Pacuare Lodge

I know I told you in my last post that Iceland was next.  Well, I’m still working on it.  In the meantime, I took a little trip here in Costa Rica to one of my favorite places:  The Pacuare Lodge

Unique Lodges of the World

I’ve been to the Pacuare Lodge over 15 times in the past 15 years or so.  Why do I love the Pacuare Lodge so much?  Because it’s a buncha things all rolled into one.  You raft into the lodge, and you raft out.  Yes, you can get there by vehicle, but, believe me, you would rather raft as the road to get there is quite hairy.  Rafting is the better choice.  Coming into the lodge, depending on the time of the year, will be the easy-peasy class-2 rapids.  Going out could be up to a class-4 rapid, and the scenery is not to be missed.

The lodge sits on a 1.2 million acre private reserve with a commitment to sustainable tourism.  They use solar, gas,  and hydro power.  Truely unique and inspiring.  Lots of critters to see….I mean, you are in a rainforest.  And they have a whole floor dedicated to Jaguar research with photos of the local population caught by motion sensor cameras located around the property.  The cabins are amazing.   Relaxing, comfortable, and private.  The food is amazing.  They have several options each meal, including vegetarian options.  And they use organic food whenever possible from the local population.  Also, there is a decent wine cellar. The personnel are amazing.  They remembered our names from day one.  They are engaging, helpful, and want you to have a good time.  The tours are amazing.  In other words, IT’S AMAZING.

Its as action packed or as relaxing as you wish.  I’m positive you will love it.

Norway – Part 3 – Jan Mayen and Greenland

Jan Mayen is tiny.  Only 18 people live on the island.  It used to be a Dutch whaling station in the 1600’s until the whales were almost hunted to extinction.  It remained abandoned for a couple of hundred years.  Now Jan Mayen is used by the Meteorological Institute or the Norwegian Military for Cyber Security.  Although we never could get a straight answer out of the commander about the cyber security thing.  They receive goods via a C-130 landing on the gravel runway without instrument landing capabilities.  It comes in each month, but if it can’t land because of low visibility, they also received goods via ship which anchors offshore as there are no port facilities.  It is rather a bleak place, but everyone we spoke to volunteered to be stationed there.

One of the more interesting sights was the road from the town to the airstrip.  There was an incredible amount of driftwood shoved off to each side.  The driftwood looks like it all came from shipwrecks with notches cut in them or metal attachments.  We were told it all comes floating in from Russia.

The next place we stopped was Greenland.  Did you know that Greenland is Danish?  I didn’t.  They are taught Danish in school but speak Greenlandic.  It’s all double letters and really long words.  I have no idea what the sign says below, but it’s certainly fun to try to pronounce everything.

Greenlandish
Greenlandish

Greenlandish
Ittoqqortoormiit is an Inuit village with a population of around 500.  It’s known for its animals: polar bears, muskoxen, and seals.  They hunt them all for meat and fur, which they eat and make into things.  Well, actually, the polar bears are only hunted when they come into the area.  It’s a safety issue.  But the Inuits eat the seals and the muskox.  The seal skin makes some nice looking mittens. But, of course, we couldn’t buy any of the seal skin items without having it confiscated once we entered pretty much anywhere.

We met a Danish woman took the Muskox fur and spun it into yarn from which she made hats and scarves and mittens and things when she wasn’t dog racing with her team.  It was amazingly soft.  And expensive.  The tour guides told us to stay away from the dogs.  The dogs are strictly “working” dogs.  No petting or interacting at all with them.  In fact, the law states that if any of the dogs bite, the whole team was to be destroyed.  So, we stayed away from the dogs.  But, it was difficult when they looked at you with those eyes wagging those tails.

I always like to go to the grocery stores when visiting a foreign country.  I like to see what they eat and what kind of snacks and things they have.  Because the town is only supplied every few months, we were asked not to purchase anything.  (Sorry, Bruce, no Oreos for you.)  It was a grocery/hardware/sporting goods/furniture store.  What an interesting place.  Guns next to the diapers.  Guns and ammo on shelves at hip level for anyone to grab.  A different world indeed.

Our next stop is Iceland.

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Norway Part 2 – Svalbard

We started off in Longyearbyen but were quickly ushered aboard the ship to take off for our trip around Svalbard.  The only photos I have are of the Global Seed Vault. It’s just a concrete doorway.  But, it’s amazing to think of all the millions of seeds they have stored there from all over the world.

