Day 5 – Return to Moin only to head to La Fortuna (Arenal Volcano)

RIDING AROUND IN A BOATThough we only slept a few hours we awoke well-rested and anxious to get back to our car and, more so, to the Arenal Volcano. We both showered and packed our bags, then went down to the hotel restaurant for some breakfast. It was around 9:45 or so when we sat down at a table so we knew we’d probably be late for our boat (by this time we had started to figure out that we generally work on tico time and do everything about 30 minutes late). Para desayuno we had fresh fruit, like pineapple and watermelon, eggs, black beans and rice, huevos or blugh eggs, dry bread, coffee, and fresh guava juice. It was still early but the heat was already beating down on the little village. We could feel it being blown in byocean breezes as we scarfed down our food (well at least I did, Lauren eats like she’s savoring each morsel of a last meal on deathrow – very slowly). Eddie, our canal guide from the day before, arrived as our food did so he just chuckled a little and said “I’s ok, take your time, enjoy breakfast.” He said he’d meet us by the river where he had dropped us off the previous day then left just as quickly as he’d come in. I guess he thought it was funny that we were always eating breakfast late when he was trying to transport us. No worries, he didn’t seem to mind. I finished up before Lauren and, as we were already running late, headed to the river to meet eddie and grab a humongous bottle of water from one of the village mercado’s.

There was another passenger on the boat taxi that day, a woman from South Africa I think, but a snob nonetheless. Lil' tico hijosShe chastised me for running late and demanded that we leave even though I told her there was another person coming. She also belittled me about my luggage, asking in a demeaning tone after eyeing my pack up and down “And how long are YOU here for?” I told her three weeks instead of two so she’d tone down her super traveler status and back off or else it was going to be a long canal ride. Lauren arrived and it was time to hit the water so we loaded our packs onto the boat (a covered one for this trip so as not to burn the pale white folk too much), settled into our seats and left the shore, headed back towards Moin. The boat ride was enjoyable, however somewhat uneventful with a crocodile sighting here and a photo opp of some local kids in a fishing boat there.

The South African kept her mouth shut for the most part and I was admittedly grateful for that. We traveled the canal, taking familiar curves at excitingly high speeds, the warm air rushed past our faces until the boat started to slow at the dock of the Hotel Mar Azul. Eddie steered the boat alongside the wooden dock and lifted our bags up onto it with the help of a local friend. Lauren and I climbed off quickly, hoisted our overpacked luggage onto our backs, then tipped Eddie graciously and took two business cards from him that he said Francesca wanted us to have.

The plan was to load everything into the rental car and make our way to La Fortuna but that was abruptly put asunder when I was unable to locate the keys to the car. I started fervently unpacking, becoming more anxious with every empty compartment of my pack that didn’t render the keys all the while thinking how expensive it would be to replace them (nearly $400). Lauren helped me search and began unpacking her bag as well while two Ticas approached us telling us in Spanish that the sol was much too hot for us and advising us to move into the shade of the roof covering the reception office to search for the llaves. As fate would have it, however, I found the keys hidden away in an unused pocket of my pack. Both Lauren and I were washed with a wave of relief and all four of us, the two women included, let out a garbled but triumphant cry of “Ayeeee!”

Moo cow milk farmThe plan to travel to La Fortuna was thereby back in effect and after a short study of the guide book and map in the hotel restaurant we placed our packs and ourselves into the car and left. The trip took somewhere around 3 1/2 to 4 hours and was indicative of the diversity that characterizes Costa Rica. After spending four days on the Carribean coast it was a bit of a surprise to find that there ARE many paved roads and highways throughout the country, but mostly in the central and northern plains, and establishments such as Burger King and Church’s Chicken (the latter being where we ate lunch during this trip) in existence here, not just curb side soda’s. An added note: Costa Rican’s don’t load their poultry up with hormones and super-fattening foods so don’t expect to get mounds of chicken in any of your poultry dishes if you visit (I personally appreciate the lack of chemical enhancement when it comes to the foods that I ingest).

