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Paddling in Costa Rica

Hi gang, Mel the Guide here in sunny OIL FREE Matlacha, Southwest Florida, where the only oil we see is on those fine, young bikini clad tan girls soaking up the hot Florida sun on the beach.

Therefore, it’s still hot and we are still in our slow season, as far as tours and rentals go. Yet there is lots of work to be done before the snowbirds come back; boat repair, new paddles and jackets to take care of.

This month past has been very special, as I had a chance to brake away for a family vacation with my son Michael from Providence Road Island and his girl friend Charlotte.

My wife, Adele, found this great deal from our travel agent to Central America. We have never paddled in Costa Rica before and it sounded like a good chance to get away. I must say though the weather this time of the year is very much like ours here in Southwest Florida. Hot in the mornings and a rain showers in the afternoon.

We find our self’s in Guanacaste mountain area on the beach. I am greatly surprised at how beautiful it was. The land is a mostly volcano, rain forest wet and dry and black sandy beaches.

One of the first things you notice about the area is that everyone who drives gets a FREE MASSAGE. The roads are not well kept, and it is one bumpy ride from place to place. The mountain forest is a lush green, the oceans a deep blue, and the beach again is black soft sand.

When I am away on vacation in places I have never been before I try to find a local guide service. Sure sometimes they can be a rip off, but with a little research you can find a gem that beats those big 60 person tour buses that herd you on the bus then drive and turn on the canned tape that tells you about the area you are driving through in Chinese, Spanish and English.

However, me being a small tour guide service myself I want the real deal. I want to see what the locals see, do, and eat.

We were out paddling along the beach one day, looking at and enjoying the deep blue waters filled with tropical fish, and looking up over the volcano mountain ridges, watching the magnificent frigate birds when my son Michael says, “how would you like to go deep sea fishing?” It seams he had met some locals on the beach who take out small tours fishing and snorkeling. You don’t go out far and they put you on to fish most of the time. [Luis Casante ph 506 8913-9-76  iraluipapagayo@hotmail.com]

The next day we meet Luis and his crew of brother-in-law and cousin at the beach. First sight of the old rickety boat I say to myself [Mike what have you gotten us in to???] The boat came in to shore about in 3 ft of water and they motion to us to wade out to the boat. Mike and Charlotte wade out and they reach over the side and snatch them up in to the boat. My wife was next then me.

Now if you don’t know me, you may think I am a well-built young good-looking guy with all the paddling I do. At one time you may have been right. However, the years have not been kind to me and I am now a fat 66-year-old man. 

Give us your hands they say. Then out of the sky came these two well-built strong arms. I was snatched from the sea in to the boat. Long day short, Mike lands a crocodile needle fish, Charlotte lands a big roster fish and Adele lands her first fish ever. {Also a needlefish} IN ADDITION, the old man of the sea landed a large jack carvel. I know it was over 100 lbs as it took me so long to fight it. Up to the side of the boat I reel it then the sound you have got love, the reel playing it self out almost to the end of the spool. He was a good fighter and swimmer. However, I did land him, after a great fight. Now the only problem I ran in to was that Luis who has fished every day of his life said the fish was only 30 lbs. Now whom are you going to believe? Luis or Mel the guide. We had great day fishing then we went snorkeling in a cove were you could see caves from the boat. Luis snorkeled with us and picked up some oysters then he brought them back to the boat. He was kind enough to open them and squeezed some fresh limejuice on them. He then brings out a bottle of cold white wine to wash the oysters down. LIFE IS GOOD.

We took a break the next day and stayed on the beach and snorkeled and fed the fish some rolls we had for breakfast.

The next day was with out a doubt the best. A full day with AVISPAS ADVENTURES. Mike looked them up online and read good things about them. Amy who is part owner and operator of AVISPA is one of those folks you meet and know right away you are going to have a fun. She is very personable and will do just about any thing she can do to make YOUR tour what you want it to be. There were things on our tour that I did not want to do. However, my adventurous family had to do, like Zip lining through the tops of trees in the rainforest .Ok I am a WIMP. I am afraid of heights. I did not want to ruin this trip for the family but kayak boy is NOT hanging over some ragging river on a cable attached to a few thin trees.  I had a very nice quiet hike on the jungle floor and meet the group at the end.

Let me back up and tell you how we started our day. At 7 am we meet in the resort lobby. Our personnel guide was Reiner. As it turns out we were the only ones to go with him and a driver in a van. Reiner was with us from 7am until 10pm that night. He is a proud young man 24 yrs old and spoke both Spanish and English very well. He is very passionate about his people of Central America and its heritage. He knows his history and knows even more about the wild life and birds of his country. He carries a bird guidebook like his bible with over 867 birds in it, and I believe he knows them all. We saw many birds in the forest and along the road side, much like we have, rosette spoon bill, herons, egret, wood peckers, fly catchers oriels, and of course the crackle. We also saw caracara toucans, limpkin, and many hawks and birds of pray.

