Posted by: Sailing Camelot | May 27, 2012

May 15th – Puerto Jimenez

Leaving behind Bahia Drake just before six in the morning, we set to circumnavigate the Osa Peninsula. It’s an all-day trip, should actually take a little over nine hours to be precise.

The day could be bordering on the boring, if it weren’t for the many squalls that precede us, follow us, accompany us and finally… get us!

These annoying rainstorms can last a few minutes or a few hours, sometimes even a few days. In our case, they were brief, but intense and numerous… Certainly not helping to keep our spirits up.

Our main distraction seems to be watching alternatively the ominous clouds -tracking their path visually- and watching our radar screen to follow them electronically. Yep, we can see the squalls on radar. They look pink, my least favorite color…

We get pretty soaked eventually, and are both grumpy because of that, but we’re making good speed and we’re soon entering Golfo Dulce.

 

Tracking squalls can be fun, if you don’t have anything better to do

The closest safe haven in the Gulf is Puerto Jimenez, so we make a beeline for that anchorage.

Boy, are we relieved once the anchor gets set! Even the sun finally tries to peek out, maybe just to make fun of us, who knows. Predictably, Tom declares : “I think it’s Beer Time”. Heck, he deserves one. Me, too, if I drank beer… Instead I settle for a chilled Diet Coke and feel in Heaven.

 

Puerto Jimenez in all its glory

 

The Ferry Dock. There is Ferry Service between Puerto Jimenez and Golfito.

 

Puerto Jimenez was a gold mining and logging town back in the 1960’s, before the protected habitat of the Corcovado National Park was created.

Now it serves as a very convenient base for Surfing trips, National Park excursions, Fishing expeditions, Mountain Biking and Kayaking. There’s a lot to choose from, regarding what to do here…

It is a thriving little town and even has its own quite busy little domestic airport. Flights get in and out many times a day.

We just happen to be anchored in front of it, apparently separated merely by a small copse of palm trees, judging by the proximity of the small “puddle-jumper” planes zipping by … Needless to say, watching take-offs and landings becomes my favorite pasttime.

 

Little Sansa-Air plane taking off

 

… And another one landing

 

The bay is flat calm – which we really appreciate, as it’s conducive to restful nights and better dispositions.

We spend two nights here and don’t even feel the need to leave the boat. We are mildly curious about the town, but not curious enough to warrant a trip ashore… Can you say “LAZY”? Besides, we can always return, maybe take a Ferry boat for a day trip…

There are talks of visiting the little bays further up the Gulf, but we’re both quite worried about our windlass (the device that electrically pulls up our chain and anchor). It has been giving us a few warning signs and we definitely need to check it out soon, as we certainly wouldn’t like it to fail on us with a long stretch of chain and an heavy anchor laying on the bottom of the sea…

So we unanimously decide to take a straight shot across the Golfo Dulce and aim for Golfito, maybe an hour’s trip from Puerto Jimenez.

 

Optical Illusion, but unnerving nonetheless. The sailboat’s name is “Life Is Good”

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Posted by: Sailing Camelot | May 27, 2012

May 14th – Drake’s Bay and the Osa Peninsula

Within five hours of leaving pretty but vicious Bahia Dominicalito we enter large, peaceful and deserted Bahia Drake.

This bay gets its name from Sir Francis Drake, who discovered this slice of Paradise during his circumnavigation.

Bahia Drake

…And the other side of the same Bay

The only other boat around is a Costa Rican Coast Guard Cutter, which gets Tom all excited. “Look”, he says “those old cutters belonged to our US Coast Guard in the seventies!”

Well well, now we know where US Coast Guard Cutters go when they “retire”… They get handed down to Central America, just like the old school buses, and continue their honorable service for as long as they can stand it.

The Coasties!!! Costa Rica Guardacostas

Apart from that, there’s no sign of life, we have this enchanted place all to ourselves.

Looking at the shore, I can barely see a roof here and there, hidden by the thick vegetation. I know there’s a resort there, after all this is one of Costa Rica’s premier eco-tourism destinations. We’re just off the shores of the famous Osa Peninsula and a few nautical miles from Isla Cano.

Isla de Cano was once used as a pre-Colombian cemetery and it’s an amazing marine biological reserve and scuba-divers’ paradise that holds the record of the most-hit-by- lightning-strikes in Costa Rica.

Because of this last piece of information, we skipped the island and anchored at a safe distance from it…

At first, this is all I can see from the boat… Vegetation!

If you look carefully, Camelot is anchored there…

The Osa Peninsula is the southernmost peninsula in Costa Rica. Pumas and Jaguars are regular residents here, along with the Scarlet Macaw and a large number of other rare and endangered animal species.  It has been declared by National Geographic ‘one of the most biologically intense places on earth’.  It is certainly clear to me, and I have only seen a fraction of what’s out there!

This looks like Tropical Paradise to me!

… Definitely Paradise…

A very large portion of the Osa Peninsula forms the Corcovado National Park, boasting the single largest expanse of a lowland tropical rainforest in Central America and is one of the tallest rainforests in the world.

