Bienvenidos Meme!! by Boy 1 and Boy 2

Meme Arrives! by Boy 1


Our Meme came to Costa Rica! She flew to San Jose and then she had to come all the way to Cahuita where we are staying. She took a van here. We thought she was coming tomorrow, but then she called us and said she will arrive this afternoon! We went to the beach, but we saw a tourist shuttle drive by so we went running home. She was already at our Cabina. We are so happy she is here. 

 

Meme arrives to Our Cabina at Caribe Luna!

 

Meme’s visit by boy 2

 

Our Meme is here and she is going to stay for Christmas! It is so great having Meme here because she reads books to us, she takes me shopping and out to breakfast and she buys chicken! I like that she sleeps in our room. We have a bunk bed and she has her own bed in our room. We open a lot of coco pipas for her, so she likes it here too. I wish she was staying forever! 

 

Meme and me on the bus to the Jaguar Rescue Center

 

 
 

 

Meme and me out to breakfast

 

 
 
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Jaguar Rescue Center by Boy 1 & 2

We got to go to the Jaguar Rescue Center. Ok, let’s just get this out of the way before we even begin. No, there were no Jaguars at the rescue center. I knew you were gonna ask that… They did have other wild cats — a marquay, an ocelot, and two jaquarundi — but no Jaguars at the moment. Thankfully, none needed rescuing! 

The Jaguar Rescue Center is in Cocles, near the Caribbean town of Puerto Viejo. We took a bus from Cauhita with my brothers and mom and dad and my Meme. We really thought it was amazing. 

When we got off the bus we walked a short way into the jungle and we saw the sign for the Jaguar Rescue Center. Before we even went in we saw a three toed sloth being rescued! There was a man on a ladder wearing rubber gloves and some other workers trying to get a sloth off the power lines. It didn’t want to let go! They were worried he would get close to the transformer and get electrocuted. Here is a video of the rescue!

 

 

 

When we went inside we saw so many snakes and monkeys! There was also two jaquarundis that lost their mother, and a very old ocelot who was too old to hunt, and marquay that was rescued because somebody was trying to sell it as a pet. There was a cranky pelican who had a hurt wing who wanted to battle Zevy. We didn’t let him. I think Heavy Zevy would have won though. We all loved the adorable baby monkeys and sloths. We saw so many amazing animals. This was not a zoo. It was only for injured animals, some could heal and could be released into the jungle, but some couldn’t. I think it is a great place where I would want to work someday. 

Tammi the anteater


American crocodile. Rescued with machete wounds and missing an eye. He was going to be someone’s dinner!


White tailed deer. Yes! They have deer in Costa Rica.

 

Baby 2 toed sloth!


Feel the feels! Baby 2 toed sloth

 

Tired ocelot


Cranky pelican. His name is Pistachio and he would like to attack!

 

Meme keeping Zevy safe from Pistachio! He wanted to join the animals!

 

 

I love Sloths! by Boy 2

We went to Jaguar Rescue Center. We saw a basket full of baby sloths. We saw our first Spider Monkey!

basket full of baby sloths! I just want to snuggle them all!

 

 

Border crossing! Nicaragua part 1

We decided to head into Nicaragua when our rental condo in the Tamarindo area ran out. We need to leave the country every 90 days in order to renew our visa. We actually did not need to renew until 12/26, but We  decided to get renewed early because we had heard that border crossings near the holiday can be long and hectic. Not our style. And we have decided to head over to the Caribbean side of CR next, so our next crossing will most likely be to Panama. Besides, it sounded like an adventure–and adventure’s the name of the game!

First off we needed to get to the border and that required moving our stuff from one place to another. Stuff. It should be spelled stuf. A four letter word. 

Waiting for a bus with all our STUF!

