A Travellerspoint blog

Monteverde and Volcan Arenal

...I finally left Cahuita!

sunny 32 °C

Hello all,

(me by the sea!)

(kids body boarding in the sea)

Well I finally managed to leave Cahuita on the Caribbean coast ...I think I may have left part of my heart there though and am sure I will go back someday!


(Kenroy on our way to the waterfalls)


I left on the Saturday and went with Kenroy to a place called Guapiles because he was being paid to dance in a bar there on the Sat night. It was great, him and Jay (his cousin) dance amazingly well! The crowd loved them.


(spot the tiny, but very venomous, red frog!)

(Me n Kenroy posing !)

(Kenroy dancing...again!)


On the Sunday Kenroy and I went to San Jose as I needed to go there to move on and he wanted to go to the shopping mall (there is not much in the way of shops in Cahuita!) we also went to the theme park but we were running out of time so only managed to go on one ride! It was so much fun but we both cried a lot when he got on the bus back to Cahuita on his own. We are just friends but got on so well (he is only just about to turn 18! so a little strange how well we bonded) and I will miss him. I used to pop by his mum's cafe in the mornings, where he worked most days and I´d have a juice, then we´d meet up when he´d finish work in the afternoons and go to the beach, he´d then go to college and we´d meet in the bar with everyone else at night.

(Me jumping under the waterfall!)


(The Boys, Jay and Kenroy waiting to dance)

(still waiting!)

(the girls strutting their stuff!)

I also spent a couple of his days of with him and we went to Puerto Viejo - another beach town further along the coast. We also went to some waterfalls near BriBri on the way to Puerto Viejo and had such a laugh mucking about in the water and clambering over rocks! I even managed to jump into the pool from one of them (not high but still scary for me!).


I have a lot of friends in Cahuita and hope one day to return and see them all again.




(Michael Jackson arm!)

(locals break dancing)

So, anyway I finally left there and on the monday I headed for Monteverde. I had heard this area was very beuatiful, very scenic with amazing cloud forests and really everyone goes there for the forest trails and the canopy tours (swinging through the treetops on a zipline!).



I arrived and booked onto a canopy tour for the next day and for a coffee tour that afternoon. I knew when I decided to go to Monteverde that it would be the most touristy part of my trip and it would be about spending money on tours so I just got on with it! The coffee tour was great - I got to see some of the greenery in the area straight away as well as see some different coffee plantations- one of which was literally just in the back garden of a family who process the coffee themselves, obviously on a much much smaller scale than the commercial ones. A lot of the coffee in Monteverde is grown organically in these smaller scale plantations and it is all organic. The coffee plants grow in between other tropical trees and plants and it is all as natural as possible, no pesticides or anything are used.




(coffee beans ready to pick!)

The next day I headed off for a canopy tour, and it turned out that the other guys (all boys, 4 of them) were also booked onto the same tour so it turned out to be a dormitory outing! This was great because we all had a luagh together and when we got back we cooked and ate together and spent the evening eating ice cream, playing cards and having the odd beer together.

(coffee machines for processing)

(coffee beans drying)

The canopy tour was fantastic! It was a bit nerve racking but lots of fun. Twice I didn´t make it to the end and one of the guys had to shimmey along the line put his legs around my ankles and drag me to the end! LOL! I don´t know what I did wrong but it was lots of fun, although sometimes a bit scary looking out at the view and down into the trees below and thinking " shite, I am bloody high up swinging along a wire above a cloud forest!"

(house of the people who owned the small plantation)

(small coffee plant)

(Big scary dangerous tarantula on the road side!)

(climbing up to the canopy tour!)

The last line was over a kilometre long and you had to go in pairs to have enough weight to stop you getting stuck half way along hanging in mid air in the middle of the forest! I chose to "taxi" it and I went with a guide, I didn't know anyone well enough to trust them and having got stuck twice before I wanted to go with an expert thank you very much!! LOL! It was great because I just had to hold on to him, which meant I could really enjoy the ride and the amazing views!

(off he goes!)

We also did a tarzan swing which involved having a rope attached to you and then jumping off a platform to swing out like tarzan into think air! I wasn´t sure I could do it as although it looked loads of fun and I knew I would love the swinging bit, it was the leaving the platform bit that scared me. it would go against all your natural instincts to just jump off a ledge into a forest with nothing to land on below! But, luckily they strapped me in quickly adn just pushed me! which was fantastic! I screamed a lot ! a couple from the states video'd it and I hope to get in touch with them to get it coz I reckon it will be very funny to see!

(I'm ready!)



Afterwards we went on a bridge walk in the forest which took us over 8 swing bridges of different lengths and great views across and down into the forest. Sebastian loved rocking the swings which was fun if a little unnerving!

When me and the boys got back we decided to cook up some spag bol for us ...it turns out that Steffan was a chef so I chopped, he cooked and Gabriel, Sebastian and Thomas chilled out (they washed up after!). The food was fantastic and we all needed it after so much excitement.

We then went and sat outside a cafe and enjoyed some icecream before heading back for more of our pasta (we cooked a lot!) and a few beers over a few games of sh*thead - a card game with a terrible name!



(Tarzan swing....)


(he jumped!)




(another tarantula...this time in the woods...wild again!)

(bit too close!)

(managing to smile though!)

(Sebastian rocking the swing bridge!)





(the gang)

(spot the person on the zipline!)


