San Jose, Costa Rica to David, Panama February 9 - March 7, 2007

Filed under: Costa Rica, Panama — Aaron and Amy at 4:57 pm on Friday, March 9, 2007

We eagerly left the Multiplex mall in the capital city and headed for the beach.  It was a beautiful drive through valleys and mountains as we wound through small villages.  After a while we came to construction where we waited in line for about 20 minutes.  As we passed by the loud machines that had finished working with the hot pavement long enough for us to drive on it, we saw a small river and an upcoming bridge we would cross.  As we rounded the corner, we approached the bridge and encountered one of our worst nightmares on our entire trip.  A small stone arch spanned the entrance to the one-lane 100 year-old rickety bridge that precariously hung above crocodile infested waters.  Our hearts sank as Aaron pulled to the side letting other cars go by.  Questions raced through our minds.  What were we going to do?  The only other road was backtracking many hours through San Jose and Puntarenas.  We weren’t even sure we had enough room to turn the RV around in order to backtrack.  Aaron sat in the RV as I was outside looking at the arch in utter disbelief, watching other cars go through.  I didn’t think we would be able to pass under the arch.  Cars drove by looking at us and the RV, asking what we were going to do.  Most people gave us sympathetic words and expressions, others said with great certainty that we would make it.  One guy said he drives a truck bigger and heavier than ours, and we would make it no problem.  This isn’t just our transportation, it is our home.  If we ripped off solar panels, the air conditioning box, awning or crunched the roof; that would create some major problems.

The only way we were going to get through was for me to be at eye level with the arch and the roof of the RV as Aaron drove through, making sure we weren’t hitting anything.  I dreaded the thought.  We let all the cars go through on our side as well as all those waiting their turn on the other side of the bridge.  Then it was our turn.  Aaron positioned himself as straight as he could in front of the arch.  A car came up behind us and waited in line to go through.  I asked him to please back up so that if we needed to backup and turn around, we would have as much space as possible.  The front part of the RV got through the arch with what seemed like less than an inch to spare; then came all the objects that stick out from the roof.  The kayak hit the arch, but the plastic is hard enough that it created a smooth surface for the arch to drag on, and did not cause any damage.  Then came the air conditioner box in the center of the RV which was fine, since that was the highest point of the arch.  Next was the vent cover for the refrigerator, which is raised about four inches from the roof of the RV.  The front part went under the arch, and then there was a loud crack as it crunched the middle of the vent.  I yelled at Aaron to stop and told him it hit the vent; he decided to keep driving slowly crunching the vent slightly on both sides, but creating no severe damage.  We were almost all the way through when we came to the bathroom vent on the back of the RV.  We were almost through, but we weren’t going to make it.  I shouted to Aaron, “What are we going to do?  Just drive and break the vent off the roof?”  All the while I am standing on, hanging from and clambering around the ladder on the back of the RV.  The guy in the truck behind us shouted “Las escaleras!”  The ladder was sticking up too high on the left hand side to pass through.  Aaron actually backed up underneath the arch and realigned himself, giving us a little more room.  After getting the bathroom vent and stairs through, we were home free!  Wahoo!  We did it!  I couldn’t believe it, but we did it.  Several people on our side of the river had gotten out of their vehicles to watch the panicked chaos of these two white people getting their mobile house under this arch.  I heard a couple sighs of relief and cheers as I hopped down and Aaron began driving across the bridge.  Then there was the 100 year old bridge.  It was pretty rickety, but we had heard of worse bridges in Panama.  We were just happy to be through the arch!  As we drove across the bridge (needing to align the tires with the support beam underneath since there were no wood planks in one spot!), there were a couple locals and gringos watching us drive across.  We were so happy it was over, and we thought they were still looking at us because of what we had just accomplished.  Then we came to the end of the bridge, and saw the cables.  In an effort to make the ancient bridge functional instead of just replacing it, there were several thick cables coming down from the top of the bridge to the ground at a serious angle.  Our hearts sank again as we saw how low they were . . . then kept driving.  We had nowhere else to go.  The cables skimmed the left side of the RV, but we made it through.  Quite shaken, we pulled over to let our nerves settle.  