Tenorio: A Birder’s Paradise

La Carolina LodgeThis week is Semana Santa (AKA Spring Break or Easter) which means a lot of businesses will be closed and everyone is heading to the beach.  So for the first few days, a few friends and I decided to avoid the crowds where we live and took off to the mountains to La Carolina Lodge, near Tenorio Volcano.

The Tenorio area is most famous for its blue river, Rio Celeste.  But while we were less than 30 minutes from the Park, for various reasons (one of which I’ll write about in another post), we decided just to stay at the Lodge and experience the wonder of this beautiful paradise.

At La Carolina, there are 170 acres of open land and forest to explore and enjoy.  They have no internet service and no cell service (except for in a few random places like out in the middle of a field that I found while horseback riding).  The lodge itself is made up of a main ranch house as well as several private cabins.  There is a river running next to the property and a small pond area that you can enjoy (although the water is quite cold).  They have a man-made hot tub, made from large rocks, that they empty and fill up every day.  The hot tub is heated by a wood burning stove (all wood used on the property comes from either fallen trees or a nearby teak farm’s scraps).  Meals are prepared in the open air kitchen and served family style.  All food is typical Costa Rican. And in the evenings, no electricity is used.  Candles are lit on the dinner tables and around the property.

All activities at the hotel, including horseback riding, are included with the rates.  The horses are well taken care of, well-fed and super gentle.  It was a beautiful ride through plantations, open fields and jungle areas.  They also have a lake that you can visit and many hiking areas around the property.

But probably the most fun I had was photographing the birds.  The staff places fruit out in one of the open areas next to the dining area and I was amazed at all that I saw in less than 48 hours.  Everything from colorful tanagers to toucans and oropendolas visited and hung out in the nearby trees.

Oropendola

Albeit only 2.5 hours away, the weather in Tenorio is different from where I live in Guanacaste.  They experience the Caribbean climate patterns and so their wet season is often December – February.  While we were there, we had foggy mornings and sunny afternoons. It was refreshing to have cooler temperatures after several days of hot and dry air in Tamarindo.

My friends have been coming to La Carolina for over 10 years, at least annually if not more often, and that says a lot about the owners, the ranch and the experience.  I will definitely return, probably sooner than later.  On our way home, we stopped at Lola’s in Avellanas for a delicious meal and the perfect ending to this little mini-vacation.

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Enjoy the slideshow…

[slideshow]

Pura vida…Chrissy

Everything breaks, corrodes and falls apart

I’m not exaggerating with the title of this post.  I know I’ve already complained about the quality of products but here’s a list of what has broken, corroded or fallen apart so far:

  • Dishes and glassware, pitchers
  • Fan
  • The kitchen faucet
  • The showerhead
  • The washing machine has eaten several articles of clothing, towels and sheets/pillowcases
  • iPhone screen protector
  • Laptop bag strap
  • Two backpacks – the straps broke on one and the other had a zipper that broke
  • Corroding pots and pans
  • Bodum French Press
  • Blender
  • Clothes drying rack
  • The new blender that I bought to replace the other blender

I’m sure there are more and I just can’t remember what they are anymore.

So not all of these products were poorly made.  I’m living in such a small space now that often times, I will drop a glass (or my housekeeper will drop a glass) or dish or hit the pitcher into the side of the sink so it now has a large crack in it.  I had 8 brand new glasses when I moved here – I now have 0.  My former housekeeper broke my new Bodum but fortunately, Macy’s shipped me out a new one.  And never again will I leave the Bodum for my housekeeper to clean because it was simply an issue of her not understanding how to clean it properly.

As for the blender, I have about 1 sq foot of counter space in my kitchen and the cord was sitting next to the electric stove.  It burned a piece of it and then a day later, I put it on the drying rack and it fell off and shattered on the floor.  I miss having a dishwasher and a double, normal sized kitchen sink.

Then, just this week, the new blender that I bought 3 months ago to replace the old blender broke.  I turned it on and it started to smoke and the motor was totally burned out.

The kitchen sink faucet and showerhead break because the water is so hard here and it corrodes the metal.  Fortunately, that’s not my responsibility to maintain.

