Archive for ‘Travels’

My Beach

After eight hours of hard driving on Wednesday it was nice to just put in a half day behind the wheel. Even better was arriving in Gulf Shores to a mild and sunny afternoon. I needed some fresh air and to stretch my legs so I pulled into Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge and hit the Pine Beach Trail.

I had my very own beach, my footprints were the only human tracks in the pristine white sand. The two other sets of tracks belonged to a Great Blue Heron and a Sanderling, and the size contrast between the two is quite striking.

A relaxing way to wind up the day!

 

You Sexy Cello Lover!

One of the many side benefits of visiting my friend Lisa is taking advantage of Portland’s quirky, cool music scene. This time we snagged tickets to Purple Reign by the Portland Cello Project. For this production the band was joined onstage by the proficient percussionist, Tyrone Hendrix and the stellar singer, Saeeda Wright – both former members of Prince’s band.

They wasted no time getting us into the groove with a rousing rendition of “Let’s Go Crazy.” You don’t have to like Prince’s music to appreciate the lyrics, “You better live now, before the grim reaper come knocking on your door”.

Later, Saeeda Wright brought the house down with the original, “Share You”, reminding us that we all have unique gifts that we shouldn’t hesitate to share with the world.

Then most of the performers left the stage and the core, touring members of the group played music inspired by Prince.

The full band came back with a medley of “Little Red Corvette” and “Raspberry Beret” before segueing into “You Sexy MF” (which they artfully changed to You Sexy Cello Lover). “Purple Rain” wrapped up the show and “I Would Die 4 You” was the encore. As always, I remain in awe of musicians who push their skills and instruments beyond the norm.

Even though Lisa’s ability to boogie was limited we had a groovy time!

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Coastal Oregon Visit

For me, a trip to Oregon would not be complete without a jaunt out to the coast. I’ve been visiting the Pacific Northwest for over 20 years and have even been fortunate enough to live here for a time. Though it was chilly, there was still a happy amount of sunshine peeking through the clouds.

Walking the beach was more meaningful this trip since just a week prior I had dipped my toes in the same ocean, albeit some 4,000 miles south. Beach = barefoot in my book, though I’ll admit the 51°F felt a bit cold (hence, the red toes). Obviously, the water was a lot warmer down in Costa Rica!

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The Pacific Ocean never fails to mesmerize…

Cumbia, Costa Rica

I spent my last Costa Rican day in Alajuela, a small town now engulfed by the capital city of San Jose. After settling into my hotel, I set out to enjoy the warm afternoon by wandering the neighborhood. The sound of live music enticed me over to the nearby park and I was pleasantly surprised by the scene.

A large band, replete with a beautiful marimba, had gathered a large Tico crowd. I was mesmerized by the rhythmic swaying of the many dancers. Though I stuck out like a sore thumb (I was the only guera* in attendance and by far the tallest woman – well, to be honest, I was one of the tallest, period) everyone was very welcoming. I was even encouraged onto the dance floor a couple times.

With my uniquely imperfect blend of Spanish/English I learned that the band plays every Sunday afternoon in the park during the dry season. What a lovely way to wrap up my stay. Thanks, Costa Rica, for all your amazing hospitality!

*Guera: White girl or blonde girl.

 

 

Day 1: Wandering and Night Tour

For my first full day in the cloud forest I followed a meandering road up to a massive Strangler Fig (Ficus aurea)These towering, Gaudí-esque trees are crucial components of a healthy cloud forest. They not only provide food and habitat for a wealth of animals but they can support thousands of epiphyte plants and mosses on their broad branches. While much of the area here had been heavily logged and is now a secondary forest, Strangler Figs were often spared since their unique growth pattern meant their wood held little commercial value.

After a quick bite for dinner I was whisked off for a nighttime tour of the nearby Kinkajou Preserve. As we munched delicious guavas off the tree, our guide enthusiastically pointed out various creatures along the way. Though sadly, the park’s namesake was not one of them. The Costa Rican Orange-kneed Tarantula (Megaphobema mesomelas) and the Side-striped Palm Pitviper (Bothriechis lateralis) were favorites among the young people in our group while I was partial to the sleeping Hoffmann’s Two-toed Sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni).

It was a great introduction to the cloud forest and its denizens, I just wish my photography skills had been up to the challenge!

