Friday, 28 December 2012

Las Brisas del Mar

It's been a while since my last post when I wrote about our nature filled time at Drake Bay.  We have moved north and are now surrounded by a very different kind of beauty here on the Nicoya Peninsula.  We are staying at Las Brisas del Mar, a beachfront condo complex, on Playa Junquillal and here we are constantly rewarded with the view of the ocean, the waves and the most amazing sunsets we've seen yet.  At dusk the sun evolves into this incredible orange orb sinking rapidly into the ocean... leaving the horizon until the next morning when it reappears as a diffused yellow light emerging over the east side of the condo complex.   At night, the full bright moon comes up and sheds it's white glow upon the place with the ocean waves glowing white and the silhouettes of the palms making the scene magical.

Full Moon rising

Las Brisas is a small condo development out in the middle of no where really... on a very secluded beach with little or no traffic.  As we've travelled through Costa Rica we've seen many condo/real estate developments and many abandon in mid stride and left unfinished when the global economic crash shifted the financial priorities of many of the visitors here (Tourism is the largest industry in the country).  So, the fact that Las Brisas is looking healthy (as a condo development) is a real testament to the amazing spot that it is... a little touch of paradise.  So, we've been hunkering down here for the last 10 days... coffees on the lanai in the mornings, dips in the pool before it gets too hot, then back to do homeschooling in a luxurious condo, then returning to the pool in the afternoon, then dinner, then books and bed.  That has been our routine except for the break we took on Christmas Day (which just meant more pool time) and another day when we ventured into the little town of Playa Junquillal to grab more groceries (by foot as we no longer have a rental car... that was a hot and dusty trek!)  We might have felt pretty lonely here except there are a few other condo owners here to chat with around the pool and a family from Calgary who we've been having great fun with.  They have three kids so with the combination - 5 kids and a pool... how could it go wrong!  We've had many a beer or cocktail around the pool in the afternoons while chatting and awaiting the spectacular sunset which then marks the end of the day around here.  It's been a very pleasant, easy and luxuriant time here (Thanks Dad and Sue for sharing your amazing space with us!) and I'm afraid it is going to spoil us for the harder travels ahead!

A hawk with it's prey

The Lanai.. best view ever!

Black beach.. remnants of volcanos


We have been finalizing the plan for the next leg of our travels and preping ourselves and the boys for what's ahead.   We will be shedding many of the comforts of the past weeks; no more rental cars, less stuff in our backpacks and tightening our budget belts... as we will be embarking on our "budget backpacking" phase soon. The plan ahead which has always been "Belize and Guatemala with a stop in Honduras" is starting to have a bit more definition to it and we are getting really excited but also a bit anxious of how this shift in our travel will roll out.  The boys are really relaxed and comfortable here in Costa Rica and it's taken a bit of time to get them to that stage... so Eric and I are a bit uncertain as to how they will handle a tougher travel mode (and how we will handle it too)!  The first leg of our onward journey (January 10th... still need to get tickets) will begin with a two day intercountry bus trip from Liberia, Costa Rica to San Pedro Sula, Honduras  - two days on a bus with two border crossings (as we transit through Nicaragua), two kids, two tired adults and four backpacks! But first we have some more time here visiting with Dad and Sue (they arrive in 3 days) and enjoying the comforts of their retired lives.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and the holiday season continues to be full of good cheer and good company!

