Thursday, 31 July 2014

Did you know, there are about 140 different species of snakes in Costa Rica, 22 of which are venomous? Thankfully, in the 11 months of living in the tropics, I have yet to come across a 'live' snake. I mean I have seen a dead one and quite a few squashed ones, roadkill, but thankfully not an actual, alive and animated snake!

So guess what I saw the other night while I was out by the pool? 

Yes a bloody, great big snake!!!! A boa!!!! About one and a half metres long!!!!

Needless to say, I was not the photographer! I was safely ensconced inside the house! Ever the brave one, me.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Playa Matapalo.

DH has taken up cycling again and goes two or three times a week with our friend John. They have a couple of routes, both with quite big hills - to add to the challenge of road cycling in this heat. DH prefers road biking here, compared to the UK, as there is so little traffic; although he often complains that when a car does pass him, they drive a little too close for comfort!

The chosen course this week for John and DH has been out to the Riu Hotel in Matapalo, a pleasant 40km round trip. They picked this circuit as it has a rather steep hill to conquer on the return journey home, rather than at the beginning. As I'm not a keen cyclist (or a cyclist full stop), DH thought it would be nice for us to take a drive out that way so that he could show me the route (oh, yippee!!). Needless to say, I didn't "ooh" and "ahh" in the right places, so we pretty much skipped the verbal tour of the cycle route and drove straight to Playa Matapalo; although I was sympathetic when he related the story of the smelly dead cow they spotted roadside!! Road-kill here in Costa Rica is slightly discrepant to the run-of-the-mill rabbits and squirrels you find back home!

Nice walk from parking area to beach.

Just in front of the Riu Hotel.

After you dodge the beach hawkers trading their wares, along with the ladies offering massages for $30, Matapalo beach is quite a pretty beach. It is a white sanded and extremly long beach, but unlike Playa Hermosa, the sea is quite open and therefore a bit choppy. Being Sunday, the beach-area in front of the hotel (or should I say small town it is so big) was quite busy and to be honest, DH and I both decided that we prefer our quiet little local beach and didn't stay too long. Instead, we grabbed a $1 Pipa Fria (cold coconut) and drove to the other end of the beach, which we found to be deserted.

The Riu Hotel from the other end of the beach.

Almost the same length as DH!
Well, I say deserted, but we did come across a fish/dolphin/shark skeleton lying in the sand, complete with rotting skin. Lovely!

The Lads!
After the ATV tour, we took the boys to Matapalo for a picnic lunch on the beach. Thought they might like a swim to wash away all the dust and dirt. Once again, the beach was deserted save for a few pelicans and of course the beached bones. Even after almost a year of living here, I am still amazed that the beaches in our little corner of Costa Rica, are almost always empty. A long, sandy beach in Europe on a Sunday ... well, it would be packed whenever the sun came out. 

Beautiful shells found on Matapalo Beach by YS and his pal.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Haggling for a Cheaper Tour in Costa Rica.

A few words of advise when booking an expedition in Costa Rica: haggle and habla Espanol if you can! And if it's in anyway possible, cut out the middle man too, i.e. the tour guide. Book directly with the centre itself. 

Naturally, my kids and their visiting pals wanted to take a Quad biking tour and I started my research a while ago, trying to find the best rates around. When I first emailed and inquired with one of the local tour guides, I was quoted $125 per person!! Yes per person!! OK, the excursion included transport, 2 hours of beach touring on the quad, plus lunch and a spot of shopping, but still, $125 is far too expensive.

So I challenged the tour guide, saying that my guests were teenage boys, they could do without lunch and shopping (well maybe not lunch, but I could provide that for them)! I said that we were local residents (again a good tip to try and get things cheaper), and was there not a trek close-by so that the transport element could be dispensed with? Basically I was asking them if there was any possible way that they could massage the price for me, and give them some credit, the tour company said yes, and knocked the cost down to $90 per person. I said thanks and would let them know dates and so forth. However, still too much money, don't you think? Well, we thought so especially as we have done this kind of tour in other places in Costa Rica for a lot less.