Corcovado is also home to Costa Rica’s most deadly snake, the extremely aggressive Fer-de-Lance. Visitors are strongly recommended to hire a guide when touring the Park.

View of the Estuary taking us to the resort’s dock

Without getting too adventurous we take a few trips ashore. The resort barely visible from the sea turns out to be the Aguila de Osa Inn.

The welcoming sign of Agua de Osa Inn

Resort’s decor depicting local fauna

View of the Lagoon near the resort

The resort’s docks

We park our dinghy at their docks and take a walk around to see the neighborhood.

Our Parking spot

Open Air restaurant and bar

Comfortable Lounge in the Jungle

This is not your typical mass-tourism hotel, but rather an unobtrusive bunch of luxury lodges with all the amenities one could wish for situated on a sprawling tropical garden perfectly blending in the surrounding jungle.

Visitors’ painted wooden signs in the bar

Another Restaurant

… And One Happy Customer!

I finally get to see Scarlet Macaws flying in pairs overhead. I hear them long before I see them, as they are noisily bickering with each other, even mid-flight!

A pair of these gorgeous, colorful birds lands on a branch of a tall tree nearby, so I decide to start a conversation. “Hello”, I repeat over and over. It’s a one-sided conversation, there’s no reply. But they are intrigued, looking at me with great curiosity.

I got them to TALK to me!

It finally dawns on me that I should probably try Spanish! “Hola”, I start, and am soon rewarded by some Macaw version of the greeting. Ha! Mission accomplished, I can carry on now. Tom is looking at me, shaking his head.

I spend a few long minutes taking pictures of native plants and flowers… I would be still there if Tom hadn’t dragged me away…

Colorful Beauties

Mesmerizing Colors

Good to see this one out of a florist’s shop!

There’s an intricate web of hiking trails starting from the resort grounds, taking you all over Corcovado Park. We follow one for just a few minutes, as we were not expecting -and are not equipped- to hike in the jungle. Besides, the rain of the previous night rendered the terrain a mixture of slippery leaves and mud. We just make it to a suspended bridge before regretfully turning back…

Suspended Bridge

The Lagoon – with Crocodiles! – we didn’t get to explore

Fearless Tom : “C’mon, honey, it’s stronger than it looks!”

Beautiful and harmless Tiger Ants on the Bridge cables

We take the path of least resistance for once, following a little trail marked “The Village” and ending up on the beach of Bahia Drake’s Village.

Well, then, I guess we’ll follow directions!

Path to the Village

Just WHERE IS this Village???

I’m surprised to see an elementary school just a few feet from the water! But I’m soon distracted by the natural beauty surrounding me…

Even the Elementary School is colorful!

View of the Beach in front of the School

How can the students follow their lesson, with a view like this outside?

On the way back we wander around the never-ending wonder of a tropical garden and more resort grounds.

Bamboo is not native to Costa Rica

… And yet it thrives!

More Resort Grounds – Ping-Pong area

Three days of absolute peace go by before we feel the need to move again. Actually, we could have stayed even a little longer, but the sea is giving us a little warning in the form of rolling waves…

Tomorrow we leave Drake’s Bay, destination Puerto Jimenez, Golfo Dulce.

What Monkeys? We never saw one, though we heard them a LOT!

Posted by: Sailing Camelot | May 18, 2012

May 11th – Bahia Dominicalito – A One Night Stand

I’m enjoying these short hops between anchorages… If you don’t like one place, you still have time to move on to the next and arrive before nightfall.

Leaving Quepos behind, we are both looking forward to “tossing the anchor around”… We get to do that just a few hours later, anchoring in Bahia Dominicalito.

 

Bahia Dominicalito pretty beach and hill houses

 

The little bay looks inviting as we make ourselves at home. Maybe we could stay a couple of days, and explore a little?

 

Tom assessing the place after anchor deployment

 

All thoughts of cozying up quickly dissipate after a sleepless night were we rolled and rolled and rolled like, well, pigs in the mud!

Pretty you may be, Bahia Dominicalito, but not worth more than a one-night stand – at least not under the current sea mood…

 

The uniquely shaped Tree on the Spit – Bahia Dominicalito landmark

 

We forge ahead, praying for calmer bays and flatter seas.

Posted by: Sailing Camelot | May 18, 2012

May 9th – Manuel Antonio National Park – Costa Rica

As it often happens, our planned three day stop at the Sailfish Marina in Quepos turned into a four-day stop.  We didn’t want to rush… I also needed a full day to sew up some sort of rain-protecting device to keep us a little dryer in the cockpit. It turned out looking like a glorified tarp, but it works against the Daily Downpour!

We’re approaching Rainy Season (they call it Green Season here, cute…) and most every day, almost at the same time, you can expect the skies to open and spray at varying levels of intensity, usually for an hour or two.

I understand now why Costa Ricans start their day very early, with shops and businesses opening at 7 in the morning: so you can have a normal, productive day in the sun for about eight or nine hours before the crippling rain starts.

