With my Colombian adventures behind me, it's now time to get back to work. I'm on the National Geographic Quest for four weeks of sailing through the Panama Canal, up the Pacific coastline to Costa Rica and then to and fro again. I'll disembark in Colon, Panama on January 20th.
It's been about about five years since I've worked these trips down in Costa Rica and Panama and honestly I was a bit nervous because I remember not really enjoying them all that much. It's incredibly hot and humid here (which I don't do well with - I'm a temperate weather gringa) and as an American, I can't lead hikes like I do in Alaska or Baja. Guides have to be local, which I 100% respect but it also means that my responsibilities as a Wellness Specialist are quite diminished. Sure, I can go on all the outings and hikes, but I do miss the responsibility and leadership of taking guests out with me as their guide. Also, working with a Latin American staff can be a somewhat isolating since most of them are Costa Rican or Panamanian and they talk rapid-fire Spanish to each other leaving me feeling a bit left out. I know, I need to get my ass into gear and get serious about mastering Spanish.
But, after only a few days of being back on board, I can tell this contract is going to be different. For one, our new ship - the Quest - is much better suited for the heat and humidity down here than the Sea Lion (which had major condensation issues) and two, the staff I'm working with are awesome! We click and jive and it's going to be a whole lot of fun.
Fast forward a bit and the following are a few highlights over the past four weeks. We had a blast and for once I wasn't really ready to leave the ship after the four weeks were up. This has seriously never happened before. I'm using chomping at the bit to get off the ships toward the end of a contract. I'm going to miss these guys!
Also, I was terrible at taking pictures this trip, so the ones below are from the Daily Expedition Reports that we send in to the office each day to keep friends, family, and future guests in the loop about what we actually do on our voyages.
Horseback riding in Corcovado National Park
Each week we visit Corcovado National Park and give guests the opportunity to go horseback riding on the beach and through the rainforest. I also volunteer to be the staff chaperone :)
Panning for gold with Juan and his family
A relatively new excursion that we do in Costa Rica is to visit several small family farms and businesses that are committed to sustainability and eco-friendly practices. One of these endeavors is run by an old gold-panning family who once made a living by sifting for gold in a nearby stream. Those days are over, but there are still small flecks of gold to be found in the river and Juan and his sons are more than eager to show us how they used to pan for gold.
Visiting Kobo Sustainable Farm and learning about the chocolate-making process
Another family business that we visit in Costa Rica is a farm owned and operated by Alex. Alex is incredibly passionate about sustainable, organic farming and almost everything he grows on his farm is a heirloom variety. He took us all around his property explaining his methods of farming and having us try loads of different fruits. His cocoa production is one of his main attractions and he showed us how he turns cacao into chocolate.
Kayaking the Rio Tigre
I don't love kayaking (I know...) but paddling down the Rio Tigre was super fun. We went slowly, looking for birds and other wildlife among the mangroves. We even spotted a sloth with her baby clutched close to her side!
Snorkling and swimming at Granito de Oro - a little slice of paradise
Picture the most quintessential, one palm tree island and you have Granito de Oro. I love this little place not only because its so adorable and the snorkeling is great, but also because it's home to a million (I'm not exaggerating here) hermit crabs!
All the Macaws!
So many colorful macaws flying over head and peering at us from the treetops. You can always tell when they're flying by because they let out some serious squawks.