There was no way we could have taken pictures; it was way too chaotic and other people were waiting on us.  After we (and the RV) made it out alive, Aaron walked back across the bridge to take pictures of the arch and other smaller trucks going through, as well as the holes in the bridge.  Some other gringos had come across in their rental car a while behind us and were taking pictures.  Aaron commented what a horrible ordeal that was.  The gringo said “Yeah, that was a horrible bridge.”  Aaron pointed to the RV and said, “No, no.  Not the bridge; we just came through the arch in that thing!”  They looked back at the arch and were shocked we even made it through.  Before getting to the bridge we spoke to several people along the road that knew exactly where we were going, but they never mentioned the arch!  I guess if you are on a motorcycle or in a car you probably don’t even notice the arch, because it doesn’t mean anything when you are in a small vehicle.  After our adrenalin slowed to a medium flow, we got in the RV and hit the road; ready for the beach!  (FYI: the bridge crosses the Tarcoles River just south of the town of Orotina). We left San Jose headed for our first Costa Rican beach.  We crossed the Tarcoles River again closer to the ocean and were able to see lots of crocodiles swimming in the river.  They congregate near the river mouth at a particular bridge, which allows tourists to park their cars and view them from above.  Some were gigantic!  We watched them swim around for a while before taking off.  We had stayed in contact with our friends Chris and Mel whom we last saw leaving San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua on October 27th.  They continued to Panama while we rented our house in San Juan, and they are now on their north-bound trip back to Canada.  We met them on Playa Hermosa near Jaco, but when we arrived they needed to move because they had no electricity.  We really wanted to spend time together before parting ways, so they decided to backtrack and take us to a beach they really enjoyed further south called Matapalo.  It was about 3:00 in the afternoon and we would arrive after dark; but since they knew the way we decided to head to Matapalo that afternoon.  We traveled on a dirt road that is being prepared for paving for over an hour, covering everything with a thick layer of dust along the way.  We saw a troop of about 50 squirrel monkeys in the trees along the road!  They are so small and really do resemble squirrels.  When we arrived we were able to turn on our generator (that finally works!) and let Chris and Mel plug their RV directly into our RV.  This charged their batteries long enough for them to stay at Matapalo for a few days with us.Matapalo is a beautiful beach that stretches for miles and miles.  There are hardly any people on the weekends, and it was basically just us and the locals during the week.  There also weren’t that many beach dogs, which made it an enjoyable place to walk our dogs.  It was really spectacular, and a wonderful experience for our first Costa Rican beach.  While swimming in the ocean you get a really marvelous view of the land.  There is a ridge of steep green mountains with a swath of jungle that blankets the slopes and comes right up to the beach with palm trees swaying in the breeze like a postcard.  There was plenty of shade to string up some hammocks that we would enjoy over the next several days.  The first 150 feet above the high tide mark is not supposed to be built upon, so there are actually a lot of public places for us to camp in Costa Rica.  This beach even had stone picnic tables and a freshwater shower available.  We met some locals the first night and Aaron went fishing with them several times.  Our first morning there, Mel saw dolphins swimming in the waves and we were continuously blessed with their visits every morning and afternoon.  Several days later they got to see them very close while they were surfing.  They said the dolphins were swimming in the waves right next to them while they were surfing!  Chris was kind enough to bail out of the wave and let the dolphin ride it!  Surfing with dolphins!  Can you believe it?  The next day Aaron and I were swimming in the ocean watching the sun disappear when suddenly Chris and Mel were frantically waving their arms trying to get our attention from the beach.  It could only mean one thing so we immediately scanned the horizon for signs of dolphins.  We saw some nearby and swam further out to see how close we could get to them.  Suddenly they had us completely surrounded, and were probably swimming underneath us!  They were so close!  Several feet away one rolled through the water breaking the surface spewing air from his blowhole!  The closest one we saw was about a foot and a half away! They had been swimming parallel to the beach but when they sensed us, they hung around to check us out.  They were as curious about us as we were about them.  At the beginning Aaron wondered out loud if they were actually dolphins, or if they were small whales.  The thought that he was not 200% sure exactly what kind of animal these fins belonged to did freak me out a little bit.  