April 2017 – Hikes, Cousins, and Semana Santa

Today marks the 3 month anniversary of Zula becoming a part of our family. For those of you who have worried about Milo’s transition out of “only dog” status – he is doing just fine.

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Bringing Zula into our family and training her has been a challenge and humbling – we don’t know her history and getting her to trust us is a slow but rewarding process. We also don’t know how old she is – somewhere between 1.5 and 3 years – so the fact that she could still be a puppy is not lost on us. There are some days where I am so frustrated with her and then remember how she was treated before we got her; she isn’t going to forget that in a few short months. Poco a poco. We hope she will chill out a little in the next few months before we fly with her back to the States.

Pico Blanco

A few weeks ago we did one of our favorite hikes in the area, Pico Blanco, and decided that Zula had proven herself enough to be allowed to come. When we hike, Milo knows enough to stay with us; he is too scared to ever go off the trail. But we didn’t know what Zula would be like. Would this be her opportunity to run away and never come back? We bribed her with tons of treats as we started and then let go of her leash (she dragged it behind her so we could catch her if need be). We were pleasantly surprised that she stayed with us and seems to like being a part of our family unit. We would lose sight of them for a few minutes (as they tore through the trails of the cloud forest) only to turn a corner and see her sitting, looking at us, wagging her tail, and checking in to make sure we were still there. I think we made the cut. We left feeling really proud of her (and ourselves) and happy that we are making progress. Here are some highlights:

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We made it to the top.

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Will behave for treats.

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#foodpriorities

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Beautiful view of the central valley

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Taking it in

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Pretty steep drop off and hot dogs

 

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Slowly enjoying each other’s company

 

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#elevationsunday

Cousins in Costa Rica

At the beginning of April, 4 of the Nicholson cousins made their way down to Costa Rica to visit with us on the Pacific Coast. I have to say, when they first threw out the idea I thought, “Great – but no way they will pull it off.” But was I wrong. They flew in from Seattle, NYC, and Boston and we had an incredible weekend exploring, swimming, and laughing together. I can’t express how great it was to see them and how lucky I feel to have such an incredibly fun and loving extended family.

We hit 4 beaches in 3 days and each one was more beautiful than the next. One of my favorite moments was swimming at Playa Flamingo and getting absolutely CRUSHED by waves together. Other highlights include sting rays swimming around us as we watched the sunset, winning $7.50 at the casino, and staying at a great airbnb with the nicest caretaker on the planet. Here are some highlights:

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Crew

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Taking it in

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Some Final Four action

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She left $50 up

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Kan Jam at Playa Hermosa

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Kan Jam Enthusiasts

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Crew at sunset

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“It’s the Italia!”

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Bfast at our airbnb

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Zula loved the airbnb – totally fenced in so she was a free dog all weekend.

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Playa Conchal

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Cousins

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Playa Flamingo

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One last selfie

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Semana Santa

For our last big trip before we moved back to the States, we decided to travel to the Osa Peninsula. It is the last place we really wanted to visit and a part of the country that we hadn’t yet explored. So last Saturday morning we dropped the dogs of at the Vet and Breakfast (where they would be treated like royalty for the week) and started our 7-hour drive down to Puerto Jimenez.

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Reading about Osa while stuck in traffic

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Studying up on our Costa Rican wildlife

The vet & breakfast sent us a few pictures of Milo and Zula over the course of the week. While we worried about them at first these pictures confirmed that they were juuuust fine without us.

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Puerto Jimenez

Puerto Jimenez is a cute little town located on the Golfo Dulce (Sweet Gulf) – it is the most populated town on the Osa Peninsula with a population of ~2,000. We were so fortunate to have the opportunity to stay at a friend and former colleagues’ home in Puerto Jimenez. Yessenia and Eric were so generous to open their home to us (while they were stuck in Meriden, NH in the snow) and allow us to use it as a home base. We spent 2 days in Puerto Jimenez exploring Playa Preciosa, Playa Pan Dulce, and Playa Matapalo. Such a beautiful area and a great place to slow down and relax before the trek in Corcovado National Park.

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Playa Preciosa

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Sunset from the Puerto Jimenez estuary

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One morning we went horseback riding through the trails and on the beach in Playa Preciosa.

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Favorite picture ever

 

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Not a bad view

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Playa Pan Dulce

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Playa Matapalo

Spirits were high after this incredible day and then we ran into some car trouble. I will spare you the details here and separate out a little blurb about this experience at the end, but it revolves around us getting too excited about monkeys and basically destroying the transmission.

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The nicest strangers of all time – 6 km tow, on a dirt road

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See you later – our car getting a 350 km ride back to our mechanic in Escazú

 

Corcovado

After spending a few days getting to know the area, we prepared for our 3 day/2 night trek in Corcovado National Park. Corcovado is home to 2.5% of all of Costa Rica’s biodiversity and it didn’t disappoint.

We started by taking a 2-hour taxi ride to Carate and hiking 3.5 km to La Leona station where we checked in. From there we did the 16 km from Leona to Sirena where we stayed for the next 2 nights. Let me say – this first day was beautiful but so challenging. Walking about 20 kilometers, many of those in blistering heat on the shadeless beach, combined with heavy packs was grueling at times. Despite being much flatter than a lot of our hikes this year, heat and sun were not to be underestimated. I don’t think I have ever sweat that much in my life.