Upon arriving in La Fortuna at around 6 pm Lauren and I took notice of the obvious influence of tourism upon the town sitting right underneath the loom of the Arenal Volcano, the streets were paved, there were various supermarkets and gas stations in town, and even the population of stray dogs roaming the streets was significantly less. We couldn’t help but feel that some of the Costa Rican culture and lure was lost here. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be the last time we felt that way. Our determination to explore the area and our lust for adventure was undeterred, however, and our first expedition was that of finding a suitable place to stay for the night. We consulted the guide book, by this point a much appreciated investment, and decided on the Hotel La Pradera. For $50 a night we enjoyed air conditioning, clean beds and bedding, a spacious room and bathroom, wi-fi, and filling breakfasts for each of the two days that we stayed there. After checking in we showered, changed clothes, and went out in search of dinner. We stopped at the first decent place we found that was open for business at 10 pm (it took us a while to check-in, unpack, shower, etc. if you’re wondering how we wasted four hours).

We ate at an open-air seafood restaurant where the food was good (I had a perfectly sized portion of chicken fajitas and Lauren had a rich plate of Fettucini Carbonara) but overpriced, the service was very attentive, and the drinks were fairly cheap. The staff at both the hotel and restaurant spoke very clear English which was helpful to Lauren and I but also somewhat of a hindrance given that we weren’t forced to practice speaking spanish (perhaps that comes with the heavy tourist influence as well). Sleep came swiftly after dinner (no we didn’t pass out behind the wheel) as we had an early morning of work to attend to.

Day 4.5 – Lookin for Turtugas and partying at the disco in Tortuguero

After a few hours of resting and relaxing (i.e. drinking on the black sand beach) it was dinner time. In order to save some moolah Lauren and I opted to rustle up a fresh dish of M.R.E. style spaghetti and sauce. I set up the stove err fuel can and tiny portable burner on the porch outside of the room. Lauren brought her ipod outside and put on Rogdrigo y Gabriela as loud as was tolerable and in the outskirts of Costa Rica that means as loud as mechanically possible. No matter, the downstairs tico neighbors were grilling out and greatly appreciated the acoustic tunes.  While we ate, we greeted a couple passing by on the porch with a warm “hola!” They made a nervous gesture which might have meant hello and kept walking.

We piled on servings of spaghetti to each of our mess kit plates and then ate contentedly with chopsticks, screw forks. The couple who had passed by earlier returned and we again greeted them, but this time with a “hey, what’s up?” The two, named Ronnie and Ashley, took much better to this and we struck up a conversation. It turns out they were from Colorado and commencing a two week journey through Costa Rica. We offered up our high opinions of both the Carribean coast and Cuba Libre and then discussed the prospect of hunting for sea turtles, with Lauren and I planning on taking a guided tour at 9:40 pm (that’s 11:40 pm for you South Carolinians back at home) and Ronnie and Ashley toying with the idea of a solo mission for tortugas on the playa. We got along well and were thankful to have found some friends in the remote region of CR. Ashley announced that the two of them were going for a night swim and asked if we’d like to join so Lauren and I said we’d tag along. We only had about 20 or so minutes before we were supposed to meet up with our guide, Alfonso, but we figured we’d just ditch the tour (since we hadn’t paid for it yet) and go to the beach on our own instead.

Yeah, skipping out on a tour in Torteguero isn’t as easy as you’d think. As we were changing into our bathing suits in our room we heard a knock on the door. Lauren answered it readily expecting Ronnie and Ashley to be on the other side and was stunned to find the guide in their place. “Time to go. Are you ready?” he said in a deep thick carribean accent. Lauren kind of stammered and tried to close the door in his face, then looked to me for reassurance and to make the final decision on whether we were to  ditch the tour or commit to it. We both came to the conclusion that since Alfonso was already there to scoop us up, and since he explained that he’d had to pay for a permit to go on the beach late at night, we’d go. However, I did work out a deal with him that if we could convince our two new pals to come along last minute then they’d only have to pay a discounted fee of $20 or so. They caved and came with the group which was fortunate for Lauren and I because they brought a flask of rum with them too.

