Late night flight on the 3rd of December: Vancouver to Toronto. A fairly short lay-over and on we went to Liberia, Costa Rica. Our down jackets were now stowed away for this stretch of the travel. Arriving in Liberia, top of the afternoon, another layer came off. A long, slow line for immigration. Nobody seemed to be too anxious about it. We had a car booked to Nosara and were just hoping they would wait for us. The scheduled 2:45 pm departure time became more unrealistic by the minute. Around 4:00 pm we had cleared immigration and customs and found our driver waiting for us. One more passenger, also going to Nosara, had cleared the line just before us.
We had been warned about very bad roads but the first hour or so went smoothly. After the turnoff to Nosara things became definitely more bumpy. And by that time it was dark so we had no clue where we were. After dropping off our fellow passenger at her destination we continued on to ours: Paseo del Sol. How wonderful it was to be so enthusiastically greeted by our granddaughters, son and daughter-in-law. The girls had to show us everything: the house, the pool, the grasshoppers, the gusanos (millipedes) and more. Dinner was waiting, outside. The temperature tropical (of course).
Off to bed early as the morning starts early. School for the girls starts at 8:00 am.
That first day, awoken very early, we walked the girls to school after breakfast. It is only 600 m. A dirt road which I can imagine is a total mud puddle during the rainy season, which had just finished. We were treated to lush greenery.
After dropping off the kids at school we drove to Playa Guiones, where the “big kids” went surfing and Hari and I enjoyed the beach and view. This was followed by coffee at Café de Paris and a visit to the small “Tuesday organic market”.
It was definitely hot: 30 degrees C or more.
December 6 started very early because it was “Sinterklaas morning”. The girls were extremely excited about the gifts in Sinterklaas’ sack. “Pannenkoeken” breakfast followed and then it was school time again. Imagine, all that we did before 7:40 am!!
We went with Raj and Ailish into Nosara. They had a Spanish lesson and we wandered around the village. As it was still very early not very much was open. Nosara is a tiny village. A large, unfinished building (unfinished for a long time) occupies a big chunk of the main street. We found a nice little restaurant where we had coffee. Most restaurants are totally open, meaning: no walls. I popped into a tiny church. So small, it didn’t even have a nativity set, even though it was a Catholic church by the looks of it.
Nosara also has a very tiny airport. One runway and a terminal as small as a residential 1-car garage. It is very rural. Nosara has a gas station (one) and a bank (one) and a few stores in a strip mall setting. Somewhere else is a supermarket. There is another one (Chinese) elsewhere. Oh, and a couple of “convenience stores”. All this scattered throughout the Nosara area. We also visited Henry’s organic greenhouses. You can’t find fresher greens anywhere else. A wonderful place.
On December 7 we took Neve to art class after school. We had an hour so we walked to Playa Pelada. Earlier that day Ailish pointed out a howler monkey in a tree near their house.
The sound of a howler monkey. They woke me up around 4 am, followed by the birds, followed by 2 girls jumping on the bed. (How I miss those wake-up calls!)
December 8 we enjoyed the pool, were totally lazy. After picking up the kids from school we dropped Priya off at art class and while she was creating another masterpiece, we enjoyed an ice cream. In the evening the school had their annual Christmas production. All the class groups did their thing with a lot of enthusiasm even though Neve thought it was so embarrassing to sing and dance for all the parents.
The next day the girls were going to show us their boogie boarding skills at Playa Guiones. So much fun. They frolicked in the waves while birds dove into the water to catch fish, right in front of their nose. Boogie boarding was followed by dinner at El Chivo. It had gotten a little late to watch the Nosara Christmas parade but we managed to see the tail end of it. Fun!
Sunday, December the 10th the roads were closed for construction/maintenance. By the way, the infamous potholes on the road to Nosara had been filled the day before we arrived! Just washboard like bumps for us, not tire-deep potholes. Lucky us.
This Sunday we also had no power for a big chunk of the day and we had very powerful winds. Lots of laundry flew down the little street that day 🙂
The kids made Christmas cookies and when the power came back on they were baked.
Next day we went shopping with Ailish. No power part of the day, still strong winds. The advantage was, that it seemed to blow the humidity down to bearable levels. We had lunch at the Harmony Juice bar, which has its own generator. A popular place for people to hang out with their electronics. We also peeked in the Nosara Beach Hotel, a hotel, for some reason or the other, not open. It apparently belongs to the same person who owns the unfinished “apartment” building in Nosara. From the large, round patio one can enjoy a beautiful view. Its kind of hideous tower can be seen from the beach.
When the girls came home from school we made Christmas decorations and decorated the house.
In the evening the large grasshoppers (saltamontes) fly towards the light. Usually they cling to the screen door, unless you get in the way and they hold on to your shirt, or hair…I was fascinated by them: they look almost royal in their fancy “outfit”.
Tuesday was market day. Produce can (and had been) be pre-ordered. All fresh and organic food, not available at Henry’s. If you’d like you could get a tika massage there as well.
Back home it was time to cool off in the pool.
