From Sabalito, Costa Rica to Merida in Mexico

23rd of July,

On one of my last days in Sabalito, I take some pictures, while walking the dogs and I finally do see Volcan Arenal at the far end of the lake.DSC00392DSC00406DSC00399

Most of the time, it is hidden behind the clouds. One of the cows has escaped again, while the others are walking in line to the farm, for the milking process.

I collect Johanna from the busstation in Tilaran on the 22nd and now she and the dogs are bringing me to Tilaran on the 23rd, where I will hop on the bus, for a 4 hour drive to San Jose. I start hating these “saying goodbyes”, not only from the host, but from the animals as well! I think “Blue” was really feeling blue, as he first moved to the other side of the car, when I wanted to give him a cuddle and later he looked me right in the face, when driving away and his eyes were so sad, that I nearly cried……..

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The bus drive went fast and was way more interesting than the drive from Liberia. Green and lushy, curvy roads through the mountains (I even didn’t get sick!) and a nice in between stop after two hours, at a good and clean restaurant. At least the bus ticket prices stayed very low in comparison with the prices of products in the stores. 4015 Colones (around 8 US$) for a bus ticket of 4 hours is very reasonable!

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Once in San Jose, I took a taxi for $2 to my airport hotel and had a quick supper in one of those terrible American chain restaurants, with bad quality food and way too expensive. I rather had my Tico rice with beans! At 3.00 a.m. my wake up call arrived, but by that time I was already running around……

The shuttle bus brought me and two other guests to the airport and there it was pretty empty. There are no signs where to go to. You just have to check all the counters! Aero Mexico was hidden in a corner. I remembered from former times, that I first had to pay airport taxes. Enough people there, so I paid the US$29, got the receipt and arrived as first person at the AM counter. Immediately, I had to fill in a form. Then I got all these questions; my Dutch passport and Canadian residence card made it a little bit complicated in the early morning. There was the big question; “Do you have proof of leaving Mexico again?” Pffffff, so happy I bought already a ticket from Cancun to Toronto. Even printed it! Another two forms to fill in for the Mexican immigration and after that, it all went quickly and I joined the rest of the crowd at the coffee store, to get some caffeine. Only 4.30 a.m……….

Mexico City:

After a beautiful and low flight right over Mexico City (gosh, that city is enormous and so much smog!!!), we landed right at an airport in the city itself. I didn’t expect that, but it turned out that Aero Mexico has nowadays it’s own airport, Terminal 2. Terminal 1 is outside the city and is for all the other Airliners. Upon arrival, I knew that I had to collect my checked luggage again. They told me that in San Jose. So first you go with one of the forms and passport to an officer and then to the belt. It was not very clear where you had to go to after, but I went straight from the belt to the scanner and after with the other immigration form to another officer, then with my checked luggage to a guy, who took it over and tried (after a nice conversation) to get a tip!  I thought he was joking, so I laughed, but later I heard that everybody in Mexico wants to be tipped for whatever they do or don’t do! Next stop was another officer, who checked my passport and ticket again and then we got again a scanner for again the hand luggage, but this time not only the computer, but also the camera and phone and e-reader had to be taken out. Are we done yet??? Yes, we are done!!! Nice cozy new airport, very unclear where you have to go to. Last hour they inform you about the gate number and I had seen only one wing of the departure hall, so I sat myself there to have lunch and later I noticed that my flight was leaving from a different wing of the airport and it turned out to be quite a distance. Lucky, my plane was too late…..DSC00462

From Mexico City to Merida, Yucatan is only a little bit more that an hour flight time. Once there, no controls anymore and within no time I hopped in a taxi, after verifying the costs to my address. The first thing I saw on my way into the city, were two army trucks, full of armed soldiers…….

It took a while before the poor taxi driver found the address. All streets are numbered, but that doesn’t make it easier. They are not always numbered in a logical way. In the coming days I have to get familiar with my neighborhood!

The present house sitters were there to welcome me and they made me a wonderful barbecue meal. Very welcome after two days of traveling! They had only a few hours to inform me about the daily duties and to show me around. In the early morning I got some last instructions regarding the garden and the cat and then I was on my own in my new house sit address, in a country I had never been before! Exciting!!!

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How one dog rescues the other…..unbelievable!!!

