Tortuguero Tours and Town

Spending three days in Tortuguero was a definite highlight of our three-plus years in Costa Rica.  We flew NatureAir, a small plane which holds about twenty people, from SJO to TTQ.  The twenty minute flight took us over the mountains and through the clouds with a few bumps of turbulence now and then.  Good thing the pilot wasn’t toooo bored!  The landing was smooth and the terminal open to the elements yet vacant.  The onboard flight magazine provided a snapshot of the national park information.

As we approched the Caribbean we noticed what later were confirmed to be turtle tracks.  They were everywhere!  I was soooooo excited to finally be where I could watch the turtles on the beach coming and going and making their nests.  I didn’t think we had a chance of seeing hatchlings though they were around.  Nesting starts in July and gestation is two months putting us right at a good time for a possibility of seeing babies as well.  Alas, we only saw one amd it had died.

Tortuguero is a very small town with most of its inhabitants being from nearby Nicaragua.  There are no cars, just paths meandering through the community and paralleling the beaches.  If one drives then one must park somewhere and arrive by water taxi.  One can also take a bus and then proceed on the water.   Swimming is not encouraged due to the strong currents, though I did see a couple doing just that, and the canals are crocodile condominiums.

Tortuguero National Park is just a few minutes walk from where we stayed.  Being nationals, we only had to pay less than four dollars versus fifteen dollars.  Perhaps we will recoup our expenses to become residents….ha!  To walk through the park on a trail which parallels the beach or travel by water craft up the canals one needs to pay the daily entry fee.  Thus, we took a canoe tour with a silent electric motor, meandered along the park trail until a storm threatened, and went on the night turtle tour all on the same park entry fee.

Andrés, our host, met us at the airstrip and gave us a ride back to his place.  First, however, he took us out to the edge of the sea and then back along the canal.  He was very excited to spy both Swainson’s and keel-billed toucans and stopped to let us enjoy the sights.  We finally told him we were residents, had seen them before, and that we are volunteers at the Toucan Rescue Ranch.  We didn’t want to kill his excitement for us but thought it was something to share.  Along the way he pointed out various lodgings.


Having arrived early morning, we spent the day familiarizing ourselves with town and discussing tour options with Andrés.  Deciding to go on a morning canoe tour with him the next day we opted for a night tour which would let us get to bed earlier than the turtle expedition.  We saved that for the next night.

There is just a path which goes from the park to through the central part of town lined with shops, restaurants, and tour agencies.  There are two water taxi ports on the canal.  Along the way we meandered down to the water where a local, who bragged about keeping that spot tidy, pointed out some tiger herons and green iguanas in the overhead tree.


That first night we met downstairs at the appointed time to meet a different guide and a man we had met earlier, boarded the boat, and whizzed across the canal to another property for the jungle walk.   On my wish list for three years was not just to see turtle nestings, but to spy a blue jeans frog.  Their coloring is bright red with blue rear legs and backside.  Not only did we see one, we saw several!  Yes!  There were also rain frogs, a tarantula, banana spider, anole, dink frogs, grasshoppers, and bullfrogs.  Fortunately, no snakes!  Mammals and birds kept themselves hidden as well.

The next morning we were up early as the canal tour was due to start by 6 AM.  Andrés had coffee ready and boiled water so I could make an infusion using his herbs on the balcony we shared with him and his girlfriend.  There were packages of cookies to tied us over until later on when we could get a proper breakfast.  A friendly young Dutch couple joined us for the water adventure.

Just up a bit from the dock was a sloth lying on its back at the top of a tree, perhaps doing its version of the sun salute.  After getting our park tickets for the day we headed up the other side of an island and then down some side canals.  Along the way we viewed another sleepy sloth who woke up a bit and lifted its head, blue morphos, a caiman, two separate howler monkey babies, a tiger heron, raucous mealy parrots, a pair green macaws flying overhead, an emerald basilisk, anhingas, and a northern jacana feeding amongst the water plants.  We hoped to see a river otter but none were around that made themselves known.


That afternoon we entered the park on foot and after navigating some dicey wet areas the path became drier.  A few other people were out as well, including two women from Russia!  The younger one spoke some English.  My college friend Diana had avoided the park as she had heard snakes often lined the trails. Fortunately, we were spared those sightings which was helpful as I spent a lot of time looking up for monkeys.  We were rewarded a few times with white-faced capuchins scampering about looking for fruits including a mother carrying a baby on her back, and then with spider monkeys just as we were about to exit.  On the ground were several anoles and lizards, the ever-present leafcutter ants, and even a yellow crab not far from the beach.  A phallic fungus was even seen!  As we returned due to the impending storm we met up with the Russian women who had just seen a land turtle on the side of the path yet we didn’t see it where they said it had been.

