The flamingo in the middle totally photo-bombed this pic with his butt hole.
The flamingo in the middle totally photo-bombed this pic with his butt hole.
words coming soon!
Traveling again, FINALLY! I’m in Bonaire, a small island off the northern coast of Venezuela, with my mom and sister. Bonaire is the B in the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao) and is known for its fantastic diving.
We arrived at the Flamingo Airport at 5:30 on Sunday morning, and all I remember is that I had the hiccups so bad people wouldn’t stop saying “boo” to me. Look, I was just thirsty! Thankfully the island has a desalination system that provides excellent drinking water, so no need to bring water purification systems or buy bottled water if you’re visiting.
We’re staying at Villa Makoshi, one of the seven brightly painted homes in the Perla Boneriano complex. The houses are clustered around a pool with sun chairs and short palm trees with the ocean just a 3 minute walk away. Only one other home is occupied right now, so we pretty much have the place to ourselves! We’re renting the lower level of the villa, which has two bedrooms with fans and air conditioners; a full kitchen; three bathrooms; a huge living room and dining room with couches, tables, chairs and a tv; a laundry room and a lovely shaded patio. It’s incredibly nice and costs $1174 per week (low season price).
It is very warm, mostly sunny, and quite windy here, making the air temperature perfect. The wildlife is abundant and photogenic! These 3 foot long iguanas posed for me.
I also had a photoshoot with some funny birds, look for those pics in the next post!
Today is Earth Day, the day we reflect on our impact on the world. This Earth Day is extra special because it’s the 40th anniversary of the first Earth Day in 1970. As world travelers, we often have a close up perspective of the damage we as humans are doing to the planet. Many forms of travel and tourism are only adding to the problem. Here are 10 tips for traveling greener that I hope we can all adopt, at least some of the time.
1. Start with your home
Most people don’t think about the resources being used in their home while they’re not there. To reduce energy consumption in your home while you’re away be sure to unplug all unused appliances, turn off the AC/heat, and turn your water heater to the “vacation” or lowest setting.
2. Leave no trace
As travelers, we should practice Leave No Trace everywhere we go. No matter if you’re camping, staying in a hostel, or living in an apartment for 2 months – if it came with you, it should leave with you. Even better: try to leave every place even more clean and devoid of trash than you found it.
3. Use a reusable water bottle
Plastic water bottles account for 1.5 million tons of plastic waste a year. That’s 3 billion (3,000,000,000) pounds, or 1,360,777,110 kg, of plastic. Over 80% of that is simply thrown away, even though the plastic used for water bottles is highly recyclable. It is incredibly important that we avoid using plastic water bottles, and instead use reusable water bottles, or water bottles with filters.
4. Green your transport
The amount of fuel we use and the emissions our transport produces can almost always be reduced by thinking ahead and altering our habits when traveling. Walk or ride a bike whenever possible. Take public transportation instead of a cab. Take the train instead of the plane. When you do fly, keep your electricity use to a minimum and pack lighter bags to help conserve fuel. Keep your window shade closed to help regulate the cabin temperature. Book all your tickets electronically to avoid excess paper usage.
5. Conserve resources in your hotel or hostel
We often forget that our actions in our room away from home have a big impact on local resources. To green your hotel stay, try the following: hang and reuse your towel, don’t have your linens changed, avoid using the travel sized shampoos and soaps (bring your own instead), and turn off the AC/heat and unplug appliances and lamps when you’re not in your room.
6. Use less water
Water is a resource we are constantly taking for granted because it seems unlimited if we’re not thinking about it, when in fact we are using up the world’s fresh water at an alarming rate. To conserve water, try the following tips. Take shorter showers by soaping up with the water off. Don’t leave the water running when brushing your teeth. Wash your own clothes by filling the sink with soapy water and scrubbing your clothes in it, then rinse them in a sink of clean water.
7. Avoid anything disposable
There is a reusable replacement for almost anything disposable. Instead of regular batteries, use rechargeable batteries. Buy a digital camera instead of using a disposable camera or a film camera. Again, use a reusable water bottle instead of buying bottled water.
