Things To Do in La Fortuna

la Fortuna

La Fortuna (The Fortune) is a small city in Alajuela province of Costa Rica attracting hordes of tourists with its many natural attractions and activities: volcano hikes, crater lagoons, waterfalls, hot springs, whitewater rafting, hanging bridges, zip-lines, kayaking, caverns, and others. But the main attraction is Arenal Volcano- an active andesitic stratovolcano whose perfect cone towers over the town just 10 km to the west- one of the top 10 most active volcanoes in the world until 2010, when it stopped erupting lava and is now dormant.

Arenal Volcano

Arenal Volcano

We take the bus to La Fortuna with the idea to spend there a couple of days, but we end up staying longer, as we just fell in love with the entire place and all the FREE activities it provides, besides the many very expensive ones, which we skipped.

Street in la Fortuna

Street in la Fortuna

We get a room in a super nice hotel- Las Palmas, and after a short negotiation, we pay $25 per day (instead of $40) for a private room on the second floor, with a balcony, with nice hot water showers right in the center of the city, next to the supermarket, complete with a friendly cat who comes to visit us in the room every evening.

Pick nick in the park at La Fortuna

Pick nick in the park at La Fortuna

The city itself is the most charming, clean and tranquil little town where blond young backpackers coming from Europe make up more than half the population, and every house is a hostel or a restaurant.

El Poso

Immediately, we begin exploring. The first place we visit, is “El Poso” (The Pool) – a natural pool under a bridge just outside of town. It’s a 15 minute walk on the main road towards la Fortuna Cascades. Way before the cascades, which are a popular but expensive site, there is a bridge, and right before the bridge a small path leads us to the free-of-charge alternative. El Poso on La Fortuna River is popular with the local kids who come here in the afternoon and perfect the art of jumping in the river, or just chill in the water, or sit on the rocks and smoke marijuana. We join them, only for the jumping-in-the-river and chill-in-the-water part, as we don’t enjoy smoking anything…

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El Poso

There is a rope hanging over the river and Ivo and Maya play Tarzan. It’s scary the first time when Maya takes the rope and swings high and then lets go and drops in the river below from about ten meters with a splash, but after the fifth time it just gets more and more fun, and Maya doesn’t want to leave the place.

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Ivo performing “The Bulgarian Flying Hummer” jump

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Maya Tarzan

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One- Two

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Threeee!

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Yes, they did jump! I took a video of this one

Aguas Termales

The next day, we take the bus heading to the hot springs not far from town, and tell the driver to stop at the FREE thermal springs (Las aguas termales gratis). There are two resorts built around the hot volcanic springs with specially made pools and manicured gardens, which are probably very beautiful and super nice- we don’t know, as we didn’t visit those. Instead, the bus driver leaves us near a small path in the forest on the right side of the road and after a short walk we get to the river. It’s the same hot-water river coming from the same volcanic springs like the ones of the resorts, only this one is with free public access and there are no special pools and gardens and restaurants- just the river, completely natural and HOT! And there is no one but us in this awesome river-Jacuzzi!

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Thermal river

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Maya and Mira in the Jacuzzi

Hiking to Lake Arenal Dam

After about an hour we are all nicely soaked and marinated, ready to go to the Arenal Volcano Park, which is further down the same road. We walk on the paved street for about an hour and then a couple of tourists from the USA with a rental car pick us up and bring us to the park’s entrance, which is to the left. But instead of going in the park, which is I-don’t-know-how-much per person, we take another black road through the forest opposite the park (to the right), which leads us to the big lagoon lake- Lake Arenal Dam, about five kilometers away.

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The guys who gave us a lift

On the way we spot a sleepy coati, a crested guan (a turkey-like bird), parrots and monkeys. It’s a nice shady walk with some very rewarding views of the great lake. And is free of charge.

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A coati just waking up

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..a bit of yoga is good for you…

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Ok, ready to go now.

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DO NOT FEED WILD ANIMALS, really, it is not a good idea, it breaks the natural balance.

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Crested guan

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Arenal Volcano from another angle

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Arenal Lake Dam

The dirt road comes out on the main road just before the bridge. There we meet Wilson Sackett for the first time- a young fellow from the USA biking from Costa Rica to Nicaragua, who has some problem with his bike and Ivo tries to help him. Later, we bump into Wilson again on the streets of a small town in Nicaragua, and AGAIN on Ometepe Island! I don’t know who is following who, but meeting the same guy in three different locations in two different countries within four weeks is quite a strange coincidence, isn’t it!

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Wilsn Sackett

Hiking Cerro Chato

On the third day of our stay in La Fortuna, we hike to Cerro Chato, which is a small volcano next to Arenal Volcano with a beautiful green crater lake at the top. Visitors are supposed to go to the park’s office and pay the entrance fee (I think it is $16 per person) before taking to the trail. There are some waterfalls also within the park and it is not clear to us where to pay for the hike only. We head for the trailhead figuring there will be someone to collect the fee at the beginning, but there is no one. No one stops us, so we end up climbing Cerro Chato for free. The trail is in terrible state of neglect, extremely muddy and steep, and super challenging. There are some ancient wooden steps of which about 60-70% are completely destroyed and it looks like for many years no one has fixed any of them. Zero maintenance. We expected a short easy hike, but it ends up a super difficult, tiring, steep trek on poorly maintained trail.

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Ivo on the trail to Cerro Chato

It takes about four hours to climb to the top, often on all fours, and another hour to descend down to the crater lake- an eerie place of clouds and dark trees, where a bunch of other tourists enjoy an afternoon dip in the volcanic cold waters.

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Cerro Chato Crater Lake

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Hitchhiking With Mad Scientists

On the way back, we take a different easier but longer rout (the only alternative) that leads us, past pine and eucalyptus forests, to a private resort very far away from La Fortuna.

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Arenal Volcano from another angle

Luckily, we hitch a ride back to town with a couple of young college professors from the USA on vacation- one researching reptiles, the other specializing in parasites in frogs, who immediately identify the huge snake that terrified us earlier as “a harmless tiger rat snake”, just by hearing our confused descriptions.

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Tiger Rat Snake (not poisonous)

Also, they almost kill us. The car suddenly breaks and stops in a cloud of dust on the dirt road, and both professors jump out of it with the speed of light and no apparent reason. Before we realize what is going on, the girl is across the road grabbing a small green innocent lizard, who has no chances of escaping such a sudden, skillful, ninja attack. The scientists, then, happily identify the little fellow, take some pictures and release him unharmed and confused. We are amazed and become these guys, whose names we don’t remember, biggest fens. We love it when people are so passionate about animals and nature and the work they do! Thank you for the ride, guys, hope you are reading this and giggling!

