Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year!

I won't be awake when it starts, but here's wishing everyone a 2016 that surpasses 2015 in every way. 

Happy New Year!

The GCW Tour, Costa Rica: Dave Enjoys His Strawberries on New Year's Eve

We're now in a town called Cahuita for a couple of days, and had dinner at a pretty great place called Outback Jack's. 

It's run by a couple that used to live on the San Juan Islands. Small world. The food was fabulous, but Dave particularly liked the strawberries...




The GCW Tour, Costa Rica: Rainforest Adventures, Dave in the Orchid Garden

The GCW Tour, Costa Rica: Rainforest Adventures, Exotic Animal Bingo

While we didn't see much in the way of animals on the tram ride, our guide pointed out a number of interesting critters on our walk through the surrounding area. Admittedly, a few were behind glass -- they have aquariums set up with some of the frogs and snakes -- but most were just wandering around, including the terrifying in theory, but not so scary looking, Bullet ant. Here's some of what we saw...

A big yellow spider

A pretty blue butteyfly
Some kind of snake that also comes in yellow, green or orange
A blob -- or, if everyone else was right, a three-toed sloth
A stylin' flourescent camo frog (behind glass)

A male and female Golden Orb Spider
A frog of some sort

Leafcutter ants
A Bullet Ant, a Leafcutter Ant, and a Blue Morpho Butterfly (I think)

A tapir
The Poison Arrow Frog -- aka, the Blue Jeans Frog (behind glass)

The GCW Tour, Costa Rica: Rainforest Adventures, The Aerial Tram

This morning we stopped at Rainforest Adventures Costa Rica Atlantic. In the 1990s, someone had the genius idea to buy up a bunch of rainforest next to one of the big national parks, buy a ski park gondola system from the US, borrow a helicopter from the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and use the helicopter to install the gondola through the rain forest at about mid-tree level going out and tree-top level coming back. 

Add a few ziplines, a butterfly farm, and hummingbird area, some lodges, quite a few nature walks, etc., and you've got a thing. 

So much so that they've created the Pacific version over on the Pacific Coast.

Anyway, back to the tram. We were thinking we'd see monkeys and sloths and toucans and and and, but we didn't see much wildlife on the tram ride. (We heard monkeys and some riders ahead and behind us saw them, but they passed us by.) But it was still an incredibly pleasant, and educational, trip through the rainforest. Here are a few pictures from the gondola...


The GCW Tour, Costa Rica: A Quick Post to Catch Up

So I'm two days behind, but that's not such a big deal as the only thing worth reporting was that we stayed in our best (so far) and worst (so far) hotels. 

The best was the Hotel Vista Las Islas in Puntarenas. Here's the relevant photo...

...and the relevant details: the infinity pool was warm, the bartender wasn't bad, the room (down below the pool) had the same view, as well as a king sized bed, a queen sized bed, and a very nice air conditioner. Consensus was that we should've stayed here for two or three days.

The worst hotel was Hotel El Bambu in Sarapiqui. Here's the relevant photo...

...and the relevant details: the photo is blurry because the city was so humid my lens exploded when we came out the door, the door in the picture is the door to our room, and the sign under the building reads "biodigestor" which means, yup, our room was above the hotel's sewage plant. Happily, if it wasn't for the sign you wouldn't have noticed. 

And now we're up to today.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The GCW Tour, Costa Rica: A Cancer Update

Apologies for falling behind on my blogging, but the cancer treatment is catching up with me. The PA is always asking if the treatment is getting in the way of living my life. Until now, the answer has been not directly, but it's impacting Costa Rica. I just can't stay awake for a full day. By 3:00 I'm desperate for a nap, and by 8:00 I'm ready for bed. 

The last few days have been especially bad. Hence, the dwindling number of posts. 

I'll try to do some catching up tomorrow.

In the meantime, here's a picture Sib4 took of a lizard to hold you over. Truth be told, I can't actually see the lizard (but she assures me it was there)....

The GCW Tour, Costa Rica: The View from a Roadside Cafe

There are worse things to look at while you eat...

