Reflections on Costa Rica

20140313-192055.jpg Lucy I loved my grandma and grandpa coming to visit. They played games with me. I sat in the back of the truck with grandma when we were driving.

20140313-192217.jpg I have also met the Dutchies and Dunya their lovely dog, the queen of the dogs. I also met Petra and liked going in her truck. I also liked playing with Alex and Mire again.

20140313-192351.jpg I like all the shells on the beach and while looking at them I found some crab claws. I have really liked learning about the rainforest. I know the different levels, the forest floor, the understory, the canopy and the emergence. I have also learned about what lives in the forest and how plants make oxygen. Oxygen is very important. This is a picture of the coconut trees at the beach.

20140313-192517.jpg Alisha My grandma and grandpa came to visit. We made shortbread, chocolate cakes and bought chocolate chip cookies for them. We traveled around the country with them which was fun but we had to go down from the mountains as grandpa got altitude sickness and therefore I only got to use the jacuzzi at the lodge once. I had wanted to use it more. I really liked seeing my grandparents.

20140313-192710.jpg We saw lots of birds including a hummingbird in its nest. We also saw Scarlet Macaws at the beach.

20140313-192914.jpg I also liked going in the sea and love splashing in the waves. I also like meeting other people who are traveling like us.

20140313-193102.jpg Gilly Over a decade ago in Moscow I hit a particularly low note. I was using the short window of time between the snow melting and the summer break to take my students out to the local forest to try to survey the different species there. It was when one of my innocent eleven year old students who was desperate to increase her minuscule species list, held the tattered remains of an old condom and asked if it was a type of fungus, that my heart sunk. As much as living in Moscow gave us, for a start we would have found it a lot harder going on this trip without our time saving there, a rewarding time in nature wasn't one of them. I started to think then; as a Biology teacher where would the best place to work be? Where could I get a job where field trips could involve looking at hundreds of species not just a small handful. I started to the end I pumped for Costa Rica with its rich biodiversity. Unfortunately that's all it stayed as, a dream. However I've now fulfilled that wish, admittedly my class is rather small, just two, but it has been fabulous to teach the girls all about the unique flora and fauna in the rainforest.

20140313-193219.jpg Steve Gilly and I had visited Costa Rica 18 years a go and thoroughly enjoyed it so we were looking forward to spending time here again. The country is much more developed, more touristy and more expensive than its Central American neighbours. Whilst it is a small country it packs in a lot of diversity from beaches to jungle rain forests to cloud forests, to mountains etc. Nature is everywhere and it makes a fantastic country to have a holiday in. It is also very easy to overland in as it is pretty easy to find somewhere to stay for the night. There are also an increasing number of expats living here and I could see the attraction of that as the quality of life would be fantastic and the infrastructure is well developed. Living here would not be a bad option. The people here both the locals and the expats have been incredibly friendly and helpful and traveling around the country has been easy. It has also been really nice to have my parents visit us and spend some time with us. It was great to see them and we all really appreciated the effort they made to come out and see us.

20140313-193411.jpg All in all we have had a great time in the almost 4 weeks we have spent here and have enjoyed the many different environments and sights that Costa Rica has to offer.


Searching for a Slice of Paradise

The Corcovado National Park has been described by National Geographic as "the most biologically intense place on earth". Gilly and I had visited it 18 years ago when we were in Costa Rica and were keen to go again or at least to get close to it on the Osa Peninsular. However in the nature of keeping it really wild it is not that easy to access. It is possible to hike in but it's a 20km hike which is not reasonably feasible with the kids. Or you can take a boat or even a plane, neither of which are feasible with the truck. We had heard it might be possible to drive to a beach on the doorstep of the park with great nature all around. So we decided to explore this option together with the Dutchies and Petra. The drive to the Osa Peninsular from Dominical was straight forward and the first part of the drive on the peninsular was also good on a tar road. For the last 40 kms though the road turned to gravel and twisted its way up and down a number of steep hills.

20140313-175958.jpg There were also a number of streams and rivers to cross. We needed to drive through the streams as the bridges across were too small for us. However we all had to drive through some of the rivers as there were no bridges.



20140313-180702.jpg Even with a rough road some people still manage to have a nap.

20140313-180808.jpg Fortunately the road was in a fairly good state as it was the dry season. After 30km we reached the small village of Aguitas on Bahia Drake where we stopped for lunch. There were Scarlet Macaws everywhere in the trees in the village. We wanted to push on though to a beach we had heard about, Playa San Josecito right on the edge of Corcorvado National Park. This meant a further 10km drive including driving through a number of additional rivers. We arrived at the beach only to discover we were still a couple of hundred metres above it and there was a steep hill to drive down. Engaging low gear we drove down and just before pulling on to the grassy field in front of the beach we were stopped by concrete bollards. So close!

20140313-180952.jpg The 40 Km drive had taken 3 hours. We asked at the house next to the end of the road and they said there was no problem parking in the road or in the field beyond as long as we did not drive on the beach which we were not intending to do anyway. The Dutchies were able to squeeze through the bollards and Petra was allowed to drive through their field to get close to the beach but we were too big. Anyway we decided we were close enough as the beach was less than 100m away.

20140313-181115.jpg The beach was gorgeous. Almost deserted with the tropical rainforest coming right down to the sea. When the sun set we knew the drive had been worth it.


20140313-181251.jpg The next morning we set out to hike into the rainforest keeping close to the beach. The trail was hot, sticky and slippy but beautiful. We did not see a lot of wildlife except for lots of crabs and some beautiful butterflies.



20140313-181525.jpg When we came back a group of Scarlet Macaws were squabbling in the nearby tree. They are magnificent birds with beautiful plumage but frustratingly difficult to photograph.




20140313-182055.jpg When I came across some more much closer on an afternoon walk with Michel I did not have my camera with me. As there was a group of us on the beach we thought this would be a great time to try and bake bread in our Dutch oven. So Gilly, Erika and the girls got out the flour and the yeast and set to kneading the dough.

20140313-182144.jpg There was abundant driftwood on the beach so it was easy to make a fire. The final result was pretty good and went down well with the lasagne which we also cooked on the fire.


20140313-182340.jpg The next day the Dutchies and Petra decided to leave, we hope we will catch up with them again in Panama. As it was so lovely we decided to stay another day. We went on another walk the other way up the beach. This was not rainforest but instead had palm trees all along the beach.

20140313-182447.jpg As there was an abundance of driftwood on the beach we had another beach campfire. It was really beautiful cooking baked potatoes, sweet corn and steak on the beach as the sun set. It was just a shame there were loads of biting black flies.

20140313-182716.jpg The next morning before first light the rain started coming down. This had me worried as I did not want the road up the hill to be slippy. Anyway it shortly eased off and just after dawn we set off back. The drive out did not take so long but we did not fancy pushing on to the border so instead camped at the Tropenstation La Gamba which is a research station on the edge of the rainforest. It was very hot here and we did not get the benefit of the sea breezes. They had a network of trails through the rainforest and despite the heat we decided to explore. It was a hot and sticky hike on the steep slippy trails but we thought we should do one last hike in the rainforest before we left Costa Rica. Whilst it was very green we did not see much wildlife but we did see this bird at a water hole.