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Monkeys in Quepos: 130 Miles to Anywhere

To catch up on our 700-mile road trip across Costa Rica, click here, here, and here. Also, please note these are howler monkeys in Tamarindo. If you ever hear them roar, you’ll never forget it. It’s like King Kong times fifty.

130 Miles to Anywhere

I had been looking for monkeys from the moment I landed in Costa Rica. Actually, I’d been downright searching. But as mangrove day concluded with that cold shower I’d been daydreaming about all afternoon, I still hadn’t seen one.

After my shower, I joined Nora and Rita in our hostess’s open-air living room. Nora had a sparkle in her eye, and I immediately knew something was up. She was leaning over a map of Costa Rica. Rita was flipping through a guidebook with a scarlet macaw on the front.

“You know tomorrow is a day off for the volunteers,” Nora said. “So, we could hang out here all day or maybe head up the coast.”

We were meeting our husbands in Tamarindo in two days. It was 300 miles north, about eight hours of driving time. At that point, we wouldn’t make it there until well after midnight. Besides, our reservation didn’t start for 48 hours. “Head where?” I asked.

Nora shrugged. “Anywhere.”

Anywhere. Three gringas in a third-world Spanish-speaking country going anywhere? At first I thought about that saying, “the devil you know is better than the one you don’t.” Then, I pictured eating another plate of rice and beans and sleeping in a cabin decorated like a prison cell. A cabin with cockroaches.

Rita asked, “Should we vote?”

“We don’t have to vote,” I said.

Within thirty minutes, we packed up our rental car, told the Osa In-Water Project how much we enjoyed our sea turtle adventures, and split. We left Playa Blanca at dusk heading…well, heading anywhere. And maybe, just maybe when we got there I’d see a monkey.

***

We stopped 130 miles later in a small town called Quepos right outside the Manuel Antonio National Park. Nora had driven the whole four hours it took to get there, and it wasn’t an easy drive. The sky grew black. It rained, then rained harder. Street legal dirt bikes, carrying anywhere from one to five passengers and maybe the family dog, passed us on nonexistent shoulders. We got lost, took a thirty-mile detour.

I’d like to say we intentionally picked Quepos because we knew it was one of the top places in Costa Rica for seeing monkeys. But, we honestly had no idea. We picked the town because it was halfway to Tamarindo and had reasonably priced amenities.

Rita had found a two-bed, two-bath apartment on Airbnb for under a hundred bucks per night. In the states, our rental would have rated two stars, but after our cabins in Playa Blanca it was a solid three and a half. We walked to a small market, bought staples, and Rita made gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, complete with red onions and tomatoes.

That night we sat on the balcony and listened to the sounds of the jungle several hundred yards from our door. Moonlight glimmered off the tin roofs dotting Quepos’s rolling hills. A few streetlights revealed colorful laundry swaying from porches, compact cars and motorcycles parked bumper to bumper on narrow roads.

For the rest of that evening, we sipped on adult beverages and laughed about the acrobatics involved in washing thick hair in a cold shower. We laughed about planting mangrove seeds with our hands and hauling buckets of water to the nursery. We laughed until our sides hurt.

When I had started this trip, I was nervous about fitting in with a group of women. Four days later, I was sitting on a balcony overlooking a jungle, sharing secrets with Rita and Nora that I’ll never share with anyone else.

***

In Quepos, Nora, Rita and I acted like tourists for the first time since we arrived in Costa Rica. We slept late, indulged in hot showers, then found a cute restaurant run by ex-pats where we gorged on veggie omelets, pancakes, and fresh fruit. Not long after breakfast we discovered Nora’s suggestion to head “anywhere” landed us in Costa Rica’s version of Narnia.

We were driving down a steep, winding road when Nora said, “Monkey!”

We doubled back twice but couldn’t find them. So many times before I thought I saw one, but it always ended up being a black squirrel or a swaying palm frond. I wouldn’t believe it until I saw one with my own eyes.