The second night an electrical storm came through and wetness continued all morning.  We meandered down other paths while waiting for the Sea Turtle Conservancy to open at ten.  Bags of sand and concrete pavers were used for people to dry to prevent soaking their footwear as they approached their houses. People bike in the rain, some with umbrellas.  Andrés said it once rained for forty-four days straight!  Yikes!  Down one alley we came across a piñata party with lots of children who had been accompanied by adults.  Presumably it was the father of the birthday girl who manipulated the swinging candy-filled wonder while the youngsters tried to break it open to free the sugary delights captured inside.

Tortuguero is a cool, ha ha, adventure to perhaps be repeated!




Turtles in Tortuguero!!

This was one of the coolest things I have done.  We finally saw turtles nesting!  After waiting three years while retired in Costa Rica, we made it happen.  Seeing the mothers lay their fertilised eggs in sandy nests near the vegetation away from the water’s edge, was exciting and emotional.  They lumbered their way from water to shore and back again leaving significant tracks where their flippers dug into the sand to plow themselves to and fro.

We had walked the beaches during the day and seen the impressive turtle tracks, rubberised shell remnants, and even one dead hatchling.

Later we learned that the shells on the beach were due to either being dug up by a dog or another mama not knowing there were already eggs where she was busy laboring.  The babies hatch while still in the nest under the sand so the shells would be down below.

Our guided night tour, the only way one is allowed to view this marvellous event and no photography is allowed, let us see a female in her nest just as she had finished laying the eggs.  She then used those strong flippers to cover and camouflage her babies-to-be.  Sand was flung over them and some from a nearby nest even hit us just above the ankles.

While waiting away from the nest with a large group of humans, another mama slowly propelled herself towards us.  As she seemed headed right into the other group, some of the people moved aside to let her through.  Unfortunately, this spooked her a bit and she turned as though heading back to the ocean.  Thankfully, she stopped and then began to approach Bill and me!  Thrilled she was coming right towards us we were quickly disappointed as she changed her projectory and aimed a bit further away.  Other people were squatting down and were quietly warned not to move.  Amazingly, and how thrilling for those few people, she scooted right by them allowing her left rear flipper to brush against their stooping shins.

Sadly, the turtle monitors made our groups then leave as we had seen all the stages, though we didn’t actually see eggs being laid.  A reason to return!

Our host at Tortuguero Adventures and his guide both mentioned that the beach is closed from 6 PM to 6 AM; yet if we wanted to get up to see the sunrise at the beach we should arrive at 4:45.  Perhaps, with luck, we would see one of the last turtles of the night nesting when it was daylight.  The first morning I attempted to go it was storming.  Braving thunder and lightning would not have been smart.

The following morning, the day we were flying back to SJO, I did arise and quickly made my way to the beach.  I saw two monitors pass by as I hid among the shadows of the palm trees, made by the street lights.  Then I eased myself onto the beach and viewed a few other people strolling along.  Right at 5:00 people streamed from the nearby hotel and started looking for turtles.  As the sun slowly rose and illuminated the sand I was amazed at the number of turtle tracks.  It almost seemed as though heavy duty trucks and been driving up from the water and back down again all night long!

After a while I turned and tried the other direction.  Walking through dozens and dozens and dozens of tracks I stopped to videograph a flock of small birds.  As I panned their flight a kind man told me in broken English that two men standing a distance away were watching a turtle in her nest!!  Slowly but quickly I made my way over.  Mama was just finishing flinging sand to camouflage her nest full of eggs and then every so slowly, resting as she went, she hauled herself back to the ocean to be carried back out to sea.  Simply incredible.  This was definitely cool!

https:// Copy and paste this link into your browser for a video of mama turtle.

Green sea turtles are huge, though not the largest turtles that visit this area every year.  To learn more about them we visited the Sea Turtle Conservancy where we had a private tour and explanation.


With the temperature of the nest determining the gender, climate change will impact the ratio of males to females.  How sad that one in a hundred hatchlings make to the ocean, and only one in a thousand make it to adulthood.  It also amazes me they can swim as far away as India and return to the same beach of their birth.