This is why the whole Country looks like a giant green bush when looking at it from the sea… Closer inspection reveals an abundance and variety of vegetation so lush to seem almost artificial. Oh, and the humidity level certainly helps: 85 to 100%…

It takes a while getting used to being sweaty all the time, but we had enough practice during our 17 months in Mexico, so it’s no big deal. My favorite (and only) fashion accessory is a sweat rag, possibly in colors matching my (skimpy) outfit… And yes, Tom carries one, too.

Marina Pez Vela – Quepos, Costa Rica

Pretty Extensive (and Expensive) Marina

A good place to call Home for a few days

One of the reasons for stopping in Quepos is the proximity to the famous Manuel Antonio National Park  

Boasting hundreds of species of birds, mammals and plants, it’s only 7 Kilometers away -a short taxi ride away from the Marina.

Our taxi driver’s name is Minor – he claims that his father’s name was Major. I believe him, he’s goofy enough… Anyway, Minor is very friendly and most spirited.

The seven kilometers’ trip becomes one of our funniest experiences in Costa Rica so far, with Minor excitedly pointing out places of interest, coming to a screeching halt and almost shoving me out of the car to take pictures at the best spots!

On the road to Manuel Antonio Park…

… We found this very peculiar Restaurant – “El Avion”

Minor, Tom and I had a very lively conversation touching a variety of topics in such a short time: family, politicians (“they’re all thieves!” he shouts), the tourists’ impact on the local economy, food, the best pizza in town… I think we covered pretty much everything in ten minutes!

Arriving at the Park he starts shouting “Pura Vida!” left and right, as he knows just about everyone there.

A quick explanation on Costa Rica’s National Greeting – “Pura Vida” :

It literally translates to Pure Life, but its meaning encompasses pretty much everything.

It’s also used in lieu of:

“How you doing, I’m great, Couldn’t be better, What’s up, I understand, Nice to meet you, Have a great day, Enjoy your stay, Good Luck, Good Morning”, and most everything else.

If you ask “So, how’s your family?” or pretty much anything else, the answer will be “Pura Vida!” – a positive response without a lot of details in it… the perfect diplomatic reply!

Anyway, it’s barely 8 in the morning as we stop at the Park entrance among shouts of Pura Vida. 

Welcome to Manuel Antonio National Park, one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

Minor introduces us to one of his dear friends, Leotan, who happens to be one of a handful of licensed Park Guides. He’s been doing this for 30 years, speaks perfect English and as luck will have it, is available to take us for a tour if we wish.

Tom readily agrees, while I choke inwardly upon hearing about the $100 cost of the guided tour, on top of the $10 per person admission fee. American Dollars…

Hey, this is what I do: I am the Evil Queen of Numbers. It’s my job to budget for everything. I choke, wince and complain about most costs, then get over it and start spending with wild abandon while Tom just rolls his eyes at me.

Leotan gingerly walks up the main trail, carrying a potent Swarowski bird-watching telescope, rattling away information about the Park and its inhabitants. The women in his family are knowledgeable in herbal medicine and apparently the forest is a great natural pharmacy. Leo points at different plants, explaining their specific properties.

Leo, our very knowledgeable guide, armed with his powerful Swarowski Telescope

Leo and Tom, dwarfed by one of the many giant trees in the Park

You cut yourself? Here’s a leaf to use as a band-aid to stop the bleeding. You have a queasy stomach? Chew this. You’re hungry? Here’s a root that’ll fill your stomach – and he pulls a few out of the soil, offering them to Tom and me. They are good! I could have chomped on these tender, sweet roots all day.

Then Leo snaps a twig and instructs us to chew on that to relieve thirst: a tangy, lemony taste fills my mouth and yes, it works.

Of course there were also warnings – “don’t touch that, your hands and throat will swell up and you could die” – and anecdotes – “see that tree? Its fruit has narcotic properties. The monkeys like to chew on those leaves and get stoned like if they were smoking pot” .

The orange clusters are the Monkey’s Pot. Notice the spikes on the tree trunk…

All this is very entertaining, very informative. But Leo hikes up that trail at a much faster pace than I’d like. I’m constantly trying to stop, pointing my camera this way and that, marveling at stuff I’ve never seen before, looking for images that stir me inside, earning many dirty looks from the boys…

The colorful Land Crab – The Earth is its home and it never goes to sea.

Of course, there’s quite a bunch of other tourists ahead and behind us. Leo wants to “keep the flow going”.

 I want to examine every pebble under my feet and turn every leaf I can reach.

 Leo wins.  I feel rushed, and that doesn’t sit well with me…

Occasionally Leo sets up his telescope and instructs us to look: that’s how we see a Mother Toucan feeding her Baby up high in a tree at least half a mile away. Or a Capuchin Monkey, peacefully asleep perched on another tree a quarter mile away.

Mama Toucan

Looking up at her Nest

“Baby, it’s time for lunch!” – See the little head above her beak?

I wish this image would be clearer, but I’m glad I saw Baby Toucan getting Lunch.

Now, I know this is not a petting zoo, but I was hoping to see some fauna a little closer than that… I guess with all these tourists stomping around the animals stay put in their hiding holes, and I don’t blame them!

