Tamarindo 2009

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February 28, 2009 - Saturday - San Jose to Tamarindo

This morning I share breakfast with several of the Southern Skies group before they leave for home. I also hook up with two of the group who are flying to Tamarindo, since I will share a ride with them to Pavas airport. Nature Air charges me US$25 for my overweight bag, which I expected since they have a strict 35lb limit for baggage because they use Twin Otter aircraft. They also weigh each passenger (including carry-ons), so they are pretty careful about overloading their aircraft. Pavas is a nice airport - small enough to make it easy to find the airline counters, gates, and other services. The staff is casual, friendly, and helpful, and there is none of that annoying security which we have to endure at international airports.

Our flight leaves at 11:45am, which is a bit later than the 11:15am departure time printed on my e-ticket, but who cares since we don't have to make any connections. I take some really nice aerial photos as we fly to Liberia, and then onward to Tamarindo. Apparently Liberia is an international airport, with flights from American Airlines, Continental, and Air Canada landing here. If I had known that, I could have returned home from Liberia instead of taking an extra day to fly to San Jose and having the extra expense of staying overnight there.

Pavas Airport & mountains to the south of San Jose Irrigated farmland near Liberia - rice patties? Continental & American Airlines on the apron at Liberia airport
Pavas Airport & mountains to the south of San Jose Irrigated farmland near Liberia - rice patties? Continental & American Airlines on the apron at Liberia airport
Arenal Volcano with clouds Tamarindo beach looking North Tamarindo beach & river estuary looking North
Arenal Volcano with clouds Tamarindo beach looking North Tamarindo beach & river estuary looking North

Cresent Moon & Venus with reflection in the poolThe taxi ride from Tamarindo airport to the hotel costs me US$30 - obviously this is tourist rate - I was expecting to pay $20 for the 20 minute ride. The staff at Hotel Las Tortugas are very friendly; although not all speak English, they all understand some of what I say, so I encounter no problems. I am booked into room #10 as previously arranged (and prepaid using Paypal).  I have some time to settle in and have a shower before my friends arrive in mid-afternoon from their long drive from San Jose. We have a beer and a chat before they go to their room to have a siesta.

I see the Sun setting at 6pm from my balcony, and quickly go out to the beach to take some photos of the panorama. There are quite a few people on the beach enjoying the sunset.  It reminds me of our trip to Long Beach on Vancouver Island when we were there last September. After my friends and I have dinner, I take a photo of the Crescent Moon & Venus from my balcony - a beautiful sight in the dark skies.

I have turned off the air conditioner in my room, since I am determined to acclimatize to the local warm temperatures. I sleep quite well overnight, waking up at about 7am refreshed and ready for the day.

March 1, 2009 - Sunday - Hotel Las Tortugas - After a morning walk on the beach, my friends and and I have breakfast together.  This stretch of beach is a surfers' haven, since there is a "break" right in front of the hotel. There are lots of Tico surfers and surfers from all over the world coming here to find the perfect wave.  To be honest, the waves here are not as big or exciting as I have seen in Hawaii, but virtually every day here is good for surfing.

We take the opportunity to use the hotel's free wireless Internet to send messages back home. I continue working on my notebook computer to index the photographs I've taken over the last week. I decide to order a chicken quesadilla for lunch - very good! I posted the four astronomy photos I took last week to my Zenfolio online gallery and also setup a couple of my email accounts so I can more easily maintain contact back home.

My room #10 Sitting area - front entranceway Pool area & my balcony
My room - #10 Sitting area - front entranceway to the hotel Pool area & my balcony (above)

After a siesta this afternoon, we have some beer around 6pm and I order some nacho chips and salsa to go with it. Later I order a fish burger for dinner, since I was still pretty full from the quesadilla I had for lunch. It was made with fresh local mahi mahi, and came with French fries - too many for me, so I left half of the fries. My friends order a Tico entrée and a palmito (Palm heart) salad to share between them - a good idea to get some variety and keep the cost reasonable.

Leatherback Turtle tracks on the beach - female laid eggs and returned to the seaMarch 2, 2009 - Monday - Hotel Las Tortugas - We all get out early this morning before sunrise to walk on the beach.  We find a set of big turtle tracks - a female turtle obviously laid her eggs and returned to the sea overnight. While I'm taking photos a woman approaches me to tell me she saw a turtle returning to the sea about 15 minutes ago just up the beach a bit further. She suggested I get out on the beach a bit earlier and try to see one. I thanked her for the suggestion, since the turtle tours are not offered in this area after Feb 15th. There are lots of surfers out this morning riding the waves that are breaking just offshore. The day heats up quickly at this location, so it is important to get out as early as possible if there is any outside activity to be done.

I am settling into a lazy routine here at the hotel. After last week, it is nice to have few activities planned and to just be able to listen to some music while lazing in one of the hammocks setup in shady spots around the hotel grounds.  The surfers are having a good time this evening as the sun sets.

Sunset, surf & surfers Sunset, surf, sailboat & surfers Sunset & surfer on a big wave
Sunset, surf & surfers Sunset, surf, sailboat & surfers Sunset & surfer on a big wave

March 3, 2009 - Tuesday - Hotel Las Tortugas - My friends and I are up at 6am in order to be picked up at 7am for a taxi ride to the Hotel Bula Bula, where we will be taken on a two hour motorboat trip up the estuary. Since we are up so early, we beetle on down the beach in search of turtle tracks, but all we find are some broken turtle eggs, some Whimbrels on the beach, and some Albatrosses circling overhead.

