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Published: April 2nd 2008
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 Video Playlist:

1: The Spice of Puerto Viejo 92 secs
2: Team Family Stunt Driving 16 secs
Team Family and the amazing bike rideTeam Family and the amazing bike rideTeam Family and the amazing bike ride

After not riding bikes for a while we take a 16km round trip "leisurely" pedal. It was fun but we were all very tired after, except maybe riding Benjamin.
After 10 weeks of alternating between hosting company, recovering, and taking care of life’s chores Team Family settled right into the home school, work, and “normal” life with great anticipation. It only took three days to have the unanimous feeling that we should be doing something else. We came to Costa Rica with the goal to explore, discover, and understand this beautiful and interesting country. After six months we feel like we have achieved our goals. We feel that all of us have achieved a great deal of personal growth and we are ready for our next challenge in life. My days shadowing Johnny were short lived as we both had other agendas that split us apart. I wanted to get the rear bumper of the car fixed and Johnny is trying to organize his business so we can focus on the projects we are planning to start and not have to deal with the daily worries of building seven houses. Nataghia and the boys have been working diligently at making our home and the home school project a success. However, with the knowledge that our destiny was to return to life in Canada in a few short months we decided
Homeschool funHomeschool funHomeschool fun

It's not always this serious but sometimes it has to be.
to make a list of things we wanted to do and places we wanted to visit before we ran out of time. I’m not sure if we are just tired, lonely for family, or too hot. I’m thinking a small part of the first two and mostly the latter. The daily temperatures have been around 35 Celsius and the breezes have been far and few between. When we were busy holidaying, going to school and working we never really had time just to sit and get really hot.


With the minor repairs on the car completed and the radiator topped with coolant we headed off to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. We chose Puerto Viejo because it was the furthest place on our list and we figured if we cut our adventure short we might run out of time and miss out on the famous vibe and snorkeling in the area. The boys were especially excited about going to a place where hearing English would be a common occurrence. Living and traveling throughout Costa Rica we have learned that most Ticos, unless they are seriously involved in the tourism industry or have lived and traveled in the United States or Canada, don’t speak English. They may understand some and speak some English, but they won’t actually try to use what they know unless you really push them. Personally I like the fact that the people here don’t feel obliged to learn another language to live here as it indicates to me that most Costa Ricans possess a great deal of autonomy from the influence of the omnipresent neo-colonialism and the English that comes with it. It also helped all of us learn a great deal of Spanish which was one of our sub-goals.

It is so nice to be able to throw our camping gear, a change of clothes, and our beach stuff in the trunk and take off. We left for the Caribbean and weren’t even scared that we might have car trouble or not be able to navigate our way through the maze of roadways in San Jose. The boys were blinded by the opportunity for English and maybe hearing “hey mon” and Mom and Dad were just excited to get away from the heat of the patio and to explore another part of this great and diverse country. Knowing that we can use our Spanish to ask anyone, anywhere, how to get around or to help us in anyway, gives us a great deal of confidence. Not only for life here, but for life anywhere…we have become Team Family and would definitely be favorites if competing in the Amazing Race.

As I was especially excited for our east coast trip Ron said it is now up to me to write about the finer points. The drive was one of the longer ones we’ve done while here, besides our visa vacations to Nicaragua. However, lady luck was on our side as the traffic flowed without problems and we made it to San Jose in record time, at about 10am. This was the plan so that we would avoid rush hour traffic but not be stuck navigating the streets during the midday heat. You may wonder why we would be concerned as the city itself is not the largest Ron has driven through and he is a most excellent driver who hasn’t ever gotten us lost in the past. The issue at hand is San Jose is a Costa Rican city and that means little or no real
Lush forestLush forestLush forest

