Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Natural Rockclimbers

This is Mike...
We drove by a rock outcropping a few days ago and met the owner of a rock climbing company.   That's when Sierra and Chase decided they were up to a rock climbing challenge and went for it. Yesterday, Elise and I watched our 9 year old daughter and 18 year old godchild scale a 60 foot escarpment multiple times. As with most parents, there comes a time when you realize your babies are getting older and more independent. We are so happy to be experiencing this part of our life with our kids and godchild. The golden years are now, not when we retire!
Sierra is applying chalk to her hand so that she can scale the rocks like a pro.

This is Sierra using her own skills to climb the cliff. She only had the safety rope in case she fell or wanted to rappel down in exciting fashion.

Amazing to think she did this with her own will to succeed. Activities like this are great for a child's self esteem. Sierra climbed to the top 3 times and Chase 6 times.

We are so proud of Sierra's fearlessness.

Chase scaled some of the extremely difficult portions of the cliff which were past vertical.

We met Marie from Munich, Germany and she climbed with Chase and Sierra. She has been down in Central America for 5 months now. She loves Central and South America a lot.

Sierra was all smiles after her rock climbing adventure. She claims to have found a new hobby. 

Marie climbed to the top and did say it was very difficult.

This smile is worth a thousand words.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Looking for the elusive Quetzal bird

This is Mike...
We are giving it our all searching for the beautiful Quetzal bird. We have hiked many miles in several countries and now it has become a quest. If we don't see one on our trip down here we will be going to the Dallas Zoo where they have some in captivity. As if it were out of a book, while on our bird watching expedition, Zoe found a bird egg, no joke, a real bird egg. She of course has deep maternal tenancies and immediately wanted to take care of it. We never saw the Quetzal bird but we somehow got temporary guardianship of an egg. Such is life, you never know what is coming next when you trying to do something new.
Zoe is sporting Bushnell binoculars and is quite a bird watcher.

Sierra is enamored by the nature of it all and usually finds creative outlet.

I almost fell down when Zoe showed me a bird egg, what are the odds?

And then she asked, "Daddy can I keep it? I have a nest back at home".

The indigenous shame

This is Mike...
Poverty is not isolated to any one country but when you see the same groups of people being marginalized country after country it can really make you mad. The indigenous people of the Americas brought us wonders like Tikal, Machu Pichu, calendars more sophisticated than ours, chocolate, and so on. Some of their techniques on construction of aqueducts, pyramids and other monolithic structures still perplex modern science today. These peoples accomplished a lot over the millennia.
   Today, they are shunned as uneducated thieves in Central America. We have spoken with many people and they generally give the same warnings about the Native people, "Watch for pickpocketing! Keep an eye on your kids!" etc. We have found the Indigenous peoples in most of the countries we have visited to be sweet and humble with a desire to smile but are cautious as they don't want to be hurt. I wonder if the indigenous people issue the same warnings amongst themselves about being around us? So much is lost in translation but beautiful eyes usually tell the truth. Fact is, in Panama, today 80% of the indigenous populations live in poverty and 50% in extreme poverty (living on less than a dollar day). It is not just Panama, all the countries of Central America wear the badge of failure with how they deal with their native peoples.   
A mother doing chores in the morning with her child, sounds normal enough? Except this mommy lives on next to nothing a day. She has it good though, as she lives in a sturdy home made of metal once used for shipping items around the world.

I cannot convey how sweet these people are once they warm up.

As soon as we put the cameras away, kids started poking their heads out the window to see who drove up. Here are at least four tiny homes with many families in each home. These people are lucky as the coffee plantation most likely donated the building materials for their dwellings.

These folks are living along side a road known for some of the world's best coffee, fetching premium prices on international markets.

The amount of mosquitoes and biting insects here is unfathomable! To be honest, these people are probably happy to just have a dry home, many others have it worse. An easy way to help is to buy Fair Trade items which help the farmers more directly. These people just need a chance to succeed, they are such hard workers and have very stable families. They deserve better.  

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Boquete and Finca Lerida

This is Mike...
Boquete and surroundings suit us quite well. The cool breezes and mild temperatures remind us of upcountry Maui. The home we are staying in was built in the late 1920s and has a lot of charm, character, and squeaky wooden floors. The girls like the over-sized lot and chase each other in games of tag and hide and go seek all day. Each afternoon it rains to cool things down a bit and is very peaceful during the pitter patter of the rain.
   Boquete is a quaint little town with a hippie, local vibe, similar to Makawao on Maui. There are a lot of ex-pats calling it quits and moving here, on the former coffee plantation slopes of Boquete. We can see why so many people are moving here. It is cheap, good weather, nice people, great shopping near by and world class fishing on the coast. What's there not to like?   
My girls have never met a tree they did not want to climb.

Our rental house is a 2700 s/f, two story, 1920s era home with lots of charm.

Elise is relaxing in a hammock, in the kitchen, while Sierra is making something to eat.

The yard front of Finca Lerida is well manicured

A cute and cozy finca that is still a working coffee farm.
The road through Finca Lerida is truly beautiful

We went hiking above the finca in search of the elusive Quetzal bird

Stumbling across a cool waterfall is always a bonus.

