Last week was our long-awaited visit from the Mishkins! Colin’s aunt Diane and our cousins Ariel and Aaron came all the way from Nanaimo, BC to hang out with us in beautiful Costa Rica. Colin flew up to San Jose to meet them and help with the process of getting a car and navigating the four hour drive over to the Nicoya Penninsula and our house in Pochote. They stopped at a zoo near Alajuela and saw all sorts of rare local animals from ocelots to alligators. First order on arrival was a walk on the beach (the first of many) followed by roast chicken at Gabe’s place (also the first of many).
For the last five weeks we’d been making do sans vehicle, bumming rides off our kind neighbors and walking to the Super Lapa Grocery at the other end of the bay. With the rental car we were eager to get out to see other towns and nearby reservas and refugios. We drove down to the cute surf town of Montezuma (which we’d previously seen at the end of our 4 hour beach hike) and checked out the waterfalls and Cabo Blanco reserve. Colin had a bit of a headache (understatement!) but he pulled through and we finally had our first encounter with the howler monkeys that we’d been hearing for the last 2 months. Sitting in trees, they look quite a lot like big black termite nests, but it’s easy to tell the difference once they start hooting. Later we walked up to a nice little swimming spot at the base of a waterfall. Colin and a local guide dove off high things together (the pool was small but 10m deep!), and I found a nice spot to sit right under the falls.
We continued our daily routine of walking down to the river to skim and swim, now with Aaron on the skim board and Ariel with me in the water. Even Diane tried bodysurfing! We took them over to the Playa de los Muertos one day to go snorkeling. Crossing the estuary was a challenge at high tide, but Ariel works as a lifeguard and was able to swim across with our food above her head, not getting it even a drop wet. On the way back we met a family of howler monkeys on the hill and stopped to watch them crossing in the trees above. It was an amazing experience seeing them right here in Pochote and knowing that these are probably the same monkeys we hear every morning.
On their last day we drove up to the Refugio Curu near Paquera. It’s a hotel as well as a wildlife park so I was prepared for tourists and plasticness, but there was none of that. We took the lovely low trail that goes from beach, through mangroves, across a rickety wooden suspension bridge, into the dry jungle for quite a ways, then through an overgrown mango plantation that has been left to the monkeys. We saw all sorts of wildlife: orange crabs licking their sand balls, lazy iguanas, skittish brown lizards with and without their tails, a huge inland hermit crab, a skunk, white-tailed deer (you’d think you were in Nanaimo!), snakes, “Jesus Christ – lizards!” (they run on water, and yes you have to pronounce it that way), howler monkeys, white faced capuchin monkeys, rehabilitating spider monkeys and a nasty goat that stunk of urine.
I should explain the last few. They had a rehabilitation pen where spider monkeys that had previously been pets and were being prepared for release into the wild. One of them ran right to us when we arrived and stuck his arm through the bars. I held his hand and he gazed at me as if to say “I can’t take it in here – call my lawyer, you have to get me out of here!”. Then this horrible reeking goat (the prison guard, I think) chased the monkey off to the other end of the pen. The other monkeys just looked on in silence, fearing solitary should they step out of line.
The best part though was the capuchin monkeys (as seen on Friends), which unfortunately only Colin and I got to see. A big family of 20 or so were hanging out in the mango trees chewing on fruit and bean pods and for some reason breaking off all the sticks (gardening?). There were little babies and bouncy teenagers and we abandoned the path to get as close as we could. Eventually one of the males got sick of our presence and went all monkey-aggro, baring his fangs at us with his butt all up in the air. I bravely snapped pictures until a second one picked up the stance then I booked it. Scary monkeys! Turns out they wanted us to back off so they could cross the road and head over to the other side of the river. One of them followed us and sat over our heads as guard, while the rest of them crossed through the trees with some amazing leaps (and some misses).
They headed off to check out an active volcano before flying back to BC. I can’t believe it was over so fast! I had such a great time with the three of them. Cooking and making smoothies, swimming and kayaking and hiking and walking on the beach. We were so happy to finally be able to share our little corner of paradise.