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All posts for the month October, 2012

Tales from Costa Rica – Part 6

Published 30/10/2012 by julierkendrick

Friday 26th October 2012 dawned nice and sunny and as humid as ever. I was glad because it was Annie’s 50th birthday and we had big plans.

Zip lining was first on our list and we had arranged to be there before 8am. Funnily enough I wasn’t actually nervous which is strange considering I’m not a fan of heights, not phobic but not keen either. I think it was the thought that I was going to be doing this through the rain forest that excited me. When we arrived we were introduced to our guides, Eric and Victor, two very handsome Tico’s who teased us mercilessly throughout the experience. All in good fun, we played up to the “we throw English off the platforms” humour. We were strapped up to within an inch of our lives and shown how to zipline safely. Then we were off. The first couple of lines were great and eased us in gently, the breeze and the views were gorgeous. We had two other young men on our session they were a lovely couple called Geraldo and Roy and they were so excited to be doing this that their mood was infectious and we were all laughing and giggling at the silliest things. It was a heady experience. Between some of the lines we had a couple of quite steep walks up hills and between trees. Now if any of you have seen pictures of me you will notice that I am not the fittest person alive and I was huffing and puffing like an old steam roller. As I trundled along, holding everyone up I kept apologising but they were all so lovely and waited for the fat English chick. 😉

Half way along the route we came to the “Tarzan” swing. Now, I was not familiar with this, although had I given it any thought it would have been obvious. Roy and Geraldo threw themselves, almost literally into this with gusto and I stood back swallowing the lump that had suddenly appeared in my throat. Mmmm so I would be strapped to a single rope and thrown out over the tops of the trees. Easy. GULP! I looked around me at the happy faces and my unbelievably beautiful surroundings and decided that there was no way I was going to chicken out. So when my turn came I was strapped up and on the count of 3 thrown out into the blue. On my first swing, my breath was taken away and I realised that this was an amazing feeling. I swung back and the guides swung me out again (This was no mean feat considering the size of my rear but they did it with aplomb). This time I remembered to bend my legs and I actually soared above the treetops. On the third swing the lump left my throat and I completely enjoyed the feeling of flying above the rain forest. When I swung back for the last time and was unhooked I was shaking with the adrenalin and was so glad that I hadn’t backed out.

I was feeling pretty invincible by this point so when we came up to the “Superman” swing I was ready and raring to go.  We had to be strapped into a new harness which meant we were hooked onto the line by our feet, bum and back. The line was the longest of the experience and I couldn’t wait to get out there.  Annie went before me so that she could film me coming in at the other end and after everyone else had gone I was all harnessed in. I took some deep breaths determined to drink in every moment of this last line. As Eric let me go and I started down the line my breath was truly taken from me. The view was almost indescribable, I soared across and looking deep into the forest I could see a waterfall and the river it flowed into, I flew over the tops of the highest trees and if I had put out my hand I could have touched them. The spray from the waterfall bathed my face and the lump came back into my throat. My eyes teared up and my breath caught in my lungs. There was no greater experience of nature than this and I felt so blessed to be able to be taking part in it. I longed for a photographic memory so that I could recall every detail when I felt down as I knew that I could not feel any negativity when faced with landscape.

The experience was over and I readily hugged Eric and Victor and the other two zip liners. I felt so emotional and said to Annie at that moment I felt I had the courage to throw myself out of a plane. (I’m actually glad there wasn’t a convenient plane right there).

It is worth mentioning that almost as soon as we had finished the rains came. I feel that it waited just for me so that Mother Nature could show me the wonders that she had created in perfect light.

After the drive home, a shower and change of clothes we went to Marios (the scene of my earthquake experience  for Annie’s birthday lunch. Everyone that I had met was there (with the exception of Any and Norman, as Any was ill) and we had a wonderful time celebrating with our lovely friend. We all had some to drink but Lily, Monroe and I left at a reasonable hour leaving Annie and a couple of others to party the night away. I didn’t think I could take any more excitement for one day and sank into my bed with dreams of trees, waterfalls, good friends and fantastic food.

My time in Costa Rica was not over yet. What else did this wonderful country have in store for me?

