Gritty City Golfito

After several lovely stops throughout Costa Rica,

Drake's Bay, Costa Rica

Drake’s Bay, Costa Rica

Giant bamboo

Giant bamboo

seeing all types of creatures,

Crocodile swimming by our dinghy

Crocodile swimming by our dinghy

Squirrels with skunk stripes

Squirrels with skunk stripes

Howler monkeys all over the place

Howler monkeys

The Costa Rican Puma

The wild Costa Rican Puma

spending too much money (their currency is strikingly beautiful, which is a good thing because you are going to need a lot of it),

Costa Rican Colones currency

Costa Rican Colones currency

and with the rainy season starting in earnest,

Here comes the rain again

Here comes the rain again

rain gear for all crew members

rain gear for all crew members

we ready ourselves for our final stop in the country: the town of Golfito, which is not known for its, shall we say, hospitality.   Countless tales of crime from fellow cruisers and locals left us less than excited about going there, but it was necessary, as it is the last port where you can check out of the country.

First impression coming into the Golfo Dulce...looks promising

First impression coming into the Golfo Dulce…looks promising

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Fishermen use these black flags to mark long lines and nets.   The worst color ever to see against a dark sea.  How about a nice neon orange?

Fishermen use these black flags to mark long lines and nets. The worst color ever to see against a dark sea.  How about a nice neon orange?

This once thriving town has fallen on hard times since the departure of the United Fruit Company and now depends mainly on a duty-free zone and robbing cruisers (just kidding…I think).   Don’t get me wrong I wouldn’t pick it over a trip to Maui, but for our fellow cruisers you’ll most likely have to be here and it was not as awful as we were led to expect.  The bay is well protected and even with the biblical rains we experienced it was always calm.   And clearing out of the country is easy and only costs $20.

 

Goflito town

Goflito town

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Freshly shaved Captain and his faithful first mutt

We moored at Land Sea where the owners, ex-cruisers Tim and Katie, and their many pups provided a safe haven and welcomed us, including Lucy.   Land Sea has a few moorings and a wonderfully funky cruiser’s lounge.  For our land-based friends, let me explain what cruisers want in life; good weather, cheap beer, clean laundry, easy land access and free reliable wi-fi.  And we got 4 out of 5 of those things at Land Sea.   The rain was by the buckets everyday.

Land Sea deck

Land Sea deck

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Honor bar at Land Sea

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My new buddy Vinny. Tim adopted Vinny from an Italian cargo ship where Vinny was a stow away.

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Cruisers leave their mark on the walls of Land Sea. Can you spot Neko?

Here comes another storm

Here comes another storm

Tim regaled us with wild stories from the many years he has lived in Golfito and recommended local restaurants and field trips to fill up the week we were there.

This salty gal celebrated her 46th birthday.

This salty gal celebrated her 46th birthday.

One of our best field trips was to Casa Orquideas, only 5nm but a whole world away from Golfito. These are meticulously maintained gardens owned by an American couple, Ron and Trudy, who have lived here for almost 40 years.  DSCN2990

Trudy, coconut opening expert

Trudy, coconut opening expert

Trudy is the sweet woman who gave us a botanical education, taught us how to open a coconut, and sent us off with many of her home grown fruits and herbs.

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miniature pineapple

miniature pineapple

Shampoo ginger

Shampoo ginger . When you squeeze it a sweet smelling liquid comes out that you can use for shampoo.

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Lucy enjoying some lemon grass

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Water lilies

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Wild macaws.  Wish the photo showed their brilliant colors

Wild macaws. Wish the photo showed their brilliant colors

We were just going to go over to this bay for the afternoon, but ended up staying 2 days.  It was a delightfully tranquil spot perfect for kayaking, swimming and dreaming of our next stop – Panama.

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Nappin’ Captain

 

 

 

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Sometimes You Feel Like A Nut

I’ve always wanted to know what to do with a coconut.  They literally litter the ground down here.  So weren’t we luck when Trudy of Casa Orquideas, an American ex-pat who lives on an orchid and tropical plant farm in Costa Rica, showed us how to open one during a tour of her beautiful property.

Casa Orqueideas

Casa Orquideas near Golfito, Costa Rica

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Trudy uses a rail spike to quickly split the husk of the coconut

Thanks to Trudy, I now know what to do with the brown ones.  You have to shake it to hear for liquid inside to be sure it is good to eat.

First, remove the husk.  This can be done in any number of ways.  I use the trusty machete, third world wonder tool.  You have to peel it off in slices.

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DSCN3130 DSCN3135This leaves you with the round brown nut we are all familiar with.

Then, using the back of the machete, give it a few good hard whacks on a line around the circumference, holding the coconut upright.

Soon, it will crack all way round and you can pluck the top right off.

DSCN3138Then, drink the delicious fresh coconut water inside.  Who knew dogs were absolutely CRAZY about coconuts?  Lucy will drink off a whole coconut and then seems to have renewed energy.  She’ll even try to gnaw the white meat out of it.

