the whole. Victor explained to Denise that these eggs would be predominantly female because the nest would be in the hot sand of the beach rather than the sand further from shore under some vegetation. I told Denise that's because boys are cooler than girls.

I asked about the rules and wouldn't we interrupt the turtles if we were so close. Victor informed us that the turtles were sensitive when choosing to begin nesting, but once they began nesting they entered a trance and although they knew we were around, they weren't disrupted in completing the nesting process.

Then a group from the Carribean Conservation Corporation arrived to measure and tag this turtle. They check the front tags for existing tags and when they didn't find them they tagged the turtles. These tags were redeemable to the marine biology department at Florida state university for 5 dollars. Archie Carr has secured a national science grant for paying for tags and tagging information that he claimed was the best money he ever spent. This tagging reward program provided excellent lifecycle data and migration patterns for sea turtles over the last several decades.

We stayed and saw another nesting turtle digging it's whole. We also quietly hid as another turtle climbed out of the sea only to return to sea in what is called half mooning. I was assured the turtles would return to the sea and try again to nest else where along the 19 miles.

What's really fascinating is that you can now signup to sponsor a turtle and recieve email of your turtles location as they are spotted for only $25. If you looking for a lifelong present then you might want to consider this as a special gift for someone.

Caimans, Spiders, low-land rain forests, Oh My!

We had an amazing time in Tortuguero. We flew in early Thursday morning and moved into our sparse hotel room. We had breakfast at the new place in town. The population of Tortuguero is around 850 and it's basically an illegal squatters settlement that has been partially legitimized because of the 50, 000 tourists who bring in several million dollars a year. People were friendly and the scenery was beautiful.

We arranged to rent a kayak in the morning and hiked the local hill that afternoon. The kayaking was perfect. We headed off in a double kayak to the local ranger station to buy some 3 day passes and then we headed up into the canals. We stopped by a tour boat and watched some monkeys moving in the trees on shore for a while. They are still a thrill and really cute to watch.

We paddled up several tributaries trying to get as deep into the jungle as possible. Denise wanted to stop and take it easy as we moved along but I knew we were paddling against a strong current that was travelling almost 40 miles from the interior foothills down to the ocean. The plan was to move as fast and far interior as possible and float back.

Denise started getting nervous as the jungle closed in on our kayak. She asked if there were any crocodiles in the water and of course I lied and told her there weren't. Five minutes later she looked over on the shore and she saw a caiman, a small crocodile like animal. She was scared and she wanted to turn around immediately. But I kept paddeling deeper into the tributaries.

Soon we spotted more monkeys, tiger throat blue herons, and abundant plant life. We saw another caiman and a fresh water turtle and kept moving forward. Finally after a solid paddle we turned around and floated back. It was really beautiful in the jungle and the combination of solid exercise and remoteness made us feel like we were back on our adventure.

That afternoon we arranged a hike and tour up the local hill with a local guide named Roberto. I had been warned to ensure we got a full 3 hour tour but despite my insistance he took us on the 1.5 hour route. But it was great and we were happy to get as much exposure as we did. The trek involved moving around of the base through very deep and muddy trails to a bat cave. Denise was completely surrounded by spiders. If you turned around the wrong way on this narrow jungle trails you were likely to get a face full of a 3 foot spider web. She was remarkably brave and her definition of what a big spider is probably changed forever.

The guide was knowledgable and told lots of interesting stories and folklore about the mountains and the flora and fauna. We saw a walking palm which is a tree with the root system starting 4 feet off the ground. The trees has 30 roots and each year some roots die in one direction and new roots in the opposite direction start up. This allows the palm to move up the hill in search of better sunlight every year. Unfortunately, the trail erosion was horrible and the guides just kept creating new paths through out the forest creating a lasting damage to the ecosystem. We arrived at the top of the hill and saw another tour group in pants, shoes, and ponchos. We were glad to be in our high rubber boots and moisture wicking clothes. They were covered in mud upto their knees and their rain ponchos were dangerously catching on branches on the steep descents.

We headed back to the bottom of the hill through deep mud for a cool beer and fresh coconut. We made it back to our hotel and got ready for the highly recommended dinner at Miss Junie's. We stopped by the local bar to have a drink with Ross, our canoe tour guide for the next morning. Ross is a botanist by trade. He has spent 6 and half years living in various low land rain forests in Central and South America managing ranger and botany stations. He was very interesting to talk to and he could hardly complete a sentence with out providing the scientific name of a plant or animal.

Dinner at Miss Junies was quite good. Everything tasted really rich, and had distinctly carribean flavours. I ordered a whole fish but found it too boney to enjoy. Denise, the vegetarian, felt tortured through dinner as my entree stared her in the eyes. She was constantly repositioning objects on the table to avoid eye contact with my coconut milk fried dinner.

