Mud to Mountains

Happy Dance is currently “mud-moored” at a dock in the Puerto Azul Marina in Punta Arenas, Costa Rica.  We had planned to be much further south by the end of January so that we didn’t have to leave Happy Dance in the muddy, tidal estuary of Punta Arenas, but the month of January has been full of unexpected challenges and some crazy winds. The reason we needed Happy Dance to be tied to a dock is so that we can zip off on a trip to Seattle to celebrate son Brad’s wedding to Jesse (YAY!!).

In order to enter the estuary and avoid the mud flats and moving sand bars we needed to follow a pilot-boat and time our arrival at high tide.  With a close eye on the depth sounder that kept flashing in single digits, we slowly made our way up the shallow estuary, bordered on one side by crumbling docks and mooring balls and on the other side by thick mangroves.

We had been assured we’d have enough depth for our 6’8” keel in the marina, but we were soon stuck in the mud and still waiting for low tide.  Happy Dance was hard aground, but thankfully still upright, when at complete low tide we were 2’ out of the water.  UGH!  Thankfully the bottom was soft, and the tide was soon rushing in to float Happy Dance…for a few hours until the next low tide!

With our mud-mooring complete, it was now time for a land adventure with our buddies on Wildest Dreams.  We rented a car and headed to the mountains to see cloud forests, volcanoes, and hopefully some critters!  We’d read in our travel guides that roads in the mountains of Costa Rica could be a bit rough and that it was a good idea to rent a four-wheel drive vehicle.  As we drove up toward Monteverde and Santa Elena on the steep, rutted, dirt roads, we were glad that we’d listened to the advice!

Adding to the driving adventure was our mapping app that kept sending us off on little “excursions”.  We’d suddenly be told to take a slight right or slight left, that would lead us down some barely passable road, then bring us back to the main, slightly more passable road!  These mountain roads are called “Ruta Nationales” and are described as “seasonal”; we decided they must be completely washed out in the rainy season.

On the drive from Monteverde to La Fortuna, we let our map app lead us once again, over hill and dale, on roads that looked like cattle trails, and right across 6 rivers!  It was a riot and we laughed our way along, hoping that we wouldn’t be the headline about the car full of crazy tourists who floated down into the lake!  While driving around the lake, the Arenal Volcano was ever present, drifting in and out of the clouds and providing plenty of picturesque view.

Once we arrived in the mountains, we explored Monteverde, Santa Elena, and La Fortuna.  We hiked through the cloud forest, visited a butterfly reserve, snickered at sloths, and peered at the gazillions of birds and other critters.  The forest itself was stunning, with huge tropical trees forming a canopy that blocked the sun, vines as thick as trees winding themselves up into the mist, huge green leaves, colorful flowers in all shapes and sizes, dripping undergrowth, and sounds of birds all around.  It was magical.

On our final day enjoying flora and fauna we got to see a forest of sloths.  (Click here for a video of big daddy!!) We saw six three-toed sloths; two mamas with babies hanging on them, a big daddy, and a juvenile.  Then we got really lucky and saw a sleeping two-toed mama in the treetops.  The two-toed are harder to find during the day since they do their eating and activity at night and sleep all day.  There are a gazillion fun factoids about sloths that I won’t go into, but they are certainly fun to watch!

We’re now in Seattle for a couple of weeks, to visit with family and friends and celebrate Brad and Jesse!  Then we’ll fly back to Happy Dance, dig her out of the mud and sail out to the islands to play.  It’s a tough life!