Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Calm

September in Playa Chiquita is a blessing. July and August- with their hoards of honeymooners, European family vacations, constantly changing weather, and general busyness- leave us, and the rest of the coast, happy to indulge in glorious September. The sea grows still, clear as the desert sky. The rain ceases for the most part and when it does decide to dampen us spills only enough to feed the thirsty plants and make everything more green and cool. The sun quickly breaks through the clouds and the water reflects turquoise again. The delicacies of the tropics enjoy the weather as well and some of the most exotic trees begin to fruit. Unique and delicious mangosteen and mamonchino fill the Saturday market.

The honeymooners are figuring out what it’s like to just be married, the European family vacationers are back to school and we are on the beach admiring the beauty and tranquility of Playa Chiquita. We cannot see another person along the winding stretch of golden sand. Business may be slower but we have time to appreciate where we are and what we are doing. We have time to get things done. We think about our progress and imagine the future. We go out to diner with friends and sometimes even guests. We write blogs. I think I’ll go snorkeling tomorrow.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Meet the newest member of the Tierra de Sueños family.......


We were expecting some puppies in the neighborhood after seeing Cody, our big jungle dog, having his way with our neighbor's dog in the middle of the road (this is the way things are done here apparently). Two days ago Brendan went to pay his respects to the off-spring and ended up coming back with one of the puppies in hand. How could he resist? She is insanely adorable and I, who never even liked dogs, am completely madly in love! Ginger is of course a huge hit with the guests and is proving to be a perfect addition to Tierra de Sueños.

First morning in her new home.

Enjoying her favorite past time.

First trip to the beach with dad.

Life is good!

Monday, June 1, 2009

A Trubute to Mothers

May is the month when leatherback turtles come to the shores of the Carribean coast and lay their eggs. The neighboring wildlife refuge (Manzanillo-Gandoca) is home to the leatherbacks and serious efforts are being made to protect these incredible reptiles. According to the Leatherback Trust, in 1980 there were more than 115,000 female leatherback turtles and now less than 25,000, even becoming close to extinction in the Pacific. Unfortunately, the turtles have a rather beautiful shell perfect for making costly jewelry and the eggs taste pretty good as well so we humans have had made our impact and only in recent years have regulations been made. These impressive creatures out date humans by a million years and know what the earth looked like with dinosaurs running around. Needless to say, we were all excited with the possibility of seeing one of these beasts.

We decided to make a day out of it and piled our friend Denise, her 4 year old twins, boyfriend Matias and Adam Harr who was visiting from DC into the rumbling Galloper for a rainforest adventure. For a pretty penny you can take a 30 minute boat ride from the town of Manzanillo to Gandoca beach, but we decided to drive up around and down on bumpy roads to get there.
Next time we’ll take the boat. We stopped along the way at the BriBri water falls. The twins had never been to this rather large waterfall and after much excitement and anticipation when we finally reached the massive falls (you have to hike for about 30 minutes in the jungle) the girls started screaming and crying not wanting to go near it. With a little coaxing we got them to get in with us and the screams of fear turned into screams of laughter. It was adorable.

Back in the car we continued to the border of Panama where we dipped back in towards the sea. The viewing of the turtles is all very official since this is a preservation project and so we hired our guide, put on our black clothing and walked into onto the dark beach to begin our search. The turtles come in at night so it is best to go out after 8pm. Our guide was a cool young guy who had a lot of information about the turtles and the area and told us about how they are collecting the eggs after the female comes and lays them to put them in protected incubators (buckets) in a sectioned-off part of the beach that has 24-hour surveillance. He took us down to show us the project and there were about 10 young teens with “staff” shirts on hanging out. They were all local volunteers which was nice to see since those where the same kids eating the eggs last year. Some of the buckets were placed under the shade and others in the sun. Apparently sun or shade, in other words temperature, decides the sex of the turtle. A volunteer came around saying there was a turtle a ways down the beach and so we trudged down and lo and behold there it was! A 6 foot long, 4 foot wide turtle digging a large hole in the sand in preparation. We crept up behind her trying not to get in her field of vision and watched in awe as the ancient reptile worked. The guide told us that she still had some time before actually laying eggs and that there was another turtle further down that we should go check out.

