God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Costa Rica--Tortuguero Part 2--The End

Well, have been back from Costa Rica for  6 weeks and am now getting around to finishing blogging it.  Last night Ken asked if I had finished writing which was quite remarkable as I usually have to nag him into reading it.  I think this summer I may break down and blog while traveling--maybe or maybe not. Most likely not.

So, our time in Costa Rica ended in a taste of paradise--nature untrammeled by civilization and people.  In some ways reminiscent of the Galapagos but even though it is awesomely beautiful it is not as totally pure or as breathtaking as the innocence of the wildlife there. Our Galapagos Trip

Leaving our lodge we headed down the relatively wide Tortuguero River leading to the Tortuguero National Park. In the park, the river narrows with byways and small offshots that Ferdinando, our guide, expertly navigated, going deeper and deeper into the forest. We were surrounded by the calls of the wild--birds and mammals. It seemed as if we were often exploring little creeks with beautiful toucans floating above the jungle tops.

Costa Rica
The trees hid    colorful iguanas (quite different from those in the Galapagos)-- hidden that is until  one fell off its  perch, splashing  loudly in the water,  barely missing a very startled Casey.

We heard monkeys carrying on extended conversations as they called to each other across trees. At some point in the conversations, one would decide to jump from limb to limb, tree to tree--sometimes through the air from one river bank to the other. It was truly awesome to be in the center of this everyday life. Watching the incredible acrobatics and gymnastics became a ballet and dance form--far different from the theatrics of the Olympics. Casey, the ever patient photographer, waited for this shot, poised to press the shutter at just the right moment. Magic!

On the way back to the lodge, Ferdinando treated us to a detour to the Caribbean coast. With engines revved, we rushed along the coastline with the spray of salt water hitting us. It was fun.

That night we had another moment of magic. When we entered the open air dining area, the young woman said "Please come with me. We have a special place for you tonight." Not having a clue as to why or what was happening, we followed her to the small picturesque thatched roofed area overlooking the pool. Gas lamps and torches and candles lit the circle. There was just one table, beautifully set. We were led to it by the young man in black who became our private waiter. A large barbecue was set up next to a table spread with huge amounts of beautiful meats, vegetables fruits and breads. The lodge's chef was there cooking and preparing a most sumptuous banquet--just for us. There were beef, pork and shrimp shish kabobs, corn on the cob, several vegetables dishes, mangoes, strawberries and watermelon. To say we were stunned would be an understatement. Now we truly were on Fantasy Island. We were there 4 nights and never saw other guests receive this treatment.  Even now as I write, it seems very dreamlike. Certainly it is indelibly etched on our minds, never to be forgotten.

After dinner, Casey retrieved the guitar hanging in the guest lounge and played for Ken and I as we sipped our espresso and savored the very special evening we had spent together.

The next morning after a leisurely breakfast, we packed up for the last time and waited for the little air chariot to take us back to San Jose and our flight home. The staff lined up once again to wave good bye and wish us a return.

 As Casey said, "the hard part of traveling is the going home." I think he has the bug.

Casey the co-pilot. 

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Episode 4--Costa Rica--Tortuguero

Well, yes, it is taking a while to complete this adventure. Just chalk it up to a.) being busy, b.) being lazy, c.) out-of-town, d.) other priorities, or e.) whatever. They all have the ring of truth to them. Life has a way of moving on often without much explanation.

So, on to Tortuguero--probably my favorite part of another wonderful adventure--not that the other parts lagged in the wonderful department. It was all good.

Tortuguero is on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica and as such has a strong Afro-Caribbean heritage and presence in its food, its people, its life-style. It is significantly different from our other two destinations. In common with Arenal and Monteverde, though, is its exquisite beauty and nature that still remains unspoiled, providing a refuge for animals and birds of thousands of species. Because the Caribbean side and Tortuguero are much less accessible than other areas of Costa Rica it is less well-known or traveled. You feel as if you are in a special place--lucky to be there. There is a peace--a quiet solitude. It is a place where you wish for one more day--no matter how many you had. Good memories but bitter sweet.

We arrived by plane--a small plane, but at least one not held together by duct tape, as was the one in the Amazon. When the plane lands, on a little dirt strip and you see the river in front of you and the Tortuga Lodge across the river, the word "paradise" floats in the air. And then...the little water boat whisks you across the river where the staff is lined up welcoming you with fresh drinks and warm smiles and leads you to your open air table because it is lunch time. It was like being in a time lapse movie where we coud hear Tattoo announcing "ze plane, ze plane." Really there was something quite magical and other worldly about it. In many ways it reminded me of the Amazon Rain Forest, set in waterways--rivers and off-shoots, quite different from Arenal and Monteverde which were mountains and land.

After lunch and settling into our rooms, we wandered the breathtaking grounds, ran into a crocodile, listened to birds and monkeys chattering and luxuriated in our surroundings--far from bustle and hustle of the world that was somewhere far away.

We kept our distance from this guy (or gal, whatever.)

Look Closely Here--What Do You Find?

And then, before dinner, we went on a twilight nature hike which was pretty much a nightmare of momentarily huge proportions. The first unregistered clue was when we were told to don the lodge's knee high boots as our hiking boots would not be sufficient. Fortunately, I grabbed a walking stick which, along with the guide who held me up most of the way, keep me upright. 

Twilight was a misnomer--we were in the middle of the jungle and it was dark, very dark. What we had not been told was that along with being a jungle, it was a swamp--one that had just experienced two days of heavy rain. Between the two inches of water and the slimy, gooey, slurpy mud under the water, the boots were sucked up to about mid-calf with each step. And, they wanted to stay stuck! Pulling them out seriously impeded balance and falling into the mess was a most frightening thought. Thank goodness for young, strapping Juan whom I clung to like syran wrap. Needless to say, wildlife viewing was far from my thoughts; although we did see the occasional poisonous frog. Unquestionably, we had a very abbreviated hike. I should add, not surprisingly, Casey loved it and would have kept going; except, you would not want to be there without a guide. Becoming lost was a certainty. Returning not so certain.

A glass of wine with dinner never tasted so good! Time to relax and be thankful for the experience and even more thankful that it was over. Slept well that night.

Tortuguero is where the sea turtles come to nest and lay eggs each year but not at the time we were there which was disappointing but OK. There is so much more to see and do. All done by boat as there are no vehicles in Tortuguero--just boats in the waterways and bicycles in the postage stamp village down river. 

Ferdinando was our guide along the quiet river and canals of the jungle. Like safari guides, he could spot wildlife where we saw none. He could hear a muted sound and know what it was and where to look. He taught Casey many things and soon Casey often spotted things before Ferdinando. Casey may have a future with animals and wildlife as it seems to be an interest that helps define who he is.

A few glimpses of what is Tortuguero water ways.

And...will close for now and pick this up again tomorrow. I like to keep posts short so that they don't impinge on your time..after all you have more to do than read blogs--at least, I sure hope so.

Still a little left on Tortuguero, some final thoughts on Costa Rica and finally, the all time great picture taken by master photographer, Casey. All of this coming soon.