Saturday, July 21, 2012

Travel home

Monday, June 11, 2012

Wake up in the dark to the first of several alarms going off. Very tired; don't want to get up. But yes, I do! I get to go home to my wife today. I make coffee and watch CNN on the TV. Drag my bags up to the lobby at 4 am, for my taxi. It isn't there. The night guard is puzzled to see me. I check the time on the clock in the lobby. 3 am. Oops. I set my alarms an hour earlier than needed. They must have been on daylight savings time, as is Oklahoma, while Costa Rica sensibly stays on central standard time. I leave my bags there and go back to my room for an hour and drink more coffee.

Back to the lobby at 4 am and this time my taxi is there. I requested the front desk call the same driver who took me to Haras del Mar on friday for horse riding as he was nice, punctual and had a great car. He was here on time at 4 am. Helped me load the bags and away we went through the dark.

On the way we heard a howler monkey calling. Nice sound. And as an aside, I have neglected the mantled howler monkey (Alouatta palliata) in this travelogue. I saw a family group in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and another at the Selvatura forest. Very exciting to see them deep in high forest, moving through the canopy. Impossible to photograph so I didn't try. Just enjoyed them. When backlit, I could see the colors of their coat which distinguish them from the howler monkeys in Belize (Alouatta pigra) which are a uniform black.

But the most dramatic sighting was at a restaurant in Coco a few days previously. I was eating at Coconutz Sports Bar when I heard the familiar growling from above. A group were in the large guancaste tree above the open-air restaurant. I watched. A subadult male was on the fringe of a family group. The adult male seemed to be putting on a display to warn the subadult male from approaching. It was successful, with no direct violence, but very dramatic for me and every other patron.

As this account suggests, I was using my time in the cab that dark morning to reflect on the trip. One of the best of many trips I have ever taken. I felt like I did good and important work and made contact with many people who care about sustainability in Central America. I know I learned a lot, and hope I helped others learn, too. Most of all, I want to come back soon--but this time with my wife.

We arrived at the airport in Liberia early, before all but a few people. A porter helped me with my bags and brought me to the window where passengers must pay their departure tax (US$26, if I remember correctly). I used my credit card. I then went to check my bag. No line at this hour! The security checkpoint was not yet open so I walked around. This terminal building is new, having opened in January, 2012, to accommodate the increased flights directly to this Northwest corner of Costa Rica.

Shuttle buses from the all-inclusive resorts began arriving and I was glad I got here before them. The security checkpoint arrived and I was in the first few through. I went up the escalator and to my gate. The shops aren't open yet so I sit down by my gate:
DSCN0873 That white thing on the chair next to my green backpack is the hammock for my wife.

I doze as more people arrive. The shops open but I am too tired to even get one last cup of Costa Rican coffee in Costa Rica. Soon we board and the flight departs on time. I sleep most of the way to Houston. Immigration and customs is not problem as I have nothing to declare. Recheck bag to Tulsa. Get some Texas BBQ for lunch. That is sort of a tradition my wife and I have for our return to the U.S. from Belize.

Flight to Tulsa takes off on time and goes smoothly. Land in Tulsa. Collect my bag, look for wife. No luck. Go outside. Wait. Soon she strolls up from the other terminal, looking fabulous in a new outfit. Big hug, long kiss.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Last day in Coco

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Let myself sleep in after the late night, and knowing I'd not be getting much sleep tonight. Missed breakfast in the lobby, even. Made coffee in my room.

This photo was taken a few days earlier, but it shows my room: DSCN0694

Cable TV on the flatscreen. Left of that you can see the coffee maker and refrigerator (on floor). Safe there in the closet, just to left of the "kitchen." The whole place felt safe and secure. A fine place to relax.

I lounged by the pool, swimming and dozing in the deck chairs. Very relaxing. Perfect temperature. For a while, I got out my tablet computer and have a video chat using Skype with my son. Works perfectly even out by the pool. It is fun to switch to the rear camera and show him birds and palms, then back to the front camera so he sees me. Wish I could do this in Belize.

