Posted by: Sailing Camelot | July 15, 2012

July 2nd – Isla Parida – Panama

A short trip lasting merely nine hours carries us to a different country: we’re in Panama!

We’ve been lucky, with sun shining the whole duration of the trip and friendly seas, although the wind is notable for its absence…

 

Pelicans hitching a ride

 

The only potential –averted- disaster being that big tree we didn’t see floating just below the water surface… But our propeller promptly found it and neatly chopped it in a few clean pieces!

The noise was scary, the quick vibration quite violent – a giant boat-shudder that lasted just a second; then back to our normal, quiet trip before we could even ask ourselves “what happened?”… The evidence was floating right behind us.

There IS a God that looks after fools and sailors, I can certainly attest to that! And to It I offer my sincere, heartfelt gratitude. The consequences could have been much more serious.

An hour after this, we serenely plop the anchor in one of the many beautiful coves of Isla Parida and watch our first Panamanian sunset.

 

Our new neighborhood : Isla Parida

 

We only spend two days in this secluded cove, but end up with unforgettable memories.

During our customary kayak exploration of the surroundings, Tom sees a couple of children playing on one of the beaches, their parents not far behind. Needless to say, he feels the need to go meet them and I have no choice but to follow my crazy, overfriendly husband.

 

Tom the Explorer with a little twinkle in his eyes…

 

Indigenous children on the beach

 

Upon closer inspection we notice that there are as many as five little half-moon shaped coves, all with a small beach and a simple cabana-style dwelling. All of them are marked with the word “Finca” followed by a family name – we’ll later discover that “Finca” stands for “Farm”.  So it is revealed that the whole little bay is inhabited.

 

Family dwelling on Isla Parida

 

The Roble Family Farm entrance

 

As we approach the little beach, the whole family stops in its tracks. They are VERY curious about us, more than we are about them, it seems…

Anyway, Tom hollers “Hola” and pulls his kayak high up on the beach. He’s soon surrounded by the family and he’s already shaking hands and introducing himself by the time I get there.

 

Tom and Familia Roble

 

I offer my smiling greetings and ask if it’s okay to take pictures with the camera hanging on my neck. We get a lot of blank stares. It is suddenly very clear that my Spanish here is worthless!

These people do not speak a lick of Spanish, and I have no idea what language they’re speaking… So I do what any decent Italian would do: revert to hand-signals!

It always works: big hand gestures and exaggerated face expressions are great communication tools. I strongly endorse this method…

I am granted permission to take pictures, while at the same time learning our hosts’ names. There’s Jose’ the Father, Martina the Mom, Miranda the 12 yrs old daughter, Deynar the 6 yrs old very shy middle son and Baby Daisy, whom I’m guessing must be around 18 months old.

 

Mom Martina with Baby Daisy

 

As I work my camera, Mom Martina gestures for me to take pictures of her baby daughter and I readily agree. Miranda runs back to the house and returns within a minute carrying a stool to place Baby Daisy on. She has also changed in what I assume is her best dress! I guess Miranda has a full-blown photo shoot in mind… I’m only too happy to oblige.

In fact she places the stool on the beach right at the edge of the water, staging the whole scene. Mom positions Baby Daisy on the stool with the bay in the background; for the next ten minutes I’m busy capturing so much more than just images of this Indigenous family.

 

Adorable Baby Daisy, looks like a doll!

 

Miranda, the oldest daughter.

 

Shy little Deynar

 

The Roble Children

 

When I’m satisfied I have enough, I hand-signal that I’ll go back to the boat, do some printing and promise to return soon with a few photos. A few enthusiastic nods confirm their understanding of my strange communication.

These people are very sparse with their smiles, but that’s about to change… I’ll make sure of that.

Two hours later we’re back with a small stack of pictures carefully wrapped in tissue paper. Tom ceremoniously hands the little bundle to Jose and the family gathers around him. As they leaf through them their expressions change from serious, shy and reserved to surprised, thrilled and genuinely pleased. Oh, I wish I had brought my camera back! THESE are precious expressions… But, you’ll have to take my word for it.

Mom Martina finally cracks a delighted smile, and it’s the best reward I could ever have asked for. Miranda can’t get enough of staring at herself in her Sunday best. Dad Jose is almost in a trance, raptly admiring his baby daughter’s images… Even little Deynar regales me with a shy smile as I praise him, calling him Guapissimo (very handsome) while pointing at his picture.