After dinner I tried to track down Ross and a Duke Marine Environment PhD student from Montreal. Denise headed back to the hotel for a nap before our night tour of the Giant Sea Turtle. We are so used to gettting up at 5AM that going to bet at 8PM seems like a late night. I had to drag Denise out to the beach to see the turtles.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Trapped again

This time all the Costa Rican Truckers have gone on strike. So they just parked their big rigs on the roads and shut down the city. Nice!

So we will be hanging out in San Jose, until our 6:15AM flight tommorow. We will probably just get a bottle of liquor and tune into fox and watch those informative swift boat ads.

P.S. Denise and I are going to reviewing america's most wanted web site later. We think everyone is staying here at our hotel. Rewards should pay for the trip.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

World Record Rain in the Rain Forest-traps us!

We woke at 5AM Sunday to take the Taxi Collectivo to Carate. Basically a pick-up truck with wood benches and a canopy. Denise and I sat up front to get the best view. The trip was 2 hours and quite beautiful. At times I felt we were in the plains of Africa and other times we were in the Jungle.

The road was rough and slow with several aggresive river crossings. We arrived in Carate, which was basically a Cantina. I asked Denise what she wanted to do and we defaulted to the book recommendation of the Corcovado Tent Lodge Cabins which was a 40 minute walk down the beach. I picked up the two big packs and headed out to the beach.

It was gorgeous. We had to cross a river with the jungle on our right and beautiful pacific waves on our left. We trekked off at a good pace as we didn't have any reservations and I figured I wanted to be there before everyone else in case they were filling up. It was a serious workout crossing the soft sand on the beach.

The jungle was covered in these pairs of beautiful scarlet macaws. We would see upto a dozen fly over us at once. We made it to the cabins and hustled up to find the front desk, so to speak. There was room for us. They explained how the meals and accomodations worked and gave us the tent with the best view overlooking the beach.

It was hot and sunny so Denise and I didn't hesitate to change into swim wear and hit the waves. They were very strong here and we were warned to respect the riptide and focus on swimming at low tide of 1PM. We grabbed boogie boards and put a life jacket close to shore just in case Denise got sucked out. We played in the waves, but they were really rough and Denise decided she had had enough. I moved further out where the waves weren't tossing you onto the beach. Since I was the only one in the surf I took it easy and came in after an hour.

We headed up to the bar hut and I met up with a guy visiting his sister who worked at the lodge. He agreed to join me to Boogie board and headed out further into the surf. We had some good body surfing but mostly we got smacked around. At one point we tried to get in and spent about 15 minutes realizing we werent' able to get in. Codie got lucky and caught a good wave that put him close to the beach. I was only about 25 ft from shore but I wasn't getting any closer no matter hard I tried, so I just played it cool until my wave came in. I got pushed to shallower water and that was enough for me.

We headed up for lunch. I ate with a passion. It was really nice to have a wide selection of dishes and not have to eat Denise's left overs for a change. Shortly after lunch it started to rain. Then it really started to pour and so I headed to the bar and picked up a Lance Armstrong's "It's not about the bike". The future of sports competition is truly frightening when parents start to realize the level of single minded focus that's necessary in order to win. It's one thing to have a ten year career starting at 7 and peaking at 17. It's another to start at 12 and go to 32.

But most importantly, Denise and I felt like we were on vacation. Over the next day I would read 1 and 2 half books and Denise would read over 3. We were just eating and reading and enjoying not travelling. But as the rain continued into the night we started to realize this was going to have lots of consequences. We put in a request to get the next flight out that evening.

In the morning, we were told we were trapped. The jungle was saturated, the beach was torn open in a dozen places sometimes digging trenches 3-4 feet deep and 12 ft wide. The little river by the cantina we had crossed was now uncrossable. More imporantly, the resources of the ranger stations in Corcovado would be stretched as everyone would be hunkered down riding out the storm. That is if you could get to the ranger stations. If the beaches were now rivers, the rivers were going to be more like waterfalls. We later learned that we got over 17 inches in 24 hours approximately a recorded 15 year record.

I am sure that lousy old tents that everyone was renting in Corcovado had failed after 12 inches of rain. We huddled up in the bar and enjoyed 3 endless gourmet meals, bottomless coffee, and chocolate cookies. We couldn't get to the landing strip to fly, and the trucks couldn't cross the swollen rivers we had driven across on the way in. We were stuck and enjoying it.

This morning over breakfast we decided that while the rain had slowed it was best to get out while we could. The last river before the Cantina was deep, fast, and we were crossing at high tide meaning the waves coming in were swelling the river over a foot high every thirty seconds. In the end, I decided to get some hero points by carrying Denise across the river as the water was rushing and swelling. The extra weight would help to keep my feet stable.

Shortly after we arrived a convoy of 4 vehicles headed out to cross the river. We got a flat tire in the first river crossing. The second river crossing the van got stuck in the river and had to be pulled out by the jeep. We made it Puerto Jiminez and decided not to wait until 5PM for the 9 hour bus ride to San Jose. We scrambled to the airport and caught the last flight out to San Jose.

