A Travellerspoint blog

Time to go home

The adventure is over

Saturday 29 April 2023 - Monday 1 May 2023

I had plenty of time to repack my bag and try to make everything fit. It was a struggle to get the zipper closed!

I checked out at 10.30 and caught a taxi for the half hour trip to the airport (USD35). I'm so glad I went to the airport early because the lines for security wound around the airport and took an hour to reach the security area. My American Airlines flight left on time at 13.50 and four and a half hours later I was in Dallas, with time change it was 19.15. Although I didn't have to pick up my luggage in Dallas I did have to go through immigration and security. The immigration and security officers were really rude ... the security woman was yelling at people.

My Qantas flight left on time at 22.30 on Saturday. After sixteen and a half mind numbing hours I arrived in Sydney around 06.15 on Monday. I have never seen such chaos at Sydney airport. Several flights had just unloaded and there were long lines at all the passport machines. I finally got to the front of the line but, because I'd been to Peru and Ecuador, I was directed go to the assistance line. I only had to show my Yellow Fever vaccine card (had the vaccine in 2019 for travel to Africa).

Despite my extra time at immigration the luggage still hadn't come through and it took quite a while before my bag arrived ... it was a relief to see my bag had made it from Costa Rica. I knew by that stage that I was not going to make my 08.00 flight to Canberra. The line for customs was very long. I had to declare my shoes because I'd been walking in rural and river areas in South and Central America, but when I finally arrived at the front of the line I was only asked if my shoes were clean and I was waved through.

The chaos was even worse when I arrived at the Qantas transfer to the domestic terminal. The line was out the door. I was directed to a line to change my flight then I had to go back in the line that was out the door - that was the line for security. I only just made my 09.30 flight and arrived in Canberra half an hour later. I was exhausted after more than 30 hours of travel.

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I travelled the entire Pacific coast of South America, from the snow and icy waters of Patagonia to the dry areas of the Atacama Desert to the tropical beaches and jungles of Ecuador, with the bonus of a taste of Central America with Panama and Costa Rica. The trip was more than a cruise, it was an expedition and every day was a new adventure.

Captain Willasen described the ship as a happy ship, where all the staff are valued for their role in making things run smoothly. He was right, it felt like a happy ship ... I loved Roald Amundsen and I was sad to leave.

This trip was something I dreamed about during the years of the Covid enforced stay at home. I had done my research and had high expectations of the Hurtigruten experience. It far exceeded my expectations!

Posted by MissWalker 06:11 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

San Jose, Costa Rica

Last day in Costa Rica

overcast 26 °C

Friday 28 April 2023

Last night Victor said if anyone wanted to join him, he'd be out looking for birds in the gardens at 06.00. I was awake early but took my time and it was 06.10 when I joined him and a small group. I came at just the right time because he'd spotted some toucans in the distance. As we watched they flew closer, to a tree in the garden. They are beautiful birds and it was wonderful to see them in flight.

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I left the others to continue their bird watching and went for an early breakfast. I'd had a shower but was already hot and sweaty. After breakfast I walked back to my room the long way, along a winding path through the gardens. I had to reorganise my bag and try to make everything fit in again. After stacking all the bags in the back of the bus we departed the Arenal Kioro hotel at 08.30.

We drove for a few hours, going higher into the mountains to reach La Paz Waterfall Gardens Nature Park. The park has beautiful gardens, trails down to waterfalls, and animals. The animals are mainly rescue animals that can't be released back into the wild. The higher altitude meant that it was much cooler ... such a relief!

We walked through the large bird enclosure, then into a separate area that housed two small toucans. The toucans had been kept as pets and the park took them when they were no longer wanted, so they weren't afraid of the people walking through. They were really beautiful. Next we spent some time in the butterfly house.

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Outside the enclosures were hummingbird feeders. Although we'd seen many hummingbirds flitting among the trees and bushes you can only get a glance of them before they're gone. The feeders allow you to really see and photograph these tiny delicate birds.

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Then is was time for lunch, which was buffet style. It was really good to have a relaxed and light lunch after the three course lunches we've been offered ... and they had slices of pizza.

After lunch we had a look at the jungle cat enclosures. La Paz have margay (tree ocelot), jaguar, ocelot and puma. It's sad to see these big cats enclosed. The centre where they were formerly housed had to close when it lost funding and they were taken in at La Paz.

