Saturday, November 16, 2013

Southern Costa Rica

 When we arrived in Costa Rica and tied up to the dock at the Banana Bay Marina in Golito, our first impression was what a tiny boat Moonshadow was, tied up next to the mammoth 121 foot trawler yacht Dardanella.  Though only twice Moonshadow's length, this super-yacht has ten times the space.  We were suddenly glad for our relatively simple systems and maintenance requirements!

While ashore attending to the procedures checking into Costa Rica, we saw some evidence of Golfito's historic significance. Once a banana exporting port, Golfito has rail and dock infrastructure that was once magnificent.  Now in decay, the town is experiencing a rebound as a sport-fishing and tourist destination.

A look at Costa Rica's currency reminded us that here is a country that is aware of it's true intrinsic value:  the natural beauty and attraction of the jungles and wildlife within the rain-forests.  With 28 national parks utilizing 12 percent of the country's land, you appreciate they're working to preserve what they have.

We had decided that after lavishing so much attention upon Moonshadow, attending to her every need, it was about time to give ourselves a little treat.  After doing some research, when we booked a cabina at the Bosque del Cabo Eco Lodge located within a preserve on the Oso Peninsula, we already had an idea we were in for something special.

But we were blown away by the beautiful grounds at the lodge.

Staying in one of just 12 cabinas on Bosque del Cabo's 750 acres of prime rainforest near Punta Matapalo was out of this world.

You know you're someplace special when they don't issue a key to your room.

And the bathroom is outside.

 But for us, the best thing was a king size bed!

Just outside our window was a 400 foot cliff to the Pacific, with lots of wildlife, including this black hawk.

You can spend hours watching the day go by from here.

But we had to pick from a long list of activities like hiking the lush rain-forest.

It was really majestic walking through the stillness of the jungle.

High above in the canopy, you could barely hear the wind in the tree tops, but all was still on the floor of the jungle.

Speaking of trees, we climbed one.  Actually, not a tree, this is called a strangled fig.  About 150 years old, this growth started with a host tree that reached 180 feet to the forest canopy.   Seeds left by birds germinated in the foliage up top and sent vines to the forest floor where new sprouts sprang up the host tree's trunk.  

Over the years the vine literally strangled the life out of the tree, which later decayed, leaving just the outer criss-crossed structure of the interlaced vines.   We learned that Matapalo, the name of the nearby point and beach, translates to tree killer.  That is what we were about to climb.

Our guide fitted us with rock climbing gear and up the hollowed core of the tree we went.  

We finally arrived at a spot about 70 feet up, just a tad higher than Moonshadow's stubby mast. 

There we then were taught to rappel down the outside of the "tree".

Further down the trail, we found this beautiful waterfall...

... and enjoyed the refreshing cool fresh water shower at the bottom.
Back at the lodge, there was so much to take in.  Crossing this suspension bridge, a troupe of spider monkeys rushed by swinging from branches with their hands and tails.

This tropical garden has a pre Columbian stone sphere located in the center of a circle of palms.

(click on photos to enlarge)

Closer to our cabina, we saw more palms...

...and more palms...

...and in the palms, beautifully exotic Tucans! every turn, still more beauty.

We also ran into these white faced Capuchin Monkeys hanging out in some bamboo

Still later we saw a family of Howler Monkeys lounging way up in the tree tops.

On another hike, our naturalist guide showed us a younger version of the strangled fig we'd climbed before.  

These guys grow fast.  It took just 11 years for the vines to span the distance from the hole (where a fallen log, later decayed away, was trapped) to the spot where Deb's resting her hand.

From there we hiked to a zip-line ending on a platform high up in the jungle canopy where 90% of the living things hang out.

But for those of us preferring terra firma, another rappel, 100 feet this time, to the jungle floor was the only way down.

After a couple of fabulous days we were on our way back across the Golfo Dulce to Golfito and Moonshadow, still stunned by the wonder of the beautiful Oso Penninsula.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Pacific Panama

Las Perlas 

After completing our transit of the Panama Canal, we motor-sailed  to Las Perlas, a group of 100 islands about 40 miles south of Panama City.  Along this route, you get a great view of the Panama City skyline which is quite a change from the remoteness of the rest of Panama.

Before arriving at Isla Contadora, we discovered another stowaway.  You would think this guy would be hard to miss, but we figured he was aboard for quite some time before we heard a noise and investigated.  We politely asked him to leave.  He was having none of that and we realized that, like the rat and the bees, Pete the Pelican was going to have to be evicted.  He finally agreed to leave but couldn't figure out a safe passage through the lifelines.  

After a long time of coaxing and lots of forlorn looks Pete was back in the air making long gliding passes just feet away from Moonshadow.

Jeff and Sue, good friends from San Diego joined us at Isla Contadora for a week of island hopping in Las Perlas.

Real sailors wear two sets of glasses around their necks!

The television show "Survivor" filmed a couple of seasons here so we searched for evidence of previous tribal camps along these deserted beaches.

Jeff brought us good luck in the fishing department!