The Sea Turtle Conservancy has worked tirelessly for decades teaching and working with the community to help them understand their economic situation will be improved due to tourism inspired by the turtles than by harvesting the creatures and their eggs to put food in their bellies.  The STC also collaborates with the government to protect the turtles from poachers; trains scientists, conservationists, and others to promote their protection; and monitors and studies the nesting turtles all night.

Jaguars are predators of the green sea turtles, not just humans.  There are seventeen of them known in the park.  Data are kept on these killings near the nesting sites.

The morning we left, while waiting for the plane to arrive, we meandered onto the beach where there were dozens and dozens more tracks and nests.  An STC volunteer came by recording the daily data.  We had ogled the turtle tracks as we flew in and were lucky enough to view them with more passion as we soared overhead on the return as well.  One mama even had made a U-turn.  When they do that, they do return to the beach soon to nest.


The green sea turtles are listed as Endangered on the U.S. Federal Endangered Species Act and the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.  As well as being hunted, the fishing and shrimping industries not using Turtle Excluder Devices and employing longline fishing or gill nets add to the decline of these animals.  Of course, coastal developments and other damage to the environment have a huge impact.  The declining population of green sea turtles could have long-term negative effects on the oceans.  These turtles feed on large quantities of sea grass, though as youths they are not vegetarians.  Where these turtles graze on the grasses, new plants with higher nutritional value grow. This, in turn, is sought out by other ocean creatures to sustain themselves.

Long live the green sea turtles!!



Cahal Pech and Botanical Gardens

The last day in San Ignacio we decided to head out to Cahal Pech and then either go to view the nearby botanic gardens or drive further to a butterfly farm.  Fortunately we had some choices as the wet caves were still closed.  The dry cave we could have toured involved a half hour hike up hill and then reviewing pottery remains.  Too hot for an uphill hike, for sure!

The workers were still doing some final raking to clear the ruins of the hurricane debris.  Just standing outside was suffocating; I couldn’t imagine wearing long pants and sturdy shoes while getting an aerobic workout.  We thanked them for their hard work in such oppressive heat and humidity.


Cahal Pech is a hilltop sight on the outskirts of San Ignacio.  It is the oldest known Mayan site in the Belize River Valley.  Settled between 1500 and 1ooo BC it is smaller than Tikal but was significant for at least two thousand years.  Most of the ruins are from 600-400 BC.  The site was abandoned in 850 AD.

The grass was newly trimmed, the golden disc in the sky was beating down, and the humidity, have I already mentioned that?, was awful.   We still managed to enjoy the small community remains.  There was a group of people discussing wedding plans, and all I could imagine was how bedraggled I would have felt on that special day.

We chose not to take a tour and just amuse ourselves with the ambience and photo opportunities.  There were seven areas to explore making it much larger than I had expected.  There were two ball courts, though we only saw one as the other seemed to be down the hill in the jungle.  We climbed to the top of the highest remains to get an overview.  The steps still made me uncomfortable descending as they are so narrow and steep.  Side-stepping two feet on each step and leaning into the stone was the only way to get down them to minimize the fear of toppling over.

Needing a break from the elements we drove back to the hotel to cool off in the AC and decide where to head next.  Since the gardens were closer we drove there which involved driving the last four miles on a dirt road.  The last bit was hilly and Bill had to engage the Limited Shift Differential in order to reach the top and go down the other side.  The gardens are part of a remote resort which seemed to be rather expensive.   As it was too hot to listen to anyone explain numerous trees and plants we bought self-guiding tour tickets which came with a booklet explaining everything.  Only the jack fruit and heliconias were in evidence though there were some cashew pods on the ground.  We endured about an hour and then had to get out of the intense elements.  The restaurant and bar on the grounds provided some relief.  The waiter was surprised we had stayed out so long as most visitors last fifteen minutes in the garden.  The iguana was in the road on the way back.

Hot and tired we cooled off in the tepid pool at our hotel and walked to a different restaurant to give it a try.  The address was a bit vague but the different scenery was appreciated and afforded a variety of photo opportunities.  The cat was attempting to walk through barbed wire and this sweet shop became an after-dinner destination.  Many people have chickens and ducks running around as well as an occasional turkey.  Often when I lived in Venezuela in the early 80’s the sticks to support construction levels were a common occurrence.  The bright yellow mansion, we later were told, belongs to the woman who owns the furniture factory down the hill.  She owns a second even larger estate nearby.