The real bummer has been the clothing that I’ve lost to the washing machine (and can’t replace until someone visits) and the laptop bag strap.  The latter broke the morning I was leaving on the 16 day trip in November.  And so I had to carry the laptop under my arm along with my backpack (whose straps also broke half way through that trip) and my luggage.  I had a really great brand new laptop bag that actually fit two laptops and an iPad but the people who broke into my house in August have that now.  Or their drug dealer has it.  I’m sure they were all disappointed to only find a laptop AC adaptor inside.

And probably my main concern is the corroding pots and pans.  I don’t have the money to purchase quality pots and pans but then again, I don’t have any health insurance and who knows what type of cancer causing agents I’m consuming every time I cook food in them.

Since most of the things that break here can’t be replaced, I’ve gotten really good at duct taping and super gluing things back together whenever possible.  Even some of my clothes have duct tape and super glue holding them together.  I tried to duct tape the laptop strap but it seems like it doesn’t work for everything.

Pura vida…Chrissy

Medusas of the Sea

Jellyfish in Costa RicaA few weeks ago I wrote about how the water has been really, really cold.  And since then, what I’ve learned, is that when the water turns cold like this, a not-so-fun creature arrives.  The jellyfish.  Thousands of them.

I’ve been stung by jellyfish while snorkeling in the past.  But it was always the tiny, almost invisible, jellyfish.  Not like these big ones with the colorful heads and long, scary tentacles.

So did I go out in the water that day?  No…other people did and several were stung.

I’ll wait until the water returns to its normal, warm state and the current drags the jellyfish out of the area.  Which I’m hoping will be soon as I’d really like to get back out on the water.

Pura vida…Chrissy

How far away is the Fire Station from your house?

a Langosta fireWhen you fill out a homeowner’s insurance policy application in the States, often times you’ll be asked the question…How far away is the Fire Station from your house?  I used to be able to answer that question with less than one mile.  Now, if I had to answer that question, it would be more like 45 minutes.  And that is just the time it should take to get from there to here.  Read on and you’ll see that really means nothing.

I was working upstairs today when I started to smell smoke.  At first, I just thought it was a neighbor having a BBQ.  Yeah, it was early in the day for a BBQ but many people here are on vacation and start drinking in the morning so it’s not as uncommon as you might think.  About an hour later, I could still smell the smoke and I started to hear a crackling sound.  A sound that is really only created when fire is crackling against wood.

I put my laptop, cameras, phone, keys and sunglasses into my backpack and went outside where smoke seemed to be consuming the back side of the building.  I knocked on my neighbor’s door but no one answered.  However the door was just slightly open so I looked inside to find no people but one dog and one cat.  Great, I thought…where’s Mona, the 6 month old feisty kitten.  But fortunately, as I went down the stairs, Mona was running up and I quickly grabbed her and put her into the house.  The building is made of concrete so I knew she’d be safer inside versus out playing amongst the burning embers.

The entire back side of the property where I live was burned or burning.  My neighbors had already called the fire department and were using hoses, large water bottles and fire extinguishers to try to control the fire in a field of extremely dry brush.

We were all extremely disappointed in the Barcelo Hotel which is across from us and next to the burning field.  No one from the hotel did anything.  With the amount of staff and fire extinguishers that must be in the building (I think it has almost 200 rooms), it was really frustrating that they weren’t helping out the community.  But I’ve also been told that they’ve done some pretty shady environmental practices, both when they were building and currently, so it doesn’t surprise me that they didn’t help out the local community when we needed it.  Definitely not a potential client that I would ever work with or recommend to visiting friends.

And it was several hours later, after the fire had been put out by the community members, that the fire truck finally showed up and hosed down the building and some of the field that still had a few embers burning.

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Last week while in San Juanillo, there were a lot of fires there as well.  Pretty much the entire coastline of the Nicoya Peninsula had puffs of smoke billowing up to the sky.  We desperately need more water.  Last year’s winter was so dry and I’m sure there will be more fires to come as the winds continue and the already dry ground continues to lose moisture in the hot summer sun.