21st of July, 2015 Costa Rica

What happened this morning at my “jungle house” is unbelievable……..Dur, the dog of the neighbour, who lives here during the day, was barking from a spot I didn’t recognize. So I went with the camera and Nela and Blue, the other dogs, towards the noise. Dur was on the other side of the river and couldn’t cross over. He probably never learned how to swim. I never saw him going into the jungle before and he must have heard or smelled something, which made him cross the river on one of the stoney spots. While I was waving to him, which must have looked hilarious, Nela was running around nervously. Once I told Nela to help Dur, he jumped in the river and swam towards Dur and from that moment on, I couldn’t believe what was happening…… Nela showed Dur how to cross the river. She more or less taught him, which rocks to take! I immediately started taking pictures, from the moment I saw Nela trying to help his little friend. Here and there are the pictures a little bit blurry, because of all the excitement! I wish I had made a video, but I was so surprised about what was happening, that I just thought about the pictures………..

Jungle noises, colourful flowers and rain….

July, 2015

This is my second week in Sabalito, Tilaran area in Costa Rica and it seems the rain never stops! Well, now and then and on those moments I am running with the dogs on the hill top and trying to enjoy every break in the clouds. The birds are still singing away and the crickets are members of different orchestras; the noise is overwhelming! A few different group of toucans came to visit me and one morning I saw two toucans going in and out a hole in the tree of the front garden, assuming that they have a nest there, but the next day they were gone. According to the gardener, they are not nice birds, as they steal the eggs of other birds. Ah well, I got a chance to see them from a short distance, as most of the time they are high up in the tree!DSC00143DSC00148

It is too bad that I can’t enjoy the beautiful sights around the area, as Volcan Arenal and the National Parks. I can’t leave the dogs more than 4 hours alone, as they have to be “locked up” and many of the sightseeing spots are around two hours driving. That leaves no time to explore anything once you are there. I went to visit Tilaran and Nuevo Arenal via a nice, curvy road along Lake Arenal. I had to go back twice for some banking issues and here in Costa Rica that takes a lot of time, as for a new banking card they need multi copies of everything, affirmations of passports, filing it into the computer and tons of signatures. So if you have two people in front of you, you know the waiting time is long! Also, once you are in one of those small towns, you better do some shopping, as in Sabalito there is only a small grocery (a kiosk).

One day, I had some real Tico food in one of the restaurants on my way back. A little bit of everything!

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The dogs are fun to be with and the neighbouring dog from “up the hill” is visiting every day and by now he more or less lives here. He even joins for walks now, although it means that he has to walk up and down the hill an extra time! He is extremely protective for me, loves me dearly and goes home after he joined for supper in the evening. He waits until it is nearly dark and then walks up the steep hill again.DSC00282

One late afternoon, I got unexpected visitors. I thought I got my first guests for one or a few nights, but this was a friend of Johanna’s, who wanted to show her family the property. When they wanted to head back to their village, the car didn’t start. So the neighbour was called with starting cables. No luck either. Then the friend, who owned a tourist VAN was called. While waiting for his arrival, I got the beer and the wine out of the fridge and the cookies and chips out of the cupboard. I was glad I had done some shopping the day before! The friend arrived in the dark and they all went home with the promise to collect the car with a service company the next day. I was just going to my casita around 8.30 and the VAN arrived back. Well, when you don’t expect anybody and suddenly a car drives down the steep hill, you are “on alert” and the dogs were also! Finally, it turned out that one of the cables of the battery was disconnected!!!. Next  evening, again the same VAN came down in the dark……There was the whole group again, including wine, beer and chips! They stayed for a few hours and then went to have a very late supper, while I was heading for bed, as my mornings are very early!

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Another day, one of the neighbours (well, living a few km away) came down the hill to ask me, if I had seen his bull! Yes, I had seen it the day before on the main road, but not (yet) on the property. Today, I went with the dogs in the car to the “campo”, a few miles further up the road and also there they had a “cow ” problem; several escaped and their owner was running after them. I had to change my route, as I didn’t want the dogs chasing them further away. Other countries, other problems!DSC00247                          DSC00234

The howler monkeys came to visit me again; suddenly, there was this terrible noise, without any warning! I only saw two of them sitting together very quiet and after half an hour or so, there were around 10 or more, going towards the banana plantation of the neighbours. It is very hard to take a picture of them, as they go fast and always covered by the leaves of the trees. They looked at me, while I was taking pictures and I was glad there were no coconuts growing here!

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The garden is full of flowers and there is always something special to see………..even insects………..

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I finally get a lot of computer work done, which is good, as in Merida, Mexico (my next stop) I will not have so much time for it. There is so much to do and see, so much culture in Merida, that I will be “on the road” a little bit more than here in Sabalito. A few more days to go and the traveling starts again. I will take the bus from Tilaran to San Jose, a 4 hour drive with one stop on the way, stay for an overnight at an airport hotel and fly the next day via Mexico City to Merida, for the next adventure.

