Costa Rica with side trip to Nicaragua

Published: January 13th 2016
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black bellied whistling ducks at the condoblack bellied whistling ducks at the condoblack bellied whistling ducks at the condo

They left when the crocodile showed up
Several weeks ago,we returned from another visit to Costa Rica- this time we went for a destination wedding near Tamarindo in Guanacaste. I think CR is now off the list but we did have a good time. The worst part of Costa Rica is the trip to get there.

We had to exit Salt Spring to get to Vancouver-that was day one. Day two , we flew to Houston via Calgary for another overnight and day three, we finally arrived in Liberia. Getting there is not half the fun, but it was a self inflicted wound as we had chosen the cheap flight option. This was also our first try at flying with no checked baggage which worked out fine, proving that one can survive with minimal luggage. I think we saved about $25 for each person each way.

The four of us ( Sandra, Ron, Jan and yours truly) arrived at the condo in Hacienda Pinilla by shuttle about noon and had some difficulty with the 2 security gates. It seemed that the landlord/security communication system had a misfire which left us waiting in the hot sun etc. Anyway, we finally convinced the gate keepers that we weren't
Our resident egretOur resident egretOur resident egret

one tough bird
terrorists and they let us in.

Our first order of business was the procurement of food and anti-dehydration material (beer, gin etc) We got our shuttle driver back and headed into the nearby resort town of Tamarindo. Including the taxi home, this excursion cost about $70 US. We immediately decided to rent a car for future expeditions. It appears that grocery costs at the Auto Mercado may be similar to Safeway back in Canada.

We ate at a beach restaurant in Tamarindo before heading back with the groceries. Everyone ordered Red Snapper (based on nostalgia for last years Texas fish pig out) Some participants were taken aback by the sight of the deep fried whole fish but it was pretty good. We had our first CR margaritas.

Not many (any) of us were still up beyond 2100 hours. It was the first of many nights of full on air conditioning. Sore throats await...

Today we spent some time trying to organize a rental car. The temperature being what it is, exercise walks are best taken early since by 10.00 it is about 32C.We are at the tail end of the rainy season. Everyone spent some time
Big male iguanaBig male iguanaBig male iguana

They turn this colour to attract a mate
around the pool. I am seeing lots of birds, including grey breasted martens,kiskadees, neotrophic cormorants, black bellied whistling ducks and a great egret around the small lake behind our condo. On the road in, i also saw a turquoise browed motmot.

Aron, Fran and Xavier arrived about 7.00 pm and we all had BBQ.

Sunday was a quiet day, walking, more groceries, sim card and pool time. I do want to pay tribute at this time to Rogers Wireless who are such good friends to to travellers. Their "roam like home" plan is only $10/day so on a 2 week trip you can wave good bye to about $150. With my unlocked Iphone, i was able to pick up a CR sim card with data , texting and voice to last 2 weeks for $15 USF. On a related note ,we had a hooded skunk walk through the back yard after dinner.

On Monday, Aron decided it was activity time so he planned a hike in Diria National Park. To get there we used GPS and Iphone Google to lead us through to a park near Santa Cruz. Things were going fine until the GPS took us
Our first hike of the tripOur first hike of the tripOur first hike of the trip

On the way back to the car
off highway to a dirt road, which got progressively worse until we came to a raging river crossing. We did a 180 and navigated the rest of the way to the park using road signs. However the road from Santa Cruz to the park was also blocked by another raging stream. A helpful farmer led us through his pasture to a suspension bridge and we walked the rest of the way to the park entrance. Very hot, lots of hills but a great walk- we couldn't actually get to the hiking trail because the river crossing was impassible. On the way back, we saw a laughing falcon and lots of howler monkeys. There was a good fruit market in Santa Cruz and then it was back to the pool. Dinner at home was red snapper a la Texas-more about this later...

The next day several of us took a tour to Palo Verde National Park which includes a river cruise through a mangrove swamp. After a fairly long and bumpy van ride interrupted by some vomiting, we arrived at river side. The boats are long, shallow covered cruise boats that probably hold 25 -30 people plus a driver and
Aron the surferAron the surferAron the surfer

Waiting his turn for the wave ( along with 50 others)
our amusing guide. We saw lots of crocodiles, iguanas , and quite a few different birds. We also saw howler monkeys and one white throated capuchin monkey.After the tour, we had a Costa Rican lunch in the nearby village. We were supposed to then do a pottery tour but due to popular demand,this was cancelled. In the evening we went to the Dragonfly Restaurant for a good dinner.

On Wednesday, i discovered the ring road walk -about 9 kilometres. I did this very early and took the camera. (crested caracaras, double crested thick knees , tropical flycatchers, cattle egrets, black vultures) There is a large group of brahma cattle along side the road and there are dozens of cattle egrets and black vultures in with the herd. I also saw several scissor tailed flycatchers.

After the walk, some of us went to Tamarindo.There are some stomach issues and a lot of conjecture about the red snapper dinner.

Thursday (with a tricky stomach) I did the 9 km walk plus the gym. The pool then beckoned for all. Tonight we had spaghetti.