And then I did. Actually, I saw two, two white-faced capuchin monkeys. Nora, Rita, and I squealed like teenage girls. The monkeys were digging the meat out of a coconut in a palm tree. They were so alert and engaged, engaged with their meal and each other. At one point, it looked like they were hugging. Ironically, my search for monkeys ended in a place we never planned on going to in the first place.

Several different species of monkeys live in Manuel Antonio National Park, and the capuchin weren’t the only kind we saw. Later that morning, we strolled down Espadilla Norte, a beach right outside the park’s entrance. The sand was white, ocean blue, breeze carrying the jungle’s flowery scents. Espadilla Norte was far busier than any beach on the Osa Peninsula, but it wasn’t crowded either.

As soon as we turned around and started back, we saw three squirrel monkeys. They were running back and forth from a palm tree to a group of tourists who were feeding them bananas. Before I could pull out my phone for pictures, a few ticos asked the tourists to stop. It’s illegal to feed monkeys in Costa Rica because human hands carry bacteria their immune systems can’t fight.

At one point, a street vendor called to us. We politely waved him off because we thought he wanted to sell us a kebob or trinket. Instead, he pointed at a beige sloth wrapped around a ceiba branch thirty feet above our heads. We only saw his furry body and never his charming face, but we were thrilled anyway.

All in all, it was a perfect day. For three girls going anywhere, we ended up in exactly the right place.

***

The following afternoon Nora, Rita, and I sat at a beachfront restaurant in Tamarindo. We had pulled into town an hour ago. Our husbands would arrive later that evening. Three mojitos in ice-filled glasses sat on our table. A few days ago we couldn’t get a single cube let alone three glasses of them.

We watched surfers jogging into the ocean, bikini-clad women parading along the beach, families walking their dogs. Latin hip-hop played in the background and the smell of burning tiki torches filled the air. If Quepos is Costa Rica’s Narnia, then Tamarindo is Vegas. We were quiet, overwhelmed by the busy energy. We had only been gone for six days, but it felt like a lifetime.

“I changed,” I said.

“Me too,” Rita answered.

“Like something shifted,” Nora agreed.

We’d been through so much together. Like when I got sick in a Ziploc bag outside San Jose because we didn’t know enough Spanish to ask our shuttle-bus driver to pull over. Or when sand fleas attacked Rita, so we soaked in the Gulfo Dulce until we pruned. How Nora drove 130 miles at night in the rain after doing manual labor for six hours. I thought about how we hiked for seven miles through a banana plantation, crossed a crocodile-infested estuary, and planted 27 mangroves on the Osa Peninsula. I thought about a green turtle in Playa Blanca and monkeys in Quepos.

We had ingested so many new experiences so quickly that we had to change. We had to adapt. And we did it together. Finally, social equilibriums acclimated, we raised our glasses and toasted to three gringas on a 700-mile road trip across Costa Rica.

Mangrove Day: The Nitty-Gritty of Sea Turtle Rescue

If you missed part one of our 700-mile road trip in Costa Rica, click here. Click here for part two. By the way, this smiling iguana picture has nothing to do with this post’s two subjects, mangroves and sea turtles. But, we did take it in Costa Rica. And I love it so much that I’ve been looking for an excuse to use it.

Mangrove Day, Playa Blanca, Costa Rica

After our first day of volunteering with the Osa In-Water project, I had high hopes about day two, which they called mangrove day. It started out pleasantly enough. Nora, Rita, and I ate rice and beans, toast with homemade marmalade in our hostess’s open-air living room. The living room held several family-size tables that stretched across concrete floors and a TV that took up half a wall. It played telenovelas in hi-definition from morning to night.

Mangrove day even started with a bonus. The day before we had spent six hours trying to catch sea turtles but didn’t catch any. After breakfast, the biologist called us to the beach. She had gone out early that morning and caught a green turtle. It was small and young compared to the ancient ones who can weigh up to 350 pounds.