Monday, 24 December 2012

Liam's Blog - pool

Yesterday I went to the pool. Two minutes later the kids came. Daddy went on the relaxing floating thingy and Sean and I were trying to stop him from setting out to Sea and then they helped us take Daddy back to land. It was really hard and I was at the back pulling and they were at the front pulling. When daddy went back on the floaty thing we tried to push him off so we could get on the floating thingy and then he took off like an astronaut flying into space. And then we had to swim as fast as we could to grab him and pull him back. And then he said abandon ship  and then we got on the ship or what ever it's called, thing magingy floating machine or whatever it's called. We were playing something that was so fun I didn't see the ball coming and smacking my face. We were pretending the balls were dogs and they were racing. My dog was Doogy. My brother, Sean, his dog - he named it Death Babo. Then he changed his name to Dede. When we got out of the pool it was boo boo time - we had to go to school. After boo boo time my Mom and Dad let Sean go on Minecraft  and I went on the computer. I played a game called Knight vs Knight and then I played a game called War Game 2 and then I played a game called mini buggers. My favourite was War Game 2 because you make guys set out and you have a certain amount of money and you have to upgrade your guys and then go and make sure you don't blow up. I lost because I wasn't doing very well and that is when I started playing mini-buggers.  Meanwhile when everyone was doing this, Daddy was outside on the porch reading his book.


Merry Christmas


Sean's Blog -Adventures 9

Yesterday I woke up in the morning, got out of my pajamas, put on my normal clothes, got my glasses on and went to go have my breakfast. Then I played a little and then my Mom and Dad said no, lets go walk down the beach. And I said okay. And then we got into our bathing suits and walked down the beach and we were collecting shells on the way. I found a sand dollar, a full sand dollar, and then when we were walking down half way, Liam dropped it and then he was so upset. And so we looked for it, and looked for it, and looked for it but we couldn't find it. And then when Liam was walking back, the water rolled up and there was a little shell there and it could fit on his finger and it was like a little ring. Then Liam was happy and then we started walking back and when we were walking back, we also collected some more shells. And then when we got back I wanted to go swimming. I had to rinse off my feet, go upstairs and drop off all the shells off, rinse out my bathing suit and come on back down. And then I got my goggles and went swimming in the pool with Liam. Then I got dried off and went back upstairs, took a shower and got into my normal clothes. And I had to go do some of my homework and I started with some of my writing. And then after we did all of our working sheets, I had to do my speller and after I was done that I went to go have lunch and then after lunch we read a little bit of our book, The Lord of the Rings - the Fellowship of the Ring. And then I did my reading and my math and then when I was done I got to play and I played on Minecraft. And then we had dinner and I had jello for dessert. Then after dessert I went to brush my teeth and got into my pajamas. My Mom read us the book Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring and half way I fell asleep.

Everyone that is reading this blog, I hope you have a Merry Christmas.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Sean's Blog - Adventures 8

Yesterday we started homeschooling. It was boring but in the morning we went down to go swimming and we played with some kids. And then we came back up and started homeschooling. I read Animorphs. I really recommend it to read because there are 5 teenagers that have the power to morph into any animals. But there are evil aliens that try to take over humans heads and the aliens are named Yeerks. Then I did some language, then we had lunch, then I did some math and blogging and then I got to do anything I wanted. I played Minecraft and I was on Survival mode. And then we had dinner. Pretty much we didn't do anything today. And then I brushed my teeth, got into my pajamas and got into bed, then our Mom read us Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring. I like the book and I also recommend it too.

Liam's Blog - pip

Yesterday I played with my Lego all day and we did homeschooling to 10 to 3. I did not like homeschooling because it's boring and it's hard. I would rather be at school rather than be homeschooling. In the morning we always do gym because it is swimming and some other kids come to play with me. At the bottom of the pool there are a lot, a lot of crabs. And when we were first getting here and were thinking of going for a swim, we saw a Cane Toad jumping into the pool and the pool had chlorine in it. It was really really awkward. When the crabs where in it it was like a herd of crabs and we don't why they are in the pool even though there is chlorine it in. It is so weird. The crabs seem to be awkward crabs - they are in the pool. Bye.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Liam's Blog - Lego