 

Santa Elena Impressions

What a difference from my recent beach stay! Santa Elena is located at about 4500′ elevation, up in the cloud forest. It is a good 20 degrees cooler up here so I finally get a chance to wear pants!

I have a private room in a cute hostel near the center of this little town. The mountainsides around here are dotted with parcels of privately owned, protected land. Many of these reserves offer guided tours (which, thankfully, include transportation to and from my hostel).

In addition to having a rustic road system through most of the countryside, Costa Rica has yet to utilize any method of addressing. This lack of organization makes locations difficult to find, especially for visitors. Some Ticos tackle this problem by posting hand-painted directional signs showing their houses. I’m not sure how functional they are but they’re fun to look at!

Maybe Not Such a Good Idea?

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In-line, Electric, Showerhead Water Heater, Santa Teresa, Costa Rice November 2019

Most Tico homes don’t have the necessary wiring or amperage to support water heater tanks (not to mention the fact that heating water requires a lot of electricity, which can be expensive). Those logistics coupled with the fact that hot water isn’t often necessary in this warm climate means that a simple, cheap option is often installed (note that I didn’t say that it was safe or even effective).

Enter the suicide shower, an in-line, electric, showerhead water heater. My first night using one was truly a shocking experience. There weren’t any instructions and since the water wasn’t warm, I reached up to adjust the knob. The little zing I received for my efforts immediately encouraged me to give up on that idea. I finished my cold shower in a hurry.

I have since learned that these devices seldom work, no matter what the setting. Now, I just try not to worry about it and hope for the best. Which is actually a pretty good way to deal with life in general, don’tcha think?

Muchos Perros

In my Costa Rica adventuring I’ve encountered a lot of dogs. While they are free ranging, they aren’t strays. Most of them sport collars or bandannas of some sort and I have yet to see any that look unhealthy. Many Ticos (the term locals call themselves) have at least one. I was told that the country recently increased the penalty for anyone caught intentionally harming or abusing animals. Sounds like a good policy to me!

The dogs roam the streets and beaches, often coming over for quick pet, game of fetch, or sometimes even accompanying me on my long beach strolls. They will also join you at the soda (local term for small diner), in hopes of scoring a few yummy morsels.

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Dog, Wishing the Soda Would Open

 

Isla Tortuga

My new friend, Karen (that I met in Montezuma) convinced me to take a boat ride out to Isla Tortuga a few days ago. The eight of us were an eclectic group of travelers from all over; Switzerland, Germany, Spain, North Carolina, and another girl also from Texas (her Longhorn logo hat was a dead giveaway). I admit to having second thoughts when I saw our small boat but I’m so very glad I went ahead with it!

Our captain, Rudy, handled the boat like he was born on it. On the way out his watchful eyes found humpback whales and a pod of bottlenose dolphins for us. No photos of those, sadly. I was being ever so very cautious with my phone since last week I watched a friend drop hers in the water during our booze cruise fundraiser. As difficult as that was for her in the states, I can only imagine how lost I would be here in another country trying to manage without mine!

Roughly an hour later we reached our island destination in the Nicoya Gulfo and over the side we splashed for a bit of snorkeling. I found a small outcropping of rocks and spent my time floating with the current among a school of colorful Grunts. Below me I watched the occasional King Angelfish, and other beauties that I could not identify, flit by.

An hour later we pulled ourselves back into the boat for the quick jaunt over to Isla Tortuga where Clemente had lunch ready for us: delicious fresh fish, rice, watermelon, and pineapple all washed down with a cold Pilsen. After a stroll along the beach I found a partially shady spot to spread out my towel and promptly dozed off – it was that relaxing!

Our return trip yielded a few sea turtle sightings, including a pair of green sea turtles that were mating. It felt a bit voyeuristic to watch them yet it was also weirdly fascinating (and truthfully, they didn’t seem to mind). Overall, it was another wonderful day in paradise. Pura vida!

 

 

Pura Vida!

Thought I’d share a few photos of my temporary little home. It has all the basic necessities of life (like a fridge, hammock, and wifi), is only a five minute walk to the beach, and there is a papaya tree outside my front door with fruit that will soon be ready to harvest. What more could a girl need? Living the simple life or as they say down here, pure vida!