The next day I decided to do the more expensive trip to La Fortuna, the town on the edge of volcano Arenal ç. The local bus is cheap but takes about 8 hours so I paid a lot of dollars to do a 3 hour trip by minibus, boat across the lake and minibus direct to my hostel. It was great value actually and the views en route made it worthwhile too. I met Rachel, who had been staying in the same hostel in Monteverde but we´d not really talked until we were both waiting for the minibus to La Fortuna. She said we´d been on the same bus from San jose to monteverde too ! So we were following each other. She is from Derby in the UK and is volunteering in CR until December.

(Rachel on the boat on Lake Arenal)



We got on really well and stayed in the same hostel in La Fortuna which was more like a hotel with a fab swimming pool, views of the volcano and a nice little restaurant! We paid for another touristy tour which took us on a walk in the national park around the volcano, to a viewpoint where we had so much luck to see lava pouring out! you can't always see it if the cloud cover is too thick or if you aren't there at the right time. We had a very very clear day and night and so had fantastic views and literally five minutes after arriving at the view point it spat out lumps of lava! WOW.


(Rachel chillin at the "hostel")

We then headed off to the hot springs where we had dinner and a couple of hours to chill out in the hot springs there. It wasn't a natural hot springs area but a complex, still it was lovely and the pools were all of differing temperatures, getting hotter as you went around. It was great.

Rachel and I then headed to San Jose together, getting the 5.30am bus so we could both do stuff we needed to in San Jose. I had arranged to meet up with people that evening too. I wasn't sure if they would all make it as it was all last minute as I was never sure when I would be back in SJ and if they would all still be there.

(the "hostel"!)

(view from the hammock at the hostel ...that's her, the volcano)

It was fab. Rachel came too. I arranged to meet up with David and Hernan who I met on my first night before volunteering in Corcovado but they were then posted at another station so I didnt see them again, also Christian who came to the same station as me in Corcovado for my last week. They all live near San Jose - pure Ticos! Also 3 of the 4 Germans (Ramona, Joshy, Timo) that I met in Cahuita who are volunteering in SJ also made it!!

(smoking volcano)


(The mexicans think this tree is powerful...reaching out to god..the costa ricans think it's bad and angered the gods so they turned it upside down and it's roots are at the top!)

(BIG leaf!)

(this leaf evolved to have a split down the middle so that when the branches of taller trees in the forest fall onto it it no longer breaks, the branch just falls through the middle and the two parts of the leaf are not damaged..clever huh)

(made by a little bug that sits inside the leaf before it has fully opened...!)

We went to a Lebanese restaurant recommended by David and Hernan and had some food, beers and chatted away. It was fab. I was so happy everyone turned up and it was a great last night in Costa Rica. It really does feel like home here and it is a shame I couldn't spend more time here with them all. I will return !



(WOW, lava...stand clear!)


So, now I am waiting for my flight to Mexico. It is Friday afternoon. Josie should arrive Sunday night and we will travel together for a month :)

(at the hot springs)

Until the next time.......

Hope all is well with you all where ever you are

Love n hugs

Fio xx

Posted by Mariposas 11:13 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

Cahuita and Nicaragua

Carribean beach and City life.....

storm 28 °C

(little girl in the bus next to me while I was waiting to head off to Cahuita! - we giggled and waved at each other while she pretended to drop her teddy and I pretended to be worried !)

Hey all, it's been a while and to be honest it's because I haven't done much over the last month. After my last volunteering project I had planned to head to Nicaragua but as my foot was still sore I thought a rest on a caribbean beach would be better so I headed to Cahuita.

(Cabinas where I am staying)

(good old Cocos Bar!..drink, dance, be merry)
(road to the national park adn the white beach)

Cahuita is a fab little place. It's very small but full of cafes as it is a little tourist hotspot, but somehow it is still very local. There is only one bar in town which pumps out music most nights, especially at the weekends. Having spent the first few months of my trip hardly touching a drop of booze I have made up for it here as there is not much to do in the evenings other than go to the bar and it is lots of fun so that's what I do! I know a few of the locals now as well which is great. One of the guys, Cesar, in the bar dances Meringue very well (he's only 22 but he knows his stuff!) so I spent the first two weeks dancing with him most nights which was a lot of fun but probably didn't help my foot!

(local house on road to the beach)


(Cahuita National Park)

Cahuita has a beautiful coastline with a national park running parallel to it. Unfortunatley I haven't done the whole walk due to my retchid foot ! I have however seen monkeys whilst sitting on the beach and the other night I was in the bar with a friend when one of the local guys came up to us and said there was a sloth in the street....sure enough there was a sloth slowly making it's way from one side of the road to the other climbing along the electricity cables! That beats seeing them in a national park anyday!



One day I went with Cesar and his brother, Johnny, over the river to Panama, Johnny was going there for work- you don't need your passport just a permit to cross the river to purchase goods for business (at least that's what I think was going on! ) LOL! The tiny narrow boat that takes us across the river was then loaded up with goods for the shop including a full height fridge freezer of all things, seriously with all that and then the people about 6 or 7 of us I thought the boat was gonna go under the water level but we just about did ok!


Another day I went with Cesar and Johnny to the town of Bribri which is inbetween Cahuita and Panama and is known for it's indigenous people. We just went to the main town part though and I had my haircut which was a source of much intrigue to the people there as it's odd enough that I have such short hair, let alone having it cut!!! Cesar looked more nervous that I did! It was very amusing, my hair looked good at the end so all was well! All the women here have long hair so I look a little odd to them!


I then had to leave Costa Rica due to my visa so I hopped over to Nicaragua, as my foot was/is still not quite right I decided to come back to Cahuita after just one week in Nicaragua. I would have loved to have seen more of the country but it would've involved too much travelling and walking around and I really want my foot to heal so I am back on the Caribbean Coast...there's a lot worse places to have to sit still for a week or two !