DSCN3145You can pry out the white meat after drinking the water.  Press a knife into it and pry pieces of it out.

If you are extra lucky and find a coconut that is sending up a new shoot, you will find a little round sponge-like object in it.  This tastes like coconut but is soft and airy with a little crunch.  I am surprised this thing has not found its way onto Manhattan menus yet.

coconut-sponge
I still don’t know what to do with the green ones, ok, maybe I do LOL

IMG_0362 I think with those you only drink the milk inside.  Locals chop the top off, add a straw and perhaps some rum and you have nature’s Solo cup.

Spiders and monkeys and birds, oh my!

Our first stop in Costa Rica was in the tranquil bay of Santa Elena.  We were exhausted and ready for a break from the high winds.  Once the anchor was down, we relaxed with a sunset cocktail and to enjoy the deserted scenery surrounding us.

Santa Elena, Costa Rica

Santa Elena, Costa Rica

The tranquility soon was broken by this sound

Had we entered Jurassic Park?  Are there gorillas in the mist?  No, just the local howler monkey troop welcoming us to Costa Rica.   We were certain they were going to be giant, gorillas even, but when we finally saw them they were basic-monkey sized.   This country had me at first grunt.

Howler monkeys all over the place

Howler monkeys all over the place

What's cuter than a baby monkey?!!

What’s cuter than a baby monkey?!!

Eager to see more of Costa Rica, we left the boat safely at Marina Papagayo and rented a car with pals, Robin and Mike from Mermaid and spent a few days up in the very wet inland mountains and the Monteverde Cloud Forest.

Of course we didn't forget Lucy.

Of course we didn’t forget Lucy.

Driving in Costa Rica is a combination of well paved roads and pot hole filled dirt trails where interesting obstacles are par for the course.

Horses have the right away.

Modern day cowboy.

We spent a fascinating day touring the Monteverde Cloud Forest, which was made even better by our knowledgeable guide, Javier.  Its protective reach extends over 35,000 acres  atop the Continental Divide.  There are over 100 species of mammals, 400 species of birds, and 1,200 species of amphibians and reptiles living within its bounds.

Javier leading us through the Cloud Forest.  And yes we are styling in those rain jackets

Javier leading us through the Cloud Forest. And yes we are styling in those rain jackets

It is well worth having a guide to help you spot the local flora and fauna and explain the fascinating ecosystem found in this lush forest.    We had just started the tour when a spider monkey quietly swung overhead.  Unlike the Howlers, they don’t make a peep because as Javier explained: in this wild preserve full of predators (mainly wild cats, who actually prefer to hunt in the trees), “monkey cry, monkey die”.   Sorry to say I didn’t have the camera out in time for the spider monkey, but we did for the resplendent Quetzal.  What is this you ask?  I did too after the 100th person in Central America talked about this colorful, yet elusive bird.  It is the official bird of Guatemala, even their money is named after it, but they are rare, almost non-existent in Guatemala.  However, good ol’ Javier (aka the Quetzal whisperer) with his bird calls and years of experience spotted this majestic creature for us.  And wow was it a treat, this bird’s colors are so brilliant he looks like a cartoon.  Javier was ingenious enough to help us take this picture through his scope with our phone.

quetzel bird

We took this photo through a scope, which doesn’t do it justice, but proof we saw the resplendent Quetzal!

Later in the tour, Javier calls us over to a small crack in the hillside, shines his flashlight  and with a devilish smile tells us to look inside.  Eeek, I believe is the word you are looking for…

tarantula

tarantula

This Millipede smelled like almonds.  And no he didn't smack Pete in the face.

This Millipede smelled like almonds. And no he didn’t smack Pete in the face.

Cloud Forest

Cloud Forest

Stylish hanging bird's nest built from moss.  This bird must work for Dwell magazine.

Stylish hanging bird’s nest built from moss. This bird must work for Dwell magazine.

Cloud Forest living up to its name.

Cloud Forest living up to its name.

Feed me, Seymour!  Plants that look like they want to reach out and grab you

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Jack ass on the canopy bridge

After a few days of R&R in Monteverde, which included delicious meals, cool weather and an earthquake.  Yes, 5 years in San Francisco without an earthquake and 5 days in CR and we were rockin and rollin’,  we headed back to our marina along the coast.

Great meal at Trio restaurant.  Moments after this photo was my first earthquake!

Great meal at Trio restaurant. Moments after this photo was my first earthquake!

We had a lovely stop in Playa Avellanas and enjoyed lunch at Lola’s watching an international crowd of surfers in this remote spot.  (Good lord all we do is eat.)

Lunch at Lola's

Lunch at Lola’s

Lola

Lola (yes, this is Lola and no we didn’t order the spare ribs)

We came to Costa Rica 20 years ago and it is amazing how much it has changed.  A LOT more expensive, but still as beautiful.  We’ll tell you more of our adventure in Part II of the CR post.