13
May

Bridges, Sloths and Snakes

By: muttler
this guy could put me in hospital in a split second

this guy could put me in hospital in a split second

 

12/05/2017

Today was our last full day in La Fortuna, and Kate and I were making it count with more action adventure. It was another beautiful sunny day, and we were greeted with a spectacular view of the volcano from our hotel room. They say if you can see the top you should make a wish as it happens so rarely, and we had been lucky to be able to make heaps of wishes so far this trip.

 

the view from our hotel room

the view from our hotel room

 

For the morning though we were going our separate ways… Kate off to kayak and myself off to mountain bike a bit around Lake Arendel with Andreas and some of the crew.

 

my trusty steed

my trusty steed

 

About 8am the bikers were picked up and driven a bit closer to the lake itself. Being about 36km long and 10km wide it was going to be too big to ride all the way around, but our plan was to do a fairly leisurely 15km or so. In no time at all we were at the drop off point with our trusty metal steeds and off we went.

 

andreas leads the way

andreas leads the way

 

like my contemplative pose?

like my contemplative pose?

 

Most the riding was on slightly rocky roads, just off lakeside. So we didn’t get to be too near the water sadly, but did some up and downs as we made our way around. While some of the uphills were a little steep, it wasn’t anything too adventurous. It was good to be by the water, so it was *slighty* cooler, but we still got up a bit of a sweat.

The 15km went by super quickly as we reached part of the road that was completely underwater. The plan was always to stop at this point, however even if we wanted to go further there was no way we were going to be able to as it was completely flooded from the previous nights rain, complete with strong current.

 

um, good luck with that

um, good luck with that

 

Over on the other side of the river we saw two cyclists who clearly had arrived to that point only to find they could (for the time being anyway) go no further. While they waited it out, our group enjoyed some drinks (9:30am isn’t too early for a beer is it?) and juicy pineapple.

Eventually some (presumably) locals complete with motorbike decided to cross the river and this clearly gave the cyclists the confidence to try and cross. The locals gave some help, as did some horse riders that happened to be riding through as well. When the cyclists made it to our side I noticed they had an Aussie flag on their bike and so I had a quick chat to them and found out they were in fact from Torquay and had started cycling in Alaska and were heading to the bottom of Argentina! Amazing.

Anyway, it was time to head back, so the bikes went on to the roof of our support vehicle and back we went. It was not a bad morning, although we didn’t spend nearly enough time on the bikes for my liking. But it gave me a couple of hours to chill before Kate and I were to head off to the next activity.

 

kate has her selfie game on

kate has her selfie game on

 

chilling out on the water

chilling out on the water

 

A side story to give you a quick Kate rundown. She headed off to the lake to do a bit of kayaking, and by all accounts it was a very relaxing paddle about! She had great views of the volcano and deceptively nice weather (so her sunburned legs) told me!

It was time for another tour pickup, and this time Anya from our tour joined us to visit the hanging bridges in the nearby forest. Located on a private property, apparently when the tourism started to grow they decided to to put a series of bridges through their spectacular forest, making for a 4km trek through the tree tops.

 

our guide to the forest

 

With our local guide we started wandering, and we could have spent hours. It was so nice to slowly wander through the forest, keeping an eye out for the wildlife. Quite a few birds around, but we were keen to try and spy more sloths and some more monkeys.

 

hey little guy!

hey little guy!

 

Our first critter was a local venomous snake, a small viper. He was hard to spot, but our guide pointed him out and he was in fact right next to the path. While it will bite you if provoked, they won’t lunge at passers by, luckily for us. I wasn’t going to push my luck, even though it was very cool getting up close.

 

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We then hit our first big bridge. It is spectacular to walk out and just see yourself many meters above the forest floor and the treetops. The first bridge gave us great views of the volcano, and like all these things, pictures don’t do it justice.

 

viper!

viper!

 

sloth!!!

sloth!!!

 

We then continued along, going from bridge to bridge. We came across another small viper, and luckily for us another sloth! We got a great view from one angle as it stirred and woke up briefly. So we had seen both the 2-toed and 3-toed sloth, so we were super lucky.

 

refreshing

refreshing

 

Nearby we also had a cute waterfall nestled in the forest. Ahh, that spray back was nice.