But I still manage to see a doe, a sloth, a tiny snake and some sort of iguana-looking reptile, so… Quit your whining, woman!

Bambi’s Mom?

Not intimidated in the least! Almost posing for me…

A Two-Toed Sloth – “I’m just hanging, man!”

I have to admit, I saw a lot but still feel like I haven’t seen enough. Maybe I let my expectations run high again, imagining exotic birds flying overhead, curious monkeys coming close to steal your bananas, armadillos crossing your path… You know, the way they describe it in touristic pamphlets… None of which happened.

It’s an ongoing theme with Costa Rica: me expecting the Country to reveal itself – instead, I have to search and look hard to find its treasures… Which actually makes them all the more precious and unforgettable!

No clue what this little guy is, but we hit it off and the light was just perfect.

Looks like a creature from Jurassic Park!

Can you see me sneaking around in all this Green?

Green is the New Black, baby!

This Park is well worth a visit, maybe even two or three or four, as there are so many different trails to follow. There are some breathtaking views, as the Park extends all the way to the Sea. The noises of the jungle are undescribable – an experience within the experience, the incredible flora absolutely fascinating.

Looking at the open Sea from the one of the Park’s beautiful beaches

Another secluded beach

But I still haven’t decided if a guided tour was the right choice for me. On one hand Leo was very informative, teaching us about the Park and pointing out many things to see that I’d never have noticed without his guidance. On the other hand, I feel like I really didn’t have enough time to really “look” and discover things on my own.

The whole tour lasted maybe a couple of hours: I could have stayed inside the Park the whole day… Maybe even the whole week!

Last spectacular view – Exiting Manuel Antonio National Park

Anyway, overall it’s been a very positive experience.

And our favorite cab driver Minor was waiting for us at the exit of the Park, ready to return us to the Marina! Talk about getting spoilt…

Tomorrow we leave Quepos behind, continuing our southbound cruising.

There are a few more Bays and anchorages on my list that I’m sure have some marvelous surprise in store for us…

Until we meet again, my friends…

Posted by: Sailing Camelot | May 8, 2012

May 7th – Seven Anchorages in 10 Days!

No, we’re not running from the law… And we’re in no hurry, either. We’re just enjoying our “freedom from the docks”, taking short trips down the Costa Rican Coast and stopping anywhere we please along the way.  Sometimes just for the night, other times for a few days if we like the place.

Since leaving Marina Papagayo we stopped at seven anchorages.

Playa Conchal in Bahia Flamingo was our first stop, if only for a night.

Approaching Bahia Flamingo

Lady Natalia, lonely fishing boat and only sign of life we’ve seen all day.

Next was Bahia Samara, a gorgeous and secluded little bay hidden behind the small island of Isla Chora.

Entering Bahia Samara

Sunrise at Bahia Samara – Isla Chora on the right.

Despite the beauty of our surroundings, after two nights rolling like pigs in the mud we decided we had enough and moved on.

Our faithful “Bicycles of the Sea” at rest on Isla Chora

Looking at Samara Bay from Isla Chora

Seven hours later we plopped anchor in Bahia Ballena –the official entrance of the Golfo de Nicoya, smack in the center of Costa Rica.

Bahia Ballena, also known as Tambor Village.

Local early riser

Not much happening here and the lagoon-green water did not look inviting, but it was a nice, flat-calm place to spend a restful night.

Sunrise at Bahia Ballena – Fishing fleet already in position

At this point I was wondering when and if we’d ever find nice blue waters to swim in.

I got my answer just a few hours later: Islas Tortugas.  

Approaching Islas Tortugas: Isla Alcatraz to the right and Isla Tolinga to the left.

These two small islands, Isla Tolinga and Isla Alcatraz, are called Turtle Islands after the turtles that used to come here in droves to give birth. Somehow, that’s not happening anymore, but the name remained.

First sighting of the Beach at Isla Tolinga

The narrow channel separating the two islands

Clear blue waters, lots of little bays perfect for kayak excursions, and even a nice white sand beach lined with palm trees! Paradise found.

Tom intently surveying his new surroundings …

…And finding them perfect! The smile says it all.

We anchored off Isla Alcatraz and soon were in our kayaks, paddling to the inviting beach of Isla Tolinga. We found a fully-blown touristic operation ashore. Neatly lined-up beach chairs available for rent, along with kayaks, jet-skis and all the toys needed to enhance your day at the beach. A little too developed, but still wonderful.

Colorful Toys: the kayaks available for rent at Isla Tolinga

… But we brought our own, thank you all the same.

A huge catamaran brought big groups of tourists most every day, but the island never felt crowded. They were kept busy with snorkeling trips, horse-back excursions, banana-boat rides and would leave the island by mid-afternoon.

Perfectly relaxing view

Turquoise is fast becoming my new favorite color…

Postcard Pretty

We befriended a few of the really nice guys working there and Tom invited them on Camelot for after-work cocktails. Adonis, Ernesto and Marlon came by kayak, easily covering the half-mile distance between our boat and the beach.

