I see turtles!

Part 1 – The journey to Bataan

I checked out of my hotel nice and early ready to start my journey to Bataan for the turtles project. The cab bus trip to san joseI’d ordered 10 minutes previous was already waiting for me outside. Scooping up my invisible man (aka my heavy lump of a backpack), I slung it over one shoulder and made my way for the exit.

I breezed past 2 women at the front desk and caught drifts of their conversation with the hotel manager requesting him to order them a cab.

I was almost at the door to the exit when, “Hey, are you going to the turtles?”. I instinctively knew the American voice was aiming the question at me so I turned to double check. “The turtles? Oh yeh, I am actually. Jump in my cab!” I was excited to be already meeting fellow volunteers and the fact that we’d be making our onward journey together. I was super glad too because we had a pig of a trip over.

Karen and Jodi, both special Ed teachers from California, were out together on vacation. Like me, they wanted to do something different and also help make a difference. They were then going on to tour Costa Rica for the next 10 days after. I instantly liked them both and it was as though we’d already bonded because we had the turtles as our base common interest.

The cabby dropped us at the front of the bus station where we were immediately hassled by vulturous taxi drivers. One driver came over and actually helped lift my invisible man out of the cab we’d arrived in and hooked it onto my back. “Where are you going?” He asked. “We’re all headed for Bataan” Karen promptly replied. “The road is closed today so it will take you 7-8 hours…but not if you take the cab!” A big hopeful grin grew across his dusty weathered face almost knowing that we’d already say no. After his explanation of the road closures, we decided to take our chances and take the bus anyways – for all we knew, he could have been scamming us?! Plus, we wanted to take the scenic route and gaze out of the window at the lush flora and fauna.

So we finally found the ticket counter we needed and one by one we all bought our tickets to Bataan. Waiting at our terminals, Jodi pulls out her ticket and starts checking it. “Hang on, do your tickets say Limon?” Umm…that’s the wrong direction! Yep, all our tickets appeared wrong. Marching back to the ticket office, we tried explaining we needed tickets to Bataan but the chap just wasn’t understanding us. We started to panic a lil as we knew our bus was meant to be departing within the next 10 mins or so.

Eventually, another member of staff came over to help translate (as well as the nice lady behind us in the queue who spoke fluent English). We realised that creepy taxi dude wasn’t joking when he said the road was closed. We had to catch the bus to Limon (5hrs) and then another to Bataan (3hrs). Hey ho, all part of the adventure I guess. Only thing was, we were meeting our turtle representative at 11:30am eekkk….what if he thinks we’ve done a bunk?! We were so glad to all be together in this. But luckily Karen managed to get an email over to them and they’d agreed to wait for us…phew!

travel like a localThe first bus wasn’t so bad but it was the bus from Limon that was the worst. The only seat I could find was next to a fella who was so large that he pretty much took up both seats. Perched on the edge, I knew it wasn’t going to get any better. People got on the bus at what felt like every stop, even when the bus was clearly full! I felt a bit Claustrophobic when the aisle filled with standing folk…yep, butt in my face! Oh and did I mention the masshoosive crack in the bus windscreen! We’d so get pulled over for that in the UK haha! bus crack

When we finally reached Bataan, we were all tired and hungry and I was desperate for a pee too! Bataan seemed like a small place and not much was going on. Karen, Jodi and I stood out like sore thumbs…we pretty much had neon signs over our heads ‘Tourist over here if you didn’t notice!’

After 10 minutes of waiting for our representative to appear, we started to feel a bit uneasy. I was scanning the area for hotels just incase we ended up stranded. ‘Oh god, what if he doesn’t show?’ I thought to myself. “So where is this guy David meeting us?” I asked. “There’s nobody here Helen, what do we do?” I could tell Jodi was becoming nervous and it was rather daunting as we knew it would soon start to get dark.

busSuddenly a grey haired, leather faced local walked over to us “Hola! You go to turtles?” “Ahh Ci, Ci. You must be David?” I asked. “Ci”. ‘Yay, we’re saved I thought!’ We followed David over to his red pick up truck, lobbed our packs onto the back and started the next leg of our journey.

We all knew the place was in a remote location and I was super excited about getting off the beaten track. I was still busting for a pee and the rocky road we travelled seemed to go on forever. After an hour in the truck, we finally reached the end of the road. “Ah this must be where we board the boat!” I excitedly screeched to Jodi and Karen.