But soon we were convinced they were in fact dolphins.  It was incredible.  We swam in the orange hued water as they toyed with us.  Before it got completely dark we swam in.  One of our friends walking down the beach excitedly asked if we got to see the dolphins.  Yes!  We were swimming with them!  It was definitely a highlight of the trip for both of us!We really enjoyed our time with Chris and Mel at Matapalo, and appreciate them backtracking for us.  We enjoyed the fabulous beach, fabulous dinners and card games!  We met them in August of 2006 in Antigua, Guatemala, and have since been able to hang out with them in four different Central American countries!  We have met a lot of great people on our trip, but you guys will always be very special!  If we ever find anything down here, we’ll let you know!We packed up and drove about 30 minutes south to the surfer community of Dominical.  On our way in we filled up our water tanks at the police station, which allowed us to introduce ourselves and get to know some of them.  We quickly found a great spot on the beach away from the rowdy bars and restaurants and began to unpack.  I got a knock on the door from two people I recognized but didn’t know from where.  It was Bishop and Katie, two travelers from North Carolina that we had met in Fortuna several weeks before!  It was Valentine’s Day, so we made it a double date and tried the Thai restaurant in town.  We were headed to their hotel when I remembered that two other travelers we met in Fortuna said they may be in Dominical as well.  No sooner than the words came out of my mouth did our English friends Bells and Andy pop their heads out of the hotel room next to Katie and Bishop’s!  What a small world! We were able to have breakfast with Bells and Andy before they left Dominical, and then Aaron went fishing.  Katie and Bishop had told us that a surfer spotted a crocodile in the ocean and warned us that there were many in the river mouth.  That didn’t deter Aaron!  Amy and Katie hung out and read at the RV while Aaron fished.  Aaron came walking back without a pole and said he had lost it.  He had cast it into the ocean and placed it in his rod holder that sticks into the sand; then walked to the other side of a sand dune to throw a line in the river.  After five minutes he walked back to his pole, but it was gone.  Either a large wave came or somebody took it.  He looked around for it and then offered a cash reward to anyone that found his pole.  He came back to the RV for his snorkel so that he could look underwater, but by the time he returned to the beach a guy had his pole for him.  No matter the circumstances, he was very appreciative since he had just brought the new fishing pole back from the U.S.We had a wonderful time enjoying our mostly quiet camp spot with hammocks strung in front of the RV.  This was another wide beach that beckoned you to enjoy it.  I have not run since my freshman year in high school, but I got the urge to give it a go while in Dominical.  It was not a long run, but I ran nonetheless!  Maybe by the time Aaron’s knee is capable of running I will be able to keep up with him.  We were in Dominical over the weekend, so we saw the beach absolutely inundated with locals coming to enjoy the beach.  One day a group of mostly gringos set up a large BBQ right next to the RV.  Aaron befriended several and ended up taking a couple of them out spear fishing that afternoon.After enjoying a night of music and drinks, we were awoken one morning at 10:00 by what turned out to be several other RVers.  There were two truck campers, but one camper had two couples in it.  They were asking what they needed to do in order to camp on the beach (which is nothing) and set up their RVs.  We were heading out that morning, even though we were moving quite slowly.  We were not going to be driving far, about 30 minutes south to Parque Nacional Ballena, near Uvita.  We thought that we may be parking on a friend of a friend’s property on the beach; but that didn’t pan out so we looked at all the public beaches within the national park.  The Whale National Park is actually a marine park, with only a small portion of the protected area being on dry land.  The light was fading for the day but we explored several beaches along the coast that ended up not really appealing to us.  We could have fit in all of them and each had fresh water showers, but they were lacking a charm I expected to discover.  The last beach, Pinuela, was exactly what I had in mind.  It was a beautiful, relatively small bay with fishing boats bobbing in the water at one end, fresh water showers and plenty of room for the RV.  We even found a spot where we could park in the sun so we could use our solar panels.  There were several beautiful rocks out in the ocean that created a striking silhouette during the day against the beautiful blue sky and the glowing setting sun.  One was named Ballena (whale), I suppose because its hump shape could resemble a whale; while the cluster of three tall rocks were called Las Tres Hermanas (The Three Sisters).  