 

a slightly aggressive white faced monkey

a slightly aggressive white faced monkey

 

after it had thrown the fruit at us telling us to bugger off

after it had thrown the fruit at us telling us to bugger off

 

We were not too far from the end of the trail when we could hear BOOM! It had gotten very dark all of a sudden and that was indeed thunder. Oh dear. Coats came out and we stepped up the pace a little. As we got close to the end we could hear some racket up in the trees. We had found the white-faced monkey! This was a great find as while there are many in the forest, they are not always easy to spot. These couple were in a particularly boisterous mood and weren’t too keen on our guide making noises to them. While they were grabbing fruit to eat, they also decided it would be in their interest to throw it at us! Not small either!

We watched them for a bit but then the rain started to get the better of us, so we legged it to the end. A beverage in the bus and in no time we were back at the hotel. We had one more activity for the day, although this one was a decidedly slower pace… hot springs! Just up from the hotel was a series of hot springs where we would go to relax, and so most of the group decided to take the opportunity. We visited one called Los Lagos, which was a hotel, restaurant and hot springs complex all in one. And it was huge! Probably 20 different pools of different sizes and temperatures, as well as bar at the main one. Yay!

I took the water slide straight down into the hottest pool with the bar and settled in. Mmmm mojitos. Kate opted for the pina colada. When in Rome. We then spent the next 2 hours just relaxing in the different pools and relaxing those muscles that had been getting a work out. A casual group dinner at the restaurant and that brought a close to our time in La Fortuna.

12
May

Scaling Waterfalls, Flying Through Trees

By: muttler
who's a happy chappy?

who’s a happy chappy?

 

11/05/2017

Our first full day in La Fortuna! We had already planned our two days here and jam packed them full of action and adventure, so it was time to get stuck in. With a slightly leisurely start, we were picked up by the Desafio bus (the local action adventure specialists) who grabbed the rest of the adventures from around town and we were off to our first adventure… canyoneering!

 

adventure awaits

adventure awaits

 

let's go!

let’s go!

 

I was super keen for this one, as I had not really done anything like this. I can’t really ever having had the chance to abseil down a waterfall before! So we arrived in no time at all at our starting point where we met our three guides (well 2 and a photographer) and were given a briefing on how it would all work. We were going to be heading down some fairly gnarly canyons so safety was paramount! But it was also for folks who had not really done it before so there wasn’t too much to learn.

 

let's get wet!

let’s get wet!

 

With all our gear on, Kate and I, along with our 5 other group mates headed off on the jungle path and in no time at all arrived at our first small waterfall. One by one we were connected on, given some instructions, and down we went!

 

look up!

look up!

 

on the way down

on the way down

 

It was great fun, getting showered with water and leaning back and abseiling down. After the first shorty, we were greeted with a much longer repel that also involved a small bit of ziplining. So much fun.

We continued our downward path with some small hikes inbetween repels. During this point we got to a spot of clambering down some rocks where the only way to keep going was to jump and bomb into a deep small pool. It wasn’t scary at all but crazy that all to this point were knee deep pools and suddenly there was one over 2 meters deep. Without any hesitation, we both did our bombs, coming up gasping for air, with water and sunscreen streaming into our eyes.

 

why is he lying down?

why is he lying down?

 

Around this time if we weren’t soaked enough, then we would be. As we approached a small climb down one of our guides was lying prone at the top. I knew straight away that he was stopping the water from streaming down. I assumed it was so our climb was safer down, however when we all got to the bottom we were asked to take a seat. Hhhmmm… I sense shenanigans. We were then given a small warning to hang on, and then the guide got out of the way. BOOM! Huge amounts of water rushed down! The force was crazy, and with me being at the very back, I caught the brunt of it all. With Kate next to me she took it hard as well. So much fun.

 

yay!

yay!

 

We did our last couple of repels and then it was the hike back to the top. So many stairs! At least a good Costa Rican lunch was waiting for us (rice and beans and plantains of course). A great way to top it off.

