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Entries about travel plans

I'll never sleep again...

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. (Robert Burns)

snow 0 °C
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Okay, my title is a little over-the-top: after all, I do get to sleep every third night a good six hours. It's the other two, mostly sleepless nights that have me acting like a zombie during the few daylight hours in my current location, eight time zones eastward from Costa Rica.

I'm no stranger to jet lag, but this time it's a real killer. To make matters worse, the sleep deprivation triggers migraine attacks. Poor baby, me.

So my writing has come to a standstill, and I'll have to ask my thesis supervisor to push back the deadline. Jeez. Not one of my finest moments. I tell myself, she'll be okay. At least she won't have trouble finding something better to read in the holidays.

Also, there were some travel stories I still wanted to share with you, I think (but cannot remember). And more photos, too. But I'll have to get back to it a bit later. That is, when my brain defreezes.

Meanwhile, let's all have a Very Merry Xmas - Happy Holidays everyone!

Posted by sussesimis 05:08 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged me travel_plans Comments (1)

Potholes and other bumps

No Pura Vida on the roads

sunny 28 °C
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Don't know why, but the tico way of life - Pura Vida - does not apply to the roads.

I've been very happy with my decision to use shared shuttles and public buses to get around in Costa Rica. Rail transport in Costa Rica is very limited, and according to my calculations, renting a car made no sense when you travel solo for a month and spend several days at each stop.

I've heard people argue that having a car gives you more freedom, but I think it's more a burden really. Now I've been free to enjoy the few (too many) hours on the backseat as I please: watching the scenery, dozing off, listening to music or audio books. Had I spent those long hours behind the wheel trying to stay alert, I'd been exhausted - especially considering the condition of the roads and the crazy tico driving habits.

Roads in the rural areas of Costa Rica are often narrow, curvy and in poor condition. Except for the most populated areas, you'd best have a 4WD, a jeep or something that you can maneuver around - or over - the frequent potholes and other hindrances thrown on your way. And it's not just the roads, it's the driving and traffic that get crazy from time to time. I think most people forget Pura Vida the minute they sit behind the wheel and roar the engine.

The traffic rules in Costa Rica are not that different from most of Europe and North America. It's just that you rarely see anyone following the rules. It's too hot for helmets, right? And sometimes you just have to fit your family of four on a moped. You see motorcycles zigzag between lanes. Drivers recklessly pass each other in blind curves, and other places with zero visibility of upcoming traffic. But where's the seat belt? -Sí sí, es obligatorio.


On the other hand, the drivers very dutifully, even devotedly, honk their horns, flash their lights, let the emergency lights blink to signal recognition of various sorts to each other and to the passers-by. All very unofficial, probably unlawful, and certainly quite unnecessary practices.

See the car in the photo, flipped to its side in a ditch? It got pushed there by a school bus. The bus driver was distracted by someone about to cross the street on his left side and made a too wide turn to the right.

No passengers in the bus, luckily. No one got hurt. The driver of the smaller car and two passengers climbed out of the ditch a little shaken but unharmed. Lots of people saw the accident and came to help. I was there too, on the backseat, sideways in the ditch, surprised. I'd just gotten a lift to town from my very nice neighbours. And got helped by some very nice townspeople.

Lucky us. Seriously, I'm all right, mum.

Posted by sussesimis 20:36 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged traffic roads travel_plans Comments (0)

A secret worth sharing

The lodge earning its "eco" argument

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Ecolodge San Luis - gotta love it!

A fair warning: if you crave for Caribbean rythms, disco lights and rum, Ecolodge San Luis is not for you. You'll find other places in Costa Rica that will offer just that: one good place to look for a chill-out beach party with reggae, ganja and guaro flowing freely is Puerto Viejo de Limon. Or that's what I've been told - I only had a lunch there. Also, if you expect valet parking, a la carte restaurants, and chocolate on your pillow, you'll be better off elsewhere.

If you instead appreciate a unique nature experience in nice, rustic housing perfect for their settings, and being amongst some warm, friendly, and knowledgeable people - you just gotta love UGA Ecolodge San Luis. UGA stands for University of Georgia. The ecolodge is administered by UGA and located within the campus. To me, it was a perfect combination of science, education, and ecotourism. You find lots of accommodation in Costa Rica calling themselves "ecolodges". Mostly, I think, it only means that the place is cut into the forest, rustic, small or just greenwashed. This one, though, is the real thing. An eco-gem.