8. Reduce paper usage
Paper is another thing we take for granted. Reduce your paper usage by avoiding napkins or only using half a napkin instead of the whole thing. When you wash your hands let them air dry instead of using paper towels. Take only brochures you actually plan on using, and if possible give them back when you’re done.
9. Don’t use plastic bags
Plastic bags are a huge contributor to pollution around the globe. Massive amounts of wildlife die daily due to ingestion of plastic bags. Animals also get entangled in them resulting in loss of limbs and death. Plastic bags are made with petroleum, one of world’s finite natural resources we are depleting the fastest. To combat this, carry a reusable sack with you to the market and don’t let anyone give you a plastic bag.
10. Be careful with our oceans
Pollution of our oceans and damage to our reefs is a problem that is spiraling out of control. One easy thing you can do to help reduce ocean pollution is to apply your sunscreen at least 20 minutes before you get in the water. If you don’t wait 20 minutes, most of the sunscreen will rinse off into the ocean. Even better is to buy a reef-friendly sunscreen that is biodegradable. Also be careful to never step or stand on coral. Coral is composed of tiny living organisms that can be killed when you step on them.
I hope you will keep these tips in mind, not just on Earth Day, but on every day. The more care we take with our environment, the bigger the positive impact we can have.
I was still really sick on Monday, February 1st, so after arriving back in Puerto Viejo via the bus and checking back in to Hostel Pagalú we took it easy for the rest of the day, swimming at Playa Negra and enjoying falafels from Ali Baba for lunch. By the end of the day I decided it was time to go ahead and medicate with immodium, pepto, and lots of water.
On Tuesday, February 2nd, we rented surf boards from Sunrise Backpackers for $10 for 3 hours. This was a way better deal than anywhere else in town. One place wanted us to leave $100 or our passports as a deposit! Sunrise Backpackers only asked me to leave my driver’s license, a much better deal.
We surfed at Playa Negra and had a great time! It was my second time surfing and Ryan’s first so we didn’t do very well but we had tons of fun. I could definitely do this every day. Later we went back to Playa Negra for sunset and saw wild horses again!
We had to head back to San Jose on Wednesday, February 3rd, because our flight home was leaving at 7am on the morning of the 4th :(. We took the bus which cost us 4290 colones each and took 3 and a half hours. The bus was stopped at a police checkpoint between Cahuita and Limón. We all had to get off and have our passports checked before we could get back on the bus.
When we got to the bus station we hired an official red taxi to drive us to Alajuela (the town closest to the airport) which cost $25 total (talked down from $30). There are much cheaper ways to get to Alajuela, but since we don’t know spanish we figured a cab would be the easiest way.
In Alajuela we stayed at Hostel Maleku. It was alright. We had a double room with a shared bath and a communal kitchen for $35 a night. After checking in we went to McDonalds and a grocery store where we bough coffee cereal and I had cafeteria food for dinner. Then we got ice cream from the McDonalds stand outside. Yum.
On the morning of Thursday, February 4th, we took a free taxi ride to the airport provided by the hostel at 5am. Ryan felt ill in the morning and got progressivly sicker throughout the day, making the flights very rough. By the time we got home he had a high fever so we just went to bed. Not a good way to end our trip, but we had such a great time overall that we are planning on going back in a few months
Check back later for posts from Cambodia!
To start the day we were woken up by howler monkeys. They make such a loud noise for being so small. They sound like pissed off bears mixed with thunder. If you heard it in the forest and didn’t know it was just a tiny monkey, you would be very afraid.
Ryan and I decided to take a hike through the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Reserve on Friday, January 29th. We were ridiculously unprepared dressed in flip-flops, shorts (him) and a dress (me). Armed with our bag of pb&j sandwiches, water, and cameras, we set off.
Ryan got bit by a black bullet ant which he said “stung like a bitch.” Afterward we were constantly looking at the ground to avoid more ant incidents. Don’t wear flip-flops in the rainforest, seriously. There were giant black and red ants all over. One red ant sank its huge mandibles into the leather on Ryan’s flip flop, right next to his skin.
The reserve was beautiful with very lush plant life everywhere. It rained a ton and got very muddy. We felt like explorers tromping through the rainforest soaking wet with howler monkeys howling and jumping in the trees around us.
