A look back at 2012

Sunset in Tamarindo
Sunset in Tamarindo

 

A few years ago, I wasn’t sure how, if, or when I’d ever be able to say Yo vivo en Costa Rica.  But it’s now been 8 months of living in paradise and I’m looking forward to beginning 2013 to see what new adventures it brings.  Here’s a few of my favorite moments of 2012…

 

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Pura vida…Chrissy

3 vets and 2 pharmacies later…

It appears that the medication my cat takes for his hyperthyroidism doesn’t exist in Costa Rica…anywhere in Costa Rica.  I don’t really understand – it’s a common medication given to people for the condition and Harmony just takes a smaller dose.  Fortunately, one of the vets had some donated medications from a vet in Mountain View, California and she gave me both bottles (for free).  One was expired and one is going to expire in February but it’ll do for now.  I just don’t understand how this medication doesn’t exist.

On the bright side, she told me she could get me better cat care products and gave me a website to check out.  I found Harmony’s old style of litter box, one with a hood (hooded litter boxes also do not exist in Costa Rica – again, ANYWHERE) and a more natural litter.  Still can’t find his old litter which was such a good product but again, the newer one is way better than the supermarket brand.

And much to my surprise, I received the items in less than a week.  Of course, they cost me more than twice what I’d pay in the States but it was like an early Christmas present for me…as I no longer have to sweep my floor daily, cleaning up all of the litter that Harmony would track through the house with his litter box that had no hood.

Not sure what we’ll do when we run out of medication but I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Pura vida…Chrissy

A Green Tropical Christmas

Playa Langosta
Playa Langosta

This was my kind of Christmas.  Gone are the days of waking up to a freezing cold 32F.  Here, we have sunshine and blue skies, 85 degrees and 60% humidity.  The water temperature is about 83 degrees.  Just like almost every other day of the year!

temp

I’ve spent the last few days with friends, celebrating the holidays, making and eating good food and enjoying where I am and what I’m doing.  I love it here.  Living here is the best Christmas present I could ever give to myself.

Wishing all of my subscribers a very happy holiday season!

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Pura vida…Chrissy

A Sweet-Smelling Christmas

Just like the Tico’s who told me that the winds remind them of Christmas, I now have a memory of my first Costa Rican Christmas: molasses.

Now mind you, I can’t buy molasses in the store. Or if it’s there, I don’t know where to find it. But, if I really need some (and I have had a few recipes require it), all I have to do is go outside and scoop some up from the ground. Big trucks came through the other day and sprayed the substance into the dirt. It’s supposed to help with dust and erosion.

So now my entire town smells like molasses. What a sweet memory for my first Christmas here.

Pura vida…Chrissy

Costa Rica’s Christmas Winds

Several Tico’s and a few local residents have told me about the “Christmas winds” in Costa Rica.  The Tico’s say that when the winds start, it reminds them of their childhood and they knew that Christmas was approaching.  I started to notice them after I returned home from traveling, so right around Thanksgiving.

I suppose they’re like the Santa Ana winds in Southern California but the Santa Ana’s can come at any time from about October to January.  And they bring a warmer wind.  Costa’s Rica’s Christmas winds are fresh, cool breezes; nice considering summer is here and we have daily temperatures in the 90’s now with no rain and very few clouds.

I’m hoping the winds will continue through April considering how hot it gets and that perhaps they’re called the “Christmas winds” because they start just before the holiday season.

At one point, the winds got so strong they blew over my drying rack which landed on my coffee table which knocked over a glass of passionfruit juice and my coffee mug.  My neighbor walked by my apartment and said…“Mmmmm, smells good in your house!”  I wasn’t thrilled about having to clean up the mess and that yet another glass was broken (that makes 6 out of 8 now) but yeah, it did smell tropically nice.

