A Travellerspoint blog

Terror on the High Seas

Or choppy water on the Carribbean

rain 75 °F

Thursday, 12/2/10. I check out of my hotel in San Jose around 9 am. My taxi driver from yesterday was on time and ready to go. We loaded up my suitcases and on the way, I asked him to stop for coffee as I had no change for a tip. He took me to a lovely coffee shop and we both got a coffee (decaf for me). He dropped me off at the one terminal, gave me his card and said to call him when I came back to Costa Rica. I thought to myself, it will be a cold day in hell before that happens, but I kept my mouth shut.

After I checked in, I asked where the VIP club was. She said they didn't have one at this airport. Darn! That was going to be my free breakfast. I ended up at Burger King and got an egg croissant for $6 and a juice for $3. I met a nice Belizian woman on the plane and we talked. I told her, since we had to change planes in San Salvador and had a one hour layover, that we should go to the VIP lounge there. She didn't know about it, so I showed her the ropes. She was happy, free food and drinks.

Arrived in Belize City with no problem but, naturally, it was raining. I got a taxi to the water taxi marina in plenty of time to catch the last boat to Ambergris Caye (pronounced Amber gree key). We left on time but it was raining like crazy and the chop was bad and it was dark. About 20 minutes out, the guy next to me said the boat captain couldn't see any lights because of the rain. The boat was cutting through the waves pretty good but it was still bumpy. I asked him if we were lost and he said he didnt think so because they had GPS. We did arrive at the first island safely and in another 20 minutes we arrived at my destination. Another taxi took me to my hotel which I am sorely disappointed in.

It is a very small space with room for two twin beds and a door wide isle down the length. No electrical plug, no TV, no anything. I put my two suitcases on the other bed and jumped in the one next to the window. Yes it is a hostel, but I have stayed in hostels all along the way and never were the conditions this primative. I'll see how much it is to move over to the hotel tomorrow.

I was asleep in about an hour.

Posted by Jan Foster 10:22 Archived in Belize Comments (0)

San Jose, Costa Rica

Deposit Happy Country

storm 76 °F

Tuesday, 11/30/10-Wednesday, 12/1/10. I spent the night in a lovely, updated hotel in Panama City on Tuesday. My landlord/driver into the city got stopped at a checkpoint and they took him to the police station for an unpaid ticket. His brother came to pick me up and delivered me to the hotel. Once settled in, I caught a private hotel taxi and he drove me to the English book store. On the way back, I asked him if he wanted to pick me up at 6:00 am on Wednesday and take me to the airport. He said he would. Later on my landlord/driver/criminal showed up at the hotel. He just said he had to pay the fine and they let him go. He told me the hotel I was staying in used to be a whorehouse. Interesting!

It was a wonderful flight into San Jose, CR. This was the ticket I was ticked off about having to buy in order to fly into Panama. They sold me a reasonable business class ticket and with that I was able to go into the Presidents Club for a free breakfast before the flight. Then they fed me again on the plane, a nice chicken salad.

I arrived at the airport in San Jose, gathered my luggage and headed to the Hertz counter to retrieve my rental car. The car that I thought I had booked for $15 now came to $50 with all the taxes and etc.; then they wanted a $1200 security deposit put on my credit card. I said no and they called me a taxi. The taxi driver took me to my hotel and I asked him to come back and pick me up tomorrow to take me to the airport. I have had pretty good luck with taxi drivers.

I got to Hotel Luisiana about 11:00 am and when I checked in, I was told there would be a $200 room deposit. I have never heard of such a thing. Then it started raining really hard. I was told there was a tropical depression. So I went up to my room, got settled in, and took a nap. Hey, I was up at 5:00 am! Just lazing around reading and listening to the wind and rain. I guess I wouldn’t want to drive around in this weather anyway.

From what I have seen of Costa Rica, I am not impressed and glad I’m not staying. Everything is so expensive. Dinner at the restaurant in the hotel was outrageously high and this place isn’t even in a good neighborhood. No other eateries around so I was stuck paying the price. I shouldn’t complain, I got a free breakfast and a free lunch.

Excited about Belize tomorrow!

Posted by Jan Foster 22:44 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

Excitement on the Beach

Watching the net fishermen

sunny 84 °F

Monday, 11/29/10. I just had the most exciting experience. When I got to the beach this morning, I saw a boat out on the water. Then I saw a bunch of people on the beach pulling on a rope. My first thought was that the boat engine had died and the men were pulling it to shore. But as I got closer, I discovered that there was a large net in the water and they were pulling it in. I walked up closer so I could watch. It took them about 1/2 hour to get the net in and it was filled with all sorts of fish, sardines, puffer fish, a stingray, the largest angel fish I have ever seen and several jellyfish.

jellyfish.jpg
Jellyfish

Puffer.jpg
Pufferfish

The stingray was beautiful. I could not find a picture of it on the internet but it was black and white striped. Very distinctive.

There was a gentleman there who spoke English and he was so excited to talk to me. He said he had lived in San Antonio and San Diego about 20 years ago.

Remember the Frigatebirds I talked about earlier? They were swirling overhead and the guy told me they did not eat the sardines, so they threw them up in the air and the Frigatebirds would grab them. He said these birds cannot land on the ground because their legs are too short to take off again. I asked him where they laid their eggs and he told me on the cliffs in the mountains. Of course, that made sense.