I had no idea of how a few pictures could affect people so deeply! It makes me happy in a way I can’t explain.

 

Back to our faithful vessel Camelot!

 

Soon we say our “Adios!” and move back towards the kayaks, but Jose insists on giving us four huge –and I mean HUGE- avocados that he proudly explain come from high up his own tree. We show our appreciation and accept them, and with more smiling and waving we return to our boat.

I only look back once, but the whole family is still gathered around their yard, focused on those pictures.

I guess my mission here is done!

Tomorrow we leave for points further South.

 

Goodbye, Isla Parida!

Posted by: Sailing Camelot | July 15, 2012

June 30th – Leaving Golfito and Costa Rica

We hate goodbyes, that much is clear by now… But it’s an inevitable part of the cruising life, the pleasure of finding good friends and the curse of having to leave them behind.

And boy, how much it hurts when we hear the question “Well, when are you coming back?”… Our answer, if possible, hurts even more… “Maybe in about ten years, but more possibly never…”

Our six weeks in Golfito were absolutely delightful, thanks in no small part to the wonderful people of Land and Sea, our home for this stretch of time. Actually, they were the reason we stayed that long!

 

Land & Sea, our Home in Costa Rica

So, thanks to all of you: Tim, Katie, Tim2 and Kerry for the human component, and Riley, Cujo, Peanut, Rags, Vinnie and Abu for the much needed animal love fix.

You will not soon be forgotten!

And whenever possible, we’ll spread the good word about your welcoming facilities and especially your weekly potluck parties. We had a lot of fun here. You guys are great!

Believe me: you will all be sorely missed.

 

Cujo, Peanut and Vinnie, part of a larger group of furry friends

 

It is here that I’ve finally discovered the Costa Rica I was looking for. And Golfito goes on my personal list “Top Ten Places I could easily call Home”.

So, enough of the good-byes already! They make me sad…

There are many more corners to bend and adventures to seek.

We’re off to Panama, but before we go… The last thing I want to yell is…

PURA VIDA, Costa Rica!

 

PURA VIDA, Costa Rica!

Posted by: Sailing Camelot | July 7, 2012

Panama (HAM RADIO UPDATE)

We have made it into Panama and all is well on Camelot!

We are currently at 7 degrees North Latitude, or about 2800 Air Miles from San Francisco, CA. This is about as far South as we will travel. It is hard for me to wrap my mind around our latest routes, especially after sailing the California coast so long in a North-South direction. Panama City & the famous Canal are actually northeast of our current position and we will have to travel east and then north to get there.

After leaving Costa Rica we sailed into the Western Islands of Panama and anchored at Isla Parida for a few days. While out kayaking, we met a nice family of indigenous Indians living on the island. It was really kind of surreal, since they spoke very little Spanish and of course we spoke no Indian. Through hand gestures we understood that they wanted Lori to take photographs of their family. We readily agreed and after a quick costume change by the family, Lori took pictures of them. A few hours later, with the photos printed out, we returned to the beach where the family was anxiously waiting for them. It was truly humbling We realized that the mother’s only true desire was to capture her children in photographs. Then to our surprise they handed us four of the biggest avocados we have ever seen! But the biggest prize of all was seeing their delighted faces.

The next day we motor sailed to Isla Coiba, the largest Island in Central America. It is also a World Heritage Site and critically endangered. We soon discovered that in order to discourage visitors and allow the island to recover, the Panama Park system changes $60 (US) per night to anchor and $20 (US) per person to walk onto the Island. That was a little rich for our blood, so we just spent the night and departed early the next morning.

We are currently anchored in Bahia Honda, a 2 mile wide bay with a large island (Isla Talon) in its center. It is very primitive, with no roads in or out, but there about 1000 Panamanians and Indiginous people living in small houses throughout the bay . All travel around the bay is done by dugout canoe, motorized pangas or on horseback. The nearest doctor, large stores or government facilities is about a four hour motorboat ride away in Santiago, Panama.

Isla Talon has a small Pueblo (Village) with a small store, five cantinas (!) and primary and secondary schools for the local children. The remainder of the residents live along the shore of the bay. Employment here is mostly fishing or farming, but about three hundred people work for the owner of a nearby private island and a marine biology center. Also, almost everyone grows and sells fruit and vegetables.