December 13 Ailish drove us out to Playa Garza where we were supposed to have lunch, but the place was closed. So back to Café de Paris, by now well known to us. Good pastries, good coffee and tea and freshly squeezed juices.
An interesting thing we found out: molasses are spread out over the sandy roads to keep the dust from flying. It does stick to your shoes though and the smell is strong.
December 15 was the day I visited Nosara Refuge for Wildlife, an amazing, educative place where lots of good work is being done. Hats off for Brenda and her crew. I would not have missed this visit for the world.
In the evening we went for dinner at La Luna, located on Playa Pelada. Watching the sunset, eating great food! A perfect ending of a perfect day.
While at the Refuge, I heard about the baby turtles, making their way to the water, being out in abundance. When I told Raj and Ailish a very quick decision was made to head for Playa Ostional, THE place for turtles, early next morning. Up at 4 am (yes, with the howlers) and out of the house 45 minutes later. Still pitch black I finally experienced potholes in the roads and the drive through 2 (small) rivers. We arrived at Playa Ostional in the dark, taking our shoes off so we would not crush a baby turtle if we accidentally stepped on one. We made our way very, very carefully, spotting little heads popping out of the sand, one after the other. As the the day started to break we saw more and more. There must have been thousands of them, trying to make their long track along the beach to the water. What an amazing sight! Locals walked the beach, making noise, to keep the vultures away as well as the dogs. One has to avoid picking the turtles up and placing them closer to the water as they have to remember this track for the future, when they return as mature turtles, laying their eggs in the sand. We were told that only 1 out of 100 baby turtles makes it to maturity. So many dangers lurking around.
This was yet another experience that was in my eyes one in a lifetime. Absolutely amazing and unforgettable.
After a while we made our way to San Juanillo, where we found an empty stretch of beach. A few fishermen on their boats and a couple of others cleaning and sorting the catch in a shack along the path. Vultures hovering nearby to catch any waste.
When after a while our stomachs started rumbling we hit the road again and found a small roadside restaurant. Wonderful food and very friendly people (like everywhere).
Back to Nosara via the 2 river crossings.
In the afternoon I went with Raj and Priya for a jungle walk at Marcel Schaerer Bio Parque, just around the corner from where they live. Priya pointed out rubber trees. The white sap was very sticky. The path was somewhere blocked by a fallen tree but we found a way around it and continued our adventure. Always watchful for snakes (which we did not encounter), we saw spiders, birds, butterflies etc.
It is amazing to see how branches wind themselves into knots or braids.
Back home I of course spotted another grasshopper.
Sunday the 17th I walked down the dusty road to photograph some of the flowers I had spotted from the car coming from or going to the house.
And we went to Nosara’s Mala Noche waterfall, a place not easy to find. Parking the car along the side of a narrow road, walking through a meadow, through dry and wet river beds, maneuvering a steep, very narrow path and finally ending up at the catarata as the waterfall is known. Kids diving into the deep pool from the rocks (a scary sight, specially when you think of the name of the falls: “bad night”…..), others climbing up and checking to see what was hidden beyond the waterfall. More pools, as we were told. A very nice outing to the local beautiful “watering hole”. Coffee, tea, juice and treats at Café de Paris finished the day.
December 18 was a lazy day: pool, reading on the patio, wandering around the house, discovering termite nests in trees and bats along the side of the house.
And we found out what the stone “thing” in the backyard was!
And the girls got a treat: pre-Christmas gifts, followed by packing our suitcases for the road trip, starting next morning.
Last minute packing, the morning of December 19. Last few photos of our view from our bedroom window at Paseo del Sol. Raj packed up the car and after saying good-bye to the neighbours we were off on our trip. Our first stop was going to be Hacienda la Pacifica in Cañas. a visit to Los Pumas centro de rescato as well as a trip to Catarata (waterfall) Llanos de Cortés in Bagaces. A stopover at an icecream shop to cool off while the car was fed a tankful of gasoline. We checked into the Hacienda la Pacifica. Deer wandered around the cottages, iguanas crossed the roads, howler monkeys howled from the trees.
We drove the short distance to Las Pumas, an animal rescue center. Quite a few animals were in cages. Las Pumas Rescue Center (Centro Rescate Las Pumas) provides a temporary, or sometimes permanent, home for wild cats and other animals that have been injured, rescued, orphaned, or confiscated in the illegal pet trade.Not the same idea as the refuge center in Nosara but hopefully with the same goal: returning animals to the wild, whenever possible. Besides the caged animals we spotted quite a few wild howlers, one with a baby. (All photographs of the howler monkeys are of wild (uncaptured) ones). We were careful not to get too close because if they attack, they go for the face! And human contact would be disastrous for them anyway. After the visit to Las Pumas we had lunch and with satisfied stomachs we drove to Bagaces to visit the waterfalls there. It was a 20 minute hot walk to the catarata Llanos de Cortés but definitely worth it. The only negative thing was that, returning to the car and sipping fresh coconut water, we were attacked by mosquitoes. At least, I think they were mosquitoes. Maybe other bugs, who knows.