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We walked the trail down to the waterfalls. Lots of steps down to the bottom of the waterfalls, which means lots of steps back up. I found this much easier than yesterday because it was much cooler and not humid.

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We departed the park at 15.15 and drove higher into the mountains reaching 2,000 metres above sea level, where there was a mist hanging in the air. We even had a heavy downpour, the first rainfall we've seen in Costa Rica. We arrived at the Intercontinental Hotel in San Jose around 17.30 after driving through crazy Friday afternoon peak traffic.

My big adventure is over and tomorrow I begin the long journey home.

Posted by MissWalker 01:29 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

Arenal Volcano: Day 2

On the river and hanging bridges

sunny 31 °C

Thursday 27 April 2023

Breakfast was at 06.30. It's wasn't difficult to wake up early because the sun comes up around 05.00 and there's plenty of bird noises and occasionally you can hear the howler monkeys. This morning the volcano had what looked like smoke coming out of it. Victor said it's steam, a result of the heat of the volcano and the moisture in the air.

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We departed at 07.30 for what was a very active day on a very hot and humid day.

We drove for about half an hour to the PeƱas Blancas River, where we did a drift down the river in an inflatable boat. I was in the smaller boat with three other people plus the guide. The guide was in charge of paddling but there were times when he needed help so we followed his instructions ... row now ... left side only ... right side only ... stop now. In places the river was really low and the boat got stuck so he had to get out and pull it to refloat it. We weren't allowed to get out and help even though the water was only ankle deep ... we also had to wear life jackets.

There were some shaded areas along the river but a lot of the time we were under full sun. We were on the river for around two and a half hours and it became very hot and uncomfortable sitting in the same position, and we also used a lot of energy paddling. On one occasion we were heading towards the river bank and there was a sharp branch sticking out right at my face level. I leaned back to avoid it and overbalanced backwards ... the guy sitting behind me also leaned to avoid being hit in the face and we both ended up on the bottom of the boat.

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The point of floating down the river was to see wildlife and we certainly saw some wildlife. We saw a variety of birds, iguanas, Jesus lizards, howler monkeys, bats, and a sloth. For me the most exciting find was a baby spectacled owl sitting in a hollow in a tree trunk. The mother owl was sitting in a tree on the opposite bank, right above us making sure we weren't going too close to her baby. There's a spot on the river that usually has some caiman but there weren't any there today.

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We were given some watermelon and pineapple. Then made our way back to the hotel for a 30 minute rest and change of shoes. We needed water shoes/sandals for the boat and in the afternoon we needed closed toe shoes for walking.

We stopped for lunch at a restaurant in La Fortuna. Inside the restaurant was like a sauna. I sat and waited as others ordered drinks and starters, and the lunch seemed to take forever as the staff were really slow. I didn't really feel like eating but had to order something because we had a long hike ahead of us. It was such a relief to walk out of the restaurant and into the air conditioned bus.

We drove for about half an hour to the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park, a privately owned park with suspension bridges in the rainforest. Our guide, Victor, said it was an uphill walk for a while then level and down. He was right about the uphill part! The tracks were paved but you still had to watch where you're walking. Although shaded under the jungle canopy, the air was still and it was hard going walking uphill in the heat. I was low on energy before we started and I found this walk quite difficult ... it was only 3.2kms but it took us about three hours because we stopped to look for animals.

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The hanging bridges were fun but you can't really see much from them, it's a long way down. The bridges have quite a bit of movement and you have to concentrate while walking across (I have big bruises on my arms from steading myself).

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The rainforest is dense and on steep slopes but we did see some animals. We saw a variety of birds, a bat, a small snake and a sloth but it was very difficult to photograph the animals in the dense vegetation, or even see them when Victor was pointing them out. When we walked out of the rainforest there was a lovely cool breeze. I was just happy that I survived the walk.

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We were back at the hotel at 18.00 and I had a shower and sat for a while. My body relaxed and the muscles stiffened up. I didn't want to go to dinner because that meant walking down the steep hill and back up! But I knew other people were waiting for me. This was another long drawn out meal.

Today I felt the effect of being on a ship for so long. I didn't feel it yesterday, but today I felt the floor and ground was moving and I felt off balance a few times throughout the day, particularly after I stepped off the suspension bridges.

Posted by MissWalker 12:39 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

Arenal Volcano: Day 1

Expedition: Day 33

sunny 30 °C

Wednesday 26 April 2023

Is today really an expedition day? Not really but it's in the itinerary as the last day.

