The Great Margration

Stories of my life on the road.

Turtle Power November 7, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — margysaur @ 7:39 pm

For the last three weeks I´ve  been living on Playa Camaronal, a secluded beach on the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica.  My days pretty much consisted of several hours of manual labor, lots of trash clean up, reading in a hammock, rice and beans, beans and rice, rice and beans, going to sleep early, and waking up in the middle of the night to walk on the beach for three hour shifts.  Working with the turtles has been a spectacular experience.  Their plight is pretty desperate, and I definitely saw why.  We were tasked with trying to save the turtle eggs from poachers and animals.  The poachers would hide in the trees lining the beach, and run out to dig up the nests before we could get to them.  They can sell the eggs for around $20 per nest of around 100 eggs.  It´s a valuable source of income for the very poor people living near the beach.  The racoons find the eggs to be quite hard to resist as well, and I can´t really fault them – circle of life and everything.  The problem is that only one hatched turtle in several thousand will reach maturity, so every little ping pong ball of turtle goo is precious.  Can´t we all just get along?

At the end of last week, my new friend Anne (from Deutschland) decided to tag along with me to Nicaragua.  We had a pretty typically stressful experience – I kept trying to get on the wrong busses, and she got hosed by money changers at the border – but we arrived otherwise intact and have been exploring Grenada for the past several days.  Tomorrow morning we´ll go to San Juan del Sur where I´ll have more Spanish class and surfing for the next two weeks.

Some pictures:

Home in Camaronal

Perk of walking the beach from 3-6 am.


First sunrise babies.

These things liked to divebomb us at night.

Getting ready to walk in crazy rain.  You´ve seriously never seen it rain this hard.

Daytime turtle – not a common sight.

Nest – Olive Ridley turtle

Shower iguana.

Slogging across the Nica border.

From the tallest church tower in Grenada.

On the chicken bus with Anne.



Week Two in BDT October 18, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — margysaur @ 10:08 am
Hola!  Had another great week in Bocas.  As I may have mentioned, I loved the open water diving course, so I decided to go for the advanced open water  certification this past week.  Aquisition of this certification basically just involves having 5 more dives: one has to focus on navigation, and one on deep diving, but the other three you pick from a variety of options.  It turns out that navigation is not my strongest suit – we ended up surfacing quite a ways from the boat, but we could at least see that boat, so I figure that´s good enough? 

 The deep dive was interesting.  The idea is to see if you can handle the increased nitrogen situation that happens at depths of close to 30m.  At the bottom, my instructor signed me a couple of simple math equations, and I got them both correct.  Then she cracked some eggs, and we tossed them around for a bit – the increased pressure makes them cohesive and buoyant.  On the way up, we passed a juvenile manta ray. Learned that it´s hard to squeal when you have a mouth full of rubber.

The next dive I chose was one to help me improve my buoyancy control – trying to hover in place, and swim through different hoops.  Also not a strong suit of mine at the moment, but oh well.  I did a fish identification dive, which was cool as well.  Saw lots of fish, vaguely remembered my instructor telling me what kinds they were, but had no idea what anything really was at the end.

The best, though, was my night dive.  For one thing, the animals are bigger and less shy at night.  Saw countless gigantic crab and lobster.  I also saw a free swimming spotted moray eel, and the ugliest thing ever – a toad fish.  Mid-dive, we spent 5 minutes sitting on the bottom with our lights off, playing with bioluminescent plankton.  Really didn´t want to leave. 

Saturday, I tagged along with some  Dutch and Norwegian girls to an indigenous community, where they have been volunteering with the kids.  The lesson for the day involved showing them a map of the world.  None of them, aged 6ish to 13ish, had seen a map of the world before.  The had no idea where to find Panama on a map.  By the end of the lesson, they were excitedly finding such far-flung countries as Greenland and Mongolia.  It was such a cool thing to be a part of.

Sunday was traveling day.  I managed to miss my bus by about 3 hours, but very luckily tagged along with some Canadians, eh, who were also heading to San Jose.  The trip was much longer than it would otherwise have been, but I survived.  I was delivered to a host family last night, and tomorrow morning, very early, I´ll be heading to the Camoronal Refuge for three weeks of sea turtle work.  I don´t think there´s internet out there, so I may be out of touch a bit. 

Miss you all, and hope you are well!

Walking to the indigenous community.  They live behind the very small airport.
 Building a path to the village.
 Path to the village.
 Finding Panama.
 Back at the CR-Panama border.  It´s less safe than it looks.

Pictures! October 15, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — margysaur @ 12:20 pm

Turns out I’m not the type of person who takes a lot of pictures.  I´ve managed to put up a few, however, so check them out if you like.