Dinner was delicious!  I never would have guessed from the building.  The Great Mayan Prince knows how to cook some food!  My two lobster tails were grilled with garlic and wine sauce and the vegetables properly steamed.  Bill loved his spicy chicken dish, as well.  Located near the top of a hill we had a great view way out into the distance though one had to imagine the crazy mess of electrical and telephone wires were invisible.  Across the street was a medical clinic with a young family waiting outside for some time.  It was entertaining to watch the two little ones fill their time and Dad calmly keeping the girl properly presentable.

No desserts were available so on the return we stopped at Sweet Ting.  The secret is to buy a slice of a cake that is freshly made as if there are only a couple of pieces left dryness could diminish the experience.  A young man came in and was clearly excited about the cheesecake to go he was about to enjoy.  Steering clear of dairy in this country I opted for a mocha almond tart.  It was good, not great.  Hot tea would have been a helpful side but the young clerk couldn’t find her teakettle!  Across the street is a barber shop.  Inside one boy was getting trimmed while two men waited.

The next morning we returned to the restaurant hoping breakfast would be as good as dinner, but it wasn’t to be so.  A couple more snaps of the street:

Then it was time to pack and head back to the airport.  Traffic was minimal though the unexpected speed bumps and pedestrian ramps that cross the road and lead to tall grass were a continual irritation.  We topped off the gas just before we arrived at the car rental return.  The young man checking the car went into the office to get the manager who came out and made a beeline for a ding in the windshield.  Bill quickly said that it was there when we picked up the car, which it was as I noticed it as we were leaving the airport.  Both men muttered something but we were free to go.  When we got home Bill found the cell phone they had included in the rental still in his fanny pack.  So far no charge for it!

Some final shots:  prison, sheep/goats, tapir crossing sign

Check-in went fine and while we waited to board I noticed this grasshopper catching a cooling breeze.


Tikal, Guatemala

Luis, the owner of Belize Nature Travel, picked us up, right at 7:30 to take us to the border.  Along the way we saw the raging river about eight feet higher than usual.  Just ten or minutes away is immigration.  Because so many tourists were choosing to leave Belize due to site closures the line was a bit long, though not as long as the day before.   We gathered the provided snacks and bottle of water and got in line.  While we waited our turn to pay the $20 US fee each, we chatted with a man from Singapore who is traveling solo through the Cental American countries.  He has seen quite a bit of the world and quit his job as a salesman to have the time to explore.  We finally paid and then had to wait a bit at the next counter  to be stamped out of Belize.

At that point we were transferred to Billy who drove us across No Man’s Land to Guatemalan immigration.  The first thing I noticed about him was his shirt had a Survivor logo.  Well, turns out he was in charge of transportation logistics for the Guatemala season and then went to Panama to do the same for the next show!  Nice guy!  He didn’t mind being peppered with questions throughout the day.

Because his immigration knew him and trusted him he was able to take our passports to be processed while we chilled in the van.  Then it was an hour and forty-five minutes to get to Tikal.  At times we went through villages where dogs wander in the road. The intriguing part was they didn’t show any interest in chasing vehicles or barking at them.  How different from those in the states!  More flooding was evidenced.  The photo on the left was just outside San Ignacio and the one on the right in Guatemala.  The water from the latter was heading to Belize so it would be some time before caves in San Ignacio would be open.

Once we reached the park we glimpsed a grey fox in the road which took off into the woods.  The only other wildlife we spied was on the signs warning drivers. Twice there were huge ones with snakes!  Yuck!  Never saw that before!

After giving our lunch order and using the bathrooms we began the walk along the road to the ruins at 10:30.  Up ahead we saw some people looking at a family of pizotes with kids tussling and having a great time.  We have the ring-tailed in Costa Rica and these seemed a bit smaller and plainer.

Thirty-three years ago I was in Tikal for a couple of days with friends and colleges Mary and Alma.  I remembered bits and pieces of the ruins but not the general layout.  I do remember going up the steep narrow pyramid steps was a bit tricky and descending was scary, for sure!  Billy explained the history and and then let us walk up the first pyramid.  As there was a spider monkey up in a nearby tree I did ascend pretty quickly this time, though coming back down I did carefully and sloooooowly!  Bill opted to wait for the tallest one.  On the stella Billy interpreted the hieroglyphics.  My favorite name was Cocobean!  He was in charge for about sixty years and did much to propetuate the community.

The main square didn’t look familiar at all, just some of the buildings.  Rain began threatening as we investigated the site on our own. One structure now has a serious of wooden steps up the back which twist and turn to allow access almost to the top.  We did go up there for the view as raindrops fell.  On the way back down a young couple pointed out some keel-billed toucans in a distant tree, which was fun although we have seen many.  Rain came down even harder as we checked out the building called the Windows and spent a few minutes in the protection of a room.  I remember doing the same thing thirty-three years ago!

