Thinking of Home

Spruce Tree House, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado. January 2017

I am reading House of Rain by Craig Childs. It is non-fiction, about the Anasazi and Craig’s travels to their ruins in the four corners area of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Arizona. I am enjoying it, even though it has me a little homesick thinking of SW Colorado and areas I have been and those I can go check out. Thinking of friends too!

 

 

 

 

Slow Traveling

Volcan Baru looking from Isla de Muertos (Island of the Dead) in Bahia de los Muertos (Bay of the Dead) on the Pacific Coast, looking up to 11,398′. Boquete is east and down the slope to the right of the peak just a couple or three miles.

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Slow traveling is actually a term people use when they move from place to place without any hurry.

Originally the reason for slow traveling was a way to live frugally for a couple of years. Later it was an idea with motion, gaining momentum, with nothing strong enough to slow or stop it. I remember waiting at the airport in Houston for our flight out of the country, physically tired, mentally sapped, and whether all preparations were complete or not, we were about to fly to Costa Rica.

I thought “What are we doing? What are we getting ourselves into?” Momentum won as we took the flight.

Or maybe it wasn’t momentum, perhaps my cousin, Ginger, said it more accurately “You are wanderers.”

The fears and doubts were just that. The learning curve has been pretty gentle. My Spanish is improving, a few more words here and there.

Now in our third country, I know that there are so many nice people from all over. Sure, there are the few to watch out for and places to avoid. That has been easy, as we meet other travelers who have been places we are heading toward.

The world is beautiful and I am glad we are on this journey.

San Isidro de el General, Costa Rica

Quiet day. We went for a walk, I worked on my Spanish, read a little and now am on the computer. It rained hard for a couple of hours.

We are staying at an Airbnb house up on a ridge. The valleys on either side are beautiful!

Bramas in the field.
Those fields on the mountain at center right background are probably 70 degrees. Incredibly steep and not uncommon here.

 

Golden-Mantled Howlers in a Mango Tree

What howler? Look left of center and see the two tone brown? That is a howler monkey.

We are walking a trail to the beach at Charco Verde Park on Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua when I see that a few mangoes are dropping out of the tree. Otherwise there are no sounds, at first. Then I hear movement to one side, high in the tree. We crane our necks around until we finally see a howler monkey. Eventually I see at least eight. There could have been more, but most of them were taking a siesta and it was easy for them to blend in. Their deep voices can be heard up to 3 miles away.

Range: Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala
Weight: Males up to 21.8 lbs. Females up to 16.8 lbs.
Height: Males – 20″ to 26.6″; females – 18.9″ to 24.9″
Prehensile tail: 21.5″ to 25.8″
Social structure: live in groups of 10-20 individuals and at puberty leave the group to join another

 

 

Green Heron – Isletas de Granada – Nicaragua

Range: North America and Central America into Colombia
Habitat: Search for fish and amphibians along water edges
Size: 16″-18″ long; 25″-27″ wingspan

Restaurants in our Travels

Most of the time in Costa Rica we were staying somewhere where we didn’t eat out much. In Monteverde we stayed with a local family who cooked for us. Here at the Finca Soley there is a kitchen and we make our lunch and dinner (breakfast is provided).

In Nicaragua we ate out all of our lunches and dinners. Our “go to” place was “The Garden Cafe”. Good local food, excellent sea bass (corvina). There was also a Chinese restaurant where you chose your ingredients and sauces and they stir fried it for you. I believe it was called “Wok and Roll”. The “Pita Pita” restaurant was great as well. El Zaquan was excellent but a bit more expensive than some of the others. I think all of the restaurants had courtyards, often with a fountain.

We were careful about the tap water in Nicaragua. We either used our own purified water or made sure the restaurant we ate at used purified water to cook, serve, and for ice. Initially we steered away from raw veggies/fruits in fear of their being washed in bad water but we found that wasn’t a problem at the restaurants we went to. I was glad to have a fresh salad again.

Here are a few pictures from various restaurants to give you a feel for them.

Dan trying tequila shot and a lime, courtyard, courtyard, interior of restaurant, night shot of pedestrian area with restaurants, another night shot, El Zaguan, Dan using a flashlight in a restaurant because it was dark (flashlight supplied by restaurant), another night shot of pedestrian area.

