Our flight got in at 11:50pm, New Year’s Eve. We exited the plane to a deserted Portland Airport and noted the passing of the decade as we left the security-only point. We were initially careful to pack only carry-on luggage for our trip to Costa Rica but a snap decision to buy three bottles of Flor de Caña before we left required that we check our precious fluids lest they blow up the plane. Anyway, we were doomed to standing around in the baggage claim area waiting for our black suitcase along with everyone else. While we were waiting, a guy across the way shouted out, “Happy NEW YEAR!!! WOOooo woo.” Followed up with a “sheesh, you guys” when we all stared blankly at him. I checked our cell phone: 12:06. Dude’s watch was totally wrong.
[Sage and Damon parked in a
sewage runoff mangrove stream making drip castles.]
Our taxi home was piloted by a cantankerous troll, short and squat with a bald head edged by wispy white frizz. He didn’t look at us as we got in but immediately began bitching about how it was illegal for Ronin not to have a baby seat, then he crabbed about how it was totally not worth the fare to drive all the way out to the airport, yada yada. SOMEone was a Grumpy McGrumpersons.
Miraculously, we found our house intact and exactly as we left it. I always half expect to find a smoking crater whenever we go away for more than a few days. Inside, the house smelled like dry Murphy’s Oil Soap; the smell our house reverts to whenever we leave it for any length of time.
[From the rental house, we had a kick-ass view over Playa Hermosa beach/cove in northern Guanacaste.]
So yeah. Costa Rica! It was beautifully warm, not too hot and no rain at all. When we visited four years ago on the boat, we were there in November and it rained constantly, the swell was gnarly, and we spent much of our time holed up in our bouncing cabin drinking rum. This time we spent the majority of our time either at the beach or planning and preparing food for all of us. There were 14 at the rental house and it was pretty much total chaos. My brother’s kids are exactly 2 years older and 1.5 year younger than Ronin and it was perfect.
Chaos! Jumping from our bed to the air mattress was a huge hit. As was running screaming from “monsters” who lived either in the closets or in the bathroom. Whenever Ronin disappeared, we would find her in the closet changing clothes (she went through every outfit we packed for her on a daily basis; once Joshua did some laundry and she about lost her mind) or sneaking cheerios for her guys (i.e., Batbear, Nigel, et al.). Ronin also loved the pool. She didn’t seem to quite get the whole swimming thing and would randomly rush out toward the deep end before she realized that something was missing (like the ground beneath her). She was more cautious after that but I was impressed; she has relatively little experience with water as, sadly, summer bypassed Portland this past year and we didn’t do much in the way of river recreating.
Wildlife! We saw howlers our first day and then three other times; we heard them other times. If you’ve never heard a howler monkey sound, it’s very deep and primal and exotic sounding. It’s rather exciting to hear them even if you can’t spot them, like: there are THINGS in the trees! Growly things. (With creepy eyes!) Happily they are only the size of housecats.
We saw some bugs.. Here’s a praying mantis that was hanging out on the couch.
This big locust thing flew into the house just about every evening. Same guy, probably.
Here’s one I came close to stepping on. EW! We discovered in Nicaragua that scorpions are not called “escorpion” as they were in Mexico but rather “alacrán.” I had, much to my delight, discovered a big black scorpion nestled around my doorknob in a hostel we stayed in on Isla Ometepe (Lago Nicaragua) and went to the manager to ask for advice. He said breezily, “OH! Haha! Escorpion.. You don’t have to worry about them. They only eat bugs. Just ignore them because they are everywhere.” (This in Spanish of course.) I was not settled and insisted that he maybe come and bask in the ickiness that was a big black scorpion on my doorknob and finally he did. When he saw it, he exclaimed, surprised, “OH!! Alacrán!” and then he got a stick and killed it. After some confusion, we discovered the the word “escorpion,” which so neatly meant scorpion in Mexico, actually meant “gecko” in Central America. Dude. Noted. Indelibly. I asked him what happens if you are stung and he waved his hand, meh, you get chills, fever, and (ickily) your tongue swells inside your mouth! Gross!
These birds (white-throated magpie-jays) are large, about the size of a crow, and very bold. They noticed some crumbs on a deck chair and about seven of them staked the place out. They will take food out of your hand if you hold still. We saw many cool birds: bright yellow-chested flycatchers (boat-billed flycatcher), long-tailed iridescent swoopy mot-mots (they are distinguishable because of the missing barbs on their two long tail feathers), loud chattery green parrots, grackles, little bright-red birds (something like this), hummingbirds, brown pelicans.
This iguana lived in the (ex?) termite blob in the tree at the edge of our yard. Well, either he lived in the hole or he just visited to eat termites.
We ate well during the trip. There were epic trips to the grocery in El Coco on a daily basis (the French bakery in the Luperon is going strong!). Joshua and I made fried snapper tacos with a bunch of different salsas (mango ginger, pico de gallo, guacamole) and ceviche a couple nights, Elise made fresh corn tortillas, and Patrick and Eric made fried plantains almost every night. On christmas day, David and Brigitte put together a full-on turkey with stuffing. They even found cranberry sauce. It was pretty awesome.
[Freshly stabbed post-roast turkey beast.]
But mostly we spent our time at the beach.
Typically, the moment we hit the beach, we got to work transforming our environment, usually starting with the erection of a large hill/castle with moat. Then, as the tide advanced upon us, elaborate berms and levees were hastily thrown up to protect it. It was always a losing battle but the kiddies LOVED it when the waves crashed into their moat/lake. I was still washing sand out of Ronin’s scalp a week after we returned.
Breaking ground on a new development. This time of sticks.
Provisioning the completed beach house.
Searching among the rocks for shells. Seems there is always a hermit crab in any of the good ones. We had a huge bagful of shells when we departed Costa Rica but it was confiscated by the Costa Rica airport security—not at all what we were expecting. We were only allowed to bring back a couple pieces.
Ronin and Riley’s favorite game was to chase, and be chased by, the surf. Here they are at sunset, the second-to-the-last day of our visit.