Global Seed Vault Sign
Global Seed Vault Sign
Global Seed Vault Entry
Global Seed Vault Entry

Svalbard is way North about 600 miles from the North Pole.  It was light out for 24-hours a day.  Now, I’m a sunshine person.  I’m completely solar powered.  When the sun goes down, I have about 2.5 hours of battery available before I have to go to bed.  In Costa Rica, where I live, that means I’m in bed at 8:30pm…365 days of the year.  I’m up at 5 am, however, because that’s when the sun comes out.  So, you can imagine how confused I was to see the sun all the time.  Made going to sleep difficult.  An eye mask was a necessity.

Our first stop was Ny-Ålesund.  Ny-Ålesund is the world’s northernmost permanent settlement.  It was discovered in 1610 and was a coal mine off and on until about 1962 after several mine disasters, the last one killing 21 of the 25 men who were on the shift.  Around 1966 the Norwegian Polar Institute established a post here with two people only staying for the summer. It was also one of four sights for a telemetry station for the European Space Tracking Network.

In 1990 the discovery of high levels of eco-toxins in arctic animals let to greater research efforts to investigate the problem.  Ny-Ålesund became a center of eco-toxicological research in the Arctic.  The research based here contributes to the international political processes that documents climate change, environmental contamination, and ecological changes in the Arctic.

Today, about 40 people live here all year and stay anywhere from 1-6 years and promote research, preserve the cultural heritage and develop a green community.  All of the meals are eaten together in the dining hall.  The shop is open twice a week, or when a cruise ship is docked.  There is an interesting little museum with mining artifacts and bios of some of the current researchers stationed in Ny-Ålesund. It’s not all work all the time, though.  They spend their leisure time pursuing personal interests and projects such as crafts and music.

After we left Ny-Ålesund, we just wandered around the island of Svalbard popping into the various sounds along the way. Compared to what we see on a daily basis in Costa Rica, there wasn’t a whole lot going on as far as plants go.  But, once we were transferred by zodiac from the ship to the shore, we were very fascinated with the flowers.  They were so small and just beautiful.  I have gazillion photos of flowers.

Then we saw the birds.  One is not prepared to see that many birds.  Millions of them.  All on one cliff.  It’s unbelievable that the eggs hatch on a tiny slip of rock.  No nest.  Just propped in such a way that it won’t roll off.  And the babies, when they fledge, just jump sometimes 100 feet to, hopefully, land in the water where Dad is waiting to swim around with them until they are ready to fly.  Gripping stuff, really.

And glaciers.  Wow.  Anyway….part Two is here.  Sorry, it took so long.

 

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Norway – Part 1 – Oslo

Several things stood out on our trip to Norway.

1) There is no trash anywhere, that we could see.

2) The capital city is smaller than we expected.  And honestly, I don’t know why we expected a sprawling metropolis, but we didn’t expect it to be smaller than Austin at almost 700k people.

3) The sun was still up at midnight.  Yes, yes.  I know that it’s really far north.  But, coming from a place where the sun sets at 6 pm every night, 365 days of the year, it was a little odd to see the sun at midnight.

4) It was really, really creepy to be up at 7 am downtown and not see one single person walking around on a Monday morning.  Not a car on the streets.  It was almost like the zombie apocalypse had occurred and everyone was dead except us.  And because the Norwegians are so clean, even the zombies didn’t litter.  In fact, we didn’t see a car on the road until we left Oslo on the way to the airport several miles out of town.  Really creepy.

So, in making the video, I realized that I really don’t have a whole lot of photos worth looking at.  And the cool stuff we didn’t capture….like me rappelling off the back of the Ski Jump.  Call it jet lag.  Or, that I just was too freaked out to think.  This was also the first foray into using a selfie stick and capturing our experiences.  So, I left the goofs in, so you can feel my pain.  And hopefully, have a good laugh.

Crocodile Man Tour – Tarcoles, Costa Rica

Not too far from where I live in Costa Rica, we have this great tourist site called the Tarcoles River.  Now, in reality, the Tarcoles River is the most polluted river in Costa Rica, where most of the sewage from the city of San Jose flows.  So as a result, the crocodiles here are huge.  When we have friends visiting, we like to stop at the bridge and look down.  This, however, is a river boat tour.