We chose AVISPAS tours because of all the good reviews from past clients and that they were well established in the community. One of the things they ask you to do is to bring some school supplies from the states and donate them to their fund they have for the local school kids. Michael set this trip up and I was proud of him for picking such a great company that really cares about the locals. The government pays for the education. However, the students come from hard working but very poor families, and school supplies are expensive.

Our first stop was at one of the grade schools where Rainer and Adele gave out bags of school supplies that had been donated buy past clients and ourselves. My son Mike gave the school a new soccer ball, which is their major pastime… they call it football.

All the children dress the same in a school uniform. The rooms are sparse, just four bare walls, a black board, some chairs and small desk-like chairs. The walls are painted cinder block, no windows of glass just large holes to allow in light and air. There is a fan in the center of the room. They had a small kindergarten room that they just had painted with bright colors for the young ones, it seems they just moved in as the room next to it, which was the kindergarten, had the roof cave in because of the rain. There was a room with a stove, sink and a large bowl of white rice in it. The lady who was in this kitchen was mixing large cans of tuna in it for lunch. The kid’s ages were between eight and twelve. It almost brings a tear to your eyes to see these kids so happy and thankful for just a few pieces of paper, pencils and pads. We don’t think about it but we really have it good in this country, with A/C, computers, books, bathrooms, and gymnasiums. 

We are now off on our adventure; our day was gong to be a full one. We were going ZIP lining. In addition, I was going for a walk in the jungle along the river. They had a Blast and I a good hike, then to a small restaurant in town. The food was home made and good. We ate on the front porch and had a major downpour, just like Florida in summer.

We then got in the van, drive to the bottom of a mountain to see a few waterfalls. However, to see the waterfalls you have to be in a cart like wagon dragged by a tractor up the side of the mountain, then on horse back the rest of the way to a hanging bridge. I should tell you I don’t ride well and horses and me get along fine as long as they don’t run. I told Reiner about my problem with houses and he said not to worry. We get there and there are these very large horses, well they were for the other riders. They had a poor little donkey for me. I think it was a mule. They said he won’t run and he was much stronger than the horses. So here I am on top of this poor little animal and we made it up the side of the mountain to the hanging bridge. After walking across the very high cable bridge and back, I went to sit with the horses and the family climbed up to another waterfall. When they returned we drove to the volcano. We arrived at the place and saw a man who runs the springs. It has been in his family for years. He was a kind fellow as he also ran a rescue home for wild animals. We saw baby toucans that had their nest blown away, a couple of baby white nosed coati or coatimundi, a few wild ground birds and of course some dogs and puppies. We first walked the steaming sulfur springs, then went on a ice cold water slide, then to the mud baths, it turns out that the mud is very good for your skin, then to a sauna to bake the mud on hard. You then shower the mud off and head to the sulfur steam hot tub. Reiner surprised us with a few bottles of wine which put the topping on for a long perfect day.

Reiner was the best tour guide we have ever had the pleasure to be with.

We slept in the next day and paddled along the beach awhile in the afternoon. We had so much fun with Avispas adventures we thought we would go out with them again. But which one?  They have so many good ones to choose from. We called to see if there was room on the river tour the next day, we lucked out there was.

The next day at 7:30 am we meet in the lobby who else??? Reiner. He was all smiles and told us my wife and I were the only ones on tour. WHAT A DAY. We took a river boat down the fast raging river, stopped from time to time on the side to see, iguana, green and black, American crocodile, long nosed bats, and so many birds. Reiner was quick to spot them and tell us about their life style and habitat. After a great day on the water we returned from the wilds to the dock where the cool a.c. van was waiting for us. We then drove to a restaurant; no, not Howard Johnson or IHop but a real hometown restaurant, the kind the locals eat at. This restaurant was typical of the kind you find in the jungle on the roadside. Dogs were running under the table trying to get a hand out and chickens just walking around. Doc, the driver of the van, Reiner, my wife and I all sat a table and were served family style. I poked my nose in the kitchen, there was a small sink and an old flat wood burning stove with pots of different sizes all covered and simmering. We had rice, beans, some fresh tomatoes, cucumber sliced, fresh baked flat breads, and some really good chicken in a spiced sauce. The lady in the kitchen kept kidding with me and asked how I liked the iguanas? At least I think she was kidding. I told my wife we may have passed this chicken on the way to the river ride this morning out on the road. The food was simple but good.

If you ever get a chance to go to COSTA RICA  in the Guanacas region do not miss AVISPAS ADVENTURES TOURS. You can look them up on line and e-mail Amy at info@avispasadventures.com. They made my vacation a real treat and showed me the real Costa Rica. If you would like to make a small donation to their school fund Amy and my self would sure appreciate it

Well, its still off-season and I think we will go on some vacation. LIVE IS REALLY GOOD. This time we plan to do some paddling, fishing and motorcycle riding in the Sarasota, Bradenton Anna Marie island area. So till next time when I can share some of my adventures, and see you on the water. Remember its always a great day in MAT-LA-SHA AND THANKS for paddling with Mel the guide.

Pine Island Events

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