The Cottage on the Beach

Trip Start Jun 26, 2009
Trip End Jul 12, 2009

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Flag of Costa Rica  , Province of Puntarenas,
Thursday, July 2, 2009

Day 6 – Thursday, July 2, 2009 - Puntarenas Ferry – Mal Pais - We awoke early to the sounds of a mewing cat at the hotel. We left Monteverde fairly early in the morning so we could catch the 11:00 am Ferry in Puntarenas.  Shaeleigh, Malesa, and I had breakfast at the restaurant in the Fonda Vela.  The breakfast choices were very limited, but the food was good (the French toast didn't look that good, but we didn't order it).  While we were eating, the mewing stray cat that woke us up came to the restaurant.  I am not sure what happened to the cat, but we didn’t see him again that morning.

Oscar met us at the hotel and helped us pack our luggage into the van and we were off on our way to Mal Pais.  It was going to be another fairly long day of driving in the car.  At least Oscar’s van was comfortable and had good air conditioning.

The view as we drove out of Monteverde was stunning.  The mountains were so green and beautiful.  You could see all the way to the ocean even though there were a few clouds.  We were all busy watching the scenery, but this was where having a driver really paid off.  I had read that this part of the drive is nerve racking in a rental car, but with Oscar, we just enjoyed the scenery and the ride down the mountain.

Shortly after we made it to the Pan-American Highway, we stopped at a rest stop for tourists.  The place had all kinds of souvenirs and very nice bathrooms (this is why we stopped here).  The one funny thing about the men’s bathroom was that the urinals were made for very tall people.  Parker, Grandpa and I all noticed how tall they were.  It was kind of funny.  We bought a couple of items from the store and were off to Puntarenas to catch the ferry.

Oscar was going to drop us off a few blocks from the ferry to do some shopping, but a when we got to Puntarenas, it looked like the shopping was about a mile from the ferry and we didn’t want to spend that long walking to the ferry.  So, we went and got in line for the ferry.  Once again, this was a time when it was so nice to have Oscar with us as he knew exactly what to do.  We parked in the line of cars waiting for the ferry, after we had been there awhile maybe an hour before the ferry left, a man came by and gave us a ticket for our car.  We took the ticket up the street to the ferry office and paid the toll for the car and bought our tickets.  I think the tickets were 845 Colones for adults and about half of that for kids.  I can’t remember what the fee for the van was, but I think it was about 10,000 colones.

When we boarded the ferry, Oscar and grandpa went in on the van, but everyone else walked onto the ferry.  We all sat together in the Salon.  It was a large air conditioned room, and it was very nice.  We all stopped by the bathroom as we entered the boat.  We learned that if you need a bathroom, you should use it before you get on the ferry (there were no seats on the dirty toilets in both the men’s and women’s restroom…gross).  We got a snack of peanut M&Ms and settled in for the 1 hour boat ride.  Another note:  All the soft drinks other than water, were fountain drinks.  So, if you have an aversion to drinking the local water, you may want to bring your own drink.  Toward the end of the ferry ride, we went outside to get some fresh air.  It was actually cooler on deck than in the salon.  Oscar managed to get us all in the car before we docked, and we were the first car off the boat.

Although it was not that far of a drive from the ferry to Mal Pais, it was a very slow drive.  We stopped at a Soda for lunch.  I don’t remember the name of the place.  The food was good, and it was a relaxing place, but I think everyone was anxious to get to Mal Pais.

The last part of the drive was very bad.  It was mostly a dirt road with some very large pot holes.  The portions of the road that went downhill had been paved at one time, but now part of the pavement was gone and Oscar had to be very careful as he drove down the hills as to not bottom out.

After the long drive through Mal Pais (it is a very busy little town in the afternoon), we made it to Villas Hermosas (paradise) where we were warmly greeted by Brad and his crew.  We got grandpa and grandpa settled into the honeymoon cottage (which is right on the beach), and we got settled into the middle villa.  Brad showed us around the property and our villa and explained the area to us.  There was so much attention to detail, and it was so very nice.  Grandma and grandpa could not get over what a wonderful place this was and how nice the cottage was. 