 
 Yep. We checked out of our fancy condo carrying all of our possessions on our backs (even the baby had to do his part) and shlepping our way down to the nearest local bus stop. We needed a bus to Liberia where we would catch a connection to our small hotel near the Peñas Blancas border. So we waited. And waited. And um…waited some more. We asked some locals and they shrugged, we asked some more helpful locals and they explained that when the road was bad, the bus may or may not come down this road. So we hopped in a taxi to the next nearest bus stop, and watched our bus go by. Then we waited at a different bus stop some more. As many parents can attest to, waiting anywhere with children is a fun filled just-pull-out-my-toenails-with-tweezers party fest. Add in hot, dusty, cranky children and you may as well just throw in some eyeball gouging for free. Yep, we waited, and in the end, Josh negotiated with another local bus heading to San Jose to drop us “near” the Liberia bus stop. It was a nice enough “chicken bus” and there was plenty of breeze flowing through the open windows. Heavy Z snuggled up on my lap and took in the scenery. I was just starting to mentally high five myself, thinking, “yep, we got this,” when Zevy started to vomit down my legs. As a puddle filled my flip flops, I frantically tried to signal Josh in the seat behind me, while not alerting the other passengers. “How much @*%* gallo pinto did you *%#@ feed him!” Seriously how could he have fit that much food in there?! I’ll spare you the rest of the details, but we got it reasonably less disgusting before the driver dropped us on the side of a very busy road in Liberia and pointed in a vague direction of where the next bus stop was. As we negotiated our mound of stuff and three children across the busy motorway and began asking other locals directions to the several blocks away bus stop, we started to feel a little better about the surprise he would find in his bus later. 

Bus_ride.jpg

“Yep, left ya little surprise, smell ya later”

 

One more thankfully vomit free bus ride later, we arrived at our stop, where the kind owners of the Cañas Castilla guest house met us in their car to drive us the rest of the way to their horse farm and small hotel. This was a working farm inside a jungle with a river running through it. Crocs, monkeys, sloths and other wildlife abound. We were in love. We checked in to our adorable little cabana with a hammock and friendly kitty out front. I was smelling fresh and febreezey from our long travel, so after quick showers and a much needed load of sink laundry, we reluctantly agreed to leave the rest of our exploring for the morning and hit the hay–but not before a quick snuggle in the hammock!

 

And More Hammock snuggles

 

 

We got a good nights rest and awoke ready for our big border crossing, but not before an awesome homemade breakfast on the outside deck while the howler monkeys entertained us from the nearby trees. One short hike and a sloth later it was time for the “Frontera”. Agi, the sweet owner allowed us to leave the majority of our luggage, I mean stuf, in a storage room and with our loads gladly lightened, we took a short car ride to the bus stop and hopped the first bus heading to to the border. 

Boy 2 communes with Howler Monkeys during breakfast 

 

Now I want to stop here for a moment to mention something that we noticed as we got closer to the border. We began to see lots of people of obviously African descent. At first we wondered if they were some of the Costa Ricans of caribe descent from the Caribbean side, but it didn’t quite add up. Then we saw what looked like refugee camps dotted along the border. We asked some local people and got some very vague answers, but a few internet searches turned up this:  http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2016/09/01/492066728/costa-rica-becomes-a-magnet-for-migrants

And this: http://www.ticotimes.net/2016/07/01/african-migrants-camp-costa-rica-border

Sad stuff. So these people are stuck in limbo, waiting to cross the border and continue their journey–and exactly how will the election affect them now?? 

 

Ok back to the story– the big border crossing!

Strolling across the border to Nicarauga

 

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Month 1 Langosta, Tamarindo

 Ok, so you probably already know about our rough start, and if you don’t you can find the dirty details here. After two days of stressful scrambling to find somewhere to park ourselves, we ended up with a 1 month rental in this fancy schmancy (no pantsies) condo in Langosta. We arrived in the green/rainy season and it is extremely low season, so the owner gave us a deal for the month. Langosta is the swankier (read:gated condos) section of Tamarindo, but it also has some gorgeous beaches, nearby surf, and you can still find jungle outside your locked and guarded gate. I was entirely anti-Tamarindo from the start of this trip. It had a party/backpacker rep and I wanted nothing to do with it. I also never thought we would end up in a gated condo with 24 hr. security — but hey, life is funny like that. So here we are, and We are actually going to miss this quirky, overpriced town of good surf, friendly security guards, beach crocs (see boy #1’s post) and helpful locals. 