Before we even parked the RV, Aaron had already set up a fishing expedition for that night.  A local fisherman was going out for lobster, and Aaron had been having horrible luck with his fishing.  He left at 9:00 p.m. and got home at about 12:30 a.m. with several lobster and a snapper.  The next day our new friend Matt was supposed to pick up our friends Katie and Bishop from Dominical and bring them to the RV to go kayaking and spear fishing, but he couldn’t find the house they had rented.  We set out on the kayaks to explore the rocky point that created the southern point of the bay.  Unfortunately the water was very murky and we couldn’t see anything.  After kayaking Matt took us to his favorite restaurant which is high up on a cliff with marvelous views looking over the ocean.  We showed him Bishop and Katie’s house in Dominical where we left them a note to set up another day of kayaking the next morning.  Low and behold, we show up to our campsite and the new campers are there as well!  They said we just missed our friends that we had spent the last several hours looking for in Dominical!  Hopefully we would catch up with them for kayaking the next day.  That night we enjoyed some margaritas, snapper and lobster with the new RV campers.The next morning everything went as planned and lots of new friends from the area as well as Katie and Bishop came to the RV for breakfast before heading out on a mission to kayak to the Ballena and Tres Hermanas rocks.  It was so much fun; we had 7 people and four kayaks.  We were short one seat, so I rode on the back of a tandem kayak and let Scott paddle our kayak with Aaron.  Whitney, one of the other RVers, took some great pictures of us departing and coming back in.  There was excellent visibility which allowed for nice snorkeling.  I even saw a ray jump out of the water!  Aaron was successful at spear fishing and he prepared fried parrot fish, mango snapper and snapper sushi.  We made dinner that night at Scott and Matt’s house, which is a beautiful wooden structure high on a hill with a beautiful view.  There was plenty for all and it was a great night.After the other RVers left for Panama, it was back to a secluded beach again.  It was a great spot for me to relax and read (because I never do that) while Aaron went fishing.  The dogs loved it because there weren’t a lot of people on the beach and they could roam free.  I think they chased every lizard and squirrel within a square mile of the RV.  We decided to go kayaking one more time, and this time our friend Emily came with Bishop and Katie from Dominical.  We still had an extra person so Emily and I took turns hanging onto the back of the kayak as we were pulled through the ocean.  We were only a bay away from an area called Las Ventanas (the windows) which are sea caves that you can paddle through at low tide.  On the way over we saw dolphins again!  It seems like they are everywhere!  We got to the large sea cave and watched as the water slammed up against the walls as it rushed through the opening.  We wondered if we were still at low tide, but entered the caves anyway.  There was plenty of room for us to paddle through the largest cave.  As we entered, more and more waves kept coming behind us, and we soon realized that we should have waited for that set of waves to pass before we entered.  Aaron paddled while I held my paddle out in front of me for balance as we slowly paddled through.  We hung out in the middle for a bit before moving on, listening to the power of the waves entering the caves and crashing against the walls.  There was a smaller cave off to a side that Aaron wanted to go in, but there was no way I was going inside on that kayak.  It was too small and the waves were too close to the surface, creating a disastrous situation for anybody trying to enter.  Aaron eventually thought it unwise as well, so we explored other caves.  We paddled into another cave and the waves were very strong as well.  Since our kayaks are sit-on-top kayaks you can easily get thrown around.  We were getting tossed around and Aaron did not have complete control as the waves sloshed all around us.  Sitting there helpless, I envisioned us getting picked up by a wave like a leaf and being thrown onto the rocks.  We enjoyed the ride and backed off.  We paddled through the largest cave again, this time there was a motorboat full of tourists watching us go through.  It was so beautiful and a great rush.  Aaron anchored the kayaks and we went snorkeling and fishing for a bit, but the water was not very clear.  The dolphins came back and were close to Aaron, checking out what he was doing under water.  Bishop who was spear fishing for the first time got his first couple of fish!  He really loved it and is now hooked on the sport.  On the paddle back, Katie, Bishop and Emily had a ray jump out of the water right in front of their kayak!  It was only about 3 feet away! As all beaches are, Penuela was inundated with people on the weekends.  Aaron gave several of his fish away to families camped there, Katie & Bishop’s taxi driver, the local cops and kept some for us.  