We anchored in the north end of the Bay and soon met Senior Domingo and his extended family. Senior Domingo is an “Unofficial Ambassador” to the area. Although he has not traveled very much, he is curious about the world and we have had long talks about different countries. Senior Domingo also has a small but productive farm and of course we have traded for vegetables and fruit.

Due to the remoteness of Bahia Honda, we have had many visitors approach our boat. They are as curious about us as we are about them. Again, because of its remoteness, the people around here are always looking to trade for necessities, like batteries, flashlights, clothing and fishing equipment. I think our water line has come up about an inch as we dig out items for trade.

We would like to stay in the Western Island longer, but technically we are illegal alliens, since we haven’t officially entered Panama yet. To do that, we have to sail to Panama City our VISAs and Cruising Permit.

We should be leaving Bahia Honda by Monday and will head for Isla Cebaco and Punta Naranjo before heading on to Panama City. Our estimate arrival is Friday, 7-13-2012

“This update has been sent via Camelot’s HAM RADIO and will be update with photographs when we reach Panama City”

Posted by: Sailing Camelot | June 29, 2012

June 21st – Casa Orquidea – Playa San Josecito – Costa Rica

Our time in Costa Rica is coming to an end, but before we go there’s one last excursion I absolutely want to take.

Not far from Golfito, and accessible only by water, is another natural marvel: Casa Orquidea, fruit of the vision, efforts and dedication of Ron and Trudy MacAllister .

Yes, we feel very Welcome, here!

Their love affair with this piece of land started in the early 1970’s, when they bought a former cacao plantation and turned it into a botanical marvel where more than a hundred different orchids grow, along with ornamental palms, fruit trees, medicinal plants, spices, and a lot more colorful and exotic stuff that I don’t even know.

Intriguing approach to Casa Orquidea

Oh my, how inviting!

A path that beckons you to follow…

In a hurry I hop off the Panga that took us here, eager to go behind the wall of Coconut Palm Trees hiding Casa Orquidea.

Catching the first glimpse of a winding gravel path, I can’t help thinking that this is exactly how I imagine the Garden of Eden to be like.

Garden of Eden? I think so!!!

There are 8 of us visitors here, all fellow cruisers: Cindi and Adam from Bravo, Marie and Steve from Saben, Sue and Gary from Shellback, plus Tom and I.

Trudy comes to meet and welcome us: she’s going to be heading the tour and illustrate as much as she can about everything that surround us.

As she talks, giving a brief history of how this place came to be, I can’t help noticing how the garden resounds with birdsong. The Scarlet Macaws flying overhead and screeching as they go are a big distraction, so I pretty much missed most of the story.

Curious Macaw flying Recon Mission

Checking us out from up close

As usual, I’m enthralled by nature and am already itching to go explore. Soon enough the tour begins, and true to my habit I’m way behind everyone, wandering around noticing colors, snapping pictures, smelling sweet perfumes, lost in my own version of Paradise.  More than once Tom has to forcibly drag me along… But he also understands my passion and has the patience of a saint, so I am occasionally left alone in my dream world.

I can just sit there and contemplate…

I manage to recover a modicum of focus when we step into a Coconut Grove. I LOVE coconuts! There’s no better taste than coconut pulp, for me…

Holy Coconuts! A mountain of them!!!

Trudy demonstrates her dexterity with a Machete and gracefully but effectively opens up a coconut, encouraging us to take a bite.

I never knew there was something in there…

Tom, knowing my penchant for coconut, goes and forages for me! He cracks open two coconuts, passing them along to drink the refreshing water inside. I’ll be taking them home later on, oh joy!

Tom foraging for me… I love his intent expression!

He’s a good guy, he likes to share.

Throughout the tour we all get to taste, touch, smell and rub on our skin a whole variety of leaves, fruits and flowers.

Peppercorn, Au Naturel

Underneath the peel is the little nut we use for pepper

 

The most surprising is a bush whose leaves, when crushed, taste exactly the same as garlic! But then I’m introduced to this strange flower –we’ll call it the “Shampoo Plant”.

 

I never learned the name of this one, so it’s Shampoo Plant to me!

Squeezing gently, a thick, soapy fluid – a sort of aromatic gel oozes out in my hand. It smells really good, and it’s perfect for washing your hands! It can also be used as a 2 in 1 shampoo/conditioner.

