Friday, March 26, 2010

A Few Photos

We're leaving this afternoon for Cocos Island and the Galapagos - after cove/marina hopping down the coast from Mexico for the past month, today we finally start the main portion of the journey. It feels good to be leaving the marina/resort/Little America types of places where we've been spending most of our time - from now on, it'll be mostly quiet (hopefully) anchorages on some of the most remote islands of the Pacific. After the Galapagos, the idea is to cross to the Marquesas, then on to the Tuamotu Atolls, Tahiti, Samoa and Fiji. Let the real adventure begin - I can't wait.

Here's a few photos from the past few weeks - expect more to come now that I bought a new, new camera yesterday. Yep, quite the travel expense.


Screaming out of the alligator slide at the hotel pool in Puerto Vallarta - a daily,
post volleyball event


The market at Chichicastanango, Guatemala



The cemetery of Chichicastanango

Up close (too close?) and personal with lava - Volcan Pecaya, Guatemala

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

It's the Little Things

Some funny things happened to me on the way to "the mountain" last week in northern Costa Rica...the types of things about which I can think of nothing else to do but chuckle, maybe laugh. Yes, laugh - what else is there to do?


First, while eating breakfast waiting for the cab driver to carry me to the Rincon de la Vieja National Park, my brand new camera, in my possession for less than twenty-four hours, was stolen out of my backpack. Shit. Well, it was hot-pink anyway, and its theft probably saved me a lot of explanations.


Then, when I got to the park, I was informed that camping was no longer allowed anywhere inside the boundaries. So I set up camp in the parking lot - not the ideal place, but still high on the mountainside with good views of the sunset and the land below. However, it turned out that the tent which I bought was more of an "on the beach, sun-shade" type shelter with only three walls and flimsy poles. Talk about a learning experience on spending money - you get what you pay for, I guess - this thing had cost me about six dollars. For an extra twenty dollars, I probably could have found a real tent to keep out the no-see-ums and mosquitos and ticks and other small animals...but I had a great, unobstructed view, which was nice. Until the wind picked up after sunset and collapsed the poles on top of me all night long. Literally. So much for me learning to make good, safe decisions.


But the hike through the forests of the park and to the top of the volcano and along the crater rims was unforgettable - lush jungle teaming with birds and rumors of large predatory felines, sounds of hidden wild turkeys running over dried leaves (making me think constantly of large predatory felines...and their claws and teeth), moonscapes bleached white and purple by the sun, blasted with 40 mph wind, reaking of sulfuric steam from the active crater.


It took a long walk and a couple thumbed rides (one on the back of a dirtbike), but I made it back to town and to the boat. We've now made it to our last stop in mainland Costa Rica, in the Gulf of Nicoya around the middle of the country. We're here to take advantage of one more grocery store and one last swimming pool (at the marina) before leaving Friday morning for Cocos Island (250 miles offshore, called 'the most beautiful island in the world' by Jaques Cousteau) and then the Galapagos Islands. Adventure is sure to come...as if I can't construct it anywhere I go.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Rica Costa Rica

It is said that there are three types of electricity: direct current (DC), alternating current (AC) and pure fucking magic (PFM). I experienced some PFM the other night during our passage from Nicaragua to Costa Rica when the weather unexpectedly turned against us. Despite all the forecasts and initial hours of mild wind and seas on our 20-hour passage, the notorious ´Papagallo´ winds - named for the low-lying land and bay across which they blow, from the Caribbean south to the Pacific - kicked in and started to kick our butts right after midnight. The 35 knot winds brought with them 6-8 foot seas, stacked up steeply on top of each other, making for an uncomfortable and sleepless night.

While ´lying´in bed - really just holding on - I started to notice that on big waves, but not every big wave, some light in my room would come on for just a split second. Never predictable enough for me to wait for it, never on long enough for me to locate it - the best I could do was narrow it down to a corner of the room. But without the light switch on, none of the lights in the room should have been getting power from the DC circuit. Magic, Pure F´ing Magic.