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Mission Lizard

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Thus, we spend three unforgettable days and not much dollars in la Fortuna, Costa Rica, enjoying rivers, volcanoes, cascades and hot springs. For those who are planning to visit- there is a lot more to do around this beautiful town, especially if you are willing to pay the entrance fees, so plan to spend at least 3-4 days and a bunch of dollars. There are the Venado Caverns, the spectacular hanging bridges, the hot-water spa resorts, one of the best and longest zip-lines, a few waterfalls, butterfly gardens, and more.

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Arenal Volcano from another angle

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Arenal Volcano at sunset

Or just ask around for the free options. Enjoy!

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Pura Vida

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Ivo Gone Green in Costa Rica

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Cerro Chirripo. Conquering Costa Rica’s Highest Mountain

Cerro Chirripo. Conquering Costa Rica’s Highest Mountain

by Mira Nencheva

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Mira, Ivo and Maya at Crestones Ranger Station, park Chirripo, Costa Rica

From Rio Claro we catch the TicaBus to San Isidro de El General, the largest regional city of 45, 000 population at the crossroads between some of Costa Rica’s most important destinations. The ticket costs less than $3 per person and it takes 4 hours to get there. In the beginning, we pass through palm oil plantations and jungles. Further, as we climb higher, the road starts curving along a wide shallow river, passing through small villages and dry forests. The TicaBus is a big comfortable bus serving all Central American countries, and it’s not too expensive.

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At the bus station

Midway, we make a long bathroom stop next to a big buffet restaurant on the road and in the late afternoon we arrive in San Isidro lying in a valley at the foot of the mountains, clean, tranquil and beautiful. A large white neo-Gothic cathedral sits heavy at the eastern end of the Town Square. We eat in a small Peruvian restaurant- one of the cheapest places in town where the food is pretty decent, and sleep in a hotel. The room for the three of us is $35 per night and it is pretty basic. It has two double beds and a TV. The bathrooms and showers are shared- outside of the room. But there is hot water and we wash our dirty clothes in the shower. We have only a couple of T-shirts, shorts, underwear and socks each, so we have to wash them every time we can. We are super happy to sleep in beds, after spending the past few nights camping on the beaches of Osa Peninsula and sleeping in a tent.

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Cathedral in San Isidro

In the morning, we take another bus to a small picturesque village up in the mountains- San Gerardo de Rivas. Our main purpose in Costa Rica is to climb its highest mountain- Cerro Chirripó rising at 3820m above sea level . It is located in the Chirripó National Park and is famous for its ecological wealth and extremely high biodiversity. San Gerardo is the town from where the trail begins.

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San Gerardo

Parque Nacional Chirrpo

There, we visit the Park Service where our ordeal begins. First, we have to make a reservation. We fill forms; write down names and passport numbers. Then, with a piece of paper and a reservation number, we go to another place to do a bank transfer ($7 per person; Maya pays too for the bank transaction) and pay the park’s entrance fee. We have to write down our names and passport numbers again. The park’s entrance fee is $16 per person per day, $1 for Maya, as she is 12. We need two days minimum to hike the 40-kilometer trek up and down the mountain, so for the entrance fee we spend $65 plus 21$ for the bank transfer.. So far $86 for the three of us, just to enter in the park. Now, with the proof of the bank transaction, we walk back to the park’s office. We have to fill forms once again, and write our names and passport numbers again, and with this done, we have to walk all the way to another office on the other side of town- about 15-minute walk- to pay for the sleeping accommodations and reserve meals inside the park, which is not done by the park’s services, but by a private local organization. There, we have to fill forms, write down our names and passport numbers for a fourth time, and we have to pay $40 per person to sleep in a bunk bed up in the “Refugio” (ranger station) 5 km before the summit. The meals cost $20 for breakfast and $25 for lunch or dinner each! No thanks, we will be on canned ham and crackers diet for the next two days… Can we sleep in a tent instead of a shelter? No, there is no other option but the 40-dollar bunk bed. Tents are not allowed. Our total for a two-day trek to Cerro Chirripo is $206.00, food not included. We feel robbed. This is the most expensive mountain we ever climbed so far… We complain to every official in each of the offices we visit, and tell them that these prices are ridiculous and offending, and charging so much is not fair. We have climbed many other mountains in the Caribbean, Central and South America, many of them for free, including Pico Duarte in Dominican Republic, which is a very similar two-day one-night hike, and even with two mules and a guide, it is much less expensive. Costa Rica has by far the most expensive nature, and this unfortunately keeps many tourists away. But, as we found out, there is a cheaper way to experience Cerro Chirripo, as long as you have time and you plan it well in advance. You can sign up for the volunteer program and work in the park (office job or maintaining the trails) for a minimum of 6 days. Your accommodation will be covered. All you need to pay for is transportation to food. Kids under 18 can participate too, as long as they are accompanied by a parent. For more information you can download the PDF file of the park’s volunteer program (in Spanish) http://www.parquenacionalchirripo.com/pdf/voluntariado.pdf

Hostel Casa Chirripó

All the reservations and payments done, we are ready to find a hostel and relax for another night before the big hike tomorrow. San Gerardo is full of hostels, as many tourists from all over the world come to conquer Costa Rica’s highest peak. The one we choose is a small colorful house turned hostel at one end of town, next to a river. Hostel Casa Chirripó .

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Mira and Maya in front of the hostel

As soon as we enter, we feel like home and we don’t go looking further. This will be our “home” for the night. Our room is clean and tastefully decorated and Maya loves her cozy bed with cheerful colorful blankets. For the three of us it’s $40, breakfast and transportation to the trailhead in the morning included. Pretty awesome!

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Our room

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The Kitchen

But the best thing about the place, are the people who run it. They are the friendliest guys, especially Jose Anderson. He is the one who has painted the walls and he promises: as soon as we return from the mountain, the Bulgarian flag will be added on the wall with the flags. We will be the first Bulgarians staying at this hostel who climbed Cerro Chirripo!

Jose Anderson in Hostel Casa Chirripo

Jose Anderson in Hostel Casa Chirripo

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The Bulgarian flag on the wall!

Hiking with Jose

Jose is one of those easy-going people, who have the talent of becoming your instant friends, and a few minutes after you meet them it feels as if you have known them forever. He is also very knowledgeable about the local flora and fauna, and offers to bring us to a small cave full of bats, and to show us a local cow farm. It’s a wonderful little afternoon walk; the path is surrounded by flowers, wild orange and lemon trees.