Security and Mindfulness

 

Posted inside a bus!

Security while traveling is critical. We have learned a few things.

The first is mindfulness (tip 1). This means being aware of your surroundings and being present in the moment. At the point you are no longer mindful and your brain is thinking of something else, you have tuned out what is happening around you and you are vulnerable. This includes being on your phone talking or texting someone. Maybe you are reading. Whatever it is, stay mindful. When traveling with others, one of you can do other things while one is staying alert.

Lindie lost her wallet. While she had a wallet that hooked on a belt loop and could be inserted inside her pants, one day she did not do that because it was awkward. She lost the wallet or it was stolen. It is likely it fell out of what was a shallow pocket. If someone picked it there was no awareness at the time.

Fortunately the credit cards were not used and she was able to replace them and her insurance card fairly easily. The replacement Colorado drivers license is still in process. It will catch up to her.

As a result of this, we have added buttons to all pockets in our pants and shirts. This ensures that belongings stay where you want them and someone else’s hand cannot easily slip in (tip 2).

A very flat money belt is useful (tip 3). REI and Amazon both carry ones that are lined so that an electronic device cannot read them. It is an RFI impervious lining (tip 4). You can also get small sleeves that hold three credit cards. When traveling each day, we do keep enough money in our pockets to take us through or part way through the day (tip 5). This prevents flashing what we have.

A new friend recently traveled on the public bus from San Jose to Monteverde. She lost her backpack, including passport and credit cards. They were taken while on the bus. She knew as a seasoned traveler to keep things on her lap or to have her foot through the strap (tip 6). Her mindfulness slipped and her belongings were gone. It is strongly advised: Do not use the overhead bin (tip 7).

We took the same bus route several weeks earlier, and I was glad to see that the bus driver made everyone get off when we took a restroom/meal break. We did take the things we had with us in the seats with us (tip8).

On that trip I discovered that claiming luggage from under the bus was a potential place to lose luggage. Although there were luggage receipts to present, the person pulling luggage out was not checking that the numbers matched. For our next trip we got our tickets early so that we have the front seats behind the steps into the bus. This will allow us to be first off and first over to the luggage, so we can protect our stuff (tip 9).

We have decided that when we travel from place to place, that we will go directly to our lodging via taxi so that we are not carting a lot of things around in unknown places (tip 10). We will use a day pack otherwise (tip 11).

When traveling distances, our day packs contain enough daily essentials that if we were to lose our other luggage, we don’t have to rush to replace things (tip 12).

Since we arrived in Monteverde, we realized how hard it is to stuff our pockets with things we might use during the day. We bought fanny packs and use them for receipts, snacks, replacement camera battery, a little change and a few bills, etc. The fanny pack is worth much more than the things we have in it. This keeps us from digging into our pockets looking for something, only to have things fall out easily as our hand comes out (tip 13). We keep them across our belly, not our fanny.

When we have a choice, we now travel earlier so that our arrival is in daylight. Moving around at night adds vulnerability. Taxis will be used at night and they will be called, not flagged down (tip 14).

Here are two stories from friends.

One was in Bolivia or Peru and mustard was squirted on her. While distracted her backpack was stolen.

The other friend had a man with a bundle over his shoulder walk right into him. Suddenly he felt something at his pocket, reached down quickly, felt the hand and rapidly spun around, knocking the woman attached to the hand into an elderly man.My friend lost nothing, yet the woman yelled at him about how he caused her to fall into her grandfather. Yeah, right.

 

 

Second Passport

 

U.S. Embassy Sam Jose Costa Rica

We renewed our passports last year and they are good for another 10 years. That ought to be more than enough for this trip.

However, a couple of weeks before leaving, I discovered that the State Department allows for a second passport, limited to two years.

The value for us is that:

1. We have back-up passports in case we lose one.
2. Some countries are picky about where you have been. Israel is an                example of a country others don’t like.
3. Should we need to present a passport for a visa and return later to                pick it up or have it mailed to us.

I set appointments with the embassy in San Jose and confirmed via email what they needed and that they could process the application. They responded and also said we could pick them up in 7-10 days and that they would hold them for up to three months.

Update: We picked them up May 23 and they are good for two years! We did have to remind them not to void our other passports.