Tuesday, January 31, 2012

We Interrupt Costa Rica For A Little Sonoma

You must have noted that I have a thing about Sonoma lately. Guilty, I admit it's one of my fave spots for a drive. So when Travelzoo (y'all know what it is, right? If not google it *wink*) offered a wine tasting deal in one of the wine bars in Sonoma at a not-to-be-missed price, we were not going to let that pass us by.

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The rolling hills make me feel like I'm on vacation and not just 20 minutes away from home.

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Spotted the wine bar quickly.

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I like to have something like this in my house :)

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The sommelier was very knowledgeable.

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I was happy with just tasting a flight of wine, but the basket of bread and plate of wine and charcuterie was a big bonus.
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After the tasting and the nibbling, we decided to take three bottles home for gift-giving.

I was a bit buzzed. I took in more than I normally do. I get drunk on one bottle of beer. I was not driving, but I wasn't keen on going home yet so we decided to walk around the plaza and get some coffee.

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Walked passed Mission Sonoma, will repeat visit some other time.

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The Sonoma Cheese Factory sells a wide variety of cheese and a great place to get coffee. They also have yummy fudge. We went in got some coffee and tasted some cheese.

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The Sonoma City Hall front facade.

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The back side - facing the cheese store. Dedicated in 1908, Sonoma's City Hall in the center of the Plaza was originally designed with four identical facades so that merchants from any side of the square could say the City Hall faced their businesses. Made of basalt stone from local quarries, the City of Sonoma government offices still remain in this central landmark of the valley.

[source]

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Adios Tortuguero

Ah, how can time go so fast when you're having fun? How is it that it's time to leave Tortuguero and Pachira Lodge? While a part of me was sad that I cannot extend the fun I'm having in this lovely locale, I was very excited to have a different experience of Costa Rica. I packed the night before so I was ready for departure. At breakfast we said goodbye to people we met a couple of days ago and felt like we've known longer. We exchanged emails and Facebook accounts and after the meal, my husband and I went for a stroll around the perimeter one last time.

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At the dock, we were sorted into 2 groups. Unfortunately, the friends we got close to (other than the ones in our Friendly Planet group) were on the other boat so more goodbyes and see-you-on-Facebook were exchanged. IMGP0623
The couple from Germany.
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The honeymooners from Israel.
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The newly-weds from Spain.
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Even Ronnie bids us goodbye. Ronnie was our capable and eagle-eyed boat "driver" during our jungle cruise.

The boat ride back to civilization was quiet. Julio was there, but this wasn't a narrated trip unlike the ride to Pachira Lodge a couple of days ago. Just as well, I needed to collect my thoughts, thanked my God for the blessings of this wonderful leg of the vacation. I wanted to enjoy the sky, the water, the birds, nature and take some pictures. Moving conveyance hasn't stopped me from taking pictures before, why it should now?
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The long boat ride back was followed by an equally long bus ride to Guapiles, where we had breakfast two days ago. Today we were there for lunch before going to the next destination. The El Ceibo restaurant is the place where travellers get picked up. This was also where we bumped into the "friends" we made one last time.
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After this photo was taken, we all went our separate ways. I'm ready for another bite of Costa Rica.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

While I Was Sleeping

While I was sleeping on the third and last day in Tortuguero, my husband and a handful of our fellow Pachira Lodge guests woke up early and crossed the canal to the beach, where we were yesterday, to hopefully find baby turtles going to sea. This all came about when one of the guests told us and showed the video he captured of the baby turtle's amazing trip from the nest all the way to the sea. Hubby was kind enough to share his photos.

Here are what I missed while I decided to sleep in.

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You would find that the baby turtle has a lot of hurdles to face before finally
reaching the sea. The hubby was constantly shooing the dog from devouring the poor little turtle.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

To the Beach and the Village

On the second day, our itinerary was full (the boat ride on post below happened after lunch). After breakfast we went across the canal to Tortuguero Village. This time we had Mariano as our guide, and Julio went with the Spanish-speaking group.

We walked along the banks and watched fire ants carry blades of grass.
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Then we headed to the beach for some education about turtles.
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Come quickly hubby said I spotted something.

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Lecture on the ways of the turtles.

This beach is part of the national park system and sanctuary for turtles. Hence very limited access
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It's a dead baby turtle, that's what we spotted in the sand. The poor guy didn't stand a chance with the heat.

When they hatch, they need to be able to leave the nest and get into the water before the sun is high. This one must have been caught in the heat, didn’t have a chance. Apparently the baby turtle has to hurdle many challenges for its survival. Predators like birds and dogs and other animals, people who still didn’t get the memo. Then from its nest it has to make sure it reaches the ocean before the sun gets too hot. Also we were advised not to pick up turtles, especially live ones, as they have sensors in their belly/feet that senses and memorizes the path they take from the nest to the ocean, which will be very helpful if and when these babies grow up and mature to lay eggs in this very beach.
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Remember the tree that fell on the canal? Let nature be.
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I wished I was wearing flip flops then I could easily have cooled my toesies. It was hot and the sun was in full force.

