Simons Adventure

On the road, there's adventure waiting every day.

Into the city after leaving paradise

Because we had an early night yesterday, we also woke up early, but feeling well rested. After a nice breakfast, we began packing everything and sorting two piles: one for “Stuff to take” and “stuff to ditch”… The latter pile was pretty small. Once done, we decided to walk to town and drop off the postcards at the local post office – along the beach again of course. Somewhere along the line we saw this cute little woodpecker.

The “Post office” was unspectacular – a tiny little booth with a post officer in it, accepting mail and money. Luckily for us he spoke English too 🙂

With the postcards sent, we walked past a place we had seen on our first day here and wanted to try out, so we decided to spend a few minuted to try out a smoothie and play a couple of rounds of Uno. As it turned out I accidentally ordered the nicest smoothie we had on the trip, a combination which I would have thought I would hate: Coconut water, Ginger, Mint, served in a coconut! Even better: No plastic straws! Totally worth it 🙂

We had luck with the weather and walked back in the morning sun along the beach, making it back juuust in time for our 11 am check-out. During check-out the host accidentally charged us Colones instead of US Dollars, meaning that we would have paid the equivalent of about $1.50 for the accommodation… Luckily he realised just before we drove away. We corrected everything and he paid us back in a deck of cards of Costa-Rican animals, which we had been eying elsewhere but always found too expensive. Score!

 

Today’s drive would take us right back into San Jose – something we both dreaded a little. The city is terrible for driving. As it turned out, the drive was okay – not great but not as bad as we imagined. Along the way we ate some of the foods which we still had left over, including one very large banana. It was quite tasty – somewhat different to the type I’m used to, and was utterly filling, meaning we had no need for lunch. Along the drive we once more saw the massive container harbours which export tropical fruit from the island, and Manja was fascinated by the old-school trucks driving around. Crossing the mountains was okay too, a bit of fog but not too bad.

The hotel meanwhile was very central, right across from the park where we took the wing photos on day one! One slight problem… we had no idea how to get in. We found the gate, but it was just closed and I was sweating bullets as traffic started to queue up behind me. Just as I was about to keep driving, the gate suddenly opened. Turns out there is a security guard inside monitoring it the whole time. We parked our car, checked-in and brought our stuff to the room. Tonight we would have to sort everything ready for the flight tomorrow. We had spread into about 8 bags and had to re-contain this into a suitcase and 2 backpacks. We managed to do this quite quickly and then went down the street for some dinner at a place called “El Stiefel” which is the German name for “Boot”. Turns out it was a craft beer place, which also served snack-sized food.

As we walked back Manja started to seriously itch on her legs. We put on the anti-mosquito-bite-gel we had, which was awesome the entire trip. Unfortunately it did very little. When we returned to the hotel we did some research – turns out that sand-flea bites itch 48-72 hours AFTER the bite. Damn! I’m lucky to have genes or blood type or some sort of genetic defect, because most biting insects don’t itch on me. Manja is not so lucky. We walked down to the nearest pharmacy, but the place was already closed. The internet suggested cooling, so we tried some Aloe-Vera which allowed her to at least get some sleep.

Tiny beach-fleas

We had a bit of a disruptive nights sleep, with a car alarm on the neighbouring property going off at around 3 am. Startled I raced outside to check our car, and had relief washing through me when I saw it was untouched. Unfortunately, the alarm continued to go off every 5 minutes, and while we put in earplugs to try to sleep, it kept us half awake for most the night. By the time the kitchen of the bakery started up around 5am, Manja gave up on sleep but was kind enough to let me try to keep sleeping until around 6:30. We dragged ourselves out of bed to make ourselves a nice breakfast – an omelette with all of our leftovers, including carrots and some local version of sweet potato, as well as avocado dip. Turned out utterly delicious! I also decided to try the coffee we took along from a previous accommodation, and to my surprise it wasn’t terrible. Not good, but I just expected terrible and was thus pleasantly surprised. We had to check out around 1pm, so decided to just spend the morning chilling out and reading in the hammock. Hard life! Just before we went we also re-heated yesterdays left-overs from dinner for lunch. Between the breakfast and that we were stuffed for the day!

When it came to check-out time we threw our bags into the car and drove back to Suizo loco lodge. Manja had foreseen how much we would like the place and booked us another day on the return trip, to reduce our overall driving time.

When we got there our room was already ready and we decided to use the afternoon to go to the beach one last time, even though it was a bit drizzly. The property dog, of course, decided to join us!

On a whim we decided to check out the beach the other way, and it turns out that there are turtles on that beach sometimes! We didn’t see any, of course (wrong season, not there at night) but it was nice to walk along the beach anyway. As we were walking we noticed these tiny creatures, no bigger than two grains of sand, jump onto us from time to time, but walking into the ocean made them disappear. We thought nothing more of it, but as you can tell from this subtle hook, we’ll pick up on that later.