Friday was more walking and pool time. We are gearing up for the wedding which
Road side cow herdRoad side cow herdRoad side cow herd

Very curious..
will take place on Sunday.

Saturday we all went to the Westin for a welcome dinner with the wedding party ( nephew Wes) and the various guests. The Westin property is well secured and it took some time to get in the front gate. It is about a 30 minute drive from our condo to the wedding site and we were all home by 9.00. It was generally agreed that we would normally have stayed on and partied until past midnight but for Xavier, (age 1) who needed his rest. (that is our story and we are sticking to it)

After another major early morning walk, it was off to to Tamarindo to the surf school for Aron and Fran. After their return all of us left by 2.30 for the wedding. The wedding was held on a beach the Westin grounds. One highlight was the visit of a large lizard which slithered down an adjacent tree. There was also a family of noisy parrots in a nearby tree. The ceremony went off without a hitch and then everyone moved to poolside for libations and appetizers. After an excellent dinner, many of the crowd danced the night away.
Scissor Tailed FlycatcherScissor Tailed FlycatcherScissor Tailed Flycatcher

One of the best birds
We left the site about 10.00 and drove home in the tropical darkness.

Early the next morning the circle road beckoned once again. I have been taking my camera on this 9 km walk and am now up to 50 bird species.Today we all went in to Tamarindo with the objective of seeing Aron the surfer. Unfortunately almost every tourist in the province in Guanacaste had the same idea and each wave had lots of customers. Jan and Fran had beach side massages. Today I discovered the banana daiquiri at a beach bar- a major health break through. The bar not only had a great view and excellent drinks but also a bunch of howler monkeys. They amused themselves by bombing some of the tables with excrement...

The next day (Tuesday the 5th of December) my plan was to take the day tour to Nicaragua which involved a 0430 AM pickup. After sitting outside until 0600, it was apparent that the plan was not going to come to fruition. Apparently the ever vigilant gate attendants refused to let the pickup van into the compound.After i had a brief sleep, several of us took Xavier to a nearby beach
Streets of Grenada, NicaraguaStreets of Grenada, NicaraguaStreets of Grenada, Nicaragua

Well preserved town-+500 years old
for a walking nap in his pack/carrier. Then it was back to the condo to once again arrange the trip to Nicaragua.

Big excitement today at the condo place- a crocodile has taken over the pond behind our unit (about a five footer) The resident egret wasn't impressed and actually stole some fish from the crocodile. The egret also seemed to give some thought to attacking a large iguana at the other end of the lake. One other side effect from the reptile visit was an exit stage left by all of the black bellied whistling ducks. The pool is like living beside a zoo as we also have howler monkeys, kiskadees, parrots, short tailed hawks, green kingfishers and some brilliant green lizards.

The next day I was up at 0330 and caught the van at 0430 for the long awaited trip to Nicaragua. We stopped in Tamarindo to pick 3 other people (2 from New York, 1 from Wisconsin) The first stage of the trip was the van ride to Liberia to catch the mothership (a big tourist bus with 40- 50 other people) Everyone seems to be from the USA or Canada. After a 45 minute
Our teamOur teamOur team

Best way to tour the town
ride to the border, we entered the exciting world of crossing a border in central america. Apparently the USA has a lot of influence on what happens there due to the refugee issue so we had at least 4 passport checks. There were lots of people sleeping outside of immigration at the border. I also heard there are 2000 Cubans working their way towards the USA from Ecuador and/or Venezuela.

Our first stop was just up the road where we had a pre-arranged breakfast-eggs,meat, rice and beans plus excellent orange juice. We were quite close to Lake Nicaragua and Ometepe Island along side the highway. (saw a king vulture by the highway) Apparently this waterway was originally going to be the site of the "cross the isthmus canal" but due to political instability, the canal was built in Panama...

A Chinese investor is now attempting to build a new canal across Nicaragua. Apparently it has a number of advantages ( shorter) and people seem to excited about in the country. It remains to be seen it it ever gets built. Our next stop was Masaya where we had lunch and visited a live volcano-pretty smelly (sulphur) We had

Very old church-always the biggest buildings in town
lunch in Masaya and then were "guided" through the market. I got Xavier 2 t-shirts for $5.

Our last stop was the colonial city of Grenada which was probably the highlight of the day. The buildings are about 500 years old and we did the downtown area in horse drawn carriages. After the city tour we did the islands tour by boat. There was a obligatory monkey stop on one of the islands and the inhabitants have trained the humans to bring food...

The remaining part of the trip ranked with many of my worst travel experiences, including road accident delays, mechanical breakdowns and an even worse set of border crossings. Home arrival occurred at about 1130 PM. This was my 91st country-only 9 to go.

The next day was our last full day in CR.We went for a walk and I saw my last bird of the trip-a grey hawk.

We left CR the next day at 330 AM - it only took 36 hours to get home to Salt Spring. (van,plane ride, layover in Houston,plane ride, shuttle bus,hotel,taxi,bus, ferry .layover,ferry, bus, car)

Additional photos below
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Island tourIsland tour
Island tour

Lots of expensive real estate -some with heliports
Looking for foodLooking for food
Looking for food

The monkeys have the people trained

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