They were such great company, it was only fair to have them stay for dinner… They were very appreciative and happy to be on the boat, saying that in nine years of working there no visiting boaters ever invited them. I guess they’ll remember us for a long time…

Our new Tres Amigos. Adonis (left), Ernesto (center) and Marlon (right).

What else but an Italian Dinner on Camelot… Mangia, mangia!

We stayed three days in this enchanted place, got up close and personal with some of the local fauna and even managed to take a horse-back tour of the island.

Meet Tom’s newest wild friend: Filomena, a Collared Peccari. She’s yawning here…

Tom / St Francis working his Beast Magic… Filomena is actually kneeling!

Tom with Arturo, the Baby Croc who kept trying to snuggle under Tom’s armpit.

… And here’s my namesake, much cuter than me!

Man, it’s been ten years since I last rode a horse… I should do it more often, it’s so much fun!!

Tres Caballeros: from left Adonis, Tom and me with the silly pigtails…

The night before departing our friends came aboard again for a farewell dinner. But this time they brought two big fish and rice cooked two different ways, to let us sample their local cuisine.

Ernesto got busy in the galley, showing me hot to fillet a fish. I now have a new skill!

Ernesto teaching to a very interested Lori

He made it look so easy, but it’s not!

We had great food and a great time; I was really impressed by the fact that these guys, after a long and hard working day, came to our boat and cooked us dinner. I guess we’ll remember them for a long time, too…

It was not easy to leave Islas Tortugas, but we had high hopes of finding some other beautiful island to explore.

View from above: Camelot is easy to spot, being the only mast around…

So we went further up in the Golfo de Nicoya and stopped at Isla Muertos, an ancient burial site. The anchorage is pretty, but it’s another calm lagoon with muddy green water. There was nothing we wanted to see on the island itself, so we left the next morning.

Thankfully, all these islands are pretty close to each other, so our little trips never lasted more than two hours at most.

Tom was intrigued by Isla San Lucas -a penal colony that operated from 1873 until 1991- and wanted to visit the prison if possible. So off to San Lucas we went.

The weather was overcast and the water still muddy green, so I wasn’t impressed by San Lucas either.

 A short dinghy trip to shore and we were on correctional facility grounds.

The only access point to the Prison: by water.

Prison’s buildings: The Dispensary and the Infirmary further up.

We met a ground keeper and asked for permission to walk around. His reply was unclear and there was a feeble attempt at asking for a “fee”. I shrugged and opened my arms in the international gesture for “whatever, dude, name a price” without saying a word. He shook his head and told us to walk around all we wanted. No fees.

It didn’t take long to tour the facilities or what’s left of them.

The Excercise Yard

Tom peeking in one of the dormitories, trying to imagine what life was in here.

Honestly, I couldn’t wait to get off that island, it gave me the creeps. Tom instead, maybe because of his law-enforcement background, was totally curious about the place.

There’s some interrupted attempt at restoring some buildings, although the jungle is slowly but surely reclaiming the land.

The Administration Office -an aborted restoration job- and the Old Church.

That Old Church must have hosted some troubled souls in its time…

Nowadays the only occupants of San Lucas are the howler monkeys feasting on the many mango and coconut trees.

We hightailed it out of there the next morning.

Camelot in San Lucas, bracing for the daily afternoon rainstorm.

It’s time to get out of the Golfo de Nicoya and continue down the coast of Costa Rica.

We had a five-hour trip ahead of us to get to out next destination, Bahia Herradura.

About half an hour into our trip we noticed a strong vibration shaking Camelot’s aft end like a leaf in the wind.

Not willing to continue motoring – possibly creating some bigger problem – we decided to anchor briefly in front of the town of Puntarenas so that Tom could quickly dive and check out what was wrong.

Sure enough, he quickly found the cause of the tremors: the propeller caught a long twine, spun it around and around weaving it tightly around its blades.

It didn’t take long to free the propeller, the worst of the ordeal being the 2.5 knots current that Tom had to fight while working under the boat.

We soon resumed our way. Relief! No more vibrations and a smooth trip.

Bahia Herradura, a well known sport fishing center, was home for one night.

Approaching Bahia Herradura, view of the expensive Marina Los Suenos ahead.

The narrow Beach behind us at Bahia Herradura

Pretty, but not pretty enough to stay any longer than that.

The Mooring Field, a popular choice given the Marina’s prohibitive prices.

Adios, Marina Los Suenos… You’ll see us “En Tu Suenos” !

Early the next morning we left for Quepos, a location of much interest for its proximity to the Manuel Antonio National Park –possibly the best natural  park of Costa Rica. It was listed by Forbes among the world’s 12 most beautiful national parks, so I MUST see it…

Six hours later we finally arrived at the Marina Pez Vela (Sailfish) in Quepos, yet another luxury Marina.

Marina Pez Vela / Sailfish Marina, preparing for the Daily Downpour.

I still find beauty even in this threatening, ominous cloudiness…

We plan on staying here at least three days, should be just enough time to re-provision, visit the Park and catch up with a few chores.

Also, slowing down a little would seem like a good idea… You know, just to catch our breath.

The rain comes down so hard, it makes the water look like it’s boiling!