We have had to scrap some of our trip including hiking Cherripo, and river rafting. We talked to a Dane and German who had taken 5 days to complete the hike to Seripo Ranger Station hike I wanted to do in two. They were doing river crossings upto their chests and had to do as many as 20 of them for a single river. This was before the rain, so I had no doubt that we made the right decision not to push through.

We might try to do Irazu Volcano tommorow and then head off to the carribean for some good relaxing turtle watching and kayaking.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Kayaking the Osa Penninsula

We took a bus back to San Jose, so that Denise could enjoy a hotel with a pool and get a swim. We also had arranged a 6AM flight into Puerto Jiminez this morning. The hotel was nice and I went for a swim. It was the first time I have been chilled since I left California. Poor Denise. All she wants is a hot day and a cool pool. So I pushed her into the pool anyway! Denise then went to a great masseuse who worked on this muscle in her back for 40 minutes. She was impressed.

We took over the big screen TV at the hotel and watched a special on Britney Spears, drank Punch and Alcohol, and ate too much popcorn.

The flight this morning was awesome. The small plane gettting tossed around by turbulence was refreshing compared to the busses navigating pot holes. It was the most enjoyable transportation since we got to Costa Rica. Look for photos from the air soon.

I have arranged a kayak tour for high tide between 3 and 700 PM. We plan to kayak through the Mangroves, check out medicinal plants, paddle the coast to beautiful beaches, kayak with the dolfins at sunset, and then I am going to swim among the bioluminescent creatures tonight.

I am trying to convince Denise to go on this 19KM hike, 6K uphill, 13K flat to a ranger station. Then another 16KM flat out. Some travel agent has just informed me all the ranger stations are completely booked 30 days in advance. Uggh! Of course thats completely inconsistent with everything else we have experienced. The station we want to stay at sleeps 28 in dorm beds and I find it hard to believe its full when the hotels are all empty.

We met a nice couple at breakfast this morning who tried to hike from Leona Ranger station to Sirena ranger station. They waited for low tide to cross a river but a rainstorm kicked in and the river flooded carrying whole trees down river. They took in a tentless hiker and had a miserable night in a storm 30 minutes from the Sirena ranger station. They turned around in the morning.
However, a different group crossed the river hours after them. We heard varying opinions about whether there were crocodiles in the river. There probably are, but they shouldnt be an issue. However, the next river along the coast after Sirena ranger station is suppposed to have crocodiles and hammerhead sharks at high tide. Yum Yum.
Did I mention that we have to watch out for roving packs of wild white lipped boar that have been known to travel in packs of 100 to 300 and are extremely aggressive. I have to practice tree climbing with Denise before we head out. No injuries reported, but one guide waited out a group of 20 boars silently until they got bored.

The guides seem good, and there is no shortage of things to do in Puerto Jimenez. The beaches are quite nice. There is a surf spot across the Gulfo Dulce that has a famous 1 mile long left point break.

I was hoping to pick up a mosquito net in town for our camping but that is not to be found. Its looking more and more like I am going to drop Denise at a luxury resort with cute cabana boys and head of into the jungle to chase down some jaguars.

Poisin things in Costa Rica

Denise and I have been working on a list of poisin things in Costa Rica. Here it goes:
1. Exhaust. Being back in San Jose, CR makes you appreciate smog tests in San Jose, CA.
2. Cigarette Smoke. People smoke and its really annoying to be enjoying a nice meal. I am thinking about starting a punch a smoker day, as a national holiday. Maybe Ill start it in Costa Rica.
3. Cashews: Apparently the cultivation and production of cashews is extreme toxic. The tree and the oils are very toxic and must be burned off. The smoke from the burning is also toxic and we have heard of horrible chemical like burns for those who tried to bite into a cashew raw.
4. Trees: We ran into a tree the other day that is so toxic mearly lying beneath it and breathing in the presence of the tree can cause serious reactions let alone coming into contact.
5. Spiders: We have heard mixed things. But the best we have heard is that spiders will bite you and insert gastric acid into the bite. If you are allergic to it, its bad, otherwise its like a wasp sting.
6. Vipers: Okay, they are usually high in the trees at night, and hidden behind flowers in the jungle. You probably wont run into them with out a guide, but they are there.
7. Dengue mosquitos: we heard there might be an dengue fever outbreak here in Puerto Jimenez but it was debunked second hand by a doctor. However, in Limon there have been over 11, 000 cases of Dengue fever and the authorities are doing an aggresive campaign of spray every outbreak area.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Mid vacation blues

Hi, we spent from 8AM yesterday until 3PM travelling to the town of Quepos. The travel is really starting to wear on us. We were trying to go south to get to the Osa Pennisula. Everyone was recommending we return to the capital city in the middle of Costa Rica to get to Puerto Jimenez. That seemed madness so we decided to trek down to the highly recommended Manuel Antionio national park outside Quepos. We didn't have any confirmed travel plans and instead tried to patch together our own routing which has turned out to be fairly painful.