Parker went down to the beach with grandma, and Shaeleigh, Malesa, Necia and I all went to the pool.  The pool isn’t very big, but considering there are only 4 units in the entire place, the pool was huge.  We saw all kinds of animals from howler monkeys to iguanas to butterflies to hummingbirds.  After the swim, Oscar took Necia and me into town to buy some groceries.  There were 3 grocery stores in Mal Pais and each one was very different.   The one we went to was very dusty, due to the dirt road, but they had a good selection of groceries.  We purchased all kinds of snacks for dinner and headed back to the villas.

We spent the evening enjoying the view, and we ate dinner at the villas (in the Honeymoon cottage).  After dinner we took a walk on the beach and saw some huge hermit crabs.  We spent the rest of the evening watching the Pink Panther II (Malesa didn’t see much of the movie as she was just to worn out).

Day 7 – Friday, July 3, 2009 – The Beach and ATVs – We took it easy in the morning.  Breakfast at Villas Hermosa does not start until 8:45.  We ate breakfast at the Rancho by the pool.  It was a great breakfast.  The lady that was cooking was from Alaska (Costa Rica is a lot different that Alaska).  Breakfast was rice & beans, fruit (watermelon, pineapple and mango), omelets, and banana pancakes.  Everything was great.

Grandma, Parker, Shaeleigh, Malesa and I all headed out to the beach after breakfast.  Grandma had been on the beach or in her hammock since 6:00 am, and was really loving the ocean.  We went north on the beach to where it was a little more sandy.  In order to get where we were going, we had to cross a little stream.  It wasn’t too bad to cross, but the rocks were a little slippery.  The waves were pretty big, and there were lots of surfers out riding the waves.  Brad the owner saw us on the beach and told us the waves were so big because there was a big swell coming in and the waves would be big for the next few days. 

The water was so nice and warm.  We all had a great time playing in the water.  We saw a group of people headed for surfing lessons while we were out.  After we had been on the beach about an hour, a stray dog came over to play with us.  We couldn’t get it to leave and it seemed like the only thing it wanted was for us to throw a stick in the water for it to catch.  So, we spent a long time throwing sticks for the dog to catch.  Necia and Parker came out to see what we were doing at the beach.  About the time they arrived, another dog came to join in the game of fetch.  As the surf was starting to come in, we decided to walk back to the villas.  The dogs followed us all the way back to the beach in front of the villas, then they went on their way.

When we got back we noticed grandma, Malesa and Shaeleigh all had a little sunburn.  So we went in for a little while. 

The girls were interested in horseback riding, and  Parker, Shaeleigh and I were interested in fishing.  We went and spoke to the Brad’s wife (I can’t remember her name), and she set up the activities for us.  We would have to do both tomorrow as it was too late to get them set up for today. 

We decided we would go into town and eat lunch, do laundry, and rent some ATVs.  We dropped off our laundry at a place with a nice sign that was easy to find. We then found a place to rent ATVs, and then we went to lunch.  The plan was that we would pick up the ATVs at 3:00 and have them for 5 hours.  Oscar helped arrange the ATVs for us.  We went to lunch at Rancho Burger (Real Food Served Here).  Everyone except for Necia got the fish and chips.  Given this was a very small restaurant, it took them a long time to get out 7 orders of fish and chips.  The waitress was very nice, she was from Berlin, Germany.  The food was good, but there were several people smoking in the restaurant which can ruin the best meal.  We also had a dog come and lay under our table as we were eating (there sure were a lot of dogs in Costa Rica, and a lot were in restaurants, I guess it is because the restaurants are all open air with no real walls).   By the time we were done with lunch, it was time to go get the ATVs.

Grandpa rented 3 ATVs, one for himself, grandma, and Parker.  The girls were too young and Necia and I had not planned on riding them.  Oscar gave everyone a quick lesson in how to shift, break, accelerate, etc, and we were off.  The first part of the drive on the ATVs was pretty slow as grandma got used to riding.  We followed the group on the ATVs in the van for awhile, but when it looked like they were doing okay, we went back to the villas.  I guess Parker got tired of going slow and he went out in front of grandma and grandma.  When we got to the villas Parker was waiting there for us.  We thought it would be awhile before grandma and grandpa made it to the villas so we went inside for a minute.  When we came out, grandma and grandpa were still not at the villas so we sent Parker back to town to look for them.  I waited with Oscar to see the group when they got back.  After a few minutes, grandma came in from the opposite way Parker had gone (I guess they were going faster than we thought).  She wanted to know where Parker was.  We told her and she then went off to catch back up with grandpa.  In a few minutes Parker came back and we told him where grandpa and grandma were, and he went off to find them.  About 20 minutes later, grandma came back unable to find either Parker or grandpa.  She asked me if I would like to go out and see if I could find them.  I hadn’t planned on riding, but it did look pretty fun.  So, I went to look for them. 