As I type it is peeing down...we get very hot days here when the sun is super strong, and then days where it is just tropical rain falls for most of the day...I love it when we get a big storm ! We could do with one now ...except that I am meant to be going to Puerto Limon with Cesar and Johnny this afternoon so am hoping it's dry by then.

My time in Nicaragua was great. I met two Aussie chicks on the bus and decided to head straight to teh Isaldn of Ometepe with them.

(Kirsten and Brooke on the ferry in Nicaragua heading for Ometepe Island)

(first view of the big Volcano)

(they're all pretty religious here...This means "God is Love")

(The Che ferry!)


(Brooke braving the roads)

Not much to say really...just chilling and trying to rest my foot and not dance too much!

(Loud Congo monkey!)



(playground on the beach)
(Nicaragua was a lot greener than I'd imagined)

The next day we hired a car and Brooke drove us around the Islands which was a fab way to see the place because we drove through areas the buses don't so we saw where all the local, very rural, people live. We offered a woman and her 2 kids, and later and older lady a lift too which was fab. We were really worrried when we hired the car because it wasn't insured (only for damage to people but not to the car so if we hit someone they'd be ok insurance wise but if we wrote off the car we'd be liable! Eek!) but we hardly encountered any traffic and when we did it was either a motorbike or a plantation truck! The children, horses and cows in the road were mor of an obstacle! LOL!

(she was only 20 and already had 2 kids!)


(Plantation Truck!)

I then went to Granada on my own the following day and wasn't overly struck by it to begin with but it did grow on me. On day 2 there I went for a wonder and ended up chatting to one of the local guys who was clearly very poor, dirty, shoes fallling apart and w sat in the big Church talking (spanish of course). I then headed for the local market which was very loca, lots of little stalls huddled together, dirty streets, chaos, got my sandals reparied at about 3 times teh price it would cost a local but still only about a fiver so I just paid it. Then I found a very local place to eat...didn't look the cleanest but I had not problems, the food tasted good and I wasn't ill.


That evening when I sat on a bench in the park one of the other local (not so poor) guys started chatting to me and then his friend joined us and then his wife too. In the end the couple invited me to a glass of wine with them We headed off to a very nice restuarant where the 3 of us got through 2 bottles of wine and a plate of cheese before they invited me to dinner at another very good resturant. It was great. They insisted on paying too! They spoke some English as had lived in the states before but we mainly spoke in Spanish and covered a variety of topics including Nicaragua, CEntral America, politics, Blair Bush, Brown and Obama!!

(locals washing their clothes in the lake)

I will stay here for another week and then possibly head over to another area of Costa Rica before getting my flight to Mexico where Josie Jo is hoping to join me for fun and frolics!


Hope all ok where you are - send me news!

(locals with their catch)

Lots of love n hugs as always

Fio xx

Posted by Mariposas 10:45 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

Teaching English and living with a family in Las Delicias

...and a very sore foot!!

sunny 30 °C

Well, having looked at my last blog, baby turtles are hard to beat in terms of exciting updates!

The last project, which I have just left, was great and was very much a learning curve for me. not only in terms of teaching English but also I learnt a lot from the kids and about myself.

Las Delicias is a small community about 5km outside of montezuma - the hip little seaside tourist town.

(The Family home)

The family I stayed with were wonderful, and actually makes me realise the first family were a bit odd. There was Sulee the mum, Francisco or Chico the dad, Francisco the young lad (13) and Kimberley the girl (11). Chico wasn't there to begin with as he works at Cabo Blanco, a beautiful national park nearby. Last night, my last night I gave them all a gift - booze for the adults and a necklace each for the kids which they seemed to love - yay.


(Chico, Sulay, Kimberly and Francisco)

Lucas their dog

Chester, their less friendly dog

The school is only small and the walk there everyday was about a kilometre on difficult gravel roads...which normally I would have loved as it is quite rural and scenic but having hurt my toe and foot quite badly in Samara just befiore I arrived it meant the walk every day was rather painful.


There had been a big storm on the Friday before and Cristina and I were in a beach side bar when it started - it got so crazy the sea was washing into the bar which was fun at first but then it sent the tables flying and the beers crashing down! It calmed down and it was nice to just watch the torrential rain, drink a beer and chat to the locals - who weren't really locals but all foreigners who lived in Samara...including a Brit!

When we left the beach was in chaos ... lots of streams of water everywhere, the sand had all shifted and was a mess and there was lots of debri and the stuff outside other cafes etc was everywhere. We were careful but I didn't see a metal pole slightly sticking out of the sand and whacked it one with my foot - OUCH!

(The little shop on the way home where I'd buy a nice refreshing ice cream - it's alwas so hot here)

The next day it was pretty swollen, red and sore and my toe looked like it had shifted a bit, but I figured it wasn't broken so I just carried on with things as normal...only a lot more slowly than normal. I think the walking to and from school each day probably didn't help it's recovery and it is still not right one week later.... I think I am impatient though!

As it turned out the director at the school knew some guy who helped locals who played football when they were injured so he had a look at it for me, we discovered the pain went all the way up my leg as the force of the strike had rumbled its way up my leg....he was gently easing each toe up and down and I was pretty tense and he had to keep telling me to relax my leg, when I finally relaxed and was not looking because I was chatting to the Director he pulled my sore toe out and I can tell you it HURT LIKE HELL ! *giggle* but it did look like it was in a better position than from before, it looked longer again! He said it had kinda got pushed in and stuck - at least that's what I think he said....