Yesterday we went to the Lego Store. It was in Escazu. There was so much Lego in it it was hard to pick what I wanted. It seemed to be easy once I got my eyes on something. It was Lego Chess. At first I was thinking about to get Hero Factory. My second choice was this weird Star Wars ship  and it's wings folded up. It came with this red clone with no helmet and a Jedi with a double sided light saber and a droid like R2-D2 but it wasn't R2-D2 it was some other weird droid I don't know about. My third choice was a Hero Factory guy. I thought he was cool because he had cuffs to capture the bad guys. My brother started out looking at some Ninjango but then went to the Hero Factory section and looked around. He saw his favourite Hero Factory dude and a he saw a couple of bad guys. He got his favourite one named Rocka. For the bad guy he got Core Hunter. In Hero Factory, the guy that is suppose to catch him is named Bulk and he is grey. When all that is happening, what I am doing, I am looking around seeing if there is another one I might get. When we were going to the check out my brother got both of his Hero Factory guys and I got my Chess Game. When we went to my G'pa's place it was night time. I was sad because I didn't even get to open up my Chess game and my brother got to open up his Hero Factory guys and today I'm just playing with figures of the Chess Game. I am playing with my figures more and my favourite are the horse men because I really like their helmets and I like the Kings golden helmet and his golden sword. They really do shine. I'm glad the helmet isn't real gold then it would be really expensive. 

Sean's Blog - Adventures 7

Yesterday we went to a sort of big Lego store. It was awesome there. They had all kinds of Lego. They had a wall behind the counter for paying and there were all these little containers coming out of the wall and each container had a different parts of Lego. Liam, my brother, bought a Lego knights Chess. He thought that was awesome. I bought two Hero Factory figures. I got a good guy and a bad guy. The good guy is Rocka and the bad guy is Core Hunter. When I opened the set and built the guy he came with a Core. I think he goes and takes the Hero Factory cores from people because he has a pincher hand. Our Mom and Dad bought us those because it was an early Christmas present.  Then we got into the car and drove all the way to our G'pa's condo. When we arrived the manager wasn't there so we had to go track down a guy who knew where he was. Then we went back to the condo and it felt like we were waiting for hours. Finally he arrived. We got our bags and went into the condo and got into our pajamas and went to bed. That was a big day.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Drake Bay - Osa Penisula

I think it was just the density of tourist infrastructure that softened the impact of travel adventure and the natural beauty that I mentioned in my last blog.  Our trip to Drake Bay  re-ignited our travel spirit and appreciation of the natural beauty of this country.  It was just so much fun exploring the natural coast line and walking through the uninterrupted expanses of jungle in the Osa Peninsula.  We loved the experience of getting on a boat, going down a river through coastal jungle and mangrove and out onto the open sea as we flanked the coast line.   Our introduction to Drake Bay included a "wet" landing at the beach with our gear on our backs.  From there we took a "taxi" ride in a 4X4 truck to our hotel with all of us in the open back with our backpacks and no seat belts (the kids were a little confused why this was okay when we are adamant about seat belts and car seats back home… yes... it is confusing).  

We had a great hotel room right in the little town of Agujitas in Drake Bay and settled in and booked ourselves for a full day tour to Corcovado National Park the next day (National Geographic is quoted as saying it is the most bio-diverse regions in the world... I've seen the quote used over and over.. haven't explored the original source).  The next three days at Drake Bay and Corcovado were pure enjoyment as we explored and immersed ourselves in the outer reaches of human inhabitation surrounded by the jungle, the wildlife and the wild central Pacific coast.  We were fortunate to meet up with a family from Victoria BC on our tour to Corcovado and they were loads of fun (love the relaxed West Coasters!) and the kids were similar ages and got along great.  Liam and Angus were like two peas in a pod and were frequently seen shoulder to shoulder on our walks in deep conversation about who knows what.  The tour to Corcovado started with a 5 am wake up call with breakfast, a walk down to the skiff and a 1 1/2 hour boat ride along the coast to reach the "Sirena" entrance to the park (right in the middle). Our guide Estaven was very patient considering we had 4 kids whose noise level was not that conducive to seeing wildlife and the adults weren't that much better as we were all immersed in conversation, hungry for adult chit chat as much as the kids were hungry for kid time.  But the National Park is so rich in wildlife despite the relative inattentiveness of our group (the tour operators were astute enough to put the two families together and no one else), we did see lots of wildlife; three species of monkeys (howler, spider and the little squirrel monkey), American crocodiles, a sloth that was on the move (very cool seeing him in slow motion... Tai Chi like), and to add a little excitement to the tour... a fer-de-lance snake which is very deadly and was hanging out right in the middle of the trail... there was a little "scrum" for that one... a good find.  We didn't see the Tapir or the Peccaries but I guess those are common to see in the park as well.  There were lots of birds including Toucans and large bird called a Guan.  Seeing the coast line by boat on the way there and back was just as spectacular as the trail (the trail was actually in second growth forest which turns out to be better for seeing wildlife because the younger trees produce fruit on a regular basis and attract wildlife - where as the mature trees in the old growth, which is deeper in the park, don't' bear fruit as often). 