Rita and I held the turtle’s hind flippers, while Nora logged measurements. We measured her shell and tail, took skin and blood samples, catalogued her tag number. Later, the biologist would enter it in a database they shared with organizations all over the world. With this shared data, they could track migratory patterns, growth rates, and general health information. Finally, after all the measurements were logged, we set her free.

Although that little lady hadn’t been outside the ocean for more than an hour, tears welled up in my eyes. I watched her slow and steady wake ripple along the surface long after her head disappeared. In the brief moments I had spent near her, I recognized her wisdom, the kind that makes her worth saving, the kind that makes people travel thousands of miles from home to see. I also realized that sea turtles are a lot like dogs. Both species have an inner peace that comes from knowing how to live in the moment. If they’ve already figured it out, why is it so hard for us?

***

Releasing that sea turtle into the Gulfo Dulce was the last magical thing that happened on mangrove day. From that moment on, Nora, Rita, and I never stopped sweating. Occasionally, clouds provided shade, but for the most part we worked in 90- degree heat, humidity as thick as Tennessee’s, and didn’t stop working until late afternoon.

It’s not like we are strangers to hard work either. All three of us grow gardens, mow yards, rake leaves, and whack weeds. I currently live in the country with an acre of grass that needs to be maintained nine months a year. Rita and Nora had grown up on a farm. We all had experience at working outside in hot conditions, but gardening with rudimentary equipment in a tropical climate was tougher than the hottest day of weeding the yard.

Our first chore involved planting mangroves. With one veteran research assistant and two newly arrived assistants, we hiked to the nursery across terrain that alternated between sandy coastline and swampland. The nursery was a crude but functional structure. Long pieces of driftwood held up several triangular scrims that covered rows of potted mangroves. We loaded shovels and twenty-seven of the healthiest plants into a wheelbarrow and hiked for several more miles to the project’s reforestation zone.

Until Nora, Rita, and I planted mangroves in Costa’s Rica’s rocky shore, I didn’t realize why they are so fundamental for a healthy coastline. For one thing, they prevent erosion and store enormous amounts of carbon. But, they also provide nesting grounds and homes for sea turtles along with hundreds of other species. Some experts predict whole species would diminish and maybe disappear without them.

We spent a good hour on our plot, three trees per hole, three holes per row. The ground wasn’t only rocky but filled with roots, so we had to stand on the shovels and use our weight to break ground. The shovels had seen better days and often bent under our weight. When we finished planting, we spent the rest of the morning searching for older plots, so that we could count leaves and measure its growth.

Our hike back to the nursery took an extra hour, but that was the second best hour of the day. Because of high tide, we had to take a longer route through a banana plantation. The banana trees towered over our heads. Their lush spiked leaves created a canopy of fragmented light. Actually, the whole hike was surreal, complete with exotic bird sounds and palm oil seeds that crunched under our feet. At one point, Nora, Rita, and I had to cross a small estuary where crocodiles swim, and the water almost reached our knees. While I waded through the murky waters, the thought of bumping into one of those prehistoric meat-eaters did cross my mind. But, I crammed it into a corner. We were in a remote jungle in a foreign country, so what choice did I have?

After lunch, rice and beans with fruit slices, we worked just as hard if not harder than that morning. We carried buckets of water back and forth from the ocean to the nursery and doused every potted tree. Nora, Rita, and I probably carried twenty buckets each that day. Once, we tried cooling off in the Golfo Dulce, but the water was as warm as the air. Sweat dripped between every crevice of our bodies.

Finally, as the sun signaled late afternoon, we started our last chore. Nora, Rita, and I sank onto the ground next to a triangular box that looked like a sandbox, except it was filled with mud. A pile of mangrove seeds sat behind it. By that time, we weren’t thinking about the fact that we were sitting in dirt because it felt so good just to sit. With our hands, we shoveled mud into plastic bags six inches deep and stuck a mangrove seed in each. The dirt underneath my nails was so thick that I couldn’t get them completely clean for days. We hadn’t had warm water in our cabin since we arrived in Playa Blanca two days earlier. After we checked that last chore off our list, I found myself dreaming about one of our cabin’s signature cold showers.