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– This little flower there is an orchid. It is small and it doesn’t look like and orchid, but it is, Jose laughs. And these lemons are supper sweet, try one. Oh! Look at this bird! This is a type of toucan!

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orchid

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We reach the cave. It is just a small opening between two big boulders at the end of a cow pasture, but it’s full of sleeping bats! I tell Jose about our friends back in El Golfito who study bats and cave systems in Costa Rica and who inspired us to learn and respect these animals. We are very happy we finally got to see bats! Thank you , Jose, you are brilliant!

Visit Hostal Cerro Chirripo and contact them through Facebook.

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Ivo and Jose in front of the cave

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Hiking Cerro Chirripo. Day 1

4:30 the next morning we are up and ready to go. This time, we leave our heavy stuff at the hostel and only take some food, water and jackets in the smallest backpack. It’s still dark when we start walking past pastures at first and then- in the wet mysterious evergreen jungle. At dawn, a family of capuchin monkeys are jumping overhead, going somewhere.

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The trail is beautiful and well maintained, not too steep. As we move upwards, the lower montane forest gives way to the montane rainforest with giant oak trees home of epiphytic ecosystems, towering at 50 meters and more over the other trees that average 30 meters, and the understory of ferns and bamboo.

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Every kilometer is marked and the countdown begins. There are 14 kilometers of uphill before us until we reach the shelter where we will sleep. Midway, kilometer 7 marks the end of the first part of the trail as we reach refugio Llano Bonito serving super expensive coffee, hot chocolate, and other treats. We drink some water and keep going. Here, we meet some sort of wild friendly partridges completely unafraid of us.

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The forest beyond this point and altitude is dry, the trees are much shorter, surrounded by cactus and scrub. Conditions become harsher. It gets steeper and harder to walk. After kilometer 10, there is no more forest, but alpine grasses, flowers and some small very dry trees all around us. The montane forests lying above 1500 meters elevation up to approximately 3000 meters elevation, transition to the grasslands and shrublands of the Costa Rican Páramo.

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These are the Talamancan montane forests very rich in biodiversity and they are Central America’s most intact ecoregions, with 40% of the ecoregion protected by national and international parks. Scientist estimate that between 3 and 4 percent of the biodiversity in the world is found here with 136 mammal species (jaguar, cougar, tapir, deer, anteater and several species of monkeys) and 450 species of birds among which the harpy eagle and the quetzal. The Costa Rican páramo, also known as the Talamanca páramo, is a natural region of montane grassland and shrubland found above 3000 meters elevation on the summits of the highest mountains. These are also called sky islands- home of many species of plants and animals. Here, we feel like we are in a different world. It is breathtakingly serene and beautiful.

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We start seeing fat scaly lizards- some black other green-blue, sunning themselves on rocks and branches near the path. Later, we found out that these are the emerald swift or green spiny lizard (Sceloporus malachiticus)- a species of small lizard, native to Central America.

Emerald swifts

Emerald swifts are distinctly bright green in color, with males typically being more striking than females. They grow from 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) in length. Like other species in the genus Sceloporus, their scales tend to be fairly stiff and heavily keeled, giving them a spiny texture. Emerald swifts are arboreal lizards. In the early morning they forage for insects, and then spend much of the day basking in the sun. They will retreat to a burrow, or under a rock or log if the temperature becomes too high or to sleep. (from Wikipedia)

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Emerald swift (male)

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Emerald swift (female)

At Crestones Ranger Station

After 10 hours of walking, we reach kilometer 14 and the Ranger Station Los Crestones already full with other mountaineers who cheer for us as soon as we walk through the door. Maya is the youngest hiker this day and we are once again the proudest parents. It has been a beautiful sunny rainless day; we are tired and hungry and super happy to be here. For the fifth time, we have to write down our names and passport numbers in the big registry book. By now, I just invent random numbers. We are then awarded with two blankets each and a key to a room with two bunk beds- the coldest most expensive “hotel” we have ever slept in and there is not even a shower. At this altitude, it gets freezing at night. While the rest of the mountaineers eat hot meals prepared in the kitchen of the ranger station, we eat canned food and crackers. Most of the people are locals (they pay less) and Europeans: lots of German and French. In our room, we sleep with our clothes on wrapped in the blankets.

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Climbing Cerro Chirripo. Day2

The next morning, we wake up at 3:00 a.m. and start walking in the dark with little headlights on. There are 5 more kilometers to the summit, and these are the toughest ones. At this altitude, I can barely breathe. It’s freezing cold. We can hear a river, but don’t see it. All we see are billions of stars hanging above us, and contours of black mountains. We are walking through the thick grasses of the Costa Rican paramo. The path is hard to find in the dark, especially when it goes over flat rocky areas. We lose it. We have to come back and find it again. We keep walking. We want to get to the summit just before sunrise and watch the daybreak from the top of Costa Rica, but I am struggling with the altitude and am way too slow. I don’t feel good at all. I want to quit. I want to go back in the shelter and wait there. But Ivo and Maya are urging me to keep going. They stop and wait for me while I rest every couple of minutes. I need to sit down, catch my breath, and wait for my heart to calm down. The terrain gets rougher and steeper, and on top of that the cold wind picks up. After one last turn, we finally see the last peak. Cerro Chirripo is beautiful and frightening- a vertical steep pyramid of grey rocks. I give up. I will not reach this summit. It’s way too hard for me. I tell Ivo and Maya to leave me behind and hurry up to catch the sunrise. I want to start walking back and will wait for them at the shelter. Reluctant, Ivo and Maya continue without me. As they start the final ascent, I hear Maya in the distance saying- “Mama, don’t come, this is way too difficult for you, you can’t make it!”

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Alone, I sit and rest for a while but it gets too cold. I have to keep going or I will freeze to death. I get up and start walking again. Towards the summit. Slowly, I climb over the rocks on my fours. This reminds me of our ordeal going down from Volcan Baru in Panama... The sun is already out and I can see the dark crater lake and the sea of white clouds below. Ivo and Maya are already on top and when they see me struggling across the final vertical meters of the mountain like a wounded old turtle, they are super happy and surprised. In fact, I haven’t seen Ivo so happy and proud of me for a long time. This makes me feel happy too. I made it! We all made it to the top of Costa Rica, what a glorious unforgettable moment!

