Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Pura Vida

I’m not too sure this is right time for cruising Costa Rica. You get fooled by landing in the northern end at the beautiful anchorage at Bahia Santa Elena. After that, it is a lot of open anchorages. This time of year you can get 2 weeks straight of 8-10 foot sub-equatorial ground swells. This makes the anchorages at a minimum unfriendly, all the way down to untenable. CR has two seasons, the wet season and the dry season. When you get to the southern end of CR around Golfito and the Osa Peninsula there are also two seasons. The wet season and the wetter season. This is the wetter season. Golfito is the home of true tropical downpours that fill your dinghy in minutes. These wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t come along with lightening that strikes so close to the boat that 20,000 pounds of boat shudders from bow to stern from the following thunder wave.

crIMG_8244 So how hard does it rain down here? See the multiple 55gal drums tied to the pangas ? These are to add extra flotation so the boats don’t sink when it rains.

Also, it’s a little hot this time of year. On the days that are not overcast by around 9:30 in the morning the air temperature and humidity conspire to suck the will to live out of you.  

So how come we like CR? I think I had such low expectations that it was easy to like once we got here. There’s a saying that you always here when you research cruising in CR: Theft is not a crime in Costa Rica, it’s an art form. As far as I can see it is no worse than Mexico, El Salvador or Oakland. We feel like we need to take the normal evening precautions, but no more. As opposed to  El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico, CR is amazingly clean – no road trash or piles of floating crap in the waters. The place is awash in flower power color. Purple orchids, red, yellow and pink hibiscus, a thousand shades of green from leaves as big as ants to elephant ears… OK, we are getting to the end of my plant identification skills. Then there really are monkeys cruising around everywhere– you just have to stop for a bit and look up for the unnatural branch movements. Iguanas, Jesus Christ lizards, crocs, scarlet macaws, and pairs of green parrots arguing with each other like an old married couple.

Pura Vida is a particularly Costa Rican idiom.  A fishing panga pulls up next to you at the dinghy dock, you rip of your best Spanish ‘Good afternoon, how are you?’ greeting. The fisherman looks up and says ‘Pura vida’. It’s the ‘pure life’ of Costa Rica.

The stops down the outside of central CR were only memorable for how uncomfortable the anchorages were, so rolly at night it’s hard to sleep or sporting killer beach dinghy landings.

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We stopped at Bahia Portero, where Le Bateau was getting put back together from her lightening strike 

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Bahia Ballena

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Hauling the ice back a mile or so in 95deg heat from the town near Ballena. The bags got a lot lighter as we walked.

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The less than dinghy-friendly pier at Ballena

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Here’s the swell marching into the anchorage at Dominicalito, our next anchorage. We were up all night in the swell which broke on the outside reef then rolled on through the inside to pound on the beach. Thankfully,we’d anchored bow and stern.

Bahia Drake

Google Map

Things started looking up once we go into Bahia Drake (pronounced Dhra-Kay). Named after a supposed visit by Sir Francis himself to fix up his ships and plan some more plunder of South America. Just offshore Bahia Drake is Isla Caña. The island is supposed to have great diving in the dry season. Now it is too overcast to really want to make the trip out. It’s real claim to fame is that it gets hit by lightening more times per year than any other spot in Central America.  I’m just not a big fan of being on a boat with a piece of metal sticking 55 feet in the air while surrounded by lightening bolts, so we passed up the opportunity to test the Caña lightening theory and ducked into Drake.

 crIMG_8218 Hiking the trail along Bahia Drake. Coco, the local cattle dog, came out to escort us up and back on the trail. She made sure all the other dogs kept their distance and that we found the right paths around the streams and to the bridges.

 crIMG_8217 Just think of the size fishing poles you could make out of this stand of bamboo.

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Coco continuing her tour.

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Free-range macaws hiding in the trees.

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Coco had to cross the bridge first before Chris  was willing to trust it.

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Drakes Bay flowers.

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The dinghy landing at Bahia Drake is at the mouth of a stream that comes out of the jungle.We would take our dinghy as far up as we could and then lift the motor and drift down checking out the critters on the way.

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A most notable critter on the left bank.

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The apparent boss of the center stream rock.

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Another bird critter watching us carefully from the right bank…

The last trip we did drifting down the stream it started to pour near the end. We pulled up under the canopy on the stream edge.It got really dark and we were treated to troupe of tan faced capuchin monkeys chowing down on the new growth over head. You’ll have to take our word for it, as it was too dark for pics to come out.

Pura Vida- Paul

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