Back in the 1940's almost 75% of Costa Rica looked like this, now less than 25% has this original lush vegetation.
signs to point drivers in the right direction. This is something that the country is working on improving as more visitors come and spend their money to see the sights. We have noticed over the past six months many new signs on our travels. But even with the new signs sometimes they are not in the best or most sensible places, like about 100metres before you should actually be exiting that 3 lane highway. You get the point. So we cruised into San Jose and did see the sign for the road we wanted, then we didn’t see any sign, but figured out quickly that we followed the wrong road. Eventually we turned around, luckily you can pull a u-turn without much fuss here, and we were off, sort of, into another amazing search. As Ron mentioned the ability to speak Spanish truly helps as he asked a few people for directions and after only about 20 minutes we were zooming off in the right direction. No real sign to confirm that of course until about another 3 or 5 km but hey, trust your instincts. I was very impressed with Ron’s patience with the whole ordeal and I burned
Rio SoucioRio SoucioRio Soucio

The Dirty River was one of our stops en route. The water is this color because of the volcanic runoff of minerals nearby.
a few landmarks into my brain for the return drive later in the week. I have not been to the city since we arrived in August and I found that my senses were in hyper drive. While Esparza is much larger than Eastend, SK it is not a big city. I am very accustomed to the slower pace of life and have now realized that I will be somewhat shocked when we return to the faster paced world of Canada.

So, once out of San Jose the drive is quite beautiful. About half an hour out of the city we found ourselves entering the most amazing natural park. Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo was established in 1978 when a new highway was built to connect the eastern part of Costa Rica to the rest of the country. This highway passes through the middle of the huge park and is the only development allowed in the park. This means the rest of it is gloriously untouched and amazing to look at as you drive through on the highway that is one of the best we’ve traveled on here. As the Lonely Planet guide book explains so well, “Driving through the park
Blue Bag BananasBlue Bag BananasBlue Bag Bananas

I know I don't like bugs with my bananas but I wish we didn't have to use chemicals.
will give you an idea of what Costa Rica looked like prior to the 1950’s- rolling hills cloaked in mountain rain forest”. There are also numerous waterfalls and giant ferns and plants alongside the road. I thought it was awesome and was so glad I could just sit back and enjoy it. Once through the park we stopped for lunch at a soda and then continued our journey singing “Vamos a la playa”. This was a theme song for us anytime we traveled as most of our trips took us to the beloved beach. Before reaching the playa we observed several banana plantations and a few pineapple farms too. It is quite amazing to see row upon row of plants, growing my favorite fruit, with the banana bunches covered with blue bags. I learned later that those bags are filled with pesticides to prevent the bugs, and that made me a little less excited!

Finally after about 5 and half hours on the road we saw the ocean. A little further on and we arrived at our first destination, Puerto Viejo. With the heat and the need to hit the water we quickly asked about the nearest camping and
Bunches of BananasBunches of BananasBunches of Bananas

Come Mr. Tallyman and tally me banana, daylight come and me want to go home...
found a great place oceanside called Cut Bak. It was a surfer run place with covered spots for tents, a common cooking area and even little wooden cabins with bunk beds. We pitched the tent, changed into bathing suits and walked down the path for a cool swim. Much of the east coast is lined with reef which makes for good snorkeling, but not as easy for swimming. But there was a small pool of water close by that was perfect for a soak and from there we could watch the surfers catching the waves of Salsa Brava. With the area full of reef this wave catching spot is called Wild Sauce because you’ve got to be wild to surf there and a lot of people leave their blood behind on the reef when wiping out creating a sauce of flesh,blood, and salt water. Needless to say we did not try the surfing but enjoyed watching the others, especially the guys who were using a paddle and standing on their boards. They were so good they would start from standing, paddle and shoot the wave, never once falling, or losing the paddle.

After the swim we ate dinner at the restaurant next door to our campsite and then convinced our tired boys to go for a short walk to check out the night life in town. On this night it was very quiet, but with the usual street vendors selling their goods and even some live entertainment in the form of a magician. As we walked this older guy with a funny hat and white hair stopped the boys to show them a few magic tricks. I was impressed when he read my mind about the card, but then his tricks started malfunctioning somewhat. Benjamin loved him with his 5 year old innocence and Owen liked the show too, with a bit more of that 8 year old skepticism. At least they were glad they had gone for the walk and then we all went straight to the tent to bed.