We rejoined Billy, who seems to have a great comrade of fellow guides!  The main goal at this point was taking us to the highest temple, which also has a series of wooden steps to get to the top.  What an amazing view!  It was where George Lucas filmed a scene for the original Star Wars – Yavin.  Just as we got to the top step of the temple itself and took a photo or two, a lightning bolt showed itself near the temples where we had just been.  A second one told us it was time to descend!  Of course, that was all there were!

By the time we got back to ground the sun came out, but not for long.  For the next hour the rain came down.  I used my dirty Salem Sox umbrella and Bill his rain jacket to keep our packs and bodies dry.  Our water shoes came in handy as there was no way our feet were going to stay dry.  As we walked back towards the entrance howler monkeys were making a racket, probably howling with laughter we were getting wet.  It would have fun to see them but they were too far away.

Other views of Tikal:

Lunch was ready for us when we arrived at 2:00.  So glad we had the snacks along to tied us over in the morning!  The grilled chicken with a mushroom bacon sauce, rice, and cooked carrots and chayote were welcome!  Bill tried the local brew, Gallo, which was an okay beer.  Then it was back in the van to ride back to immigration.  Rain came and went but the last hour was dry and sunny.  This time immigration was speedy as there was no line.  Luis met us on the other side and took us back to the hotel as he talked politics between Belize and Guatemala.  It seems pretty messy.  Belize is independent but not all Guatemalans agree with that!

Dinner was back at the same restaurant as nothing else appealing was open.  This time we tried the lamb burgers with feta cheese and French fries.  Good, but a lot of food.  The local skinny mama cat came begging but after two bits of lamb decided she didn’t really like it.  The waitress assured us she has her own supplies under the building where she keeps her four kittens.



San Ignacio, Belize

Last week Bill asked if I would like to go to Belize or Bogota, Columbia while we have several days between volunteering atinas at the Toucan Rescue Ranch. Copa had good prices so, of course, I said “Yes!” Not having been to Belize I chose the hot tropics for a few fun days.

We would have to fly via Panama which meant heading south to go north! On the plane from SJO I sat next to a gentleman who was going to Peru for some serious mountain climbing. He is Costa Rican but fluent in English, and was in fact, reading a thick biography in English! He had spent time in Maryland as a foreign exchange student in high school and has since revisited the US numerous times.

When I researched the weather I noted that August is a good time for hurricanes. Naturally, right after we purchased tickets a hurricane was predicted for a day or two before our arrival. Yes, it hit, and although it was a category 1 there was river flooding and trees down. The car rental company hadn’t been smart enough to move the cars so many were wet inside. Fortunately, there was one car remaining which we could have for the same price though he claimed it would be an upgrade. The RAV4 is doing fine though we would have had a Honda CRV. A couple waiting to rent a car for a day had been out on an island when the storm hit and had been stranded there an extra day. Hearing that we were glad we decided not to spend our time there but go west where there would be more to do which we would enjoy. Gong to an island would have meant traveling by water taxi which was a 45 minute crossing.  That would have been tiresome to do multiple times to see sights on the mainland.

While Bill was doing car business I went to the store at the end of the strip to get a SIM card. Internet was down but we decided to get the card anyway as it was only about $11 US and 400mb of data. We really only wanted to use it for Waze so decided to be judicious in its application. As the Internet wasn’t yet working we had to try to find our way out of the airport and the right road to San Ignacio in the west. After a few missteps we were on our way. About two hours later and still no internet I got a text saying there was an error and to call customer service. They were actually able to remedy the situation after just a few minutes of waiting and listening to a repetive message about all agents being busy. Success! Data was being used quickly so I turned it off and only accessed it when we got close to San Ignacio so we could find our way to the hotel.

The drive across the country was hot hot hot which made the AC so welcome! As we approached San Ignacio I noticed off the right side that the river nearby was seriously flooded! That foreshadowed the effects of the hurricane on our brief stay in this humid tropical country. Closer to town Waze said to take a right….wrong! Further down we could see the river had flooded the road and the bridge was completely under water!  Later we were told it had split in half.  We had to continue straight which normally would not be a problem for Waze, but this time it caused confusion. I was pretty sure how to get to the San Ignacio Resort Hotel but stopped at a Shell station just to be sure. Yup, take the next left and go up the hill. As everyone else was trying to go right at the traffic circle we had to sneak through and creep around. I noticed later that there were flood evacuation route signs pointing up the hill. We were mighty glad we decided to splurge and stay at the resort as the one on the river we thought about might not have worked out too well for us!