So Step Three of the 'Planning an Excursion': Rather than emailing, DH contacted the ATV centre themselves and spoke with them in Spanish and bingo! the price was reduced $70 per person. Amazing! After a little bit more haggling, he got the price reduced further and in the end we eneded up by paying almost half the price originally quoted by the tour guide! 


On Tuesday, I sent DH off with 5 teenage boys and 2 pre-teenage boys for their quad biking adventure. I think they had fun, all I know is that they came home unbelievably dusty and dirty - especially ES who somehow managed to roll the damn ATV by playing silly buggers! Thankfully, like a certain fictional character's favourite drink, he was shaken, not stirred, but hopefully a lesson has been learnt - who am I kidding, he's a teenage boy!!

Let me know your top haggling tips?

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Two Excursions to Enjoy near Playa del Coco.

Wet towels. 

Possibly one of my top pet hates. 

No wait: wet towels dropped on the floor. Or, even worse, wet towels left abandoned on the bed. Eughh.

With four extra people staying with us at the moment, I seem to have an awful lot of wet towels lying around the house and pool area!

Now, honestly, I'm not complaining (honest guv), but why is it the male of the species can make towels wetter than anyone else? Especially teenage boys? I mean, does the water cling to their bodies more than it does to us women? Does the water get trapped in their hairy legs and armpits, only to be released when a dry towel is wrapped around them? I just don't understand!

Wet towels aside, its great having 4 extra kids staying with us. The long anticipated vacation both by ES and his friends from the UK. The boys have only been here five days so far and have spent a great deal of time at the beach, snorkeling and playing football, or just lazing around, poolside. As I write, they are enjoying some time together in Tamarindo as they are spending the weekend surfing there, sleeping at the Blue Trailz hostel In fact I had a call earlier to see if they could stay an extra night. What a life hey?
Thermal Waters and River At Rincon

But what about more organised excursions around the area? Where would teenage boys, and other holiday makers, like to visit when they come to Guanacaste, Costa Rica? In December 2012, we visited the thermal waters near Lake Arenal which was heavenly. Cold water cascades and warm thermal pools to relax in. Absolutely fantastic. We visited in the early evening and it was so magical being surrounded by the pitch dark sky and twinkling stars, whilst unwinding in natural spring pools heated by the nearby volcano. We thought the boys might appreciate a similar experience and decided to take them to Rincon de la Vieja, a nature reserve and volcano. DH acted as chauffeur and drove all six kids to Liberia the other afternoon, and after a short drive through the National Park they reached the thermal waters and mud baths. A soothing and relaxing activity which they all thoroughly enjoyed - especially the mud painting! Naturally not wanting to ruin their street-cred, they prefer to remain anonymous and refused to let me post any photos, sorry!

Of course there are plenty of zip-lining and canopy trails to chose from too. Yesterday, I took the boys to The Congo Trail Canopy Tour, about 10km away from us, near Sardinal. We booked a 9am session, which in hindsight was perhaps a little to early for the lads - they were all slightly sluggish to begin with, but the adrenalin soon kicked in and after an hour or so of whizzing through the trees on a cable, the boys all looked fit to drop. Unfortunately no Howler Monkeys were spotted, but nevertheless it was $25 (per person) well spent.

Flying through the air.

Next week, we have booked an ATV excursion for the kids ... if they survive their surfing trip!

Sunday, 13 July 2014

War Against the Mosquito Continues ... This Time with a Certain Yellow Fruit!

My sister-in-law recently sent me an interesting article about the most beloved of fruits, the banana. You know, stuff that we all know like, how bananas are an instant and substantial boost of energy; and that 2 pieces of this super fruit will provide you with enough energy for a 90 minute workout. 

But this piece of writing also had some other interesting facts about why we should include bananas in our daily diet. For example, did you know that bananas are essential for combating mild depression and PMS? They are also helpful in the fight against anemia and high blood pressure as well as soothing heartburn. Oh yes, and they are a useful foodstuff when suffering with morning sickness. 