At Isla San Jose, we discovered Hacienda Del Mar, a resort that had no guests, but opened their facilities so we could enjoy a day on their grounds and dine ashore.

The views were spectacular.

Several of the island fowl have learned that 1500 hours is feeding time so they all show up, hanging out  waiting for the moment when some birdseed is scattered on a second floor balcony.

The islands 21 beautiful blue parrots are at the head of the line so these little green guys keep their distance.

One look says it all.

Don't mess with me, I'm eating!

Later at the bar, this gorgeous toucan appeared.

Evidently he knows if he plays his cards right, the bar patrons will feed him some maraschino cherries.

Some of our stops were to visit small villages like 
Cañas Village, near Isla Cañas.

Here the school basketball court doubles as a plot for drying the rice they grow.

There are lots of long empty beaches here.

Las Perlas is a fine place to get some sun and take in the beauty...

...then cool off while checking out the sea life.

Alas, Jeff and Sue's week long visit came to an end but the memories will last forever.

Panama City (again)

Our original plans were to sail from Las Perlas west to Costa Rica, visiting some of Panama's offshore islands along the way.  Boat systems, we've learned, have a way of trumping your plans.  This time it was the refrigeration, so it was back to Balboa Yacht Club near Panama City.

Balboa Yacht Club has moorings just outside the shipping channel leading to the Miraflores locks. About fifty ships pass by each day.

While waiting for parts to arrive, we had a view of much of the world's commerce doing it's thing getting to market.

There's always something interesting going on.

But we just had to get off Moonshadow so we went to the mall!

And we tried on some shoes for the first time in months.

We took a taxi out the the Visitor's Center at the Miraflores  locks of the Panama Canal.  

This one phono shows a lot:  A red tanker is entering the upper Miraflores chamber while a bulk carrier is waiting in the queue. Meanwhile, another freighter and a passenger liner in the Pedro Miguel locks are about to descend from lake Gutan.  Behind all of this is the Culebra Cut where tons of rock were excavated with explosives and steam shovels.  

Even after experiencing the transit to the canal aboard Moonshadow, we have to admit it's quite an impressive operation... even more so when you realize it's all 100 years old!

While there, we were treated to the sight of the massive crane, Titan, working in the adjacent chamber.  Titan was built by Hitler, then captured by allied forces during WWII.  Titan did a lot of heavy lifting for the US Navy in Long Beach until it was sold to Panama.

Our parts arrived and were installed resulting in the welcome return of a working refrigerator so we went shopping and stowed away gobs of food and we were ready to finally leave Balboa.

Not so fast Moonshadow!  

On our way out of the harbor entrance we were greeted with the unwelcome sound of our engine losing power then stopping.  We sailed to an anchorage and began trouble-shooting.  Eventually we found a broken fuel line leading from one of the fuel tanks, switched tanks and motored back to Balboa Yacht Club.

As problems go, this one was easy.  We called our new friend Deenys Guzman, who'd previously helped us with fixing the refrigerator and drove us all over Panama City on other errands, translating for us and helped us deal with a corrupt office supervisor from UPS in Balboa.  If you ever need help with boat problems in Panama, call Deenys.  He knew just where to go to have a new fuel line made up and we were all set to go that afternoon.  

We even had time to take in Balboa's last sunset.

On to Costa Rica

The next morning, we were off to Isla Taboga, just 8 miles away but a world apart from Balboa.

Our on board AIS (Automatic Identification System) showed us some of the several dozen ships waiting their turn to transit the canal.

On our way West to Costa Rica we visited some more of Panama's beautiful Pacific islands, including Isla Bona, Isla Coiba, Isla Cavada, and Isla Pargo.  

Isla Coiba bears some mention.  As a National Park, it is written up in our guides as a worthwhile stop.  Since this island previously served as a prison for previous ruthless Panamanian leaders, like  Omar Torrijos and Manuel Noriega, to keep and torture and murder their political enemies, the island has escaped all forms of private development.  It also is home to some many species of monkeys, iguanas, snakes and birds.  

All sounds good so far, but when we arrived, the park rangers pulled up, took pictures of Moonshadow and informed us the fee for anchoring there was $180 for the boat and $20 per person, or $220 total per night.  Since it was getting dark, we had no choice but to stay the night.  The next morning, we launched the dinghy went to the Park ranger's office and politely argued our case that we would not have stayed even one night for that price, but couldn't leave as it was dark by the time we learned of the fees. We finally paid $100 and left immediately.  

By contrast, Isla Pargo was free and we had this awesome beach to ourselves for two days.  It was a fitting end to our time in Panama.

Our hand made, patched and mended Panama courtesy flag had been hanging from the starboard spreader for five and a half months when we finally took her down.  This is how we should all look when we finally retire!

Our last 100 miles to Costa Rica started with a beautiful sunset and some impressive thunderstorms.  

As it grew dark, the storms surrounded Moonshadow and coalesced into one big mass of rain and lightning about 30 miles across which followed us all the way to the Costa Rican border.

But as we turned North up the Golfo Dulce to Golfito, Costa Rica, the storm continued west leaving us this beautiful sunrise to welcome us into a new country.