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Maya with Cerro Chirripo behind her

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After a few freezing cold minutes on the summit and a well-deserved chocolate, we start the long downhill walk. It’s 5 km back to the shelter plus 14km back to the village for a total of 24 km for the day. The walk down is easier on the hearth and lungs, but proves harder on the knees and legs, and I struggle again. The weather is once again perfect. We don’t get a drop of rain the entire time both days, and only when we return to San Gerardo and finally sit on the bench in front of the small grocery shop in town eating some cheap spicy sausage and drinking local beer with a young coupe form Quebec, it starts poring. But we don’t care. We are back, we are dry, and we are resting. No more hiking for today.

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Ivo, Mira and Maya on top of Cerro Chirripo 3820m

Tips for climbing Cerro Chirripo

Make reservations in advance if possible. There are only 60 people per day allowed in the park, as there are only 60 beds in the ranger station. While we were in San Gerardo, we met a guy who had to wait one more day, as the park quota was reached and he couldn’t climb the summit the same day.
Bring good mountain boots, winter jackets and hats, and flashlights. The lights at Crestones are switched off at 8:00 p.m. and the hike in the morning begins in total darkness.
Bring a bottle of water. You can refill it at kilometer 7 and once again before Crestones.
Even though we didn’t get any rain, it is highly possible that you will, so bring rain ponchos.
If you feel, like we do, that the park fees are way too expensive, you can make a complaint. Hopefully, they will lower the prices if more people express their opinion. For more information, visit the park’s website Parque Nacional Chirripo

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Free Camping in Osa Peninsula

Free Camping in Osa Peninsula

 

After spending our first three Costa Rica days in El Golfito visiting Stanimira and Angel and relaxing in the House at The Bottom of The Jungle, we prepare our backpacks and head for Puerto Jimenez- one of the main cities on Osa Peninsula and the gateway to Corcovado National Park. We get there by a small ferry that leaves every hour from El Golfito, costs $6 per person and the trip is about 40 minutes.

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El Golfito Ferry Port

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Maya waiting for the ferry

Puerto Jimenez turns out to be more of a small village with only one main paved street, full with hostels and tourist agencies offering guides and tours in Corcovado and the surrounding areas. As soon as we set foot on the main street, cars start stopping next to us offering taxi rides with hush voices. Illegal taxi rides, as these are not taxis but regular cars. It looks like every car in Puerto Jimenez is a taxi. At first, we refuse politely, then we refuse firmly, then we simply ignore them and just wish they would stop bothering us. We are here not to ride taxis or go on guided tours but to walk and to camp for free in the footsteps of two other Bulgarian adventurers before us- Tery and Ivan.

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Ivo and Maya in Puerto Jimenez. Main Street

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The typical local food consists of rice and beans and some extras around. A plate costs $6 in a local “soda” joint. Way too expensive for rice and beans…

Tery and Ivan are hitchhiking around the world and have been in hundreds of countries on most continents. Their adventures and misadventures are described in Terry’s blog Hitchhiking Around The World. Tery contacted us through our blog and we hoped to meet her and her friend somewhere in Central America, but the timing was not good and they were long gone by the time we got in Costa Rica. Nevertheless, we kept in touch and Tery gave us tons of good info and advice where to go, what to expect and how to enjoy some of the country’s natural wonders for free, which is our main objective. Thank you Tery!

The Greenest Country on Earth

Even though Costa Rica is small in territory (50 000 square kilometers), it is one of the most bio-diverse places on the planet with lush rainforests, tropical beaches and mountains, containing 4% of the total world animal species. Costa Rica enjoys the status of “The Greenest Country on Earth” and has the reputation of being eco-friendly, carbon neutral, using non-polluting hydroelectricity, and leaving one of the smallest ecological footprints in the world. This is because there is not much industry and the main income for the country is tourism.

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Green Costa Rica

All this is true and sounds very beautiful; we fell in love with the healthy green nature here, and the abundance of wildlife is truly overwhelming, but tourism being the main money-thing means that tourists are regarded as walking ATM machines, and we didn’t enjoy this at all. Unfortunately, “green” is all most Costa Ricans are about; the green of the dollar. Costa Rica, with its greedy National Park and Foreign Tourist policies has already become one extremely expensive tourist resort reserved for the rich and the privileged only. The backpacker of limited means who cannot afford to spend money for guides, for expensive Eco-lodge accommodations or illogical entrance fees, cannot survive long here and is not welcome. Nature in Costa Rica has been transformed into an expensive often private commodity and is being sold and prostituted to those who can afford it only. A bright example is Park Corcovado on the Osa Peninsula- one of the most bio-diverse spots on the planet with a variety of climates and ecosystems, ranging from lowland rainforests, to highland cloud forests, mangrove swamps, coastal marine, and beach habitats. But getting in Corcovado is complicated and ridiculously expensive. You can only enter the park if you have registered at least 1 month (31 days) in advance or more, and paid the fees by bank transfer. No cash or credit cards accepted. If you simply show up at the park’s entrance without a guide, with no registration, reservation and bank transfers in hand you will not enter, no matter what. The bank transfer itself costs between $30-60 and there are two separate transfers to be done- one for the entrance and accommodation fees and another for food reservation. Since November 2014, you can enter the park ONLY with a guide. A guide costs $80-90 per day. (Why only one year ago tourists had the option to enter the park without a guide, but today there is no longer such an option, I am asking, what changed?)

Corcovado Park fees:

Park Daily Use Fee: $15 (per person, per day)
Dorm sleeping per night: $8 (per person, per night)
Camping: $4 (per person, per night)
Breakfast: $20 (per person)
Lunch: $25 (per person)
Dinner: $25 (per person)
Guide: $90 (per day)
Bank transfer: $60

Here is a math problem for you to solve: How much it will cost a family of three to visit park Corcovado for three days, planning to camp for two nights and eat two or three meals per person per day?

I calculate an amount of over $600, even though it is still not clear to me if a guide is needed for each day and if the guide fee is per person or for the group. And even if we haul on our backs all the food that we will eat for three days, we will still spend hundreds of dollars for just two nights camping in our own tent. Oh, and getting to the park’s entrance is another big $$$ story.

But there is an alternative, as Tery told us, and we are urging every traveler of limited means to follow in our footsteps and experience the nature around park Corcovado, which is essentially similar to the nature inside the park, and meet the animals, absolutely free! Here is what we did, a few months after Tery and Ivan have passed through these same places.

Map of Osa Peninsula Free Camping Sites

In The Footsteps of Tery and Ivan

From Puerto Jimenez, we start walking on a flat gravel road direction- Park Corcovado- some 40 kilometers away. It’s December- dry season, the sky is blue, the sun is shining. Temperature is over 40 degrees Celsius, the humidity is high. On both sides of the road there are fenced pastures where cows and horses are gazing in the company of small white egrets.

