This blog post chronicles my trip to Costa Rica ,where I’m volunteering for 12 weeks at Wild Sun Rescue Center on the Nicoya Peninsula.
Feb 9, Saturday
I’m awake before my alarm, which is a shame. I’m pretty much guaranteed to get no or very little sleep tonight and it would have been nice to get a lot of sleep before this, but it was not to be. The rain from the past couple days has dried up, and Saddle Mountain BLM area where I’m currently boondocking near Tonopah, AZ is very green – the greenest I’ve ever seen it in fact.
It’s a busy morning. After a quick bite I do the final pack. I’m taking my 55L backpack as checked luggage, and a very slim backpack for carry-on, just large enough to fit my laptop, kindle, and chargers and some snacks. The 55L pack has room left over inside once I’ve put everything in which surprises me, but then again, I don’t need to pack bedding, tent, or cooking utensils for this trip, so it makes sense that it wouldn’t be as full as on a regular backpacking trip. This works out well for me, it means that once the plane rides are over, I’ll be able to put the carry-on bag inside it to make the shuttle ride easier.
After that it’s time to prepare my tiny trailer and truck for storage, which doesn’t take as much time. I’ve used up my perishables, and there’s not much else in Bertha or Tribble that needs special attention – everything is already going to have it’s own space for travel. I pull out at around 1 pm.
The most nerve-wracking part of days like this is all the variables. There are so many little things that can go wrong, and any one of them could throw off the whole day. When I arrive at the storage facility near Phoenix about an hour later, the man behind the corner opens with “Oh.” That’s not a good sign.
I’d called the week before to make a reservation to store both truck and trailer, and been told I’d taken the last available spot. Apparently, the person who was suppose to move out by today hasn’t, and now there technically isn’t a spot for me. Luckily my rig is so tiny that they can squeeze me in an unofficial spot. I split truck and trailer between two other spots and it all works out in the end.
A friend I’d been camping with at Saddle Mountain picks me up at the storage facility, and takes me the rest of the way to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Part of I10 is shut down due to construction and traffic is pretty bad, so I lose more time. But because I’d worked in such a large buffer before my first flight, I’m okay. When I arrive at the airport I have the fastest check in ever. From the moment I walk in through the door to the moment I arrive at my terminal takes only 20 minutes, and that’s including checking my bag and going through security. I watch the sunset from the terminal, and smile to see that my friends still out camping post a view of the same sunset from out in the desert.
My plane from Phoenix to Los Angeles departs without issue at 7:30 pm, and I arrive in LA at 8:10 pm Pacific Standard Time. Then I have a four hour layover for my next flight, which I spend reading.
Feb 10, Sunday
I’ve never gotten the knack of sleeping on planes. After boarding for San Jose (the capital of Costa Rica) at 12:30 am, I close my eyes and try. I start drifting off a couple times, but don’t achieve actual sleep. Since it’s a longer flight food is served, a ham and cheese sandwich with chips and chocolate that is actually pretty good.
Costa Rica is on Central Standard time, so my 6 hour flight arrives at about 8:30 am. I did it! This is the farthest I’ve ever been from home!
Boarding my last plane requires going through customs and exiting the international airport, then taking a short walk down the street to the regional airport. There I’d booked a plane on Sansa Air to Tambor, which is on the Nicoya Peninsula just off the ocean. The plane is tiny. And cute.
The cockpit area is not separated from the seating area, and as we’re taking off I can see that one of the screens is covered in yellow and red, I wonder if it’s related to wind speed since it’s a windy day. I can’t help but notice that the plane is in the red zone. Takeoff is pretty bouncy, but then we get higher up and the view is amazing! The plane flies over the ocean for a while, and I catch this view coming back towards Tambor.
The landing is equally bumpy, coming in low over the beach with the airstrip just past. I’d paid an extra $25 when I booked my flight for a shuttle to take me from Tambor direct to Wild Sun, and it’s waiting when I arrive.
The ride in the van is sort of surreal. I’m riding with three women who are here for a retreat for hairdressers of all things. They’re going to Montezuma which is closer so we head there first. The three are in good spirits coming in after a night out in San Jose, we talk and joke the whole way to their dropoff point. Costa Rica passes by outside the window, which is rolled up because the shuttle has air conditioning. It’ll be the last time I have access to AC for quite a while.
The view outside is familiar and unfamiliar at the same time.
I’ve never been somewhere tropical before, so most of the vegetation is new to me. But then I see fields of grass where cattle graze and I realize I know the cattle from my time as a vet tech, they’re Brahman, a breed raised for beef. I look it up online later and discover that they’re very heat tolerant, so it’s common to see them being kept in tropical climates.
We also drive along the coast for a while, which is absolutely beautiful. The pebbled beaches and rocky outcrops remind me of the Pacific Ocean… and then I laugh to myself when I remember this is the Pacific Ocean. Well, the South Pacific.
And then the shuttle pulls into Wild Sun and my trip is over. It’s about 1 pm local time by this point, and I’m exhausted from not having slept the night before. Jeremy, the owner, is there to greet me and show me to my room, which has an ocean view – if a distant one.
The first Sunday of the month, Wild Sun hosts a fundraiser party, and I happen to arrive just before it. This means all the volunteers are quite busy with preparations, and I don’t get any sort of tour or orientation. I feel rather lost and out of place as people scurry around prepping food, moving chairs and tables, setting up a check in station. I try to take a nap so I’m at least out of the way, but my body is not yet use to the heat. It’s 85 and humid, a far cry from the near freezing overnight temps I was experiencing in Saddle Mountain before this, and my room is on the second floors and quite exposed to the sun, it’s like a sauna.
So I lounge in the hammock area which is well shaded and open to a nice breeze.
I don’t sleep but I do rest, and when the live music starts in the evening I wander over. The energy is pretty intense for someone running on no sleep in a strange place, and I know no one. Well, I do know one person at Wild Sun: Nick, a friend I made while up in Canada two summers ago. But he’s busy manning one of the booths. I eat dinner, a delicious curry dish, and am in bed by 7 pm.
I sleep nearly 12 hours, it’s glorious. The next day I meet my fellow volunteers, all of whom seem like pretty cool people. Orientation goes well, I learn a lot more about the facilities and how the animals are kept and what I’ll be doing while here (more on all that coming up in a future post). All in all, I feel much better and grounded… a little less far from home. I’m looking forward to the next 12 weeks!
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