I decided to try and play with the dog, grabbing a stick and trying to play fetch. The dog did not get it, having been a street dog and never having learned it. So I tried to teach it, by throwing the stick and then bolting after it to pick it up. The first time he was uninterested, the second time he raced me and got excited when I picked up the stick. The third time he beat me to the stick and got so excited that he jumped on me when I got there, knocking me flat on my arse. Which would have been fine, on the beach, but there was a tree trunk behind me and I seriously bruised and twisted the heel on one side and my wrist on the other. I got up slowly, sure that I broke something as pain was shooting through me, so I limped to the ocean to cool everything off. Manja hadn’t even noticed until I was limping and I may have unfairly berated her. Sorry babe! As it turned out nothing broke but my ego and my willingness to teach a street dog how to play fetch. Luckily Manjas camera was also fine – it was on my back when I fell! We slowly made our way back to the lodge and our room where we rinsed off the sand, only to find that we both had hundreds of little, totally non-itchy, bites on our legs. Some googling later we found out that the little grain-of-sand sized buggers are probably sand fleas. We were totally lucky that we only reacted a bit and didn’t have massive itching.

We used the afternoon to write post-cards to a few family members, realising that we probably should be sending like 100 postcards to cover everyone. If you didn’t get one I apologise – we simply can’t send one to everyone. Question though: Would you have enjoyed a printed postcard of one of Manjas fantastic photos? We found an app from Australia and Deutsche post which would allow us to do this easily, but couldn’t decide if this was a great idea. Your thoughts?

In the afternoon the sun had come out again, so we walked along the beach to town to have dinner at a local place. Fajitas for me tonight, while Manja had a traditional vegetarian quesadilla. We walked back in the dark, chatting the evening away. We finished up the evening with a swim in the pool before dropping into bed.

EXTREME CONTENT WARNING: Super cute baby sloths

Luckily the party on the street was really just something that happened on the weekend, so we slept really well. We woke up around 7, got ready slowly and had breakfast at the bakery downstairs as people had raved about how good it is. I think they mean that they make some really nice sweets, because the breakfast we had was nice, but nothing to write home (or rave in a review) about.

 

None the less we were well fed when we headed over to the Jaguar Rescue Center. We signed up for the 9:30 tour and by about 10 we were on our way through the center with our guide, who happened to be one of the foremost authorities on Sloths, having moved here to study them and writing her PhD on Sloth behaviour. She had heaps of interesting stories to tell, and I learned a lot about sloths, only some of which I previously knew. Here are some key facts, because I know you all want to be more sloth-expertly.

But first, a super cute picture of 3 baby sloths:

  • There are two types of sloth, but they are less related than we are to Monkeys.
  • The sloth names are two and three FINGERED sloths, the misnoma of two and three TOED sloth is a mis-translation from the Spanish names.
  • Neither sloth is nocturnal, but their eyesight is extremely poor. This means that they don’t really care if they move at day or night
  • It’s normal for sloths to fall out of trees, usually because a branch doesn’t hold their weight. This isn’t usually a problem for them, they have 48 ribs and are designed to just bounce. It IS a problem if you are standing underneath them when they fall, one woman tried to catch one and broke BOTH her arms. The sloth was fine.
  • Sloth have a loop in their throat, allowing them to eat upside down. Downside: They can not vomit.
  • They eat dirt from the jungle floor regularly and draw some nutrients from this.
  • Sloth get extremely stressed by being touched.
  • Baby sloths are located by their mothers using sound, should they be dropped or get lost.
  • Sloth hair has unique fungus which grows in it, allowing them to camouflage even better. This fungus does not hurt them.
  • Sloth poop once a month, loosing about 1/3 of their bodyweight when they do. They come to the ground to do this and have an unexplained and odd dance-like ritual when pooping.
  • No one knows how old sloths get. The information available about this which says 20 years is a completely made-up statistic which was used in a National geographic article, and has been cited ever since. The foremost experts on sloth agree that they do not know, but many agree it may be up to 100 years. At least one sloth on record is 50 years old, and still looks like it has not aged. There are no physical characteristics which seem to indicate age.
  • Leading causes of sloth injury/death: Electrocution on the un-insolated components of Costa Rica’s power network. This is slowly being fixed, starting with the locations where most issues occur.
  • A sloth is not the laziest animal. The average sloth sleeps around 8 hours a day, though mentioned before, not at a specific time. The title of laziest mammal goes to the Howler Monkeys – also a native in Costa Rica – who sleep for up to 18 hours a day. They howl to avoid interacting with other monkey tribes as fighting takes energy, making them very docile. They are tired in part because they only eat leaves, which have little to no nutrients.

