Settled back in Mazatlan

After over two full days of travel, from Costa Rica to Mazatlan, Mx, we are once again settling back in. There are a couple of airport stories to share when we see you, both include 5 hour lay-overs in two airports. Always fun times traveling!

In the past week and a half we’ve begun developing some familiarity with our new neighborhood and home. We’re living in the Centro District, the old town where pretty much what we need is within walking distance. There have been a few times when we’ve taken the bus and a pulmonia but mostly we can walk.

Our new home is in a re-furnished old colonial. The ‘facility’ consists of four, two bedroom condos, a courtyard with a pool and a laundry room for residents. Other than last weekend when the Motorcycle Rally was happening and one unit was rented, we’ve been the only occupants.

Now, we have noticed that we can’t get too comfortable with what we see as complete privacy. The pool guy and grandkids of the owners have surprised us on a couple occasions. Luckily those weren’t times when we were skinny-dipping. Now we know to keep an eye out for others!

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The central market, Pino Suarez, is about five blocks from us. The Olas Altas beach is four blocks. Plazuelo Machado, where the Angela Peralta Theatre sits and things happen in the evenings, just a short two blocks away. Athina Spa and Salon are three blocks. Most important we’re in close walking distance to our favorite restaurants.

Four blocks from us, Mom, is the blue Chritian church that you’ve been talking about for years. Finally, it’s been found. They hold English services at 9 AM Nov-April. At 11 AM there are Spanish services. During the off season the Spanish service has translation available. So Mom, you weren’t imagining, the church was simply in the opposite direction from what we usually walked. Oh yes, the 9 AM service was filled with old gringos!

Iglesias Christiana

Iglesias Christiana

View down the street to the ocean

View down the street to the ocean

Motorcycle monument on the malecon

Motorcycle monument on the malecon

Street Musicians

Street Musicians, he’s playing a donkey jaw!

Neighborhood cake shop, oh so good!

Neighborhood cake shop, oh so good!

San Jose, Oldest church in Mazatlan, up the street

San Jose, Oldest church in Mazatlan, up the street

San Jose Church

San Jose Church

Statue on the malecon

Statue on the malecon.

We’re back in Spanish class two days a week. This creates ‘homework’ at least two plus more days. Yesterday was cool and cloudy (yup, it’s the truth) so we visited the Mazatlan Aquarium. The seal show was typical but really fun watching the kids and families. It sometimes seems wherever we go are old gringos. Hmmm, not sure that’s the kind of place I want to be. I enjoy a bit more diversity.

It’s Saturday night and before long there will be live music in the square so I must cease and desist. More on life in Mexico, later. Love to all.

Pura Vida Costa Rica cont…

With shorelines on the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean, one thing Costa Rica has is plenty of beaches. Beaches come in varying sizes, with very different types of sand and shorelines. Most beaches are found at the end of a long and bumpy gravel road. Getting places in this country takes time. Luckily the country is small. We visited several beaches on the Nicoya Peninsula including Playa Blanca which we took a boat trip to reach. Nice shade under the trees for a nap, snorkeling, kayaking and even a small cave to explore.

On our first trip to Playa Hermosa we happened onto a Triathlon in process. It was interesting, they first did the bike ride, then swim then run. As the contestants came out of the water they ran up the hill barefoot, on dirt and pavement. We never did see the staging area where they put on shoes. Later, during the run we noticed contestants were wearing shoes.

Playa Ocotal was a favorite spot, not so much that it was a great beach but we loved to hang out at Father Roosters. I was always on the lookout for the bird that christened me on our first visit.

Then there was Tamarindo with it’s surf schools and surfer crowd. That did include some good brews! We took a long, dirty road that included fording a big ole ‘pond’ to Playa Avellanas. Hard to believe what seemed like the middle of nowhere was this great beach and restaurant called Lola’s. Truly a spot to visit. The beach was long and wide with a little something for everyone.

Samara was another cute beach side town where everyone came out onto the beach for sunset. Just down the road is Playa Carrillo, one of my favorite beaches. It was private with big Palm trees for shade, nice, fine white sand and clear blue water. No services so you must pack your food and drinks.

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Wanting a break from the heat of the coast we headed to Arenal Volcano and rainforest. As we got closer to the mountains the clouds became thicker, eventually blocking out most of the sun. By the next day, it was raining, not cold, but much cooler than expected. We spent the next day hiking on suspension bridges through the rain in the rain forest. By the third day it was clear we weren’t going to see the volcano through the clouds and rain, or much of anything, our clothes were still wet and we headed back to the coast to dry out.

A trip to Nicaragua proved interesting. Even on a large air conditioned bus, the highways in Costa Rica are still quite bumpy. I’m sure our tour covered some of the highlights of this area of Nicaragua, yet, the differences were notable. Horses pulling carts are a common site. You see crafts still in practice, basket making, wooden furniture, etc.

We did stand on the precipice of an active volcano emitting steam and nasty vapors, Volcan Masaya. And had a lovely photo op at the Mirador de Catarina, an extinct volcano now filled with a lake. A short stop in the historic colonial city of Granada only piqued our interest in spending more time in Nicaragua at a later date. Once over the border in Nicaragua the road was great. We were told (by other expats here) we can thank the US military for the road as it was built when the U.S. was supplying guns to the Contras. Evidently we pretty much covered what good road there is.