We had so much fun with the family from Victoria that we all decided to hang out the next day as well.   We met up and had a great time walking along the coast trail that starts right in Agujitas and travel west along the shore of Drake Bay passing some of the more exclusive lodges  and several beautiful secluded beaches.  The plan was to go to one of the beaches for some snorkelling - not great for coral but the reefs have lots of fish life.  The hike crossed a beautiful river, then hugging the coast, traversed beach then coastal trail over the headlands, then beach, then coastal trail until we reached the beach we wanted.  But just as we got there the rain had caught up to us and we got soaked and ran for shelter to this amazing upscale "rainforest lodge".  We could  have just waited out the rain under the eaves, but decided to indulge in the high life and had drinks and nachos.  A  troop of capuchin monkeys followed us there too and created great fun for the kids as the monkeys tried to get into the open air restaurant.  There was much commotion and noise and I think we stirred up things pretty well at this otherwise tranquil local!  But the owner and the staff were super relaxed and nice and after we had a refreshment and a snack they let us use their amazing three tiered tropical oasis pool!!!  What pure luxury!  We ordered more drinks and soaked in the upper pool which was a hot tub while the kids had fun jumping from one level of the pool to the next.  We actually saw toucans in the trees while we gazed out to the tropical beach and blue ocean!  So instead of a snorkeling outing, we ended up with a upscale lodge experience. 

 That night we were invited to the family's lodge that they were staying at which was further into the jungle from town and we had to cross a river to get to it.  The owner is a chef by trade so we lounged in the jungle with cocktails made with fresh fruit as he made a meal for us by candlelight.  We left well after sunset with two tired kids crossing the river by foot (deep and cool) with our little flashlight in hand so we could watch for snakes!  The "taxi" (the same 4x4 truck - possibly the only "taxi" in the village) picked us up at the top of the hill and safely took us back to our hotel.  Another amazing and fun filled day. 

The third day, with the Victorian's again, we hired the taxi to take the eight of us to another beach further down the coast and after an exciting open air ride the road ended at an incredible coastline.  The beach we wanted for snorkelling however was 4 km down so day three was another adventure of hikes and beach walks and playing in the surf and a fun taxi ride which included a several river crossing and imagining what it would be like to live so far from civilization.  The snorkelling was a bust because by the time we got to the spot the tide was coming in and it was too silty, but we had fun and what a work out walking back along the beach at high tide with the soft sand (my legs were sore), and carrying the kids shoes, wet towels, bag etc (ie. just carrying too much!) to meet the taxi on time.  As much as there were more things we would still have liked to explore at Drake Bay (like a kayak paddle up a beautiful river and a tour to Cano Island, and and and...), it was time to move on and so we left the next day. The boat ride back seemed normal and part of the norm of living on the outer reaches. 

And now back in Quepos, staying at the Wide Mouth Frog Pension again, the kids are happy playing in the pool with the daughters of the owners and we are re-grouping to start the next mini-phase of our trip.  As for Drake Bay and the Osa peninsula... we'll be back!  What a magical, remote and wild immersion experience.

Sorry for the long post.. the pictures will make up for it!

I had so many pictures and it seemed like such a daunting task to try to edit it out, that I decided I'd try to put them all together in a slide show format (don't worry, I did do some editing) on Picasa.. so just need to click on the link and it should open up to a new window with the pictures. If it doesn't work, please let me know!