We met up with our group on the stairs leading to our room. There were four dudes and four chicks, two of each were cool (that being Ronnie and I, Ashley and Lauren) the other people were too serious and generally sucked (but one of the girls busted her ass on a  shadowy and treacherous log of driftwood so it was all good). The search started up as we all tumbled out onto the beach and circled up around big papa alfonso for instructions, like no smoking, drinking, loud noises, cameras, flashlights, the normal stuff when hanging out with bitchy breeding sea turtles. We started walking down the left side of the pitch black shore and continued on for about 15 or so minutes then caught our first, and only, glimpse of a mama tortuga trying to make her way out of the breakers. She must have known a bunch of tourists were out to snap a pic of her because she flapped up her flippy-flaps, said “F that noise!” in her mind and bounced out back into the sea.

Given we hadn’t been walking all that long we trudged on for about 2 miles, stopping every once in a while for Alfonso to either talk to other guides leading groups around or scan the beach with his little red light (which is the only type of light allowed on beaches where turtles nest). Lauren and I took shots from Ronnie and Ashley’s flask during some of these stops until we emptied that ish : ( but even though the rum was gone the tour kept on. Eventually we came to a stopping point and Alfonso reluctantly gave up the ghost whilst some of the group members began to bitch and moan about how long it was taking. I tried to use my camera and was reprimanded for emitting entirely too much light. It started to rain so Lauren and I took our shirts off (remember, we had on bathing suits pervs) and began shoving important crap like cameras and wallets into a dry bag I had. I offered it to other group members and Ronnie threw his camera in, too.

Alfonso had asked at the beginning of the walk that all the miembres de grupo walk in line but, seeing as how Lauren and I can’t do much we’re told, the two of us walked happily zig zagging in and out of the ocean as the raindrops splashed on our bare skin, very freaking tropical yo. As we neared our hotel Ronnie and Ashley made a break for it but Alfonso was too quick for them and chased after them for his well-deserved payment (he searched longer than any of the other guides seemed to). Lauren and I, along with the rest of the group, kept on looking for about another quarter mile on the right side of the beach but no turtles, those elusive bastards.

YouTube Disco in Tortuguero

Our spirits were down because of our failed search so we thought that we’d lift them with some drinks at a local disco we found chilling on the river. We went back to the hotel to change into our evening wear (clean shorts and shirts with some sandals yeauhhh) and scooped up our American amigos then headed “downtown” via muddy pathways or streets if you like. The disco was bumping with loud latin music and inebriated gyrating ticos and ticas. Lauren commanded her way up to the bar and ordered a couple of beers for me and her to sip on and after our buddies got some beverages all four of us made our way to a table facing the river and sat down to enjoy the atmosphere. At the proposition of dancing I chugged my beer and headed to the bar for another. I got distracted from the bailar con Laura by a local guy and some of his visiting friends from Spain.

The local guy had a lot to offer about the area and the best places to go.  He told me how much he loved his new work since he emigrated from Nicaragua to Tortuguero and how rewarding being a guide was.  His friend, the Spaniard had been traveling for months and was preparing to finish his trip in San Jose.  He gave me some tips on my spanish and I tips on his english.  I even threw in a little duetsch for part of the convo,  just for s & g. We traded travel stories while the salsa music and sea of voices crashed in the background.  While I was meeting new and awesome people Lauren and Ashley were getting hit on by some sloppy drunk tico… no bueno. They got a free drink out of it, though, then it was time to head back.

Can you see lauren's head?I stopped at a Soda and picked up some Pollo Rey for drunk munchies. Basically it was two pieces of the most tasty fried chicken I’ve had in my life tossed in a bag with spicy onions and two tortillas (for the equivalent of $1).  Lauren and I shared a bag, as did Ashley and Ronnie, while lounging in hammocks slung under palm trees on the lawn of the hotel facing the beach. We also passed around a llager bottle filled with rum that Ronnie had gotten to-go from the disco (try that in the states). At about 4 am Lauren and I, in good faith, struck out once more for the beach and the turtles to be seen there. The weather was stormy so the sea churned and was pocked with white caps as we bumbled along next to it. At one point Lauren couldn’t restrain herself any longer and lunged into the ocean fully clothed to enjoy the milky warm water. She reemerged and we continued our trek.