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Doug and I made another trip to the mountains. This time we visited the Monteverde Cloud Forest. The sun shined and the wind howled as we played Tarzan through the canopy on zip lines. Doug was a trooper! We saw butterflies, insects, reptiles and seven varieties of hummingbirds. It was a great trip once we got there having driven the last 40 km on rutted, gravel roads through pastoral hillsides.

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Overall, this has been a great trip. Costa Rica does have a lot to offer, for those willing and able to pay for it. You need a car here, or, the ability to take lots of tours around the country. The country is small, however, roads are bad! So, it takes a long time to drive places.

We didn’t see any major timeshare or super hotel development. There are big hotels like the Westin, Four Seasons, and Riu to name a few. However, these hotels are off the beaten path and not visible. The towns are small and the country is very rural. We saw Burger King (and I hate to admit, stopped there), in a couple towns along the major Pan-Am highway. Most of what you see and purchase stays local.

You can drink the water but don’t flush the paper. Although all the literature stresses Costa Rica’s emphasis on keeping things natural and preserving the environment, I couldn’t really see or feel that emphasis just by being here. Sure, you can find garbage cans but there’s still a lot of trash and not much emphasis on recycling.

There’s not much to say about the food. Beans and rice, mostly rice, called gallos, is the dietary mainstay. Ticos may have this for all of their meals. If this is what you want to eat, comida tipico, you can eat cheap, otherwise, expect to pay close to US rates. Prompt service is not a priority.

We saw a lot of beautiful country and interesting wildlife. It’s pretty cool to hear and see monkeys regularly and the variety of wildlife. We even saw a sloth in the Arenal area one night, walking a telephone wire, yup, hanging from it’s toes.

It’s been a great trip and we’re glad we came. I would recommend a visit, bring lots of time and money. Pura Vida.

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Pura Vida

or, the pure life, is the motto and mantra here in Costa Rica. We’ve been here for just over a month and had some great adventures. The trip was amazingly enriched by sharing it with our dear friends, Randy and Janneen.

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Arriving in Costa Rica we were at the back of the plane and entered the immigration terminal to a packed house. Truly, Disney style lines filled the huge room. No problem, we had two hours until our regional flight left for the coast. Pura Vida, relax, breathe deeply, enjoy.

Wrong!

Two hours later we get our turn to face the agent and show our papers. The agent asked how long we were staying in Costa Rica. We replied 38 days. The agent demanded to see our return ticket. Luckily Doug had gone to the Aeromexico office the previous day to purchase our return tickets. Then he promptly packed them in his checked luggage. Who would have known? The agent was not going to budge on this issue.  We could show proof of departure OR not enter Costa Rica. Welcome to Costa Rica!

Thankfully we remembered we’d received a confirmation email from Aeromexico that we accessed on Doug’s iPhone. This satisfied the agent. Off we ran, grabbed our bags, went through customs, exited the main terminal, pushing through the crowd of taxi drivers and continued our run, with our 5 bags, three blocks to the little regional terminal. Whew!!

We had to weigh our bags and ourselves, especially since we were the last to check in. Weight is especially important on these aircraft. Another flight on a single engine, 10 passenger, prop job. What fun. This seems to becoming a habit. Dad must be loving it!

Tamarindo airport

Tamarindo airport

On the 50 minute flight, we had one landing in Tamarindo. This was like a landing strip in a golden field of wheat, mindful of pictures I’ve seen of the African savannah. The picture was complete with a small herd of Brahman cows just past the landing strip. We dropped off the six youngest passengers and the four of us retirees continued on to Liberia.

We’re in Playas del Coco on the Guanacaste Peninsula which is a dry, tropical forest area. Not the lush, green that we had expected. This is the dry season. As we got closer to the little beach town there were more palm trees and tropical green. Playas del Coco is home to quite a large enclave of Snowbirds from Canada and the US who spend 3-6 months here. There are also visitors from all over the world. Lots of full ownership condos. I heard just yesterday there are timeshares somewhere but it’s not obvious. There are some larger resorts but mostly it looks very small town.

Cocos has a soccer field which seems to be a requirement of all Costa Rican towns. There is a malecon along the beach, partly paved and partly dirt. The towns here don’t really have a square with a church or special market like in Mexico and other Latin countries. There are two large gringo owned bars that seem to be quite popular. The ubiquitous souvenir shops are available as well as two banks and three grocery stores, restaurants and other local shops. One grocery has no air conditioning and is where many of the local Ticos shop, another with AC and the third quite a bit more upscale and up-priced where you can find most things you might want from the US or Canada. Of course there are the proverbial tour peddlers. The Ticos do approach you for souvenirs and tours but it’s not really a hard push. Most of the streets are dirt. The streets of Coco.

Each morning we sit on our deck drinking coffee and listening to the birds and howler monkeys. This is the day the Lord has made. After a sufficient amount of coffee, Janneen and I walk the beach to the tune of around 9,000+ steps. Of course we’ve spent time doing the typical tourist activities. Visiting beaches. Hiking in the rain forest. Walking the jungle canopy via suspension bridges. Looking at bird life (difficult to capture with my iPhone camera). Watching for monkeys and other wildlife. Taking the day tour to Nicaragua. Taking a boat trip to a secluded beach. Visiting volcanos. Getting messy in the mud baths. Enjoying Pura vida.

To be continued…