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The GCW Tour, Costa Rica: Glamping at the Dreamsea Surf Camp, or, For the First Time in a Long Time I Actually Feel Optimistic About the Future

Well not my future, but the future more generally...

Last night we stayed at the Dreamsea Surf Canp in Tamarindo on the Pacific Coast. Tamarindo is definitely a big tourist destination, and it was overrun. Unfortunately, we didn't arrive until fairly late and had a difficult time connecting with the camp and getting. But eventually, it all worked out and we had a place to stay.

And what a place. We arrived at about 6:45, so one of the first things we did was ask about food. The owner told us it might be too late but to check with the kitchen. So we did, and were told it was fine. What it took us awhile to figure out was that the camp eats communally at about 7:30 so the question wasn't whether or not they would cook for us, but whether or not they had enough so we could join in. They did, and the food was amazing -- all the more so because it was cooked by four girls who were trading their cooking skills for free room and board. 

Backings up, the Dreamsea Surf Camp -- of which there are three: one in France, one in Portugal, and now one in Costa Rica -- is something of a mishmash of campground and commune. There were people like us, who were just spending money to stay, but also a ton of people who were there trading work -- cooking, cleaning, managing the reservations, whatever -- for room and board. Most interestingly, nobody working or running the place could've been older than twenty-five. 

These were college kids who wanted to surf and hang out and party making a place for themselves to do it. But the amazing thing was that they were incredibly welcoming to everybody, even folks like Sib4  Sib1 (oops) who, during the introductions in response to the favorite dance move question, just said, "I stopped dancing before most of you were born." This place was all about community.

So, for example, every night after dinner anyone leaving was called to the front to say goodbye and ID the best parts of their stay. After that, anyone new had to step up and say who they were and where they were from and answer some trivia question. Then the three main operators would layout the plan for the next twenty-four hours. In our case:

1. The person who ran their social media sites would give a short talk on social media.
2. The surf instructors would give a presentation on some background info on surfing.
3. The bar would be offering $4 mojitos all night.
4. At 11:30, anyone who wanted to go into town to hang out in the bars and dance. Return would be at 2:00.
5. At 5:30, the trucks would be loaded to head to the beach for surfing lessons. They'd leave at 6:00,
6. Breakfast would be back at the camp at 8:30, followed by morning yoga. 

And at this point I stopped listening since we would be long gone. 

During the time we were there, I talked to a couple of people. There was a girl from New York who was hoping to stay through March so she could avoid the New York winters. In the morning, another New Yorker showed up who planned to spend is winter break there repairing surfboards in exchange for room and board. I also met a German girl who was in her third year of travelling. She'd been to New Zealand, Canada, and most of central America, and in a couple of weeks would be on her way back to New Zealand.

Watching the way people came and went and were integrated into this group was pretty amazing, and I, for one, would be pretty happy to live in a world that they were running. One could do a whole lot worse.

Here are some pictures....

The GCW Tour, Costa Rica: Pretty Pictures, Car Issues and Making Friends

Our second full day was primarily filled with getting from the top of the central volcano to the pacific coast. Again, the GPS says two hours for what actually takes more like six. But on the plus side, there was lots of pretty scenery and we got the chance to see a butterfly farm and make a few friends.

On the downside, we've learned the limits of the Nissan whatever that we're driving. In short, the grades of the Costa Rican roads combined with four adult passengers are too much for the poor little Nissan. So three of us had to get out and walk.

But we eventually made it, and made it to the Dreamsea Surf Camp, which I'll write about a bit.

In any case, here are some shots from the day...

A typical Costa Rican vistsa

A typical Costa Rican bridge

Our first "exotic" wildlife

This picture doesn't really show the grade of this road,
but it was way more than 6%

Dave makes a friend

So does Sib4 (with a Blue Morpho butterfly in a less
desirable format)

The butterfly farmer. Nicest guy, who didn't speak a word of English,
but we still managed to learn a lot.

Minion cookies for Dave

Dave with one of the Dreamsea cooks