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The road from Puerto Jimenez to Corcovado

Here, we spot the Scarlet (Ara) Macaws for the first time and it’s a miracle! They are like large flowers in the green of the branches, or like an unreal kid’s painting against the blue of the sky- bright red birds decorated with yellow and blue feathers.

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Scarlet Macaws, Osa Peninsula

It’s noon and the thin shade of the few trees along the road is not helping much. After an hour, we hitchhike. There is not much traffic on this road but we get lucky pretty quickly and a guy from the United States who owns property here lets us ride in the back of his pickup truck for a while. Then a local couple picks us up (what a surprise!) and we get to our first destination way earlier than we expected.

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Playa Pan Dulce

18 kilometers from Puerto Jimenez, there is an exit from the main road leading to Matapalo. Just before Matapalo, we reach a beautiful beach invaded by tiny hermit crabs- Pan Dulce (Sweet Bread).

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Hermit crab

This is the place Tery was telling me about. This is our spot. And it’s truly phenomenal. We set our tent near the sand strip in a small coconut palm grove, away from the beach, as the tides here are so big, you can wake up floating in your tent towards Australia if you camp too near to the sea.

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At low tide, the receding waters of the Pacific Ocean reveal a floor of large flat rocks wet and shining under a spectacular pink-and-purple sunset. We walk around, we bathe in the sea, we eat our canned food while watching a couple of spider-monkeys eating the white flowers of the trees above us, and the red squirrels drilling holes in the coconuts, and the tiny hermit crabs scavenging bellow for whatever falls down from the trees. Howler monkeys are suffering in the distance; we sleep disturbed only by the sudden thud of coconuts falling next to our tent.

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In the morning, we watch the sunrise in the company of Scarlet Macaws.

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I actually don’t pay much attention to the sunrise, as I cannot stop taking pictures of the birds that let me get so close to them, I can almost touch them. Their presence, since we arrived on the peninsula, has been almost constant; they are so abundant here- almost like the seagulls in other parts of the world, yet we cannot get used to them and every time we see them, we celebrate. They say, there are more Scarlet Macaws on Osa Peninsula than in the rest of the world combined. I keep thinking how lucky we are to experience such moments together as a family. I observe Maya observing the parrots, and her eyes are shining, and my heart is melting. It seems unreal to me that Maya is watching macaws in Costa Rica…

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Scarlet Macaws
This brilliantly colored, medium-sized macaw is the only macaw found on the Pacific side of Costa Rica. Macaws are the largest parrots in the Americas, and the Scarlet Macaw is distinct both in color and shape.
With strong wings, the scarlet macaw noisily flies high over the canopy. Their loud, resonant, boisterous calls can often be heard as they fly, but they are usually quiet while feeding. Pairs, trios, or small family groups are often seen, but these may sometimes merge into flocks of 25 or even 50 individuals at large roosts in tall trees or mangroves.
The Scarlet Macaw nests in large holes in tall living or dead trees; they do not dig these holes, but rely on finding cavities that are high off the ground and have vertical entrances. A macaw pair will lay 1-2 eggs per season in such a nest and raise them together. These macaws are serially monogamous, but they may change mates after several seasons.
In 1900, these parrots could still be seen in forests throughout Costa Rica; by 1950, however, due to habitat destruction, they were absent from the Caribbean slope except in the Northwest. They have also suffered from the pet trade; fortunately, today they are protected in every country in which they live. However, in Costa Rica, their populations still have been reduced by the destruction of their habitat. They are now constrained to the forests of the upper Golfo de Nicoya, such as in Palo Verde National Park, and the forests of the Osa Peninsula, such as at Corcovado National Park.
Source: Anywhere Costa Rica

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After breakfast- my favorite breakfast is fresh coconuts that fell last night, we start walking again.

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Mira having her favorite breakfast

This time, the terrain is no longer flat pastures but forested steep hills and it’s up-hill through the jungle for the next 10 kilometers, almost all the way to Rio Piro. The heat is intense; the humidity is 100%. This time, we have no luck hitchhiking. Only a few cars pass in the next 5 hours and none is interested in picking us up. But that’s fine. We came here to walk and be in the forest.

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The large blue morpho butterflies are another masterpiece of nature we cannot get used to, even though they are everywhere. We spot squirrel-monkeys and howler-monkeys and even an anteater up in a tree, using it’s tale as a hand to grab on branches while scratching the bark for termites.

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Anteater

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By noon, we reach a wide shallow river- Rio Piro. A narrow path through the forest just before the river leads us to another spectacular beach- the same one Terry and Ivan got hit by a tropical storm at and their tent almost floated away in the flooded river. They were here during rainy season. We are here in the beginning of dry season and instead of rain we experience the intense burning heat of the tropics. The beach is huge, absolutely deserted, and scorching hot. The only sign of humans here are the numerous sticks marking sea turtle nests.

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Piro Beach

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The waves are monstrous and violent, braking against the steep beach, and it is impossible to go in the water. We are tired but cannot sit in the shadow of the mangrove trees on the edge of the forest, because of some nasty ants that want to eat us, nor in the forest all covered with mud. And sitting on the beach would be suicidal; the sun will kill us for sure in less than five minutes. Even walking on the burning sand with no shoes on is impossible.

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Luckily, there is the river. Where the jungle ends and the sand dunes begin, a slow stream of crystal clear waters gently floats. We dump the tent and backpacks and jump in the cool fresh delicious waters of the river complete with a tree leaning over it for shade and a spectacular view.

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Ivo and Maya in Paradise

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This is the perfect spot- a piece of paradise just for us; our swimming pool, shower and laundry room. We spend here the rest of the day, cooling down, playing with the tiny fishes, relaxing, and washing our dirty clothes and bodies. Squirrel monkeys, spider monkeys, howler monkeys, eagles, herons and macaws come out again in the late afternoon, noisy and busy with their usual business.

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Spider-monkey

Squirrel-monkey

Squirrel-monkey

Howler-monkey

Howler-monkey

As the sun sets, the temperature drops and we can now go inside the tent, play some dominoes, have some more canned food, and sleep among sea turtle nests.

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Our tent. The Green House Effect is in effect…

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Insde the tent. Casino time.

And this is how we walked, camped and experienced the unique nature of Osa Peninsula, and saw all the animals you might see in park Corcovado without a guide, with no reservations, and absolutely free!