The photo below really isn’t of the wind but just as a funny side note to this post…this tree was just planted in the dirt road near my house.  It’s funny because it’s literally in the road and cars have to drive into the other lane to drive around it!  Welcome to Costa Rica!

tree in the road

Pura vida…Chrissy

Never Again

Pura vidaNever again.  I said that a few times these last few months.  Never again will I take a bus.  Never again will I rappel down a waterfall.  Never again will I travel 32 days out of 51 or 21 out of 30.  But would I change anything?  No.  I’m glad I had all these experiences.  I just don’t plan on ever doing them again.  At least having tried them, I now have valid reasons for saying I won’t do them again.

Well, maybe I’d try waterfall rappelling again…at the start of the rainy season though – not at the end.

The two things I definitely won’t do again?  Take a bus or drive in San Jose.

Supposedly, the distance between Turrialba and Tamarindo is about 208 miles.  So, if you do the calculation, it should only take 3.5-4 hours to drive.  From door to door, it took us 12 hours.  12 hours.

We made one stop in San Ramon for maybe 45 minutes but that’s still over 11 hours to travel 208 miles.  We would have flown home from San Jose (which would have taken an hour) but by the time we could buy the tickets, the flight was sold out.  So other arrangements had to be made.

It started with the somewhat dirty bus from Turrialba to San Jose.  Never again will I take a bus.  It was crowded, somewhat smelly and very uncomfortable.  And, who knows when those fabric seats were last cleaned.  Then, we had to wait for the rental car to be dropped off at the bus terminal in San Jose.  From there, we drove 6 miles to Pavas airport to pick up Kevin’s surfboard from the airport, where it was being stored.  It took us 90 minutes to drive 6 miles.  90 minutes. 90!!!!

Thank god we had a GPS or we never would have made it out of San Jose.  2 kilometers before the airport, we finally saw a sign. Seriously, I don’t know how anyone drove around San Jose before GPS’s.  And of course the GPS is unreliable because it took us on several side streets that I don’t think were absolutely necessary.

The saving grace of the day was the sun – which finally came out when we got into Guanacaste.  It had rained every day in Turrialba and on and off for the most of trip so it was nice to know I was home, where the sun always shines.  And I was grateful to live in a town that has a lot more pedestrians and bicyclists than cars.

sun

Enjoy the slideshow

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Pura vida…Chrissy

One of the best days in 6 months: A visit to CATIE

DSC07533CATIE is a Center for Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education in Turrialba.  Their mission is to “Increase human well-being and reduce rural poverty through education, research and technical cooperation, promoting sustainable agriculture and natural resource management.

In addition to being a world-renowned Center, it also offers tourists a botanical garden to explore and discover interesting and unique plants.  I stress the word unique because would you like to guess what we found here in this garden…something that doesn’t exist in all of Costa Rica…

A LEMON TREE.  Limon Messina to be exact.  Finally I had found an oasis of lemons rather than a mirage of limes.

It was pouring down rain by the time we got to the citrus trees but I didn’t care…just show me the lemon!  I bit into it and knew immediately…this was no lime pretending to be a lemon.  And the “icing”…there were seeds.  Seven of them.  CATIE also has a nursery but unfortunately, they didn’t have any of this particular species for sale. : (  So it would be up to me to care for these 7 seeds, return home and plant them, hoping they germinate.

The weirdest part of the garden?  The cocaine shrub that was planted in a large meadow of orange trees.

cocaine plant

Enjoy the slideshow…

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Pura vida…Chrissy

Note: While I am now paid and/or receive comped services at many of the places I visit, I will always offer my unbiased opinion to you, my readers. Fortunately, I almost always have experiences that exceed my expectations.

Is there another way down this mountain?

Kevin Our first morning in Turrialba we were scheduled to go waterfall rappelling.  As you can see in the photo above, my travel partner was stoked and ready to go.  I, being terrified of heights, was not so much.  But it’s part of my job – to experience all that Costa Rica has to offer.