After arriving in Puntarenas by ferry we realized we had a 4 hour lay-over and then would arrive after sunset, which meant we would lose an entire day. Denise is really wearing under the constant bus travel and repeated poor sleeping conditions. I convinced a couple from Montreal to split a taxi with us so we could get to the beach, do some laundry, and enjoy a walk and dinner during sunset on the Pacific Ocean. We stopped the taxi at one point to photograph a couple dozen crocodiles in a river. SCARY! We downed a couple cocktails and enjoyed the rain when we got to the beach.

The beach is amazing, but the rain and cloudy skies put a damper on things. Also, the beach is being really heavily developed. We must have counted 40 hotels and restaurants through the forest leading upto the beach and entrance to the park. Real Estate mania makes it feel like the valley.

We stayed in a new hostel and the young english couple who owned, Wide Mouth Frog, were great. It's nice being able to walk up to someone and say, here are 5 things I need to make me happy and getting 4/5 things agreed to in less than 60 seconds.

We spent the last 3 hours working on travel logistics. Mostly, I think another day consuming bus trip will wipe Denise out. So we are going to the beach, enjoying the day and then catching a 3.5 hour express Bus to San Jose. We will catch a cheaper 50 minute flight directly to Puerto Jimenez tommorow at 6AM. It's likely we will stick there for several days and may drop the ubiquitos river rafting trip out of our schedule and replace it with the highly recommended kayaking trips in the Golfo Dulce (Soft Gulf) near Puerto Jiminez.

I am hoping to still sneak in a 20KM rain forest hike, but I suspect Denise won't be comming. We will definately be doing a 11 mile out and back beach hike along the Pacific from Carate to Leona ranger station in Corcovado National Park.

We are off to the beach, and probably a massage for Denise. I might try swimming to local islands if the currents aren't too strong.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Montezuma-trekking to the beach

Well Denise is certainly being creative. It's true the hike was a little sporty, and the bush was a little dense, but for the most part the trail was wide and extremly well used. As soon as we ran into other couples you could see her tension drop several notches. It's just a matter of getting used to a new type of hiking.

The rain was refreshing and didn't last too long. Our moisture wicking clothes had mostly dried before we finished the hike. Her knees would have been fine if the Ibuprofin hadn't melted in her pocket. But when she started paraphrasing Dante's inferno "Woe to you, wicked souls! Hope not ever to see Heaven! I come to carry you to the other bank, into eternal darkness, to heat and frost. And thou who art there, living soul, depart from these that are dead." I knew she was fine.

We spent 6 long hours from 8:00AM to 2:30PM on Tuesday travelling with Interbus to get to Montezuma. We made new friends with Frank, a sociology and stats prof at St. John's, and Leanne, a health care program manager, his girlfriend. Frank and I let Denise and Leanne pick the hotel in Montezuma and they chose air-conditioned rooms. We then spent the next 1.5 hours walking through the town of Montezuma checking out the 20 year old dread locked wanna be's and just about every other hotel in town. The humitidy was so high we finally agreed air-conditioning was the most important feature.

We crashed into our hotels for some down time. I decided to go for a run at sunset on the beach. There was a lightning storm as the sun set and so I had the beach all to myself and it was being lit up brilliantly by bolts of lightning on the horizon. It was a short run but it was spectacular.

I arranged a cocktail hour with Pilsen and a Chilean Chardonnay at 7PM before heading off to a marvelous restaurant called Cocolores. The proprieters were young italians who looking like surfers. But the food was so good I felt like I was in Sicily which was a nice break from our steady diet of rice and beans. Denise had vege-kabobs that stood a foot and a half tall. Frank had bacon rapped filet mignon, and Leanne had Halibut in a coconut curry sauce. Everything was amazing. The consistency and quality reminded me of the passion the italians brought to food. I had Ceviche. Ceviche is the dish that every doctor and every travel book tells you not to eat. But I felt I was in good hands. Ceviche is raw fish marinated in lemon juice. My ceviche melted in my mouth it was the best fish I have eaten since I ate the greatest meal of my life in Milan. I was covered in raw garlic and olive oil and I devoured every last drop.

After dinner we headed to the local club and got a table in the sand on the ocean surrounded by luminarias. It was perfect. We got drinks for the ladies and Frank and I retired to the far side of the beach to enjoy some beautiful cuban cigars for a while. We left the girls alone and soon enough several guys had joined them and had them laughing. Frank and I decided to wait until these guys bought the girls drinks before we returned. We called it a night.