Fancy Condo (clothing optional)

 

Guarded gate. “Don’t let those loco gringoes in!”


Our favorite part? SURFING!!


Boy 1 and 2 on a party wave


Did I mention surfing?


Yep. We got our surf on.


Heck, boy 2 even invented his own sand surfing


And I even got to surf with one of my old Maui girls! Yipee for meeting old friends in new places! Old? Did I say old? I mean super young, gorgeous, total hottie mamacita friend!


Obviously the highlight was the beach and warm water!


Super baby at sunset!


And there was some homeschool thrown in too. The boys claim there was far too much of that! Except for “field trips” school was from 10-2 


Sometimes we took breaks for some fresh coconuts!


And some baby machete lessons. Um. Do they have CPS in Costa Rica?


Hmmmm. That stuffs good


Boy 1 got his Tarzan on


And our little Carmen Miranda celebrated his 6th with a tropical fruit bonanza

So that was month 1 in a nut shell. Next up is a border crossing to Nicarauga before heading to the Caribbean side of Costa Rica and maybe a stop off in MonteVerde for good measure! Stay tuned……

 

 

 

Is that a mariachi band coming our way!?

 

 

 

 

Cove size Crocs! by Boy 1

Crocs at the beach….

By Kai

 

We were surfing at the beach and our friend Kyle paddled out and told us there is a crocodile on the beach. So we decided to go see it. It was on the beach right by the estuary. The estuary is a place where the salt water mixes with the fresh water.  We did not bring Zevy near because it has eaten small dogs before. I have seen it in the water before, but never on land. This was not a big guy, it was the size of Cove, but they can get to be as big as a car or two

 

Cove size croc!

 

Cove and I catching waves! We don’t surf near the estuary!

Mishaps, Mayhem, and Mariachi bands…the next adventure begins…

 What the what?!? 

The adventure bug. It doesn’t just sting, it bites with the ferocity of a moray eel and doesn’t let go until you get yourself out there. That’s the excuse we’re going with anyway. So on September 24th we said “hasta luego” to our much beloved Cliff Island and Tiny Bubbles 2 (our Shannon 28 sailboat) and flew to Liberia, Costa Rica. We decided to head to Costa Rica, with side trips to Nicaragua and Panama. We plan to return to Maine  and the sailboat in June ( and all our dearly missed island peeps!)  In the interim we hope to give the boys some exposure to the Spanish language, a new culture, and lots of surf –anything else is just bonus.

Reality vs. um…us?
I’d prefer to make this glossy and pretty. The perfect family adventure of nothing but perfect perfectness, golden sands, warm water and gorgeous sunsets. There has definitely been some of that.  My pictures will show you that ideal, happy, smiling children, adoring parents, and some shy howler monkeys looking on.  My pictures neglect to show the mosquitoes, the Sherpa like parents shlepping the ridiculous amount of luggage.  I did not take pictures of the meltdowns, the screaming, or the crying, mostly because I do not have a selfie stick. Do.not.get.me.a.selfie.stick.

Josh and I had both traveled before. Josh had even lived and taught in Costa Rica and Panama 20 years prior (a lot changes in 20 years, but more on that later). However traveling oversees with kids is a whole new bag (actually several bags and a stroller).