One of the families alerted us while pointing to a palm tree, “Una culebra!”  Aaron sprung to his feet faster than lightning and was trying to find a way to climb the palm tree to check out the snake.  The woman’s description sounded like it was a boa.  They were perplexed as he was desperately trying to get a closer look.  They were shocked when I told them he likes snakes and would love to see it.  He eventually made it up the palm, but soon realized he hadn’t thought this through and couldn’t just stick his hand in the palm to look for the snake.  He shimmied down the trunk and tried to find it using binoculars, but couldn’t.  He eventually gave up and went kayaking.  While he was gone the woman alerted me again, instructing me to bring my camera.  A crowd had gathered as the snake writhed around the heart of the palm tree.  Sometimes he lowered his head to see what all the commotion on the ground was, then slithered back up into his hiding spot.  Very cool!  I was just sorry that Aaron missed it!The posted entrance fee into Ballena National Park is $6 (US) per person, per day.  We arrived late in the afternoon on a Monday and there were no rangers there.  We believed that we did not see any rangers for several days, but it turns out that the truck driving around picking up garbage had rangers; they just never said anything to us about fees.  After staying there a couple of days they finally asked us how long we had been there, and asked us to please pay before we left.  Aaron asked what the national price was, and the ranger gave us the local rate of $1.15 per person, per day; as well as knocking off a couple nights.  All in all we paid less than $10 and stayed for a week.It was both our last night in the area as well as Katie and Bishop’s.  We all decided to go to one of the local’s birthday parties at his house.  Aaron brought some snapper and made sushi.  It was a great evening and a wonderful way to spend our last night with Katie and Bishop.The following day we got a late start packing up and did some internet at our friend’s Caldwell Banker office before leaving the area around midday.  We were on our way to the Osa Peninsula, but we didn’t know if the roads would allow us to drive to Bahia Drake (Drake Bay).  It has a road that we heard could be driven in the dry season, so we were headed that way to find out.  Along the way we passed the town of Palmar which has several Pre-Columbian stone spheres that are believed to have been used to mark cemetery and property boundaries.  There were several scattered throughout the vacant park among swing sets and park benches.  The dogs walked through the park with us and I asked Aaron to please watch so that they don’t pee on the spheres.  He laughed and said “If they do, it’s only because another dog already has!”  Undeterred, I said, “I know, but that doesn’t mean that my dogs have to pee on the Pre-Columbian artifacts!”  There was a small soda (cheap restaurant offering only a few options) right next to the park where we had lunch.  The local news broadcasted images of protests running across the screen, and Aaron said he heard that there were going to be organized protests against CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement).  The government is going to vote on the issue soon, and many Costa Ricans are not in favor of the agreement.  We have seen a lot of graffiti, especially in San Jose, expressing the locals’ displeasure.  After getting several reports on the road being passable from Rincon to Drake Bay, we turned down the road from the Pan-American Highway (which happened to have been very poor at that point).  There were two young travelers with bags at the junction, so we turned around to pick them up.  Jessica was from Cartago (south of San Jose) and her friend Victor was from the village of Quesado which was on the way to Drake Bay.  Victor sat up front with Aaron and Jessica and I sat at the table where we could talk about Costa Rica and the Osa Peninsula.  The road from the Pan American to Rincon was narrow and had lots of pot holes, but it was not worse than the road to San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua.    Aaron did his best to avoid the gaping holes as he swerved all over the road.  The dirt road that was from Rincon to Drake Bay was actually better than the first; there were just some streams we had to cross that would have been rivers in the rainy season.  We were an hour or so away from Drake Bay when Aaron started looking nervously at the front of the RV.  He got out, looked at the RV and had a horrible look on his face.  Victor got out, looked at the RV and had a horrible look on his face.  OK, what’s going on?  Jessica and I got out and saw the front left part of the bumper separated from the rig with the other side surely soon to follow.  The part that had fallen off was the storage compartment that Aaron paid to have welded in Flagstaff.  It contained our winch and created small storage compartments as well.  In Mexico, Aaron had two of the spare tires attached to the front of our new bumper, thus allowing more air flow than where they were positioned before.  