See you tomorrow

Julie 🙂

Tales from Costa Rica – Part 5

Published 28/10/2012 by julierkendrick

Day 5 was a very interesting day. Or to put it another way WET. It was raining when we woke up and carried on throughout the morning. Now it is well known that the weather in Costa Rica is nothing if not predictable. It is warm and sunny in the morning, clouds over about noon and then starts raining at about 2pm well into the night. So keeping this in mind, Annie and I decided that today would be the day that we visited the beach in Hajo. It is about and hour and half away so we were pretty confident that we would drive through the weather and get to the beach well before the rains came.

Off we set in our little 4 x 4 along the highway. We had the Sat Nav on and life was good, albeit still wet at this point. Now the trouble with having a Sat Nav in Costa Rica is that there are no postcodes or even proper addresses, as I mentioned before in a previous post, everyone just gives directions. Telling Mrs Sat Nav to go past Charlys bar to get to the beach really doesn’t cut it in GPS world. Anyway we had typed in Hajo and picked one of the options given but about an hour into the journey we realised that we were heading in the wrong direction. Unfortunately we had just driven up to a toll and asked directions there. The woman in the booth made us pay to go through and then again to come back even though we only did a U turn. She gave us the right directions though so we put it behind us and carried on. It was still raining.

About 10 minutes later we were pulled over by the police who asked Annie for her licence and said that she had made some kind of illegal manoeuvre. He stood there for ages repeating himself before saying. “The fine is $500 but you can pay me $20. A big difference and one that left us with little choice. The police here are notoriously corrupt but as they only get paid the equivalent of $1 per hour it’s not surprising that they do this to supplement their lowly income. Having said that, of course I do not condone this and it couldn’t be more different from my days as a police officer in London. Once we paid him he then told us that we were yet again going in the wrong direction and pointed us back the way we came, yes you guessed it, through the toll once more. Oh, and it was still raining.

Finally after about 3 hours in the car we arrived at Hajo and drove down to the beach.  Yes! there was the golden sand and the deep blue sea and…. nothing else. No one sun bathed, no one sold ice cream, no one badgered you to rent a lounger. Why was this you wonder? It was STILL flipping raining. Ok then so we spent about 2 minutes looking at the beach before retiring to a local restaurant for lunch and souvenirs.

We spent a total of 1 hour in Hajo before getting back in the 4 x 4 and driving home.

Does the story end there? Nope, not really. We got lost. Again. Annie got more impatient with every turn that led nowhere. We were diverted at least three times due to works being carried out because of recent landslides. Eventually I dozed off to the sound of the rain and just hoped that when I woke up we would be on the right road home.

Once we arrived back and I climbed out of the 4 x 4 I knew I would be glad if I never had to get in it again. It was still raining.

Tomorrow is Annie’s birthday and we have an adventure planned. Zip lining.

The next blog will tell you all about it and when I get back to the UK I may even link you into the video Annie made of me.

Back soon,

Julie 🙂

 

 

 

Tales from Costa Rica – Part 4

Published 27/10/2012 by julierkendrick

Tuesday morning dawn and I’m up and ready to meet my pirate Captain. Bounding downstairs I see Annie looking despondent and she tells me that the guy who runs the tours had phoned her to cancel the trip due to bad water conditions.

Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!! It can’t be. But sadly it was true. I would not be sailing off into the sunset on the Black Pearl after all. 😥

We decided to drive into a little town called Zarcero where there is a beautiful church with quirky hedges out the front. The story goes that many years ago a homeless man started to cut the hedges to earn a little cash from the church. He was very talented and made them into little animals and arches. The locals loved it so much that when the old man died someone took over to keep his memory alive. To this day someone will always keep the hedges trimmed in the funny little shapes started by the homeless guy all those years ago.  What a lovely tale.

Zarcero church and hedges

Later that afternoon we went on a coffee tour. You can’t come to Costa Rica without going on a coffee tour.  We drove through the driving rain until we came to Naranjo a little town where the coffee tour was held. We were the only ones there and the guide, Norman, opened up just for us and took us to see the whole process from bean to cup.  He strapped a basket to my front and led us out to the coffee fields where I picked the red berries that house the beans. He showed me how to squish the berry between my thumb and finger and the bean popped out, yellow and sticky. On Norman’s instruction I ate the bean and found it very fruity and not at all like coffee.

