Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Seeing friends and spotting monkeys in Quepos

By Nicole

What’s better than watching sloths and monkeys crawl around in the trees? Getting to spend an evening with friends from Seattle! The timing was perfect ... We sailed into Quepos just two days before Stacy, Brett and their adorable girls arrived, and we were lucky enough to enjoy cocktails and an amazing dinner at their villa only a few kilometers from the harbor. Fantastic!  And so much fun.

Stacy and I stayed hydrated with gin & tonics. Thanks for an awesome night, guys!  Dinner was such a treat!

The big draw in the little town of Quepos, besides our friends, is Manuel Antonio National Park. This is the most popular park in Costa Rica for good reason—it is packed to the gills with monkeys, sloths, birds and gorgeous sandy beaches. Hoping to avoid the masses that descend on the park each day and to catch the critters when they were most active, we made sure to get there right before it opened at 7 a.m. By the time we left five hours later, the place looked and sounded like Disneyland. We even passed a dude playing a recorder on the trail. Really? We couldn’t get out of there fast enough! But in the morning, the place was incredible.


A white-faced capuchin monkey keeps an eye on Aaron

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s a monkey.

Deserted beach at 8 a.m., Waikiki at noon

The rare and illusive “Aaron”

DSC_4205Three-toed sloth going about his sloth business. So cute.

DSC_4182Tropical paradise

Marbled sand

DSC_4155 Snoozing howler monkey (look how his tail is holding on, too)

P8153596 Pretty sure it’s a male …

DSC_4245Wish you were here!

Steamy jungle

DSC_4170 Tree-guana

P8153601Beach in panorama

DSC_4183Hatching baby coconut

GOPR0194Capturing the moment (or trying to, anyway)

Yes, we’re sweaty. It’s the freakin’ jungle!

Quepos has a casual charm and natural beauty (not to mention a bakery that Aaron loved and the best gelato I’ve had in ages) that under different circumstances would’ve kept us around for a long time. But with our visas just days away from expiring, we had to high-tail it down to Golfito near the Panamanian border. Which is where I sit now, writing this long-overdue post. More on Golfito, our day at the border crossing and what’s next for us soon!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A quick stop in Punta Leona (and a new word)

By Nicole

We don’t get as many rail-in-the-water sailing days as we’d like, but with a steady 20 knots of apparent wind, we were able to blaze a trail across the Gulf of Nicoya.  You gotta love windy, blue sky days! With the wind roaring in from the open Pacific Ocean and only a small headland and tiny reef to block the swell, we figured the anchorage at Punta Leona would be super rolly.

[Sidebar] Guess what? I just learned “rolly” isn’t even a real word, despite the fact that virtually every cruiser I know uses it. Can you believe that? “Rolly” is the perfect term to describe the fantastically unpleasant motion of, well, rolling back and forth non-stop when the boat gets sideways to the waves. It’s what chases many people out of otherwise gorgeous anchorages and what often makes me green on passages. Imagine you’re in your kitchen making a sandwich when your entire world tilts to the left … and then tilts to the right .. and then tilts to the left … causing the tomatoes to roll off the counter and the mustard to slide precariously back and forth. And now you’re in bed trying to sleep without getting tossed out onto the floor. Now you’re in the bathroom bracing your left foot here and your right elbow there in order not to topple over while brushing your teeth. Anyway, you get it. And I know given my editing background I shouldn’t use made-up words, but hey, “rolly” should be a word. So I’m just going to deem it one. Take that, Merriam-Webster. :)

Okay, so if this anchorage is too rolly, we said, we’ll just stop for lunch and continue on. But the lovely little bay was surprisingly calm. So we dropped the hook, had some lunch and took the dinghy to shore for some pre-rainstorm exploring (it is the rainy season, after all).

Pretty Punta Leona

I found a piece of a unicorn horn!

And Aaron found a little cave. No treasure inside, though.

Snail trails in the sand

Punta Leona headland (thanks for blocking the swell!)

Dang, that’s a big ocean

Bit o’ coral

Look how we even managed to get Bella Star in the arm shot!

Bella Star and a rainbow. What does it mean?! It means we got to see our first Scarlet Macaws flying around the anchorage! These beefy, colorful birds are are sure sign that we’re moving from the dry tropical rainforest of the north to the wet tropical rainforest of the south. Nice.

After a stellar sail, Bella Star rests off the beach in Punta Leona (and yes, that IS our staysail on deck, thanks for noticing. We actually flew all three sails!)

That was it for our exploration of Punta Leona, since we were underway before sun-up the next morning headed for Quepos, home of the famed Manuel Antonio National Park. Our visas and cruising permits are expiring soon, so we’re making tracks down the coast to Panama—our sixth country!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Isla San Lucas Prison

By Aaron

Bahia Ballena and Isla Tortugas were nice stops that allowed us to get back to cruising mode.  At least it was until the evening, when a viscous lightning storm came through and panicked us for several hours.  But we survived and left Isla Tortugas early in the morning bound for Isla San Lucas, a former prison island turned into a national park.