The entire left side was hanging and would soon be dragging on the ground.  Aaron’s plan was to take off the spare tires and everything from inside the storage and put it inside the RV and drive slowly hoping the other side doesn’t fall off.  Unfortunately Aaron couldn’t get the tires off the front, so for the first time on our trip we used our winch.  He wrapped the winch around the bumper and hooked it underneath the RV, tightening it so that it pulled the bumper up and held it in place.  Jessica and Victor said there was someone in their village that could weld it back on.  We crept along at about 5 mph until we arrived in Quemado, a small village near Laguna Chocuaco; halfway between Rincon and Drake Bay.  There we found Gerardo, who let us park in front of his house and helped take the front bumper off completely and would have one of his guys fix it in the morning.  Gerardo and his wife are school teachers and they have two cute kids that were enamored with Khorrah and Skylos.  We took out Gerardo and his kids to a local soda and had a great time getting to know them.  Gerardo welcomed us into his home where we chatted and the daughter played with Amy’s hair before we said goodnight.  Aaron was up at 7:00 a.m. to help the guy weld the bumper back on stronger than it was before; and we left good as new in about five hours. While Aaron was working on the welding, I was reading in the RV and heard a very loud unfamiliar squawk and saw a bird land in a far off tree.  I glanced back and saw they were scarlet macaws!  It was so far away but I could still see their bright red feathers.  I ran for my camera but a motorbike scared them.  Before leaving Quemado we filled our water tanks from Gerardo’s house.  As I was holding the hose I saw tourists pull over taking pictures of something.  All of a sudden a large blur of red flew out of the tree the tourists were looking at, about 6 feet from the ground.  I hollered at Aaron to take the hose as I scampered to get my camera.  I ran to the tourists, but the macaws had already flown away.  I didn’t even see the size of the birds, but the big blur of red was enormous!  They agreed they were gigantic birds, only several feet from their face.  I watched the trees and saw them fly again.  Even when they were flying extremely high I could see their bright red color!  It was magnificent!  These were our first wild macaws and I was blown away by their beauty.  It seemed like utopia, this place in the jungle with these extraordinary creatures flying around.  I couldn’t believe it.  This is what Central America is supposed to be!After visiting Gerardo’s school in Progreso, we arrived in Drake Bay about midday.  We checked out the somewhat narrow road that passes through the beach area of the village of Agujitas to map out where we wanted to camp.  There was one spot where the bow of a boat made it narrower, but Aaron got around it just fine.  We parked right on the beach with a nice breeze.  We made it!  We weren’t even sure we could get to this side of the Peninsula in a car, much less our RV.  Corcovado National Park consumes about half of the Osa Peninsula, which is isolated and doesn’t receive nearly as many tourists as Costa Rica’s other National Parks.  Corcovado has the country’s largest population of scarlet macaws as well as many other animals.  It is known as an unspoiled park and the last original great tract of moist tropical forest of Pacific Central America.  The park has a large trail network that could easily take two weeks to hike it all, as well as several ranger stations sprinkled throughout.  We didn’t know how we would be able to access the park since we have the RV and dogs (which are not allowed), but we were going to give it our best shot.  We were really looking forward to seeing some wildlife in its least disturbed environment.  We looked into the tours available at the office in Agujitas and discovered they offered a boat from Bahia Drake to take you to a ranger station and hike for several hours from there.  This would allow us to leave the dogs in the RV and take a partial day trip into the park, without having to hike for several days needing to deal with the RV and the dogs.  A knowledgeable guide and a telescope were provided for optimal animal viewing.  The tours were priced based upon how many people went, and were not cheap.  After Aaron asked if we could negotiate the tour price, they refused; so Aaron chose not to go on a tour.  I signed up for a tour that was leaving the following morning at 6:15.  My tour boat pulled out of Drake Bay as the sun’s strong rays were just breaking over the ridge behind us.  We picked up two people at their hotel and drove for an hour to reach the Sirena ranger station.  It was magical as the green hills of the peninsula were shrouded in early morning mist with the sun in our eyes, forcing us to squint to get a look at the mainland.  After we passed the section of land with rocky outcroppings and cliffs, a beach began that stretched as far as the eye could see.  