Keel-billed toucan

Keel-billed toucan

You are free to explore the entire 70 hectares area with many trails, gardens and an operating farm on the campus grounds. You also get to enjoy typical Costa Rican meals - it's full board - with the campus staff, resident naturalists, and other visitors in the campus cafeteria. The list of on-campus activities is astounding, and they are all included with your stay. You get to do as much hiking and birding - at least 230 different species recorded on campus grounds, as you wish, or just enjoy the view while snoozing in one of the rocking chairs on the porch. But you can also arrange to visit local farmers and homes with a translator provided by UGA, or one the reserves, such as the neighbouring Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.

This blog article goes against my original idea of just writing about my own experiences and not offering travel advice or reviews. This one just had to written. If you are looking for Costa Rica travel advice, there are other, more substancial blogs I found very helpful when planning for my trip, such as

* Costa Rica Guide by Ray and Suzanne Krueger Koplin
* Two weeks in Costa Rica by Jennifer Turnbull-Houde and Matthew Houde

There's more good info on the web, so keep googling. And of course, there are several Costa Rica guidebooks published. Mine is the ebook by Lonely Planet.

Posted by sussesimis 11:10 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged birds rainforest travel_plans Comments (0)

Volcanic tourism

To erupt or not to erupt?

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Costa Rica is on the Pacific Ring of Fire which is where most of the world's earthquakes and volcanic eruptions have occurred during the last ten millenniums. In Costa Rica alone there are more than sixty volcanoes. Only few are active, though. Arenal volcano erupted massively in 1968 and was active until 2010. The lava flowing down its sides and the plumes of ash rising from its top had tourists flocking to the area.

Arenal has been resting the last few years but it remains as one of Costa Rica's tourist attractions. If you had only a week and wanted to visit all the "must-visit" places in Costa Rica, most travel agents would include Arenal or the close-by town of La Fortuna to your travel plan. This is also where I'm headed for the weekend.

Arenal is a stratovolcano, meaning it's one of those cone-shaped, high and symmetrical volcanoes that have eruptions from the top. You know, the kind of volcano you'd have drawn as a kid. Keep your fingers crossed for clear skies and I might get a nice view of the volcano. I'll be sure to share a photo with you here if that happens. If the weather does not favor volcano sightings, you'll just have to visualize the natural hot springs I'll be floating in instead.

Rainforest bliss

Rainforest bliss

While Arenal may have gone to rest, another volcano called Turrialba, just 30 km from the capital San Jose on Costa Rica's central highlands, has been active since 2010. It has erupted several times in 2016 and has often made international news.

As recently as on Nov 10th, 2016 - just a day before my flight from Miami to San Jose - Turrialba spew gas and vulcan ash to the height of more than one kilometer. It wasn't severe enough to make the news but caused several international flights to be cancelled. I only learned this from a fellow traveller who had been stuck in Miami and was reassigned to the same fully packed San Jose flight I took.

Oh, and the writing: one page since last report. The rainforest took over.

Posted by sussesimis 13:12 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged planes volcanoes travel_plans Comments (0)

I've got a dream

... about escaping to write Somewhere Else.

It so happens that I've agreed to submit a first full draft for my thesis by Xmas. Can you imagine, my supervisor asked for it to have something to read for the holidays. Weird, huh? But hey, I'm all in. Actually, I've gone all out on planning for a special thesis writing retreat Somewhere Else.

As it turns out, Somewhere Else is located in the tropics on a narrow land bridge between two oceans and two continents with rich and varied topography and features an impressive 5 % of global biodiversity. Somewhere Else is not just Anywhere Else. It's where I've got a pin on the wall map since longer than I can remember. Costa Rica.

I will not lie. There will be some beach time. And there will be hiking and bird watching, too. But I've made a firm contract to myself to work on my thesis three hours daily. Now that doesn't sound too bad, does it.

I know, I know. it's not going to be easy on a beautiful sunny day with birds singing and monkeys howling in the rainforest around my beach hut. But unless I'm really unlucky, there will be rain everyday (it's still rainy season Somewhere Else) which is perfect for writing indoors. Also, I've made a point to book accommodation in remote places (read: no streetlights, no night life, no shopping) with little else to do but enjoy the natural surroundings and maybe some local village life.

Posted by sussesimis 06:36 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged thesis travel_plans Comments (0)

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