We had noticed on our walk that everyone, or so it seems, was riding around town on bicycles. Both Owen and I had talked about renting a bike in Samara and here we found a great two seater to give Benjamin a ride too. So the next morning after breakfast we rented 3 bikes and packed up our beach gear in our baskets. We decided to pedal to Punta Uva, one of the many beaches south of Puerto Viejo, with the reputation for being one of the better ones for snorkeling. I was very excited to be riding a bike again as it is something I have missed here a lot. It was a bit different with Benjamin riding in front of me on his own seat but he was a great passenger and made the 8 km ride quite enjoyable with his non-stop creative storytelling- we were the guys in the video game he created and he did the play by play. We were all very glad when we finally arrived at our destination and saw the numerous hammocks in the coconut trees and the crystal clear blue water. Owen picked a hammock and read for over an hour, he was well deserving of the rest after he pedaled so far. Ron, Benjamin and I jumped in the waves and caught a few great body surfing rides before all joining in the rest session on the beach. Unfortunately the water was too rough for snorkeling but we all enjoyed our afternoon until it was time for
Brothers and best friendsBrothers and best friendsBrothers and best friends

The boys liked watching the creatures in this tide pool near our campsite.
that bike ride home. I thought it was a lot harder on the return and I now remember what your butt feels like after the first bike ride of the season. We enjoyed BBQ smokies at the campsite and after a quick shower we were all sleeping by 8:30pm.

The next morning I woke up thinking I was hungry after our great workout the day before. Instead it turns out that my tummy was not well and I spent most of the day sleeping and, um, sleeping. The boys enjoyed play time and beach time with Dad and then came to check on me before getting lunch. I went to the beach with them and tried lunch and then slept some more. This was the first time in my life I’ve slept on the beach and I realized that if I had to be sick, especially on my birthday, this is where I wanted to be. Instead of being hot, or cold, in my bed at home, here I was lying on the sand, listening to cool music and the boys having fun splashing in the ocean. Life just can’t get much better than that and I think it bodes well for the remainder of my 29th year of life! Ha, ha. The boys were excited to see the magician man on the beach again this day and he promised them that he would teach them his tricks when he found them later that afternoon. Unfortunately Benjamin learned a hard lesson that day as the magician never did find them later and he was quite upset. Be careful what you promise a five year old cause they never forget. Later in the day as I finally came around the boys played in the park and we went out for a nice meal. To top off the fine day we were privileged to watch a fire dancer entertain us while we ate. The boys had been lucky enough to have a warm up show the night before as this guy was camping at the same place we were. Benjamin said the street show was way cooler though and now we can’t wait to see Auntie Sharon perform.

The next day started with Ron making a call to a local cocoa farm to arrange a tour and by 9:15 we joined a group at ChocoArt. This is a small cocoa
Paddling surfer dudesPaddling surfer dudesPaddling surfer dudes

You can't see the waves here but they were big enough and this was so cool to watch.
farm being rescued from its abandoned state by a hard working guy and his wife. He showed us the trees, explained how cocoa fruits grew and let us taste the seeds inside. Then he showed us the process of drying the beans and once dried how he turns them into magically delicious chocolate. Anyone who knows us will realize that this was the perfect tour for our family as we all LOVE chocolate. Thanks for the birthday gift Mom!! While we enjoyed learning about the process of making cocoa we especially loved the part where we got to taste the finished product. We did buy some of his homemade chocolates for gifts but alas, they just don’t stay fresh long enough and we had to eat them.

After the caffeine and sugar high of the cocoa tour we went back to the campsite and decided to head back down the road to Cahuita. This was another town on our list of places to see. There is a National Park there and some very good snorkeling or so we’d been told. We had met a couple of guys from Quebec, father and son who had been touring for 6 months
Benjamin in his fort with his coconut friendsBenjamin in his fort with his coconut friendsBenjamin in his fort with his coconut friends

