|Northwest Costa Rica (September 2004)
|We arrived in gorgeous Bahia Santa Elena on Sunday, August 22. We all felt like we had finally
arrived with our dolphin escort! This bay is ringed by green hills, in every shade of green you can
imagine. We set the anchor and quickly jumped in and enjoyed the cool water.
The next day we waited anxiously for another cruising family, the Millers (Joel, Richelle, Kimberley and
Nathaniel) on Amorita. Amorita is a gorgeous 50 foot Kettenberg- wooden boat.. Kimberley is 12
years old and a ballerina. Nathaniel is 10 years old. Our families seem to get along quite well. We
met them in Tenacatita Mexico and have had a good time encountering each other along the way.
They have spent the last three months in this area and were our excellent tour guides.
Our days were glorious. We hiked up to a waterfall and all jumped off the rocks into the pool! The
hike was not on what you would call a trail—no it was straight up the stream. On the way down, Martin
and Nathaniel attempted to make it all the way down without getting their ankles wet more than 5
times. Neither was successful but it made for a good challenge.
There were some small islands (aka rocks) at the entrance of this bay. We snorkeled around these
rocks and saw a variety of fish and other critters. The males were spear fishing. They saw a nurse
shark, but left it alone. They all came back with stories about “the one that got away”. I kayaked with
Richelle to the beach and looked for paper nautilus shells. We didn’t find any but enjoyed the soldier
(hermit) crabs. When the rest of the group came in, we had a crab race. Richelle’s crab won the first
race and my crab won the second! Yes, I’m proud to be a good crab picker.
We had a bonfire on the beach with another cruising family, Sea Kardinal. We had hot dogs and
smores and RAIN (not exactly in that order)—but fortunately Sea Kardinal brought a tarp so we could
continue our festivities even with the rain.
We had another day of fishing and enjoying our environs. Richelle and I kayaked at low tide (not our
choice but that’s when it worked out with everybody else) up a river/stream. We had a nice adventure
through what looked suspiciously like crocodile habitat. We did not see any logs moving though! We
first heard and then saw some howler monkeys. Richelle and I decided to see if they would talk back to
us. So, there we were in the middle of the jungle howling to the monkeys. And you know what… they
stopped howling completely. I think the males do the howling in that species and well, I think they saw
that we were females and did not like our intrusion. Or maybe we said something rude like—“You look
like a human and you smell like one too!”
We did get boarded by the Coast Guard. We had not checked into Costa Rica yet because the first
port of entry is in Bahia del Coco about 40 miles south of Bahia Santa Elena. As we saw the Coast
Guard approach, Lou and I went back forth about what we should tell these guys. The truth (we
wanted to enjoy this beautiful bay and so we pulled in here) or a lie (one of us was ill or something was
wrong with the boat etc.). We opted to tell the truth and nothing but the truth. And guess what… they
didn’t ask! There have been some recent changes in the fishing regulations so the Coast Guard is
going around educating and informing the local fishermen. Costa Rica does not have any armed
services. They were all very cordial and welcoming. And they enjoyed my freshly baked raspberry
squares (thanks cousin Grace!)
We were getting kind of low on supplies (read this as we were running low on beer) and so we upped
anchor and went to Cuajiniquil (pronounced Cwa- HEENEY-KEEL). Sounds Hawaiian or maybe
Gaelic. There was a nice supermarket although it was quite a hike. We also dinged our dinghy
propeller on some rocks. Yes, another thing for Lou to put on his list to fix! We will celebrate when
that list gets to less than 10 items. We will make it a quiet celebration so that boat doesn’t understand
what we are doing and decide she needs something major fixed.
On our way to the next anchorage we were swarmed by bees (momentarily). I guess they didn’t like
what they saw. And then we were swarmed by dolphins. There were 30-50 of them playing around our
boat! We also saw turtles mating. Its that time of year and we’ve learned a lot about these creatures.
There is still one mystery about turtles and if you are a turtle enthusiast, write back to me and we’ll ask
you our question.
Another nice anchorage was in the Isla Murcielagos (Bat Islands). We didn’t see any bats, but we did
see a bat ray make multiple attempts to use his wings to become airborne. The snorkeling was good.
My favorite at that location was the barberfish. The Barberfish is a yellow fish with black circles
around his eyes. He is a groomer fish, which means he picks stuff (parasites and such) off other fish.
We spent a couple more days in Portrero Grande where there is a surf break. This surf break is called
Ollie’s point. Yes, Oliver North had a training camp for the Contras near this beach. Emily and Martin
enjoyed getting a chance to try out surfing. Martin now has surfing on the brain 24/7. In the cracks,
he fits in guitar. Emily is more balanced. Portrero Grande is also where turtles nest. We saw several
nests that had egg shells around them. We saw several indentations in the sand that looked like
possible nests. But, we didn’t see any turtles lumber up the beach to make their deposit. I still really
hope we can see this!
We arrived in civilization- Bahia del Coco. The Ace crew had been here before on a short vacation trip
with the Heeney family in 2000. Bahia del Coco gave us an opportunity to provision. They had good
old country sausage (and I’m not talking chorizo). I treated the family to sausage, biscuits and gravy!
They had other delicacies like root beer and Fritos (only a small bag but that made Lou very happy!)
Are you hungry yet?
There still seems to be a lot of prejudice from the Ticos/Ticas (Costa Ricans) against the Nicos/Nicas
(Nicaraguans). We encountered it when we were here in 2000 and it seems present still.
We took a bus trip to Playa Tamarindo to find a surfboard or two. We found a surfboard for Emily and
Martin. And we brought it back with us on the bus. Tamarindo is a big surf and backpacker hangout.
More about the surfboard in the next update
Then we escaped to Bahia Huevos (that’s “eggs” for your 411). We spent a lovely two days exploring
the river by dinghy (this time at high tide), snorkeling and fishing. Lou is enjoying getting to spearfish.
He also cleans and cooks the fish! Wow!
What we are reading:
Mary just finished Castaways in Paradise. Short stories about people who have lived on deserted
islands. She has just started reading From Grandmother to Grandaughter:Salvadoran Women’s
Stories. And she finished listening to Havana Dreams about Castro’s wealthy mistress who had a
daughter by him, but then was cast aside and basically has lived frozen in the time before the
Lou just finished An Island to Oneself by Tom Neale who lived on Suwarrow for over 20 years as a
hermit. Although he says he is not a hermit because he likes people.
Emily is reading more of Teri Blackstock’s books.
Martin is reading his surfing magazine over and over again!
|Emily sitting on the bow under sail.
Her favorite dolphin-watching spot.
|Sunset from Bahia del Coco. We
see lots of these!
|One of the few fishing boats that
comes into Santa Elena, and their
constant pelican entourage.
|Emily and friend Kimberly (from
Amorita) at a waterfall a short hike
up a river from beautiful Bahia Santa
Elena, our first stop in Costa Rica.
|Dense jungle like this surrounds us
in every anchorage. There are
parrots and howler monkeys and
iguanas and much more to be seen.