The rainforest is a very dangerous place. There are huge ants, spiders, and wasps everywhere you look, plus poisonous red frogs and spiked caterpillars that can paralyse you if touched. Even the trees have spikes!
The danger of the rainforest is balanced with its incredible beauty. There are massive trees with all kinds of epiphytes, bright pink plants, and lots of colorful flowers and butterflys.
We walked about 8 miles round trip and were muddy and soaked by the time we got home, but in great spirits.
On Thursday, January 28th, we had a delish brunch at Bread and Chocolate (I got an everything bagel with spicy chipotle cream cheese… it’s spicy!… for 1,000 colones) before hopping on the 11:45am public bus to tiny Manzanillo. The ride took about 40 minutes and cost 490 colones. It stops a lot; this is how locals get to the grocery store if they don’t have a car.
Manzanillo is a dinky 2 block town that is quiet and empty on the weekdays, and suddenly turns into a bbq beach party for locals from all over on the weekends. Manzanillo has about 200 residents and the town is centered around Maxi’s bar/restaurant near the fantastic white sand beach. There’s a school, a few sodas, 2 grocery stores, and a handful of places to stay in the town.
We stayed at Cabinas Faya Lobi where we had a double room with a hot water shower, mosquito net, communal kitchen and free bottled water for $25 a night. There is no internet in the town, only one computer with a dial-up connection that seems to be perpetually down at a Cafe Ooh-La-La.
The afternoon was spent swimming in the ocean and walking south down the beach into the forest on a trail where we immediately saw 2 howler monkeys!
Not far down the trail you can find Punta Manzanillo which provides a fantastic view.
After refueling at our hotel we headed to Maxi’s restaurant for dinner. I got the vegetarian caribbean plate of onions and peppers in a tasty sauce with cabbage salad, rice and beans, and fried plantains for 2,400 colones. It was way too much food for me. Ryan got a chicken with rice dish with salad and fried plantains for 3,250 colones. The 10% tip and 13% tax are not included in the prices. It was ok but we didn’t think it was worth the price when we can just use the kitchen at Faya Lobi.
On the way back we stopped at the grocery store to buy beer and a bar of soap (460 colones). The evening was passed drinking beer and playing chess. We met two other travelers from Portland who are on the first leg of what will be a 7 month trip. There was a rock ice limon beer left in the fridge so we tried and it was nasty! It tasted like a glass of salt water with lemon, or a tequila shot gone horribly wrong. Awful.
On Friday, January 29th, we hiked through the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Reserve. Here’s a post just on this mini-adventure: Hike through Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Reserve
We were sort of worn out from our hike in the Reserve, so most of Saturday, January 30th, was spent hanging out on the beach. It’s much more crowded on the weekends because a lot of locals drive here to picnic, bbq, and enjoy the beach. For dinner we made guacamole and I chopped up a huge carrot to eat it with instead of chips. Not peeling or cooking the carrot turned out to be a mistake; it made me sick for days.
By Sunday, January 31st, Ryan’s toe that was bit by the ant had swelled up like a sausage (see the post about our hike in the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Reserve). He also discovered 4 massive mystery bug bites on his arm. I’ve never seen bug bites so big, they were like 50 cent pieces! Ryan was buying himself these mini ice cream sandwiches every night from the same store. The first night they cost 200 colones. Then they cost 300 colones. Then 350! That’s a 75% price increase in 4 days. That’s what happens when you shop at local stores; the prices are never marked so items end up costing whatever the clerk feels like charging you.
Sunday was our last day in Manzanillo. It was a good last day because we got to see 2 toucans from our hotel, as well as some kind of firefly-like bug at night!
On the morning of Wednesday, January 27th we rented bikes and rode 3km south to the Jaguar Rescue Center. The Center takes in all sorts of wildlife, rehabilitates them, and then releases them back into the wild. They also breed endangered snakes.
At the center I enjoyed the best wildlife experience of my life; I held a baby sloth! Sloths are my favorite animals and they are even cuter in real life.