DSC_3881 Leaving the anchorage at Isla Tortugas

DSC_3880 A beautiful morning to start our day

DSC_3887 Moving into a sound, we had to deal with some tidal currents.  Old hat for us after cruising Vancouver Island.  Actually, it kind of looked like Vancouver Island as we made our way through a pass

DSC_3891 We arrived in Isla San Lucas and dropped the hook in 12 feet of water, all alone.  This is one of those awesome anchorages with excellent protection and flat calm water that makes for a good night’s sleep.

DSC_3890 The prison’s pier was visible from our anchoring spot and we were eager to go check it out.  Like many of our Costa Rican anchorages, the sound of howler monkeys could be heard throughout the day.

DSC_3896 We tied up to the lonely pier and made our way up…

DSC_3898 A sign welcomed us to the park.  (I wonder if there was a Bienvenidos sign when it was still a prison?)  We knew there was a fee to pay to visit, so we found the park ranger.  He asked if we had a ticket (5000 Colones each) which would apparently be purchased from the national bank in Puntarenas.  We said no, we didn’t know we had to get the tickets there.  But no problem!  We could go on our hike and just pay him directly in cash the next day.  Which we did, plus some cookies that Nicole made.  It’s important to understand how the economy works in Central America.

No escaping from here… the gap was only 5 inches wide but they put a bar in it anyway 

They’ve been sending bad guys here for a long time

San Lucas’ main drag

Seems like there’s still power to the island but the poles are rusting away

Me at the Dispensario, whatever that is.

Each prisoner was assigned a scooter to ride around on

We found a phone booth but there was no phone in it.  We can only assume that this was a cruel trick that the guards played on new prisoners when they promised them a call to their lawyers.

The prison church.  Lightning storms come through here just about every night.  Can you imagine this place in the dark during a storm like that?  No thanks.  I don’t think Disney could have built a more haunted looking place.

Inside, the  only sermons are the brain piercing noises of the many, many bats.

I couldn’t help but duck as the bats were flying around inside.

DSC_3948 DSC_3952 DSC_3954 DSC_3956 DSC_3963 GOPR0141 GOPR0154
There are many buildings on the island, most of them being slowly taken over by the jungle. 

We think this was a bathroom.

Me having a good time exploring the island.  But from what we could tell, it wasn’t a pleasant place to be incarcerated.  I’m not sure where Costa Rica keeps it prisoners now, but I’ll think twice about overstaying my visa.

Want to know what the most heinous, psychotic of criminals looked like?  Here you go.

We tried to explore buildings with cells and whatnot, but the place was just filthy with bats that would buzz my head.  Nicole thinks bats are cute.

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I zoomed in this particular picture we took of some bats to see if she still thought they were cute.  She does.

Without any guides, signage, or other information available, I can only conclude that this was a latte stand. 

We hiked into the jungle and came across lots of buildings, some looking to be in serviceable condition like this one.

And others that had nothing left but the foundations, or cement sidewalks disappearing into the jungle.

As a sidenote, the Latitude Reduction Program continues on in the single digits.  We notice that things are getting even more jungly, and it’s crazy hot.

The token arm shot.  We recently got a Gopro Hero2 camera, and we’ve been having fun with some of the wide angle shots it can do.  We’re planning on doing a time laps video of a passage one of these days.

DSC_3983 We made it to the beach on the south side of the island.  I couldn’t help but feel that if I was trying to escape I could have made the swim to nearby Puntarenas.

GOPR0175 Nicole checking out the beach on the south side.

After we got back to the boat it started raining, which it does pretty much every day now starting around 5.  (And I couldn’t wait to escape the rain in Seattle, oh the irony!)  Nicole took a row to cool off and check out a sunken boat that was exposed at low tide – mismarked on the chart by the way… we came in at high tide when it was just covered and could have easily hit the superstructure.

On the night of our arrival here, for the third night in a row, a horrific lightning storm came through - on the scale of the storm where we got struck.  It was like a nightmare strobe light.  Several ground strikes hit the island just a few hundred yards from us as we huddled in the salon assuming we would be struck again at any second.  We were the only boat in the entire anchorage and it just seemed inevitable we’d be hit with the lightning since it was hitting the trees so close to us.  I’m certain that monkeys were getting zapped out of the trees one after another.  But we were spared this time.  We just couldn’t believe that it could be this bad every night.  It just didn’t seem possible.  We went ashore the next day and asked the ranger if that was a normal storm.  He said no, that one was actually pretty bad, and that it seemed quiet today and that he didn’t think there would be a storm that night.  Sure enough, we had a beautiful night with clear skies and the Milky Way spread out before us.  Nonetheless, we’re looking into our options for getting through the rest of the lightning season.