During the 3 1/2-hour trip we were treated to a troop of howler monkeys that were contentedly eating treetop blossoms beside the highway. The best part was watching an infant cling to its mother’s back as she climbed up and down branches and hopped from tree to tree. True to their name, the creatures make a very intimidating sound for their small size.Intense heat (35 C) greeted us when we reached the coast and made our way to a beautiful house we had rented at Playa Grande. It had a swimming pool, but it paled in comparison to the beauty of the “big beach.” It was everything I had imagined and we made the most of it by spending the entire next day at the ocean. Despite generous applications of sunscreen, we all had sunburns of varying degrees the next day. It was the two youngest members of our group who had the only bedroom that did not have a good seal on their outside door. Of course, they are the ones who have the greatest dislike for insects, especially large insects, and the creepy crawlies seemed to sense that and gravitated to their room. Every morning at breakfast we heard about the latest insect adventures that culminated with a scorpion moving in. The arthropod was captured and left in a container on the veranda while we spent the day at the beach. Evidently the poor thing did not like the scorching sun us much as we did because it was literally belly up and unresponsive when we returned. To our amazement, it returned to life the next day and appeared no worse for wear. It was granted a reprieve and released for displaying great resiliency and an intense desire to live. Perhaps it deserved an Oscar nomination for its great acting. As for us, we lived at the beach and spent countless hours in the warm and very salty water. While our boys surfed, learning how to swim into large waves was a real thrill for Angela and I, as was riding a boogie board. We were practising catching waves when my wife and I heard someone call for help in English. It seemed rather unusual since most of the people in the water were speaking Spanish. I thought it was teenagers fooling around, but it was actually two individuals who were caught in a rip tide that was pulling them out to sea. They were nearing exhaustion and were in dire need of assistance. We quickly paddled out to them and they grabbed our boards like a leach latches onto a swimmer’s leg. Then began the slow process of getting back to shore. We made it and our passengers were very thankful since the area they were in did not have many people nearby. At night, the massive beach is off-limits to the public since giant turtles come ashore and lay eggs. Using a guide, we embarked on a night tour and were fortunate enough to witness a female leatherback dig a nest deep in the sand. The five-foot turtle then laid a total of 63 eggs. Next came the slow process of covering up her eggs and making the long trip back down the beach to the ocean. Using only flippers, the prehistoric creature made me acutely aware of the dexterity that fingers and an opposing thumb offer. Miss World Canada, Camille Munro, was part of our group, and while at Playa Grande we met up with her cousin Nick who happened to be touring the country as well. Like Camille, he is easy going and has dark skin. One day while swimming, our daughter-in-law suddenly became very excited and shouted, “Look, a sea turtle!” We all stopped and stared intently in the direction she was pointing. When the turtle surfaced for air it became apparent the creature was actually Nick. When Nick heard what had transpired, he simply said, “I have been called a lot of things in my life, but I have never been called a turtle.” On the final day at the beach, we made a long hike to the nearby tourist town of Tamarindo. Our oldest son and his wife swam across a river to reach the town, while the less adventurous (the rest of us) took a boat. It was far busier than the pace of life to which had became accustomed, so we didn’t stay long. News that we would be leaving Costa Rica must have spread through the animal kingdom because a huge grasshopper (four inches long) showed up on the final night of our holiday and a land crab then moved into the lower level. I am sure it was a mate to the one that was living in the upper level of the house. We returned to Canada just as thousands of people were being advised their flights were canceled or delayed across North America due to winter storms. Aside from our luggage going AWOL for three days, our return flight was uneventful. The toughest part of the trip was adjusting to -25 C at Regina after basking in 30-plus temperatures at Costa Rica. Would I do it again? For sure!
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