The light colored ones are 2 toed sloths and they are more aggressive because they hunt for insects. You can only pet them on their backs. The 2 toed sloth’s fur is softer than the more wiry fur of the darker colored 3 toed sloth. The 3 toed sloths are super friendly; they just want to hug you all day. One of the baby 3 toed sloths came to the rescue center when it dropped off its mother from a tree right into their garden. When the mother sloth drops her baby she doesn’t usually go down to collect it. The center has tried to release both the 6 month old 3 toed sloths into the wild but they just keep coming back!
Ryan and I both got to hold the baby 3 toed sloths. When it was time to go visit the howler monkeys the volunteer put one of the 3 toed sloths on the tree. Ryan started taking pictures of it on the tree, then it grabbed onto him and climbed right on his neck!
He held it for a while, then we tried to put it back on the tree but it was hard because it had a very strong grip. It was so cute; the sloth didn’t want to be on the tree, it wanted to be on Ryan and it kept reaching for him after he let go of it. These guys are major buds. I could hug them alllll day.
We also saw the baby 2 toed sloth attacking the baby 3 toed sloth. It was the slowest fight ever. The 2 baby 2 toed sloths had a love hate relationship with each other. Sometimes they were fighting and sometimes they were licking each other’s faces. The 2 baby 3 toed sloths really liked each other and the volunteer said they sleep together at night curled in a little ball. Sloths are usually solitary animals and they keep to themselves in their tree most of the time.
We went in the big howler monkey cage and the baby howler monkeys climbed all over us. They were having a good time chewing on the camera strap, and on my hair.
After playing with the monkeys we saw 2 baby crocodiles in a pond, an owl with a broken wing, and lots of poisonous and non-poisonous snakes.
Last we saw the Margay cub. The Margay is a beautiful wildcat related to the Ocelot. They are adept tree climbers and jumpers.
When the tour was done we paid the $10 donation and rode home. Tomorrow we are leaving Puerto Viejo to go 12km south to the super small town of Manzanillo to enjoy the lovely beaches and hike in the wildlife refuge.
We’ve been laying really low the last 5 days because Ryan has been really sick (probably from eating questionable chicken) so from January 22nd to the 26th we spent our mornings in the hostel and our afternoons relaxing and people watching on the beach.
Ryan was relegated to a diet of powerade, ramen, and pizza, but I continued to be adventurous and try various foods including rice and vegetables with fried plantains and salad for 2,500 colones from Sunrise Backpackers (tasty, large plate of food), a veggie burger from Veronica’s for 2,500 colones (it was just ok), cheese pizza from Pizza Boruca for 850 colones (good and cheap) and pb&j with salad for 2,200 colones from Bread and Chocolate (very good).
The dog that lives at Hostel Pagalú, we think his name is teddy, has a funny habit of walking around and around this tiny palm tree in the yard very very slowly. He’s a sweet dog, we think he is a rescued stray. There are a ton of stray dogs here and they’re much friendlier than the strays in Indonesia.
I’ve noticed that families start early in this part of the world. We’ve seen tons of pregnant young teenage girls and older teens with multiple children. There is also constant PDA no matter where you look; a stark contrast to Indonesia where even holding hands in public is looked down upon. The people here seem very happy despite the poverty and terrible living conditions that affect many of the locals.
One night, after eating dinner at Ali Baba, we were approached by a hippie looking old white dude. He told us he was a comedian magician and he entertained us with jokes and card tricks for about 15 minutes. He had us laughing a lot, so we gave him a donation of 500 colones. My favorite joke was “How many deadheads does it take to change a lightbulb?” “None, they just let it burn out then follow it around for 20 years.”
There are wild horses that roam the beaches here. The stray dogs like to herd them.
On Sunday, January 24th we saw eels, crabs and an octopus under some coral at the beach when the tide was really low. While there we played fetch with 2 stray black lab sisters who insisted on fetching the stick as a team.
On Tuesday, January 26th Ryan started to feel better so we rented bikes again and rode to Playa Cocles. We watched the surfers and collected shells.
I bought a coconut from an old guy with a machete for 430 colones. It was yummy.
We rode on to Playa Chiquita and I bought a watermelon from some guys in a truck for 1,000 colones. We parked our bikes and walked south along the beach. We saw the same fishing yellow lab again and we collected a lot more shells.
Tomorrow is going to be an exciting day. We’re going to the Jaguar Rescue Center where we will see sloths, monkeys and snakes!