Okay, that last one wasn’t strictly a sloth fact.

Want to know how baby sloth sometimes get re-united? Listen into part of the tour 🙂

We enjoyed the tour, even though they can not show any wild cats (such as jaguars or Ocelots) because these animals can not have human interaction if they are to be released. They know this because they made this mistake with one, who is pretty much a homing pigeon now and will return even when released several hundred kilometres in the jungle… Though it killed a whole coop of chickens on the way as if to prove that it was a bad idea to abandon him in the jungle. We managed to get a few nice pictures of him. It’s an amazing cat, which can rotate its paws to climb up and down trees without a problem, and generally lives in the canopy of the rainforest.
This specific type of Ocelot (Margay) has the ability to mimic certain baby bird calls as part of their hunting techniques…. Clever girl!

 

After our visit we did some shopping for dinner and returned to our room before heading over to the beach. Against my suggestion, Manja wanted to walk to a further away beach, because the one directly across the road was a beach right at the city. I reluctantly agreed, and we were bickering about this a little bit when I suddenly jumped – there was a fur-ball at the base of a tree we were passing. That fur-ball turned out to be a sloth with a baby, eating the jungle floor. We very slowly and quietly approached. The sloth didn’t get disturbed, it didn’t even seem to realise we were there. Being certain that we didn’t disturb it, we carefully and quietly took some pictures.

 

After its snack, the sloth decided to head across the footpath and climb into the beachside canopy to relax. In the process of doing so it caught the attention of some other passing tourists, some of whom started to literally squeal with delight, grabbing their phones for photos and were about to run up to the poor thing. I calmly told them to be really quiet to not stress the poor animal, keep a safe distance and move slowly toward it. They complied, so I must have made my point with some authority. Good deed done for the day!

We headed over to the beach and jumped in for a bit. It was extremely choppy today, with some serious rifts. Even in the shallows of the beach you could feel the retreating waves pull at your feet, threatening to throw you over… It was kind of fun, even though it was a bit rough, probably because the water was warm!

 

Eventually we dried off in the sun before dropping by the local chocolate manufacturer to check out their wares. It wasn’t bad, but nothing appealed to us in the sense of being above average – though we may just have been spoiled by our visit to Charley’s chocolate factory in Queensland last year. Instead of buying a chocolate bar Manja decided to have a smoothie while I gave their Mocca (Chocolate and coffee mix) a go. It was okay, but again, not fantastic.

 

As we headed back, we walked past this little oasis where someone had placed a swing on a palm tree over the water. It gave us a very romantic setup for some photos.

 

We walked back to the room and relaxed for a bit, spending a bit of time making contact with friends and family. As the sun started to recede we made dinner… A LOT of dinner. It was super delicious and we were both stuffed after. A blog post later, we dropped into bed.

Myriads of Hermit Crabs and climbing a beached shipwreck

We got up after a rough nights sleep, between the Saturday night party on the street going to around 3 am and the bakery preparing bread from about 5 am. Even with earplugs we struggled.

We made some Avocado-egg-foccacias using some freshly baked bread from downstairs to give us some strength for the day.

Made of Yum and Energy!

Charged up we decided to drive over to Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge, basically a national park near here. Being a Sunday the Manzanillo Beach was completely filled with locals, all taking advantage of the beautiful weather to have a day at the beach.

Arriving at the Refuge, we were ushered into a car park by a volunteer providing security, before heading to the entry where we had to pay a donation of our choosing to enter. No set price.

We walked through the park for a bit, quickly realising that it was crowded too. There are some beaches within the park, and these were filled with people, while the paths were extremely muddy.

At this beach there were also hundreds of hermit crabs… and unfortunately tourists flouting the rules and collecting shells – which are their homes. We even got to watch some crabs try out new shells. Unfortunately we also watched some local boys pull a couple of crabs out of their shell, but at a harsh look from Manja they stopped and left. I even attempted to help one crab which was struggling to find a large enough shell, but could not find anything for him myself.

Based on our prior reading, we expected the area to be a bit rougher. So, when the paths started to split off in many different directions and inviting the casual wanderer to get lost, we decided to turn around. No use getting stuck in a jungle-maze!

 

Back at our car a short time later, the “Volunteer” suddenly expected 2000 Colones (about €3) for watching our car and keeping it safe. It wasn’t worth arguing about so we just paid it and headed off. We had hoped to drop by a local smoothie place recommended by lonely planet, but we could actually not find the place, even after walking the street to inspect every house. As this was the beach promenade, we decided to walk back along the beach and spotted this beached ship…. Which was reachable in the low tide right now. We ceased the opportunity and climbed aboard!

