Sunday, 7 May 2017

Jicaral and the Nicoya Peninsular, Costa Rica – Days 230 to 235

Enjoying a locally brewed real ale with Kristina and Javier
This will probably be our last entry from Central America before disappearing on our cruise from Puerto Limon, Costa Rica and reappearing in Lisbon, Portugal and then flying back to Birmingham, UK on 26th May, unless we manage a short one from our last nights stay in Limon or at the five ports of call on the 16 day journey – or even if we decide to pay for very slow and expensive internet en-route.

The tropical equivalent of afternoon tea and cake - iced tea!
While I think about it, the following link monitors the current position of the ship we’ll be on, called Pullmantur Monarch so, if you’re interested you’ll be able to find out where we are at any given time (assuming they update it regularly, I looked on 5th May and the last location was 1st May, but today, 7th May it is current and is in Cartagena harbour in Columbia, so don’t completely rely on it, it may be a bit out of date):

The following is our schedule:

Date                                                                      Arrival time                        Departure time
09 May                 Puerto Limon, Costa Rica                                                                 15:30
10 May                 Colon, Panama                              07:00                                            14:30
11 May                 Cartagena, Columbia                      09:30                                            19:00
12 May                 At sea                                                  
13 May                 At sea                                  
14 May                 Philipsburg, St. Maarten                 10:00                                            18:00
15 May                 St. Johns, Antigua                          08:00                                            18:00
15 to 22 May         At sea
23 May                 Madeira (Funchal), Portugal            08:00                                            17:00
24 May                 At sea
25 May                 Lisbon, Portugal                              06:00
26 May                 Fly Birmingham, UK                                                                            10:40
                             Arrive Birmingham                         13:35                                                            

Penka and Manchita demand more attention than possible
We are at the end of just over an eight month trip through South and Central America, finishing off this last week with a relaxing housesit in Jicaral, looking after two dogs, two cats and a house. Where is Jicaral? Well, click on the ‘location’ link at the end of this entry and it will open Google Maps marking the point where we are. You can zoom in and out to see in close and where it is in relation to Costa Rica and the rest of the world. Bet you’ve never clicked on that before – we’ve been adding our location on our entries from almost the start of this trip.

Penka wants full attention
The Panaderia y Cafeteria Jicaritos is actually the house we are staying in, but the café is not currently open due to Juan Carlos’ recent illnesses, but hopefully it’ll be back up and running soon after their recuperation holiday in Cuba. They arrive back tonight, Sunday, expected around 9:00pm and we’ll be waiting here to greet them but then heading off in their taxi to a nearby hotel for the night as they only have one bedroom here. We’ll be back here again tomorrow morning (Monday 8th) to have breakfast, give Julie and Juan-Carlos a de-brief on the last week, say bye-bye to dogs and cats, collected our luggage and wait for ‘Canadian Jim’ to collect us and take us the 6.5 to 7 hour to Airbnb final night at Limon.

Except when she's asleep in scruffy dog fashion. I felt the yellow star had to be added!
Luno cat (top right) upsets a red squirrel (bottom left)
Who is ‘Canadian Jim’? He is someone who is going on our cruise who posted a thread on the cruise ship messenger list asking if anyone wanted a lift to Limon as he is being driven there in his car by a neighbour of his and has up to three spaces available. He lives in Samara on the other side of the Nicoya Peninsular where we are, we’re about an hours drive out of his way, but he has agreed to pick us up around 09:30am, pick up someone else in San Jose, the capital and then take us all to Limon. They are not staying in our Airbnb, but in a hotel nearby so we’ll just get a taxi to the port the next day and board the ship. It’s all worked our beautifully (or perhaps I should say that after we’ve got on board the ship!)

Unhappy squirrel...
So we’ll know ‘Canadian Jim’, the other person, Victor, we collect in San Jose, also on the cruise, and Patrick, who Jackie has also contacted and arranged for us all to visit the Gatun locks together at the Colon end of the Panama canal when we dock there. So that’s 3 people, only 2600+ people to go, plus 800 odd crew!

...And Luno wondering why!
Anyway, this last week of housesitting has been fun, very relaxing, very hot and also on occasion very wet! Well, it is now the start of the rainy season and when it rains, it rains! Thunder and lightning and rain you wouldn’t want to be out in, but mercifully the temperature drops when it rains from extremely hot to just very hot. Last night for example we sat outside with a glass of wine in shorts and t-shirt and felt almost comfortable, only slightly too hot – and that’s a vast improvement! 

