John has a friend, Sam, who owns a home down here on the central coast of Costa Rica, close to Uvita. Before we left the States we had lunch with Sam in L.A., and told him it would be great to meet down here if the timing worked. Once we got close to crossing the border, we emailed Sam and told him we would probaby be here in October. Sam said October is the ONE month he never comes to Costa Rica. October is the hottest and most humid month, with the most rain. And here we are...in Costa Rica the entire month of October. Awesome.
Hot and Steamy.
With the new batteries soaking up (and finally hanging on to) the sun's energy, we felt ready to peel ourselves out of the Sheraton Hotel and make a run for the Caribbean Sea. That side of Costa Rica isn't that well known to Americans, so we decided to check it out. We drove though the port town of Limon where bananas, pineapples and palm oil, along with most of this country's commerce passes. We made it to the tiny town of Cahuita kind of late. We had planned to camp on the beach in a place recommended on our iOverland camping App, but it was closed. Our only other option seemed to be the parking lot of a reggae bar. Hmmm. Since it was just one night we figured what the heck. We paid our $8 ($4 bucks each) to camp, saddled up to the bar for a couple of beers with the locals, and hoped the music wouldn't go all night. It didn't. But we had a restless, hot night anyway. It was steamy & blazing hot again by 7 a.m. so we moved down the coast to the next town, Puerto Viejo. It was early in the morning when we rolled into town. The town was just waking up and already we saw a few drunks swerving by on bikes and loitering lazily on porches. We heard reports that this was a bit of a sketchy place and the vibe we felt driving slowly through matched up pretty well with that assessment. We did see a solid tourist police presence so it looks like they are working on the problems here.
We were sandwiched in between a bar, the ocean and a store. Not so bad really, but the showers....don't get me started. I passed.
The next beach down was Playa Cocles. As we drove around looking for a good spot to camp, the heat swallowed up all our patience. So we caved and started looking for a hotel. We needed a pool and AC. The only place where we found both was at a nondescript, overpriced, cheesy option. It included attaching lime green paper bands to our wrists at check in. Really? At least we got relief. While in Playa Cocles, we also had a few amazing meals. One at Pura Gula (Pure Gluttony) and another at Cafe Jungle Love. It was the last night Jungle Love was open. The owners were from Oakland and moving back to the States to start over again in Portland. Small world.
Pura Gula. Very quiet on the streets of Playa Cocles. Everyone gets around on bikes like these.
Cafe Jungle Love
The next morning we walked to yoga (which in this part of the world is of course HOT yoga), and then walked back along the beach trying to figure out what to do. The beach was so bloody hot, the hotel depressing, so I convinced John to head over to visit a wildlife sanctuary called the Jaguar Rescue Center. I'm not normally a fan of these places which are frequently little more than glorified zoos, but this one was different. The majority of the animals are brought out into the forest every day to help them acclimate to the wild, and then eventually, the hope is they just don't come back one day. Eighty percent of the animals that come in go back into the wild. We saw so many beautiful animals up close - it was amazing.
This guy had been injured, returned to the wild, but came to visit often.
This beautiful guy is a Margay cat. Rescued by a local from a poacher, this guy should be out in the wild soon. It takes killing 10 Margay cats to make one fur coat. Unthinkable, isn't it?
As part of our tour we were allowed to visit with the monkeys when they came back from the forest. We were instructed to leave everything behind (including our cameras) because they love electronics and purses, and once they set their sights on something, they won't give it back. And getting stuff back can can get ugly, I guess. We walked into the enclosure and almost immediately a capuchin monkey jumped on John's shoulders. As he was holding the little guy, I put my fingers into the monkey's small palm, the way you do with a baby, and he curled his fingers around mine. You might not think a monkey's touch can make you gasp, but I assure you it can.
We played with them like little kids in a playground for about an hour. Right before we left a large female spider monkey crawled into my lap and put her arms around my neck. I didn't want to let her go. I never get tired of watching these creatures, swinging around in the trees, staring down at us. We are sort of living amongst them now, camping in their forests. We search for them in trees, binoculars poised, snapping photos. To interact with them this way, after all these weeks, was like closing some sort of gap between us and them.
John got a shot as we were leaving from outside the enclosure. It was tough to leave.
This monkey on my back was not a problem...
We left the sanctuary pretty late so we opted to brave the heat one more night and camp on the beach at Punta Uva. A couple of locals had told us not to camp by ourselves so we camped in front of a restaurant (well, it was sort of a restaurant) that served only ceviche and beer. The ceviche was fresh and the beer was cold, so we after we ate, we settled in for the night listening to the ocean a few feet away.
Beach camping in Punta Uva
We were right next to the Panamanian border, but we weren't done with Costa Rica yet. The next morning we got up early to make the trek over to the other steamy sea - the Pacific ocean on the other side of the country (yes, overnighting at the Sheraton!! love that place) to meet our niece, Oona.
She is on a road trip of her own, driving from California to Florida, and then flew out to Costa Rica to meet us with 4 friends. With a group this size, we decided to rent a house for a week so we could all hang out. A week is more than we usually get at home with Oona - so we were VERY excited to see her. We did a couple of fun day trips; we went horseback riding again (Oona is the Equestrian Director at a camp in Northern CA, so we absolutely HAD to get on horses). We went to Manuel Antonio National Park where we saw lots of wildlife. Eva and Juan Carlos joined us as well, and we hired a fantastic guide, Andres. He had such a love for the park and the animals - his enthusiasm was contagious.
Exploring Manuel Antonio with Juan Carlos, Eva and our ace guide, Andres.
Sleeping, not yelling. A welcome change from the howlers we have met.
White Faced Capuchin monkeys.
This is a Fer de Lance snake. The most deadly snake in all of Central America. The guide took John's camera to take a photo. We weren't allowed to get close. What's amazing is the Capuchin monkeys told us about it. Or warned us about it. They went nuts in the trees just above it so the guide was able to spot it.
Wild ones this time...
He just looks bad ass, doesn't he?
The elusive Costa Rican Red-Eyed Leaf (Tree) Frog
And it's larva. Beautiful and grotesque all at the same time.
Post park chow down with the gang. Debbie, Erica, Rosie, Oona and Nick.
We also explored Dominical and the Ballena Marine Park. Mostly we just hung out together. It was so hot we pretty much just lived in the pool at the house.
Great meeting you crazy kids. Safe travels!!
Oona was our first bit of family we have had on this trip and it was fun to explore new territory with her. It was great spending time together in a house where we didn't have lots of logistics to deal with every day. It felt like a little vacation from our camper life. And getting a little quality family time with the Oonz was really nice.