Saturday, February 28, 2009

Snorkel Time on Granito de Oro

We woke up on Sun. Jan. 11th to see a land mass to starboard, some hummocks to port, and on our stern a tiny patch of land with a pleasing sandy beach, a ring of trees, and some jagged, dark black, clearly volcanic rocks. If ever there was a Gilligan's Island it was there. Our zodiacs descended like lemmings and soon we were picking our way through the hermit crabs that seemed to think they owned the beach and worked our way toward the shade of the trees.

We donned our snorkeling gear and then set out to enjoy the coral, an old wreck, and plenty of multicolored and multisized fish. Thanks to Kiana we even had a few pictures available from her underwater camera.

When the snorkeling finished we had a chance to paddle a kayak around the island and to enjoy the birds.

We returned to the ship for lunch and shortly got underway for the long cruise to Darien. The afternoon was broken up by a chance to visit the bridge and some nice rest and reading time.

We were warned that we would be in open water tonight and that it might get a little rough.
Around midnight I woke up as we started to pitch and roll. The ceiling was groaning, the cupboards vibrating, and some of the dresser drawers were opening and closing all by their little selves. Wow! Not much sleeping until things calmed down about 3:30 AM. And no pictures I'm afraid.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

On to the Saladero Lodge for an Afternoon Hike

More of those yellow flowering trees pepper the shore.

A brightly colored toucan or parrot was high above.

Giant trees with great buttresses were common along the way.

A wild turkey followed us around for a while.

The sunsets continue to dazzle

On To the Casa Orquideas

Sorry to have left this story in mid ocean, but an intervening trip to Carolina has kept me away from the old blog. And I need to get crackin so as to get the rest done before we head off to Arizona.

So here we are on January 10th dropping anchor at the House of Orchids, a garden paradise overseen by an American couple who came thirty years ago and never left. They raised a family on this little bay and there is no access other than by boat. The nearest town, where they shop once a week, is thirty minutes by sea. They grow orchids and also have trails where you can see hundreds of other jungle plants and flowers.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Corcovado National Park (Drake Bay)

We are now almost to the Panamanian border on the Osa peninsula. We landed on a sandy beach with some rocky outcroppings on either side. Drake Bay curved around and was rimmed by rolling blue tinted hills.

From the beach we took a hike into the jungle. At points along the way we saw Toucans, Trogans, Mangrove Hawks, a Yellow Naped Woodpecker, a Caracara, some Falcons, a Tropical Flycatcher, and a Striped Heron fishing serenely in a stream. There were also spider and the white faced Capuchin monkeys. Our naturalists were uncanny in spotting birds and then focusing their spotting scopes on them so we could see. I was less successful, even with my 300 mm lens, catching them. The undergrowth is heavy and seeing a tiny bird and managing to photograph him while walking along a jungle path are two different things. I was more successful with the monkeys.

Although the yellow naped woodpecker and the striped heron were exceptions.

Down a path along the shore we came upon the government school. Nothing fancy as you can see, but it gets the job done. Children from smaller villages who wish to go beyond elementary school have board in larger towns.

Some of the plants are extraordinary as well. Below is a walking palm.

Our lunch was a great picnic brought in from the boat and you might better call it a dinner with BBQ'd ribs, chicken, tilapia and a full complement of fruit and salads. In the afternoon some folks took another hike while many just took in the beach. Had another swim and have found that your mustache tastes like salt for some time after you emerge.

Back on board we had another nice dinner, a nature program, and another spectacular sunset.

Slept like a baby as the ship purred along to our next port of call.

Monday, February 09, 2009

A Stop at Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica

Our first night aboard the Pacific Explorer was lovely. We had an assembly before dinner to meet the crew and try out our life jackets. Then good eats and settling into our cabins. The ship seemed to just purr along with a gentle whrring sound and a pleasant rocking that seemed to encourage sleep rather than a need to pop the dramamine.

The wakeup call was early and loud. There was a horrendous clank and then a grinding sound that seemed to be coming from directly underneath my bed. It was as if the entire innards of the ship were being ground up and dumped into the sea. Turned out to have been the anchor chain--a sound we would get used to in the ensuing days.

We awoke in a little bay to a sunny day and a sand beach spread out in a crescent before us.

On the Pacific side were scattered some little hummock islands, which seemed pretty much uninhabited by anything other than birds.

By 7:45 A.M. we were on a zodiac and heading for shore. Our walk revealed that we were on a little spit of land with beaches on both sides. In the next two hours we saw agoutis, monkeys, sloths, raccoons, iguanas, crabs, and a really wierd guy called a basilisk.

Your first job is to find the iguana. I like this picture because it does emphasize how these creatures can blend into the environment.

This guy was a bit easier to see. No disguise for him.

Monkey business

And this is the basilisk!

We lunched back on the boat on a salad, soup, and a fillet of salmon; then it was back to the beach for some relaxation, a read, and a swim in the crystal clear waters of the Pacific.

Back to the ship where dinner was marvelous but an after thought when compared to the sunset.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

We Board the Pacific Explorer

After an afternoon coach ride over the mountain range that runs through the center of Costa Rica, we arrived at the humidity laden Pacific Coast. We boarded our cruise ship, the 185 foot Pacific Explorer, at a dock located within a ritsy resort complex called Los Sueneos. I knew who fueled the golf course, the condos, and the private yachts when I saw a large billboard on the road that advertised tax consultations for expatriates.

Aside from short trips (the English channel, the Irish Sea, and the Milwaukee Clipper's old run to Muskegon on Lake Michigan), Jan and I had never really been a resident on an ocean going ship. The closest thing to a "cruise." we have been on was our week on the Nile in Egypt. That was definitely a cruise, but clearly minus any wave or tidal action. The Pacific Explorer is a neatly compact vessel. It accommodates up to 100 folks and our 92 Elderhostelers made up the entire passenger list. There were no elevators but the four levels were not difficult to negotiate. The public spaces were pleasant, the food superlative, and the cabins amply sized. Our bathroom was considerably larger than the one on our Nile cruiser. We did have some bouncing and jouncing when cutting across the swell patterns on open sea runs, but by and large this was the ideal choice for off-shore traveling. We could enter bays that larger ships could not approach and anchor close enough to shore to make the zodiac trips to land quick and efficient.

Our cabin.

We meet the captain. We have a lifeboat drill.

We get to visit the bridge.

We get a nice view from the observation lounge as well

The dining room is pleasant The bar gets a lot of traffic as well

Our zodiac ferry service back to the mother ship

Thursday, February 05, 2009

On to Elderhostel #9206

We met our Elderhostel group some 92 strong in a meeting room at the Casa Conde and then shortly boarded coaches for our initial Costa Rican experience at the INBIO park just outside of San Jose.
INBIO is a former coffee plantation that is now run as a created habitat for Costa Rican flora and fauna. The trails are hard surfaced and our guide was a lovely young lady who spoke superlative English. As the pics show we had a constant show of animals and birds.