Splette's Travel Blog
  • Animals
  • April28th

    Hmm, I wonder what this cute sign means...

    Cute warning sign

    During my short beach trip to Samara in Guanecaste (on the Costa Rican Pacific coast) with Gabriel and his friend Steven we came across this cute self-made warning sign. It was near a bridge across a small creek leading into the ocean, just about 100 or 200 meters away from the main beach where people (including us the next day) went swimming. Could it be that crocodiles inhabit this creek so close to the beach and with plenty of cars passing by? I presumed they might prefer a more quiet habitat. In all that time I had spent in Costa Rica I never saw a crocodile, although I heard stories. I was wondering if the warning sign was put there just in case but the last actual sighting of a crocodile was perhaps years ago.

    Fishing for wild crocodiles

    Fishing for wild crocodiles

    We tried to catch a glimpse of a crocodile by peeking through the branches from different angles. But the water was dark and absolute quiet. No movement was to be seen in the water or the thick bushes on both sides. As I wandered around I noticed a long stick with a thin rope and a noose at the end. It was just a few meters from the bridge, hanging in one of the bushes. Someone seemed to have placed it there on purpose. It almost looked like a fishing rod. That gave me some idea… Why not put a stone in the noose and lower it from the top of the bridge to make a few splashes in the water. Perhaps this might get some attention? The instant I let the stone on the rope splash into the water the large head of a crocodile surfaced right below me. Wow, I didn’t expect that. It must have been waiting there at the bottom of the creek all along. Although I love reptiles, to be surprised by a grown up crocodile in the wild, just two meters below me had a rather chilling effect. Others seem to care less. I made a few more splashes until the stone fell off but the animal wasn’t fooled by it any longer and would not show up again.
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  • April23rd

    Puerto Viejo beach at sunset
    After a few days on the Pacific coast I went spent a long weekend in Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. This time I wasn’t traveling alone, though. Rodolfo (also known as Fofo), one of my oldest Tico friends from the time I was living here was accompanying me. It’s Easter weekend and because the Easter week (Semana Santa) is the most important celebration of the year in many Latin american countries exceptional circumstances apply.

    A baby crab digging a hole at the beach

    Baby crab digging hole

    On Easter Friday there was no public transportation at all and by law it’s forbidden to sell alcohol (thankfully, popular tourist spots consequently ignore that law). For Costa Rica Easter also means that everyone is heading for the beach, so it can be extremely difficult to find a place to sleep unless one books weeks in advance – which is so not my style. so we had quite a hard time finding any kind of accommodation. Even the tents and hammocks were booked out.

    I was chasing this crab around. Eventually it was hiding behind this door.

    Bigger crab

    Eventually, Rodolfo got hold of a large hostel that isn’t listed on any of the hostel-booking websites and still had two dorm rooms available.
    We left San José on the first bus at 6am in the morning and arrived in Puerto Viejo about 5 hours later. Most of the Caribbean region of Costa Rica is quite beautiful (so is its Panamanian counterpart Bocas del Toro just across the border) and there’s something for everyone. Puerto Viejo is more of a party town at the beach. A few kilometers down the coast is Punta Uva which is much quieter and even further South is the chill village Manzanillo, a vibrant outpost of Afro-Caribbean culture.
    We stayed at Rocking J´s, a large and surprisingly well-organized hostel (for Costa Rican standards) about 10 min walk out of the city center and right at the beach. The hostel had a good and relaxed vibe and was mostly frequented by European backpackers. Next to our room was a bunch of Israeli surfer boys and we shared the room with two Dutch girls – and that baby cockroach that I found in my bed. Rest in peace little cockroach.
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  • October17th

    I know what insect that is... a fat bedbug


    It’s been a while since I saw one of those little fellows. Over a year actually. And I spotted this one in a rather unusual location. I was on a 20-hour bus ride from Nicaragua to Guatemala. These can get a little boring with time. Surprisingly, the movie of the bus driver’s choice was not “Rambo” but “Avatar”. It’s fun to hear the Na’vi speak Spanish (was that a Mexican accent?) and the plot is simple enough that even I understood some.

    So, as I am sitting there watching the movie, I suddenly notice an insect. It’s also just sitting there, on the white seat cover of the seat in front of me. The characteristic shape of its body made it easy to identify: a bedbug! Yikes. Then again, interesting. For a moment I was considering to keep it as a pet as I have done with other insects (cockroaches) and millipedes before. I’d call the little blood sucker Cristian. But then I changed my mind and squished it. It left a large red blood stain on the white seat cover. It must have just feasted on someone’s blood and I wholeheartedly hope that somebody was not me.

    Can you spot the bed bug?

    What’s wrong with this picture?

    It left a large blood stain. Hope this is not my blood.

    Squashed bedbug

    In my mind I was already phrasing this blog entry when after about 5 min this squished little insect began moving again. Zombie bedbug! These things are inextinguishable (if that is an English word). It managed to crawl another 20 cm or so before I let it drop on the floor and squished it with my foot. Not even a zombie bedbug survives the force of my 80-something kilogram body…

  • August6th

    One of the few iguanas that wasn't sleeping

    As you may know, I am into reptiles and in particular I love iguanas. I had a green iguana for many years (may he rest in peace).
    Today, I went with my La Fortuna friends here to a place that is great for watching green iguanas. They were quite big (and fat), much larger than any others I had seen in the wild. They were also extremely lazy and sleepy. They did not seem to appreciate my excitement about them.

