Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Costa Rica

I'm writing this blog on my phone so I apologize in advance for any grammatical errors or weird layout...I've been in Costa Rica for about two weeks now. I have to say it's even better than I expected.
Ostional Main Nesting Beach

View from the hilltop

It's exactly what I was looking for and I haven't felt this content and stress free for a while. I'm so busy here that I don't have time to think about really anything except day to day life here which I think is the best way to live. I arrived in San Jose last Sunday and was glad I didn't have to spend a lot of time there. It's nice enough but it is a city and the flight over and the over priced taxis made me busy want to be out of there at my destination, Ostional. I stayed in a guest house in San Jose which was an experience in itself. It's owned and run by a lady named Margarita.  She's very kind and spoke English well. The people there were all much older than I and had lived in Costa Rica for quite some time. I stayed there for a night and took the bus to Ostional the To get to the bus I took a taxi which should have taken 20 minutes but due to construction on a bridge and rush hour traffic took a painful hour and a half. Fortunately we had left early and when we got there the driver helped me buy the bus ticket and find the bus.  The days were sold out on the bus but fortunately this isn't the US and they sold me a "standing only" ticket. I stood/at in the wheelchair area for a while until somehow a seat opened up and several helpful passengers directed me to it. I'm not sure the seat was any more comfortable than the aisle but at least I didn't have to stand for four hours.  When the bus arrived in santa cruz I had to buy another ticket to get to Ostional. Someone sitting near me showed me where to buy the ticket which I  was thankful for since I had no idea. There were alot of people getting on the bus and fortunately I got a seat. However,  I ended up with my small bags at my feet and my huge backpack on my lap when someone took the seat next to me. It was not the most comfortable to say the least. And I happened to be in the sunny side of the bus and there was absolutely no air flow. I felt like I was suffocating and I was so I hot I thought I might pass out. Due to a combination of the heat,  lack of sleep, and exhaustion from traveling, I managed to sleep for a good portion of the three hour trip which helped the time pass. The bus basically did door to door service since alot of the passengers lived in the middle of nowhere. By the time I woke up enough people had gotten off the bus and the guy next to me moved over and I was happily freed of my backpack. I made it to the destination of Ostional and a local who had also just gotten off the bus showed me to the research station. I met the other volunteers and the coordinator and then my host family came to get me. My first week I stayed with a different family since the person I was supposed to stay with was away on vacation longer than expected. The lodging is simple but sufficient.  All the buildings have tin roofs which makes them like ovens during the day but it cools off at night and is comfortable for sleeping. There is no hot water but a cool shower is almost always wanted. 98% of the meals - breakfast, lunch, and dinner - are rice and beans, sometimes with other things on the side, and I will certainly be thankful to eat other food again but I don't really mind it. Life here is pretty great and maybe even better than I expected. This morning I was working by 6 to do a morning census. We're hoping the arribada - a mass arrival of 100s or even 1000s of turtles - will be soon so we try to keep track of how many turtles were out out the night before by finding tracks.
Olive Ridley tracks
 We also record whether or not they laid and if the nest was poached or destroyed (usually by dogs :(  ). Most days I wake up around 7, eat breakfast, surf for a couple hours,  do a bit of work at the station at 10, eat lunch, then relax, journal, read, explore, swim until beach cleanup (picking up trash and wood off the beach). After I might surf again or go for a swim and maybe do yoga before dinner. Every night Monday - Friday we have night patrol where we walk the beach looking for nesting turtles. Since I've been here there have been a couple nights we haven't seen any turtles but usually we see 3-4 Olive Ridley Turtles. One night we saw about 15-20 turtles and had about 8 nesting at the same time!! When we find a turtle we record what time we found it, what it was doing and then, if we get there before it has started laying, how long it took to lay eggs, how many it layed, and how deep the nest is. We also measure the length and width of the shell, and width of a back flipper. Then we tag the turtle if it's a new, untagged turtle. So far I haven't seen an returning turtle. Our patrols are usually 4 hours long which isn't bad if we see a few turtles but can be a lot of walking if we don't. The beach is beautiful at night, though. There is almost no light pollution so when the moon is dark the stars are incredible.  When the tide is low it's like a mirror that reflects the stars and the bioluminescense in the water makes the crashing waves glow blue. We even saw a bioluminescent turtle once! Her shell was covered in algae that glowed blue when we touched it.

We're free on on the weekends and the past couple weekends we've gone to nearby towns. Getting around here is pretty easy and there are lots of cool places to see nearby. The other day,  some of went for for a hike led by some of the locals. They showed us around the hills and countryside and then we scrambled through the mangrove forests searching, unsuccessfully, for crocodiles, and up a steep hill overlooking the ocean. As a reward for our efforts we got fresh coconuts! One of our guides climbed all the way up the tree, chopped them down with a machete and then cut them open so we could drink the water and then eat them. They were delicious! I also tried climbing part way up a tree but it's not easy and getting back down is rather awkward since the easy option of sliding down trunk is highly uncomfortable.
Our guide Macdonald getting coconuts

Our view while doing sunset yoga


  1. I'm so happy you're in your element there! Can't wait to experience some of what you describe. Love you tons!

  2. How fun to hear of your adventures. Loving this!