It was great fun riding the ATV once you got used to it (I am pretty cautious on things like ATVs).  Not far from our hotel, there was a fork in the road.  Grandma said she had gone towards the ocean and not found them, so I went up the hill.  Wow was it steep, and I was scared, but in a few minutes, here came Parker and grandpa.  We then went on a long ride together and made a big loop that came back to the villas.  Grandpa was done driving, so Oscar came with me and Parker on the next trip. (Before we left grandpa told me not to let Parker go in front) We went on the same loop, but I got confused and went and made a wrong turn.  By the time I realized my error, Parker had passed Oscar and they were both way out in front of me.  I yelled for them to stop, but you couldn’t hear with the helmet on (I couldn’t drive as fast as they could because I was scared to).  The only think I could think of to do was stop and wait for Oscar and Parker to come back.  After a while Oscar came back looking for me, but there was no Parker.  Oscar went to look for him, but he couldn’t find him (there was a fork in the road and he didn’t know which way Parker had gone).  Oscar and I were discussing how we were going to find Parker, by each taking a fork in the road and going for 5 minutes and then coming back to the starting point.  About this time Parker came back.  I was pretty mad at him, but I just told him he should not be in front and he should take up the rear for the rest of the trip. 

We found where we had made the wrong turn and were getting close to getting back to the villas.  It was starting to get dark and I turned back to see how Parker was doing and he wasn’t there.  I figured Oscar could make it back to the villas without me so I turned around to go find Parker.   I don’t usually get really frightened, but where you son is missing in the middle of nowhere on an ATV it is really frightening.  Everything that could have happened went through my head and I was saying a silent prayer that he would be okay.  Sure enough, I turned a corner and there was Parker sitting in the middle of the road on his ATV.  I was so happy (and I felt silly for being so mad at him just a few minutes before).  Parker told me he had been going fast and then all of a sudden his ATV died and he couldn’t get it started.  I did a couple tricks Oscar showed me(back at the villas)  to get the ATV into neutral and it started right up.  I was so relieved.  Parker told me that he had been very scared that we wouldn’t come back for him.

We finished up the ride and made it back to the villas.  Grandpa, Parker and I drove the ATVs back to the store while everyone else picked up laundry.  Malesa did ride with me for a few minutes on the ATV, but I was afraid to let her ride too long as the road was very bumpy.

We bought a few groceries and when back to the villas and ate dinner at our villa.  Shaeleigh made banana smoothies (which were very good).  We also found out that the laundry we had done, was mixed up (grandma and grandpa had a lot of ours).  The laundry was also still wet.  If you have to get laundry done in Mail Pais, don’t go to the place with the nice sign, go to the place that says colors separated.

Overall it was a great day.

Day 8 – Saturday, July 4, 2009 – Fishing and Horseback Riding – Parker, Shaeleigh and I got up early to meet Oscar at about 6:30 am to drive down to the Mal Pais marina.  We put on lots of sunscreen and brought our rain coats as we didn’t know if it was going to rain on us or not.  When we got to the marina, it was a little bit of a surprise as the marina is so small.  There were a few small fishing boats and a storage room with a freezer.  We met with the man we were supposed to meet and he pointed us towards our boat.  We were expecting a small boat, but the boat we were pointed to didn’t look too small, it had 3 nice chairs on it and about 5 fishing poles.  As we were waiting we talked about the next boat over.  It was much smaller and didn’t have any chairs, only a bench in the middle, and it only had 3 fishing poles.  As we were standing around waiting the guy we had talked to when we arrived told us we needed to go to our boat which was the small boat we had been talking about (Oh well, we were out for an adventure).