Now obviously the latter is of little concern to me these days, and to be quite frank the only thing that soothes my heartburn is half a pack of peppermint Rennies. Nonetheless, what really interested me, and probably the reason why I was sent the article in the first place, is that apparently bananas are good for mosquito bites. I mean, who would have thought it? First time I've read anything in the same thread and believe me I have read a lot this past year about mosquitoes! Anyway, it's not the eating of the tropical fruit that offers up the the supposed salve to those irritating bites. No, it's the inside skin of the banana being rubbed on the infected area that many people find successful at reducing swelling and irritation.

The things is, I'm pretty good during my waking hours at NOT touching the irritating bites. But at night! In my sleep! I can't tell you how often I have woken myself up because I'm scratching at my ankles ferociously. 

So last night, I thought I'd give this 'new-fangled-miracle-cure' a try. I broke my rule of eating something sweet before bed time (c'mon, who am I kidding), and much to the horror of DH, I proceeded to rub the discarded banana skin over my legs and ankles. Hmmm, a much more pleasing aroma than my usual night-time perfume  - Eau de Deet! Mind you, my legs smelt ever so slightly sickly though, a bit like those banana sweets you can buy at a pick-a-mix stand.

The result? Well I'm not really sure. I mean, I didn't wake up itching or anything. 

So, in the name of science, and for the good of all humanity, I am willing to undertake to the experiment a few more times. If nothing else, at least I can make use of the skins on our new crop of bananas when they are ready!

Our latest crop!

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Gallo Pinto Recipe.

Gallo Pinto, black beans and rice, is a staple here in Costa Rica. Commonly eaten with scrambled eggs and plantains for breakfast or with chicken or fish as part of a Casado, later in the day.

YS loves it ... any time of the day!

Instead of buying it ready-made from the supermarket, or eating out in soda's in order to consume this national dish,  I have been trying to replicate the recipe. And after several attempts, I'm almost there. Not quite authentic tasting yet, but not bad.

Just as YS likes it ... with scrambled eggs for breakfast.

So, as requested a while back from a few readers, here is the recipe for an' almost authentic' Costa Rican Gallo Pinto.



2 cups cooked black beans, plus 3/4 cup bean cooking liquid (can be made days in advance)
3 cups cooked long-grain white rice, cooled (can be made days in advance)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 large cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
Chopped coriander (cilantro) for garnish (optional)

  1. Soak beans in water overnight. Cook as packet instructions. (You could substitute canned beans and just add water in place of the reserved cooking liquid). These can be prepared days ahead and kept in fridge until needed.
  2. Cook rice as per packet instructions. Again, this can be prepared in advance and stored in the fridge.
  3. Add small amount of oil in large pan. Gently saute onion, for a couple of minutes. Add celery and red pepper and fry for a further 3 minutes. Add garlic and continue cooking for 30 seconds.
  4. Gently pour the black beans and reserved 3/4 cup of bean cooking liquid into the pan. Stir well to combine, and try not to break up the beans. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Then, add in the rice, breaking up clumps with your fingers as best you can.
  5. Stir the rice and bean mixture together so that all of the liquid coats the grains of rice, turning them a brownish color. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Sprinkle with chopped fresh coriander/cilantro for serving, if you wish. Parsley will do, and I have also substituted basil when I have run out of coriander.
  7. Serves 4-6 as a side dish, (although it has been known to be eaten on its own in our house!).

Walter Hoy's Originals.

I thought I might try a fashion post today. Well, a shoe post to be precise. Not something I have ever done before, or have any great knowledge of, but hey, why not try something different?

Like most gals, I love shoes. I don't buy as many as I would like, and it is fairly safe to say that I don't own as many as I would like. In fact my footwear ensemble has certainly dwindled in size these past few years - I'm not sure that I even possess 10 decent pairs nowadays. Which is not really a problem here in Costa Rica because its flip-flops all the way where we live.

However, the Summer Holidays are fast approaching in the UK and as I have lived in beach apparel and the like for almost a year, I had the idea of sharing with my friends back home (and around the world of course) my current favourite summer footwear.

Salt-Water Sandals. I love 'em!!
Admittedly they are not new product, having been around Stateside since the 1940's, but the Original Salt-Water Sandals are a new discovery to me, by way of my Mum (thanks Mum).

