Land Sighted Isla Del Coco, Costa Rica

Trip Start Feb 11, 2010
Trip End Apr 04, 2010

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Flag of Costa Rica  , Province of Guanacaste,
Monday, March 15, 2010

031510 Land Ahoy!! 1st land sighting after 18 days at sea.  Up at 5:30AM, just in time to see approaching Isla del Coco, Costa Rica (aka Cocos Island or Coconut Island from Spanish) in the eerie morning darkness.  Very beautiful to view the tall, volcanic island getting larger as the sun rose behind it.  The expected rain cloud was hovering over the highest peaks.  Not evident why it is called 'Island of the Coconut' as there were relatively few coconut trees left standing.  Pictures cannot do Cocos justice…the 3-D effect of actually being there, speechless.  Taking an early zodiac to land, priceless!   Just as we were told to disembark in waist deep Pacific, two small but beautiful white tip reef sharks passed below my feet.  Jumping in the water, I quickly made it to shore between the breakers.  On the beach, I felt dizzy walking on 18-day sea legs.  Everything kept moving as if I was still at sea.  At the close-by ranger station, National Park volunteer Javier asked if anyone was interested in a "very easy", 2-hour guided walk.  Several of us fellow passengers jumped at the opportunity. At about the half way point up a 200 meter hill, and being totally out of breath, I asked Javier if this was a very easy hike, what did he consider difficult.  He said that the 8 hour, round trip trek up the 634 meter highest point on the island was considered difficult.  This was one of the most difficult hikes I had ever attempted.  We crossed cool, fresh water streams with slippery rocks, up steep inclines over slippery lava rocks and vegetation, and up ever-higher, steep, vegetation-covered switchbacks.  Around every corner was another picture perfect view of the bay and ship.  Only three of us (Aussie Berry, Scottish Norman and myself) made it to the top with our guide, out of breath, my t-shirt soaked in sweat.  It was so hot and so humid.  I told Javier that he could make big bucks if he offered iced cold beer at the summit!  Upon my return to base camp, I headed for the returning zodiac.  Back in waist deep water, I clumsily threw myself on board.  When I turned to assist another passenger, there was another white tip reef shark right next to my hands.  I knew I was in paradise!  Once again on the Star Flyer, Sports Team member Gustav offered scuba diving at 14:30 so I canceled my snorkeling adventure.  Finally, a chance to dive with sharks!  After several false starts, diving was canceled for the day, no good explanation given.  Diving would happen tomorrow at 8:00AM…ya right!  Park rangers boarded the ship before dinner and played two movies about Cocos Island and offered t-shirts for a donation.  I gladly bought a t-shirt as there were no shops on the island.  Leaning over the railing, I saw at least 10 “dogs of the sea”, silver tip reef sharks swimming in a swarm by the side of the ship.  They seemed to be attracted to fish that were attracted to the ship's spotlight shining down at the ranger’s inflatable.  I went to bed early and had a restless night dreaming about sharks. 

031610 Overnight @Cocos Island: Bone’s 60th, Favorite Sister-In-Law Babs’ 56th, Curt’s 55th :  I woke up suddenly as a hammerhead shark’s eye passed right in front of my dive mask.  What an exciting nightmare!  There was a note under my door stating that diving was moved to 9:00AM.  I got up at 6:00 and took a shower.  No shaving, no deodorant as I would be diving with sharks.  Up on deck at 6:50 AM, rumor spread that we would be raising anchor and leaving shortly.  Sighting Gustav, I asked if scuba diving was on at 9.  He said sadly that it had been canceled and walked away.  Just then, the anchor was raised and we motored into the wind.  Staysails were raised and we were on our way.  Captain Brunon announced that the mainland Costa Rican government had requested Star Flyer to leave at once and stay at least 3 miles offshore.  No explanation given.  This was Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island".  This was the legendary island where so many famous pirates reportedly buried their treasures. We circled “The most beautiful island in the world” (per Jacques Cousteau) once and headed northeast toward Islas de Las Perlas, Panama.  When life hands you a lemon, you make lemonade.  I decided to make tomatoes (that I would liked to have thrown at the Costa Rican government) into Bloody Marys (one scuba dive = 58 euros, one Bloody Mary = 5.8 euros, that means 10 Bloody Marys in exchange for one missed dive).  My favorite Tropical Bar-tender Danny opened the bar early, at my request, and made me the best spicy BM, one of many.  “It’s a Bloody Mary morning, we left Cocos without warning sometime in the night”.  Lesson learned:  When life throws you a bloody tomato, make a spicy BM, damn it!

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