We arrived in Puntarenas, Costa Rica around 06.30. I was out on my balcony to see the sun rising and felt the familiar shudder as the ship moved slowly sideways towards the wharf. Docked on the opposite side of the wharf was an enormous ship (Emerald Princess) that dwarfed Roald Amundsen. That's the first cruise ship I've seen in the past month - the only other passenger ship I saw was a smaller expedition ship in the Chilean Fjords.

I had one last breakfast and had to say goodbye to all the lovely restaurant staff. They all called me Madame Jen. From now on I expect everyone to call me Madame. We had to be out of our cabins by 08.30 and then wait for our groups to be called to depart. My group was called at 09.15 and it was time to say goodbye to the expedition team who had made this such a memorable journey.

I'm doing the Arenal Volcano extension, organised by Hurtigruten. We met Victor, who will be our guide for the next couple of days and Roberto, who will be our driver. Our luggage was stacked into the back of a mini van and twelve of us squeezed into seats with very little leg room. After an hour and a half we had a half hour break, then drove on a winding mountain road for what seemed like forever. We arrived at La Fortuna and then the Arenal Kioro hotel at 13.30. We went straight to lunch ... three course lunch, and I was hoping to eat less now that I've left the ship.

We were allocated our rooms and four of the rooms were quite a walk up a steep road. Yes, my room was up the steep road. We had the afternoon free to walk around the beautiful gardens, go for a swim or use the hot spring pools. The hotel is at the foot of Arenal Volcano and the pools are heated by the volcano, which last erupted in 2010.

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I wandered around the gardens and discovered some colourful birds. I was going to try one of the hot pools but the water looked stagnant and uninviting. Instead, I retreated to my room with air conditioning ... from there I could watch the birds flitting from tree to tree and I saw a coati that came to dig just below my balcony.

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Dinner was at 19.00 and it was very dark by then. Getting to dinner meant having to walk down that steep road, there were some lights but it was quite dark. I had my head lamp with me which was very useful. It was also useful after dinner for looking for frogs ... I found one on a plant just outside the restaurant and one next to a fountain.

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Posted by MissWalker 01:54 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

Curu Wildlife Reserve, Costa Rica

Expedition: Day 32

sunny 28 °C

Tuesday 25 April 2023

Curu Wildlife Reserve is privately owned. The property comprises a beach, mangroves, forest and low impact farming. This is the first time Hurtigruten has made a stop at the reserve - the itinerary was quickly put together by the expedition team when the stop at Quepos was cancelled.

We were offered beach time and either a short walk or longer hike to look for wildlife. I felt really drained by yesterday's exertions in the heat so signed up for the short walk. As I was in a group for the walk at 14.00 I spent the morning in my cabin reading and sorting clothes ready for packing ... I have to pack and leave the ship!!!

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At 13.15 I boarded the zodiac and we did a very wet landing as the waves rolled onto the beach. I had a wander along the beach and watched the capuchin monkeys swarm the area looking for unattended bags to steal.

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We did a 45 minute walk on level sandy tracks and wooden bridges over the mangroves, escorted by two of the ship's naturalists. We saw more capuchin monkeys and some howler monkeys high in the trees, caught glimpses of birds, saw crabs in the swamp and a couple of iguanas. We were finishing the walk when we came across a group of coati digging in the dirt.

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This was a lovely walk, although it was hot the conditions seemed mild compared to yesterday's heat. I had to walk out into the surf to board the zodiac for a wet trip back to the ship - it was a bit rough as we hit a couple of waves and water sprayed into the zodiac.

One final outing was planned for after dinner ... zodiac cruising in the dark. Because the ship is usually in icy waters this isn't something they've done before. I was a bit hesitant but I'll never have the chance again, so off I went. Brendan was driving the zodiac I was in and he'd heard this was a good area for bioluminescence, so he was keen to get out at night.

The night was warm and the sea was calm. After a while your eyes adjust and you can see the outline of nearby islands. When you look up the sky is full of stars. We drifted for a while just taking in the stillness of the night. We saw a flying fish skim the water. Brendan said to look in the wake of the zodiac for something like tiny blue flashes ... the bioluminescence was like tiny sparks in the water. It was amazing! Not many people took up the offer of a night ride in a zodiac and they missed something really special.

I had to quickly have a shower and finish packing so my bag could be placed outside my door. I was just in time to see the photographer's video of the trip from Valparaiso.

Posted by MissWalker 04:14 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

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