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Some highlights from that first day:

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just keep swimming…

 

 

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Pretty much sums up how delirious we were after an hour walking on the beach (at noon)

 

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Enough complaining – it wasn’t that bad

 

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Final river crossing before Sirena (there are often reports of crocodile and bull shark sightings here). A fun fact to learn after we crossed.

 

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Bunks at Sirena

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Sirena outpost

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Arriving back at Sirena on our 2nd day

We arrived that night in time to unpack and walk a kilometer down to the beach for sunset. It didn’t disappoint.

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The second day we hiked 10 km around Sirena to look for wildlife. We saw SO many animals including a tapir and her baby. Pretty cool.

Our guide Michael was super knowledgeable, friendly, and put up with our attempts to speak with him in Spanish.IMG_3689

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Here is a compilation of some of the animals we saw over the three days:

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Favorite pic of the trip – sloth and her baby

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Monkeys for days

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Scarlet macaws are everywhere

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White-nosed Coati eating some bananas

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Collared anteater

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Golden Orb spider

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Beautiful trogon

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Caiman

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Great Guan

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Orange-collared Manakin

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Tapir!

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White Collared Peccary

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Our crit list!

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On our last morning we were up at 4:30 to start the 20k trek to Los Patos. As we entered the forest, this was the scene around us. The third day was all in the lush forest – fairly flat for the first 13k and then pretty steep for the last bit.

 

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Let’s do this.

 

There were a few rivers crossing on our last day and one of them involved a free pedicure. I was expecting a sucker type fish so was a little thrown when they were actually doing some gentle biting.

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We ended at Los Patos around 12:30 on Wednesday feeling exhausted but also extremely proud. We did 50k in 3 days and felt like we were able to take in not only the incredible wildlife but the vegetation and primary forest around us. Definitely a once in a lifetime experience.

Drake Bay

Before heading back to Santa Ana we headed to the other side of Osa to Drake Bay with our friends Erica and Ravis. They were also exploring Puerto Jimenez and were nice enough to let us attach ourselves to the end of their vacation (since we were now carless). We took on the nutty road (30k dirt road) to Bahía Drake and that afternoon hiked on a really neat trail to a secluded beach for sunset before enjoying some of the best food I’ve had in a long time.

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Questionable hanging bridge, great company

 

 

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Perfection

 

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Nom nom nom – margaritas, pizza con, and pesto.

 

 

 

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Drake Bay Airbnb porch perfection

 

Just to end the trip with one more curve ball we got a flat tire on our way out of Drake Bay. The 9-hour ride back was pretty brutal but we were all closer at the end – we’d have it no other way.

We move back to the States 2 months from tomorrow. Really hard to believe. Excited for our last visitors – Em’s brother Sam and his gf Meg – to come down in a few weeks and to also soak in the last moments with our Costa Rican family.

 

On generosity and kindness:

Though we intentionally tried to minimize the car trouble saga in this post, it is easier to do in writing than it was in the moment.

The car trouble we had on our first full day of vacation was a constant, nagging threat to the “vacation vibes” we were going for. Car trouble seems to have a way of bearing additional car trouble fruits as you try to get back up and running, you know? (ex. “Oh no, our car won’t move!…oh no, we’re on one of the most isolated roads of all time and have no cell service!.. oh no, the sun is setting!…oh no, it’s Sunday of Semana Santa, the most important religious holiday of the year and there are no tow trucks or mechanics open!…oh no, we wanted to sell this car in a month and the part we need to fix it is $$$ and will take a month to ship from the states!…Oh no, how will we get around for a month?!” Yeah, thanks for letting us indulge in some of those dets– it’s cathartic.)

BUT, overshadowing the logistics and problem-solving was our overwhelming gratitude for the boundless generosity and kindness strangers showed us in a circumstance where —  all parties knew–  we would never see one another again, let alone return the favor someday. For example, a sampling of the acts of kindness:

  • The first car that passed us on the side of the road stopped
  • Despite having a car full of hungry children in wet bathing suits, they towed us back to town and remained with us for three hours, well into dinner time, on a holiday. When we insisted that they’d done enough and we could manage the rest on our own, one of the parents said, “No, you know this is good and it’s important for our kids to see this. This is a lesson: if you see people in need, you have to help.”
  • A mechanic came out of his house as we limped by and spent over an hour under our car on the side of the road, fishing parts and pieces out if his garage, trying to identify the problem. Neighbors and friends came out of their houses and did the same. He followed us to our house to continue working on the car and seemed startled when we compensated him for his time and work. On a holiday.
  • When we were finally towed back to the house we stayed at, our friends Erica and Ravis came right over and took us to the grocery store so we could be prepared for our 5am departure to Corcovado.
  • A few days later, when E & R came to the rescue again and were driving us all back to San Jose, their car got a flat tire on a road even worse than the road we broke down on, ELEVEN people stopped to help until we were safely on our way.

In a time where, frankly, it’s pretty easy to feel pessimistic and skeptical about the state of our world and feel uncertain about the goodness of people, an experience like this one is a real booster shot of optimism, reminded of the benevolence we’re all capable of and the impact that can have. We’re all capable of doing a little more, a little more often. So, with that, here’s a promise to look for more opportunities to pay this one forward.

And, also to buy one of these.

Pura Vida.

K & Em

PS – The Vet and Breakfast just dropped Milo and Zula back with us and along with them came this magical magnet. These people are the best.FullSizeRender.jpg

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