YouTube Tropical Wetness

The “tropical wetness” started up again and we got caught in a downpour with only palm trees to huddle under for shelter. Two videos and no turtles later we turned back and headed to bed. We did see a couple empty nests though, and Lauren spotted one that was still covered up with sand. Sleep came at around 7 am with the boat taxi on the canal back to Moin coming only three hours later.


I’ve spent hours on this blog and we’ve only gotten two comments since we’ve been gone.  Post your questions, comments, concerns, etc.  It’s hard to write for such a quiet audience.  The blog had over 100 unique visitors come to it yesterday and NOBODY posted!  Let me know what to write about!


Also, if you read everyday go back and check out the new youtube videos I posted.

Day 4 – Moin to Tortuguero by boat

034 - mar azule  breakfast [Desktop Resolution]We woke up around 7:30am, got dressed, packed our stuff, then went to breakfast. I was a bit nervous about the food given the previous night’s experience in the bathroom but it was cooked and ready before I could ask for anything else (and it turned out just fine).

We had cafe and platos con huevos, pan, y jamon (well bacon, but i’m trying damn). During desayuno (breakfast) our guide showed up named Eddie. He was also from Nicaragua but spoke almost perfect english and had an amicable attitude. We boarded the Francesca, an open-air boat we chartered, after slathering on bug spray and the advised sunscreen then headed the four hours towards Tortugeuro. Along the way Eddie stopped to point out howler monkeys, spider monkeys, two-toed sloths, and crocodiles.

Pretty badass if you ask me, and you are because you’re reading this duh! We stopped along the way for a relatively 065 - ol jesus lizard [Desktop Resolution]uneventful 15 minute break at a little store and restaurant. Not much happened there but trash talking and the eating of sunflower seeds. We continued on our canal trip and finally made it to Tortugeuro where Eddie led us to our cabina, La Princesa del Mar. We got a room for the night and had lunch in the restaurant attached to the hotel which consisted of chicken sandwiches and Imperial beers. Eddie left us after making arrangements to return to Puerto Moin the next day at 10 am and after we paid him fully for our round-trip excursion.

Eddie did hook us up with a turtle tracker/guide named Alonzo who I jewed down for a guided tour to see some female turtles laying eggs on the beach here tonight (should be 30 to 40,000 turtles before you scoff at me). Lauren and I then proceeded to laze around the grounds of the hotel. I slept off an overdose of antihistamines in my hammock while Lauren, propped up against a log drinking Imperial, read a book for class. I 058 [Desktop Resolution]woke up, she bummed a cigarette from some spaniards, we drank a beer and watched the waves break and now here we are, in our cabina drinking cuba libre and waiting to see some mo fuggin tortugas!!!!

Lauren is putting our ipod music out the window and sharing oreos with me while we hunker down in our cabina with the fan on oscilate.

YouTube Cranky ol’ crocodile

YouTube 4 hour Boat ride to Tortuguero

YouTube One of the howler monkeys

Day 3 – Puerto Viejo to Puerto Moin

We had a nice night of rest then woke up around 10 or 11 am so as to make the 12 pm check-out time for the hotel (yeah, turns out we needed 30 extra minutes. whatev). we packed our crap and bounced out of the lotus garden only to sit in the car for five minutes with the ac on then walk across the street to an Indian restaurant (bugh, but good food) and have lunch while we perused the guidebook to decide what our next moves were going to be. I had shawarma (a sandwich consisting of pita bread, roast chicken, ensalada, and some kind of tzatziki sauce). lauren had freaky falafel (same pita bread and tzatiziki ensalada but who knows what the hell the fried green falafel is). both were damn good though and we washed it all down with water, alpina to be exact, which is owned by The Coca Cola company which runs the world apparently.