We met our captain, Douglas, and pushed off.  We had to climb into the boat after it was in the water, but we didn’t get too wet.  Once we were all in the boat we were off to our fishing spot.  The bench ran across the middle of the boat width wise.  I had the right hand side of the boat, Shaeleigh had the left hand side of the boat, and Parker had the middle.  Shaeleigh and I had poles to hang onto that held up the sun shade/canopy, but poor Parker had to hang onto me as he had nothing to hold.  When we first took off the ocean seemed kind of rough, and we all held on for dear life.  It took us about 30 to 40 minutes to get to the place where we started fishing.  There were lots of big waves on the ocean and I was wondering how we were every going to be able to fish without feeling like we were going to fall out of the boat (Note: there were no life vests on the boat that I could see, and I could see pretty much everything on the boat).  We finally started fishing.  Doug set up each of our poles and put the line in the water for us.  Douglas then drove the boat around and around.  It was like fishing with a lure, but the boat did all the work.  After about 30 minutes, both Shaeleigh and I got a bite.  It was very exciting to catch something.  Shaeleigh’s was a hard fighter and she couldn’t reel it in.  She got tired and Parker had to reel her fish in for her.  It was a very nice sized yellow fin tuna.  Douglas was very excited by her catch and had me take a picture of her with the fish.  He then put the fish in the holding compartment, which is what we were sitting on.  You could hear the fish flopping around in the compartment for quite awhile.  The fish I caught was not as big as Shaeleigh’s fish.  My fish is what they call a black tuna.  I was excited, but when I got it to the boat, Douglas just grabbed it and put it in the holding area (no picture of this one).  We continued to fish for a long time.  We would get occasional bites, but nothing I could hood.  Parker caught a nice piece of wood.  Parker was starting to get discouraged.  At about this time, we stopped for a few minutes and Douglas tried to catch a red snapper using a piece of line and a silver lure.  He didn’t have any luck.  We started fishing with our poles again, but I was worried we were just about out of time and Parker hadn’t caught anything.  Just about that time, Parker got a strike on his line and he hooked it.  He reeled the fish in.  Parker was grinning from ear to ear.  He was very happy.  Parker caught another black tuna, but his was larger than mine.  Shortly after Parker caught his fish, we headed back to the marina.

On the way back, I sat in the middle so Parker could hang on.  However, by the time we went back we were all much more comfortable with the ocean and no one really needed to hang on.  I enjoyed seeing the island we went past on the way back and was really enjoying being out in the ocean.

When we got back, we had to jump out of the boat and walk onto the beach.  Both Shaeleigh and I got our flip flops full of gunk, but it was no big deal.  Douglas took our fish and filleted them for us.  He said it was a lot of good meat.

There was another group that went out fishing at the same time we did.  They only caught a mahi-mahi and a strange needle nosed fish.  They were impressed with our catch.  There were a couple of other guys on shore that were thinking of going fishing and they were also impressed with the fish we had caught.  I guess it was our lucky day (Shaeleigh is always very lucky).

We really had a good time fishing.  The 3 hours had gone by fairly quickly, and everyone was very pleased with catching something.  We would definitely go fishing with Douglas again.  He was great!!

 On the way back to the villas, Oscar took us by the grocery store where we bought some oil, seasoning, and soy sauce for the fish.  When we got back to the room, grandma cooked up the fish for us.  Necia didn’t have any.  Malesa, Shaeleigh, Parker, and I had some rare/seared tuna.  It was so good and so fresh.  Grandma and Grandpa had tuna as well, but they cooked their fish a little more.

We had missed breakfast at the villas this morning, but from what we understand, there was a bee problem.  They said there was quite a swarm, and Necia had to bring her food back to the room to eat.

We hung around the villas for a little while, until it was time to go horseback riding.  Our appointment was at 3:00 so we left at around 2:30.  We only had vague directions how to get to where we were going but we were pretty sure that Oscar could get us there.  The horseback riding was at the Star Mountain Lodge.  This lodge is way up in the mountains along a very bad road.  Oscar is a very good drive and was able to get us there, but if you are driving yourself, you will need a 4WD.  Alternatively, you could take one of the 4WD taxis out of Mal Pais. 

We crossed a river (with no bridge at least twice and went though some very muddy/squishy spots in the road.  At one place we were right up against a canyon wall and the road was about washed out.  It was an exciting ride.

When we got to the lodge, they were ready for us.  Our guide was a local rancher and his son.  I can’t remember his son’s name, but I think it Joshua.  Joshua was 12, but he looked about 10, and he was a very big helper.  He was busy working with the horses and making sure everything was ready. 