 

exploring town

exploring town

 

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IMG_7568

 

We all headed back to town and Kate and I decided to hang about in town for an hour before our next activity. There is not too much to La Fortuna. A main street with bars and food places and souvenir shops, with a quaint little church and the volcano looking menacingly down the street. It didn’t take too long to see most of what the town had to offer, which was OK as in no time it was off to our next activity.

 

zip lining!

zip lining!

 

look at all those lines!

look at all those lines!

 

Kate knew she was going to be in her element up here in La Fortuna, as it was another chance to do her favourite action activity… zip lining! She was becoming a bit of a veteran and never missed a chance to do it. We knew we would also have a chance in Monteverde, but why not here as well?! For this activity it was just the two of us, so we were whisked away up on to the lower parts of the volcano in amongst the trees.

 

ready for action

ready for action

 

We had 3 great guides for this, and after a quick go on a test cable, we went further into the tree tops. The views were stunning looking over the town and forest.

 

DSC_0077

 

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What is there to say? It was AMAZING. Some of the runs were some of the longest ones we had done, with one approaching 500 meters. As we sailed from tree top to tree top Kate was beaming the whole time. It is such a great adrenalin rush.

 

tarzan!

tarzan!

 

This company also had a special bonus in the middle, which Kate was not so sure about. The Tarzan swing is a point in which you buckle on to the end of a big cable and yep, you swing out. Kate had reservations but in the end really wasn’t given much choice because in no time at all she was hooked up and pushed out. She was clearly loving the initial swings out (I think they were screams of joy) but then got a bit spinny which wasn’t her thing. Me, I loved it all 🙂

 

spoils of victory

spoils of victory

 

With another few zip lines were back on solid ground, with a celebratory drink waiting at the end. Good ole’ Imperial seemed to be fuelling much of this trip.

 

first place

first place

 

i must have been a close second

i must have been a close second

 

We were then done for a couple of hours and got to chill out at the hotel. For dinner we were off on another G Adventures special visit, this time to a home to do a quick tortilla making class and have a home cooked dinner. Dona Mara was our host and her and the family put on the hospitality. We started with the tortilla making, where we each got it into shape and put it on the wood oven. Kate’s tortilla in particular was picked out as being a winner, so she got first taste of their home brew spirit, which we all got to try. Not bad actually!

 

liquid gold

liquid gold

 

After enjoying the fruits of our labour, we sat down for dinner… yep, rice and beans and plantains, and some tasty chicken and salsa. Speaking of salsa, I am getting addicted to a particular brand of salsa sauce, which is DELICIOUS. It has a bit of a vinegary taste to it, but boy am I sucking this stuff down. Cross your fingers I can get it back home!

 

saying goodbye to Dona Mara

saying goodbye to Dona Mara

 

And with a delicious meal, it was time to say farewell to Dona Mara and head back to the hotel for a relatively early night. More action in the morning awaited.

12
May

Adventure Awaits

By: muttler
arendal volcano looks over us

arenal volcano greets us

 

10/05/2017

It was time to move on from Tortuguero, and head inland and north. So with a pretty relaxed start to the day it was back into the boat and off to land.

We backtracked quite a bit, heading back much the way we came, taking our boat back to port in the driving rain. Yeah, good luck with the luggage staying dry! But we stayed fairly dry and had a good run back to port and our waiting bus. We had quite a few hours of driving ahead, and so it was on with the headphones to relax as we finally reached paved road and headed on our way toward La Fortuna.

 

mmmmm... kafe

mmmmm… kafe

 

On the way we stopped by a local co-op Coffee Plantation, which is one sponsored by G Adventures program called Planeterra. They are great in supporting locals that have done it a bit rough (in this case after a major earthquake a few years back) to train members of the community up to be self sufficient and put back into the community. This was a coffee preparation and roasting facility run by locals to make export grade quality coffee. So here we were provided with some lunch and a run through of the coffee process.

 

sampling some other product

sampling some other product

 

tasty!

tasty!

 

I had seen something similar (a much larger scale) in Guatemala, so most of it was familiar. But any chance to support the locals and drink coffee hey? I am enjoying the Costa Rican coffee… not as bold as some others, but very drinkable.