Loaded with good-smelling, cleansing stuff!

All the ladies in our group are liberally applying this fragrant liquid to their hair (me included)… I wonder: could I bottle this? I certainly can’t be the only one who thought of that!

But then we get to taste a slice of the tangy Star Fruit, and I’m distracted again….

Star Fruit grows in clusters

It’ll make your lips pucker, but it’ll take your thirst away

Oh, look at the Pine Cone Ginger, and the Scorpion Orchid, and the Heliconias, and Strelitzias…

My favorite: The Scorpion Orchid

This fruit is called Mangostine. Peeled, it reveals a white clove resembling garlic. But the taste is heavenly sweet.

Not only in Hawaii… Plumeria!

The Bat Orchid. Such delicate nuances of purple, spectacular,

On and on and on it goes, until I’m introduced to the Ylang Ylang flower! 

Star Struck by the Ylang Ylang

Understated in its quiet beauty, it reminds me a bit of a Sea Star…

It does look like a Sea Star!

But oh, there’s nothing understated about its intense perfume!

The plant’s botanical name is Cananga Odorata, a fast-growing tree of the custard-apple  family that reaches up to 40 feet and beyond. Its clusters of dark seeds are a favorite food item among birds.

Not just a pretty flower, but a food supplier as well!

The essential oil derived from the flowers is extensively used in aromatherapy.

Most notably, Ylang Ylang is the base of the world-famous Chanel # 5 perfume. I succumb to this flower’s spell, just like every other lady around me. We are all frantically rubbing the flowers on our wrists and behind our ears… Despite the heat and humidity and profuse sweating, we all smell heavenly for the rest of the day.

There we go, chasing butterfies again!

Must be rush hour at the flower pod…

Can’t see the forest for the palms!

Between the fruits, the flowers, the birds, the butterflies, a very intriguing cat, the giant palms… I feel like I have the Attention Deficit Disorder!

This guy is pretty clear on what he’s aiming for…

Happy Hour at the Scarlet Macaw Pub!

Hopefully you’re not Drinking and Fying, buddy!

Maybe a whole week would be needed to properly absorb it all… But we only have a little over two hours, so it’s a very intense experience: no time to dwell or day-dream! I can do that later…

Seeds under the purple petals of the Banana Tree flower, monkeys’ favorite snack.

I wish I knew what this luminous beauty is… it’s everywhere!

I end up shooting exactly 543 pictures in this Paradise.

Pineapples! Easier to photograph than a Toucan for sure…

I am also actively stalking an elusive and fast-moving Toucan.

 It is imperative that I get a picture of this fidgety bird, it’s on my Bucket List for Costa Rica and by Golly I’m going to get one…

But with patience and a powerful zoom lens…

I finally get my wish!

Caught during his lunch break.

The tour is over; we are left to our own devices by Trudy, who graciously encourages us to stay as long as we like. Tom is beside me, a satisfied grin on his face. He’s clearly enjoying himself, too… I’m still chasing the Toucan, but I think I lost him.

Then Tom quietly says “let me borrow your camera for a second, will you”.  As I hand it over to him I see a blur out of the corner of my eye: it’s “my” Toucan flying away!

Before I can even say “there he is!” Tom hands me back the camera with a smug grin. “There” he says “Done. Here’s your Toucan picture. How about chasing some lunch now?”

I gape at him, unsure at what just happened. Feverishly, I browse the last few pictures on my digital camera screen. After all my shots, there’s only one: Tom’s shot.

A PERFECT picture of “my” Toucan leaving the tree and flying away in the blue sky. The image I have been chasing for most of the morning.

The prize picture: “my” Toucan, photographed by One-Shot-Tom.

I’m speechless. Totally speechless, more than a little frustrated and mighty pissed… It’s amazing what envy can do to you.

Looking at him with narrow eyes, I manage to find enough voice to hiss a bitter “thank you” between my teeth.

He laughs his infectious laugh and says “Well, you wanted the bird’s picture and I gave you the bird’s picture. I’m hungry, let’s go!”

Smug husband enjoying the shade

It takes me the whole 40 minutes ride back to Golfito to finally let go of the envy and appreciate that, hungry or not, my husband would give me the world if I asked for it.

I got my picture. I didn’t shoot it, but I got what I wanted and he gave it to me. Now that I’m thinking about it, it makes it all the more precious…

Regardless, tomorrow I’m going to burn all the books on photography I’ve been pointlessly reading.