Down the beach another massive turtle was flapping those powerful flippers, heaving her 1500 pound body across the sand in search of a good spot to lay her eggs. The guide explained to us that the tide had been weird that week and the water level was different than usual so the turtle kept finding water as she dug and she would not lay her eggs in water. She began to painstakingly head towards the sea when at the last minute, she started back towards the sand. Our guide thought this turtle was crazy. "Tortuga Loca!" It was clear she did not want to give up that night. It is hard to describe how enormous these turtles are and the struggle it can be for the females to perpetuate life. And still after years of traveling far distances in the sea they come back to the very same spot they themselves hatched, an intuition nobody fully understands, and continue the life cycle that has been going on for a million years. We were on the Gandoca beach with the great leatherbacks on Mother's Day, a spectacular tribute to motherhood indeed.

Sorry, no photos are allowed to be taken of the turtles so you will have to come experience the wonder for yourselves.

Monday, April 6, 2009


No visitor can leave Tierra de Suenos without experiencing the Manzanillo Wildlife refuge. This is one of our favorite places on the Caribbean coast. With its sweeping views, secluded beaches, and lush jungle paths you feel like a real pioneer stumbling upon something incredible. The three mile bike ride getting to Manzanillo is an adventure in itself, toucans and butterflies lead the way. The town outside the refuge is about as slow moving as a place can be with friendly locals and not many tourists. Maxi's, the restaurant/center of Manzanillo happenings, is not only a fun local hangout but happens to have the very best Caribbean food on the planet (I suggest the grilled whole red snapper!) Thousands of acres of protected rain forest and glorious Caribbean sand at just a quick ride away. Come see for yourself......

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Recap #2 One Year

We blew through our one year mark without really even noticing. Our bungalows were totally full the entire week and we were too busy to pay attention to the fact that a year had crept up on us. Looking back at our books, the first week we came down we had one bungalow occupied (luckily by a sweet and excited couple from VT). A year later during the same week, not a room to spare. This is encouraging!

We were not sure if our friends and family would keep rolling in at such speed and numbers after the first 6 months but indeed they did, more than we could imagine. The time has come to give thanks to the wonderful people who have traveled far to give their support and be a part of our adventure. Where did we leave off??? Oh yes, September....

Piotr, Brendan’s old roommate from a summer in Burlington, came with his sister Margo and her boyfriend Jacob all the way from Poland and Ireland. It was great fun! Three Polish people who had never been to the tropics, need I say more? Andy, who just finished our awesome new website, came with Brooke and chased their two year old son Jack around the jungle for a week. Adam Lukens entertained us with stories of the film industry in NYC, our favorite being the one about Steven Segal kicking his stunt-man in the balls to see if he’s wearing a cup. Dotty, Evan and Molly, friends from the Cape, came in search of “the most beautiful beach in the world”, and found it. Charlie and Caitlin brought stories of life on the Obama campaign trail in Nebraska and we celebrated the new winner. Good work Charlie!! The insane November rains started and my step cousin Christine and husband, Ted, newlyweds on their honeymoon, barely made it through the flooding roads to reach Tierra de Sueños where they spent the week in torrential rain. Brendan’s entire family reached us a couple of days later under similar circumstances. We celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas in the same week and managed to have a good time even though it never stopped raining. One day was spent getting drunk on chocolate, a highly recommended activity. My sister Samantha and cousin Becca almost got us arrested and Sammie braved dental surgery in San Jose, quite an experience in itself. Adrienne and Peter came from DC with their friend Kevin and were exposed to some of the wacky members of the community at a wild Manzanillo party. The old, long white-bearded man who we usually see bathing his white horse in the ocean in his underwear was there showing off his moves on the dance floor. Pete carried an ipod karaoke machine along with him to the beach everyday, just a side note. Also coming from DC, Evan Smith a childhood friend of Brendan’s, shortly followed with two work friends, Jeff and Kate. Evan may have won the award for most sunburned but we couldn’t give him too much grief because he did go to Best Buy at 10pm the night before his early morning departure to purchase an emergency laptop to quickly replace our stolen one. What a friend! Then came the impromptu college reunion which couldn’t have been more fun. My old roommate from all of the college years, Jess and her dear friend Suzanne came with their boyfriends Nate and Mike, Adam for the second time around, Sean and Nick also friends from the very beginning of freshman year and a new-comer friend of Sean, Erin. Rum Punch is all I can say about that. Sarah and Mary happily came in the middle of Februrary all the way from South Dakota and Etta from the Cape as well. We just said goodbye to Jess, Melissa, Gabe and Chris from Vermont and the week was nothing less than hysterical. Friends from DC, Fareha and Chris, are riding bikes into town right now and the day they leave, Andew Baxt arrives, shortly followed by Abigail with her boyfriend Ted who I am just dying to meet and so on and so forth. There is no sign of it letting up!