This was great opportunity for  break before our last leg to La Fortuna. We hit town at about 6pm, and went straight into planning our next few days, as we had two whole full days here to explore. La Fortuna is the centre of action adventure in Costa Rica. It is home to not only forest, but Arenal Volcano, and active one, towers over the town. With a large lake nearby, waterfalls and forest, any action activity you can think of is here. So we had to decide how to fill our two days. Decisions!

Kate and I opted for one of our favourite activities, ziplining, as well as some canyoneering, and hanging bridges, while I planned to get some mountain biking in there as well. Oh yeah.

By this time it dinner time, and with a quick stop to the hotel, it was off to a local pub for dinner and beers. Andreas, our guide, is actually part owner of a pub here, and so he kindly offered some hospitality. Of course he was getting more paying customers, but with the offer of a huge selection of craft beers, who was I to argue. And so it was off for a quiet night of casual dinner and drinks.

 

local craft beer is delicious!

local craft beer is delicious!

 

It was a pretty cruisey place, and just what we needed after a long day. My highlight was eating some Jalapeno Poppers (peppers stuffed with cheese and bacon) as well as a local Double IPA that was delicious! Oh, and Adreas even wanted me to bust out some King Gizzard over the soundsystem which I did. Ha… King Gizz, jalapenos, and craft beer in Costa Rica. You can’t make these things up.

12
May

Patrolling the Beaches

By: muttler
coolest. dude. ever.

coolest. dude. ever.

 

09/05/2017

Today was a full day of activity in Tortuguera, and like many of our days to this point, we started bright and early. We had to be ready to hit the water on a another jungle exploration at 6am, but we also had the amazing wake up call of the Howler monkeys just outside our room. At 5am they started their howling and it was impossible not to be woken up by it. But what an alarm clock it is.

 

IMG_7440

twin pirates

 

the crew

the crew

 

kenneth on the other end of the camera

kenneth on the other end of the camera

 

P1010464

 

P1010428

 

P1010488

 

P1010466

 

P1010581

 

So in to our boat it was again and back out into the different canals and rivers hunting for more wildlife. It was similar to the night before in some respects, going slowly and keeping our eyes out for the birds and reptiles throughout the jungle, however obviously there was a bit of a drop in the number of reptiles, with many, especially the caimans, off sleeping somewhere safe. My favourite was still the basilisk, often perched proudly on a tree branch my the side of the river.

 

more sloth!

more sloth!

 

It was already hot and humid at 8am as we arrived back at the lodge and for some breakfast. We then had just enough time for a shower and a little relax, before it was already time for our next activity, a jungle walk around the lodge with our guide Kenneth. After popping in our gumboots it was on to the track and first 5 seconds we encountered a sloth! He was a bit of a ways up and just wedged between a couple of branches sleeping, but we had great clear views. Two sloths already this tip, yes!

 

getting ready to scare off the wildlife

getting ready to scare off the wildlife

 

but he looks so tasty

but he looks so tasty

 

baby bats!

baby bats!

 

bugs!

bugs!

 

poseur

poseur

 

hanging about

hanging about

 

We then explored the surrounds for a couple of hours, spying more birds and reptiles. We also came across a lot of the local small red poisonous frogs. Lucky I didn’t pick one up and lick one before finding out about them, hey?

The next few hours was left to us to chill out at the lodge, with some time for lunch, beers, playing pool, and having a dip. Certainly beats working.

 

IMG_7531

 

At around 4pm it was time to head back into Tortugera for another of our included activities, this time to a turtle research centre to hear about what goes on here at Tortugera. Started over 50 years ago by a turtle researcher by the name of Archie Carr, it is a small operation that does amazing work in helping preserve turtle numbers, in particular for the green and leatherback turtles. Each night during turtle season they patrol the beaches looking for turtles that have come up to lay eggs, and ensuring that they are not attacked by predators and that their eggs have the best chance of success of hatching. In the last season they attended to over 30,000 green turtles, with Tortugera being the most important place in the world for green turtles.

The lecture gave us the run down of the turtles as well as the Turtle Conservancy’s efforts, and seemed pretty amazing. After this our group split into two. One bunch was headed back to the lodge, while the other half of us were going to take the opportunity to see if we could find some turtles! We were between seasons of the green and leatherback turtle, but we figured that even if we had only a 10% chance of seeing a nesting turtle then we would take it. So a bunch of us, including Andres headed out for some dinner while the rest ventured back to the lodge.