(I miss the children already)

so anyway, I am still hobbling a bit but the lovely family took me to the Doctors just to get it checked out - to make sure I just need to be patient and wait and that there isn't anything major wrong with it - all is ok. The doctor checked it out, gave me some tablets (which I think are just Nurofen but are helping the pain) and told me to put ice on it three times a day...

(My main classroom)

(The rest of the school)

Anyway, when I arrived at school on day one the Director told me that they don't have an English teacher so I wasn't so much as an assistant, but well...erm THE English teacher! I was a little nervous to say the least, I've never taught English in my life, let alone been left in charge with a bunch of children!... all the red tape, rules and protections in place in england mean I am a bit prgrammed to things being very different at home and I was a little culture shocked to just be sent outside the classroom with a bunch of kids, a white board and some pens...... LOL


Thankfully the first group of kids were only little uns, about 8 yrs old, and there were only 5 of them - Valentina, Carlos, Marcia , Yoselin and Marie. We learnt numbers 1-20 and some colours too. It was quite good fun but a real 'learn as you go' approach from my point of view! Valentina really didn't want to write down the Spanish translation and when I tried to get her to she just told me that her dad spoke english so she didn't need to ...how frustrating then that he hadn't bothered to teach her english ! ...but while the others were writing I managed to chat to her and get her to write down what I wanted in the end. It was a great feeling as I managed to connect with her, I tried a few approaches and finally got there! After that lesson she was all smiles with me and loved her English classes and I never had to ask her repeatedly to do anything, she just did it first time. This was so much more than about teaching english though, it was great to connect with her and for her to experience reasoning and listen to why I wanted her to write things down etc.


Then there were Mario, Angelo, Luis and Sonia. An interesting bunch of older kids, about - 10-12 yrs I think. Sonia is a very quite, very intelligent girl who always looks bored stiff and I have never seen her smile. She was a very distant lonely little girl and I wish I'd had more time to spend with her. She is in a class with a lot of kids younger than her and Luis is the only one the same age but a. he is a boy and b. he larks about with the other younger boys. I've seen their grades and her results are always good so I suspect she is bored because the work is easy and she appears to not really have any friends to play or chat with.

The set up of the school, because it is so small, means that the main class I was in had different groups of kids at different levels, grade , 2, 3 and 6. So, the kids sit in sections on the class and the teacher has to write seperate things on the board for them, and give them seperate work...which is probably part of the reason the style of teaching is very boring, ie blackboard and textbook work only. They loved the interative way I taught English which was great.

(Sonia and Valentina)

Finally I had grade 3 who were Graciela, Noelia and Esmeralda. These girls all really enjoyed the lesson and engaged with no troubles whatsoever.

All the kids were great, Angelo - Italian parents - could be a bit distruptive and always trying to play up a bit but it was quite fun really! Mario was a sweetheart who on my last day gave me a little book as a gift - I'd taught them animals and apologised that I hadn't had time to get pictures together so we would have to just use the white board and it may be alittle boring, they didn't seem bored at all in the end, but Mario brought in this book from home for me which has pictures of animals with the english and the spanish word in it. He told me it was a gift for me to remember him by!! HOW CUTE!! It would be interesting to see how he does as he is a sweet lad but was often influenced by naughty Angelo so I can see him either being friends with kids at college, secondary school, who help him study, or help him skive off!


Esmeralda's younger brother came in the next day, Maelio, and I thought to myself that they looked more indigenous that the other kids. Later Chico told me that their family were indeed indigenous and they lived in the house on the hill in exchange for working, ie they didn't own their own land or house but work the land and get accommodation and some pay for it. In the past the kids never went to school and so they are poorly educated - he said that's partly why the family is so big - no sex education either etc, so it's good these two are at school but he said they may not go on to college, depends as they may be put to work on the Finca with the family. I hope not, as much as they may be happy continuing in this lifestyle I think it's important to have choice and education gives you that.



The next day I knew I had the older group, 11 - 14 yr olds and had been told that they'd been studying English for about 5 years. I was pretty damn nervous about it and spent the night looking at Kimberley's book to see what they'd learnt. They had covered all the basic topics and a load of verbs. I thought to myself that if they were on to learning verbs the basic topics must be fairly easy for them -even though I knew that they only learn English if there is a volunteer and the last volunteer was French so they learnt French instead - but I had no clue as to how much they knew and how difficult the class would be!




I thought I'd start the class off by easing them back into English and also to see what they did know - so I handed out a basic sheet with introductory information on it ... ie where are you from etc.....I only gave them the Q or the A and they had to fill in the bit that was missing, ie where it said 'I am from Costa Rica' they had to write 'Where are you from?'..... Despite being a bulshy loud group with some cockey older ones playing up not one of them understood what to do, and even when I went round and explained it individually not one of them could remember this basic english. Which, for me was surprising but it made the class easier because we re-learnt basic stuff.


There were a few times when I had to raise my voice to get them in order, bloody 'almost teenagers' !!, which scared me a bit as I remembered teachers at school raising their voices and not liking it!! Anyway, we then moved on to learn clothes and made good use of the badly cut out shapes of a dress, a t-shirt, trousers etc that I'd been up all night cutting out!! We learnt the words together first of all and then I made them individually come up to the front of the class with the rest of the class calling out an item of clothing, in english of course, and the poor kid at the front had to select if from my badly cut out pieces of card and pin it to my even more badly cut out body which I'd pinned to the blackboard!!