I’ve now lit a few candles, hoping to get the smell of smoke out of my house but it reeks pretty bad so I’m not sure how long it’s going to take before everything starts to smell fresh again.

View the slideshow of today’s events here…

[slideshow]

Pura vida…Chrissy

A Week in San Juanillo

Palm tree sunsetAfter Harmony’s passing, there was such an emptiness in my house that I decided very quickly to get out of town.  I pretty much took the clothes out of my closet, threw them into my suitcase (didn’t even bother to fold them) and left Sunday morning for a week-long stay at Hacienda del Sol in San Juanillo.

Located about 1.5 hours south of Tamarindo and 30 minutes north of Guiones, it’s a sleepy fishing village where I was able to find a little bit of solace.  The Hacienda is mainly a retreat center, located in the rainforest, which holds week-long juice fasts as well as options for raw food/vegan or vegetarian options.  While I was there, there was a group having a juice fast but I opted for a personal retreat of raw food, yoga and quiet time.

There are beautiful hiking areas, close to the Hacienda, many of which will land you at one of the three beaches in the area.  One is black sand and the other two are beautiful white sand beaches with palm and almendra trees lining the shore.turtle

I have a few friends that live near the area so I met up with them a few times.  Once just to hang out at the beach and once to go out on a boat with Paski’s Adventures for a wildlife tour and swimming with turtles.  That tour was amazing.  The amount of wildlife that exists near Ostional is incredible.  We saw multiple sets of humpbacks with babies, spotted dolphins, about 20 turtles (some of which were mating) and more jumping manta rays as well as a few jumping fish.  Later that day, we drove to Guiones for lunch with more friends at Harmony Hotel.

After a week of being away, it was difficult to return.  As I entered my home, my heart felt heavy as I was reminded there was no Harmony there to greet me.  But I’m fortunate to have so many good friends who also have pets as family members and who have supported me during this difficult time.

Enjoy the slideshow…

[slideshow]

Pura vida…Chrissy

Harmony 1995-2013

Harmony in the hammockHarmony would have been 18 years old this month.  He led a very good, long and quite adventurous life for a cat.  Not only did he live in many places throughout California, he also became international last year when we moved to Costa Rica.  Not many pets can say they’ve lived abroad.  But none of that makes it any easier that I had to let him go this past weekend.

After my second trip to Costa Rica in 2007, I returned home knowing that I would move there someday.  And every trip thereafter (there were 8 more before I moved), I would tell Harmony before leaving…Someday, we are going to go there together and you will see why I love it so much.

Harmony’s adventures here on the Rich Coast were new and interesting for him.  Lots of different, colorful birds and of course all the new animals…monkeys, iguanas and geckos that would run around the house.  Only once did he try to go after one.

But while he was still intrigued by his surroundings, his quality of life was diminishing.  He was having a difficult time getting around the house, even just lifting his head up from a resting position was slower and appeared more challenging.  And in the last 7-10 days, he pretty much stopped eating.  I tried giving him different food but the only thing he’d eat were a few treats and pieces of tuna fish.  That definitely isn’t enough to sustain him for very long.  I weighed him last week and he was at 7.8 pounds, far from the healthy 12 that he was a few years ago.

And honestly, that sweet little spark had left his eyes.

So on Saturday morning, his vet came to put him to sleep.  And from there, two of my neighbors came over and we went to bury him in a very special place where there are many other “framily” pets who were so very loved as well.  He’s buried in between two large roots of a gigantic pochote tree.  At some point, I’m not really sure when, the tree will bloom with flowers.  For now, he’s surrounded by red hibiscus flowers.

Harmony's pochote tree

After, I spent the day with friends at Lola’s Restaurant in Avellanas.  We celebrated Harmony, toasting him with Mojitos and later in the afternoon, Bret, one of the massage therapists at the Lola’s Spa, gave me a wonderful massage just before we left.

Now begins a new chapter in my life.  I don’t know if or when I’ll adopt new cats.  For now, I just want to cherish the sweetness and love that Harmony brought into my life for all these years.

Pura vida…Chrissy