A few of the things we saw on the beach:
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The insects were bigger than normal.
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While the beach was gorgeous and the occasional breeze was refreshing, I was glad that Mariano was leading us away from the beach to the village. I was ready to get out of the sun.


THE VILLAGE:

There is a paved path – should I even consider it road even when the only transportation that uses it is a two-wheeler bike – that goes straight parallel to the canal. Facing the village with our backs to the canal, we decided to walk to the right where both sides of the path are lined with stores and eateries and accommodations all housed in structures painted in vivid colors. We entered a few stores and bought turtle earrings for gifts and then continued our walk. My strength was dwindling mainly due to thirst and heat. I was able to finish a bottle of water immediately after we entered the village, but that doesn’t seem enough. I was still thirsty and at the same time worried that I might need a bathroom, which is a problem.

We spotted a cart vendor pushing coconuts – he was in demand – and my hubs and I split one coconut between us, which tide me over. And so I continued to shoot.
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"So that in future will not see only silhouettes."

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I believe he sold all his coconuts that day.

PEOPLE WATCHING:
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I'm guessing they're courting.
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Looks like it's about time for siesta as we headed back to the other side of the canal to our lodge.

We came back here when the sun had gone down that night for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The beaches of Tortuguero are famous for the turtles (Green Sea, Leatherback and Hawksbill). They lay their eggs on these beaches from July to October.

To see experience this, the tour cost $30. It's so worth it. You are given 2 hours to see or not see depending on whether there is turtle that came to lay eggs that night. We got lucky under the full moon. Unfortunately, absolutely no recording device was allowed, no camera, no video, no phone. We all followed the rules to the letter because we were told that they were enforced strictly. The guide will be penalized and license revoked. We don't want to be responsible for someone losing his/her job.

This is what I wrote on my journal:
What I thought was going to be a lazy walk on the beach by moonlight was the opposite. The minute we all got out of the boat and the guide introduced herself, we were off like we’re running away from immigration officers. Brisk walking, meet Maria. It was a tough walk to the beach. We passed by the village then onto the dimly lit portion of the beach to a waiting station. The rangers don’t want a mob descending on the beach during this time when the turtles are just coming out of the water. The waiting station which was totally in darkness is a ways off. The beach area is divided into stations and a runner/ranger would be scouring the beach for turtles. When they spot a turtle and find where it goes and begins to dig, the runner would then go to the waiting station and informs the guide where to direct the tourists.

We waited for a long time in the station, which was good because I was able to catch my breath. There were hushed conversations among us, but in general the quiet and the dark were a potent combination for relaxation – if I wasn’t dog tired from that almost running we just did. I was so horrified at how poorly I performed at brisk walking. How could I be so out of shape – nope don’t answer that.

When the runner came, he said something to the guide who then herded us to backtrack because apparently we overshot our target spot, the turtle chose to lay eggs closer to the village.

Another long brisk walk, I was crying (figuratively again!) I drank like a gallon of juice and water over dinner and though I was sweating profusely, my tee-shirt was soaked, I felt the need to pee.

We found the section that we were told to go but nothing was happening. Apparently, we had to wait for another runner to tell us when to approach. While we were waiting on the beach, I was imagining how romantic this scenario would be under different circumstance. All of a sudden, we spotted a turtle coming out of the water to the beach to lay an egg. I thought that was our turtle. I was wrong. Our turtle was already in the beach, digging furiously and was about to lay eggs. This whole tour is 2 hours long. Whether or not the group sees a turtle the tour ends after 2 hours. And so our time was spent mostly waiting and waiting. An hour and 30 minutes into the tour, a runner approached us as we were sprawled on the cool sand and told us where to go to see the turtle.

The long hike on the beach and the seemingly endless wait on the beach dissipated upon the sight of this once-in-a-lifetime experience. The turtle was huge. You know even bigger than a paella pan. She was in the process of laying eggs, they could lay about a hundred eggs if my memory is correct and once they start laying eggs they go on a trance. We were really quiet, but awestruck at how amazing a sight this is. We let the other group – there was another one – to peek, then it was our turn again. This time the turtle was done and she was covering up the eggs with sand. She takes breaks in between; she must have used up most of her energy laying all those eggs.

We didn’t stay to see the turtle eggs get fully covered in sand, because we’re on a time limit and another set of tours is about to commence. They have two tours daily during the laying season from July to September, 8 and 10 pm.

The couple from Baltimore was complaining how vigorous the walk was and they are regular walkers; they walk daily for an hour. The woman even said the tour guide’s plump appearance belied her physical conditioning.
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Full moon on 9/13/11.