The steady flow of friends and family has completely blown our minds. When deciding to embark on this journey never in our wildest dreams did we think we would be graced by the presence of so many people we love. Thank you all for coming and sharing our dream with us. Keep coming!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

No Pets Allowed

Several months ago a woman called asking if we allow dogs. Well, we might, depending on what kind. This policy hasn’t been established yet. I can see why it wouldn’t work out, but we like pets. We have a big dog who tends to get excited when someone approaches his porch. Especially if there is food in his bowl. Also his brother, who belongs to a neighbor, spends most of his time here. Together their passion, other than guiding people to Playa Chiquita, is building and maintaining street rep. This means that they urinate on as much as possible in the area including idling cars, bikes. And, sometimes, they fight. The woman said the dog was a nice indoor poodle, that there shouldn’t be any problems. Okay, if you’re willing to risk it then so am I. We can use the business.

When faced with the indoor poodle Cody and his brother Drake sniffed curiously and laid back down. No threat. No excitement. Better to save energy for re-marking all the spots from the previous night, maybe see if Sparticus and Buenos Dias down the road want to brawl, or if Domer has any plans. The first night went smoothly.

The second night the couple came into the reception around 9pm to say that they would be going out to dinner, leaving Nelson in the bungalow. Sure, no problem. As soon as we hear their car pull away Nelson works himself into an indoor poodle tizzy and starts yapping his face off. Uh oh. We aren’t sure what do if this doesn’t stop. You can’t have a poodle yapping in one bungalow with people trying to sleep next door. It’s already 9pm so there’s no way the couple will eat and be back before at least 11pm. I want to crush up an antihistamine, put it in some left over food, put Nelson’s ass to sleep. I’m tired myself, don’t want to wait up with Nelson, the indoor poodle, until the owners get back. We can’t decide what to do. Uh oh, here comes a guest, Hank, father of a 1-year-old, with his shirt off, sleep in his eyes. Can you do something about that dog? Yes, Hank. Something must be done.

It never even occurred to me that Nelson might be upset about some stranger coming in to the bungalow. I was picturing a wagging tail, a quick trip to the reception, maybe a little over-the-counter cocktail for Nelson and bed for me. When I opened the door Nelson took one look, jumped up on the bed and raised the volume on that yap. I started to talk him down. It’s okay, we’re just going to take a little trip, wait for mummy and daddy to get home. He sat, yapping, allowed me to touch his head. It’s okay, buddy we’re just going to take a little trip. YAP, YAP, YAP YAP YAP. He wasn’t really calming down, so it seemed the only way to get him out would be to grab him by the scruff of the neck. I went for it. He snapped. Nelson, you scoundrel, you tried to bite me. Hank has to be wondering what’s taking so long at this point. Nelson is clearly upset and I’m realizing that it’s all or nothing. I tell Nelson a little bit more about the plan, touch his head, grab him by the neck with both hands and scoop him up. He manages to get in a few bites on my forearm, makes an insane death cry, pees all over the bed and me.

I make it out of the bungalow where Cody, Drake and Hank are waiting. Did he bite you? He bit and peed, but there’s no blood. I’ll keep him quiet. Angie waits in the reception house wondering what that sound was. I tell her that the bastard bit me and let the bastard go thinking that he would stay put fearing what lies beyond. Clearly I do not understand the indoor poodle. Nelson makes a break for it immediately. Out into the jungle. At first he heads to the road. Great. How will we explain that we lost their yapping dog? He quickly realizes that there are any number of things that would make him dinner and returns to the bungalow. I head back with rope this time. Nelson doesn’t feel so brave on the porch, is staying low profile, not yapping. I talk to him for a while longer, mention that he should not have bit me, throw a noose around him and take him to the reception. Luckily his owners came back around 10:30pm. They saw Nelson tied to the chair and began to apologize. I guess you won’t be allowing pets anymore? No pets allowed.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

February showers bring March flowers

A glimpse of what happens after the rain....