Saturday, March 23, 2013

Blog 2.0: Gather 'Round for Story Time

Hello friends!  How have you been?  First of all, thanks a bunch for letting me take my little break.  Not that you gave me permission per se, but if you're reading this right now, you haven't dumped me from the very busy schedule of your eyeballs, and trust me, time from your eyeballs is precious.

So here we are.  I'm ready to write.  Spring is here and I feel ideas sprouting and growing in my head.  I have several projects in my queue, and am feeling refreshed and renewed.  I don't know how much this blog will be different from before, but I feel better about it.

Love me the beach.
Our trip to Costa Rica was AMAZING, by the way.  It feels cheesy to say that the amazing-ness was so profound and that it changed my life, but a lot of things have the ability to change one's life so it's not entirely untrue either.  There were many moments during the trip where I was brought nearly to tears of joy/excitement, and I can say that I've never been anywhere that was that far away from home that, actually feels like home.  I was uncontrollably weeping to the point of embarrassment on the plane ride home, and we can't wait to find a moment to go back.

Love me the jungle.  See the bridge we crossed earlier?
Sure, some of you may be thinking: well duh, it was vacation, no one wants their vacation to end... which is also totally true.  But there was something about this trip that was more than that.

I think I will tell you a story of one of our adventures from our trip.  So gather 'round the fire kids, (since spring in Seattle still requires a fire,) and listen close.

When we arrived in CR, we drove out to the Pacific Coast to a tiny little town called Playa Grande.  It's a little beach on a tiny peninsula, and the whole beach is a leatherback turtle reserve.  Leatherbacks are the biggest of the sea turtles and nest between November and February.  The hotel where we stayed is the only one directly on the beach, and is considered an ecohotel since they are really careful not to disturb the natural area with their presence.  Unfortunately, nesting season technically ends on Feb 15th, and we got there on Feb 17th.  Ah well.  The beach is off limits after dark though, so hatched turtle babies can get to the ocean, and late egg layers can still do their thing.  We were bummed that we barely missed the Playa Grande turtle tours, but we later found out that our guide who led our estuary tour, Jonathan, also "does turtle tours" on another beach.  We told him we were interested, and he told us to meet him in the hotel restaurant at 6:15 the next evening.

When 6:15pm came along, Jonathan led us down to the dark parking lot (dark because the hotel can't have a lot of lights on the beach to distract baby turtles,) where he introduced us to his friend Carlos who "works for the national parks."  Carlos seemed nice but shy, and didn't seem to speak English very well.  It was too dark to see what he looked like but he had the darker complexion of a native Guanacastan.  Oh, and he was on a scooter.  We stood around feeling confused for the next few minutes as Jonathan ran around, and next thing you know, Jonathan is saying bye to us and we are instructed to follow Carlos on his scooter with our rental car.  Shawn was a little wary about driving at night, but whatever.

So off we go.  Carlos leading on his scooter, a family which consisted of an older couple, a younger woman, and her preteen son in a sedan following him, and us bringing up the rear in our Diahatsu BeGo (a mini SUV.)  We drive out of Playa Grande for about 10 minutes, and after a quick right turn, Carlos suddenly pulls off onto the side of the road.  He gets off his scooter and comes and tells us in broken English that we are at his house and he needs to go inside for about 5 minutes and whether he could drop his scooter off and ride with us.  We're a bit surprised, but agree.  We laugh about this while Carlos is in his house, but true to his word, he comes back in 5 minutes and hops into the back seat.  We turn around and we are back on our way.

He tells us to take a few turns, and about 3 minutes later we end up on an unpaved dirt road.  This road is pretty darn bumpy.  We take it nice and slow to make sure the family doesn't mess up their rental behind us.  Meanwhile, Carlos starts talking.  He asks us about what we do, what life is like for us at home, and then tells us about his two sons, one of them who plays the trumpet...  The conversation is a bit slow since we are trying to communicate in broken Spanish and his broken English, but we are having a great time.  He even pulls out his flip phone and plays some Tipico brass music for us to hear what his son plays.  Throughout this whole 20 minute conversation we continue to drive down a one lane dirt road.  It is pitch dark and there are very few signs of civilization around us.  If Carlos wasn't so friendly, I would have been worried about our safety.

Then Carlos instructs us to take a right.  With this he also adds, "this road is really bad."  Ha.  But it's true.  It's much worse than the last road that I thought was bad.  Now we have to go really slow.  Shawn has to navigate the potholes and ditches, and the already shot suspension on our rental is squeaking like the dickens.  After 10 minutes of driving probably a half mile, we finally end up in a clearing on the beach.  There is a small parking lot with a big van that says "turismo por estudiante" on it and a couple other SUVs and cars.  Carlos immediately tells us to turn off our lights as we're parking, and we get out to meet our companions and make our way to the beach.