All night long Denise kept complaning about my toxic garlic breath. The room was saturated in garlic in the morning! We met up with the Candian honeymooners Fonda and Al at 10AM. We took a short bus ride to Cabo Blanco and did a very muddy 8.5 km hike through the rainforest to a beautiful beach. Denise was complaining about how much she was done with rainforests when I noticed a large group of white faced monkeys in front of us. It was awesome. They were climbing all around us and and climbing to the ground to pick ripe fruit off the ground while keeping an eye on us. I even saw a baby monkey riding on it's mother's back. It was awesome.

The trail was really muddy and I finally convinced Denise to stop trying to avoid the mud and just walk through it. That sped us up and we arrived at the beach in 2 hours and 20 minutes. I jumped into the ocean for some body surfing on great waves and played with some rocks on the beach. Denise played with the hundreds of tiny crabs moving in and out of their shells while she ate lunch.

I suggested that we do a waterfall hike when we got back to town and everybody looked tired and thought I was crazy. But when the bus went past the waterfall they agreed to do it. They hopped out and I told them I would meet up with them while I went and got Frank and Leanne in town. We climbed the first waterfall but it was a difficult trip if you didn't find the path. Denise couldn't see through the rushing water because it was brown and decided against crossing the river on the way up. She turned back and joined Al and Fonda. Al had cut his hand and need to clean it up. I charged ahead and found the way, and then returned to find Frank and Leanne wading along the banks. We made it to the waterfall and it was awesome. The water was a little cooler than the body temparature water in the ocean from earlier. We swam around for a while and then headed back to catch up with Denise.

We stopped and made reservations for 30 minutes from now at the Cafe De Les Artistes. It's a beautiful candlelit cafe on the ocean with great lounging chairs. You almost expect to be fed grapes they look so comfortable.

Sorry the pictures are blurry.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Woe to all who enter here!

Well, here we are in La Fortuna, the small Costa Rican town that sits at the base of the world's second most active volcano. Today we went on The Hike from Hell aka Hiking in Hell aka The Hell Hike aka...well, you get the picture. We started out clean, dry, insect bite free, full of energy, and had healthy knees and a full stomach. We were good to go! As we started hiking, I noticed these rather large ants carrying leaves on the trail...yes, these would be the red Killer ants that like to hop on your shoes and then climb up and into your socks to bite you...ok, so not a really big deal unless you're hiking uphill (the whole way, barefoot and in the snow) and can't stop for breaks less you want to get attacked by these flesh eating insects. After scrambling through a river bank (full of killer ants), we made it to the next part of our hike which was the Rain Forest. Oh yea. I had no idea that we were hiking through the rain forest again. Kieran sold me on a beautiful, mostly flat hike with fantastic views of the volcano and a Tiki Hut with beer at the end. Was there a Tiki Hut on this hike? No, but we had other wonderful things like giant spiders, potentially lurking viper snakes, mosquitos, mud, and rain. The trail involved climbing 3000 steps to the top of a hill with no view and very cold rain only to find out that we would have to hike back down the other side for another 15 minutes to reach the lake that was covered in fog. We bailed on going to the lake and started heading down the hill just as it started to pour rain. It poured and poured and poured and poured. Dirt turned to mud and mud turned into a slippery brown foilage-y mess and Kieran and I took turns covering our butts, legs and arms with mud as we hiked (sild) down the hill. I got bit by a few bugs and several tree roots snagged our legs. When we arrived at our hotel we were covered in mud and soaking wonder the taxi driver was so happy to see us!

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Oh Goody, more rain

We had a good trip this morning to La Fortuna. After crossing Arenal lake I checked with the driver to see how long we were stopping. He said 20 minutes.

I took the opportunity to do SW Laps. SW Laps are the length of time it takes to swim out into the lake before your Wife starts Screaming to get back in the van or she´s leaving without you! I had to sneak in a swim because the lake is a man made lake. Almost every other body of water in Costa Rica has either crocodiles or sharks.

We met up with the Icelandic couple Andre and Secgy(sp.). We checked into the same hotel and tried to self arange a couple of hikes, massaging, and hot tubs. Before we could get in the cab we got horribly bad information from the locals and it started to pour. Multiple locals convinced us that the waterfall hike was a 40 minute drive and 1.5 hour hike one way. Since it was raining we bailed. Of course as soon as the rain stopped I convinced Denise to do it anyway. It turned out to be a 15 minute drive and a 10 minute hike, which was what the guide book indicated. We chalked it up to a poor translation. It was a beautiful 100ft powerful waterfall. I got in the water and started swimming against the current for about 10 sprints. It poured and Denise got soaked but she was happy.

We were incredibly pleased when our cab driver actually showed up at the arranged time to pick us up in the down pour. The Costa Rican´s have had a lot of opportunities to really screw us over and overwhelming they have been great. It´s no suprise it´s such a popular destination.