Back at the Hacienda we had dinner at the restaurant there. Afterwards we walked back to our rooms. They were situated a short distance away from each other so Raj and Priya walked us to our abode as they had a flashlight. Priya shone the light on the keyhole so I could open the door. Then…a scream: snake! Priya spotted a snake slithering over my foot! I never felt it! But thank goodness I had not stepped on him. Raj pulled me away and the snake crawled between crevices in the rock wall. Quite an experience. I really do not like snakes but surprisingly enough, this encounter did not freak me out at all.
Anyway, Hari checked our room very carefully for snakes or other “creepy crawlies” before we went to bed. I didn’t even dream of snakes that night!
Raj googled the snake and determined it was a Lyre snake. Good to know it would not have killed me…..;-)
Next morning we had time for a swim in the gorgeous pool and breakfast before packing up and loading the car for day 2 of our road trip.
While having breakfast we spotted an agouti (the locals call it ‘guatusa’).
Our first stop was Liberia where Raj and Ailish needed to get some paperwork done for their trip into Nicaragua at Christmas time.
While they were doing that, we kept ourselves busy watching people from the car, drinking juice, eating snacks, playing games. One more stop for yet another paper somewhere else in town and then on to…Walmart! Time for a few groceries, wine and lunch. After a tail gate lunch party on the parking lot we were ready to continue our drive to Blue River Resort at Rincòn de la Vieja. A drive through very tiny villages, narrow roads, some dust, some mud. On the way we spotted several wind towers. Once we arrived at the gate to the resort it was like entering a jungle paradise! Swimming pool, 3 hot pools, a botanical garden as well as a butterfly and hummingbird garden. Restaurant, bar, spacious rooms. Did I mention the horses/ponies/donkeys? The birds? The caiman? We settled here for 2 nights and enjoyed every minute of it. We had some tropical downpours which lowered the temperature a bit. I was just wandering through the gardens during one of the sudden rainfalls and took shelter with the hummingbirds. Another one found me under a tree, trying to stay relatively dry. So much fun!
Soaking in the hot pools, lazy meals, watching the girls on the water slide, playing games, spotting butterflies, enjoying a hot sauna followed by a “volcanic mud bath treatment”.
This place is a feast for the eyes and a heaven for the soul. Relaxing, beautiful, peaceful, flowers in abundance, watching the antics of the hummingbirds and having your family right there with you. Could there be anything more special?
Day 2 at Blue River Resort, Rincòn de la Vieja.
Our last full day in Costa Rica, December 22.
We left for Rincòn de la Vieja National Park after breakfast. Quite a few wind towers again. Somehow we missed a turn or took a wrong one, and we ended up on a narrow sand road. But we were going in the right direction so no worries….until all of a sudden there was a huge truck facing us. The good thing was that it was not moving 🙂
The drivers/workers were standing on the side of the road and slowly made their way to the truck to move it up a bit. Thank goodness we were just on a slightly wider patch. Waving a thank you we carried on…for about 3 meters, because another truck faced us, and another one. Oops. Backing up a little, squeezing to the side, we let them pass, not one, not two, but three trucks. On we went and eventually we ended up on the “highway” leading to the National Park. After paying our entrance fees at the gate we were allowed to continue. Once on the parking lot we went to the information centre and had to dig into our wallets again in order to be allowed on the trails. But it was worth it. The trail to the volcano crater was closed due to activity in the crater. But there were other trails. We chose a relatively short one with lots of things to see: the Sendero las Pailas. Following the path we saw the Laguna Fumarólica, where the temperature reaches 75-106°C; the Pailas de Agua, the Pailas de barro, the Volcancito, the Fumarolas and the Catarata Estacional. I have never seen anything like it. Beautiful.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the park. Then it was time to drive to Liberia where we checked into the Hilton Garden Inn. Beautiful hotel, very close to the airport, great swimming pool. We had dinner outside and went to bed early as Raj, Ailish and the girls had to leave for Nicaragua right after a very early breakfast.
December 23. Breakfast at 7:00 am and the kids were ready to leave less than an hour later. We just learned that our flight was delayed by about one hour so I changed the shuttle bus accordingly, packed and enjoyed some leisure time at the pool. After lunch we took the shuttle to the airport. A huge line-up awaited us there. 1 1/2 Hours later we finally got through and made our way to our gate. Small airport so we didn’t have to look very far. As our flight to Toronto had been delayed and we didn’t expect things to go fast there upon arrival (we had to collect our luggage and go through customs) we decided to cancel our hotel in Toronto. Bad decision. Everything went smoothly and we ended up with hours to kill and no comfortable place to sit. So many international airports have rooms for short stays but none in Canada….Lounges close before midnight. Not an option either.
We survived and took our 7:00 am flight to Vancouver. Taking public transit we traveled to Maple Ridge. Suitcases unpacked, laundry in the washer, some quick shopping and getting used to the cold temperature took care of the remainder of the day.
But we had lots and lots of memories to keep us warm, inside and out!
December 24. Toronto to Vancouver and back to Maple Ridge.
Muchas gracias Ailish, Raj, Priya and Neve. You did everything to make this vacation with you in Costa Rica a very special one for us.
Pura Vida 😉