Saturday, July 29, 2006

Hiding from the Sun

We have our second day in a row of unrelenting sun with no overcast or rain shower. It is intense for a western Wahingtonian. (no complaints) We just do the midday siesta thing, laying low during the hottest part of the day which is right now. I've posted a shot of some of what we bought at the farmer's market this morning: a pepper, a sapote, an onion & 2 biribas, which eat like a rich custard desert with pits in it. The fruits are set in a locally crafted basket & carved casaba.

When we dropped off Shar's laundry this morning the guy pointed out a sloth in the palm tree overhead. So when we picked up the laundry this afternoon I had my camera with me figuring that being very sloth-like in disposition he'd still be there. I got a shot of him napping on his back.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Cahuita Nat'l Park

We caught a morning bus to Cahuita to spend most of the day in the National Park. It was one of the 2 totally sunny days we've had. We saw 2 sloths, a white-faced monkey & a howler monkey. None of them were willing to pose for postable pictures. I did however get a shot of a Sharle on vacation. We relaxed on the beach and swam. I'm beginning to learn to write like a 4th grader.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Back In Puerto Viejo Costa Rica

I finally was able to upload pictures from last Sunday. It took me over an hour. You can see them if you scroll down to the post below that says Yesterday's Pix. I have not been able to get good connections lately--when there was a connection at all.

Yesterday we caught an early water taxi from Isla Bastimentos to Isla Colon, where Shar had time to buy more muchillos before catching another water taxi back to the mainland. There were 17 passengers on the aproximately 25 ft. boat that maxes out at around 20 passengers I'd say. The taxi crosses the channel between Isla Colon and the mainland and follows rivers & canals to a point where you can catch a collectivo (toyota crew cab pickup) taxi to the border. When we reached the river mouth the captain head for a very narrow channel right up against the mangroves. He tried twice to inch his away across the bar and bottomed out each time. The other tourists were puzzled. I explained to them we had been across this river mouth about 5 times now, and had never had this problem. Perhaps it was due to tides, or the previous day’s heavy rain. The locals in the boat sat silent. The captain reversed out and turned back to open water. For a moment I wondered if he was taking us back to Bocas when he then swung a U turn, and jammed the throttle full ahead. As the distance between us and the bar shortened I thought to myself, this will be interesting: Either he’ll get us across the bar or. . . or, I don’t know—what does happen when you hit the bar at full speed and don’t make it across? We did shoot across. A few tourists behind me cheered in approval.

The bus from the border overheated and the driver wouldn’t go beyond Bri-bri. Rather than wait another hour for a bus that would then be twice as crowded, we asked a couple other Americans we saw at the bus station there if they would share a taxi with us. A taxi driver agreed to take the 4 of us the remaining way (half hour ride) to Puerto Viejo for 5000 colones—about 10$.

We’re back at Rolf’s where we think we’ll stay until the day before our flight next Thursday. We’ll do day trips from here or just “chill out” (cheeloat) as they say in Bastimentos.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


We're holed up at the hostal. A rainy day. Shar bought bags of marbles the other day which we've been handing to very grateful kids. The kids here actually play marbles. The games involve huge shouting matches on hands and knees. It is nice to see children outside actually playing something other than video games.

We'll head back to P.V. Costa Rica tomorrow.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Tired of hearing about dinners?

We have been eating dinner at Roots. They don't bring you a bill. They have one of those composition books and just tell you how much it came to, and like last year, it seems a little different formula every night. Tonight we both had the criole chicken dinner with coconut rice or fried plantains. I had a beer, Steve had two and bought one for someone else. It came to $9. I will not be cooking!
I had the octopus the other night, it cost more than chicken but was excellent.
Tomorrow we may attempt to walk over to Wizzard, or First Beach. It is the only beach that does not involve a water taxi. The very fit looking young Dutch couple we talked to this evening turned back because the trail was so slippery and muddy. Hmmm. We shall see. I think the swimming has been excellent for my leg, and I do not want to risk a hurt knee. I left the crutches in PR and the cane in CR. After tomorrow we may head back north again.
It has not been very hot, and a lot less buggy than any of our previous trips. Nice. We also haven't had inconvenient rains. Very nice. Hope I haven't spoken too soon.
We'll be home in just over a week.

Yesterday's Pix & Todays' Tour

Blogspot's server is having problems with images again.

I think I forgot to mention that Polo Beach is tricky to get a boat to. The reason Cody's bruddah wouldn't come get us is that he thought the sea was too rough. There are only 2 narrow openings through the reef to get a boat through--one if the conditions are not ideal. Cody is good.