A retreat sit in “The Living Forest” in Costa Rica

The 3rd of July, 2015

After quite some years of absence, I am back in beautiful Costa Rica, this time arriving in Liberia, Guanacaste. I will be going to the tiny village called Sabalito, where I will meet Johanna, the proud owner of a Retreat Center, called “The Living Forest” at Lake Arenal. It is arranged that I will be collected from the airport and I am grateful that Jorge is waiting patiently at the airport, as I have a one and half hour delay. After a quick lunch, we head out on the dusty road, with endless construction, towards Canas. It is hot and very windy and Mother Nature didn’t put her attention on this part of Costa Rica; just a flat and dry piece of the country, although I heard that the coast must be amazing beautiful. After Canas, the curvy road gets into the lower mountains and the scenery changes. Too bad there is a windmill park on top of the mountain………DSC00111DSC00066

Jorge takes a short-cut and suddenly Lake Arenal is in front of us, with the lower mountains wrapped around it. Just before Sabalito, he drives into the long and very steep driveway to the entrance of the “Living Forest”.DSC00076

Indeed, you see the jungle right in front of you and the main building and the cabana’s are tucked away in a very sheltered area, with a gorgeous tiny river, complete with small waterfalls, lingering through the back garden. What a special place this is! The sound of the water is soothing and the monkeys are there to welcome me. I am exhausted, but after a glass of wine, some food and nice chatting with Johanna, I feel revived.DSC00037DSC00116

The next day, Johanna tells me all about the daily schedule, the care of the two sweet dogs, Nela and Blue and what to do if guests are coming. She drives me around in the area, shows me some small stores in the neighbourhood, the “soda” places (small cafe’s), where to walk the dogs and finally we have lunch in a very nice out and indoor restaurant, called Macadamia, with a beautiful view over the lake and great local food. It brings memories back of the 80th’s, when I was backpacking through Costa Rica and Nicaragua……….DSC00039DSC00083

Later, Johanna lets me drive the steep driveway up and down and driving myself is less frightening than sitting beside the driver!

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On Sunday morning, we do our Yoga exercises on the enormous “dance floor” together, with soft music in the background and the view of the jungle and river in front of us; how beautiful and relaxing……DSC00011

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I go to the local Farmers market on my own, while Johanna is packing for her trip. A small market, close to Tilaran, where Ticos, as well as foreigners who are living here, are offering their produce. I buy some yoghurt in a plastic bag, some goat cheese and pork meat, papaya (my favorite), bread and some other things. It is not cheap and I am spoiled with Portugal, where the prices are way lower!

On Monday I bring Johanna to the bus station in Tilaran, where she will catch the bus to San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. I will do the same thing, when I am leaving on the 23rd. It is a 4 hour drive, but with a stop of 20 minutes halfway.

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On Monday a group of 5 green Parrots is spending the whole morning around the property. Their green color is blending in with the green of the leaves, but thanks to my new 50X  zoom camera, I can take a reasonable picture of them. I haven’t seen the howler monkeys anymore after Saturday, but I can hear their sound everyday! Today, I see the Morpho, the blue butterfly. I was so lucky to see it in Panama also, but they are hard to catch on the camera, as they fly very quick and go up and down. They are always in the vicinity of water, so I do hope to see them again during my stay. Their color blue is glittering in the sunlight and I always have to think about the movie “The Blue Butterfly” with William Hurt. A beautiful movie…….

It rains so much in the night and for most of the day also at the moment and you wonder when it will ever stop. The river is running faster and faster and today it is even wild! I haven’t gone for a swim yet but I will soon, with Nela, the dog.DSC00099DSC00108

Yesterday evening, I was listening to the sound of a bird and I walked slowly with my camera to the cabanas, to get a better view. I even went through my knees, to catch a better glimpse of what was in the tree. The dogs are always following me, wherever I go and I saw that Blue was watching something with his eyes wide open and very alert. He stood totally still and I turned my head to see what his eye caught. On half a meter from me, this enormous snake just found its way down to the garden. I was in shock, but still alert enough to grab the camera, which was hanging around my neck. Just this morning, I saw that somebody from Costa Rica put a picture of a similar snake, not yellow and black, but white and black, on Facebook. It took me some hours to recover from the shock, but according to Johanna, this isn’t a dangerous one. She saw it last week also at the same spot. I am from now on more alert to what’s going on, on the ground and not only watch the trees!DSC00115DSC00035

Today, Wednesday, the howler monkeys paid me a visit again. Gosh, they make so much noise! It is like the heavy barking of a big dog, who has a cold…….The parrots also were there again; they are here nearly every day now!

Although my days are starting very early here (at 5.00 or 5.30 I wake up and the dogs also), my bedtime is very early too (9.00 p.m.) and I feel every day more revived and all the small pains and aches are starting to disappear……….