Benjamin is always making up stories and games with some treasure he finds.
throughout Canada and then drove down to Costa Rica, who said there was camping at the park. When we got to the gate however, they informed us they no longer allow camping so we searched in town for a site. After a fruitless and very warm search we decided to splurge on a hotel room by the sea and then set off to explore yet another place. Ron was hot and frustrated with driving around aimlessly, so he went straight to the beach. The boys and I stopped on the way at the park to play. I mention the parks because here in Costa Rica they seem to be rare. We are lucky in Esparza to have a nice playground that has been improved upon in the last few months, in our central park. In many towns it is hard to find a playground for the kids. The schools will have them but they are fenced in and locked. Some others are in such bad repair that they aren’t safe to play on. We are very lucky in Canada to have so many places for the kids to play and have fun safely. However, the Cahuita park is brand new
Cocoa Fruit on the treeCocoa Fruit on the treeCocoa Fruit on the tree

I loved seeing where the cocoa beans come from and we got to suck on the fleshy part of the fruit around the bean, it was yummy.
and right next to the ocean so of course we just had to play there. After the play time we set off to find Ron, body surfing on the great waves at Cahuita National Park beach. The water here is nice and clear and Benjamin found sand dollars galore in the shallow waters. That was exciting as it was one ocean creature we had not seen yet. That night we went out to find typical east coast food and then curled up under the mosquito nets to fall asleep to the sound of the crashing waves.

We had planned to stay on the east coast for 6 or 7 days since we had driven the distance and had no major event to return home to. Friday morning however we were met with two tired little boys, who weren’t interested in doing any more touring, walking, biking, looking, or even swimming. They really just wanted to do nothing and Owen just wanted to be at home. So, on that note we decided that we would go home and that decision made the younger family members happy. Ron was disappointed that we didn’t go snorkeling and so was I as I
Cocoa bean exposedCocoa bean exposedCocoa bean exposed

This is the bean once removed and the flesh sucked off. This bean is cut in half.
really enjoyed the snorkeling in Samara.

Traveling with children is not without its challenges. Owen and Benjamin have been amazing this past year. They travel in the car quite content and amuse themselves well without whining “When will we get there?” They are each others best friend and look out for one another. They have tried many new things, including learning a new language and making friends with people who don’t speak English. They have eagerly gone where we tell them to, new schools, new towns and many new adventures. At this point in the journey they are now saying, not in so many words but sometimes just actions, enough is enough. The trips to the beach are not as exciting, though still fun. The chance to see a new animal or town is not quite as thrilling, though once it happens they always have something good to say about it. They are content to play at home, would love to be at school and with their friends and seem to be happiest with a bit of routine. Our trip back to Esparza was without incident and we navigated through the Northern part of San Jose with only one
Green and black dart frogGreen and black dart frogGreen and black dart frog

We saw this guy on the tour and the little 3 year old boy on the tour with us loved it!
u-turn. It is so weird that a major highway leading into the capital city wouldn’t have a sign that at least directed people to the international airport. On our drive home we had a rather frank family discussion about our plans for the forthcoming three months. It was unofficially decided that we would look into the possibility of returning earlier than planned and we were all happy with that decision…at least mostly happy.













Additional photos below
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Pepper PlantPepper Plant
Pepper Plant

I loved seeing where everything we eat comes from. This is the pepper plant and I do love black pepper on my food.
JamaicaJamaica
Jamaica

The plants that makes the sweet juice called Jamaica
CitronellaCitronella
Citronella

Can we grow these plants at home to keep those mosquitoes away?
PinaPina
Pina

I finally see a pineapple plant after eating so many during our stay.


2nd April 2008

What a beautiful country. Sorry we didn't make it down there this winter. I'm sure you will be heading back there some day. It would be hard to resist. Looking forward to seeing you all back home.
3rd April 2008

pretty country
It lloks very pretty there. The trip through the park looks idyllic!! It sounds like you are not teaching there right now? Did you find it interfering with your holiday time!!! I am in Vancouver for a while and a bit of a tour of the island. It is a cold winter in Saskatchewan and nice to miss part of it. But then why tell you this!!!! Alan
3rd April 2008

We really miss you...
You are an amazing family and we all miss you so much! Sounds great if you have done it all except snorkelling and are ready to come home! Good luck with your decision! Take care! and thanks for the wonderful journal and pics!! Love Deb and all the Alleykatz kids

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