The last Orchid… Adios, Casa Orquidea!

So this is it, our last Hurrah.

We’re planning on leaving Costa Rica in about a week. The next few days will be spent gathering supplies, submitting paperwork and getting ready to resume life at sea after six blissful weeks of being happily moored in one of the most enticing spots on Earth.

We’ll be the last ones to leave: our friends are all leaving in the next couple of days, some going to Ecuador, some to the Galapagos, some –like us- headed to Panama.

If you’re still hungry for images of Casa Orquidea, follow this link : a much more talented guy gathered a whole lot of gorgeous pictures (with explanations and information!) on what can be found here.

Also, YouTube abounds with videos that will give you the whole tour of the garden. Just search for Casa Orquidea Costa Rica.

Trust me, it will feel just as if you were here, too…

Posted by: Sailing Camelot | June 23, 2012

June 14th – Osa Wildlife Sanctuary

Established in 1996, the Osa Wildlife Sanctuary  is devoted to the rehabilitation of orphan and injured animals. As a matter of fact, in the beginning the focus was exclusively on injured birds. Then word spread and any injured animal was taken here by default. None were turned away.

Along with our friends Larry and Sandi of the sailing boat “I Yam what I Yam” we take a panga early in the morning, determined to visit the Sanctuary. It is only accessible by water.

The “entrance” to the Osa Wildlife Sanctuary

A Sanctuary for the soul, too!

Just a little after 8 in the morning we’re approaching the entrance of the Sanctuary. All I can see is a very pretty beach and thick jungle right behind it. I’m wondering if I should have thought of bringing a machete…

By the time we get off the panga and waddle the few steps to the beach, our guides show up to welcome us, magically appearing from the thick vegetation.

Tom shooting the breeze with our guides, Aaron and James.

Aaron and James are just two of the many (but never enough!) volunteers that study and work at the Sanctuary. They explain that we’re going to be allowed to see only a small part of the recovering wildlife. It’s the sanctuary’s policy to keep under wraps the big animals, for fear of the brazen poachers that still plague the area.

Beach Dweller

Hermit Crab

Pretty soon we start our trek in the jungle, stopping at a big cage hosting two Red Macaws. Both have been injured so severely that will never be able to fly again and fend for themselves. They became a sort of household pet: friendly and playful, they come out of their cage to be introduced.

Meet Joy – she lives up to her name.

She likes to pose…

… And do “Yoga for Birds”

For some reason I feel disappointed; after seeing these beautiful creatures flying overhead every day for the past few weeks, seeing them caged deeply saddens me. I find myself straying from the little group and venturing out close by, just to listen to the sounds of the jungle.

Sure enough, when you’re not looking things reveal themselves to you… Soon I’m feverishly taking pictures, while Tom whispers urgently to join them and keep following.

These guys were as big as turkeys!

And they were curiously studying me, too!

I feel like an unruly child, not a new feeling actually… But I just can’t seem to pay attention to the guides recounting stories of the rescued animals while all around me  jungle-life is going on! I’m much happier discovering my immediate surroundings by myself…

Another Guest of the Sanctuary with a permanent disability preventing him to fly

I’m sure he’d love to be out of that cage… But he wouldn’t last long.

As a result, I totally miss pretty much everything being said but end up capturing images of strange animals I’ve never seen before… Just what I came here for!

A Two-Toed Sloth

Their heart rate is ELEVEN beats per minute. no wonder they move so slow!

Somebody watching me watching him: a Capuchin Monkey

The guided trek lasts a couple of hours; completing the loop, we return to the spot where we started and sit down in a circle on tree stumps.

Carol Crews, the woman who started all this operation about 17 years ago, shows up at the end of our tour to thank us for visiting and answer any questions we may have. She’s accompanied by a young female Spider Monkey named Sweetie.

Carol Crews

Carol is a very lively and spirited woman who left San Francisco a long time ago and found her true calling here. As she talks about her charges, her blue eyes sparkle with intensity and passion. She’s fiercely protective of each and every animal in her care. I’m convinced these animals couldn’t be in better hands!

All the while, Sweetie gets to know the people around her. She truly lives up to her name, stealing Tom’s heart at the first touch.

Meet Sweetie – She does look like one, doesn’t she?