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In the next posts, you will find out how to enjoy some more of Costa Rica’s best nature destinations cheaply or for free.

 

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The House at The Bottom of The Jungle

The House at The Bottom of The Jungle

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Ivo, Maya and Mira with Stanimira and Angel. El Golfito (Costa Rica)

Border Crossing

Destroyed from two days of walking up and down Volcan Baru– the highest mountain top in Panama and our heaviest, most exhausting hiking challenge ever so far, we catch the bus to the Panama- Costa Rica border. The border is a hot, noisy, dusty place full of people crossing, vendors selling suspicious food in plastic bags and cheap souvenirs, barefoot beggars sleeping in the shadows, and a huge line of tractor-trailers waiting to be processed.

At the Exit Panama booth, the Panama officials want to charge us $50.00 per adult for overstaying our 6-month visa in Panama by 2 days- a total of $100 penalty. Totally unexpected! I explain, that our visa is not a 6-month free visa, but a 1-year special maritime visa for which we paid $100 each (the most expensive we ever paid), issued to people who arrive in Panama by sea, but they want proof that we have indeed arrived by boat. The proof is a small paper given to us by the customs in the island of Porvenir (San Blas), but we left it on the boat. So no proof… I then want a proof that such 50-dollar penalty for overstaying really exist. After 1 hour of waiting, I am presented with a small booklet, where under regulation I-don’t-know-what it says, that “aliens over 18 years of age who have overstayed their visa in Panama have to pay 50 US$ penalty”. I now beg them to call the officials in San Blas and confirm that we have arrived in Panama by boat in July and therefore our visa is a special one-year maritime visa and we haven’t overstayed, but they are already so pissed off, they won’t call. At the end, I go to the cashier to pay the penalty. The cashier is a huge fat gay dude and after finishing his fun chat with a friend on the cell phone, he slowly pulls out a box with some blank forms. I prepare the cash.

The other option would be for Ivo to take the bus back to Panama City (10-hour bus ride in one direction) and get the little papers from the boat proving we have arrived by sea. We feel ultra-stupid for leaving these important papers on the boat. This will cost $18 for the bus to Panama City one way and about $20 -30 for a hostel for Maya and me to sleep the night while waiting for Ivo. A total of over $60-70 and a lost day (we would also have to spend money for food for that lost day). Instead, we decide to pay the $100 penalty and keep going. Just as the fat dude starts filling-in the penalty form, I ask him again why don’t they call San Blas and confirm that we have arrived by boat. “Sure”- the dude says and calls them!

After another 2 hours of waiting and anticipating, the officials in San Blas confirm that we are OK with the maritime visa. We exit Panama after 4 hours at the border, no penalty! We walk over to the Costa Rica side. Getting in Costa Rica is super easy and fast. And free. We fill a small form, they scan our passports and we are in, no questions asked! Welcome to Costa Rica! At the line, a local couple returning from shopping in Panama, ask to use my pen. Sure. While waiting, we begin a small polite conversation; the usual questions: where are you from?; are you on vacation? ; is it your first time in Costa Rica, etc. At the end, we are welcome to jump in their car and they give us a lift all the way to Rio Claro, just 20 kilometers from our destination. We hitch another free ride on the back of a pick-up truck of the Red Cross, and just before sunset, spending zero dollars for transportation, we arrive in El Golfito.

El Golfito

Lying on a narrow strip of land between a bay with the same name and a line of high green hills, El Golfito (‘little gulf’) is a small port and fishermen town in the Puntarenas Province on the southern Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, near the border of Panama. Here, Stanimira and Angel are expecting us.

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El Golfito

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Stanimira and Angel

Stanimira and Angel are fellow Bulgarians, who contacted us through our blog as soon as they found out we will be visiting Costa Rica, and invited us to stay with them for a few days. Stanimira Deleva, born in 1988, has a degree in Biology and did her Masters in Ecology and Preserving Ecosystems from the University of Plovdiv. She is a biologist who specializes in cave bat and have been supported by the Rufford Small Grand Foundation to study the local bats and cave systems within the project “Protecting Unique Cave Systems in Costa Rica Using Bats as Flagship Taxa” in the Brunca region together with Angel Ivanov, her boyfriend, who is experienced in speleology, rock climbing, and all sorts of extreme sports, here to assist in the cave exploration. Find out more about their cave bats project and support the project by visiting and liking their Facebook page @ Brunca Bats Project and read more about their adventures and scientific cave explorations in their blog @ The Amateur Naturalist.

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Stanimira Deleva and Angel Ivanov

The House At The Bottom of The Jungle

Stanimira and Angel have just arrived in Costa Rica a week before us and are renting a couple of rooms in a house in El Golfito. They made it possible for us to stay with them for a few days, just when the family living in the house was off on a trip to visit relatives. Perfect timing.

We are tired and destroyed from hiking Volcan Baru and then traveling all day and dealing with the border; we are dirty and hungry and our backpacks are killing us. At the end of the day, we meet these awesome young people who love Nature and Adventure as much as we do. After crossing the town and hiking for a few minutes on a narrow path among tall tropical trees along a stream, they bring us to the coolest house in Costa Rica- a big two-story lodge with a veranda and many rooms, which was once a hostel, built by a German guy years ago at the bottom of a deep lush jungle, between two rivers. Here is one of the wettest places in the world with the highest storied rainforest in Central America. We are surrounded by trees up to 45 meters tall, wet green vegetation, and tropical flowers.

In The House at The Bottom of The Jungle, we spend three days and nights resting and recuperating, washing our dirty clothes (which have hard time drying), and enjoying the company of Stanimira and Angel who are full of stories of wild cave explorations and incredible journeys around the world.

In the house, Maya falls in love with the cutest little cat in the world- Venus, who is so funny and lovable we all end up crazy about her. Now Maya wants a cat just like Venus.

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The House at The Bottom of The Jungle

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Stanimira at the veranda

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Venus- the little cat

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Writing in the journal with Venus

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Maya and Venus

The Waterfall

Stanimira and Angle bring us to a small waterfall no one knows about, which is right behind the house, on the same property. A private waterfall with a succession of small pools- how cool is this!

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Hike to the Hills

On the second day, rested and renewed, we hike to the top of the hills overlooking El Golfito. It’s a short easy hike, about 6-hours round trip, but nevertheless tiring in the intense tropical heat, with the most rewarding view at the top- the sparkling blue waters of the bay and the Osa Peninsula with its green soft hills in the distance.