I have arranged a massage and pampering package for the ladies. Then we are off to the hot tubs for the evening. It´s been raining a lot which means that the skies should clear this evening and we will get to sit in the hot tubs, drink, and watch a live volcano errupt in the darkness. Better than XBox.

Off to the Volcano

Denise did remarkably well on the night rain forest tour last night. Considering she runs screaming everytime she sees a spider she starred with curiosity as our tour guide coaxed two different large female tarrantulas out of their holes. We also got to see a viper in the tree above our path. We got poured on at the end of our tour last night.

We tried to get into the trendy restaurant when we got back for dinner but were rejected since it was too late. We settled for a nice pizza restaurant and brought a bottle of Chilean chardonnay. Alan and I split a fettucine carbonara while the Fonda and Denise waited for their large vegetarian pizza. After an hour of waiting and watching other tables be seated, fed, and billed I got up and started complaining. I think they waited another 20 minutes before they even considered making our pizza after that.

We headed back to the hostel and had a lousy nights sleep. The people next door had the rustiest door hinges imaginable and decided to open and close the door some 200 times between 10PM and 2AM. Also, the compound light were shinning right into our room through the flimsy curtains.

We forgot our alarm, so when we woke up at 5:45AM we decided to stay up rather than risk sleeping through our 8AM ride. We will be taking a 3 hour trip to Arenal volcano and the base city of La Fortuna. We will take a 1.5 hour jeep trip, then a 15 minute ferry, and finally another jeep trip to get there, saving us from an 8 hour bus only trip.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Sky Trek, Sky Walk, Night Walk

Today is one of our most touristy days. We started off with a 3.5km hike to the start of our tour. We did 11 zip line rides over a period of two hours, called a Sky Trek. The longest zip line was almost 1/2 a mile! We then did a walking tour through the rainforest across 6 long suspension bridges enjoying the flora and fauna.

I ran in the mountains for an hour after we were done. We are heading off to do a 2 hour night hike to see spiders, and sloth.

Then we are meeting up with a couple of Canadian newlyweds from Calgary. We are joining them again tonight for dinner and hope to track down a icelandic couple as well.

We also upgraded our room from a hole in the wall to a nice 2 queen bed suite for $5. We are off to Arenal Volcano tommorow to see the night lava show.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Medicines we should have known about before we got here

Rifaximin Investigational drug rifaximin, a non-absorbed (less than .5%) antibiotic with few side effects and low potential for resistance, is effective in preventing travelers' diarrhea, an illness that affects up to 60 percent of international travelers. Until now, antimicrobial prophylaxis, while effective, has been discouraged because of side effects and the encouragement of resistance.

Wish we had some.

Calcium and Magnesium supplements have been shown to fight off the build up of Lactic Acid. Once we hit the hills on foot and bike we are going to wish we had some.

I read about this book, Trekers handbook, by Buck Tilden on the flight. Sounds like it will be a good read.

Arrived in San Jose going to Monteverde

Hi, we arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica without incident. Changed some money and caught a Taxi to the bus station. We will be taking the 4.5 hour bus ride to Monteverde at 230PM. We haven{t confirmed a reservation, but there is a wide selection and its low tourist season.

Denise had a nice meal of beans, rice, fried plantains, and a cooked vegetable medley. We are watching the Olympics Openning ceremony while we wait for the bus.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Weather: Scattered Thunderstorms Hi 80 Low 61

Let this be a lesson to all of you planning a vacation. Just because it's sunny and tropical in the pictures doesn't mean it won't rain the entire time you are there.

Denise at her good-bye lunch with the folks from the county of Santa Clara, Information Services Department Posted by Hello


Wednesday, August 11, 2004

More (unnecessary) shots

We had our meeting with the travel immunizations nurse this after noon. Here's the summary.

1) The places you are going don't require malaria medicine.
2) The typhoid takes 10 days to be effective, so you won't be getting much use from it.
3) The Hep A will reach 80% effectiveness by the time you get back.
4) Don't let any mosquitos bite you.

Our cost, north of $250 for peace of mind!


Kieran's Green Card Approved

Hi, we had a fun time at Homeland Security today. They decided to make us the first interview ever for a new agent in training. They described us as "the easiest immigration case you will ever have". Denise was her usual charming, vibrant self, and we had our lawyer and immigration officials laughing, and smiling the whole 45 minutes.

Then the immigration agent dropped the bomb "Sir, Denise will be in control of you for the next two years until your conditional green card status is removed". She's having a blast with that one!

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Cerro Chirripó Grande: The number one attraction in Chirripó national park is climbing Cerro Chirripó, the highest peak in Costa Rica. The views are spectacular, on a clear day, you can see the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean sea simultaneously.