She has this incredibly direct way of looking at you…

This is what she does: she sits beside you, and gently takes your hand to a spot on her body she wants tickled or scratched. Once she’s done with that particular spot, she’ll touch your hand with her index finger and then point at another part she wants scratched. If you’re slow in responding, again she takes your hand and moves it where needed.

Oh, yeah, that’s the spot! Keep scratching!

They like each other a lot, I’d say!

Tom is smitten, Sweetie clearly likes Tom: they spend quite some time cuddling together.

I can’t help thinking about how much I have to beg Tom for the occasional back rub, and here’s Sweetie getting massaged and tickled to her heart’s content! What’s your secret, girl???

She liked hanging out with us

Somehow, seeing her walking erected was shocking to me…

The “humanness” of it all is startling. The way Sweetie sits, stands, looks around, stares at you in the eye is incredibly… human! My first close encounter with a Spider Monkey left me speechless.

We pass along the final salutations and thanks, then Carol hops on a waiting Panga with Sweetie draped around her neck, zooming off in the sparkling waters.

What an experience! We can’t stop talking about it for the whole trip back to base.

Truth be told, Sweetie made the day.

She will long live in our memories, along with the incredible Osa Wildlife Sanctuary and its beauty.

Somehow, this plant made me think of the Sun..

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder…

Posted by: Sailing Camelot | June 22, 2012

June 11th – Paso Canoas, a taste of Panama

It’s only about 60 Km from Golfito to Paso Canoas, a small but thriving town on the Panama border. It’s very common for neighboring Costa Ricans to go shopping there for the convenient prices and variety of goods offered.

And so one morning four of us jumped into a nice Land Rover driven by Chris, one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. He has the patience of a saint and knows all there is to know around here.

The first sight of Paso Canoas: an endless line of stalls and shops selling duty-free goods strung out along Costa Rica’s potholed road paralleling Panamá’s perfectly paved and marked highway. Quite a contrast.

Paso Canoas

There’s even a MacDonald! No, we didn’t…

We went shopping for groceries and were amazed at the really good quality and convenience: prices on common food items here are 35 to 40% lower than in Costa Rica.  

Paso Canoas is also a popular destination to buy beer, wines and liquors at a fraction of the price.

Curiously enough, the only thing not on sale in this huge place called City Mall was pork! As it turns out, the owners are of Muslim faith. The City Mall was formerly named “Jerusalem”. Fine, I’ll get my pork elsewhere! 

City Mall

There’s nothing even remotely touristic about Paso Canoas: it’s a typical border town and, dare I say, plenty ugly.

But we weren’t here to shoot pictures or play tourist, and we got what we needed.

Posted by: Sailing Camelot | June 6, 2012

Pictures of Wilson Botanical Garden

A small selection of  Pictures of Wilson Botanical Garden

 

 

We’re already starting to feel like long-time residents here in Golfito. Must be the easygoing atmosphere at Land and Sea, the friendliness of our hosts Katie and Tim, or maybe all the canine affection we found in abundance here…

Tom getting some Dog Love at Land and Sea

There are five resident dogs and one cat (and you’re just about to meet them), plus the occasional cruising pet passing by… We’re more than happy to get our fill of slobbering love from all these animals.

Cujo, the leader of the pack, usually warns before snipping

Vinnie, also known as The Velveteen Dog. Sweet animal!

Rags: she’ll lick your face until you’re begging for mercy

Peanut: don’t let her catch you with food in your plate!

And my very own favorite: Riley, the quintessential SnuggleBug

It has been relatively quiet in the mooring field. A couple of boats we know stopped by for a few days -Rick and Roxanna from Tension Reliever and Katherine and Daragh from Chantey 5.  Always good to see friends and catch up!

We spent some time together and even took a group Zip Lining excursion in the neighboring hills – My first and hopefully not my last. Exhilarating!

I say that now, but I have to admit at first I wasn’t too thrilled at the thought of being suspended in the middle of the jungle…

Me: having second thoughts – Tom: “can we go now???”

This is the best place for soaring through the rainforest, as the surrounding area boasts the highest tree canopy in all of Central America. It is truly spectacular.

We enjoy the most stunning views of the “Golfo Dulce” Bay and the evergreen rainforest, rendered shimmering from the previous night’s heavy rain.