***

There is no denying that mangrove day was a hard, sweaty slog. Our first day of volunteering had been instantly gratifying. It took a lot longer to appreciate our second day. Mangrove day exposed the nitty-gritty of volunteering for a sea turtle conservation group in Costa Rica. It proved that rescuing sea turtles is romantic and rewarding, but it also involves hard manual labor.

Ironically, looking back, mangrove day means more to me than any other I spent in Costa Rica. I’m proud we planted twenty-seven mangroves and hiked seven miles through the jungle. All that hard work had given us a feeling of accomplishment, as though we earned something. And we earned it together. Maybe that’s one of the reasons Nora, Rita, and I became so close during our 700-mile road trip through Costa Rica. Whether we were crossing crocodile-infested estuaries or digging in the mud with our hands, we had each other’s back every step of the way.

Coming up next: One night in Quepos, Costa Rica and A Farewell to a Tree

 

Sea Turtle Adventures, San Jose to Playa Blanca, 220 miles

If you missed part one our adventures in Costa Rica, click here.

My first day volunteering for a sea turtle conservation group in Costa Rica easily ranks as the most enjoyable day of volunteer work I’ve ever experienced. I’d make up for it the following afternoon, but I wasn’t thinking about manual labor on that morning. And I can guarantee you Nora and Rita weren’t either.

We were riding in a skiff across the calm waters of the Gulfo Dulce. The gulf is sandwiched between the Osa Peninsula and mainland Costa Rica. Besides a marine biologist, a research assistant, and four other volunteers, the boat was loaded with scientific equipment, such as scales, rulers, cameras, nets, log books, latex gloves, syringes, and disinfectant.

I inhaled the smell of salt water and felt the sunshine soaking into my skin, but they were the only two familiar sensations. Everything else was foreign. Mangroves and banana trees, tall and bare except for their umbrella-like tops, slid past each side of us. Somewhere in that lush jungle, monkeys, wild cats, and sloths were hanging out. And somewhere in the clear waters, dolphins, whales, sharks, and sea turtles were swimming. National Geographic called the Osa Peninsula one of the most biologically intense places on the earth. And we were right in the thick of it.

We were working for the Osa In-Water project, helping them on a “water day.” A water day meant spending six hours in the gulf trying to catch sea turtles. If we caught one, we would tag them. If they were already tagged, we’d collect tissue samples and biometric measurements so the biologists could study things like population structures, general health, and habitat changes. Once we collected all the necessary information, we’d release the turtles back into the ocean. The project is particularly interested in two endangered species, the green and hawksbill.

Nora, Rita, and I had learned about water day the night before when we arrived at Playa Blanca, 220 miles south of San Jose, Costa Rica. Playa Blanca isn’t a town. It’s a village, which we realized as soon as we turned down the one dirt road that runs through it. It’s a place so small nobody has an address, and there is no such thing as a postal worker. Instead, people give directions through landmarks. And public buses transport letters or packages to the only store in the village. The same man who ran the store was also the skiff’s captain.

After twenty minutes, the boat stopped next to a remote beach nestled inside a cove. The biology team laid out a net that was a couple thousand feet across. Nora, Rita, and I carried equipment to the beach. One hour passed, then another, and we still didn’t catch a turtle. We ate our packed lunches, which mainly consisted of rice and beans. That was our third meal in Playa Blanca, and it was the third time we’d had rice and beans. Each time our hostess had added a new twist, last night she mixed in peppers, eggs for breakfast, and now fruit.

The in-water project provides food and housing for a small fee. As soon as we had opened our cabin door, I realized people don’t volunteer for a sea turtle conservation group because of the accommodations. Our room’s whole décor gave off a jail-like vibe. It had concrete floors, cinderblock walls, a tin roof, bunk beds, no windows, and no air conditioning. A single bulb hung from the ceiling and emitted a feeble glow. Every bed had a pillow, a fitted, and flat sheet. We never had hot water, not even lukewarm, but we did have a cockroach or two that scattered whenever we turned on the bathroom light.