Our room with a king bed has a balcony with a hammock and two chairs. The AC and refrigerator are great additions. Guests are given a bottle of water daily which we put in the fridge to chill. There is a pool, an iguana conservancy tour, and another tour through the woods to learn about medicinal plants. We were given a free welcome drink which was very welcome in this hot hot country! Bill had his with rum while I opted for the plain.

After settling in, dinner was calling us so we walked down the hill to town to find a restaurant. On the way we passed the fire department, which we hoped had another newer truck! On the left was a hostel in the upper floor of an old house while the first floor supports a rustic art gallery. Down on the corner is the police department which is for locals, tourists, and houses a prison van.


One restaurant we had read about with great reviews,  Ko-Ox Han-Nah which means “let’s eat out”, was just on this side of town and we came across it quite readily.  It serves organic farm meats and lots of curry dishes.  Bill chose pork and I, lamb.  The menu said the curry was mild but medium is more what my mouth analyzed.  Coconut rice was a great accompaniment along with a few steamed vegetables.  Flan, baked by a local woman, cooled my zinging palate.  By the way, my wine glass was really really full!

Day one was done, after trudging back up the hill to the hotel.  We slept well with no noises in or around the room!

Day two was one of relaxing and trying to decide what to do for the rest of our short stay.  We had tours reserved for The third and fourth days, but due to the hurricane they were cancelled.  Flooding and downed trees prevented all sites to be closed.  The agency suggested we go with them to Tikal in Guatemala as it was still open.  Despite the cost and the fact I was there over thirty years ago, we opted to go for it.

Meanwhile we wondered into town for breakfast.  Pop’s was reviewed as being the place to go, but after eating there we decided not to rate as favorably.  The staff were friendly and attentive, but the food was just ok.  My bowl of fresh fruit was the best part as the pancakes were dry and sweet.  Bill liked his eggs, sausage, etc. pretty well.

Deciding to explore the town and see what other tour agencies had to say we meandered around.  It seems below average in wealth.  The agencies all said sites were closed.  A questionable man said he was the person to go to for weed and things.  Uh huh.  The local outdoor market was open so we checked it out.  It certainly is a popular gathering area to eat!  Bill bought a hammock from a Belizean woman who wouldn’t haggle.  One produce vendor displayed a sign saying to know your farmer and to know your vendor  equals safer food yet was selling fruits and vegetables which clearly came from a distributor.  Hmmmm.

We returned to the hotel to cool off and then joined the green iguana conservancy tour.  We were taken to an enclosure with numerous iguanas where the friendly ones were given to us to hold.  I did it just to do it though I felt a bit cautious holding the sharp-clawed rough scaly guy.  A young one suffered from a bone ailment due to a history of lack of vitamin D from sun and nutrition.  The guide went off to gather elephant ear leaves for us to feed them which were very appreciated by these reptiles.  The young ones are emerald green and as they age they lighten considerably.  Females lay 25-90 eggs which are white and with the feel and hardness resembling marshmallows.  They lay them after two months and then after another three months in the nest they hatch.  The nests could be underground to protect them from predators such as snakes and hawks.

After cooling off, again, in the AC of our room and just as a storm was approaching we decided to drive to the local ruins in hopes they were open.  Not.  Trees were being cleared and there wouldn’t be access for two days at least.  Just as we got back to the room the thunder and lightning started and was pretty close!  I felt badly for the flood victims and heavy rain would not be appreciated.

Once the storm passed it was time to jump in the pool, which we had all to ourselves.  Once refreshed it was time to stop by Ajaw for a lesson on making chocolate if there was space for us.  One group was just finishing and then we were to join four others for the last tour.  They didn’t show so we had the full attention of the owners!  He showed us the inside of a cocoa pod with beans already sprouting.  The white filmy matter around them is made into a wine which we didn’t try.  We tasted the roasted bits of beans which had a bit a peanut butter taste, sort of a Reese’s peanut butter cup pleasure!  Then came the demonstration of grinding the cocoa beans on the volcanic rock platform with the stone.  The man did it for a bit to show us how it becomes a paste.  Next was our turn.  He seemed surprised I looked as though I knew what I was doing, but that’s because the rhythm is similar to kneading bread dough.  I could quickly tell how tiring this process was and how calloused one’s hands likely become.  After about a minute I smiled at the owner and stated, “OK.  I’m tired now.”  He and his wife finished it off after Bill gave it a turn.  The paste became somewhat liquid in nature.  Some was put in gourd bowls and mixed with hot water, then stirred with small wooden spoons.  I preferred to drink it without honey, though that was good as well.  Bill opted for the habanero and cinnamon spices to be added.  For me, cinnamon and allspice were great.  The tour was in a one room building so we asked them about their factory.  That is in their house as they have to have special sanitary requirements met for the inspectors.  Surprisingly, they don’t sell candies at the tour building, just the wine and liquor they get from another guy.  The bits of candy they had us taste were wonderfully dark.