    One sleepy iguana

    Sleepy iguana

    Is this iguana not afraid of heights? Or suicidal? DON'T JUMP! You have every reason to live!

    Not afraid of heights

    Two lazy iguanas

    Two lazy iguanas

  • August5th

    Waterfall at sunset

    The waterfall near La FortunaI’m again visiting my American friend D’Angelo in La Fortuna, the cute little town by volcán Arenal.
    There is plenty of activities to do around Fortuna and some of the scenery here is pretty spectacular. Today I went to the nearby waterfall Catarata la Fortuna. We went swimming in the pool beneath the waterfall.The waterfall drops about 70 meters and is located at the base of a dormant volcano. At the bottom of the waterfall is a small pool in which you can swim. Considering the fact that this is a river, the water temperature was surprisingly pleasant. I tried to swim to the center but there was too much water coming down, pushing you away as you try to get too close. What a shame. I would have loved to know how this kind of shower feels like.

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  • April5th

    In Germany I hardly ever get to see any but here, they are everywhere. Cockroaches. I hate them. Unless of course I give them a name and keep them as a pet, at safe distance, trapped in a glass. But even then, they just make it so hard for you to love them…
    After complains from my roommate, I released my pet cockroach Xavier into the wild (the garden). He had a rough time with me as I rarely fed him. Cockroaches make great pets, though. They don’t die easily!

    That is, unless you step on them or apply insecticides. Below is a video I recorded a few days ago. The last moments in the life of a bug-sprayed cockroach, somehwere on a kitchen floor in Costa Rica.

    Rest in peace little nameless cockroach.
    You’ll always be remembered by the Youtube community and the faithful readers of my blog.

  • February20th

    The pacific beach in Manuel Antonio

    Manuel Antonio beach

    Finally, I get to travel around Costa Rica for a bit. After having visited the Caribbean coast two weeks ago and La Fortuna last week, I went for a day trip to Manuel Antonio on the Pacific coast. And this time, I even got a sunburn. In case I did not look like a proper tourist before, now I do!
    Manuel Antonio is one of the popular tourist destinations on this side. It’s very nice here but the Caribbean beaches are more beautiful.

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  • September1st

    Punta Uva beach in Costa Rica. Not sure if this photo does justice to the actual beauty of this place.

    Punta Uva beach: sand, palm trees, blue sea

    After spending a month in the San José area, most of the day on the laptop to earn some money for the rest of my trip, I really needed a break; get away from the computer screen and the city for a bit. So, I decided to visit the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica of which I heard plenty of good things. A four-hour bus ride later, I arrived in Puerto Viejo, a small village on the Caribbean that is overrun by party-hungry college kids, potheads and a couple of surfers. Looking for something more quiet and laid-back, I decided to settle a few kilometers further down the coastal road in Punta Uva at the ‘Casa Viva Beach Houses’. Not the cheapest place but the cabins were just a few meters away from a gorgeous beach. There were never more than a handful of people at the beach – but a few thousand sand flies. It felt like I got bitten by every single one of them. The water was great. I haven’t been swimming in the sea for at least a year.

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  • July10th

    Coffee fruit growing on a coffee plant

    Growing coffee fruit

    One of the places Marissa really wanted to visit was a certain coffee plantation she heard about from the Guatemalan owner of a fair trade store in Chicago. After recovering from the near-death experience of our Santiaguito volcano expedition we took a chicken bus from Quetzaltenango (or Xelahow the locals call it) to a small town called Colomba.

    A chicken bus as seen in Colomba, Guatemala

    Chicken bus

    Marissa was excited about her first ride in a chicken bus. These are old yellow US school busses that, after getting a more or less fancy paint job, are used as local buses all throughout Central America. The term ‘chicken bus’ stems from the fact that people use them to transport just about anything, including chicken (on our bus there were some chicks, too). From Colomba we hat to take a collectivo to the plantation. Collectivos are another interesting mean of transportation here. It’s basically a driver with a pickup truck that leaves whenever enough passengers have accumulated to fill the back of his truck. You get lot’s of fresh air, it’s almost like driving a cabrio, only that it’s a pickup and you share the car with at least 10 other people standing next to you… on second thought it resembles more an overcrowded subway.
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  • June1st

    An adult bed bug. (image: United States Department of Health and Human Services)

    Cimex lectularius

    Well, thanks very much for the advice but too late. I got bitten by bed bugs all over my legs. I haven’t caught any of them but I know it was them. There are no mosquitoes here and I have no allergies etc. It started with an itch, now I got red spots all over. Not sure where this first started. Maybe the weird hostel in Albuquerye, NM or the otherwise very nice, shoe-disappearing hostel in Flagstaff, AZ. Either way, I hope I won’t be carrying them with me all over the Americas…

    The last time I remember to be bitten by bed bugs was in the infamous Chungking Mansions in Hong Kong in 2003.