We enjoy the primeval forests in the area, we felt like dwarfs with all the big trees.
The amazing rock formations reminded us of Devils Postpile National Monument.

End of the road...such a wonder respite for the truck.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Leaving Costa Rica

This is Mike...
We left Costa Rica yesterday for Panama. We had a lot of fun in Costa Rica but since we have been there multiple times we felt good about our decision to move south to Panama. Something we observed rolling into the city of David, Panama is how much cleaner and more planned the city is than anything we saw in Costa Rica. This includes divided highways, street lights, proper bus stops etc. Also worth mentioning is how much cheaper things are here. For example, a six pack of beer is $3.90 ($5 cheaper per six pack than C.R.) gas is $3.20 a gallon ($2 cheaper a gallon than C.R.) and the list goes on. We pondered some of our experiences to date and have formed an opinion that Nicaragua is underrated and Costa Rica overrated.
   We have bumped into a few travelers on the road and most were under the assumption that Costa Rica was safer than Nicaragua. Well, by judging the amounts of razor wire around housing compounds in both countries I recon they are about equal. We never ran into a problem in either country so don't stop a trip to Nicaragua because of safety concerns and don't assume only good things happen to you in C.R.
    Costa Rica does a much better job at managing their natural resources than Nica and as a whole has the tourist experience dialed in. You pay for it though as several times we felt like we were just a number with an endless stream of tourists behind us. The beaches in both countries are to die for, empty, serene, natural beauties to say the least. Many a time we envisioned ourselves throwing in the towel and not getting out of the hammock, ever. We do, however, have a game plan to see some cool spots still, so the motivation to move on always returned.
    Elise spent some time on the Osa peninsula 20 years ago so for her to return to this area was interesting. While driving toward Panama we stopped at the town of Palmar Sur and Finca 6 where large monolithic pre-columbian balls are located. There are only a handful of places in Costa Rica where these balls can be found and are very rare. There have never been unfinished balls found, only perfectly spherical orbs found. The spheres are about 2000 to 3000 years old and most of these rocks were moved from quarries up to 50 miles away. This is an amazing feat when you see the jungle and mountain slopes these up to 16 ton rocks were moved through. I thought the smoothness and exactitude of the spheres was so telling about the artisans who made them, a real sense of amazement. This is a UNESCO World Heritage site so it should be here for all to enjoy for years to come.

This 5 plus foot sphere at a park in Palmar Sur is among 10 or so spheres that are there.

This sphere was buried over millennia and will one day be excavated after sonar imagery of the ground is completed. From just looking at the crown it is a big ball.

Why and how were they created and why aren't there any partially finished balls anywhere?

There are about 300 known balls in all of Costa Rica, some up to 8 feet high and 16 tons.

Some of the balls and other monolithic items were moved by the banana plantation in the 1930s to make way for the crops. Today, greater care is given to these wonders.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Life can be easy

This is Mike..
The kids were having a blast today in the water while Chase was busy doing surf lessons. A retired lady came up to me and we began to chat about memories for a while and she asked me, "What do you want the kids to remember the most about this trip when they grow up?" I replied, "I want them to remember that life can be easy too." For some reason she was really moved by that.
I hope we all can remember that life can be easy.

The girls singing songs in the water

The girls were doing a Taylor Swift production

Chase is a natural surfer, got up on his first try.

I hope the girls will be close friends as adults too.

Now that's a smile!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Back in Costa Rica

This is Mike..
We had a great time visiting Lia and her son Chase and are happy Chase decided to stay and see the Central America for the next few weeks. We entered Costa Rica a couple weeks ago so my car permit would not expire midway through Lia and Chase's stay in Nicaragua, which would have been embarrassing. As we re-entered Nicaragua we wondered how we would feel after spending time there previously. As we suspected, our time with the Nicas (Nicaraguans) was great. It is funny how the vast majority of the Nicas find a way to smile and brighten your day. There were, however, the beggars and sort that co-mingle to dampen the day as well.
   We were able to see some cool stuff and experience the fun through new eyes. Life is good and seeing the smiles from our friends reassures us of that. Some of the highlights of their trip were highlights of our as well. For me, it was amazing to swim with bio-luminescence for the first time at the Australians beach house. Yeah that's right, we swam with the bright little buggers and truly was like playing with pixie dust. The kids tried catching the critters in their shirts and was quite amusing since we were all swimming in the ocean under an almost new moon in the dark. I will never forget the shrills and thrills of the little ones having fun that night.
   We are now back up and running on the blog and will continue regular posts. As for now, we are in Costa Rica and will head towards Panama sometime end of the week.            

Chase and I buying fish from the fishing boat on the beach. How awesome and fresh is that?

5 snapper $4, experience showing Chase how to prepare the fish, priceless.

They are going native and Chase gathered firewood on a quad racing through the sand.

Big Crocs some as long as 20 feet right below us

Jaco beach

Chase dangling over a 100 foot cliff

Sierra chilling, Zoe wondering if I know how to operate the camera

Chase walking out to some cool waves

Chase liked the open expanse of beach near Estrellios Este

My kids play with any dog

Sierra speaking Spanish to this guy

Zoe singing Spanish to this guy

Dad (A.K.A. Chubby Hubby) with the kids

The girls love a Pipa (coconut)

So many shells so little time

A picture says it all