Broken Turtle eggs dug out of a nest Whimbrel on the beach Frigate bird

Our taxi delivers us to the launch point, and we have time for a very nice breakfast in The Great Waltini's restaurant. There is a tame parrot who entertains everyone with his antics. After breakfast the three of us board the little 8-seater boat and wind our way through the narrow channels of Estero Tamarindo, a national wildlife refuge. Since we depart at 8am, the temperature is pleasantly cool. We see lots of birds, a group of Howler monkeys, and a couple of crocodiles. We return to our launch point by 10am and our taxi is waiting to take us back to the hotel. Cost of the boat trip is US$25 each, plus US$10 each way for the taxi - breakfast extra of course.

Pet Parrot in the restaurant Pet Parrot playing with a pen in the restaurant  
Narrow channel in mangrove John & Wendy McDonald in the boat
- narrow channel in mangroves
Immature Blue Heron
Little Heron Little Blue Heron Little Heron in the mangrove

Today at lunch we meet Louis Wilson, the owner of Hotel Las Tortugas. He is a real character, with lots of stories to tell! After lunch I return to my room to download the latest photos from my cameras to have a look at the results from our trip to the estuary. I am really enjoying having my notebook computer with me while I travel. It gives me something familiar to do; I can easily keep in touch with home, and I can process the travel photos I've taken along the way. Of course, on this particular trip I've also used the notebook to process my astronomy photos.  This allows me to see if I've had some success the previous night, in case I have to adjust my observing plans.

A crowd of people gather on the beach to watch the spectacular sunsets each evening. As with elsewhere in the tropics, the sun sets in about twenty minutes…by 6:15pm it's all over. I've taken some good photos of the sunsets over the last few days. Getting some subject matter in the foreground is always a challenge, but the colours are spectacular.

Sunset, surf & grandma with two girls Sunset, surf & grandma with two girls Sunset, surf & surfers

March 4, 2009 - Wednesday - Hotel Las Tortugas - Each morning we walk down the beach before sunrise to see if there are any turtles. This morning we see no sign of the turtles, however we did see a very colourful orange and blue crab on the way back. Since the restaurant doesn't open until 8am, we make some coffee and drink it on my balcony. There is a warm breeze as we sit in the rocking chairs and chat - what a wonderful way to start the day.

March 5, 2009 - Thursday - Hotel Las Torgugas - We saw some baby turtle tracks in the sand this morning.  The tracks lead from a nest pit in the sand to the waterline. There were also some egg fragments in the nest, but no sign of the baby turtles, so we assume they all made it.

March 6, 2009 - Friday - Hotel Las Tortugas - This is our last day in this coastal paradise. Tomorrow we travel back to San Jose and leave for home Sunday morning. If we had known about Liberia being an international airport, we could likely have saved ourselves a day's travel time and the expense of transportation to and staying in San Jose. File this away for future reference, if I ever return to this part of Costa Rica.

As usual, we walk the beach before sunrise looking for signs of turtles - nothing this morning. The Pelicans are putting on a good show this morning, so I grab my little point-and-shoot camera and shoot some video of them feeding in the surf.  Avellanas the hotel dog eagerly accompanies us as we walk Tamarindo Beach each morning.

Afterward, the hotel restaurant serves the best tasting banana pancakes I've ever had - it becomes a bit of a routine for our mornings: banana pancakes and some good Costa Rican coffee.  Add some fresh fruit or fresh-made fruit drink, and you have a great start to the day.  There is always lots of entertainment while you eat - iguanas, Magpie Jays, as well as the human diversions as people come and go. Tico families come to the hotel to use the pool and stay all day, so the place is always lively.

Diving Pelicans at Tamarindo Beach, Costa Rica
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Joe with Avellanas the hotel dog on Tamarindo Beach Banana pancakes & fruit Joe & Wendy & a Magpie Jay
Green Iguanas on a roof Magpie Jay begging for a scrap Cute young Tico guys play by the pool

By lunch time it is very hot (39°C 102°F in the shade) along with gusty winds. This is always the case while we've stayed here. There are some cute young Tico men playing in the pool today, so I have a sudden urge to go for a dip. Afterward, I listen to some music while I recline in a hammock. Lunch today is a chicken quesadilla and fresh watermelon juice - yum! We spot a couple of green iguanas on top of the nearby roof - they come alive in the midday heat.

March 7, 2009 - Saturday - Tamarindo to San Jose - We are up before sunrise again this morning, and take a walk down the beach looking for turtles. We find two dead baby turtles, however we also see 32 tracks leading to the sea, so most of them obviously made it out of the nest early this morning.

Dead baby Leatherback turtle carcass Baby Leatherback turtle track in the sand indicating being attacked and dying 32 baby Leatherback turtle tracks in the sand leading to the sea - yeah team!

I have an 11:15am flight with Nature Air from Tamarindo Airport to Pavas Airport in San Jose.  I take a taxi from the hotel to Tamarindo airport - another US$30. I'm still feeling ripped off about this taxi fare, since it is only a 20 minute drive. The flight to San Jose is delayed until 1pm (taking off about 1:15pm). Before we take off, a guy on a horse wanders down the runway - things are pretty casual here in Tamarindo!  I take more good photos from the aircraft as we fly direct to San Jose in 45 minutes.

Bridge over Rio Tempisque Puerto Caldera & bridge over estuary Farming in hills near San Ramon

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