Now let me tell you about this beach.


The stars are out, the temperature is perfect for the skirt and tank top I'm wearing and the sand is still warm from the sun.  Carlos instructs us to stay put while he goes to look for turtles, then disappears down the beach.  We start talking to our tour companions and find out the older couple is from Bend, Oregon and their daughter and grandson are from Bainbridge Island.  Crazy.  Looking around there are about a dozen or so other people hanging out down the beach, clearly here for the same reason.

After 20 minutes, Carlos comes back and lets us know a turtle was currently making her way up the beach.  So we wait.  Apparently we need to give her some time to settle in before approaching her.  When we are able approach her, Carlos explains in his all-of-a-sudden-good English, we need to stay out of her line of sight at all times and remain very quiet.  He explains a little bit about the nesting habits of the black turtle and we get excited.  After a while, he leads us over to where she came out of the ocean to see the tracks that she left on the beach.  This is where I almost lose it for the first time of the night.  The trail is about 3-4 feet wide and it's awesome.  You can see where her flippers dug into the sand and the line her heavy belly made while she struggled up the beach.  I have a thing with tracks and trails.  The natural mystery of it all just gets me going.  So we follow it up the beach and, though we have to stay about 30 feet away still, if we look hard enough we are able to make out a dark mound up near the grass line that is digging around.  We still need to give her time to settle into digging.

So we wait again.  There are about 30 people on the beach at this point.  We sit down and I start playing in the sand like a child.  I bury my legs a few times, watch it fall through my fingers and get picked up by the perfect breeze, and just enjoy the feeling of it between my toes.  We watch the stars, discuss whether a light on the horizon is a star or a boat, and eventually take a wee nap.  Seriously, it was kind of a long wait.  Then Carlos tells us we can get closer.  Now we are able to get to within 6 feet of her, and we watch her dig.  There are a few other tour guides around and they set up a red light for us to see her better.  One of us explains that she has chosen a bad spot with too much grass and will likely not succeed tonight.

After watching her a few minutes, Carlos tells us there's another turtle down the beach.  We go over to see her but have to stay 20 yards or so away since she's still looking for a place to start digging.  This one's under the trees so we are told she, too, will likely not succeed and will have to come back the next evening to try again.  Ten minutes of rooting around later, she suddenly turns around and starts back toward the ocean. This is the second moment I almost lose it.  Watching her make her way back to the ocean, for some reason, made me really emotional.  Seeing a creature that is likely older than I am, who lives 99.999% of her life in the ocean, lugging her heavy body down the sand after failing to lay her eggs just made me sad but inspired at the same time.  Once she passed where we were standing, we lined up behind her and just followed her all the way down to the water.  It was just such an amazing sight, I don't think there are words to adequately explain the emotions I felt.

After seeing turtle #2 back to the ocean, we went back to turtle #1 to find that she had officially decided that the "poor spot" she had chosen was good enough to lay eggs.  For the next half an hour, we watched her ever so carefully dig a smaller deeper hole with her back flippers, within the large hole she had made with her front flippers.  It was adorable how delicate, slow, and precise she was.  Leave it to a mama to take all the time she needs for her babies.  There was a biologist there who started helping her out, so that the sand wouldn't fall back into the hole.

Then she was ready to lay.

(You can see two eggs drop at the very end.  Unfortunately, the stupid lady who forgot to turn off her flash made the biologist angry and he turned the light off.)

It was surreal.  How much longer will we be able to see something like this?  With all the development and habitat destruction happening on beaches all over the world, the days are numbered for our prehistoric friends.  I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to be there and share in two very different moments with 2 different lady turtles.  I know they don't give two shits about the fact that I was there, but I felt special that they decided to come up the beach on that night.

On the drive home, our car was a bit quieter, but Carlos mentioned that he also sells coconuts.  I had been wanting one since we arrived in Playa Grande, so he said he would meet us at the hotel the next morning before we left for the next leg of our trip. 

This is when my favorite picture of our trip was taken.

We WILL find Carlos when we go back.
We were happy with our delicious coconut, and happy to support our new friend who was instrumental in the amazing experience from the night before.

So there you have it.  Sorry for the lengthiness of the story, but it was such an amazing four hours that I just felt like I had to tell it and attempt to share the strong emotions that were flooding through me that evening.

Stay tuned for more Urban Hobby Homesteader 2.0!

All the best,


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