Posted by: Sailing Camelot | May 8, 2012

April 25th – Costa Rica, continued…

I eventually warmed up to Costa Rica and figured out the reason of my initial disappointment: I had precise expectations on what Costa Rica should look like, based largely on tourism-promoting literature, which in the end didn’t quite match reality. 

Playa Hermosa – Not what I expected, but beautiful nevertheless

I was expecting crystal-clear water and white sand beaches – Caribbean style; instead I found lush, green hills and little bays where the water is mostly clear but far from crystal and the sand is rather dark in color… However, once I wiped off the expectations from my mind, I found plenty of beauty once again…

 

Our lush surroundings – The first Palm Tree forest I’ve ever seen

 

Sugar Cane fields forever…

 

Lesson learned! Stop absorbing man-made brochures and continue to marvel at the scenery as it presents itself: a sure way of avoiding disappointment.

Anyway, our search for those spectacular spots got delayed… The initially planned 3-day stay at Marina Papagayo turned into a 10-day stay.

 

Glorious Marina Papagayo

 

That big boat (Cracker Bay) belongs to the folk singer Faith Hill

 

On the way down from Nicaragua our alternator quit working and we needed this problem fixed before moving on.

We found Alejandro, an excellent technician who came to the boat, ran a lengthy diagnostic and eventually took away the alternator to run more tests in his laboratory. As it turned out, it was a fixable problem and we were finally good to go a few days (and a few dollars) later. 

Tom scoping out the neighborhood from his vantage point – the Dive Bar!

 “Forced” at the docks for this reason, we took advantage and completed a flurry of chores. Camelot now looks brand new after an in-depth wash/wax/polish job, and its shade awnings have been modified to fit perfectly.

 

Land travel: Flip a coin and pick a destination!

 

Beaches, beaches everywhere! Better explore those by boat, maybe…

 

Oh, it wasn’t all work and no play! We managed to take full advantage of the Marina pool quite often, and even rented a car for a couple days to explore the surroundings a little.

 

The Churches in the province of Guanacaste are all painted green. True story!

 

Parroquia Santiago Apostol – Filadelfia

Tomorrow we leave Marina Papagayo, resuming life at anchor for a while.

I am really looking forward to that!

Adios, Marina Papagayo, and thanks for the hospitality!

 

Posted by: Sailing Camelot | April 22, 2012

April 16th – Tica, Tica, Costa Rica…

I have been looking forward to visiting Costa Rica for a very long time, mesmerized by all I’ve read on this fabulous country and the thousand colorful pictures I saw.

I can’t quite say what exactly I was envisioning, but our arrival to Costa Rica is so low-key that I can’t help feeling somewhat disappointed.

Maybe because the trip from Nicaragua was quite uncomfortable and lasted a lot longer than I expected (almost 28 hrs!), maybe because the sky is mostly grey and the coast doesn’t look all that pretty without sunshine… Or maybe is that damn Red Tide spread out in the water about a mile out of the coast, rendering the water a sickly brownish color.  Ugh…

Go figure! I thought I’d be a lot more excited than this… Maybe all it takes for the world to look better is a good dose of sleep!

As we approach Marina Papagayo we get a warm dolphin-welcome, and that’s good enough to restore my positive outlook.

Can't help smiling when I see these happy creatures rushing to meet us...

Welcome, welcome to Costa Rica!

We’ll be staying in this Marina for a week, then slowly make our way South anchoring in Costa Rica’s most beautiful little bays.

Aerial View of Marina Papagayo

Beautiful Marina Papagayo

 I am not leaving this Country until I see Toucans, Parrots, Butterflies, Monkeys and colorful Frogs to my satisfaction!

It may take a while…

Posted by: Sailing Camelot | April 14, 2012

April 14 – Last night in Nicaragua

 Puesta del Sol literally means Setting of the Sun

This is what I'm talking about!

Nicaraguan Sunset

Me, working hard to capture the magic. (Photo courtesy of Sandra Fratino)

We enjoyed quite a few spectacular ones in excellent company: Karen and Bill of the motor vessel “Odern” from Australia, Sandra and Larry of the sailboat “I Yam what I Yam” from Canada, and Robert and Maria Laura, our gracious hosts.

We had a good time, enjoying exquisite appetizers waiting for the sun to go down: cheese with Mango Chutney (Karen), Dorado Carpaccio (Sandra) and Italian style Focaccia (guess who!). A veritable feast!

Me again, caught in the act of stuffing my face with Focaccia! (Photo courtesy of Sandra Fratino)

 Robert, owner and developer of this wonderful resort, has been a very friendly and welcoming host along with his wife and business partner, Maria Laura.

Tom especially liked his conversations with Robert, who explained in detail his plans to make this resort the ultimate vacation destination.

A very lively Group: Clockwise Tom, Bill, Karen, Sandra, Larry and (hidden) Robert.

An airstrip and a hydroplane service to facilitate arrivals by small plane, a 9-Holes golf course, a formal hotel and a few condos are just a few of the amenities planned for the near future.

Robert’s eyes sparkle as he envisions the development of Puesta del Sol: he loves the challenge and has a lot of fun making it all come together. Judging by what we’ve seen so far, he has a special talent for making dreams come true.