View of the Golfo Dulce from the top

What a truly glorious experience! Tom of course is as cool as a cucumber… I’m guessing as a former Paratrooper he’s seen enough high jumps in his days, but he’s still giddy with excitement.

Tom zipping about

Looking like a pro!

Can you tell he’s having FUN?

It’s a shame my camera batteries died towards the end of our fun experience, or you could have seen a wide, satisfied grin on my face…

Thanks to the guys of Bosque Mar for a great experience!

As I keep reading and learning all I can about Costa Rica, I find out about another must-see location: the Wilson Botanical Gardens.

It’s about 70 Km away – a two hours car ride thru the mountains to get there. We wisely opt to hire a driver for the day instead of renting a car.

The drive is very entertaining, in no small part thanks to our spirited driver, Fernando; we pass thru the village of Rio Claro and the more developed city of Ciudady Neilly, separated by Oil Palm plantations stretching out as far as the eye can see, while Fernando joyfully fills us with information about our surroundings.

We’re barely 30 Km from the Panama border as we start a very steep, ear-popping climb up the mountains. 

Looking down at Ciudad Neilly

 The road has been wrangled from the jungle; it’s like driving in and out of a green tunnel! In the clearings we pass a few farms, some coffee plantations, and a thoroughbred horse ranch.

Beautiful Farm up in the mountains

Coffee Plantation

Reaching our destination by 9 in the morning, we realize that we skipped breakfast. That’s not a good way to start the day… So we drive on, about 5 Km down the road to the small town of San Vito .

An unusual and colorful Welcome Sign!

The bustling town of San Vito

In the 1950’s many Italian immigrants settled here, attracted by the nature and the climate.  As a result, some of the best Italian restaurants in Costa Rica are located in this remote little village at an altitude of 1,002 Meters.

We order pizza for breakfast and nobody even finds that strange… I love this place!

The perfect accompaniment to Pizza in the morning: Cappuccino!

I make it a point to eavesdrop, especially around older people chatting away, because I think I heard some Italian spoken. Tom, much more direct than me, just ask the waitress “Hey, what language do you people speak in this town?”.

As it turns out, they speak a mixture of Italian and Spanish!

After wandering around a little while, we return to the Botanical Garden.

The Reception Building at Wilson Botanical Garden

It’s Monday – we seem to have the whole place to ourselves. Great!

I cannot adequately describe the beauty of this paradise, so a gallery of pictures at the end of my ramblings will have to do…

For almost three hours we tour just part of the grounds, following a color-coded trail to avoid getting lost. There are not only native plants here, but also imported species from all over the world – some endangered. All are clearly thriving!

The colors, the smells, the noises, the animals… It’s a wonderful experience. This is a tour I strongly recommend taking. We enjoyed it immensely.

We decide to return to base, having seen enough beauty for one day. Not a minute too soon, it seems, as the skies open up and let go! It’s time for the Daily Deluge, apparently..

I’m glad I don’t have to drive… Luckily the downpour doesn’t last long, the return trip is smooth and we’re safely returned to our boat by mid-afternoon, tired and dazed but ecstatic.

THIS is the Costa Rica I imagined. I’m glad I finally got to see it.

We’ve been here almost three weeks, and to be honest we still don’t feel the need to get going.

So I guess there will be more of Costa Rica tales coming up…

Posted by: Sailing Camelot | June 2, 2012

May 24th – Getting to know Golfito

A few quick facts about Golfito:

This small port city is a narrow strip along Golfito Bay, backed against steep green hills covered with pristine rainforest, with the Golfo Dulce lying seaward outside Golfito Bay.

Just to give you an idea…

The town was founded in the 1938 by the United Fruit Company (of Chiquita Banana fame), and within a short time was built into a prosperous trade center.

Golfito was the most important port in southern Costa Rica and the main port on the South Pacific Coast of Costa Rica in the days when there was little except huge banana plantations. Diseases which infected the bananas and massive strikes by the workers contributed largely to the United Fruit Company’s decision to leave the area in 1985.

Nowadays the banana plantations have been substituted by African Palm plantations.

African Palms produce pods of oil dates that contain rich oil.  The processed palm oil is used in a variety of products. Every day items such as lipstick, cosmetics, cooking oil, margarines, industrial lubricants, soaps are just a few of the many commercial goods that contain African Palm oil. The pods are harvested when the fruits are bright orange-red.