So let’s just get down to that reality part, shall we?  The flight was easy. As far as international flights go, flying to Costa Rica is relatively painless. We left at 6am from Portland, Maine and arrived in Liberia at 11am with a two hour time difference. We changed planes in Baltimore and barely had time for a quick, but very important, business meeting in the family restroom. Boy 1, 2, & 3 are pretty good little travelers and as long as the snacks are flowing, everyone stays pretty copacetic.

Intrepid travelers! Keep the snacks coming

Arrival!

First taste of the tropical heat. Waiting for rental car

Llegemos!

We had rented a house for our first month through HomeAway.com. The pictures on the website had us dreaming of short strolls to one of Costa Rica’s premier surf beaches — Playa Avellanas. We wanted something simple, fairly kid friendly, and walking distance to the beach and local store. The listing promised all that and more. There were trees to climb, fruit to pick, surfboards to rent etc. etc. However (and another bonus in our minds), it was slightly remote and since it is the wet season, the local shuttle wouldn’t resume until November. The only good option for a family of five was to rent a car at the airport. We were strongly encouraged to rent a 4×4. We would later be very glad we took that advice… After some amazing feats of strength, and some very advanced yoga moves, we managed to get all our luggage, three car seats, and 5 sweaty non-acclimatized bodies arranged inside the now very cramped vehicle.

Getting into the nittie gritties.

Our first stop was to stock up on food. We’re all pretty fond of the stuff and if sport eating ever makes it to the Olympics, boy123 will be in serious medal contention. We had been told that the only place for serious stock ups for eaters of our caliber was the sexy sounding Super Mega. Sham wow. Culture shock. This place was no Whole Foods, but it did have variety, and stock up we did — to the tune of two cart fulls, which we then had to Jenga into the car. Advanced pilates moves achieved by all.

stop at the Super Mega


Some fun at the Super Mega!

We safely arrived at our destination after a dozen or so wrong turns that enabled us to see much more of the area. But hold up, where’s the pretty little beach bungalow we rented for $872?!?

We were met at the gate by Maria, a sweet Tico lady who spoke not a word of English, and seemed to be a caretaker. There were also two rambunctious, but friendly dogs who were jumping all over us and tracking mud everywhere.Boy 1 & 2 were already deciding amongst themselves which dog would be whose, and scouting out which tree to climb first. Boy 3 was just thrilled to be out of the car and looking for a good mud puddle to jump in. He had lots to choose from because the property was a mess of potholes, mud, and tree debris. Luckily Josh’s Spanish kicked back in, and he was able to communicate quite well. Maria brought us to the back of the property and showed us what good photographs posted to the Internet can do. Lie. It was a mess, with rotting food left in the yard and a strong smell of feces.  The biggest issue was the ripped screens and buckets of standing water breeding mosquitoes everywhere. It didn’t take us long to realize the place was uninhabitable.

At this point I’m sick as saccharine of the whole thing so I’m just going to copy paste our complaint to Home Away. Which has so far given some big talk but neglected to walk the walk. It ain’t pretty so if you don’t have a strong stomach, look away.
A description of situation and desired outcome (your complaint)

This property owner rented his property to us knowing that we would arrive and find something unlivable. We were forced to rent a different property through HomeAway, and the property owner has still not issued us a refund. When we arrived, the woman who greeted us shook her head woefully and agreed the property was not fit for habitation — and we have 3 small children. The property was full of mosquitos INSIDE the apartment because the mosquito screens were all torn, ripped, or nonexistent — THIS IN A COUNTRY WITH ZIKA! There were large amounts of dog feces around the entrance, stagnant standing water breeding mosquitos all around, food scraps beside the house, and rotting material in the yard, the bathroom smelled strongly of urine. The unit smelled of cat spray, there was a dirty towel draped over the door to the shower, and there was mud tracked everywhere by the dogs and they were allowed to run everywhere including inside the rental. Everyone was being eaten alive by the mosquitos, so we put our children in the car. We stayed long enough to contact the owner who without our knowledge was not even in the country, and he said he would return our money, minus a “cleaning fee.” We never moved into the filthy apartment! We need a full refund immediately. Please contact us for pictures and more information. We are in Costa Rica on vacation. You can email me at mammoth_lakes@hotmail.com

Thank you for your assistance.
Sincerely,

Josh and  Heidi Holloway

Front door.