On the way up, families of tiny squirrel monkeys who have invaded the jungles of this part of Costa Rica are keeping us company, jumping from branch to branch overhead. Chestnut-mandibled toucans with their large imposing beaks are also easy to spot, and a shy anteater creates a bit of a commotion in the bushes. Nature around El Golfito is healthy and abundant like nowhere else.

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Chestnut-mandibled toucan

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Squirrel monkey

Squirrel monkey

Squirrel monkey

Squirrel monkey

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Maya, Mira, Stanimira and Angel

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View of Golfito

Learning About Bats

While hiking, Maya is learning about bats from Stanimira and how very special they are. Bats are the only mammal that have wings and can fly. There wings are actually hands with very thin skin. There are over 1000 different species of bats. Some use echolocation to navigate in the dark. There are fruit bats who eat fruits and fish-eating bats as well. Bats are important for the health of our ecosystem as they eat a lot of insects and pollinate some flowers. The biggest bats are the flying foxes with wingspan about 2 meters and the ugliest ones are the Wrinkle-faced Bat (Centurio senex), who look like extraterrestrials. But the most fascinating bats for Maya are the vampire bats who eat nothing but blood.

“These notorious bats sleep during the day in total darkness, suspended upside down from the roofs of caves. They typically gather in colonies of about 100 animals, but sometimes live in groups of 1,000 or more. In one year, a 100-bat colony can drink the blood of 25 cows. During the darkest part of the night, common vampire bats emerge to hunt. Sleeping cattle and horses are their usual victims, but they have been known to feed on people as well. The bats drink their victim’s blood for about 30 minutes. They don’t remove enough blood to harm their host, but their bites can cause nasty infections and disease. Vampire bats strike their victims from the ground. They land near their prey and approach it on all fours. The bats have few teeth because of their liquid diet, but those they have are razor sharp. Each bat has a heat sensor on its nose that points it toward a spot where warm blood is flowing just beneath its victim’s skin. After putting the bite on an animal, the vampire bat laps up the flowing blood with its tongue. Its saliva prevents the blood from clotting. The common vampire bat is found in the tropics of Mexico, Central America, and South America (source – National Geographic)”

In Costa Rica there are many species of bats, but on our little expedition, we were hoping to see the tent-making bats who make little tents under the palm leaves by bending them with their teeth. We found a few tents made by the bats but they were all empty. Later, Stanimira wrote to me: “They are everywhere! You just have to keep looking! After checking 30 tents, I finally found them!”

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Tent-making bats (Costa Rica) Photo by Stanimira Deleva

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Tent-making Bat (Costa Rica) Photo by Stanimira Deleva

After these much needed days of rest in The House at The Bottom of The Jungle with Stanimira and Angel, we are ready to continue hiking and camping in one of the most bio-diverse places on the planet- the Osa Peninsula, while our new friends are getting ready to explore some known and unknown caves in Costa Rica looking for bats.

Thank you, friends, for your hospitality! We had the best time with you and we hope some day our paths will cross again!

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2015 Nomadik Highlights

2015 Nomadik Highlights

Maya aboard Fata Morgana at The Swimming Pool, San Blas

Maya aboard Fata Morgana at The Swimming Pool, San Blas

It is the end of another year filled with unforgettable adventures- stories of sea-travel and land exploration. A year that thought us a lot and prepared us for the Big Ocean Crossing ahead.

2015 was good; we will remember it with all the beautiful places we visited, all the wonderful people we met, and all the incredible things we learned and achieved.

2015 was the last chapter of our Caribbean Sailing Trip and the begining of our Pacific Ocean Challenge.

We sailed across 2000 nautical miles of sea and explored 7 countries; we met exotic wild animals, whales, indegenous people, and fellow travelers; we learned many new thigs about the world, nature and all the different cultures we came across. Here are some of the best things that happened to us in 2015:

January 2015

In January, we sailed from St Marten to the BVI-s and the USVI-s, we met new and old friends, Maya got lice and we had to trim her hair short, and we got a new kayak!

“Our kayak is not just for fun or for sport, but it is also a clean, silent, shallow-drought alternative to the motor dinghy, capable even of pulling the catamaran, when needed. When our 15-years-old kayak Agent Orange cracked because of the UV damage and old age, it became clear that we needed a new kayak. Just then the guys from KayakShop.BG decided to give us a kayak! Thank you, KayakShop.bg! This was the best New Year present!

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Kayak expedition on Rio Fajardo, Puerto Rico

February 2015 – Puerto Rico

In February, we were in Puerto Rico, where we had to haul out the boat for an emergency repair. We did some shopping for boat parts in the WestMarine store there, we had pork roast in Guavate with friends, and we explored Fajardo River with our new kayak. On our way to Ponce, we met the prisoner-monkeys on a small island.

“There is an island 12 miles southwest of Fajardo (Puerto Rico)- a small island barely 600 by 400 meters in territory, flat on the north side with a steep rocky hill to the southwest rising form the sea, reaching 35 m. The island is forested and uninhabited, except for the population of a few hundred iguanas (an invasive species from South America) and over 1000 Rhesus macaque monkeys (also non-native species) found nowhere else in Puerto Rico or the rest of the Caribbean islands […]We got near a small sandy beach and cautiously looked for the monkeys in the shadows of the thin forest. We waited. Soon a couple of macaques appeared and sat on the ground in the distance glancing at us, expressionless, every now and then. A few minutes later, macaques of all ages and sizes started to appear from every direction, walking on all fours on the ground, jumping from tree to tree, and emitting shrill calls without any apparent reason. We found ourselves surrounded by hundreds of monkeys.

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The Monkey Island. Puerto Rico

March 2015 -Aruba

In March, we sailed from Puerto Rico to the small windy island of Aruba. There we met a very nice and welcoming family who took us around the island to some of the most famous landmarks and attractions: Arikok National Park, Alto Vista Chapel, California Lighthouse, and the Casibari rock formations.

“After three days and two nights of uneventful sailing in calm seas and winds on a beam reach between 8 and 20 knots, we decided to go to Aruba for a quick pit-stop in order to rest and check the weather before continuing on to Santa Marta, Colombia. A month later we were still in Aruba, kind of stuck but also reluctant to leave […], because this small vacation island lying well outside of the hurricane belt, its clean manicured capital Oranjestad with lots of nice shops and restaurants, its sparkling resorts and world-famous beaches, its many natural wonders, and its welcoming people became one of our most favorite Caribbean destinations. Here, Ivo learned to kitesurfing; and Maya took windsurfing lessons. It felt like a vacation.”