He explained that they would divide up the fish to take home to eat and some of the guys would take theirs to a restaurant and sell their portion. It didn't appear to me that this catch was enough to even divide up amongst all the fishermen, much less sell.

I have only once or twice seen another person on the beach in the whole month I have been here and on my last trip down there, I hit the jackpot. I only wish I had had my camera with me.

Posted by Jan Foster 09:48 Archived in Panama Comments (0)

Impressions of Sea Cliff, Panama

Thoughts on my month here

sunny 86 °F

Thursday, 11/25/10 – Sunday, 11/28/10. As I wrap up my month long stay in Sea Cliff, I want to pass on some of my impressions of this little area of Panama.

Sea Cliff is not a town, I doubt you would find it on any map. It is the name given to a beach. There are a lot of these here; Del Mar, Blanca Playa, etc. You turn off the PanAmerican Highway and within ½ a mile, you are on the Pacific Ocean Coast. It is a remote, mostly quiet (except for the occasional dog barking) little community of spread out houses. It reminds me of when I lived out in the country in St. Johns, Michigan. The closest neighbor there was ¼ mile away. The house I am in here is on a little grass covered path with three houses. It is called Calle Los Corrales. The road from the highway is not paved, but made up of hard packed sand and rocks.

Road_to_the_Beach.jpg

It has rained here a lot. I am told that this is very unusual as November is typically dry. I’m not sure I believe them. It doesn’t matter; it has rained a good 60% of the time. I go nowhere but down to the beach without my umbrella. Several times I have started walking down the road toward the highway on a clear and sunny day, only to have a cloud suddenly move in and it start pouring. Most of the time, it rains for maybe ½ hour, and then is overcast the rest of the day. But a couple times, it has rained for days. However, it has been sunny enough for me to do my laundry by hand and hang it out on the line to dry, for which I have much gratitude.

I have loved communing with nature. Here there are beautiful flowers and so many varieties of birds I can’t begin to name them all, a lovely white sand beach, and nice, clean, attractively landscaped houses and friendly people. Even my walk to the beach or to the highway has been an experience in appreciation of nature’s bounty.

People_and_flora_028.jpg

The bus rides into Coronado or Bejuco have also been a “trip” - literally. The buses are in good condition and clean. Most of the time, the bus driver was good, but once in a while, I got a crazy one who weaved all over the road and slammed to a stop. There was the occasional one who liked to beep his horn. However, frequently, they liked to blast fast paced Latin music over the speakers.

That’s my next point. Panamanians love noise. Music on the bus and in the streets, TV’s everywhere such as in the grocery stores, restaurants and in the food court at the mall. And loud! It’s like they are all slightly deaf and must have the volume up full blast in order to enjoy it. The only noise I generated was at night when I watched American TV on my computer - that is when the intermittant internet service was working.

As I have mentioned before; I specifically picked this secluded location to stay at so that I could do some inner reflection. It worked. I feel very spiritual and content. Now I’m ready for some action.

I head off for Panama City on Tuesday and then for an overnighter in San Jose, Costa Rica on Wednesday.

As I enter the last stages of my journey, I would like to thank my readership which numbers 100-200 at any given time. I hope my blogs have been interesting to you and that you stick with me as I complete my Latin American journey in Belize.
As much as I am looking forward to Belize, I also am getting excited about spending Christmas at my cousin’s place in the mountains of Los Gatos, California, USA.

Posted by Jan Foster 06:29 Archived in Panama Comments (2)

Panama Birds

On the Ocean Side

sunny 83 °F

Wednesday, 11/24/10-Thursday, 11/25/10. Happy Thanksgiving to all my North American friends and family. I hope you all have a fulfilling and grateful holiday. Eat some white meat for me, ok?

As promised, this posting is for the birds. Panama is home to many bird species. They are varied and some are quite colorful. The Pacific side of Pamana of course, has many types of coastal birds and watching them is one of my greatest pleasures when I hit the beach.

I would like to start with a photo of my friends, the Bananaquits. These are the fellows who periodically come to tap on my windows and roof. Well, pound is more like it. I think their beaks must be made of steel, because they will poke at my house for hours (usually when I am trying to take a nap). These are the birds that were mentioned in an earlier post:
Bananaquits.jpg

The bird below is called a Frigatebird. They fly along the coast in gliding lazy circles, moving slowly along the treeline. They can stay up in the air for weeks, rarely landing (maybe just to eat). Watching them gracefully hover overhead is very tranquil:
Frigatebird.jpg

This little feller is a Willet. He looks like he's playing when he runs up and down the coastline, running up just ahead of the waves and down toward the water when the wave recedes. But he's really working at grabbing the insects that the sea washes ashore. Up and down, up and down - it's mesmerizing:
Willet.jpg

There are lots of birds that look similar to the ones in North America that run around in my yard too. And another bird I have seen many times are huge vultures. These are the size of turkeys and scary looking but they serve a very special purpose and that is to clean up dead animals.

There are many websites that list the Birds of Panama if you are interested in learning more about them.

Posted by Jan Foster 08:58 Archived in Panama Comments (1)

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