 

meeting miss junie

meeting miss junie

 

 

In keeping with the theme of the evening, we had dinner at a restaurant owned and run by Miss Junie, who was responsible for looking after Archie Carr when he arrived at Tortuguero. We had a good local style Caribbean dinner, and she even came out to say hello at the end of the meal, looking fit and well at about 90 years old.

 

a nice night for a walk

a nice night for a walk

 

But now it was time to turtle hunt! We met our guide and with explicit instructions that there was to be NO light shone at all (they use a red light to signal and point out things), the group hit the beach and started walking.

We weren’t sure exactly how it would play out, but it basically involved us heading in the direction we were more likely to find a turtle. We came across the location that one had nested just 2 days earlier. Sadly, the nest had been attacked, as evidenced by some egg shells scattered around. Hope some of the little fellas survived and have stayed hidden.

 

the torteguera sloth says goodnight

the torteguera sloth says goodnight

 

We continued to walk. And walk. And walk. Alas, it seemed as though our good fortune so far this trip was about to run out. After over an hour of walking up the beach, no turtles were to be found. Oh well, you win some you lose some. So we headed back toward town, the full moon our guide. The rain was staying away, so even though we didn’t find any turtles, I just stopped to think that we were exploring a Caribbean beach for turtles under a full moon. Not a bad life.

12
May

Welcome to the Jungle!

By: muttler
didn't i say jungle? well, there is a whole lot of beach too

didn’t i say jungle? well, there is a whole lot of beach too on the Caribbean side of the country

 

08/05/2017

Our first proper day in Costa Rica! And it began nice and early with a 6:30am departure from the hotel as we had a fair bit of ground to cover. We had to make our way from San Jose to the Caribbean coast and the island town of Tortuguero, which we were told would take about 7 hrs.

 

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hungry butterflies

hungry butterflies

 

pouty plants here in costa rica

pouty plants here in costa rica

 

Given our previous travels around parts of Central America, we were expecting a slightly arduous bus journey, however it was all quite luxurious (relatively anyway). A short 1.5hr bus got us to a nice breakfast (the first of seemingly many beans and rice combos) and wander in a butterfly garden. Another hour then took us to a small port where we all loaded onto a small boat and into the winding river.

 

sloth!

sloth!

 

Just as we were leaving and hitting the road, we quickly pulled over. Kenneth, our guide for the next few days had spotted something. SLOTH! We couldn’t believe that in our first few hours here, we got to see a sloth in the wild. Sure he was a bit high up, but it was super exciting. First mission accomplished in the first day! Hopefully it was the start of many more sightings.

We felt we were going deep into the forest (forest? jungle?) as we wound our way around, keeping an eye out for wildlife. For the entire journey we had been super fortunate to have quite blue skies, making for a fast and pleasant journey. Given we were entering the rainy season, and we were heading into the wettest part of Costa Rica, we felt things were on our side.

 

the home of turtles!

the home of turtles!

 

After an hour or so we arrived at the small town of Tortuguero. Tortuguero lies on a small island, nestled between the rivers and the Caribbean Sea. Only home to about 1000 people, it is a quaint town fuelled by tourism, mostly to see the turtles that come at different times of the year to lay eggs on the beach. It is also home as a result to one of the world’s leading turtle research centres. We knew we were in between seasons for the leatherback and green turtles, but fingers crossed we would get a chance to see some either at the tail end or start of their seasons.

 

the main street

the main street

 

mmm... fresh coconut water

mmm… fresh coconut water

 

this turtle is actually life size

this turtle is actually life size

 

the extent of the technology here

the extent of the technology here

 

the local disco (yep!)

the local disco (yep!)

 

With a quick stroll around town, it was onto another boat to get to our home for the next couple of nights, the remote Turtle Beach Lodge. Nestled in the forest with the rivers to its front and Caribbean to its rear, it was nice to be out of complete contact… no wi-fi, no phone, no one except the small number of visitors at the lodge. Ah, that feels good.