Lunch ended and we hopped in the whip and cruised out of puerto viejo on our way to puerto limon, which is about an hour or so north of puerto viejo. Lauren stopped to get some replacement colones at a bank in town then went to a supermercado and bought local coconut cookies which were a bit tough but enjoyable enough. The trip to limon was decent albeit somewhat routine.  Lauren took some videos as we drove. We stopped at a gas station to fill up the tank about halfway along, figuring it might be the only one for a good distance (it was). I went inside to use el bano and lauren stayed with the car. unbeknownst to either of us, we were both getting laughed at by costa ricans simultaneously. I for asking where the bathroom was in my best spanish and lauren for not being able to drive a manual car and move the piece out of the way of the pump.

ol rental carAfter that we continued on to limon/moin which has horribly narrow/ windy roads, lots of wild perros, and even more unsavory locals (JK! not really . . .there’s piles of basura and I’m sure doodoo in the street). Lauren spoke on the phone to francesca, the wife of this dude named modesto who runs a tour guide business for tortuguero (our intended destination) out of moin. They chatted and decided for us to stay the night at a hotel called Mar Azul in Puerto Moin. During one of the phone calls, the service was lost and the call cut short. We figured, oh well we’ll talk to her as soon as we get to moin. somehow we found moin and the hotel but kept driving past it into the wilderness on the dirt road that led into moin. We thought maybe we could drive ourselves all the way to tortuguero and avoid the canal tour. We drove about 25 miles past puerto moin, over coconuts, mud pits, and open beaches ( I said it, we drove ONTO the beach).

Me after murderin some coconutsAt one of the beaches we stopped for a little rest and exploration. I tried to knock down a coconut from a palm tree with a smaller coconut I found on the ground (as i had done the previous night in puerto viejo but with rocks). That endeavor being flighty, lauren and I worked together to concoct a way to wrangle one of the elusive coconuts from a palm tree. We found a washed up piece of driftwood, a forgotten bit of plastic tie, another fallen branch, and a machete and collaborated our materials and brains until we finally pulled down a whomping mo fo of a coconut, or so we thought. I went to work on that thing with my machete on the beach. Lauren took some pictures as I mangled the nut. I was able to hack it open and lauren and I sat staring at the open ocean and sipping on fresh coconut milk then we ate the innards of the coconut. The water and rind were both delicious and even more so because we murdered that shiz together on the beach.

Lauren learned how to drive a manual four wheel drive suv offroad next and, surprise, she DIDN’T stall the first time. Impressive I must say. It started raining so I took over the wheel of the Suzuki monster. We busted through the costa rican jungle at about 100 or so kilometers an hour in the down pour back to hotel Mar Azul. As soon as we got there we parked and dragged ourselves up to the bar in search of a room for the night. The matron of the hotel didn’t speak english but a really cool bar patron from nicaragua named Fausto did and he helped us make our reservation. I bought him a beer to thank him, then lauren and I sat down for dinner.

bar and restaurant at mar azule in moinAs reggae music wafted through the open-air bar, Fausto intermittently bought Lauren and I beers (Imperial and Pilsner) as well as gallo pinto (beans and rice). We both ordered arroz con pollo for dinner, which consisted of a plate of fried chicken and rice, ensalada, and papas fritas. Pretty good food. As we finished the meal with a cacique and coca cola Fausto literally gave the shirt off his back to another quite drunk and quite cold local. We bid farewell, thanked everyone for their kidness, then retired to our room. It had a fully functioning bathroom so we both showered then bedded down for the night

. . . except the bed was dirty as hell and caused both of our allergies to flare uncontrollably. lauren’s pillow smelled of feces so we both put down camping gear (sleeping bags, pads, sacks, etc.) and slept peacefully on that.

YouTube yum!

YouTube painted trees. These are just for decoration

YouTube Crappy houses outside limon

YouTube Driving beachside from puerto viejo to puerto moin

YouTube Driving on the beach near moin. This is the only way to get to the next town other than by boat or plane.