'I want the door open, not to go in or out I just want it open!'
Trouble is, wet weather brings out the mosquitos, so heavy doses of anti-mossie spray with its horrible smell is absolutely necessary.

A bonus of our stay here has been the very friendly neighbours and Julie’s friends Kristina and Javier who live just round the corner and they have all made our stay here fabulous.

And then it rained - heavily!
Firstly the neighbours, whose names we don’t know, but we understand the head of the house is married to Juan-Carlos aunt. We started off by waving and saying ‘Buenos Dias’ or ‘Buenos Tardes’ and always waving and smiling if seeing them from a distance. After about four days I was just coming back with Penka dog from her evening walk when the lady of the house and a younger woman approached me and handed over a bag of small red berries picked from a bush in her garden. 
Chillis growing in the garden
Speaking only in Spanish I understood to not let the dogs have them, they were for us, are good for the blood and have lots of vitamins, but I can’t remember the name. They are kind of like cherries with three small stones inside and are OK. Later, when we were sitting outside with early evening beer and crisps they came to the fence and gave us two hot tortillas filled with an omelette and refried beans, which were delicious and a perfect appetiser for our prawn with mango and chilli sauce that Jackie had cooked. This time the man and his wife came out all smiles and saying how nice it is to meet us and we hope we enjoy their cooking. There was much more but I didn’t understand, but hopefully conveyed how pleased and grateful we were. When I returned the plates I was given a bag of small green fruit, that look like small apples, that we haven’t tried yet. Just now Jackie heard the lady of the house shouting ‘hola’ over the fence and gave us two hot tortillas filled with potato, refried beans and other stuff that, again were delicious and ideal for lunch. What nice people! Not sure what to do in return, maybe they are grateful of us looking after the house and animals while Jean-Carlos is away, so we should just accept with good grace, just don’t know, but it is very, very nice of them.

Kuky looking for his dinner on the table
So also this week we have met Julie’s friends Kristina (who originates from Bristol in the UK) and her local husband Javier. They live 5 minutes walk away so Julie gave us their telephone number in case we needed anything while here and, over the week we have become real friends with them and they are really interesting people. Kristina is 56 (I’m sure she won’t mind me saying), trained as a nurse in the UK, but decided it wasn’t for her at about 21, went travelling and hasn’t really stopped since. After travelling the world, living and working in various countries she ended up in Costa Rica running a shop about 40km away with her American husband. Javier made pottery and clay art and supplied pieces to the shop for sale, forming a great friendship with them both. Kristina’s husband suddenly died and she got together with Javier, getting married about 14 years ago. They now live in his parent’s house, both making pottery art and selling it at local markets. They have a Facebook page, it’s:

Our 200km route round the bottom of the peninsular
We were invited round for drinks one day and got on really well. Javier speaks a little English, but can’t hold a conversation whereas we could chat away to Kristina, her being English, but trying not to leave Javier out too much. Obviously Kristina is fluent in Spanish so could translate on occasions. They have a lovely rustic house with a great open lounge up on stilts overlooking jungle and the river below and it just seemed like paradise. However the river, only running during the wet season, is eating away at their land and is very close now to their workshop. It’s on a bend in the river, hence the bank erosion and, when we looked the river is 20m or more wide and about 20m below them, having eaten to within about 6m of their workshop. At the height of the rainy season they told us the river is a full swirling mass of water! They can do little to stop it, placing large rocks is the obvious way, but they would need so many which would cost a fortune and they have little money. It’s alarming!

First stop, the ferry port at Playa Naranjo
Yesterday, Saturday, they collected us in their four wheel drive car and took us out on a tour of the lower part of the peninsular for the day. They collected us at 06:00am (everyone gets up early here) and we didn’t get back until 15:30, having covered 200km on mainly dirt roads (good job they have four wheel drive!). We stopped at the ferry port, stopped for breakfast at a really nice restaurant in Paquera, near to where her shop used to be (we saw it, it’s now a private house), stopped again at an organic market near Tambor Beach so they could buy their weekly organic vegetables and fruit and some freshly caught fish from the sea and ended up at Playa Carmen near Mal Pais (do you know Leonardo di Caprio lives here, she told us. No, but apparently a lot of people believed her and spread the story. He does live somewhere on the peninsular apparently, but not necessarily in the house she pointed out). 