Our small boat transfer had 6 seats and not a lot of room. We helped transfer all the bags and boxes of food/supplies onto the boat and oh my god, I literally thought my invisible man was going to sink it haha! ‘Argh, we’re all going to become croc food’ haha.

 

The boat ride was so awesome and I felt like Indiana Jones adventuring up the Amazon River (except it was the Pacuare River but it’s very Amazonia looking). I was pretty much in a stunned silence. My senses were being blown away by the scenery, the adventure, the hum of the boats engine and the BUGS! Omg, I swear the jungle was singing us some kind of welcome chorus for our arrival. I’d missed those ‘jungle noises’.

Our boat driver skillfully dodged overhanging vines and swished around fallen branches.Bataan boat trip And as the light faded and the darkness crept in, I began day dreaming about what types of fish there might be under the boat? Hmm…I wonder if they have piranhas here? The boat driver wasn’t sure what a piranha was but he said they do get very large fish. “Ok how about crocodiles?” I inquisitively asked. “Ci, we do!” “WOW!” I was so excited and hoped to see one. And then, as if planned and on cue, I spotted a small cayman right in front of the boat! “LOOK! There’s one right there!” I shouted, pointing it out to Jodi and Karen. The cayman quickly ducked under the water but then wait….”Oooh there’s another!” I pointed at a bigger one by the waters edge. This one just watched us for a moment until it smoothly glided away under the nearest canopy.

The light was fading fast so arriving at our base camp in the dark was not ideal. Plus, we’d not managed to eat all day apart from brekkie. It took us another hour on the boat so it was well and truly pitch black when we reached camp.

“Hello and welcome to Tortuga Feliz!” A round bearded man introduced himself as the Manager and helped us off the boat and then gathered us round for a 30 mins pep talk. “Stick to the sand paths only. Here we have poisonous snakes and other creepies such as scorpions and spiders”. ‘WOW’ I thought, hoping to see all 3 of course! “Always check your shoes before stepping into them as the scorpions like dark places. tortuga felizWe will give you some dinner and let you rest as you’ve had a long day. Your training will begin tomorrow.” Aww that’s nice of them I thought. We were all so grateful to get a dinner – a healthy portion of rice, beans and omg…hold on…is that a…Arrrghhh a cockroach! The thing emerged out of my rice in slow motion like something out of a horror movie! ‘The zombie cockroach’ lol. Eww, that really put me off so I flicked him off and ate around that patch!

We were then shown to our cabins and were happy we were all staying in the same one together. I took a bottom bunk and immediately started setting up my mozzie tent. It was so dark but I knew I had to set up my net as we were being bitten alive during our pep talk and didn’t fancy being a midnight bug snack haha.

With my torch clenched between my teeth and pointing at the various strings and hooks, I’d managed to do a quick blue peter job and hang up my net. I climbed in, pondered over the days events and looked forward to meeting everyone the next morning.

Eventually, I closed my eyes and fell asleep to the chorus of the jungle and beyond.

To be continued…

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Pura Vida baby!

Oh my goodness! I have been waiting for this moment for so long and now here I am…day 1 of my adventure and already blogging away from the cosy shelter of my hostel in San Jose, Costa Rica!

In fact, it’s absolutely bucketing it down outside right now… so much so, I almost feel as though I’m typing in competition to the rhythm haha!  ‘Do you mind rain, I can’t hear myself type here!’

I’d almost forgotten how this all felt – the prep, the NOT knowing what awaits you and of course those last minute panics of “Omg, do I definitely not need a visa for this country…” or the “How far is my hostel to the bus station”, “Did I remember to pack my solar charger?” and definitely the “How am I going to cram all THAT in!”. But naturally, I was way calmer than the 1st time around but I actually surprised myself hah. In fact, I’ve planned this adventure pretty much down to a T this time around (with some room for the unexpected of course!).

My geek sheet plans / tables and budget predictions all nicely came together at the last minute. And actually, talking of last minute (which ironically is a well known trait of a ‘Readdy’ haha), it’s not all been straight sailing but then that would just be kinda dull if there weren’t a few scares along the way…right?

Comfort zone or adventureFor example, applying for a credit card in my own name and expecting it to be point blank rejected to it actually arriving ON THE DAY OF MY FLIGHT! Or the realisation that it may be advisable to take altitude sickness pills (Diamox) for flying straight into an altitude of 3,399 metres in Cusco, Peru (according to Googles stats) Umm….yessss probably wise! And the doctor literally telling you days before departing “Oh Diamox pills are in very short supply at the moment, good luck sourcing them” ARGH!