It is long -11 miles (18 km), steep- nearly 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) of elevation gain, and strenuous climb. Posted by Hello

Summiting Costa Rica's 12, 330 ft mountain 8/24-8/25

We are going to head to east inland to Chirripo National Park. Depending on what kind of shape we are in we will attempt to summit Cerro Chirripo. If we do it together then we will probably stay at the dark, cavernous summit lodge, booked through San Gerardo de Rivas Ranger Station(fax 771-3155, 771-5116, 771-4836). Otherwise, I'll try to do it in one day.

Costa Rica's active volcano-Perfect for hiking! Posted by Hello

The Mal Pais Beach - Beauty & Serenity - Malpais/Santa Teresa, Puntarenas, Costa Rica - the Southern Tip of the Nicoya Peninsula! Posted by Hello

Corcovado National Park Posted by Hello

Medical Insurance-Beauracratic Nightmare

Before Denise and I are done we will have arranged insurance with 4 seperate insurance companies and half a dozen meetings with Doctors and Pharmacists.

We are losing our coverage with Healthnet since Denise is leaving her job tommorow. We are getting some coverage after our trip to Costa Rica to cover us for the month of September while we wait for Denise's new company's coverage to kick in.

Denise is getting Travel insurance including health for US citizens and I am getting travel insurance for non-US citizens. 4 companies in 2 weeks!

We met with our doctor and he prescribed 3 preventitative medicines. Typhoid shots, Malaria pills, and Hepatitis A shots. We had two visits to the doctors office to get the Hep A shots. We made trips to 4 pharmacies and spent two one hour trips at the Rite-Aid to negotiate getting the malaria pills we needed in sufficient quantities!

We have contacted the director of our local health care provider and our insurance company to help figure out who is going pay for our typhoid shots. We have now brought in a mediator after about an hour or more of finger pointing to negotiate our re-imbursement.

4 shots, 8 pills, and $5000(guesstimated) in time and administration. Any wonder health care costs are going through the roof.

Exploring Corcovado National Park 8/19-8/21

We are planning on heading to Corcovado National park August 19th through the 21st. We will be travelling from the Nicoya Pennisula to Puerto Jimenez in the south west of Costa Rica. This will be one our longer bus rides.

We plan to spend 3 days hiking in this area. The first two days we plan to hike from Playa Sirena through the rainforest for 19KM's to Los Patos Ranger station(tel:735-5036, fx:735-5276) where we will stay in a dormitory for the evening. The next day we will hike back to the ocean. Hopefully we will spot some jaguars or tapirs along the way. Our third day we plan to hike near La Leona Ranger station doing a beach hike. We will be staying in San Jimenez on the third night at Agua Luna(735-5034).

Monday, August 09, 2004

Mountain Biking the Nicoya Peninsula-8/16-8/18

Here are our travel plans from 8/16-8/18/04

We will probably spend 2 days mountian biking the Nicoya Peninsula. We will be renting mountain bikes from some small shops in town. One day trip will be the 9KM trail from Montezuma to the Cabo Blanco Reserve and back in the same day with an elevation change of 2000'.

We will be staying at Los Manos hotel and Denise will be taking some Yoga classes at 9:30AM Tuesday. Then we are heading up to El Octal for Denise's spa treatment at Fusion Natural Spa.
I will be renting a mountain bike in Tamarindo or going swimming at the beach in El Octal.

Rafting the Pucuare River 1 day between 8/22-8/26

Potential plans from 8/22/04-8/26/04

We are planning to spend one day white water rafting 20KM down the Pucuare River.

Fininshing up with night tours of nesting turtles-8/26-8/28

Here are our travel plans for 8/26-8/28/04.

Sorry this a little out of order but we are still working out the details. Most of this information is copied from Frommer's. We plan to finish our trip with our last 2 nights in Tortuguero National Park.

We plan to stay at Cabinas Aracari(798-3059) for Thursday, Aug 26th, and Friday, Aug 27th. We will be taking a 3 hour boat tour from Moin, just north of Limon, early Thursday morning. Tortugeuro is not accessible by road. Thursday afternoon we plan to rent a canoe from Miss Junie(711-0684) and paddle around. Thursday night we will be taking a night beach tour of the turtle nesting grounds which should be $10-15 arranged through the information center(711-0681) in the middle of town.

Friday we will hike Cerro Turtuguero in the morning, and then try some jungle hikes in the afternoon if we are up to it.

Saturday we will fly back on NatureAir early in the morning to arrive in San Jose, Costa Rica. We wil be flying back to California at 5PM that afternoon.

Getting Started in Monteverde Cloud Forest-8/13-8/15

Travel plans from Friday August 13th to August 15th.

We are flying Thursday night and arriving in San Jose around 10AM Friday morning. I am hoping to get our travelling done and out of the way up front by making it all the way to Monteverde if possible.

Here are some pictures.

We will probably spend the weekend in this area completing a canopy tour, hiking the arenal volcano, and doing a day treking around the many trails. It looks like there a lot of good cheap accomodations available as well.