It was a right laugh and they did enjoy it, and hopefully learnt a bit too. I learnt loads in this class. Some kids I could push and persuade to come up and participate, others I knew it wasn't right to push them to come to the front of the class. It really is a balance. It was difficult to control the rowdy ones, partly coz I was a new teacher, a foreigner and partly coz my Spanish is not fluent so it's difficult to portray authority when you're speaking in pigeon spanish!!



At the beginning Fabio, the main teacher, stayed in the class but left after 5 mins or so. There was one rather rowdy girl who was playing up a bit, getting his attention and generally showing off. After he left she continued to test me, but I got her to come up to the class and smiled at her a lot and in the end she actually volunteered to come up a second time.

Fabio later asked me about a couple of them including her and was surprised to hear she'd gone up to the front of the class. A few days later she was chatting to me asking when they were next having an English class, and seemed genuinely disappointed when I said I thought we'd have a class on Friday because she told me her class didn't have lessons this Friday. Now, she may just have wanted an easy lesson to get out from the normal run of things but it was still nice to see her enthusiasm.

I have learnt this was not really about teaching English. I think a lot of them will never need it but it was a great opportunity to get them thinking differently, engaging in a class in a more interactive manner to normal, increasing their self confidence etc. It reminded me of something I learnt with Delia in Spain (the woman I lived with in Alforon near Granada - she has done a lot of teaching english to kids in foreign countries)...that teaching is so much more than subject based - when you engage with children you affect their self esteem, their confidence, their interests etc etc. This project has shown me that.


(The girl on the right was the one who played up a bit but joined in in the end and made an effort to come and say goodbye and gave me a hug!)

I got a great deal out of this project and it is a shame I only had one week there. Although I am already very sad to leave that I am a little grateful not to have a second week to get more attached to them all !!

On Saturday I was meant to meet Cristina, the spanish woman I met in Buena Vista, to go to Cabo Blanco national park together but as I knew it was a 2 hour hike in the park to get to the beach, and an even harder 2 hour hike back I couldn't go because of my foot. Such a shame but things don't always work out. Sat night I went to a fiesta with the family whcih was fun and a little drunken - whiskey n coke of all things !!


Sunday I met Cristina in Montezuma and we were meant to climb the waterfall. Apparently the first one is easy but the 2nd and 3rd have a rope you need to pull yourself up the waterfall on and the family told me when there has been rain the water levels are higher and it is more dangerous so to be careful. Me and Cristina LAUGHED SO much because we gave up at the bottom of the 1st one !! We climbed over a couple of waterfall sodden rocks and neither of us felt confident, me with my poorly foot and her with not very good shoes. So, we sat down at the foot of the waterfall, enjoyed the view and the sun and laughed as people passed us and we felt rather pathetic for giving up!! We felt a little better when a guy and his two boys also turned back.



We spent a great day on the beach drinking beer and feeding the stray dog instead!! It was great to see her again and she is going to join me in Montezuma for this afternoon on my last day before I leave the Pennisula.


I have changed my plans a bit as I don't feel safe going to nicuragua limping so I am going to head to the Caribbean coast here and have a week or so recouperating my poor foot before heading to Nicuragua.


Hope all is well at home. Katy, thank you so much for phoning, it was great to speak to you, and thank you to those of you who have emailed me - it is always lovely to hear from friends.

The biggest fly or wasp I and the family had ever seen...Eyueew

hugs n love

Fio xx

Posted by Mariposas 10:43 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

Baby turtles!!!

.......and good friends

sunny 30 °C




Hello again.........I have just left the turtle project having stayed on for an extra week in the end! My last project was delayed as the children were given an extra week off school after their holidays because there have been cases of swine flu, so, as a precaution, they kept the kids out of school! But they go back on Monday which means both Cristina and I can head off to our last project. We are both signed up to the same one but will live with different families and will go to different schools.


We were both ready to leave the project but when it came to leaving we were both really sad to say goodbye to people. We both met a lot of great people there. I hope to stay in touch with the guys I really bonded with, especially the English crew (Hi Kate, Helen, Hayley and Jakey Baby!).

(Miss Kate)
(Hels Bells)
(Hayley Bayley)
(Jakey Baby)

There were other cool people there too, I get on so well with Cristina and we are sure we were meant to meet - our lives and thoughts are too similar, it's a little freaky!!


Zac, a red haired Japanese American guy (what a mix hey Zaccey!) who smokes banana skins and toad venom (!!) was always a ray of light and just made me laugh a lot - crazy guy (but a softey underneath)


and Antonio who, in his own words, is a Canadian goof who taught me Canadian slang (Get her done! Gongshow (no idea if that's how you spell it?!)


So, anyway turtles.......things are picking up at the project, there are more turtle coming out to lay there eggs which is cool. There are still nights when you don't see any but I think in the end I saw about 6. Patrols are hard work but for me the best part of thework at the camp. Some people didn't like going on patrol ( 3 or 4 hours of hard walking in the dark!) but for me it was the reason I was there and even if we didn't see a turtle I enjoyed being on the beach at night, often having a good chat with someone. So, on my last night Wilberth asked if I wanted to have thenight off or to work and if so what work, I chose patrol.