Playa Hermosa this morning.
They are just so darn comfortable, so much so that I forget that I am wearing them. In fact I wore them all day yesterday running errands in Liberia (the heat from the pavement is shocking there), as well as a walk along the beach this morning and they feel just like slippers. I've worn them non-stop almost for the past couple of months and they still look like new.

PLUS! Get this. Even though they are leather, they can be worn in water!!! No more ugly Jelly shoes when you want to go for a paddle. Or when you get caught out in the frequent British rain. According to their website, Salt-Water and Sun-San Sandals can even be put through the washing machine, although I have yet to try it!

They are even available for kids ... although I doubt that they would suit ES and YS!!

I love my green shoes so much that I think I may even invest in another pair. Yellow or red, I just can't decide. 

Let me know your colour of choice. Or even better, why not send me a photo of you or your kids wearing a pair. 

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Rango the Iguana v Malcom the Mosquito.

Last night as I was plagued with insomnia (again), I started contemplating how long Rango (see yesterday's post) had been playing hide and seek in our bedroom? An hour or two, possibly a day or even more? I'm not sure really, because after all he only left 1 solid present for us and no puddles (sorry for being so crude!). 

Out of interest, does anybody know how long an iguana can hold its bladder for? No me neither.

Malcom the Miserly Mosquito
Anyway, for the first time in about 3 nights, my arch-enemies, the mosquitoes, returned, feasting on my legs and ankles with a vengeance. So I got to thinking that perhaps Rango had actually been protecting me all along. Kind of like a fairy godmother ... admittedly in an uniquely strange and unconventional disguise, but who am I to say what a fairy godmother should be wearing these days? But I digress. Instead of gratifying me with a pretty frock, a pumpkin carriage and ultimately a handsome prince, (which would have been very nice don't get me wrong), maybe Rango was in reality charged with preserving my (delicate!) limbs by overindulging on the pesky flying bugs that I 'love' so much. 

Who knows. 

But I feel really bad that we have banished Rango to the garden now, because as I am itching like CRAZEEEEEE!!

Monday, 7 July 2014

A Scaly Squatter.

Back in the UK, I used to do my housework on a Saturday morning, which really bugged me. What with working all week though, it was the only realistic slot to get the chores completed.

Now, the hateful job has been allocated to Monday mornings. I mean, surely those are the most horrid hours of the week, so why not combine with the vile task of cleaning?

So today, when I began the drudgery, imagine my surprise when I found a poo on our bedroom floor! Yes, a poo! How can that be, we have no pets! Floors swept and mopped, bathrooms cleaned and every conceivable surface dusted, but no sign of any living creature in the house. 


After a few hours, ES called to me, "Mum, there is an iguana in your bedroom". Hmm, yeah right I thought and went off to have a look. Nothing. Nada. Nichts.

However, shortly afterwards, I spotted a little creature hiding behind the curtains, trembling. Yes, ES was right, it was an iguana. Much as I love them, I screamed and jumped on the bed, as if it were a rat. Iguanas in the garden are one thing, but in your bedroom, well that's a bit too much for me! Naturally DH was summoned to rescue me/the iguana much to his annoyance.

Making a bid for freedom!
To be honest, the iguana looked scared s***less, bless. With DH gently coaxing it out of our bedroom with a T-shirt, it scampered along our tiled hallway as fast as it could. Not being able to accommodate the slight angle to exit out of the doorway, it went skidding under the kitchen table and ended slumped by the bin. The poor thing must have detected DH approaching, so it managed a U-turn and went scurrying out of the door, onto the patio and then on towards the garden and freedom ... on two legs!!!

It looked so funny: forearms waving excitedly as it ran as fast as it could on its hind legs.

A bit like Rango. 

We did laugh.

My Final Footie Post ... Promise!

Well, what can I say?
Eliminated on penalties.

The Netherlands put an end to Costa Rica's dreams of making it to the semi-finals of the World Cup.

But didn't the team that only gets £2million finance a year (as opposed to the huge amounts other teams receive) do well?

Juegan con el corazón!

The pain of defeat.