Then it was time for dinner (life is uncertain so we ate dessert first) so we walked further down into town to see which appealing restaurant we would find first.  We were looking for a different place but either they were closed, expensive, or wasn’t to my liking.   Ko-Ox Han-Nah waitresses remembered us and we all laughed about choosing the same table.  Bill chose curry chicken while I opted for vegetable soup made with coconut milk.  The vegetables were fresh and barely cooked.  I had been eyeing the quesadillas and was able to order just a half.  Even at that we took half back to the room for breakfast.   The walk back up the hill to the hotel was welcome after so much food!

Next up, Tikal!






Glendalough and Volcano Eruption

This remote area with a population of less than 300 is a wonderful valley for hikers.  It is a land of two lakes and ancient monastic ruins.  In 498 a lone monk, Kevin, came to live, looking for peace and solitude, and took up inhabitance in a bronze age tomb.  A hermit for seven years he is said to have befriended the animals and lived a scanty diet.  Probably to his dismay, disciples then began descending upon his quiet life.  By the ninth century this area had grown to be one of the premier monastic communities.  Viking raiders eventually came and sacked the place four times before English forces from Dublin destroyed the place in 1398.

We left the car in the parking lot and meandered around on the southern end of Upper Lake.  The tranquility was refreshing at this early hour.

We found where Kevin had lived his idyllic life and meandered around the ruins of the monastery.  Then we trudged uphill a bit and then back down by a small waterfall and stream.

After a stop at the tiny nature centre we drove on through beautiful scenery, though a very different rugged from the Wild Atlantic Way.  After we wound our way through areas of trees, yes there are woods in Ireland!, the higher elevations are scrubby with gorse, bracken, heather, rocks, bogs, and lakes carved by glaciers long ago.   The military road took us through Sally Gap, where we spotted a few sheep, and on towards Dublin.

We stayed at a B&B not far from the airport.  Interestingly, it was run by a young man who was professional but a bit rough around the edges.  He was very welcoming with tea and snacks, gave us suggestions for restaurants, and served a large variety of options for breakfast.  The eggs were hardboiled, there were various chilled meats and cheeses, along with cereals and such.

The next morning we returned the car to the airport, which went more quickly than I expected, and took the shuttle back to the airport to begin the long journey home.

The trip went well until we were just a half hour out of San Jose. Bill noticed the flight tracker was not making progress.  Soon the pilot announced that since the Turrialba volcano had decided to spew ash we were being diverted to Managua in Nicaragua!  Delta put up the hundreds of passengers in a Best Western next to the airport.  Thankfully we had AC but the room was basic, the outside air sultry, and with getting to bed late and having to arise early for free breakfast before returning to the airport we didn’t get a lot of sleep.  We didn’t have any spare clothing or toiletries with us so slept naked and took a quick shower in the morning.

We were delayed for a few hours at the airport while Delta was trying to decide what to do.  Should we fly to SJO or wait to see what the volcano and ash were going to do?  They eventually provided sandwiches and drink and handled the situation well.  We were finally allowed to reboard the plane.  Some people had gone to an airport restaurant and hadn’t heard the announcement to get on board.  We were a bit annoyed they weren’t on board with the wisdom of staying within earshot but someone finally found them.  They walked to their seats laughing about it!  It wouldn’t have been too funny if their decision delayed us enough to have to delay departure again!!  Soon we were at SJO, our taxi was waiting for us, and home we went.  An interesting side adventure!


Continuing northward we revisited the countryside where we sought the meeting of the waters.  Known to be very scenic, it is where two rivers join to form River Avoca.  in 1808 Thomas Moore wrote a poem about this locale.

The bed and breakfast, aptly called The Meetings, where we decided to spend the night and scout out the area, is adjacent to a bar with decks overlooking the merge of waters.  We were given a modern clean room with a view of the parking lot but also accessed a common area with a deck.