The snorkeling at Polo was nice. Eventually I got to place where I with schools of impressively large fish. I looked down and saw huge black hole canyons in the reef below me. I also realized I was in the narrow outlet from the beach through the reef and the current was like a swift river going out. I tried to swim towards shore but only got farther out between mouthfuls of water. I remembered I was not suppose to panic. Eventually I tried swimming parrallel to shore and made it to the reef where I could get hand holds, and slowly crept across the reef eventually to shore. I did not cut myself up too much on the reef.

Today we shared a tour with 8 twenty-something women: 5 young ladies from Chile, and 3 first-year teachers from California. We went along primarily because Shar wanted to get to Crawl Cay where she thought she could get more muchillos (string bags). The tour included Bahia Dolphino and snorkeling at Crawl Cay ("Crawl Cay" is Creole for "Coral Cay"). The snorkeling at Crawl Cay was great. We saw a couple of rays and countless fish of countless colors. Shar did get 7 more muchillos.

I won't go into the dynamics of the decision making process of deciding where the boat was going next and when involving 9 women. I stayed out of it completely. When we got back to Bastimentos village Shar complimented our captain, Ernesto (we remembered him from last year also) on doing a great job of keeping 9 women happy.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Shar's talking to a 3rd grade gal teacher from the Bay area as I type. We shared a boat today with a teacher from France. Is there a reason we have the gig we do?

We arranged a boat to Polo Beach today on the Carribean side of the Island. There are two French families at the hostal, so we worked it out to get a decent rate with them for a boat there. We were told the captain would have to stay all day with us--that's why it would cost 10$ each. When we got there the captain told us he was leaving but his brudder would come back. The captain by the way turned out to be Cody who I met running a bar here last year & who burnt me a copy of his band's, "The Bastimentos Beach Boys," CD. The 2 French couples were very nice. One had a 9 yr.-old girl, & twin 7 year-old girls. They were adorable. I don't think they could swim & when we were in the ocean swells on the little water taxi, I would have been over the side in less than a heartbeat if one of them went in. I noticed only one life jacket on the boat. The other couple had a 16 year-old daughter who didn't seem to be bothered at all by the fact that her role was default child care person for the 3 younger girls. We told Cody we'd like to stay till 4. He said he had to leave but his brudder would come back. Cody showed up shortly after 2. After a while he told me he wanted to get back by 4, because his uncle had died and they were bringing the body. I rounded up the 8 French people. When we got back to town it appeared everyone in the village was in a procession down main street (which is actually a very beat-up sidewalk since there are no vehicles on the island). It was the funeral for Cody's uncle. The guy had 51 grandchildren when he died.

I uploaded 2 pictures from Polo Beach. On the way out there Shar & I noticed construction in an area that involved about 15 houses. One of the other captains told us that it was a development for 500 houses eventually. This is all foreign money doing this. Bocas is a paradise now. I am not sure if I will want to be coming down here in another 5 years.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Bastimentos Panama

We caught the 6>30 a.m. bus to Sixaola & walked across the bridge to Panama. After some brief bag shopping (Shar only bought about 10 string bags made from bromeliads by the indigenous people in these parts.) on Isla Colon, we made it to Bastimentos by 1--even losing an hour with the time chnge. We had something to eat. Two full meals with five drinks came to $13.35! I gave a nice tip.

We are staying at the hostal again. The cheap rooms are full so we had to take a room with a porivate bath for $15 a night. This year Enrique has Internet here. It's the only conncetion on the isalnd I think. I asked about it and was told "1 dollar for an hour or un hourhalf. If you get on for two, tree hours dan 2 dollars." I added one more photo from the reserve trip yesterday. The kids really seemed to want their pictures taken. The other photo is approaching Isla Bastimentos by water taxi.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Yesterdays Shopping

Here're shots from yesterday: the first was taken on the Bri-bri Reserve at th litle artesanio place where Shar bought casabas; second is a lady who sells chocolate, spices and baskets on the way to the reserve, & finally there's Shar at her favorite place: El Loco Natural last night.

Pictures for last post

For some reason I was unable to post pictures for 2 days and a couple hours Internet time. showed that the files were being successfully uploaded, but they were not appearing along with my most recent post.

Yesterday we rented a motor scooter, went to the Bri-bri Indigenous Reserve, & Shar bought a bunch of carved casabas and such.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

To Manzanillo

We caught the noon bus to Manzanillo on Mon. Got a place--$30/night with screens, fridge, fan & a even a 12" TV that will let you watch whatever channel they happen to be watching on the owner's TV.