 

saying hello

saying hello

 

our new home

our new home…

 

a friendly welcome

… and a friendly welcome

 

crab watching

crab watching

 

We had a few hours to chill around the lodge, so Kate and I decided to wander along the beach. Sadly there were too many sting rays to swim in the Caribbean, but we wandered a little in to the super warm waters. We spent an hour wandering, watching the crabs scuttling up and down the beach, and arriving at a small lagoon. The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing by the pool and escaping the heat with a drink in hand. Life was alright.

 

friendly caiman

friendly caiman

 

A group dinner at the lodge was nice and early, before many of the group jumped aboard a boat again to cruise the canals and see what wildlife could be found. A friendly caiman (alligator) greeted us at the boat and throughout the 2hrs we spotted many sets of glowing eyes in the waters as the caimans came out to start their night of hunting for food.

 

kingfisher

kingfisher

 

they only come out at night

they only come out at night

 

It was amazing to slowly make our way through the rivers and canals in the darkness, with only the torches of our guides zipping around the trees looking for wildlife. It was a fairly quiet night, with no big animals to be found. But we did find lots of variety of birds and even tiny bats perched on a tree. My favourite were the basilisks that were at first hard to spot on their branches and then stood proudly as we took snaps.

A massive rain downpour (our first of the day!) suggested it was time to head back to the lodge as we perched under our ponchos for the journey back. A little damp from the rain and the humidity, we made it back for a small dry down before hitting the sack before another early morning coming up.

12
May

A New Stamp in the Passport

By: muttler
a taste of what's to come

a taste of what’s to come

 

07/05/2017

After a week of crazy shenanigans, it was time to leave the Disney bubble and depart the good ole US of A. Being a Sunday morning, we had a super smooth run to the airport, dumping the car and heading to the international check in. We were off to Costa Rica!

Our good run continued with another smooth flight down to San Jose. It was only a quick 3hrs, which was nice after our last travel day, and were greeted by Eric, a G Adventures rep at the airport. With a friendly Costa Rican welcome, we were whisked downtown to our hotel in San Jose.

Sadly, our run of good weather came to an end, as we were greeted with torrential downpours arriving at the hotel. While we could have ventured out into it, we decided to just check in to our room and chill for a few hours before it would be time to meet the rest of our travel crew.

So at 6pm, we had our first tour group meeting. Andreas was to be our guide for the next couple of weeks. As we expect with G Adventures, he was a sweet friendly guy, ready to help and lead us on our adventure. The tour group was a mix of mostly Brits, with a couple of Canadians, a couple of Germans, and even another Melburnian. The age was probably a bit older than expected, but maybe being a National Geographic branded tour, that meant it was aimed a little more at a specific clientele.

We had a relaxing night, having dinner in the hotel and getting to know one another a little, before calling a relatively early night, ready for an early morning of adventure.

12
May

A New Plan…

By: muttler
some random dude here in Florida

some random dude here in Florida

 

Hi all. Yeah yeah yeah. I know. I haven’t posted anything yet.

Well, I have a new plan. I am going to skip Florida for the time being, so that you can try and keep track of what we are up to right now!

So Florida can wait for a little bit and I will try and get up to date with Costa Rica now I have internet again. Yay!

08
May

Hola!

By: muttler
me and a frozen Kirin beer at Epcot (yes, beer slushie)

me and a frozen Kirin beer at Epcot (yes, beer slushie)

 

Hola everyone!

A quick one from Costa Rica! Yes, we have arrived and everything is going a-ok. So good in fact that as you know I have had no time to do any writing up of our adventures. Now we are in Costa Rica and while I have had time to start looking at some photos, no real posts sorry. And I have been informed today that no internet for a few days. Yay!

So we will see what I can do for you in a few days. In that time I should have had a chance to type up some stories, so stay tuned…

02
May

Hello from Florida!

By: muttler
a run in with local law enforcement

a run in with local law enforcement

 

Hello everyone!

Yes, we are here in Florida and yes, I have been very unlike me in not having posted anything yet. I will get there, I promise! Days have been looooong so far but hopefully I will get to it soon. Basically it has been many hours of travel, many hours of Disney, and a days worth of Kennedy Space Centre. Given I have seen space shuttles, met an astronaut, had a run in with Stormtroopers and given Chewbacca a big hug, 8 year old Matt is currently losing his mind.

More to come soon!