After lots of cussing and beating myself up, I was incredibly lucky to find 3 local pharmacies that miraculously had this ‘short supply’ drug in stock! Phewie, all sorted!

Tuesday came round too quick for me to really think about the fact I was going anywhere. As before, it hit me AT the airport…that familiar tightness of the chest and my heart pounding against my ribcage  desperate to get out and recreate ‘that’ scene from alien!

Oh god, and I even made a twat of myself at the airport by falling off my chair in the Costa Coffee hahah…it just slid right out from under me (but then it didn’t help leaning too far back on 2 legs haha) SO embarrassing! Can’t start a trip without a classic Readders move.

But once I was on the flight, all these feelings soon disappeared and survival / adventurer Helen took over :)

The 10 hr flight to Mexico was actually pretty good…rather comical even! For one, the air hostess asked if I wanted a drink so I smiled sweetly and asked for a water. She came back with what looked like a small cup of strong coloured urine (my honest first random thought) hahah!  “Tequila Senorita” I didn’t know what to say so took it and just sat in on my fold down table haha. Hmm…something clearly got lost in translation oops. Oh and then suddenly…what the hell was that stink!? Eww someone dropped a super smelly trump from the seat in front of me hahah, gross! One of those moments when you’re so hoping no one thinks it’s you lol.

pink busAfter a 5 hr change over and a further 2.5 hr stint in the air, I reached Costa Rica airport feeling shattered. And omg…from what I’ve seen so far, it’s stunning! My dream place…I could see mountains, lush jungles, low clouds of humidity gathering, PINK buses hahah and coffee plantations. Wow, I feel as though I am home, back in my natural environment. Perhaps I was a bug in my past life hah or a sloth? Ahhh I cannot wait to see the Sloths!

Exiting the airport, I headed straight for my shuttle bus pick up. I’d already gotten directions so knew exactly where to meet my driver. I was approached by so many FAKE Inter shuttle bus drivers! Unbelievable…well, I could believe it but common sense kicked in immediately. “If you say I’m booked with you…then what is my name?” I confidently posed the questioned to them all and of course, not one could answer me the cheekies. My driver found me in the end and all the fakes dispersed like a flock of pigeons haha! Costa Rica airport

I’ve already had a quick explore and took myself off for dinner at a nearby ‘Soda’. I think a Soda is like a family run café so the food is very cheap and most locals seemed to be hanging around which is always a good sign. For £3.50 I got myself a large plate of rice, chicken and veggies and a glass of water.

So here I am now…abouts to get a good nights sleep for the start of my first adventure – SAVING SEA TURTLES, yay! Tomorrow I will be catching a 2.5 hr bus to Bataan and then jumping on a boat to a remote (and secret location) to volunteer with a sea turtle rescue centre and oh boy am I looking forward to this.

I won’t have wifi for the 2wks that I am there but I will promise to take lots of photos of baby hatchlings all swimming off into the ocean to start their lil lives :)

Catch up with ya’ll soon my lovelies, Pura Vida as the locals say (Pure life / Hakuna Matata)

xxx

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Readdy…steady…

TravellerWell, well, well!

So excuse the ridiculously long break! Okay okay…so it’s been a few years (ahem) but guess who’s back and readdy for another adventure! 😉

I won’t bore you with the details but let’s just say, life started to sink it’s long and very sharp claws into me (and it’s not been easy prising out 3/4 years worth of talon sinkage hah!) but here I am.

Going from one dull office job to another (which has been slowly killing my soul), I’ve managed to keep my focus and stick with it. After all, I knew the money I was tucking away would help catapult me off on mJobs fill pocketsy adventures once more.

It’s not been easy! With the years ticking by, the dream began drifting further and further away. Reality has been reminding me almost on a weekly basis that I still don’t have a property to my name so you can imagine the anxiety, the frustration – ‘Should I ditch and think of my future?’, ‘What will I do when I get back?’ ‘Will I still be employable?’.

To be honest, I still don’t know what I will end up doing in life but I know one things for certain..My life won’t have any regrets! This trip HAS to be done, so….fancy jumping in the back pack with me again? Same old humour, NEW story? 😀  Time for me to dust off my boots, clean up my ‘invisible man’ (aka, the back pack), top up my jabs and get going…

Get yourselves comfy as we get readdy for a South American adventure (more to be revealed soon) :) xx

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