Welcome? Mat

 

Nope. Just nope.

rotting food tossed in the courtyard.

Just a few pics of the house to give you a clear picture. Gee, the Homeaway pics looked a little different. Hmm?

Yep.  We sausaged (that’s a verb, right?) everyone and the kitchen sink (just kidding, that thing was degusto) back into the car and drove off into the sunset. Um, not quite. We sorta tried to stay calm (lie) and drove back to the nearest urban center, which happened to be Tamarindo. It was only about 6pm but darkness happens fast in the tropics and it was already 8 pm our time — the witching hour for Zevy was nigh. We stopped at a juice /smoothie place and bought ourselves some food and time. We still didn’t have SIM cards for our phones, so we connected to their wifi connection and began frantically searching for a place to stay for the night. We ended up driving to nearby Langosta and forking over a large wad of colones to stay at a very cool bungalow inside a small resort. The next morning  the included breakfast almost made everything right in the world. You could choose the Tico breakfast or the Americano.  Kai, Josh and I chose the Tico, which included a cup of fresh juice, coffee for the adults, and Gallo pinto (stir fried beans and rice) scrambled eggs, and a corn tortilla. Boy 2 and 3 had the Americano which had the amazing fresh juice of mango, papaya and unicorn dust and a pancake with fresh bananas. Boy 3 took one look at my Gallo pinto and ditched his pancake and wolfed down most of my plate.  That boy loves his beans and rice. The sweet Tico women serving breakfast couldn’t get enough of the boys and Zevy’s new found word “Hola” was a big hit. Kai and I had our first howler monkey encounter which he will describe in his blog post.

We still needed to find a place to stay and sadly it was not going to be that perfect little resort. We had rented the car for two days so we still had one more day to go explore and hopefully find a spot to settle for a while. We decided to to pile all our belongings back into the car and head for the surfing, yoga, and all-things-hip-and-cool town of Nosara on the Nicoya peninsula. It was a 2 hour ride along dirt roads with a few stream crossings. The first thing that greeted us in Nosara was a tiny skate park in the jungle — as in all-things-cool! The cool thing wore off quickly for Cove when he got yelled at and called an a-hole by another little blond boy. The cool thing went downhill even faster when the little boy also called me the same name. His parents were appalled when they found out, and we may be able to attribute it all to the just scraping by situation that expats in the area are experiencing. The place is expensive! People want to be there, but finding a place to rent monthly in a world of $2000+ a week rentals is seriously difficult. Rolf, a recent arrival from Europe, explained the whole situation to us. He had come to Nosara with his wife and children to live “Pura Vida.” Being a seriously nice dude in a similar situation, he offered us encouragement along with a great lead on a place in nearby Playa Pelada. The day was moving right along and we still hadn’t found a spot to settle so we headed right over to little Playa Pelada. We found the Teak Hotel and its manager Brian fairly easily. It was a cool looking place with with several two story bungalows surrounded by tropical gardens and a little swimming pool. Brian showed us an upstairs one bedroom unit with a tiny kitchen, living area, and a bedroom with a queen bed and bunk beds. Perfecto! We were feeling pretty stoked and when he told us that, since it was the low season, he could probably rent it to us for $500 a month until December — at which point the high season would probably fetch them a hundred a night and we would be priced out. Still, it seemed like a great place for a couple months and we readily agreed. He told us he just needed to contact the owners to get things settled. So while he did that, we decided to walk to the nearby beach. We found the beach and walked by some local kids, smiled, and hoped that some friendships could be made soon. We walked back to Brian and rather than handing us the keys so we could unload our overburdened vehicle and get some of our quickly wilting perishables to the fridge, he told us the price has tripled. Turns out the owners would rather see the place empty than rent a unit for a fair price in the low season. Annoyed, dejected, and defeated we climbed back into our sardine-mobile and drove the two plus hours through jungle and washed out roads towards Tamarindo.
I had procured a local SIM card by this point and while Josh navigated giant potholes and washed out roads, I passed out endless bribes, I mean snacks, and furiously tried to contact the a couple living in Canada about a condo rental in Langosta.