Palm Oil Kernels

Golfito  is an official Port of Entry, and a very popular stop for vessels transiting either north or south given its proximity to the Panamanian border.

YachtPath, the well known yacht transport company, also regularly stops here to collect vessels.  

We’re lucky enough to see this behemoth of a ship arrive and load up a few boats before leaving for its next stop in Ensenada, Mexico.

 “Ocean Freedom”, the YachtPath ship entering Golfito Bay

Setting anchor in front of the Town

It’s a very quick and efficient, impressive operation, although the cost of moving a vessel this way is prohibitive for most. Despite my opinion, the ship is full to capacity…

Getting ready to load a powerboat

Dangling from the crane

 Life slows down considerably on Camelot. Golfito’s pace is relaxed and laid back. We learn to enjoy the change of season with all its drama. Central America is transiting to winter, which brings with it heavy rainfall. The Rainy Season is emphatically called the Green Season, probably to make it a little less depressing.

This part of Costa Rica gets 4 to 5 meters of rain per year.

Tom relaxing at the neighboring Banana Bay Marina. They make killer hamburgers!

We enjoy hot, humid, mostly sunny days, and tolerate the almost-daily downpours/deluges, the thunderstorms and the much-feared lightning shows. Luckily, it usually starts raining only in the late afternoon or early night. But the soundtrack is most always there… rumble, rumble!

Since our boat is nicely protected from rainfall, we can comfortably sit in the cockpit and just watch Nature’s daily Pissing Contest. It is truly fascinating to see rain fall with such violence. The soundrack is amazing, too: from the “Rumble in the Jungle” (as Tom calls it) to ear-splitting thunder cracks worthy of winning a special effects contest… I have never seen such quantities of rain in my whole life, and I did live in England for five years!  I now understand the “of Biblical Proportions” comparison…

My favorite fishing boat, “Emilio”, anchored in Golfito Bay.

But there’s a nice balance, too. Every few days we get to fill our water tanks with rainwater; then the sun shines again, hitting our solar panels and charging the batteries to full capacity. It feels good to be self-sufficient!

Since we’re going to stay here a while, there will be many opportunities for excursions. I’m just going to investigate all the possibilities and start making lists…

I can’t get over how pretty my “backyard” is!

Nice transition from boat life to “almost” land life!

Life is sweet in Golfo Dulce!

Posted by: Sailing Camelot | June 2, 2012

May 17th – Bahia Golfito, Costa Rica – Home for a while!

Crossing Golfo Dulce from Puerto Jimenez to Bahia Golfito takes less than an hour.                                                                                                      

With no fanfare and no problems, we enter this little “Gulf within the Gulf”.

 

Entering Bahia Golfito

Playa Cacao

Can you see the little house nested in the forest?

Tom is looking this way and that, nodding approvingly, a slow grin spreading on his face. “I’m liking this a lot”, he says.

Yes, it is pretty. Two things are readily apparent: this is a flat-calm, protected little place. And the water, though flat, is a lagoon-ish green. Meaning, we’ll be comfortable, but I’m not anticipating much swimming here… But I might be wrong, we’ll see!

Looking at the Town of Golfito from the Bay entrance

Looking to the right. The Bay extends further!

Our destination is up there, somewhere…

There are four or five choices of Marinas in this small gulf, but the most popular -and cruisers’ favorite – is Land and Sea.                  That’s where we’re headed.

Land & Sea Headquarters

Quickly and easily we find our mooring ball and tie up without a hitch.

View of our Neighborhood from the boat

Just arrived! A very Happy Captain

We’re very close to shore and the club house, just a short paddle away.                                                                                                                  Behind the club house, Golfito’s main road stretches out; behind the road… rainforest! That’s it.

Tall peaks of hills and mountains, totally green and spectacular, filled with birds calling to each other. Just a few colorful houses perched at the foot of the mountain.

The distance between Camelot’s spot on the water and the rainforest is at most 200 meters!

Golfito’s Main Road – Heading to Panama direction…

…And heading downtown direction

A particularly nice stretch of the road

Tom is thrilled. “Oh, honey, we’re going to stay here awhile!” – “Absolutely fine with me” I reply, already calculating the range of my zoom lens versus the distance to the mountains. There will be some great photo opportunities here, I just know it.

Relaxing view of the Bay’s entrance

The Bay at dawn

I can’t wait to get to know this place!

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