One you have a basket full of berries they put them in a machine that strips the berry skins, leaving just the yellow beans which are then put in the roasting machine.  This is where the beautiful smells take over and as we walked into the roasting room my mouth started to water with the waves of the warm aroma that filled my sinuses. We went over to a huge metal roasting machine and watched as the freshly roasted beans were poured into a huge vat to cool. Norman thrust his hand into the boiling hot beans (which I thought was an attempt to impress me with his ability to withstand pain), now brown from roasting, and grabbed a handful blowing on them and handed a few to me. “Taste, taste” he says excitedly.  A little dubious I put the warm beans into my mouth and chewed and Oh wow!! They were crisp and crunchy and the flavour burst into your mouth like pure heaven. The were so easy to eat and not at all bitter and I had to resist plunging my own hand into the boiling bean vat and grabbing more to chew on. (I don’t think Norman would have been impressed with my ability to scream in pain like a little girl).

Once the beans were sufficiently cooled, 2 young girls scooped them into bags, sealed them up and that was that, ready to be sold. A simple but pure process. Of course I bought loads as I now felt a personal connection to those beans. Plus my husband will love the flavour.

Feeling quite happy we left the coffee tour and went to a little steakhouse called Marios where everyone knows everyone and Mario holds court going from table to table shaking hands with the men and kissing the women, he is a real latin charmer. Just as we were eating our pasta the table started to shake a little. I looked at Annie wondering why she was moving it. She looked at me probably wondering the same but then the table moved more and so did my chair. Oh my lord, an earthquake. SERIOUSLY?? I am from England, we don’t have earthquakes there. What am I supposed to do? Grab hold of a post? Lay on the floor? Run screaming into the street? I looked around the room but the diners were just holding steadily on to their tables and the waiters were catching the cutlery falling to the floor. No one outwardly panicked but I could see that the people were concerned. Within a minute it was all over and everyone went back to eating and drinking. Someone later shouted out that it had been a 6.6 which apparently is quite strong. I survived an earthquake. For the Ticos here it is just one of those things but to me a naive English chick it was a big event. I am a survivor of a real live earthquake. Well that’s what I’m going to tell my friends anyway. Ha ha.

Not long after we headed for home and our beds and as I lay there thinking back over the events of the day I realised that even without the luscious Johnny, the earth did move for me after all.

More tomorrow.

Julie 🙂

Tales from Costa Rica – Part 3

Published 26/10/2012 by julierkendrick

So, you remember the story so far? Finally arrived, no case, went to bed? Good. So I got up in the night for a pee and what was outside my bedroom door? Yaaaay my suitcase. It had been delivered at midnight, although how the guy found this house I will never know. There are no road names and few decent road signs. You just have to direct people by landmarks. i.e. turn right at Charly’s bar then go north down the pothole road and it’s the pink house on the right. Madness. But hey I was happily reunited with my clean underwear.

Showered and smelling of Molton Brown gorgeousness I came downstairs to the smell of french toast and maple syrup. I ate on the back porch looking over stunning views of the rainforest and the mountains. Absolutely breathtaking.

We then went to visit some friends of Annies who lived about half an hour away. They are Cubans who move to Miami 40 years ago and then to CR 5 years ago. They are what the locals call “Gringos”. I am told that this is not an insult but a name used to differentiate between the indigenous and those from other American countries. The Costa Ricans are called “Ticos” and the Nicaraguans “Nicos”. Any (pronounced Annie) and Norman are a lovely warm couple who are completely devoted to their 5 dogs. 2 pugs called Joey and Matilda, a large red dog of unknown breed they call Red, an Alsatian called Osso and an old black Labrador called Nina (pronounced Nine-a).

After taking us for some lunch in the local tin shack where once again the food was outstanding (this waiter was lucky enough to possess a full set of teeth), we went for a drive up the mountain to see a river that flowed down the hills and was apparently a sight to behold. We drove for about 20 minutes higher and higher up a gradient that felt as though the 4 x 4 we were in was about to tip over backwards and I was holding on for dear life much to the amusement of the two Annies. We stopped at a rickety old bridge and got out. To the dismay of Any the water was completely brown and the banks beside it had sunk into the water during the recent landslides. There had been an earthquake here about 4 weeks before I arrived (more about earthquakes next time!!) and this was some of the effect that it had had on the beautiful landscape. As we could no longer climb down to the banks we headed back and decided to call on some more friends called Mike and Earl.

Mike and Earl are realtors who live in a mansion in the clouds. No I haven’t transported you to Enid Blyton’s mind they really do live in a fantastic Spanish hacienda cut into the side of a mountain. They had it built for themselves about 7 years ago and Earl, who is a very talented painter, filled the walls with his brightly coloured art. The main focal point of this residence is the amazing back porch on which they have a suspended day-bed facing out across the mountains. However when we arrived the clouds were low and the porch was obscured. After we had been there for a while the clouds parted and I was treated to the most magnificent views that really did take my breath away. A lump formed in my throat and at that moment I was truly glad that I was there and a feeling of complete peace came over me and I realised what a stunning world we live in. I am very blessed.

We drove back to Annies with a feeling of contentment and as I went to bed that night I thought about the forthcoming trip to Tortuga the next day. In my mind Captain Jack Sparrow would be there waiting for me to sail off into the sunset and I couldn’t wait.

The next morning another disaster befell us….

See ya next time

Julie 🙂

PS Any excuse to put a pic of Johnny in my blog and I will take it 😉

Tales from Costa Rica – Part 2

Published 24/10/2012 by julierkendrick

Welcome back to the tales of my trip. We continue where we left off.

I had been put up in a lovely room in the Hilton with great food and a comfy bed. So the next morning I go to check out in order to catch my new flight to San Jose.

“That’ll be $145.00.” said the man behind the counter. I was dazzled and not just by his brilliantly white teeth. I explained that BA had paid for the room, but apparently BA hadn’t actually sent the money to the Hilton so I was liable and will have to get reimbursement from BA. Well that makes me short for my trip but they have my card details so it’s a done deal. I was treated to another blindingly white smile before I left to catch the bus.

Fast forward to the plane. I had a window seat as requested but was sitting next to a 4 year old child and his mother. I realise that they have a right to fly too but surely not next to me. To make things worse, the plane sat in the airport for 2 hours while they put some oil in the engine. Meanwhile I was getting ritually kicked and shoved by the kid and my teeth were hurting from all the gritting they were doing. Finally we took off and the mother had the brilliant idea of sitting across the aisle with her husband and putting their 3 year old daughter over with me and her brother. So, with chairs bashed, shins kicked, ribs elbowed, ear drums popped I arrived in Costa Rica. Wahooooo. Holiday begins.

The last case is collected from the carousel and yes, you guessed it, it wasn’t mine. There I stood, a lonely figure staring longingly at the metal case dispenser willing my case to pop over the top like an afterthought but no such luck. Resignedly I trudged over to the lost luggage desk and was told that my pink flowered case was still in Miami. I had spoken too soon with my effusive praise for BA. The man behind the counter, whose teeth were not at all white, told me that if I am lucky I may get it “today or tomorrow or sometime”. I was given a piece of paper with a phone number and a website to check intermittently and sent on my way to my poor friend who was patiently waiting outside.

Tired and despondent now I got into my friend Annie’s car and we drive to her house. My spirits lift on the journey as the country is beautiful. It is the greenest, hilliest place I have ever seen and as we wind our way up the mountain the land disappears into the clouds. I have never been inside a cloud before and it wasn’t quite as I expected. They have a distinctive smell, kind of metallic but also a little menthol, a heady mixture and my lungs felt truly opened. I was quite glad to see that there were no angels with their harps welcoming me to the gates of heaven just yet. If this was heaven then the roads were in dire need of attention. I added whiplash to my list of injuries sustained on the plane.

After settling in to Annie’s wooden house, meeting her roommates, Monroe and Lily and having my first cup of real Costa Rican coffee we went off again down the mountain to meet another friend, Barbara, a Scottish lady who had lived for 30 years in the USA and who now lived here. She was a fusion of accents and the most eccentric person I have ever met. She showed me round her mountainside house with its exotic daybed and brightly coloured cushions into a barely functioning kitchen and bathroom.  I was beginning to see that the motto here is “If it works it’s good”. No creature comforts to speak off but they do all seem to have internet connections and I definitely saw an iPad or two in the shacks that we had passed. (Steve Jobs is alive and well in Costa Rica). I have also seen some very precarious electrical connections which I am trying to turn a blind eye to lest I fear I may be frazzled in my sleep.

My meal that night was chicken and rice in a bar that looked more like a lean-to with a bathroom that was a cockroaches heaven. However the food was delicious and I cleaned my plate. The waiter was obviously pleased that I liked the food so much that he gave me a huge grin and showed me three very brown teeth. I considered recommending he contact the guy in Miami but decided he would silly with teeth whiter than the crockery. Barbara entertained me with tales of her daughter and life in the US and her general eccentricities and at 6pm we left for home.

Checking on line we found out that my case was…… still in Miami, so dress and underwear in the sink again and I sank into my bed.

Day two coming tomorrow.  See you then.

Julie 🙂

 

Tales from Costa Rica – Part 1

Published 23/10/2012 by julierkendrick

Hello everyone,

Thought I’d better write as I don’t want you all to think I’ve deserted you. I am currently on a trip to Costa Rica to visit a friend that I haven’t seen for 3 years. I was going to leave the blogging until my return but there have been so many interesting things happen so far that I thought I could write it all here. I don’t want to forget a minute of this trip so I’ve been making note and these pages will be my kind of diary.

Don’t worry if this is not your thing, I will get back to writing about writing when I get back.

So at Heathrow UK plane delayed for nearly 2 hours cos we were waiting for passengers from a connecting flight from somewhere. That in turn made me late for MY connecting flight. Did they wait for me? Did they hell.

Anyhow, British Airways staff were waiting for me in Miami to tell me that they had booked me on to a flight in the morning. They had reserved me a room in the Hilton Hotel (nice) and would transfer my case for me.

I ordered room service and soaked my clothes in the bath.
Not too shabby for Julie. Can’t fault BA, everything organised without a hitch.

Room Service Miami Style

Fairly decent nights sleep but that was only to prepare me for what was going to be a nightmare day……..

My Characters Won’t Play With Me

Published 16/10/2012 by julierkendrick

 

Characters. Now there’s a descriptive word. When someone is described as a character it usually means that they are lively and unpredictable. Well my characters are just that.  As they are created by me they tend to act like me. That doesn’t mean that every character I create is a 40 something English female with 4 sons and 2 dogs, it just means that they are temperamental, just like me. And just like me they don’t always want to fit into the story lines that I give them. We even fight over this occasionally and it can get messy, with me threatening to delete them altogether. Then I invariably storm off in a huff and later decide to play it their way.

One such example is my new character, Warren. He is supposed to be the sex-god in my new novella which I was originally writing as a paranormal erotica. Sadly, Warren didn’t want me to watch him having sex with my heroine (what a cheek!). He was far too private. We argued and argued for almost a week and no writing got done. Warren was telling me that the story line just wasn’t working and reluctantly I had to admit he was right. He is now much happier that I am leaving him at the bedroom door to seduce the lady without spectators. So I am now writing a paranormal romance and feeling much happier with it.

However, that brings me to the question, should you always listen to your characters?  On this I am sure we could debate. A well known author friend of mine told me that she wanted one of her characters to feature in the next book of a trilogy, but in her words “he wouldn’t come out to play”. She had to rethink the story line a little but she tells me it is all the better for leaving him out.

Conversely I have had a character completely switch on me. In my story “Chuckles” which you can find in the anthology “Here Be Clowns” my protagonist was originally written as a victim of Chuckles. She played the part of the damsel in distress very well but once I had finished my first draft I decided I wanted her to have a meatier role. I rewrote her part and ‘boom’ the story was complete and accepted rather quickly.

I think that debating with your characters is a big part of the creative process. It certainly is for me. It means that my creations have life, personalities, opinions and direction and that must mean I am on the right track to creating something worth reading. I’ll leave that for you to decide and I’ll keep you posted on Warren.

J 🙂