Walking back to the car along the beach we felt like we were getting cooked so headed to the shade of the nearby palms, still arriving at the car well sweated through. As we drove out of town we spotted the smoothie place, *technically* on the same road, but around a bend some 500 m further along. We decided not to stop and just head back to our room instead. We waited out the mid-day heat, which was oppressive and humid today, in the hammock on the verandah. As the afternoon drew to a close, we headed out to find ourselves a place to have dinner. We wanted to try a highly rated place just down the road, but when we arrived they told us they were closed and are going on holidays from tomorrow. Guess we won’t eat there… So we watched the sunset at the beach, which had another beached boat. Seems a trend here.

After that we checked out a few restaurants in the area before settling on an Asian place, which made a really nice veggie green Thai curry, served with a Mai-Tai. Manja and I had a great evening chatting away about future plans over dinner before looking through some souvenir shops. By the time we returned to our room it was already way past dark, and given the poor nights sleep last night, we dropped into bed early.

Onerous search for farmers markets

We really loved this accommodation and the surrounding Cahuita and Cahuita National Park. If you are ever down this area, spend a few days at the Suizo Loco Lodge!

After another really nice breakfast, we headed off. Today’s destination was Puerto Viejo and a nice apartment above a super popular bakery, one of the few accommodations where we can cook for ourselves 🙂

We wanted to be there early to check out the farmers markets, but our Airbnb host wasn’t responding to confirm that we could drop our bags off early, so we chanced it and just drove to the bakery. Once there our host said that it was no problem for us to drop off the bags, but the room would not be ready before 2pm. No problem for us, we would just explore the farmers markets. After following googles directions for a bit we decided that the market was either canceled, super well hidden, or that the directions were just plain wrong. Regardless we did not find the place and decided to walk along the beach to the edge of town and then back via the promenade. By the time we returned it was a bit past noon, so we decided to order some drinks (Pineapple for Manja, Watermelon for me) and plan our next few days. Once our room was ready we moved in, then headed to the ATM and the shops for supplies for dinner. The first supermarket was sketchy, and included a very loud car with speakers advertising the Mega Super Market. We went in, looked around, and left. Later we saw reviews that this place apparently likes to put things on the bill you did not order and just give you back incorrect change. Bullet dodged! We went to the smaller supermarket near our accommodation instead and got everything we needed with no fuss. We decided to spend the afternoon relaxing in the hammock, reading and processing photos – you can imagine who did which of those activities 🙂

As the mosquitos came out it became obvious that it was time for dinner. We cooked a really nice pasta which was slightly too spicy thanks to a fresh, large habanero chilli, but still delicious. Full of food we continued our lazy afternoon throughout the evening.

Dinner!

Suspenseful rescue of a baby sloth! … and spotting loads of wildlife

We woke to the sounds of Howler Monkeys and Toucans just before our alarm. We quickly got ready, packed for the hike and went to have some breakfast.

After breakfast, our guide Freiman, was back perfectly on-time at 8am. We drove down to Cahuita in our car and took a Taxi to the other entrance of the park. A short ride and a park fee later, we were on our way. Freiman was awesome again, same as last night, sharing his extensive knowledge of the lands, the flora and the fauna while spotting things we definitely would have missed every few minutes. The day started with some Howler Monkeys at the entrance, and some lizard and birds which he pointed out for us.

 

Eventually we got to a boardwalk section where he suddenly spotted a baby sloth climbing up the support of the walkway. The little guy had made it all the way to the top but was confused that the post stopped. He was waving his arms defensively as we carefully approached.

Getting a nearby ranger (it is illegal to touch a sloth!), operation “rescue the baby sloth” got on the way. The ranger and guide worked to grab him from behind, so that he could be placed on the tree quickly. I was permitted to help by forcing the little guy to release his foot claws. The plan went awry though, when we realised that the baby sloth moved a LOT faster than an adult, and it was able to swipe at my hand. I managed to get it out of the way just in time to prevent my hand from being impaled to the post. Second attempt included a distraction manoeuvre, with success. The little guy was on a tree trunk at the same height, able to move up the tree himself.

Importantly we took no videos or photos of the action to ensure that no one gets the idea to touch a sloth on their own.

It turns out that sloth frequently fall, and usually just climb back into the tree. Their whole body is adapted to deal with the fall. The only problem for this baby was that he had fallen into the water – so he quickly grabbed onto the nearest tree – being a support of the boardwalk.

All three of us – our guide included – were elated by the experience.

The rest of the walk was fantastic too – we saw an abundance of animals, most of which we would have missed on our own. Manja took just under 1000 pictures, the selection of the best is below.