Clockwise: Tom, Bill, me, Karen, Larry, Robert and Maria Laura. (Photo courtesy of Sandra Fratino)

We wish we could see this place just a few months from now! I guess we’ll just have to periodically check their website to see the development unfold…

We have been well taken care of in Marina Puesta del Sol, and I wish to thank the friendly and attentive staff who made our stay very pleasant – with particular gratitude to Dorian the Harbormaster.

Once again I have confirmation that it’s the People who make the place – although it doesn’t hurt that this place is truly breathtaking.

Adios, Nicaragua, and thank you for a very positive experience.

I wish I could claim merit for this photo, but no... It's -once again- courtesy of Sandra Fratino.

Early tomorrow morning we leave for Costa Rica.

Posted by: Sailing Camelot | April 13, 2012

April 12 – A taste of Chinandega, Nicaragua

We feel so welcome here, relaxed and lazy, that is hard to leave the resort’s grounds even for a brief excursion to the neighboring town.

With a herculean effort and some encouragement from our fellow cruisers Larry and Sandra, however, we finally unglue ourselves from the pool’s chaise lounge long enough to go visit Chinandega.

Senor Idulfo picks us up in the Hotel’s van at 8 in the morning and drives us to town, about an hour’s ride away.

Chinandega is a very busy, somewhat crowded and very colorful town, home to about 125,000 people. It is also a center of agriculture, producing and exporting sugar cane, bananas, cashew nuts, peanuts, oranges, sesame seeds, grains and wonderful beef. 

Sugar Cane Fields outside of Chinandega

It is also a fishing and shrimping center, with a salt manufacturing plant. On top of that, it’s also home to the largest sugar mills and Rum factory in the country: International Award-winning Flor de Cana  .

To finish it all off, they’re also famous for their incredibly detailed leather goods.

These people work hard, let me tell you. We’ve seen many men armed solely with a hammer making gravel from big volcanic rocks, all day long. We’ve seen people bent over in the sugar cane fields armed with just a machete, all day long.

Making gravel from rocks by hand, tiny bit by tiny bit...

 In the States, not even the convicts in jail work so hard… But they should.

If you ever happen to wander in Central America, leave your American ways at home and open your mind. This is another world, so unimaginably different, yet certainly not inferior to our more developed one. We just have more money, tools and technology. The less means one has available, the more ingenuity comes out. I see it here, as clear as day.

Last month in El Salvador I was shocked to see a campaign to stop illegal human trafficking; today I’m looking at a campaign to end Child Labor in Nicaragua. I’m also looking at an Elementary School proudly announcing Potable Water for their children, a rare achievement. Basic rights that we take for granted, and they’re fighting for them every day.

I have a lot of respect for these people, who despite their challenging life keep a smile on their faces. Walking the streets of Chinandega, whenever we happen to make eye contact with someone we receive a wide, sincere smile and a warm “Hola”.

Preparing slices of Papaya

Fresh fruit for sale on the streets: Mango, Papaya, Watermelon, Pineapple & more!

The locals are curious about us, I’m sure they don’t see a whole lot of our kind here. Or maybe Tom’s towering height and Nordic looks attract their attention, who knows.  I’m curious about the great number of red-haired heads I see all around and so many light-colored eyes…

The Mercado in Chinandega

Many varieties of delicious cheese. They let you to taste before you buy.

Small Tiendas on the main street. I love that hammock!

In any case, we manage to strike brief conversations with the locals and are surprised to hear many of them speaking excellent English.  Good, because my Spanish –which I thought adequate- appears useless here … I can understand maybe 40% of what they say, even when I ask them to speak to me much slower… I feel like such a retard!

The Beating Heart of Town... and its Madness!

I just want to buy everything because it's colorful!

The Mercado invades a huge portion of town

The streets of downtown Chinandega are one big, colorful open market. I ask if today is Market Day and am told no, it’s like this every day! 

Shoe repairs on the go!

Mercifully, very few cars are roaming around the center. The streets are narrow and a little muddy, thanks to the nearby volcano who occasionally belches out a cloud of ashes and the few raindrops that fell last night.

Chinandega Traffic Jam

There are economical “taxis”, basically a modified tricycle , vastly used to transport anything: people, supplies, furniture. I can’t help thinking: these guys must have buns of steel!

Home furniture delivery

Sandra and I see a supermarket and go in to check out what’s available. Ah, air conditioning! This particular store, Supermercado Selecto, is at least two blocks in length and filled with anything you could wish for, including plenty of produce I have never seen before. We file that info away for future reference…

Giant Papayas and Avocados

We lose ourselves in the crowds for a few hours. Thankfully it’s a cloudy day; I can’t imagine doing this in blazing sunshine. No wonder this town is nicknamed “Hot City” (Ciudad Calida). Even on this “cooler” day, I’m liberally using my sweat rag to the amusement of the locals.

My favorite fruit and veggies stand

... And my favorite little business man

We’re pretty satisfied with what we’ve seen so far, although I know there’s much more to see. But we’re already tired as it is, and we still want to return to that huge supermarket to get groceries. But first, a little snack to replenish our strength is in order.