YouTube On the phone while driving on the beach. Driving on the beach was legal but being on the phone was not.

YouTube Stopped for a snack yo!

Day 2 – A day in Puerto Viejo – Caribbean Costa Rica at its best

The next day I actually got some internet and tried to resolve my illstreet issues for an hour and then got lunch at a Caribbean food restaurant.  We went to the internet café in town after lunch to finish up illstreet stuff and the internet was AWFUL.  I spent about 3 hours there!

salsa bravoFor the rest of the day we just walked around hiking in the jungle and on the beach. Puerto Viejo is actually the home of the an awesome surf break called Salsa Bravo (Wild Sause).  We went for a sunset swim in playa cochles, a few km hike away to get all the jungle dirt off of us and then stayed damp the rest of the night because the humidity is so high.

On the walk back, we went to a cabina place with a restaurant and tried a local liquor made from sugar cane.  It’s called cacique and it is a guaro liquor. We walked the rest of the way back to change clothes and went to dinner down the street at Loco natural.  There was two belgian girls playing music and supposedly one of them was famous in Belgum. I got a ginger/pineapple something or other drink and fish in a thai peanut cinnamon sauce to eat.  Lauren had a guaro sour to drink and chicken in a tandoorin curry sauce.  Both were awesome.

johnnys bar and clubAfter dinner we walked through the darkened streets of puerto viejo, past a pretty alright place called johnny’s, then past some dude “slinging.”  We couldn’t find anything that looked better than johnny’s so we went back there. We drank imperial ON the beach . . . literally.  The patio table and chairs were on the sand, so close to the water that the waves were crashing at our feet.  Lauren’s chair sunk in the sand and she fell over which made a little Tico kid laugh at her and then he tried to convince us to photograph his bait he was fishing with.  There was a huge bonfire that was continuously fed by our awesome rasta waiter who clanked beer bottles to the beat of the music playing as he brought them to the patrons. We both had to pee so we ventured into the interior of the bar/dance floor; peed in a trippy bathroom then danced for a song or two. After that we needed a breather so we stepped back outside and sat at a table next to a tree laden with lit candles for ambient lighting – cool.

voodoooooWe made friends with a dude visiting from Mexico and then some other girl and a nicaraguan guy named Miguel.  Miguel tried (being the key word) to chill and converse with the two of us. However, we couldn’t quite bridge the language barrier.  We also did some tarot readings and lauren found out she’s the devil, go figure. We eventually walked back to our room and as lauren was blacked out again she lost the rest of the colones that she had on her. Hope whatever tico or tica found them used them at least.

YouTube some gibberish about costa-ree-ree-ca after playing a trick on lauren

Day 1 – Arriving in San Jose, Costa Rica and driving to Puerto Viejo

YouTube Landing in CR!!!

So we got to Costa Rica on June, 17th 2009.  We flew into San Jose, scooped our packs and rolled out through customs with ease.  We found the shuttle to Alamo and picked up our car.  I rented a local cell phone from Alamo for about the same price as the place that screwed me and I don’t have to worry about their sketchy delivery process.  We decided we’d head straight for Puerto Viejo.  It was about 3 hours or so from San Jose.  Puerto Viejo was pretty much the only place we knew much about.  The guy I bought my boat from told us about a place called the lotus garden.  They had food and a room, so we called to reserve a spot.  We have since learned not to reserve rooms if you want the best rate.I got sleepy along the way so we got some energy drinks called max malta from a gas station.

all you can eat sushiWe arrived in Puerto Viejo around 9:30 local time and chilled and got some dinner. I had some pretty bangin all you can eat sushi and Lauren had tilapia with lemon and honey.  After dinner we got a room called Hiro and dropped off our stuff so we could check out a couple local bars and sample the local beers, imperial and pilsen.  I prefer Pilsen and Lauren prefers Imperial.  Then we each got a Long Island Iced Tea and stumbled back to the hotel.