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Arachi Beach, Aruba

April 2015- Colombia

In April, when the wind calmed a bit, we sailed to Colombia where we dropped anchor near the small town of Santa Marta. We went camping in Tayrona for a few days, we participated in the sea-turtle release program, we met Cata and Sebastian who gave us scuba-diving lessons aboard Fata Morgana, and we took a plane to Bogota to renew our Canadian Passports in the Canadian Embassy there and to explore the capital’s museums, botanical garden and the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira.

The Salt Cathedral in Zipaquira declared “The First Wonder of Colombia” is one of the most unusual, most astonishing cathedrals in the world. It is built 200 meters underground inside the tunnels of an old salt mine, deep in the belly of a big salty mountain. Everything in this cathedral is made of salt.”

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May 2015 – Colombia

In May, before leaving Colombia direction- Panama, we spent a few days in Cartagena- the most charming colonial capital in the Caribbean.

“As we approached the shores of Colombia I felt the familiar burnt smell of dry old land […] We couldn’t wait to get to know the country, the narrow busy streets of Santa Marta, the museums and cathedrals of Bogota, the hot native village of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the waterfalls in the Sierra Nevada, the architecture of Cartagena, the wild beaches and the monkeys in Tayrona. One month is not enough to see all Colombia has to offer to the dusty traveler, even a year will probably not do. Colombia is awesome!”

Тайрона, Ел Кабо

Park Tayrona, Colombia

June 2015 – San Blas Archipelago

In June, we dropped anchor in the most beautiful archipelago we have ever seen- the San Blas Islands of Panama where the indigenous Kuna Yala people live.

“Kuna Yala, officially known as the San Blas Islands, is a vast archipelago in the Caribbean Sea stretching over 2,300 square kilometers and consisting of over 360 mostly small flat islands scattered among coral reefs off the eastern coast of Panama, of which only about 40 are inhabited, home of the indigenous Kuna people. The bigger inhabited islands are densely populated by organized communities, and on some of the smaller ones only two or three families reside […] in huts on the beach made of renewable materials among tall palms, without electricity or grocery store. The only light in the evening is from the small fires of coconut peals, over which the Kuna women boil fish-and-plantain soup. Life here is still completely self-contained and off the grid.”

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Kuna Yala woman, San Blas

July 2015- Crossing of the Panama Canal

In July, after meeting S/V Anka 1 crew, we transited the Panama Canal together with our new friends- Adrian, Krisha and Alex, and gloriously arrived in the Pacific Ocean.

“We are at the point of no return. A new chapter in our voyage is about to begin. Panama Canal is one of the 7 wonders of the industrial world, along with the Hoover Dam and London’s Sewerage system among others. It connects the two biggest oceans on the planet, and crossing it aboard a boat is the ultimate way to experience it.”

Maya Ivo and Mira aboard S/V Fata Morgana transiting Panama Canal

Maya Ivo and Mira aboard S/V Fata Morgana transiting Panama Canal

August 2015 -Panama City

In August, we settled in Panama City where our boat remaind for five months- time to stop for a while and rest. We made many new friends here and soon the big metropolis became “home”.

“After sailing in the Caribbean and some of the Latin American countries, Panama City seams surprisingly developed to us, with good infrastructure and big shopping malls; a globalized place greatly influenced by the United States of America during the construction of Panama Canal. Panama City is a hub for international banking and commerce with the largest and busiest international airport in Central America, as well as one of the top five places in the world for retirement, according to International Living magazine (from Wikipedia). With the very noticeable exception of the infamous neighborhood El Chorillo, poor dirty and dangerous place right in the middle of town, Panama City is a big well developed modern metropolis, a clean good-looking city.”

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September 2015 – Punta Chame (Panama)

In September, Ivo met Rado Barzev- a maniac kitesurfer from Bulgaria, and together they went kitesurfing a few times in a beautiful deserted beach not too far from Panama City.

“At the end of a narrow almost deserted peninsula less than 100 km west of Panama City, we get to a wild beach of extreme tides, black vultures and skeletons; of howling winds and flying people. An hour and a half drive from the city is Punta Chame, a popular kitesurfing spot along the Bahía de Chame in Panama, a prime destination for adrenalin-junkies from the city.”

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Kitesurfing in Punta Chame

October 2015 – The Pearl Islands Archipelago

In October, we sailed to the Pearl Islands to witness the glorious miracle of whales.

“A world of islands, the Pearl Archipelago where the biggest pearl on earth, “La Pelegrina” was found, is one of few places in the world, where thousands of humpback whales arrive each summer. From July to October, the large island group is home to somewhere between 900 and 2,000 humpback whales who travel over 6,000 miles from the cold waters of the Arctic and the Antarctic where they feed to the shallow warm waters of Costa Rica and the Gulf of Panama where they give birth and nurse their babies. Their journey along the coast of South and North America and across the equator is the greatest migration of any mammal on Earth.”

Humpback whale breaching, Pearl Islands, Panama

Humpback whale breaching, Pearl Islands, Panama

November 2015 – Panama

In November, after months of training, we took part in a few organized marathons. Maya ran 5K, Mira 10K and Ivo achieved one of his bucket list goals running in a full 42K International Marathon of Panama.

“On November 29th, 2015 Ivo joined the two thousand other people from all over the world, who started running at 5:00 a.m. in the center of Panama City and didn’t return until hours later, having covered the 42.2 K distance. Training for months for a long distance running and finishing a 42K full marathon Panama International Marathon under 5 hours is an accomplishment of a lifetime; an incredible achievement.”

Ivo

Ivo running in Panama

December 2015 – Costa Rica and Nicaragua

In December 2015, we left S/V Fata Morgana at anchor in Panama City and with a tent and backpacks took the bus to Costa Rica and Nicaragua, exploring jungles, mountains and volcanoes. We climbed Volcan Baru- the highest mountain peak in Panama, we camped on Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica in the company of spider monkeys and Ara Macaws, we met a couple of Bulgarian scientists researching cave bats, we climbed Cerro Chiripo and spent time in La Fortuna near Arenal Volcano, before crossing the border to Nicaragua. We put up our tent in the backyard of our frined Rado’s paraents house and spent Christmass and New Year with them. In Nicaragua, we met some wonderful new friends and with them we explored the countries many wonders- volcanoes, canyons, beaches and lagoons.

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The New Year found us in Nicaragua, greatful for all the good times we have had in the past months and eager to explore further; to see new lands and wonders aboard S/V Fata Morgana.

Thank you for your incredible support along the way! We whish you all a Happy New 2016! Be inspired and be curious, seek adventure, explore!

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