On my first night, or should I say first morning, I got a reminder of what roosters are like in these little villages. Let me first say that I'm not a city guy--I've lived around chickens. Though I've never had them myself, my neighbors have. The difference is in these villages it seems everyone has chickens, along with the requisite rooster. Sometime after midnight Tuesday morning I was awoken by what seemed like a plane crash, but was actually a rooster crowing. I immediately thought, "Why is there a rooster making all this noise right next to my bed?" Waking a bit more I realized said rooster was not actually in the room. My next thought was: Why in hell is this goddamned rooster crowing into the window 2 ft. from my pillow? I lay there in the pitch black, the only sound between crowings being the gentle swoosh of the ceiling fan and the frog and wild bug/bird noise somewhere outside. Each crowing was answered by other roosters of various distances. I eventually realized he was not at the window, but merely in the yard outside. The whole bit about cocks crowing at dawn is bull. There was not a lumen of sun anywhere within 1000 miles. These guys seem to have a competition to see who can crow loudest and earliest. Hey even the Gospel writers couldn't get the bit right about how many times the cock was gonna' crow before Peter was gonna' deny Jesus . Ya' can't really blame them. Anyway I went for my 6 a.m. beach run which took me on to the Manzanillo-Gandoca Forest Reserve. There was a small strip of sand between the reef and jungle I could run barefoot on. (Shar had admonished me not to run in the jungle because of fer de lances.) I posted pictures. This may be the most idyllic running course I've ever had!) In the afternoon I saw the rooster that had woken me. He was the size of your average beagle. I told Shar that maybe she should go talk to him in that wonderful way she has of explaining the unfathomable, obtuse and esoteric that perhaps he does not have to get the last word in. If another rooster thinks it's dawn at about 1:05 a.m., maybe he doesn't always have to be right, he should just let it go.

I also posted a picture of a bird I shot the other morning at Rolf's. I don't have a bird book. There are some 800 bird species that live or migrate to Costa Rica, and I think I might be able to name about 6.

We caught Rolf's truck back to his place again--back in Puerto Viejo. Tomorrow we'll rent a motor scooter & go into the Bri-bri Indigenous Reserve so Shar can do some shopping for whatever they make.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Okay perhaps this is more of a comment/addendum to Shar's last post, so it would probably have more appropriately placed as a comment to her post under the comment link. However people have rarely commented to any of the posts, so I suspect comments would not be read or perhaps none of this is being read. In any case my typing and photo uploading does provide something of a contribution to the non-profit running this Internet access.

I hooked up with the guys I played with last year. They were playing at a bar in town. The guitar player has switched to 4-string banjo. Last year he was playing a guitar built for nylon strings, strung with steel strings with the result that the top of his instrument resembled a model of a small hill.
They play totally unplugged and unmiked. Besides the string player there is a conga player, a rythm box (a carribean version of a washtub bass--a strung stick resting on a large rectangular wooden box) player and they've now added a maraca player. It was my first night out with the guys since I can remember. I bought them each a beer. The rythm box player informed he was not drinking beer, he was drinking ron & could not mix the two. I told himn to order a rum. He got a substantially impressive glass of the stuff. Fortunately it only cost me 2000 colones.

The photo is of the old harbor that gives Puerto Viejo it's name.

rough life

It's been rough here in PV. It rained this morning so we only went to the beach to swim twice. We had lunch of several cheeses with sweet red pepper, tomato, red onion, avacado, tuna several fruits and bakery multi grain bread. This was at the cabina where we have a small frig. We returned the bikes and are faced again with deciding which of the half dozen truly excellent restaurants do we want to go to if we rule out the half dozen just acceptable ones.
Tomorrow we will dine at Maxi's no doubt, on real Caribean fare. This is the place right on the beach in Manzanillo where we will head on the bus tomorrow for a few nights. We are taking only one pack for this. That's as far ahead as we are planning. Steve has a tentative offer to join a local music group. He would need a day job, like diving for langosta like the other guitar player and singer. He is not sure how lucrative that would be.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

More Puerto Viejo

This morning I went for my 6 a.m. run on Playa Negro followed by a quick swim. As I was getting out of the water, I realized I had not zipped the pocket that was holding the key to my bike lock. I walked over to Peter's, the Austrian guy we've rented from. He gave me a huge bag of keys, (he said there are about 80 that fit the locks) and a hack saw. After trying about 50 keys, one actually worked. Peter will charge me 1000 colones (less than $2) for the new key when I return the bikes.