We drove parallel to the beach with the movie-like setting of hills covered in thick jungle rolling towards the beautiful beach.  I could only imagine the animals that lived in that jungle, and wondered which ones would reveal themselves to us that day.  There were three customers and one guide, Gustavo, a nice size for animal viewing.  After we waded onto the beach we sat on the rocks taking off our water shoes and putting on our dry hiking boots.  We immediately heard the loud squawk of the scarlet macaw.  The macaws are marvelous creatures I was eager to see, but was not aware how enamored I would become with them.  They are so bright in their reds, yellows and blues, as if someone just gave them a fresh coat of paint.  Although thrilled, I commented on their smaller size compared to the ones I had seen the day before in Quemado.  Gustavo said they were plenty large; they were just flying high in the sky.  The macaws are usually flying in pairs (they mate for life) and are most frequently seen on the beaches where they eat ripe fruits from the trees.  Before we began our hike, they flew overhead several times, showing off their radiant colors.  What a wonderful way to start the day!Gustavo wanted to take us to a mud hole to check for Tapirs (Costa Rica’s largest tropical mammal) before starting our hike.  He said we probably wouldn’t find any; there are only about 800 tapirs in all of Costa Rica.  We were walking through the brush and Gustavo had his scope and tripod slung over his shoulder when he suddenly stopped us in our tracks.  “Shhhh.  A Tapir!  Don’t break any branches when you walk and follow me.”  I looked around through branches wondering where in the world he saw a Tapir.  We walked around a corner and he already had his scope set up.  After he looked in the scope he saw there were actually two, the other one practically hidden in mud.  They had collars on, which Gustavo said were for scientific research.  Our day continued in this manner, walking quietly through the jungle always looking and listening for animals.  I never realized how loud my camera was until I was trying to be quiet!  We saw a plethora of animals including several kinds of toucans, three of the four monkeys found in Costa Rica (Howler, Spider and Squirrel), agoutis (raccoon-like animal), sloth, spiders, an owl, deer, several kinds of ants, lizards, crocodiles, and even a small bull shark in the brackish river mouth of the Sirena River.  We heard more squawks from the Macaws, but only saw them on the beach.  Gustavo would usually see something far in the distance and instantly set up his scope for us to have a closer look.  This was the key to having a guide.  Without one I would have been standing there with binoculars looking for something and not finding it before I scared it away!  I had my zoom lens on my camera, but it was breathtaking to lower your eye to the scope and see the animals in such great detail.  Some of my favorites were the sloth lounging with an apparent smile on his face, as well as mom and baby howler monkeys who could not be bothered during their afternoon siesta.  I actually watched the mom’s eyes close as she drifted off to sleep while the baby sat wide eyed, staring right back at me.  At the Sirena ranger station, there was a troop of spider monkeys eating fruit from a tree very close to the ground.  They were probably only 3-6 feet above my head!  They scampered around eating and throwing fruit on the ground as I dodged the sticky mess that came raining down around me.  The two Germans were staying the night at the Sirena ranger station with Gustavo, and we were taking back two people that had stayed at the ranger station the night before.  It seemed like what I had just experienced was a dream as I fought nodding off while keeping one eye half open for any dolphins or whales.  I was dropped off on the beach in front of the RV and collapsed into a chair, telling Aaron all about the cool animals I saw in the jungle that day.  I would love to come back to Corcovado and spend some time hiking into the depths of the jungle.  But for now, taking a boat ride to a far off ranger station where there are fewer people was a good way to get me in the middle of the wilderness.While preparing dinner in the RV, three guys rolled up on motorcycles, packed to travel.  It turns out they were three young guys from Wyoming touring Central America for several months.  We had plenty of fish tacos to spare so they joined us for the evening.  The next morning we took out the kayak into the Agujitas River which I heard was good for kayaking.  It was absolutely stunning, but unfortunately it was low tide and it didn’t go back nearly as far as we thought it would.  The cool fresh water was teeming with fish.  We got back to the RV and Khorrah barked at Aaron as he walked up.  We quickly saw that the plastic slide from our screen door was on the floor.  The slide was already broken and being held together with duct tape.  Either someone broke the slide in an attempt to break in, or the dogs broke it.  It sure doesn’t seem like the dogs had the correct angle to do it; but Skylos is small enough that since it has been broken he has escaped the RV through the hole! An adolescent dog adopted us in Bahia Drake.  