We put Malesa up on the horse and they strapped her in.  She was riding on a very tame horse and was going to be led on the walk, so she didn’t have to control the horse.  Malesa was all smiles about getting to ride the horse.

Shaeleigh was next on her horse.  She hopped right up on him and was ready to go.  Shaeleigh’s horse was the largest horse.  Again, Shaeleigh was all smiles when she got up on that horse.  Shaeleigh was ready to go…

Everyone was waiting for me to get on my horse.  Well, I can tell you, it is much easier to get on a horse than it is to get on an elephant (see last year’s blog).  I had a beautiful black/dark brown horse that seemed very strong.

When we started out, Joshua was leading Shaeleigh and her horse, and our guide was leading Malesa.  They were very careful with the girls to make sure they were comfortable riding the horse.

I felt sorry for my horse as he had to carry me (the largest person in the group). 

We started off walking down the road we had come in on.  It was fairly steep and rocky.  So, I didn’t make my horse go very fast.  By the time we got to the bottom of the hill, the others were well ahead of me and we were starting up another hill.  Once again, I felt sorry for my horse having to carry me up the hill in the heat.  The horse did a good job.  When we got to the top, our guide waited for me.  He handed me a willow switch and said I needed to smack the horse with it to get it to move (I wasn’t about to hit the horse with the switch, I knew I could make him go faster, but I was enjoying the slow pace).

We saw lots of very beautiful country while we were out riding.  We saw a mock-mock, it is a very pretty bird with two very long tail feathers.  I thought it was a quetzal, but I don’t know my birds very well.  We also saw a group of howler monkeys right by the road.  It was so cool to see the monkeys so close up.  We were told that they didn’t really like people that well.

While we were out walking, I spoke with Joshua for a little while.  He is a very bright and nice boy.  I asked him how old he was and he told me he was 12, then he asked me how old I was (I am not used to getting this questions).  I told him I was 41 and that I had just had a birthday.  He told me that today was his dad’s birthday.  His dad was 43 and his birthday was the 4th of July.

After riding for quite awhile, we stopped for a rest break.  Our guide told us we needed to stretch our legs.  The girls said they were doing okay.  I did need to stretch my legs.  My legs were starting to get a little sore.

We then headed back towards the lodge.  By this time, Shaeleigh was not longer being led on her horse and she was enjoying the freedom.  Joshua thought I was a pretty good rider and asked me how much experience I had with horses (that would be none, but I had rode horses a couple times as a kid).  On the way back Shaeleigh and I went much faster.  Our horses ran/trotted most of the way back.  This was pretty fun, but it makes your bottom very soar. 

As we were walking back, we passed our guides house.  Joshua told us that they raise cattle and had about 30 head of cattle.  He was excited because one of their cows had just had a baby calf on Monday and he was very proud.  The family’s home looked like the typical Tico home, nothing fancy, but adequate.

We made it back to the lodge at about 5:00 and headed back down the hill.  We had all enjoyed our ride, and the guide.  I would definitely go back to the Star Mountain Lodge to go horseback riding.

Necia and Parker had planned on dropping us off at the Star Mountain Lodge and then going shopping, but due to the rough road they had to wait in the van for us for 2 hours.  I felt bad for them.  They were very happy to see us get back from our ride.

When we got back we did a little shopping and went and picked up grandma and grandpa for dinner.  We went to a restaurant call Brisas Del Mar.  It is the owner of Villas Hermosas’ favorite restaurant in Mal Pais.  Brad called ahead and got us a reservation for 6:30. 

The restaurant is very small.  It had seating for maybe 30.  We were the first people there.  Our waiter was a boy from New Jersey.  He told us he really liked living in Mal Pais, but who wouldn’t.  The menu was on a chalkboard that the waiter brought to the table and walked through every item on the menu.

Most of us had fish or pasta.  The girls and I had electric lemonade (mint lemonade) with our meal.  They served some fresh humus and pita bread.  The food was some of the best we had on the trip.  For dessert, Shaeleigh had a chocolate torte, I had cheese cake, and grandpa had a brownie with ice cream.  Parker went to and ice cream parlor across the road for his dessert. 

Oscar came and picked us up and we were off to the villas for the night.  We sure did love Mal Pais.  I think our trip here will never be repeated.  There is a lot of building going on right now, and I am sure the place with be much busier the next time we return.
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