Three hours into water day and still no turtles, so Nora, Rita, and I wandered off to explore the mangroves. Mangrove trees only live in warm climates, and they are key to the coastline’s health. They are easy to recognize because of their exposed and tangled root systems, as though they are standing on mangled stilts. This tangled abundance stabilizes coastlines, but it also provides safe nesting grounds for hundreds of species, including sea turtles.

We were examining different kinds of hermit shells when I first noticed the tiny red dots around Rita’s ankles. Once I saw a few, more and more appeared, until it looked like she had suddenly broken out in a severe case of measles. Starting at her toes and running up her thighs, she had at least fifty sand flea bites on each leg.

The research assistant had told us to bring plenty of sunscreen and water, and not to wear any bug spray because it was bad for the turtles. Looking at Rita, I had no doubt she complied. Nora and I didn’t wear any either, and we had a few bites but nothing compared to Rita. I don’t know what sweetness she had in her blood, but the sand fleas loved it. And they ate her alive.

The biologist, a French woman in her mid-thirties, advised us to sit in the water because it was the only place to escape them. So, for the last three hours we spent on that remote beach, we soaked up to our chests in the Gulfo Dulce’s warm waters. The water must have been 80 degrees, like bathwater. The jungle surrounded us in all its exotic green glory. Sometimes, red macaws, traveling in pairs and trailing their long tail feathers, flew above us. Occasionally, we heard a toucan’s frog-like croak.

We never caught a sea turtle, but a few times one would peek its head above water. Somehow the biologist knew from one glimpse whether it was a green or hawksbill. Besides our group, we didn’t see any people. We saw another small skiff, but it was as far away as the horizon. At some point, I said, “This is got to be the best day of volunteering. Like ever.” Even Rita agreed.

We’d pay for every bit of ease the next day, on mangrove day. But, we didn’t know that then, so we soaked until we pruned, until schools of tiny darting fish started nibbling on our toes.

131 Miles: Liberia to San Jose, Costa Rica

I tried to write about my adventures in Costa Rica in one post. I swear I did. But as I explained here, something extraordinary happened on that trip, and I can’t fit the whole story into 1000 words or less. For those of you just catching up, in December I went on a five-day, 700-mile road-trip across a third-world country. Throughout this month, I’m going to write about each leg of the journey, starting with the first 131 miles. Thanks for reading.

Dec. 7, 131 Miles: Liberia to San Jose

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have angst about my trip to Costa Rica, not stress but a sense of uncertainty. Sure partly, I had the normal anxiety about flying to a foreign country. Did I have enough cash? Would my plane be on time? Would my stuffed bag fit into the overhead? Did I have my passport?

But above all, I was concerned about traveling with women. I know that sounds strange, but I’m not around a lot of girls daily. I live with more dogs than humans and work in an industry with a male to female ratio of five to one. Also, I’m a tomboy who wears cargo shorts instead of yoga pants and board shorts instead of bikini bottoms. I live in my Penn State baseball hat. So, a five-night girl’s trip in a third-world country was a completely new experience for me.

I was traveling with two sisters from North Carolina, Nora Gabriel and Rita Southard. We were headed to the Osa Peninsula, a biodiversity hotspot, to volunteer for a sea turtle conservation group. Nora was the inspiration behind the whole trip. She’s a sea turtle advocate with a mane of black curls and an infectious laugh. I’ve known Nora for years but only met Rita a handful of times. Rita is younger than her sister, thirty something, tall with soft pale skin and brown hair that sways against her waist. Since we were starting our journey in the northern region of Costa Rica, and needed to venture to the southern end, we planned on splitting the first part of our trip into two days.

My first hour in Costa Rica went exactly as planned. I landed in Liberia during the late afternoon. Nora and Rita were waiting for me outside of immigration. We were spending the night in San Jose, 131 miles away, and taking a shuttle van to our hotel. Between the three of us, we knew a few phrases in Spanish, but none of us could have a conversation in it, and our driver didn’t speak a word of English. On the curb outside the airport, Nora pointed out the address of our hotel on her phone. He nodded, and that nod was the only assurance we had that he knew our destination.