Have you made it this far in the saga? Don’t despair, it was not all for naught. I don’t have any dramatic ending of us camping in the jungle and waking up entwined with pythons and tarantulas or anything, but I do have the mariachi story! I don’t just give this one away for free people. I made you suffer through all that, so bear with me. We drove through the tourist trap of downtown Tamarindo and looked for a place to grab some food and more importantly, some wifi, since I used up my entire SIM card trying to call the Canadian couple. We stopped at a place that looked more touristy than we usually would have cared for, but since all our earthly possessions and our pineapples were in the car, and this place had parking right outside the restaurant, it fit the bill. We ordered some ceviche and nibbles and did the usual three zillion trips to el baño. Our food arrived and suddenly we were surrounded by a mariachi band. “Para los bebes?” They asked us. When we just looked awkward and didn’t refuse they began a rousing rendition of “La Bamba.” Boy 3 wiggled encouragingly in his high chair, but boy 1 & 2 had had enough of everything and just stared despondingly while I furiously whispered at them “to just smile darnit!” Josh is desperately going through his wallet counting out the colones he happened to have left from his last trip here (remember, 20 yrs ago) Which was the only cash we had left on us. He comes up with about 2,000 colones (a little over $4 us) and after much clapping and muchas gracias, hands it to the lead mariachi dude. We’re all smiling like plastic mannequins and I’m sending telepathic dagger eyes at the boys, “look happy, say gracias!” When La Bamba himself looked down at the colones in his hands, held it out to his other compadres with a confused and slightly incredulous expression, and then proceeded to hand it back to Josh, “Senor, este no sirve” and moved the show on to the next table. When our waitress stopped snickering. We asked her why our money was no good, and after assuring her we did indeed have some good plastico money to pay the bill, she told us in Spanish that three years ago the country had changed all the bills, and that our old bills were worthless. It took us a few days until we could laugh about that one. You’re welcome.

In the meantime we still needed a place to stay, so we quickly contacted the nice couple from Canada, and they agreed to rent us their condo close by for 1 month. We sent them payment info and they contacted their property manager to let us into the locked and guarded building. It’s not really how we envisioned living and not our style it it beats the alternative ( but hey, snuggling up with corn snakes and tarantulas in the jungle beat the first place). So, yep we’re good. We got ourselves some surfboards and just generally getting our Pura Vida on and um avoiding Mariachi bands. .

stay Tuned…

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Boy 1 blogs about his first morning in Costa Rica

My first morning in Costa Rica 

by Kai 

My first morning in Costa Rica we woke up and heard a noise. It sounded like a mad horse that was as loud as the ferry boat horn, So we looked up and saw some Howler monkeys. They were up in a banyan tree. A banyan tree is a huge tree that has vines hanging  down from its branches. The monkeys were climbing around and screeching. At 8 o’clock we ate breakfast at the small cafe. I could choose from two things, the pancakes or the gallo pinto. I chose the gallo pintos, it is rice and beans. There was also this mango and pineapple lemonade. It was like squeezing the fruit into my mouth! 

The ladies loved Zev. Zev is my baby. There was a patrol dog that guarded us. He wandered all around the grounds looking for trouble.

I can’t believe how warm it is here. The water is like a hot tub. It is either warm, warmer, or burning. Tomorrow I plan to surfing. I think I am going to like it in Costa Rica, but I miss my friends. 

Here’s a video we took of a big troupe of Howler Monkeys we saw this morning: