Sorry gang, I guess we have a dodgy connection here. I’ll try again. Good thing it is the end of the chapter only. 

A bridge at the river

The family that shops together. 

Salt and pepper

OMB – salad rolls, my favorite. Where is the quinoa?

Showing the girls how to do it. 

Chef Pineapple 

Making the rum sauce. 

At the market

Oh My Buddha!

So I finished our last report with a teaser, OMB. From the title of this chapter, you see what that stands for. Oh my Buddha is Phong’s favorite line. He is oh so passionate about his country and teaching us what he knows.  He will start many of his discussions about Vietnam with the phrase. We are all using it know. 

He has been leading trips throughout SE Asia for many years but I feel his favorite place to teach about is his native land. 

When I checked in with you last, we were finishing our short stay in Hué and headed for Hoi An.

 (I just re-read that missive and it is quite long and all over the time line. Sorry about that- I shall try to be doing shorter posts about one place at a time but I cannot promise.)

Anyway, we took the bus down the beautiful coast for about 3 or 4 hours. It was so scenic nobody paid much attention to the time passing, just the scenery and Phong’s stories. 

We had some nice views out the window and a fun rest stop at a former bunker along the way. 

We mentioned in the last post that we thought our group of 15 was pretty darn good. Now we know it is! We have couples, a dad and daughter, single women on their own and single men. They hail from Canada, U.K., Australia, Germany and only Nancy and me from USA. Age range is early 20s to mid 60s. Everyone gets along, no drama queens (or kings) and they all have good stories to tell during bus rides, meals and other gathering times.  Often during our free time to eat, explore, shop and rest we end up either all together or with at least a few of our fellow travelers. 

While we are in this VERY picturesque town on the Thu Bòn River we have more free time and are here 3 nights so the pace has mercifully slowed down a step or two. Hoi An is known for the lanterns decorating the old town, tailor shops making custom outfits quickly, and river life. 

A few of our gang have had suits and shirts made. There are also shoemakers here. Nancy and I have not taken advantage of the opportunity as there is nobody who makes Padres shirts!

Yesterday we attended a cooking class at Oodles of Noodles. This is an organization that through its culinary program and restaurant teaches disadvantaged kids a trade and starts them in a career in restaurants and resorts. 

We learned to make various Vietnamese rice noodles and then had a terrific lunch. 



The weather here has taken a moist turn. The rain was especially hard yesterday postponing our bike ride to the beach. We may do it today but so far things don’t look so good. 

We did make the most of the pause yesterday with a visit to a spa

Nancy had a nice massage and I was exfoliated with coffee and honey. Kinda weird but I did smell good to all the baristas in town!  Speaking of coffee, there are cafes everywhere here. This was a Halloween treat yesterday 

Nancy and I are loving this trip. Normally we do all our own plans and travel independently. We may be rethinking. G Adventures does an amazing job of putting these trips together. We are staying at comfy but not lush hotels. We are taken to  places we might not know about and have great activities and plenty of free time. 

Phong has put us all together in a WhatsApp group to touch base with us when we are on our own and sends out restaurant recommendations. 

So now it is before 6am Thursday and we are fixin to an early trip to the DaNang airport and short flight to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).  I’ll try to get this off soon. 

However, I need to tell you that yesterday was a ripper!  The weather held off so we did the bike ride. The beach time was not good for swimming but a lovely place to stop for a break. Lots of pics here. We rode to a dock, the bikes and us hopped on a boat (talented bikes) and we went downriver to an island. We rode all over like we did on the motorcycles, roads, lanes, tracks, rice paddies etc. 

We also met this amazingly beautiful elderly couple who apparently are an internet sensation 

They are 96 & 92 years old. They have an organic farm outside Hoi An. Nancy felt compelled to help them with their back breaking work.
The water at the beach was a bit rough so we just waded. 

After riding back to town, we had $1 Bahn Mi that were amazing along w REAL BEER!

For those of you in Seattle, this place was very reminiscent of Salumi. Excellent food, out of the way, hard to find and a line out the door. 

After visiting the market with our chef, “Pineapple,”we did a cooking class where we learned spring rolls, pho, chicken in banana leaves and mango sticky rice. 

Dinner together eating our efforts followed, then back to sleep before our early rise. 
Pics include the bridge and salt shakers.
Okee dokee, you are caught up. We are on the plane and Astros are up 2-0 at Kevin’s last report. 

I met this lady cleaning fish along the bike path. I asked her for a photo since she is wearing a USA shirt. She was nice enough to let me snap this. 

A Hoi An footbridge at night and a family dressing and shopping together.  Well, our friends, we will close here and

pick this up in a couple days. We are in Ho Chi Minh City ( Saigon is easier but everywhere else has been an H city -Ha Noi, Halong Bay, Hué & Hoi An) now and have various activities over the next few days. 

tạm biệt ngay bây giờ

(Goodbye for now)

Nancy & Chris 

Phinally the Phong Phamily Phollies Begins

Well dedicated reader, as you are aware, most of our days here will be spent as part of a tour group. The first 10 days are here in Vietnam and the last 7 in Cambodia and Thailand.  ( I am starting this Friday at noon, who knows when I will finish?)

Your humble scribe apologizes if this entry is a bit disjointed. As you will see it is written over several days on busses, a boat a train and elsewhere. 

Nancy and I met up with our group yesterday afternoon but prior to that we had an hour bike tour with our new best friend, Thinh. 

Since he rode us around, we have run into him several times and he calls out to us by our names!  You would think that in a city of 8 million, this is unlikely. We have also seen the same wandering t-shirt lady, Tiu, about 5 times, always imploring us to buy more from her since she ‘has not sold one shirt today’. Last time we bumped into her and she used the same line I suggested very nicely she pursue a new career.) 

Please know there are hundreds of these ladies & gents plying their trade in the Old Quarter. 
He took us over many of the Hangs and Phos we had walked previously. This was a real blast to do! 

After leaving Mr. Thinh, we had a refreshing Vietnamese coffee at a local brewery (those of you who know me well are probably picking yourselves up off the floor but the beer was the same old yellow fizzy stuff of old.)

Lunch was at the TripAdvisor #1 Hà Nội restaurant (Hong Hoai) where we went for the local delicacy Bun Cha. This is a pork dish. They had run out and were VERY apologetic….Oh well, we will return tonight. 

Nope, we had dinner with the Phong family (as our guide Phong Nguyễn calls us). He did tell us that we will return to Hà Nội tomorrow in time for dinner, so maybe. 

We left Hà Nội this morning to go to Halong Bay for a cruise on a boat where we will spend the night before going back to the big city to catch an overnight train to Hué. 

I believe I have mentioned traffic issues with you before. We are on a small but big and comfy enough bus for the 3-4 hour ride. Well, here is a video I shot a short time ago. Good thing Nancy is sitting a few rows behind me and is not watching the road!

Of course she will never complain of my driving or Vespa riding again 

Here is a farmer headed to market (I think) next to the bus. 

So keep with me on the time line here please. It is now 6am Sunday. Im writing from the Hà Nội to Hué train. We have about 4 more hours to go. This ride is rockin, rollin, bumpin and grinding!  Hard to sleep but possible as you can see from my bunkies here. 

Even harder to type on my phone on the train. 

We are four to a room. You’ll have to ask Nancy at some point how she enjoyed her night sleeping with 3 men! 

OK, now I have to back up to the boat ride. We arrived in Hà Long in time for lunch on the boat. 

The food was quite good and the crew took care of those with food issues. Our room was larger than we had in some Roma hotels and comfortable.  The 1st pic is a fishnet made from a carrot and the second is a lantern out of an onion! 

After lunch, a kayak paddle around a bay and a sighting of a rare red bottom monkey. I was the back seat paddler and official team photographer. Toward the end of our journey I said to Nancy that we must’ve paddled 17 miles that hour and she said “Well I have.”  I guess she does not realize how important the pictures are. Each one is a thousand words. We are ALL happy (you readers especially) that I am using so many photos instead of words, no?  
Back to the boat, onto the tender to a stair climb to a peak. Only 437 stairs but uneven, crowded and slow going due to the crowd. But we were awarded with a beautiful view. At the bottom of the hill was a lovely beach where we had a refreshing plunge in waters from the Gulf of Tonkin.

Dinner and chatting on the boat watching the sunset.   Our group, by the way, is FANTASTIC…and we are the token Yanks!

Saturday morning on the bay was misty but photogenic. 

After a quick meal we were off to Sung Sot Cave.   Quite awesome!

After a cruise around 

we had lunch got back on the bus to Hà Nội and time to wander again. Phong took us to a restaurant to sample another local delicacy – Egg Coffee. Yup, the take a egg yolk (free range of course) beat it for 5 minutes and add honey, condensed milk, cinnamon and cocoa. Pour it over very strong coffee and yum yum yum!  They do it with beer to but I could not do that one – mon dieu!

N&I finallly found a Bun Cha place but only after having Happy Hour with a little shopping at our table.  The Bun Cha was delish as was the fried rice. Nancy has ordered that several times and loves it. 

The streets on a Saturday night are nuts. In addition to the usual insanity, some roads are closed to vehicles (except those scooters that ignore the closures) so night markets can be set up. That forces the scooters to other streets making those nutsier but the markets are cool. 

Plus, the street that the cops keep shutting down to diners is ok for outside tables on the weekends. 

Off to the train station and onto the iron horse to Hué.  One of our fellow travelers rented a room at our hotel for $10 as a shower room. This is something the hotel has arranged with our tour company. Pretty good deal. Most of us partook as there ain’t such facilities on the choo choo. It was quite refreshing and watching the room key come back to the lobby and the next person grabbing it and coming back 5 minutes later was neat. I was also able to get the good news of the Astros winning again! 

Today will bring a motorbike tour of the area. Each one of us as a passenger. Should be a blast. 

(I’ll stop for now but catch you up later. One reason for this lengthy opus is no innernet connection for a couple days so I can write but not send.)

OK – it is now Monday morning and we had quite a Sunday. First though I will describe the rail journey. Oy is a pretty good word for it. Want more?  All right – 

Nancy really liked it because she rarely gets to sleep with three men at the same time! Our room had four bunks and we shared with Aussie Tom and tour guide Phong. All three of them snored. Their cacophony was only slightly muted by the train’s own symphony of auditory squeaks, rattles, moans, bangs, booms, scrapes, creaks, crashes and wails made the sound of nails on a chalkboard something to anticipate with pleasure. 

Now, let’s talk about the motion – I love rock and roll but only the music.  Coupled with the noise, I did not have a great night. The motion worked for some to rock them to sleep but not me. I did manage to doze a bit but not much. My bunkies has no problems though. You saw the sleeping arrangements a bit earlier. 

After dawn, most of us congregated in the hallway and watched the countryside.

This train was not the Orient Express or the City of New Orleans but it did get us from A to B. 

B is the city of Hué. We were bussed to the hotel, showered off the train sweat and miasma. Then came the motorbike tour. 

This was a crackup. We had so much fun and were driven all over the area. We went to a little village where we were given a rice processing demo, a covered bridge, canoes made of bomb shells, 

lunch at a Buddhist pagoda, Bunker Hill overlooking the Perfume River where the French and US Army built lots of bunkers, the Citadel, à tower, royal tomb and other highlights

The REAL highlight though was the actual scooter rides. We were all over the roads, trails, footpaths, driveways, front yards, backyards, sideyards, living rooms  and goat tracks. 

Dinner was on our own but as with many of the ‘optional ‘ activities, we all had dinner together. 

Okay, now it is Tuesday morning and we are in Hoi An – a beautiful place but more on this place next time. Until then, OMB! (To be splained later…)

Btw, we heard the Stros are 1 win away from sending Dudgers home & the Seahawks had a great game!  Good news all around. 

An Unending Tide of Humanity

Xin cháo (Hello) everyone. Our trials and tribulations have stopped and we are enjoying the heck out of Hanoi!  The people, the food, the sights are all we hoped for. The traffic is quite a challenge for us lowly pedestrians. This  little video clip is indicative of the the ebb and flow. It seems everyone here is always on two wheels. We are not sure where they are all going all the time. 

You would think with so many people ( 7.588 million) in such proximity we would see and hear conflict but really the only thing resembling this is the constant, continuous, never ending and all the time (yes, I know I am repeating myself redundantly – for emphasis) noise of the beep beep of scooter horns. We do not see and hear this as anger or peevishness but as a warning that ‘here I come, I don’t want to hit your scooter, so please stay outta my way’. 

I love getting up early and seeing a new place come alive in the mornings. With my camera of course. Rome, Dubrovnik, Edmonds are all late sleepers. Not so in Hanoi. While the pics below show relatively empty streets, there are lots of peeps out and about.  Nancy and I were out and about this morning. 

The everyday life is played out on the streets it seems. Especially in the Old Quarter where we have spent most of our time here. It is a rabbit warren of small streets, alleys and arm span wide alleyettes. Despite what the signs say, these are all a minimum of two way roads but we have to make sure our heads are on swivels at all times. The method Nancy hit upon in China of waiting to cross the street with a little old lady (LOL) does not work too well here. Everyman and woman for themselves. I have taken a few LOL under my wings to help them cross. It is tougher than Rome and quite a challenge. 

Vendors with their wares on bikes, hand carts and over the shoulder panniers are in traffic because the sidewalks are parking for scooters, dining rooms, kitchens and bars so we are all using the same space at the same time (physics does not apply here!). 

We are loving the food. Phó, barbecue (Vietnam style that is) hot pot, bahn mi, fresh fruit, French style breads. Flavored cold and hot teas. 

Traditional Vietnamese coffee is an individual drip cup, very strong and served with condensed milk

The architecture is diverse. This area is known for skinny houses. Maybe 10 feet across but 5 stories high. 

Also some old European churches. 

I do not know what kind of trees these are but they provide lots of shade. I do know what kind of wife this is though. She provides lots of love!

The beer ain’t great and decent wine is hard to find but fear not for us

Those are MaiTais we had last night. We have not partaken of the Mexican food or libations though. The cost is a little over $2 for a shot – expensive but imported (I hope). 

Nancy is especially captivated by the lovely ladies peddling their inventory 

Yesterday we hoofed it over to the Ho Chi Minh Museum and mausoleum (the latter was closed). Both are very large Soviet era block buildings. Here is Nancy with Uncle Ho. 

We meet up with our group later today so our travel style will be changing. I am sure we will have a great time. We will keep you posted.  We are headed south slowly including an overnight on a sampan on Halong Bay, another sleepover on a train between there and Hue. This map may help. 

I’ll leave you with a shot if this gent enjoying a smoke and cold tea. I cannot imagine how he could sit like this for the 10 minutes we sat across the street in chairs much less just a few seconds. 

cho đến lần sau 

(until next time) 

Chris & Nancy 

Asia Beckons

Hello family and friends. Welcome to our  first post of our 2017 trip to SE Asia. 

How did this begin?  I’ll tell you. (How does it end? Very Well, we hope!)

Back in February, Nancy and I were deciding where to go on our 2017 big trip. As with other years, New Zealand was our prime destination. Once again though we were aced out of that lovely spot due to no seats available using our Alaska Airlines miles. The Missus has never been and I was there as a 17 year old, hitchhiking around the islands with best mate, Aldo.  Then my client who lives in Thailand wrote with a tax question and asked when I was coming back. (Brother Matt and I met him in Chang Mai a few years ago.)

At his question, the (energy saver) lightbulb over my head popped on and we decided to go to SE Asia. Alaska Airlines was quite happy to find us the route of Seattle-Vancouver-Tokyo-Bangkok. 

We found a tour (though we are not tour peeps but we thought we would give it a go).  It is 17 days of Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand ending in Bangkok coincidentally (since that is the starting point of our return flying marathon). 

As I start this entry, we are still two hours out of Tokyo on a very long but comfy Japan Air flight. (Nancy here, a few days later to interject that the final 2 hours were NOT fun or comfy but filled with turbulence…..UGH!  Picture below is before turbulence!

 For those of you in the Antipodes, a 10 hour flight is child’s play. Nancy and I have done longer hauls, but the day started with a 30 minute flight from Seattle to Vancouver then 4 hours  that airport. In Tokyo we have two hours on the ground then six more to BKK. A looooong day indeed. Luckily I have recently started drinking coffee!

We land in Bangkok at 11pm and fly out at 2 pm the next day. Good thing we have three days in Hanoi before joining our group. We will need time to recover. 

A word about Japan Airlines. By using our miles (& a lot of them) we are in quite comfy business class. The food is very good and terrific service. Why is it that airlines in the US have such trouble with this?  

When I could not get the WiFi to work on my phone, two of the beautiful flight attendants worked diligently to no avail to help. I told them the only reason I wanted to get online was to check the score of the ALCS game7, so one of the ladies found a passenger who was able to connect. He checked the score and to my delight, the skankees lost. So Houston is going to the World Series against the stink in’ dudgers.

<<Time to do the 1st revision of the above commentary. Shortly after I mentioned two hours outta Tokyo, we ran into a Taifün (typhoon). It was well to the south of us but it affected air travel. Here is the end of our flight path>>

Lots of racetracks flown. We were late into the airport but our outbound was also delayed. 

The third leg to Bangkok was longish too. At Tokyo airport Nancy saw there was a flight leaving at the same time for Hanoi. I did my darndest to get us onto it but no luck so BKK here we come. 

Made it finally to Bangkok. Now onto Hanoi. A note to our Boeing fans – the Dreamliner is one cool plane and we are happy to report that it holds up VERY well when bounced around with SEVERE turbulence AND A TYPHOON!!

Our short stay in Bangkok included a splash in the hotel rooftop pool and a walk around the neighborhood 

Off to the airport (again) where I quickly learned of my rookie mistake. It wouldn’t be so bad if I was a 1st time trip planner but it is more like a 201st time. A few months ago I booked our flight to Hanoi and the airline subsequently cancelled the route. No worries, I found a different airline and booked the trip. (A note to travelers – use a travel agent!)  Well, wouldn’t you know it but I kept the old print out, forgot about the new one and we arrived at the check in counter 10 minutes before our new flight!  Too late to board?  Vâng! (That’s YES in Vietnamese)

We had to buy a couple day of flight tix, sit around the very noisy and HOT terminal (who builds a glass roofed and walled terminal in the tropics then forgets to put in a/c?) for 5 hours. The plus side is we had some nice PadThai noodles. 

Then after landing in Hanoi and hoofing the 1/4 mile to passport control (according to Fitbit) I discovered I left my phone (the one in my hand now so you know there is a satisfactory ending) on the plane. Rookie mistake #2 – let’s hope the last! ( travel agent is no help here though. Checking the seat pocket thoroughly is though.) Ran back a quarter mile to the plane but it had already been moved!  

Onto Lost and Found and after an hour or so, viola. I have nothing but good things to say about the staff of Vietnam Airlines (and Saint Anthony!)

ONWARD!  We survived a wild taxi ride and made it to our hotel in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, had dinner on the street, (which was interrupted by the sudden whisking away of our food, table and chairs as they thought the police were patrolling), the return of said items when it turned into a false alarm and then to a well deserved sleep. 

I am ending chapter môt (number one in Vietnamese) as I watch the city awake. It is 6am on Tuesday (I think) and here is the view an hour ago from our little veranda. It is getting more bustling and the roosters are crowing like they know who will be on the dinner table tonight!

A note on the photos. So far we have only been using our iPhones. The Nikons get unlumbered today. 

Until next time. And, GO ASTROS!

Chris and Nancy – the peripatetic peoples. 

We are Outta the Jungle Now

We are now at La Paz Waterfall Garden Lodge about an hour from San Jose (by car). This is our last stop before heading home in a few days. 

Yes, it is STILL raining. The area we were first, Puerto Jimenez received 185 inches (15 FEET 5 inches) of lluvia in 14 dias!  No wonder this place is soooo green. The temperature though has been quite pleasant- @ 75° F  (24° C for those of you in the metro zone).  We have saved $$ on sunscreen and moisturizer. 

Friday was a bit drier so we ventured out on another mangrove tour. We saw a few different creatures and had a good time. 

Saturday, our guide, José talked our way into the closed Corcovado National Park and we did a hike for a few hours with a picnic lunch thrown in. 

About an hour into the hike, the heavens opened up and we were all doing drowned sloth  impressions. The funny thing is, we kept on going. Nobody complained and we had fun. The 3 women all had rain jackets but us 2 macho dudes were only in tshirts. After about 75 minutes the rain stopped and the monkeys and Coatis came out to play. 

We forded a fast river to get to a waterfall. Nancy could not do that part of the hike due to her broken wrist. Other than that, she has done all the excursions. My wife is quite the trooper, I must say!  

On our way back to La Paloma we saw blue footed boobies which indicated dolphins in the area. Sure enough, there was Flipper. 

While sitting in the open air lounge, I watched a capuchin monkey drop down from the roof and take a tea light candle out of the glass holder, put it in his teeth and climb back up. He did not come back for a lighter so I figured he had matches. Sorry, no photo. 

We left this morning via a 1 hour water taxi ride back to Sierpe where we took a cab to the airstrip and waited for our 19 passenger plane to San Jose. It was unclear whether the plane would come for the 30 minute flight or we would need the taxi to take us to SJ – a 4 hour drive. Luckily the plane showed. 

La Paz Lodge is by a volcano in a wildlife refuge where all the critters are rescue animals. There are monkeys, cats, snakes and others. 

We have an amazing room with 2 showers and 2 jacuzzis!  Also a hummingbird feeder by the outside jacuzzi and hammock. 

I just had a call from the front desk apologizing that the waiter at lunch did not give us our welcome cocktails and to inform us that we are to receive 2  1 hour in room massages as part of a promo they are doing!  We love this place!

This is the waterfall in our bathroom. 

By the way, it is raining. 

Tomorrow we will explore the park a bit more and I will probably have a final posting of our trip. 

Now it is Monday afternoon. We were up early as habits are hard to break. Because of that, we had the park to ourselves. The pumas and jaguars were watching us as we passed by on the way to the cataratas (Español for fosses which is Icelandic for waterfalls – wow, the things I have learned). 

The waterfalls were quite powerful as I guess I would be after all that rain if I was ah, actually a waterfall.

(I tried a selfie – didn’t work too well) 

We spent some time watching hummingbirds and then having a wander around before Nancy’s massage. Mine is next! Nancy found a cooperative sloth 

Check out how these flowers have filled up with (rain)water. Did I mention the drought is almost over here?  

I even found a local craft cervesa! (Finally) 

Ok, it is Tuesday now and I better finish this tome. We leave here mañana and overnight in LA before flying home Thursday. Let’s start a pool on how long it takes Nancy to have the 1st load of laundry started. 

Oh,oh, oh, no rain today! (Yet). We had sun for our morning constitutional. Oh my, that’s what it is like. 

We visited with  colibries (hummingbirds), tucán (toucans) & rana (frogs). 

So that is all from sunny Costa Rica & that ain’t no bull. 


Cristobal y Nancy 

Oops, no pictures?

Sorry about that. Don’t know how the last post did not have any shots. Here they are: 

A Red Eyed Tree Frog

The gang for Thanksgiving dinner

Preparing dinner

Howler Monkey

Stuffing and more prep pics 

Foot bridge into town

Outside the dining room

Mangrove tour pics

Is that an ark I hear being built?

((This may be a wordy post as I have LOTS of time. You’ll see why))
While it is now Wednesday noon (11/23), I do not know when I will be sending this as we are in a no internet, period. I can’t get too far behind in my writing though as I may forget. I have forgotten what being dry is like! It is so humid (but not hot) that this place has a dry room for shoes etc. my journal is there now as the pages have become so limp I can’t write in it and my previous entries have smudged ink. Oh, the humanity!  

When last I wrote, it was Saturday afternoon and that was also the last time we had a connection via the www (look it up if you are under 25). 

We were still at Lapas Rios. It was still raining. Well, we are at La Paloma and it is still raining. 

We actually have had intermittent periods of unrain (in the PNW we have intermittent showers. Huh) Leaving LR was a hoot. Driven to La Tractor Rio, we and the family from CO were loaded onto a mesh bottom, tractor pulled trailer.  Several staff members and locals were on it as well. 

The river was so high our ankles were immersed. Then José picked us up and drove us on paved roads in the relatively dry conditions to Sierpe. It is ordinarily an hour but it took 3 as we had to go the long way since bridges were out on the shortcut. 

He brought us to the dock where we boarded a water taxi to LP. Down the river to the Pacific Ocean where the ride turned very exciting. The swollen river met incoming tide. Ay caramba!  That was quite a voyage. 

This is a lovely spot up the hill from the ocean. There is a forest path to the wide sandy beach and warm Pacific.  We walked down and were soaked on the way back. Since we did not have any rain gear (rookie mistake) on,  I had to give Nancy the shirt off my back to wrap her must-stay-dry cast. At least it is a warm rain. 

We met our fellow travelers here: a family from Colorado, a couple from Houston and others from pommieland and Belgium.  Fun folk all. 

We have a nice room with a hammock on the wide veranda. I can hang in it like a squirrel monkey and watch the mucho uvia. 

Tuesday saw us back in the boat for a mangrove tour with Randall, an amazing guide. Quite a place, the mangroves and river. The rain held off for most of the time – yay! 

That night was a 3 hour tour with the Bug Lady and her hubby. We probably traveled a total of 300 yards and learned all sorts of spider, insect and mammal info. 

Today was supposed to be a boat ride to and a hike around Cocovado National Park but alas, the rain has closed the park. Oh well, we have a comfy lounge to gather in and swap travel stories. 

We have learned the reason we are so wet is a hurricane named Otto in the Atlantic side. We are getting no wind but lots of water. Supposedly it will be around until late Thursday or Friday which means no diving for me. Bummer. 

We would really like to see this country one day. 

Now it is Thursday morning- Felice Graciasgiving!  We may have stuffed Turkeyvulture for dinner tonight. Hope so. Probably tastes better than stuffed toucan. 

How did Wednesday go for us you ask?  Well there was a short time in the avo where it was dry so we walked into town. A tiny village right on Drake Bay. Not much to it but they are happy as a supply boat made it in so everyone is ready for a few more days of this. 

We were told in the early evening we were in the yellow zone for the fringe of señior Otto’s effects. Then later it was downgraded to red zone today. Again, that is rain but no wind. Graciasfully. 

A couple groups were able to leave today but they were not flying. 

Looking at our situation realistically, we are well off. We have a warm, dry (well, humid) comfortable place to stay with water, electricity and food. We even have occasional unwet spells. 

The Caribbean side of this small country (12,000 square miles) has been evacuated. In the northeast area and parts of Nicaragua as well. They are getting the brunt of Otto. I could be writing this from a shelter instead of a hammock with a view of the rainforest and quite calm Pacific Ocean. 

So for dinner on thanksgiving the chefs and us have prepared a traditional turkey dinner. No toucans or turkey vultures were harmed for this meal. Of course we needed tortillas as well. Here are some before shots:

The pumpkin pie is in the oven. 

After lunch we saw some wildlife and made sushi for afternoon snacks. 

I think I have reached the max length so I shall send and continue in another post. 

Costa Rica, here we are

Hi everyone. As I sit here writing this first post from CR, the rain is absolutely torrential. But I am getting ahead of my story. I have time to splain, so I won’t sum up. 

After flying from Seattle to LA, we spent the night before our early departure for San Jose, CR. Dinner was at the hotel sports bar where coincidentally we watched CR playing USA in World Cup qualifying Futbol. CR won 4-0 and we were thrilled since we did not want any hard feelings directed toward us. 

The flight down was easy and smooth but I noticed something I must have seen 1,000 times before. In the restroom on the plane was this sign:

Is this the button to push if you want the pool boy to bring a drink?

We stayed at a lovely converted Victorian mansion called Grano de Oro, a 16 room hotel. A walk through downtown San Jose to a locals place for ceviche then a cab back. 

Thursday morning, our trip planner, Grettel Calderon from Seattle’s own Wildland Adventures took us for a guided walk around town. We even had a nice stop for CR cawfee. 

So ends SJ. Our flight to Puerto Jimenez was delayed due to the rain in PJ but we eventually took off in a 19 passenger turboprop. So far, so good. 

See the cart next to the plane? That was to transport us standing to the other side of the big puddle. 
In a LandCruiser we proceeded to our incredibly beautiful and comfy world renowned destination, Lapa Rios, a 5 leaf eco lodge. Remember the so far so good comment in the last paragraph? Remember the delayed flight due to rain? Well…
The 5 of us , without luggage had to be taken across the 2nd to last river in a farmer’s tractor due to the very swollen, over the road rio. Some of you may not know that my traveling companion, Nancy is winged. That is, she recently broke her left wrist and is wearing a cast which makes hanging on to something solid on a slowly moving big red tractor even more of a feat. She did it, by golly by gosh!  The only victim of the 3 attempts to cross the rio was my right shoe that did not stay outta the river. 

Did I mention Lapa Rios?  It is beautiful. Only 17 rooms built on a hillside overlooking the pacific. Each bungalow is secluded from the others which makes frolicking in the outdoor shower a bit boring but more acceptable. 

King size, mozzy netted bed, indoor shower as well, screens, no windows and a wide veranda with a killer view (it would be better if it stopped raining so we could see the ocean! 

Did I mention the rain? It is currently 6am Saturday and we arrived 4pm Thursday. Other then about 3hours yesterday avo, it has been either coming down in buckets, a fire hose or a gully washer. No seattle like pleasant shower or mist but some serious stuff. The roar of it is amazing and constant. No pitter patter here. Imagine standing next to a railroad crossing and the world’s longest freight train is roaring by 10 feet from your face – for 38 hours (with a small break). 
I want you to know I am not complaining. Just informing. We are making the most of our time here. This place is very eco. They use spring water, the electricity is generated from biogas. We watched it being made yesterday. All the food scraps are fed to pigs which then poop (of course). 

Their waste goes through a process to make methane gas which in turn is used to run the generator. Pretty darn cool. The water is solar heated (except now when the pigs do it with their poop). 

There are amazing birds, monkeys (including Howlers) and sloths as well as frogs that we can hear at night over the rain, crocs, caymans (caymen?) and all sorts of snakes and insects. We hope to see them soon. 

Below are 3 toed sloth, scarlet macaw, common black hawk and Golfo Dulce (where we be) poison dart frog. 

Staff deliver delish CR (of course) coffee to our door at 6am each day. Even I am drinking it.  
The food is pretty darn good 

and we have met some interesting fellow travelers. We  are here for 2 more days before heading to our next stop (I hope). 

Please ecuse any typos as this has been composed on my phone since we didn’t bring a laptop. 

That’s it for now, time for our bartending class (it is 10am Saturday and still pouring). 


Chris and Nancy 

Farewell Ísland (aka “Iceland”)

SO, Family and Friends….. Our trip is nearing an end.  We head home tomorrow – sigh…

It has been a GREAT journey.  We have discovered three countries – Portugal, Faroe Islands & of course Íceland.  We have had a wonderful time along the way & met some great people in each place we visited.   We have had some amazing food and seen some terrific scenes.  Once again, I may run out of superlatives.

The past 10 days were spent with the photography workshop group.    A few of our fellow attendees were not strangers.  I had been on several workshops with Bill, and one each with Sue, Barb & Tom.  The others were Mark & John. Bill’s wife, Mary-Mignon was also an attendee.   As always, our leader was Jim Altengarten of Exposure36 Photography.

The first three days were in the Faroe Islands.  We flew from the Reykjavik domestic airport to Vágar on an easy 1.25 hour flight.  We started shooting right away on our drive to our hotel in Gjógv on the island of Eysturoy.

DSC_5411 The local farmers don’t mind people walking into their paddocks to photograph but they don’t want the sheep to get out so they have these ladders. Hope the cute wooly critters don’t figure out how to climb.  We stayed in the village all 3 nights and drove around several of the various islands;  most are connected by undersea tunnels.  Some of the tunnels even have the FM radio station signals boosted so you don’t miss any of the latest top 23 songs (small country – can’t afford a top 40).

DSC_3974The waterfront in Gjogv.

DSC_4398Gasadalur falls

Back to Iceland on Monday to start the next part of the workshop.  In both places we had some weather challenges but since Nancy & I are hearty Northwesterners, we persevered and enjoyed all nature could show us & throw at us. Check out some of the other shots.  These are the ones I submitted to the critique session.

DSC_6492This was from a boat ride in the Faroes.  We were supposed to see lots of the shore birds but they had left already.  Amazing cliffs & grottoes though.  Worth the trip.

DSC_5744 - Version 2The original Geysir in the south of Iceland.  Just about ready to pop.

DSC_5538We had a good night at the Aurora outside Selfoss, island.

DSC_5478Looking down at some rapids by a HUGE waterfall – Hraunfossar.

DSC_5390 DSC_5369 These are Kirkjufellfoss in Grundarfjordur, Iceland.  Those of you paying attention will remember Nancy & I were here a couple weeks ago.DSC_5245On the road to Grundarfjordur.  Shining sun, calm water, reflections – ahhh…

DSC_5143Cod, the national dish.  I found some fishermen offloading the day’s catch.

DSC_5116Nope, not upside down.  A nice reflection in a lagoon.

DSC_4987I do not know which loss this is but I like shooting soft water.  (I called it a blurry water shot but Jim did not think that sounded professional enough.)

DSC_4855This is the ceiling/roof of Harpa, Reykjavik’s fairly new performing arts & conference center.  Right on the waterfront.

DSC_4722A church in Iceland with an honest to goodness tree in front.

DSC_3902A street scene in Gjogv.

DSC_3862 DSC_3847

A couple more Fosses.

(L to R) Mark, John, Nancy, Sue, Chris at the Blue Lagoon this morning before their flights back to the States. IMG_7339

Well, that is all I have for now.  I will send out another note in a few weeks when I have had a chance to edit the approx 3,000 pictures down to a more manageable number.  I’ll post the to my photo website.  If you want to look at it now for prior trips, feel free.  Please be aware though that there are several folders there with plain, good old family snaps, not the works of art you have come to expect of us now!

Lots of love,

Chris & Nancy