Map of Costa Rica Posted by Hello

Training-with little or no time

Denise and I work out regularly. We both do body pump several times a week. I recently completed a training cycle for my Alcatraz Sharkfest swim. Denise has been training to run a 10K in September with her friend Mary.

I like to cram my training when possible, but recognize that it is best to train over the long run with discipline. However, since we are throwing this trip together at the last minute I figure we should just be working out like crazy! Denise disagrees with the like crazy part.

As part of our training we tried a studio cycling class at the Y. I think it's the sweatiest public exercise I have done. Denise decided that un-padded cycling shorts and a seat that bends up isn't a prerequisite for her trip and chose to return to studio cycling another day.

Saturday we got up early and headed out to Alum Rock Park for a hike with Gina. Denise's sister Gina is in town for a visit after returning from Korea where she visited her husband Doyle who flies F-16's for the US air force. I suggested we drive to the top pay parking lot at the Alum Rock Park and try to conquer the summit. But when we learned it was $6 to park there we opted for the free parking at the park entrance and a less aggressive hike.

Beside's we were in a rush to see a risque exhibit at the SF MOMA and had to get going to meet up with our friends Mary and Dave.

Denise and I raided sports basement and picked up a few items that I was missing like a light weight long sleeve sports shirt for bug protection, fancy sports underwear, water purifying iodine crystals, and some new kinds of liquid sports gels.

On Sunday, Gina, Denise and I headed up to Sonoma in wine country for a little bike riding and a lot of tasting. It was really humid and hot and it was a good acclimatizing experience for Denise and I.

What do you think we should do for training only a few days away? Train hard to warm the body up for the trip, or start relaxing now and deal with the conditioning once the adventure starts?

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Medical stuff, or what else can go wrong

We went to the doctor yesterday. We got an appointment with almost no notice, which was great. It took us almost 40 minutes to see the doctor though. He was really nice and made some recommendations. He suggested we protect ourselves from Hepatitis A, typhoid, and malaria.

The Hep A shots are expensive so we have to wait a few days for the HMO to approve them. The typhoid is only available at the local county health office , for $86, so we have to find some time to get there.

976 Lenzen Avenue, Room 1300 San Jose, CA 95126 - 408.792.5200

The malaria perscription, Chloroquine, has not been available at Walgreens for almost 6 months and so we have to track down a source that Walgreens couldn't!

In the mean time I am reading up about the Psychosis side effects of malaria drugs.

We will also be bringing a staple of charcoal and immodium and some detergents for washing fruits and vegetables.

I am also going to try and track down a sunscreen that works on UVA as well as UVB. Denise and even I am beginning to get concerned with longer term wrinklng effects of sun exposure as well as skin cancer.

Any recommendations of what else to bring?

Geeky new gear

Denise and I tend to move at different paces. I move at the rate at which my heart should explode, and Denise moves at the pace in which she finds the envionment, plants, and animals appealing.

As a result I have been examing some ways in which we can stay in touch even when we can't see each other. The top community site for wireless radio is popularwireless.

The winning radio so far seems to be the Motorola T7200.

Of course, as I am writting this Denise is informing me that there is no way we are spending that much money on radios. Thank god for ebay and manufacturer refurbished merchandise!

I was looking at getting a better digital camera and bringing a USB cable to post pictures. Looks like we will be borrowing a friends 3.5 MB camera that has been hardened with use already instead of buying something new.

Can you recommend any gadgets that you have actually used while on outdoor trips?

Update: The Motorola T7200's are being shipped priority post!

Kieran and Denise's Wild Adventure

Assuming our US Immigration appointment with Homeland security on Wednesday goes well, Denise and I will be heading out for our first big adventure as a married couple.

We have booked some cheap tickets($330 ea.) from San Jose, California to San Jose, Costa Rica.

We are basing our trip on a cross Costa Rica trip by We have decided that $400 plus a day to sleep in a tent with only two meals is not only expensive but a little ridiculous. Our plan is to combine adventure and relaxation at our own pace.

Our research on the top 20 recommendation for Central America have yielded the following sites in Costa Rica:
. Sky Trek: Monteverde area is a canopy tour involving using zip lines to move between the tops of trees.
. Explore Monteverde Cloud Forest, limited to 100 people at a time.
. Arenal Volcano hiking while in Monteverde.
. Nicoya Peninsula, on Costa Rica’s stunning Pacific Coast, are a paradise for mountain-bikers.
. Corcovado: walk at least a day to get to the headquarters at Sirena from the Los Pinos ranger station, itself a half day's walk from the town of La Palma on the Golfo Dulce.
. Volcan Irazu Park craters
. Chirrips mountain in Chirrips National Park is the tallest peak in Costa Rica.
. A couple of days rafting the rapids of the Pacuare River
. Tortuguero:Hundres of green turtles on the beach-Climb Tortuguero Cerro, take a canal tour.

We are also looking at some eco-lodges and yoga retreats along the way.

Any suggestions?