Here’s how the beginning of the tour went:

Guide: Are you proficient enough to understand a safety speech about waterfall rappelling in Spanish?

Me: (laughing rather uncomfortably) No, I don’t think so.

There were 4 waterfalls and several ziplines in between.  Along with one hanging bridge.

Okay, breathe.

Being at the end of the rainy season, just imagine how much water was falling from these waterfalls.  I got down the first one okay, landing in a giant pool of icy cold water.

waterfall

At the second waterfall, the guide told me this one was the worst – with the most water.  And to always be looking down or you’ll get a face full of water.

Well, let’s just make a long (and from what Kevin will tell you since he went down before me – very funny) story short.  My body slammed into the jagged rock wall numerous times.  I did always look down but that didn’t stop the water from rushing over my face.  At one point while hanging there, I really wasn’t sure I was going to make it down that waterfall.  My face continued to be pummeled by nonstop water and I couldn’t get a grip on the rock wall.  I was doing what they instructed – legs straight, lean back, head down.  Eventually though, my feet landed on somewhat solid ground in a shallow pool of water.  The problem? I couldn’t bend my left leg.  Every time I tried to walk, it felt like my quadricep muscles were being pulled in two different directions.  I looked down to see my leg swelling up and turning pink.

waterfall 1

Always wanting to put the best foot forward, I limped to the next zipline.  But the pain was extreme.  Fighting back tears, I then asked the guide…Is there another way down this mountain?  At first he just thought the problem was the scrapes on my right leg that were bleeding.  But then I pulled up my board shorts and showed him my left leg and he understood.  The photographer grabbed his first aid kit and they put some sort of lotion on my leg and wrapped it with an ace bandage.  I took one last zip line and then walked the rest of the way back down the mountain to the main lodge.

And I was somewhat grateful once I saw the hanging bridge.  This wasn’t your typical hanging bridge – it had large spaces between each of the wooden slats and it moved with each step taken. Yeah, I could barely walk and being a hundred feet above the ground, this was not a bridge I was going to attempt to walk across.

Hanging bridges

Waterfall rappelling is probably not my sport.  But I’m glad I tried it and I actually think it might be really fun to do, just without the water.

Pura vida…Chrissy

Note: While I am now paid and/or receive comped services at many of the places I visit, I will always offer my unbiased opinion to you, my readers. Fortunately, I almost always have experiences that exceed my expectations.

Turrialba’s Hacienda Experience

coffee plantationHacienda Tayutic is located in Turrialba, about 2 hours east of San Jose.  As you drive there, you’ll pass by sugar cane fields and coffee plantations.  Most of the red coffee berries had already been harvested but there were still a few, shining bright against the dark green leaves.

The Hacienda is such a sweet place.  It was, at one time, the home of the owners and a full working ranch.  Now, there are still some plantations but more so, it’s become a place to getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life and relax for several days in the country.

You can easily go there and do nothing but birdwatch for hours on end.  I couldn’t believe how many birds we saw while we were there.  And really cool birds – the bright red and blue ones were my favorite.  We were told there are currently over 300 migrating birds from the US in the area.

DSC06651

Outside of our room was a citrus tree with a sign that said it was a lemon tree.  But when I googled the Latin name, it again was not a lemon but instead a key lime.  A lime is not a lemon!!

Limon sign

During our stay, we had the opportunity to have a private tour of the products that the Hacienda grows: Macadamia Nuts, Sugar and Coffee.  Three of my favorite things!!  We watched them make brown sugar, then turn it into a delicious treat – one was mixed with freshly ground coffee beans and the other had crushed macadamia nuts.