It was a late start - due to the tide - so we headed out about 11.30pm and I'm used to not seeing turtles so was happy walking, and Everisto was leading (he a Mexican volunteer who is there as part of his Uni course I think!) and he is so lovely it was nice that my last patrol was with him. Also, Grant and Gavin where with us. Grant has been living in Costa Rica for 3 years doing community development work and was at the camp chaperoning two 17yr olds. We were having really good conversations about travel, community devlopment, the tsunami which seemed to be a big turning point in life for both of us and then Evaristo turned around and we saw a turtle coming out of the sea, just about saw her as it was so dark! I think it's pretty rare to see them coming out so we watched her walk up the beach (lost sight of her a few times as my eyes were struggling with night vision (despite having been wlaking for about 2 hours by this point). Then we watched her looking for somewhere to lay her eggs, we thought she'd given upas she started walking away again and I was sad for a moment thinking she was going back to the sea without laying but then she found a better spot and started digging.





It amazes me how they do this. When you look at their body, their flippers and then watch how they use them to dig down about 50cm it's incredible. So, we gave her some space and then went up to watch her prepare her nest. Evaristo handed the bag and glove out towards Grant who was nice enough to offer it to me as he knew it was my last night and that I hadn't so far managed to catch the eggs while they were being laid. So, I sat on teh sand behind her, Evaristo had cleared the sand away a little from behind her to create an opening into her nest so I could reach in and get the eggs. The turtles go into a trance when they lay so they are not aware that we are taking the eggs and measuring and clipping them etc so it is not stressful for them. You just have to make sure you are done and out of her way when she stops so she doesn't get stressed by our presence.




It was the most amazing thing I picked up her eggs in the nest and then as she laid the next one I put my hand underneath her to catch them!!! she often laid 2 at a time, complete with blody fluid - thank goodness for the glove! It was an experience which is hard to describe and probably once in a lifetime! Evaristo measured her and tagged her. We then watched her cover the nest up with sand, this I also find incredible. The thudding sound of her flipper as she pats thesand back down is so strong and loud you wouldn't think they had that strength. She then swishes her body and flippers around on the top to spread the sand out to disguise the nest. It is so clever. Poor thing is so tired after and you want to say, don't worry you can go back to teh sea, we have your eggs and will after your babies! We watched her head back to the sea,. with a break or two...as she got closer she was resting but the tide was so high and as it came in she had to go with it and start swimming! Poor thing didn't get her rest.





The walk back with the eggs was a little tricky, you have to be so careful with them and the tide was coming in up to our knees at some points. When we arrived at the vivero in camp, (the hatchery) I got to dig the replica nest as well and count the eggs into the whole, only 81 this time. It was such a great end to my stay there, my last patrol andI saw thewhole process, her leaving the sea, looking for a place to nest, catching the eggs as she laid them, and building the new nest back at camp. I was so happy and excited that although it was nearly 3am I didn't want to go to bed!! I stayed up and chatted with the guys on the hatchery shift for a half hour before heading up to bed.

(so tiny)

(we tried to create shadow over them when the sun peeked out)

(so far to go!)

3 hours later I was up as I couldn't sleep any longer and brekkie is at 7/7.30 anyway so I got up and chilled out with Hayley by the beach watching some new girls having morning surf lessons. It was a nice start to teh day and I even got cereal and fruit for brekkie - hoorah (you would not believe what a luxury this is!!! normally it's fried rice, or badly fried eggs so the yoke no longer exists etc ! not my kind of brekkie food at all).

(just been washed out - don't move your feet through fear of treading on them!)

(washed back)




The other highlight of the project was seeing BABY turtles!!! Before I arrived the camp did not have a licence to remove the eggs from the beach (I don't know the details but it seems ridiculous that the project has been there for 5 years now and the licence wasn´t in place this year ready for the beginning of the season !)...so in the early days of the season when they found eggs they moved them from their original place to another place on the beach. This sounds a little odd but if you don't move them tracks could leads people to the nests ...and I wonder if the smell of the turtles attracts crabs too (but that's just me making things up!!).

(where is the sea?!)

(baby turtle tracks)


(where'd he go...did he make it?)

Anyway one day I'd just laid down on my bed for an afternoon snooze as I was SO tired and it was SO hot when I heard a comotion!! I got up and people were going on about aturtle on the beach, which is unheard of at 3/4pm in the afternoon so I hurried down to the beach and saw Kate running like her life depended on it (she is a sporty lass but I'm sure she could've broken the 100m record the speed she was going!!) and apparently there were baby turtles hatching on the beach. I was totally confused as I thought all the eggs were in the hatchery - had we missed a nest? SO, I sprinted back to camp to get my camera too (that's where Kate was headed!).

(pipped at the post!)

(Go, go go!)


We got back to the beach to see a clump of baby turtles struggling at the top of a nest and adead one on the beach :o( (which the dog later ate! ). Wilberth came over and had a look and actually put some of them back underground as he said they were too small and needed more time. Thank goodness it was a cloudy afternoon, if it had been in the hottest part of the day with no cloud cover they would only have had 10 mintues before the sun was too much and they risked dying in the strength of the sun. So, we watched the remaining 6 trying to make it. One was still half in his shell!!! They all started waddling down the beach towards the sea.


(on his back :(.....)

(teeny turtles)

(the sea is so enormous)

They were so tiny and the sea just looked so so far away for them and scarily vast. The poor things were so tired from de-shelling and clambering our from underground and now they had to get to the sea. We were all very excited and in awe. Lots of photos being taken (without falsh as not to blind and disorientate the poor things). We watched as one by one they made their way down. The first one who was looking strong ended up being taken over by number two who sped up and overtook him and the last minute! (felt like I was watching the
athletics of the turtle world!).

(improvised game of basketball! - no net so Hayley and a bucket on the balcony made do!)

