Posts Tagged ‘monkeys’

Flip Flop to Costa Rica

February 4, 2017

This Central American country had been on Mike’s bucket list a long time. He showed me magazine articles about traveling there in the first month we were dating, but it remained the elusive, exotic goal for a few years.Costa Rica surfing

We were there a year ago this week. Was it amazing, was it worth the wait? I’ll let you make up your own mind.

First, we had visions of dipping our toes in the Pacific as soon as we got off the flight, but that evening we were instead schlepping chicken and canned beer from a street vendor to an unanticipated overnight in a city hotel room. That’s because we’d arrived too late to make the drive to our guest house by the sea. And because the car rental agency had abandoned us when we got stuck at an airport. Travel in Costa Rica is still pretty third-world. Our hostess had warned us that the 30+ mile trip from the airport to her guest house near Manuel Antonio National Park would take two hours or so, depending on traffic. I didn’t believe her until we were zig-zagging around food vendors who walked in traffic with bags of snacks for sale. Or maybe it was when we got on the main highway and discovered it was only one lane wide.

Narrow roads are the norm in Costa Rica, and I won’t exaggerate but I need to be clear. They’re often twisting, steep lanes where it’s risky to walk or drive because cars come at you at top speed only to skid to a stop just as the Grim Reaper has his hand on your shoulder. Once we arrived in our little village we decided we wouldn’t travel far for that reason. But this location would be just what we needed for relaxation and access to what matters: great waves on a long stretch of beach on one side of the peninsula, a calm lagoon for snorkeling on the other.


The first thing we discovered is that the calm lagoon contained very little sea life. We had hoped to snorkel to some coral or pretty fish or SOMETHING to look at,  but there was very little. The water was also MUCH warmer than expected (yeah, I know we were close to the Equator but this is the largest ocean in the world..). Swimming was barely refreshing because of the ocean temperature. Everyone told us it was a warmer than average January, but isn’t that what we’ve been hearing everywhere?

The surf side of the peninsula was pretty spectacular. Big waves rolled in across a sandy break. We could walk for miles along the beach, right to the national park entrance. We both rented surf boards and had a great time practicing that (despite the bandage-covering-stitches-and-wrapped-with-duct-tape on my hand).. until Mike caught some waves that were a little too big and got freaked out (what’s sport without near death experiences??). But the sunsets here were to die for!

[I wasn’t joking about the lines at Manuel Antonio National Park, nor the monkeys]

Our outings included a morning in the National Park (honestly my assessment was a resounding MEH because of the crowds, the heat, and the damned monkeys). It was scenic but a chore to shuffle through with a million other people looking for sloths sleeping in the trees, and much of the park was closed to hiking without a permit and a guide, which was disappointing. When we took a sanctioned hike around a not-so-crowded peninsula to see cliffs and jungle we were accosted by a couple nasty monkeys on a bridge who wanted snacks. Also had a nice conversation with a giant iguana that got between me and my stuff on the beach — those suckers look lazy but can move really fast!

Another interesting day trip was to zip lining recommended by our hostess at the guest house. It included a bus ride with a ton of other American tourists into a very scenic area of the interior of the country (about an hour each way). We weren’t disappointed by the big trees we were frequently jumping off of! My issue (and this isn’t a minor one) is that the crew here made the quickest, most cursory equipment checks I’ve ever seen. I haven’t done a lot of rappelling or rock climbing or zip lining, but I know that  the way they were slapping on the carabiners that were going to hold a person 125 feet above a river isn’t enough of a safety precaution. I was nervous much of the time on this side trip but tried to put a good face on it. Also, I couldn’t help but analyze the return on our investment: we saw a beautiful area, we can say we did zip lining, but the reality of it was a lot of driving and standing around and perusing the base camp’s butterfly exhibit with a total of about 45 minutes of actual zip lining thrown in.

One of the aspects of the trip that we revisit is that we met some great people. Our guest house had a common room with kitchen that allowed us to relax and interact with couples from Europe, Canada, and the US. We had sundowners at a bar one night and met a naturalist who works at a local hotel and was very fun and interesting to talk to. There were people on the beaches who enjoyed sharing their suggestions and travel tips. All in all, the people were friendly, unlike the monkeys who were cute for about a day then got pretty annoying.

[Monkeys were cute for the first day or so.. and grocery shopping in foreign countries is so amusing to me!]