After three hours of abuse and perplexity (as the onboard electrician/plumber/mechanic, I was a little embarrassed about writing it off as magic), it was my turn to go on watch. It wasn´t until the next day that I figured out that the light was coming from inside the closet, which turns on when the closet door is opened (just like a refrigerator light) - so even though the door was latched closed, the boat was crashing into the waves hard enough for the switch behind the door to be activated...damn. In a way, I was sad to find such a rational explanation for the previous night´s mystery light. I´ve been trying to forget it and remember it as PFM - it´s a lot more fun that way.

Despite the abuse we took, the boat pulled through the weather really well - it was good to see that this boat that we´ll soon be taking across an ocean performs well under pressure - the autopilot never faultered and the stabilizers kept us much more stable than we would have been had we been in a sailboat or something smaller.

Now in Costa Rica, I´m poised and ready to head into ´the mountain´tomorrow - bought a small tent and a new camera today - for a night away from the water and other people. I´m looking at a hike and camping in the National Park of El Volcan Rinc√≥n de la Vieja - it´ll do me good to get into the clear cool air of the mountains and get my legs moving a bit again.

Pictures coming soon...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Transitions

Since our last post, Emily and I made the long bus ride(s) from beautiful Boquete, Panama, to San Jose, Costa Rica, where we spent one last night together before flying out to our respective destinations. Saying goodbye to Emily was one of the hardest things I've ever done. Over the six months that we had been dating and the three months that we had been traveling, we lived an absolutely fairy tale existence - some of the happiest times I've known. We could only be grateful that, from the beginning, we knew exactly how much time we had together so we knew to appreciate every moment.

It's still hard for me to wrap my head around the reality that I might not see her for over two years, but that's a fact that I'm slowly getting used to. Emily leaves for Senegal today where she'll go through three months of language and skills training before entering into her village and home for the next many months - keep track of what's going on with her through her new blog: undersenegalskies.blogspot.com And hopefully she'll check in here every now and then as well. She's in for a wild adventure there with the Peace Corps, for sure, and I can't be more proud of her for the good work that she'll be doing.

So, sans my travel companion and friend, the adventure goes on...albeit with and entirely different purpose. After a month spent in Puerto Vallarta with friends Tom and Nicole and kids - with daily boatwork, margaritas and beach volleyball - I'm now on a 55-foot motor yacht, named Khushiyan (Hindi for happiness), steaming down the Central American coast bound for Cocos Island, the Galapagos and eventually the Marquesas and Tahiti.

I'll say that this ride is the most comfortable I've had since we left San Diego - I have my own stateroom with a queen-size bed, air conditioning, TV and DVD player, I-pod docks all over the place and the boat is tricked out with stabilizers (for making the ride smoother), the latest in navigational equipment, a night-vision camera for night watches, and more things than I know how to deal with. It's nice.

I'll also say that I'm slightly terrified of being on a boat with no sails, in the event that we run out of fuel or the two engines somehow fail, gawd forbid. We do have two satellite phones, though, in case of anything like that, so I'm not really fearing for my life. It's more a psychological barrier for me to get over...but also keep in mind.

From Acapulco, where I met this boat, we have made it to Guatemala where we're taking five days to travel inland - a welcome break from all the water and open horizons. I'm glad to be getting the chance to see the color and beauty of the place - the markets, the people, the land. We're seeing Antigua, one of the early Spanish capitals of Guatemala, ruined in the 17oo's by earthquakes, and now a still very European-looking, well put-together town, Chichicastenango and it's markets, and Lake Atitlan. There was also a climb to the near-top of a nearby volcano to see (from 15 feet away!!) flowing red-hot lava - pretty surreal.

From here, it's on to Nicaragua on Monday and then to Costa Rica by the end of the week. I'm doing well and hope you're all the same. Check back in soon to catch photos from the last several weeks...coming soon.