We are exchanging a dollar for 512 colones. Last year I think it was about 490, but prices seem all the same. We may catch a bus down to Manzanillo (the end of the coastal road about 7 miles south) in a couple days to stay a night or 2. There is a nice snorkeling beach there, and a national reserve jungle of sorts extending pretty much to the border. We may also catch the bus to the border and head down to Bocas del Toro in Panama. I feel no pressure to go anywhere or do anything.

BTW--the photo is of Shar buying a small (travel-sized) pina (pineapple)at the Puerto Viejo Farmer's Market this a.m. We also got oranges, peppers, tomato, and some organic chocolate from a guy who made it.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Shar--back on a bike in Puerto Viejo!

We arrived in P.V. yesterday afternoon, got a place at Rolf's, and rented 2 bikes @ about $4/day each. Shar says she's not ready to take the 13K ride to Manzanillo, but she's getting around here just fine. Shar got to eat at El Loco Natural, our favorite restaurant, last night. We swam at Playa Negro today--there's a picture of Playa Negro with the town in the background.

We had some very sad news this afternoon: When we inquired about Toukie, our favorite bird (a rainbow-billed toucan who has resided at Rolf's our past 3 summer visits, we were told he died last Nov. It seems he choked on a bone he got out of the garbage. I'm sure the whole family must have been heartbroken because he was really quite a guy.

Shar snapped the close-up of the strawberry poison arrow frog a couple hours ago late this afternoon. I'd say it's actual size is about 3/4 of an inch long with it's legs stretched. Bye for now!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

To Puerto Viejo de Tallamanca

We spent a night in San Jose. I was up before 5 to insure getting a couple a seats on the 10-o'clock bus to P.V. (I probably didn't need to do that.) It's a 4 hour ride with one bathroom stop, and another passenger stop in Cahuita before getting to P.V. It costs about $15 for the 2 of us on a comfortable bus--more comfortable than the planes anyway. Yesterday before leaving San Juan, P.R. I reserved a place via email at Rolf's, the German botanist who runs Cabinas Tropical, where we've become regulars over the past 3 years.

Shar's on a different computer upstairs in this hotel. She's said the same stuff I bet! Later...

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

From P.R. to C.R.

Our flights from P.R. to C.R. (via Miami) were quite painless, & both even got in to their respective destinations early. We got to our hotel in downtown San Jose by 9:00 pm. I'll post some more Puerto Rico pictures now. The first one is Shar with a couple of fruits at Machabuca. They are called Jack fruit in English. The second is a shot I took at a museum in Old San Juan. It's relates some idea of what happens when Catholicism is forced on to the Afro/Indio peoples of the Carribean.

Things already feel different now. I can tell we're in Costa Rica.

Leaving P.R.

We had a wonderful time at la fiesta at Machabuca (Dad's place). Great food prepared by Elba with Arlee assisting, interesting dishes brought by the guests and much singing and guitar playing. The rum bar had 10 rums from five countries. The old bottle of Havana Club was the first one to be emptied after which several of the guests explained that Puerto Rico makes the best rum.
We took Arlee and Shawn back to the airport in San Juan then walked around old San Juan. It is a $0.75 bus ride or a $19 taxi ride from our hotel. The old city is beautiful. We toured San Cristobal, a fort from the 16th century. The photo was taken from the fort looking toward a second fort, El Morro. The entire old city was walled, most of which is still standing.
Today we fly to Costa Rica. We have already been to the beach where Steve ran while I swam. I left my crutches behind and walked the last couple days without my cane. Every day my leg is better.

From Sharle, logged in as Steve

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Winding up our DR visit

We just stopped in here at the shopping mall on our way back from a small produce market. We are going to try a few new fruits later today before heading to the ferry. Dad has his weight in Dominican candies and sweets as well as some flatbread made from yuca, manioc root. I´m expecting them to ask him for his business license since it looks like he has inventory for a store. One impresive item is a 40lb block of a treat made from cashew fruit and a honey like sugar product. A big candy bar, he calls it. I´m sure we will manage to take a dip or two in the pool before then, it is such a quick way to cool off. We will be quite a few degrees cooler up at Dad´s at Machabuca. He seems to have a fairly constant breeze and by being over a thousand feet above sea level it is cooler. Though still using a cane, I am getting around much better. My leg is still sore and my foot and ankle baloon out after a day of walking, but it goes down during the night. At the pharmacy you can purchase pills cut from one of those sealed packs and each time I have gotten a stronger Ibuprophen, the 800mg are really big.
We are looking forward to our last lunch with the family today. Both daughters and their families as well as the son all join our hosts for lunch and we may even see the grandmother again today. It is a very big, fun, friendly, family affair. You can see Jose and Argentina light up to have their children and grandchildren around them.
What an incredible experience this has been! To be imersed in the local life. Just this morning we talked about how different from being stuck in a hotel room inbetween our sojourns out and about.
Arlee and Shaun will never forget their stay out in Romana at Casa del Campo. I think they have had a wonderful experience that will long outlast the mosquito bites they take back as memories, of which they have quite a few!
If you click on comments, you can add to this blog, it can be read by anyone viewing it, or you can email either one of us.
Catch you later,