Bocas del Torro October 11, 2010

Filed under: Out — margysaur @ 2:45 pm

Hola amigos. I’m currently languishing in the heat of an idyllic and touristy little town off the coast of north Caribbean Panama. My weather widget says high of 30, low of 23. I don’t know what that means either, but with the associated humidity I believe we’re hovering somewhere around 120. Despite this unfortunate circumstance, I am sort of in love with this place. The ocean is visible from almost anywhere in town, and there are multiple bar parties every night with “drink specials” that usually just translate to free drinks if you are a girl. No complaints there. While I’ve been trying to take advantage of this luxury as often as possible, classes sometimes get in the way. I’ve been continuing to take 4 hours per day of Spanish, which has been pretty great. I love all my teachers here, more so than in Turrialba. Also, since the surfing was apparently non-existent last week, I decided to get a PADI open water certification. The prices for doing that around here are almost unbeatable. Good news! I’ve fallen in love with yet another expensive leisure activity. I passed my final dive test yesterday, and am already planning to squeeze in the advanced open water certification before I leave next weekend.
Diving is ridiculously fantastic. One thing I love is that it has nearly eliminated an excessive fear of getting water in my nose, from which I’ve suffered since a swimming pool incident at age 5. Part of the class involves losing your mask and regulator (breathing apparatus) while in open water, then recovering them. The first time I did it, I was certain I would die – from panic if not drowning – but by the second time it was no big deal. Psychological hurdles aside, being deep underwater is one of the most peaceful, beautiful experiences I’ve had. My instructor told me about swimming with whale sharks in Honduras, immediately after which I will die a happy, fulfilled person. Don’t worry, though, I don’t think they’re in season until January or February. Oh! And yesterday when we came back to the boat after a dive we found ourselves in the middle of a humongous herd of what I think were sardines – many hundreds of them – leaping simultaneously from the water like miniature dolphins.
My new friends here are quite nice. I find myself once again surrounded by Germans, Swiss (German-speaking), and Dutch folks. They are usually nice enough to speak in English, although I can’t blame them for reverting often. Instead I curse my parents for not making me learn German when I had the chance. Alas.
All for now. Hasta luego!


Turrialba October 3, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — margysaur @ 8:16 am

I arrived safely in Costa Rica with just two minor wrinkles. The first was that I had to buy a return ticket in LA in order to get through CR customs, or so I was told. The guy assured me multiple times that the ticket was fully refundable, but it may not surprise you to learn that it’s really not at all. Oh well, I got a partial refund and a voucher. Then, when I got into the San Jose airport, my ride was nowhere to be found amongst the swarming throng of pushy cab drivers. One of them, surely hoping to get business from a stranded non-Spanish speaking gringa, took it upon himself to call the school for me. They had gotten my arrival time wrong – 1140 pm instead of 1140 am. No worries, though. Had the opportunity to spend some quality time at the airport waiting for them. 
The school at Turrialba sits in the hills above the town itself, with a cool volcano to the left. I got a picture of it one morning with a plume of gas coming out the top. It’s currently closed to visitors because it’s so toxic at the rim.
It rains a lot in Turrialba. A lot. The main thing it has to recommend itself, is that it’s a really fantastic tropical type rain. Sitting in a hammock outside reading during the daily thunder storms was pretty great. 
Some things I’m getting used to: no toilet paper in the toilet – must go in adjacent bin. Being covered in mosquito bites. Cold showers. Cockroaches. Not needing to take a hoodie with me whenever I leave the house. Going to bed early, because it’s fully dark before 6, so 9 pm feels like midnight. 
Spanish classes are actually going quite well.  I’m amazed by how much I’ve picked up in just five days of classes. Don’t ask me to say stuff yet, but when people speak in Spanish to me in the same manner as they would to someone who has recently suffered a severe head injury, some of the words are familiar, and it’s brilliant. 
Not much adventure this week because of classes and relentless storming, but I did get to do an afternoon of canyoning and ziplines. Oh man. They are individually spectacularly exciting, and the combination was unforgettable.
I regrettably decided to cut my Turrialba time short by a day because of the opportunity to travel to Bocas, Panama with a German couple. It’s a long trip with several bus changes, taxis, and a boat ride, and I was nervous about making it alone. So, I’m in Bocas now, probably will stay for two weeks because it sounds like Boquete (where I was planning to go in a week) is, if possible, more rainy than Turrialba. 
My first evening here in Bocas was great. It has a distinctly Caribbean feel, and there’s music everywhere and lots of people wandering the streets at all hours of the night. It’s quite hot here, and no rain. 
Buenos noches. Slaap lekker (lots of Danish folks in Turrialba). 



Hitting the Dusty Trail September 23, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — margysaur @ 9:03 pm

Hey beautiful people!  The time has come.  Finally.  I’m putting the finishing touches on my piles of junk to pack, wondering how it’s all going to fit in the backpack, etc.  Somehow, I’ll get it in and jump on a plane Saturday evening bound for Costa Rica.  I’m spending my first week in a town called Turrialba:

Like most places in Costa Rica, it’s near a volcano.  The Pacuare River is close to town, and is well known for its white water activities – very exciting.  I’ll also begin my assault on the Spanish language (apologies to this “romantic” language, which never did anything to deserve impending massacre).

Well, these piles aren’t going to load themselves into my pack.  More soon.