Making brown sugar 1

Making brown sugar 2

Brown sugar treat

My only issue while I was there, which was totally my fault, was I forgot where I was going.  I forgot that the temperatures in the central part of Costa Rica are way colder than those near the coast.  So I pretty much froze for 5 days.  I had no socks, close toed shoes, pants, sweaters – all of which are totally necessary for a visit to this part of the country.  Fortunately, on the third morning, the hotel staff brought me a jacket – which I didn’t take off for the next 3 days!  Mind you, it ranged from 16-22 degrees Celsius.  But for this Guanacaste girl, that’s really cold.  Teeth chattering cold.  Hopefully this will be the first and only time you will see me wearing a jacket!

1st time wearing a jacket in 6 months

Pura vida…Chrissy

Note: While I am now paid and/or receive comped services at many of the places I visit, I will always offer my unbiased opinion to you, my readers. Fortunately, I almost always have experiences that exceed my expectations.

Horseback Riding at Finca Bijagual and a visit to the Cana Blanca Animal Sanctuary

horseback riding 1Two other activities that I did while at Lapa Rios was horseback riding at Bijagual Farm and a visit to the Cana Blanca Animal Sanctuary.  I’ve been to both in the past – Bijagual last year when I milked a cow (read more about that here) and Cana Blanca in 2009.

We started our horseback riding at the farm and traversed several meadows and forested areas.  We even passed by a “lemon” tree – which once again was a lime tree that they tried to tell me was a lemon tree.  Eventually we ended up at a tranquil, deserted black sand beach.   The only sounds we heard there were the waves crashing and the squawk of the scarlet macaws.  My horse was much more well-behaved than the last time in Santa Teresa.  The only thing he did wrong was decide to gallop when Kevin’s horse would gallop.  And the problem with that was I was never prepared.  Going at a relatively slow pace, I didn’t need to hold on too tight – until of course the horse starts to run and I’m in the middle of taking a photo so I’m not really holding onto anything.    We eventually gave the horses, and our bodies, a break near a few tide pools, taking a moment to stretch our legs and check out the sealife, breathing in the warm salty air.

horseback riding 2

Tranquilo is how you’d describe this pristine area.  Untouched land with palm trees swaying in the tropical breeze while the fierce waves crash onto shore.  Not a house or other building in sight.

The one thing I recommend though is wearing long pants.  Just like socks, I don’t have any of those here but I do have a few capris which suffice for horseback riding.  Unfortunately, while packing and trying to stay under the 15 pound weight restriction for the puddle jumper, both pairs were somehow left out of my luggage.  Horseback riding in shorts…not so much fun, especially when you’re in such a wild, unmaintained area.  But it’s all just a part of the experience and lesson learned.

My visit to Cana Blanca was once again a mix of emotions.  I love that the Sanctuary is there to help these animals who have been orphaned, injured or held in captivity (and then the owners decide they no longer want them).  But it’s also so sad that so many of them can never be released into their wild habitats again.  It’s a horrible dilemma to consider – do you release them, knowing they can’t survive in the wild?  Do you put them to sleep because keeping them in a cage (albeit large cages) is not natural for them?  Or do you create the sanctuary where they can be cared for and loved but in a cage for their entire life?

spider monkey

But there was some good news – the macaws (that are considered endangered) are breeding and their babies are being released into the wild.  When I was there last time, there was a white-faced monkey who had been kept in a box by her owners.  She was mentally distraught when she arrived at the Sanctuary and had to be kept separate from the other monkeys.  Now, she is  out in the open (in the large monkey cage) although she still would rock back and forth and suck on her hands, similar to actions of an abused child.  And the baby sloths from three years ago are growing up and so so SO cute.

macaw

sloth 1

Carol, the founder of the Sanctuary, loves these animals.  You can tell she would do anything for them.  The Sanctuary is a special place.  Both travel partners that I’ve taken there were really touched by it – it’s a place where you can get up close to these beautiful animals and understand how and why not only they need to be protected but their natural environments as well.

Pura vida…Chrissy

Note: While I am now paid and/or receive comped services at many of the places I visit, I will always offer my unbiased opinion to you, my readers. Fortunately, I almost always have experiences that exceed my expectations.