For dinner we chose to drive to Rathdrum which in the late 1800’s had a thriving flannel factory and a poorhouse.  A small town of about two thousand people is a bit uninteresting yet has a fabulous restaurant, Bates Inn, which was a coaching inn back in 1785.  The food was delicious, and the waiter kindly started a fire for me on this chilly evening.

There wasn’t much to do in Avoca, though there is a weaving centre which was closed by the time we got there, so the next morning after a hearty breakfast we drove further northward.


I was curious about Wexford and the area around as when considering countries for retirement this part of Ireland was purported as having the best climate in the country, meaning less rain! Of course, International Living gave it great reviews!

The owner of the Bed and Breakfast seemed a bit scattered, the floorboards were squeaky, but she gave us a small discount as we had trouble getting hold of her to see about a room. In fact, we had left and just checked into a hotel when she called to apologise about missing our stop by her house and our call. The hotel kindly let us out of the agreement, and off we went to settle into her place.

The next day, before exploring Wexford, we took a couple of side trips.  The first was to Kilmore Quay to feast upon the thatch roof cottages, but not the local seafood.  It was a misty moist morning while the village was very quiet.  The most exciting part was coming upon a specialist who was replacing thatch on a house.  He obviously had done this quite a bit as he was comfortable and free on the ladder.  To move it a bit he would stay high on the rungs, pull the ladder towards him, and then scoot to one side or the other.  Sure beat going down and up the ladder numerous times but don’t think I would ever be comfortable  trying his method!

Continuing on our way the next area to explore was Fethard-on-Sea on the Hook Peninsula where there is an interesting lighthouse and display of Coast Life Saving.  En route is the supposedly most haunted building in Ireland but the ghosts weren’t awake yet so a tour was not available.

Hook Lighthouse is the world’s oldest working lighthouse which has a modern light flashing on its 13th-century tower.  We weren’t able to get a tour here, either, as a group of school children were filling the line, and we chose not to wait for the next one.

Wexford central is a maze of medieval streets lined with pubs and shops.  I was grateful to find an optician who sold me new cases for both my chunky Kate Spade sunglasses and my regular ones.  The elastic bands to keep the worn out ones together were getting lost and the whole process was a bit cumbersome.  The news ones are perfect and were only about five dollars each.  At one point Bill needed to pee and the public facility was rather intriguing.  I sort of thought he was going off into space.

I can’t say I was particularly impressed with the area.  The next day we drove north into the Wicklow region which was more to our liking.



Nothing compared to Inistioge

Lonely Planet suggested some other villages that were quaint but none compared to dear Inistioge.

Graiguenamanagh also has an span bridge but only six arches and without the idyllic riverside area for relaxing.  We meandered around and visited the woolen mill, only living in Costa Rica didn’t entice me to purchase anything so warm and wooly.

Further on outside Borris, a Georgian village, is another higher span bridge.  We tried to find out how to get to Clonegal, but the scenic way seemed to be for hikers.

Clonegal is a tiny hamlet which doesn’t see much activity during the week.  The day was lovely and sunny but the only person we saw was working in the small park.  I asked  him about seeing otters; yes they are around only in May they are nesting so we wouldn’t likely observe them.  It has its own haunted mansion which we were going to tour, but the volunteers didn’t seem to know a lot about the place.  We moved on to Wexford.


Inistioge, oh Inistioge!

img_5865What a quaint scenic village!  It is so picturesque movie producers have chosen it for their site of filming.  Widows’ Peak and Circle of Friends were set here back in the mid-nineties, and in 2013 Romantic Road, a German film, was shot in Inistioge.

It’s history seems to have started with a monastery in the sixth century.  The graveyard contains burials from almost four hundred years ago.  Crossing the River Nore is a 10-span bridge built in the 18th century.  This is the only one in Europe of its kind with ten equal arches.  It is a favorite area for artists, families, and tourists to relax and enjoy the scenery.  The weather was glorious for the two days we stayed there.  So very lucky we were!

We nighted at the Woodstock Arms, a local pub.  The room was small but adequate.  This was not a room with a view to brag about though it was good to see they dry the sheets outside when they can.  The owner was very friendly and helpful suggesting a wonderful walk in the woods that took us to the remains of Mount Sanford Castle which afforded us a cool village view.

Other scenes from around town:

This is definitely a locale to which we would love to return for an extended time.  I asked a resident what are the best two months to visit Ireland.  Alas, they are not contiguous!  May and September have the least rain!