Second stop near Tambor Beach
They left us at the beach for an hour while they went off on a couple of errands, so we wandered along the beach, found a makeshift shaded area made with 4 bits of wood and palm leaves for a roof/shade, laid out our towels, swan in the huge Pacific breakers and chilled out watching people surf. The sea is pretty strong and those waves are huge once you get out and in amongst them but we were careful and passed a pleasant hour. We met up again and did a loop back, stopping at a real ale bar to have a fabulous beer on chairs overlooking jungle, who happen also to sell some of their pottery, stopped again for lunch at another restaurant, drove back through the afternoons downpour (glad Kristina was driving) and got back for dog walk in between showers and in time for early evening drinks and crisps before dinner. What a great day.

Looking back from the end of the pier
Called round there again today to give the last bit of Birds custard powder to Kristina as she was craving it once we’d told her, we’re soon back in the UK with plenty of custard, but its years since she has had any. In exchange I took a book of hers on 5 centuries of colonisation of the Americas, which I’m really looking forward to reading. Javier gave me a magazine in Spanish called ‘Mas Interesante’ that seems like the equivalent of New Scientist. It’ll be good for my Spanish he told me!

Our Robinso Cruso hideout on Playa Carmen with big Pacific breakers
It’s been a lovely week, very relaxing in between and with animals to stroke, very therapeutic. It may sound like we’ve been out a lot, but we’ve been in 90% of the time and we have really enjoyed all the animals, each very affectionate in their own way, the dogs wanting really to be able to sit on our laps, but they are a bit big for that!

In she goes. Next stop New Zealand!
Each day we’ve been collecting mangos that have fallen from the immense tree in the garden, averaging about 6 or 7 per day. Each is the size of a melon, so we’ve been eating and drinking plenty of them. They will only last a few days before they are past their best so I have cut up 6 and frozen them for Juan-Carlos for when he gets back, many other we’ve had to chuck out so we’ve been eating them, one for breakfast and the other blended with an ice cube tray of ice that makes a most delicious and mercifully cold smoothie (actually about four glasses from one mango). Jackie also cooked with them, adding a massively hot chilli (of which there are many growing in the garden) in a sauce with prawns that was just fabulous. 

They were big waves
After a week of mangos we still like them, but you can have too much of a good thing! They are as common here as apples in the UK, there are huge trees all over absolutely laden with them, with huge quantities lying on the ground crushed by cars or just rotting. The smell of rotting mango is really quite unpleasant. Occasionally we see people poking with long poles to collect them, but there are just more than anyone could possibly want. I’m not sure what the injury rate of mangos falling on people’s heads are, but they would give you a severe headache. This morning I saw a mango on the floor in the garden, went over to collect it and another one thumped to the ground next to me. I heard a rustle of leaves and a huge thump, really no time to react and move, I was lucky it didn’t hit me!

A beach stop at Montezuma
Anyway, that’s about it, I’ve written too much again and there’s probably stuff I’ve missed out. I’ll pass it over to Jackie to read through and add anything else now and I’ll go and start to pack, putting stuff I’ll need for the cruise on top. Now let’s see, one shirt and one pair of trousers, won’t take long then. Not sure what I’ll do about washing and what I’ll wear whilst it’s being done. I’ll just have to wear my now very old t shirts and very worn zip off Craghopper trousers. Footwear? I have a very old and smelly pair of sandals, walking shoes or very lightweight Jazz shoes, mmm, not much choice then, hope other people are in the same situation or at least understanding! No tie, no suit, looks like the posh restaurant is off limits then…
Javier decides to go in for a dip
The very tropical beach at Montezuma


  1. Well that beach looks like paradise- I'm sure you'll be very sad to come home despite the heat there. It's only 13 degrees tops here today- summer seems to have deserted us! See you soon- enjoy cruising! X

  2. Will be following you on the boat app! Hee, hee! As much fun as the top,web cam!
    Got to stay, putting the yellow star on the dog picture made an innocent happy dog pic horrible! Happy sailing! Enjoy the heat as you'll cool down quickly once back home! Get the jumpers ready! Xxx