Last Night In Santo Domingo

Last night I wanted to go check out some son or merengue music. Our book told of a Cuban son place down in Zona Colonial. When we got there it was now a different club & not open. We tried the Merengue Bar--great music, but so loud you couldn´t hear it. I was ready to move on to La Guacara, a club that is located entirely within what was formerly a Taino cave. We had been told it was quite the place, but Arlee & Shawn thought none of us would be able to handle the "electronica" (rave-type) music, so we called it a night.

The photo is a 500 year-old Spanish fort. The Zona Colonial is quite magical at night!

I read Shar´s email post & it was better than what I´ve been doing here. I told her she should be posting to the blog, so she just logged on. We´re catching the all-night boat back to Mayaguez, P.R. this evening. Ciao!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Arlee & Shawn rejoined us last night. Felipe took 15 of us to dinner at what Jose stated was the best restaurant in Santo Domingo. Quite amazing. Today Jose took us on a tour of 2 of his water bottling plants, then Arlee, Shawn, Sharle & I went to the market section of town then on to to Zona Colonial where Shar & I were yesterday. I uploaded a picture of Shar & Arlee at the market stalls. Tomorrow evening we´ll be taking the ferry back to Puerto Rico. Saturday we are helping Felipe host a fiesta where he said he´s invited 75 friends. So there will be another hiatus from these posts as I may not have Internet access until I maybe get to an Internet cafe again enroute to Costa Rica. Do good, do well--hasta luego!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Where it all began or one of the beginnings of the end(s)

Shar took this shot of me smoking a Dominican cigar outside the oldest church in the ¨New World.¨ About one minute after said picture was taken I attempted to enter the edifice and was addressed by the guard apparently indicating to me that I could not enter while smoking a cigar. I thought about explaining to him that I just wanted to smoke my first cigar in some twenty-odd years, and how was that anything compared to 500 hundred years of pillage and oppression, you know rape, genocide, Wal*Mart, Walt Shubert etc. but decided my Spanish was not that good.

I´ve got to say it can be frustrating to use these machines. The folks at this Internet cafe make a very nice coffee, and will apparently serve you a beer or a shot of the liquor of your choice but they appear to know as much about the computers in here as I know about dark matter. I know--cry me a river!


Well let's see: we've been gone from home a week. We arrived in San Juan, Puerto Rico @ about midnight last Wed. I slept 4 hours & went for a run/swim on the beach. We grabbed a rental car, drove to Machabuca with one lunch & one swim stop. Arlee & Shawn were duly impressed with Machabuca--Felipe's (Shar's dad) place. The picture is of Shar at Machabuca. We we had a fabulous dinner there. The next day we boarded the ship to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. We arrive arrived in Santo Domingo after 8:00 a.m. & taxied to our hosts place & were then transported in our host's new Mercedes (to me it was a starship)to the private community of La Romana some hour & 45 min. east. The villa there was absolutely unimaginable. I think you could have fit our entire house within one of the living/dining room spaces. Our hosts were/are incredibly kind and gracious. They are long time friends of Felipe who thought nothing of us crashing our hostesses' father's 82nd birthday party. All 3 brothers, wives, and children were there as well as one daughter with kids and husband plus a number of people who I never found out what their connection was. They made us feel like family. We swam in the pool & the ocean, Shawn beat me 3 times on one of the 2 regulation sized pool tables at the house. I played music with Jose Enrique Santos, our host.

After one day we went backto to Santo Doming for shopping & little strolling around Zona Colonial which is 500 years old. Arlee & Shawn stayed out at the villa which they've had to themselves now (along with the servants). They are really roughing it. Our hostess, Argentina, is going to pick them up & bring them back to us today.

Shar is now getting around with just a cane. We did get a little special treatment at the airport & at the ferry terminal since she was on crutches. Yesterday she overdid it, & her leg swelled up again last night. She's getting around, but it's very slow going. We take a taxi if we have to go more than a few blocks.

Ciao for now!