It was such an emotional experience, it is so hard for them especially to get into the sea. They get to the waters edge and then get wiped out back to the sand and have to waddle back and try again. The last one really struggled. He got flipped onto his back a few times...you're not meant to intervene - they have to do it on their own to survive. We did, however, gently help flip him back onto his front after he was struggling for too long. The poor thing was wiped out and washed so far back onto the sand so many times we beganto wonder if he would make it. But, he did !! Hoorah - go squirt!! (if you've seen Finding Nemo you'll get this reference!). We named 4 of them after the teenage mutant ninja turtles (Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo, Donatello) and the other two were Squirt 1 and Squirt 2 !!

(Go Zaccy!)


It was such an amazing thing to see, I gave Cristina a biug hug who was all very teary eyed! Kate said she felt like a mother watching her little uns take on the big wide world. We just hope they all make it and come back to teh beach one day to lay their own eggs. Go baby turtles!

(Maureen and Megan)


So, lots of turtles, lots of emotion and amazing experiences. As well as meeting some really great people. Kate is from Plymouth and is hoping to go to Uni in Bristol in September which of course is very exciting as Bristol is such a fab city! and bless her heart she is taking back my sleeping bag and fleece (their so called "cold nights" do not exist here!!) and I am already looking forward to meeting up with her for a drink or two in good old Bristol. Helen and Hayley live in York (which means I can visit them en route to Josie in Sheffield!) - which also meant I spent most of my time talking in a Northern accent which caused much amusement to all! and Jakey Baby (he had so many nicknames but this was my one for him ! (others were Jack Dog coz the Ticos misheard his names !!), JD, ) is a Southampton lad heading for Plymouth Uni next year so we'll have to have a reunion down south too.

(Lovely Pat...he is only 17!!!)


(Me n Zac, Kate n Antonio!)

I am now chilling out with Cristina in Samara for 2 nights before we head off to our teaching project. I ma not sure if I will do this one for 1 or 2 weeks, I will see how it goes, and what the family are like that I will be living with.




After that I plan to head for Nicuragua for a couple of weeks. If you include my time in Spainm (with my 2 week stop over back home) I amnow 4months into the 8 month trip - WOW!

(The river we had to cross to get to the project ...this was at it's lowest,we had to swim across before!)

(the taxi stop! ...waiting for the taxi to Samara)

Hope all is good with you guys, thinking of you as always.

Lots of love n hugs

Fio xxxxxxx

Posted by Mariposas 08:13 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

Playa Buena Vista

Turtle project, crabs, no electricity, lots of biting insects and a dodgy belly ...again!

sunny 28 °C


This is Bill and Lyn who I met en route to Samara

I unexpectedly have internet access mid project - we get Sundays off so walk to the nearest town for some civilisation! So, here I am back in Samara in the internet cafe - I never thought I would say this but it's nice to no have sand under my feet!! The camp has sand or grit everywhere and I feel constantly mucky and my feet are a little sore...although that is more to do with the fact that they are covered in bites!




I knew this project would be the most touristy and different to the other ones. It is but it's good too. There are a nice group of people here, people have left and new ones arrived already. I am of course speaking English pretty much the whole time though, but I was prepared for that and to be honest I am quite enjoying the break from Spanish. I do still speak to the bosses in Spanish and there is a Mexican guy and a Spanish woman here too so I try to use Spanish with them.


It was really odd the other day when Cristina arrived coz I'd been saying the day before it would be nice if there were some spanish people here and then she arrived, she spanish, she is studying psychology and leaves this project the same day as me to go to the same teaching english project!! Although we are based in different schools and different areas but we both have to head for the same town so that'll make the journey there more enjoyable for both of us :)


This project is hard to describe, there is a lot of time where you do nothing but then thehours of work are all over the place so it feels exhausting! Plus it is SO HUMID here and even at night it is no cooler. I am enjoying it but two weeks will be enough for me (some people stay for months!)-


So, a typical day here is getting up at 7am for breakfast,working from 8.30 until 11.30 or so - this is generally work around the camp and changes daily, lunch at midday and then free time until 5pm when we have dinner. Night work starts at 6pm.

Day work can be cleaning the camp, weeding the path, walking up the water generator to get water to the camp, or filling sand bags with sand from the beach to put around the hatchery to build a barrier to keep the crabs out! It was tiring in the hot sun all day but the poor boys were the ones who had to carry the sacks back to the hatchery from the beach so they had it tougher.





There are two types of work - working in the hatchery or going on patrol. The hatchery is shift work of two hours and starts from 6pm to 6am. So you could work 6pm to 8pm or 2am, to 4am. The hatchery, as its name suggests, is where the turtle eggs are. They are buried under the sand. The sand hatchery is divided into squares and if there are eggs under the ground the square has a little wooden stick in it ! and if they are near to hatching, a cage on top so when the little turtles start popping up they are contained in a cage before we release them.



The work involves walking around the hatchery with a red light looking for crabs!! If you find one you have to use your hands, or a stick to get rid of it!! If not they can dig under the sand and get to the eggs for a tasty snack! So, the work is not hard but it's often at some ungodly hour of the night on your own and so is tiring in another way.


We break the two hours up into 15 minute crab searches of the hatchery and in between sit at a table and try to read by candle light!! The 2-4am shift is the worst coz you don't get much time to get back to sleep before you are woken up for breakfast! I haven't had the 4-6am shift yet but people like it coz you get to see the sun come up and you just don't go back to bed.

There are lots of geckos here which are so cute and you hear them all night squeaking away to each other, that's inbetween hearing the howler monkeys and the crashing of the sea!!