He hung around the RV, and surprisingly Khorrah allowed him to stay.  There were actually several young submissive dogs that Khorrah allowed to hang around; much to Skylos’ delight.  As we left Bahia Drake, we left him some chewies and dog food.  All the beach dogs looked quite healthy here, so we weren’t too worried about him.  We gave a ride to a gringo, Bob, which needed to leave Costa Rica in order to get another 90 day tourist card to stay in Costa Rica.  After turning onto the road from Rincon; which is the only road off the peninsula, we encountered a tow truck blocking the road and several cars waiting in line in front of us.  We investigated to find out that a car had rolled off the side of the road the day before, and the tow truck was just now coming to remove it.  As the line of cars and trucks got longer and longer, everybody waited and watched for the car to be removed.  It actually took much less time than expected.  Aaron was contemplating putting the awning out on the RV for shade, but it was done before he could.  We heard there was propane in Golfito, but that was a little out of our way since we were headed to Neily.  We inquired at several gas stations and they said there was propane in Neily, but it wasn’t open on Sundays.  We got some vague directions to the Golfito propane and finally found it in the back yard of someone’s house!  (There is a “Gas LP” sign on the right hand side of the road coming into Golfito.  Turn right there, then another right at the “T” in the road.  The house is on the left hand side, and you can see the propane tanks through the gate.)  It was a tight squeeze to back up into the driveway between two stone pillars; but Aaron did an excellent job.  We were almost out of propane and didn’t want to have our refrigerator turn off.  We backtracked to the Pan American and made it to Neily where we dropped off Bob (where he caught a bus to a different border crossing).  We drove beyond Neily and stayed the night at a restaurant bar in Coloradito that had a large mostly flat space to park behind the restaurant.  We got up early the next morning to beat the border traffic.We checked out of Costa Rica in 15 minutes, but it took 3 hours to get into Panama.  For the first time in our entire trip, some people at the border insisted that Aaron could not check in two vehicles (the RV and the bike).  One lady kept telling these other skeptics that you just add on the motorcycle to the bottom of the vehicle permit, but they wouldn’t believe her.  They caused Aaron a great delay as they refused to process the paperwork as the lady instructed them.  They went round and round and finally got to the highest possible jefe, who said of course we can just add the bike onto the vehicle permit and that he had already told the office that.  They typed a new form, including the boss’ name saying it was OK.Just after we crossed the border into our last Central American country, there was the usual check point to make sure you have your papers in order.  As we pulled up, there was a line of RVs heading north-bound.  It was a European caravan that was returning from South America.  They were in a hurry since one person takes care of the paperwork for all the RVs, but Aaron was able to get the name of the shipping company and the agent that they use from Panama.  Several of the RVs were our size, but most were smaller.  Seeing the RVs our size made us feel better about our RV, as we are still contemplating shipping to South America.  It was our original plan, but for numerous reasons we have been unsure about it for the last 8 months.After our generator was finally fixed, we used it a lot for a month and a half.  Then it clunked to a halt while we were in Bahia Drake.  Aaron checked the oil to find it bone-dry; apparently the gauge to stop the generator from running if it is low on oil didn’t work.  Once we got to David, Panama, we found a store that was able to look at the generator.  They told us the last people to put it together (mechanics in Managua, Nicaragua) had not lubricated it properly, and then we ran it for a month and a half that way.  Their suggestion was a new generator.  So after putting so much time and money into fixing the one we had (in almost every single country we have been in), we need to replace it anyway.  We are currently looking for one in Panama or may have to have one shipped from the U.S.  Our brakes are also due for replacement, so we spent our second day in David searching out brake parts.Our first night in David we parked in the Chiriqui Mall, on your right hand side as you come into David.  We watched a movie in their small theater.  Our second night we parked in the parking lot of the “Rey” grocery store and the “Do It Center”.  Both parking lots have potable water spigots which are great for filling up the RV water tanks.  There is a TGI Fridays next door which has wireless internet, so we were able to make some phone calls using skype.

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