About thirty minutes into our ride, my stomach started feeling weak. I’m prone to motion sickness, so in retrospect I should have sat in the front seat. But I didn’t. I sat in the very back because up until I got in that van, my stomach gave no indication it was upset.

Costa Rica doesn’t have many roads, so traveling takes a lot longer than it does at home. If we were driving 131 miles from one major city to another in the Southern United States, it would take two hours. In Costa Rica, it takes double that time. The two-lane roads were paved but winding, weaving back and forth, back and forth. Sometimes, we drove behind public buses or tractors pulling hay, and we moved at a snail’s pace. Sometimes, the road cleared and the driver would pound on the gas for a few manic kilometers before slamming on the brakes. The van had seen better days, faded red interior, chipped paint, windows that didn’t roll down. Plus, it didn’t have any seatbelts, so every time the driver slammed on the brakes, we lurched forward.

About an hour into the trip, my stomach was turning like a carousel. About three hours into the ride, it was spinning. Through sheer willpower, I was able to control it because I wasn’t going to be that girl, the one who causes problems, the one who shows weakness hours into a rugged five-day trip. Unfortunately, my stomach didn’t care about my reputation.

I said, “I’m going to puke.”

Nora and Rita looked at me, then at the driver, then at each other. At the same exact second, we realized nobody knew enough Spanish to ask him to pull over. Nobody knew how to tell him I was going to be sick. And that if he didn’t pull over, it was going to happen all over the van’s floor. It’s an odd feeling not being able to communicate at the height of an emergency. Granted, I had played around on language apps for the past year, but I never took learning Spanish seriously, not really. And I never regretted my apathy more than at that moment.

Since I get motion sickness and travel a lot, I’ve developed a habit. Consciously or not, I identify a puke bag the moment I get on any plane, subway, bus, or shuttle van. Luckily, I had packed a few Ziploc bags in my backpack. I don’t remember thinking about those bags beforehand, but when my stomach rose into my throat, and then into my mouth, I dug for those bags like a dog hunting a mole. As the orange haze of San Jose, the biggest city in Costa Rica, glowed through the van’s windows, I puked into a Ziploc bag, not once but twice.

After my retching concluded, I was embarrassed and humbled. I had been worried about traveling with girls, and I was the one who couldn’t hang. But if Nora and Rita felt that way, they never let it show. Instead, Nora handed me a wet wipe, offered water, medicine. Rita shrugged off my apology. “Please,” she said in a nonchalant way, as though she was totally accustomed to people puking into plastic bags, as though it was no big deal.

Now, almost six week later, I wish I could remember more about my first 131 miles in Costa Rica. But, in retrospect I only learned two things. First, I need to work on my Spanish, no more excuses. Secondly, I learned something about Nora and Rita. Nora’s nurturing and Rita’s feigned indifference had been the perfect remedies for my embarrassment in that van. Within minutes, they had made me feel okay again. That was the first but not the last time I realized that traveling with women, particularly these two women, was going to be a special experience.

Three Girls and a 700-Mile Road-Trip across Costa Rica

Before I left for Costa Rica, I had every intention of coming home and writing a story about my grueling but rewarding volunteer work for LAST, a sea turtle conservation group. But sometimes, the story we expect isn’t always the one we get. And this time, I was way off the mark. Let me be clear, both grueling and rewarding volunteer work was involved in my adventure, and I’ll touch on that. But, a tale focused only on sea turtles in Costa Rica isn’t the one that’s been brewing. Instead, I can’t stop thinking about three gringas who traveled to a third-world country and had the adventure of a lifetime. Let’s start with a teaser.