It's odd coz it'd dark by 6pm, pitchblack by 7pm - no light pollution here, so people feel tired early and you have to work out when you go to bed before your shift to get enough kip over the night!

Patrols are my favourite, they can be exxhautsing coz you can walk the beach (2km) for about 3 or 4 hours hoping to find a turtle! It's difficult coz you're walking on sand, the beach is not flat it's very sloped which makes it harder, and it can be really dark if the moon is not out, plus you sometimes have the tide to deal with and getting wet!!!



There are not many turtles at the moment and so sightings are a little rare :( However I decided to start going on patrols even when I wasn't scheduled to, this means I patrol and have to do my hatchery shift so it's tiring but I did get to see a turtle this way!! Hoorah! It was a really dark night, the moon was covered by clouds so no light to help us see where we were going nad it was raining but I still decided to go, despite not being scheduled for the work (you can go along on any of them becaus eit is your free time as long as you do your scheduled hatchery work as well) because they are perfect conditions for turtles exiting the water, they prefer it when it is dark and raining (safer from predators) and it paid off as I got to see a turtle!!! She was so beautiful, and it was amazing to watch her. She was sitting on the sand moving her back legs to dig the sand out and then after she had laid her eggs the way she moved her back legs to put sand back in the nest and to pound it flat on top was incredible - the noise was amazing! Seeing her has made this project for me. It was quite emotional.

She was found close to camp and I was with two of theother 4 english people here and Wilberth said I could go back to camp and wake up the other 2 girls (because it is hard to see turtles at the moment) so, I ran back in the dark praying I didn't fall over, or miss the camp! I found it and went runing in, totally freaked out poor Cristina and Evaristo who werew on hatchery shift and just saw someone running into camp and then I ran upt he stairs shouting "There's a turtle!! There's a turtle!!If you wanna come and see her get up now!!" One of the German girls thought I meant the babies were hatching and I had to disappoint her!! But Helen and Kate got up and I ran back to the beach - I didn't want to miss anything but when I got back she was stil preparing her hole and I just hoped I'd been clear enough to the girls telling them to go to the right when they got to the beach to find us! They did find us and were so grateful to have been woken up. We all had a laugh at how hysterical I had been and Kate said she panicked at first bcause I was also out of breath so she was woken up to me panting in a loud voice "Turtle" !! It was very funny!



We must have just missed seeing her walking up the beach because when we found her she was just preparing the hole so we saw her doing that, and then laying her eggs, Wilberth (the boss) cleared the sand away from behind her so we could see the eggs dropping into the hole she had made, and then Jake had the honour of removing the eggs, while Jake is doing that the others are measuring her and making a note of it and clipping her with a tag which gives her a number so they can monitor her movements whjen she comes back or if she appears at another beach.



Then the eggs, which are about the size of a pingpong ball and quite soft - very fragile, are taken back to the hatchery and we have to build a replicar turtñe nest. This involves diggind straight down about the width a little wider than your arm and about 50cm below the ground, at the bottom you need to dig around a basin shape - the size depends on how many eggs you have. This one laid 99!!! The most is about 140 and they lay eggs about 6 times a season and the numbers normally reduce to about 75. The eggs are carefully put into their new nest and covered with sand. They are then of course protected by our evening hatchery patrols to make sure the crabs don't get them!


As and when the eggs hatch the data is checked to find out where they were found and they will be taken back to the same place on the beach before they are released :) If I am really lucky some will hatch this week before I leave, but it's not sometime you can put a specific date on so they may not hatch until next week.....



I of course would love to see more turtles but am so happy to have seen one. There were two girls here before me who didn't see any in 11 days! It is the beginning of season but I get the impression it is quieter than normal.

It feels good to be helping in this sort of a project, helping the turtles. You know, only 10% of the babies will survive after entering the sea, so they need some help. If we didn't remove them from the beach they would be eatenby crabs, dogs, birds or be stolen by people to eat - people eat the eggs and the meat if they catch the poor turtle while she is laying. I think the problem is greater on the Carribbean coast as it is more of a delicacy there.



This project has also confirmed things to me, like the fact that I couldn't live in a humid country as it is too draining for me - my energy levels are low, sleep deprivation and a poor sleep cycle does make me a little grumpy (!) - I haven't been grumpy with other people but can feel it in myself!! LOL, I prefer smaller groups of people, I don't like arrogant people, I don't like people who are too frank ie rude!, my stomach has problems adapting! (I was sick for the first 3 days again when I arrived here), there is only so much beach time I can take before,well frankly it gets a little dull! I SO don't miss TV, I miss electricity for things like communication aids (ie internet or phone) and chilling technology like fridges and freezers - I am missing cold water! and bread (they can't keep it fresh here), I like friendly people (!), I am so not into the hippy thing (just because you don't wash, have facial hair and wear a lot of beaded jewellery does not make you a cool, interesting or nice person and it certainly doesn't make you better than the rest of us!! (actually that's not from this project but from travelling and more from time in Puerto Jiminez!)), I like my freedom, I like having options, I don't like being limited - or isolated so much.



I am looking forward to the next project but also to the time after that when my own time is my own time again and I can do and go where and when I want!! I guess I've always been like that - ask my old school teachers or any of my previous bosses!!! LOL!!

I don't have any turtle photos as it's not permitted because the light will be too blinding and will freak the poor things out! Besides, you wouldn't want to carry my heavy camera for 3 or 4 hours of beach walking !!

That´s about it for now.....

Take care.


Fio xx

Posted by Mariposas 09:19 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

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