This blog item might sound cynical — Costa Rica is beautiful, but go with your eyes open. Don’t expect American-level facilities or infrastructure. Don’t try to pack in too much.

We had fun but we’re not in a big hurry to go back unless I decide to do the cross-country MTB race… which would probably result in the Grim Reaper REALLY getting his hands on me. (Check out this story!)



Urban Adventure: Corcovado in Rio, Brazil

June 14, 2015

Hiking is not synonymous with visiting Rio de Janeiro. One is more likely to think of beaches or samba dancing or soccer than hiking in Rio. But there’s a hill and a way to get to the top, so hiking Corcovado — the 2,300 foot steep mountain that the 125 foot marble statue Christo Redentor stands on — was a “must” for my recent trip.

Two of my daughters and I had spent more than a week on our feet, chasing buses, dancing the samba and forro, strolling on Ipanema.. we felt ready for this little urban adventure. The mountain is visible (with Christ watching you..) everywhere you go in Rio, so I knew skipping this hike would weigh on my conscience.

christo from botanical garden

Corcovado is atop a small urban jungle — 12 square mile preserve within the city limits called the Tijuca Forest, so it was a convenient way to see many native trees and get away from the clamor of the very crowded city. The route up was pegged at 1.5-2 hours, so I guessed it would be similar to Mt. Monadnock, which is an “everyday” mountain around here. Somehow Monadnock always surprises me with its challenging scrambles, and this “city mountain” did too.

We took a bus to the park at the base on a misty, damp day — better for climbing than a hot sunny day. In a shared pack were a few bottles of water and snacks… plus bananas… a guard gave us a sheet with a sketchy map (no topo lines!) of what to expect and we were off.

jungle conditions

The initial climb of about 15-20 minutes was super easy, through jungle. Then it started to get steep and the soil was a slick clay, not good for footing. Fortunately the jungle trees provided lots of footholds — sometimes roots acted just like stairs, reaching horizontally across the trail.

helpful roots

So maybe you’re wondering if we stopped for a snack? Not really, but at Grace’s suggestion we stopped in a clearing and suddenly little squirrel-sized monkeys came out of the trees for a snack.. I was sure one was going to climb right up Justine’s leg as she peeled the first banana but they took turns and it was very cool feeding them by hand. For a few minutes we forgot all about being a short distance from a crowded city.


Back on the trail, the hardest part was yet to come. We kept up a good pace until we hit these chains embedded in rocks. It was tricky to figure out footing (sort of like playing Twister) because the chain had some slack but not quite enough to reach the side of the rocks that might have been easier for short people to climb.

corcovado chains

Soon we reached the tracks for the cog railway, a significant indication that we were close to the top. The mist made it spooky.

corcovado rr statue

Grace promised at the top we’d complete the ascent on escalators but they weren’t working that day. So of course after a 90 minute quad busting climb we raced up the 223 stairs to the platform that Christo occupies. The view of the city was worth the climb.. too bad obnoxious tourists made the site less than holy.

there's no view if your eyes are closed!

pretty good souvenir

Keeping true to my lifelong streak of screwing up some aspect of most hikes (I’m thinking of unanticipated snowfall, getting lost, bringing insufficient food or water… I’ve done it all!) … there was still time for something to go wrong, and it did.

had we known...

As you can see from the map, the park we started at was in a busy part of the city. We (mostly me, duh, because I’m good at making bad decisions) decided to leave via the auto road to avoid slipping down the steep slick trail. We had no idea the auto road went down the OTHER side of the mountain… was nearly twice as long as the hike up and … it dumped us in a sketchy neighborhood where the route home involved catching a noisy city bus to the metro, taking the metro several stops to..  a place where we caught a cab.. the beginning of a frustrating evening of missed connections. Next time we’ll be better prepared (ha).

Archaeology and Material Culture

The material world, broadly defined

The Wandering Nomads

Two bikes, one life, and the whole world to see

Alison Karlene Adventures

Tales of a Broken-back Backpacker

Matt on Not-WordPress

Stuff and things.

Holly Michael's Writing Straight

Connecting and Inspiring Along Life's Crooked Lines by Author Holly Michael

This Man's Journey

Home is where our story begins.

The Squeaky Robot

A Meddling Robot in a Human's World

Historical Digression

Musings on history as viewed by someone with one foot in the past