The Food Court, Chinandega style.

One of the many little shops offering refreshments

Our guide/driver/ guardian angel Idulfo -who drove us here this morning- meets us at his sons’ little restaurant, Cafetin Carolina. During a simple, tasty and incredibly economical brunch, I tell Idulfo that we need to go back to the big supermarket for groceries. To my surprise, he gently dissuades me, saying that he’ll take us somewhere else. 

This lady sells Sandia (watermelon)

And this one Mango

And boy, am I happy we listened to him! We visit “La Colonia”, a very modern, American-style supermarket with an amazing variety of groceries. And everything comes with a 30% discount this week!

We don’t need much, but we make sure not to miss the chance to buy some wonderful local Filet Mignon for the equivalent of US$ 6.90 per kilo.

This particular kind of cow - Brahman cattle - has a greater ability to withstand heat and lives longer than any other breed.

Leading the way back to our hotel...

Afterwards, while loading the van, I thank Idulfo for his suggestion. We finally manage to have a conversation where I learn that he is in charge of much more than just driving the Hotel’s guests around… Actually, his official job title is Purchasing Director: he’s in charge of buying everything: from land to expand the resort, to all the supplies needed for running it.

School kids

Fire Station Vehicles. You have to make do with what you've got...

Nuestra Senora de Santa Ana Church

Later in the day I learn from Robert –the resort’s owner- that soft-spoken and even-tempered Idulfo is nothing less than his Right Arm, excellently skilled at negotiating land purchases and smoothing away legal hurdles, and has been working with him for fifteen years. I am very happy to see how much Robert appreciates his Number One. They do make a great team.

We are all very grateful that Idulfo took the time from his busy schedule to drive us around, and I’m wondering where he finds the energy. Here I am, barely able to drag my feet and groceries to the boat, while Idulfo returns to his office with a spring in his step.

Senor Idulfo, a man of many talents.

Posted by: Sailing Camelot | April 11, 2012

April 8 – Nicaragua on Easter Sunday

We leave El Salvador as smoothly as we entered it. The Bar crossing is barely noticeable, no doubt thanks to Tom superior boat handling skills – or high tide and a very calm sea.

Crossing the bar exiting Bahia del Sol. Easy!

About an hour out at sea we find some decent wind and manage to sail for about 5 hours.

All in all it’s a pretty quiet trip, if I don’t mention the lightning cracking over my head for hours or the huge floating log that crossed our path…

Ok, here’s the truth. There is so much lightning that to calm myself down during my watch I have to heavily dip into my anti-anxiety medication of choice: Nutella. It works wonders for my nervous system, but as I raise yet another spoonful to my mouth I can’t help wondering “does a spoon attract lightning?”… Really, Lori… How about that 65 feet mast sticking out of the water. I am relieved when Tom takes over and I can go hide in my bed.

Around 1:30 I get abruptly awakened by a loud “thunk” on the hull, followed by the engine slowing down to idle. Before I’m even conscious I’m already flying up to the cockpit to see what’s happening.

Tom yells “we hit something, go check the bilges!”  I do and thankfully they’re dry, we’re not taking in water, no holes in the hull, but my heart is now beating in my throat at unhealthy speeds.

Instead of idly wonder what we hit, Tom reverses course and goes hunting for the culprit. I’m feebly protesting, but he’s right. What if we hit a panga, what if we injured someone, what if, what if, what if…

With me driving and Tom on the bow scanning the sea with a powerful flashlight we find the object of our obsession, ending the guessing game within five minutes. It’s a gigantic semi-submersed log, complete with branches sticking out and birds sitting on them. 

Satisfied we haven’t injured or killed anyone and that Camelot is still sailing dry, we resume our trip. It takes Tom a good half hour to relax enough to sleep. Me? Let’s just say I inflicted some significant damage to that Nutella jar for the rest of the night…

Approaching Marina Puesta del Sol

... And there it is!

Thankfully nothing else happens and we arrive in Nicaragua without fanfare, tying up at Marina Puesta del Sol at 9 on Easter morning.

We are welcomed to Nicaragua by Dorian, the Harbormaster.

The Docks at Marina Puesta del Sol. We're the second mast on the right.

View from the Restaurant Palapa, overlooking the Entrance Channel

Puesta del Sol  is a beautiful vacation resort, very well designed and with all the amenities you could wish for.

It’s the brainchild of Robert and Maria Laura Membreno, former cruisers who spent eight years at sea before settling down. 

Even though this is a port of entry, there are no immigration facilities on site. However, the Harbormaster calls both Immigration and Navy to report arrivals and departures and the officials come to the Marina to check you in or out. This is a great service, considering that the officials drive the 20 miles from Corinto specifically to avoid YOU the inconvenience.

We didn’t think anyone would come out on Easter Sunday, but they sure did!

Thirty minutes and $49 later, we’re legally visitors of Nicaragua.

For today, I’m just going to be happy visiting the closest pool…

The Pool close to the Docks.

We can even check out new arrivals while splashing in the pool!

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