I walk around town and shop for souvenirs. Here is a street scene in Coco: DSCN0859

This is the main road from the inland to the beach and has all the traffic. There are side streets running north and south from this, with very little traffic. My hotel is on a parallel street to the north a couple of blocks and is quiet with a very different feel:

I buy a t-shirt for my son and a hammock for my wife from a souvenir shop on the main street in town. Several stores seemed to have a large selection and fair prices on a variety of souvenirs. I am not much of a souvenir shopper and so take a "get it done" attitude vs. lingering and enjoying the hunt.

It is local custom to take the family to the beach on Sunday afternoons. It is a delightful scene with children running and playing and food grilling. Smoke and good smells fill the air in the beach-front park:

As the sun goes down, I am joined by many others in enjoying the view:

I eat dinner at a favorite restaurant there on the beach, Beach Bums. Buy my wife a souvenir tank-top, as modeled by the waitresses. My favorite, Caroline, poses with me:

Back at my room, I pack. Try to reach my wife by chat, email and Facebook to remind her to meet me in Tulsa the next morning, but no luck. Figure she got called in to work for the night. Oh, well. Probably too busy to miss me, anyway.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Last dive day

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Yes, I know I am writing this on July 19--40 days later. But I am still on the Pacific coast, just a little further up the coast. At 45oN, to be precise (in Oregon). But I need to finish the travelogue before I forget the last trip in the excitement of the current.
I wake up and make coffee in my room. Eat a little something in my room and check email and Facebook. Gather my mask, but leave my camera behind. I figure I've taken the photos I can from the deck of the boat on previous dive days. Walk down to the beach.

The familiar boat meets me but with a new divemaster. Also, a new diver. He is French and new to diving. We head north a bit to a new dive site, for me. It is in a cove half-way to Monkey Head. I am comfortable and gear up and go in while the divemaster helps the new diver. This dive site has terrible visibility--maybe 5 meters. Maybe less. Still, any dive is good and we see a few fish.

For the second dive, we go back to the Tortugas dive site right out front of Coco. Better visibility, by far. Nice dive. Highlight was a sea turtle that let us watch him for several minutes, and a pair of white-tipped reef sharks that also tolerated our watching them for many minutes. I really wanted my underwater camera! I could have taken some good shots of each. Visibility was good, and they were shallow enough for natural light.

We went back to the beach. I walked back up the block and a half to the hotel and showered. I checked email and Facebook, then walked to the dive shop in town to pay my dive bill with a credit card. I walked about town a little, then took a nap back at the hotel.

I walk down to the beach to take photos of the sunset and to eat dinner. I find I am craving company and so go wherever there are people. Especially female people.


I chat with retired men from the U.S. who live in Coco. They like it, and find it affordable. One man, from Colorado, says he lives on US$1800/month. He paid cash for a condo he bought after selling his home in Denver (pre-real estate crash). No car. Rarely travels back to the U.S. Basically happy, and has made friends in Coco. He budgets for three visits with a prostitute per week.

About 10 pm, I went out on the town. Saturday night is the big party night in Coco. The previous Saturday, I had just arrived after a long day of travel and so turned in early. This was my last Saturday night and I wanted to see and experience it all.

I went to one packed night club and met a very, very friendly lady. She made me an offer to do amazing things for just US$100. Mind you, the world's oldest profession is legal and regulated in Costa Rica. Arguably, I should have taken her up on the proposition and chalked it up to "research" on an economically important part of the tourism industry.

Instead I fled in terror to the nightclub across the street. Where I promptly ran into a pair (two!) ladies offering a package deal. Wow! I said, uh, lets just dance. So, I danced with the ladies. Then the lady from the nightclub across the street saw me (remember, I am very tall and so literally stand, or rather dance, a head above everybody else on the floor) and joined our threesome. So now I'm dancing with three well-dressed ladies. There is a pole in the center of the dance floor and soon I have dance partners above me, next to me, and below me. I am not much of a dancer but am having a rather jolly time.

So, do I continue the research? No! I run fleeing into the night. I'm sure the long-suffering wife back home is relieved that I sleep alone, yet again.