Three gringas and a 700-mile road-trip across Costa Rica

On a Saturday afternoon in mid-December, I met two sisters Honora Gabriel and Rita Southard at the Liberia airport. From there, we road-tripped for five days and 709 miles along Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast. Here are just a few of our experiences: we hiked seven miles in the jungle along the Golfo Dulce, planted mangrove seeds with our hands, crossed an estuary where crocodiles swim, and measured a hawksbill’s shell. On the Osa Peninsula, we slept in concrete cabins with cockroaches, cold showers, and no air conditioning. In Quepos, we heard the howler monkeys’ husky roars before we saw some a day later in Tamarindo. We also saw macaws, toucans, parrots, a sleeping sloth, iguanas, and white-faced capuchin monkeys. We ate rice and beans five times in two days and an empanada at a roadside soda. On snaking, two-lane roads, sometimes in the rain, we passed men cutting brush with machetes, mule-drawn carriages, and people of all ages and genders riding street-legal dirt bikes with one or maybe five passengers.

There were times on that 700-mile trip when we squealed like ecstatic teenage girls. But, there were also times when we were forced to step outside our comfort zones, physically, mentally, and culturally. For me, the remarkable part is that we never melted down or gave up. Not for 700 miles. Not when I threw up in a Ziploc bag, or Nora killed cockroaches, or sand fleas assaulted Rita. Even when an intoxicated tico screamed karaoke at us in Puerto Jiménez, a town straight out of a Wild West movie, we didn’t give up. Looking back, we not only survived that road-trip, but we thrived. Because somewhere along those dusty, winding roads, three women became lifelong friends.

Coming in 2020

Coming soon, I’ll be writing more about our road-trip across Costa Rica. Plus, I’ll share a story about a vicious dog who attacked Floyd over Thanksgiving in Kentucky, and another about CBD oil and our sixteen-year-old cat’s remarkable comeback. This spring we’ll be visiting the Gentle Barn, a farm sanctuary in a neighboring county, and this summer we’re returning to the Puget Sound Goat Rescue to check in on Rosebud, our favorite three-legged goat.

Happy Holidays y’all!

A Prelude to Sea Turtle Adventures in Costa Rica

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the hardest part of loving my freaks is leaving them. And soon, I’ll be leaving them for ten days. There are two things that make being away worth it. One, I’ll be visiting a magical place, a.k.a. the Golfo Dulce in Costa Rica. I’ve heard rumors that creatures like sloths, macaws, and monkeys live in those emerald green forests, and I’m as excited as a twelve year old to see them. I wasn’t able to sleep last night just thinking about it.

Secondly, I’m going for a good cause. The Osa Penisula is one of 25 biodiversity hotspots in the world. A biodiversity hotspot is a place rich in nature but threatened by human development and pollution. Conservation International reports, “Today, species are going extinct at the fastest rate since the mass extinction of the dinosaurs.” And sea turtles are quickly become one of these casualties. So, for three days, marine-life advocate Honora Gabriel and I will be volunteering for the Osa Project, a conservation group running a rehabilitation center for sick or injured turtles.

I traveled to Cuba earlier this year to learn about the dog overpopulation problem, and ironically, I’m going to Costa Rica to find out about the withering number of sea turtles. The ocean’s problems have made front-page news on this blog before. Click here for a post about the starfish on the Oregon Coast and here for an interview with a badass lionfish hunter trying to save the Florida Keys.

For me, the ocean means life. If the ocean is dying, then it means that Conservation International is right, and everything else is dying too. Because I love nature so much, and because I’m able, I want to help. I want to witness and write about the Osa Project because if we don’t raise a clatter, then who will?  It’s not like the sea turtles are going to start yelling about the insane amount of plastic littering their home.

I’ll miss my freaks so much that I’ve already devised a way to keep them “with” me. I’m going to drape my beach towel on their dog bed the day before I leave. That way, I’ll smell them every time I dry off. I’m sure I’ll find a few dog hairs too. 🙂

I’m not taking my computer into the jungle, but I will be keeping a diary the old school way. So check back at the end of the month for an update about our sea turtle adventures in Costa Rica.

And as always, thanks so much for reading.