Friday, March 22, 2013

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Nicaraguan Adventure - Part 7 (The Treehouse)

If you start in the middle of nowhere, El Gigante, and drive south on a rough dirt road until you get to the edge of nowhere, and then drive on for a few more miles, you arrive at "The Treehouse," otherwise known as nirvana.

It took us months of diligent searching online to find this perfect Nicaraguan vacation home, and that ended up being much easier than finding it in real life.  Imagine thirteen pages of driving directions that do not mention one street sign (because there were none) and instead relies heavily on the presence of chicken coops on the side of the road.  Oh, how we love us some adventure!

And even though we usually try to enjoy the journey as much as the destination, in this case the destination was pretty amazing.

The Treehouse gets its name because it is built in a cascade down the forested hillside, and the giant second-story balcony is built around the trunk of an ancient Panama Tree, about 20 feet above the ground. In fact, the "dining table" is built between the branches where the  huge trunk splits for the first time.  We decided that we definitely need to eat more meals in trees.

And the house is on a small peninsula jutting out into the Pacific Ocean, so if you ever get tired of sitting in the middle of a rain forest canopy and looking at all the tropical animals crawling and flying around you, you can just look beyond the trees to see the Costa Rican coastline on the left and the beautiful Redonda Bay on the right (more about that later).

The house is made almost entirely of Teak, and it is so modern, comfortable and inviting that it makes you feel like royalty.

Except there's nobody around, so you don't have any subjects.  It's just you and the monkeys.

Howler Monkeys, to be exact.  Lots of them.  And they are fascinating creatures, providing endless entertainment.  They travelled around the treetops (i.e., at our level) in groups, with clear leaders and followers, and a mix of old and young, male and female.

We had seen a lot of monkeys in zoos, but this was different.  Now we were in their world and they were so good at living in their world.  They seemed so happy and so relaxed as they swung and jumped and hung from limb to limb.  Suzy captured the moment well when she said, "OK, I totally get Jane Goodall now."  (Technically, Goodall worked with chimps, but surely the feeling was similar.)

And what were the monkeys doing all that time?

Mostly they were looking for these yellow flowers and their pods.  Whatever they are, they must be extremely tasty because those monkeys will stop at nothing to pick every last one off the farthest reaches of each branch.

They also rested a lot.  That inspired us to do the same.

We really liked "our" monkeys, and we even named some of them.  This big dude was the leader of one of the packs and clearly called the shots.  We named him Romel, after our friendly carriage driver in Granada.

But the most impressive of all of our monkey friends was this mother, who swung from the branches, soared through the air, and reached for tasty yellow flowers -- all while tenderly carrying her little baby in one arm.  We named her Marcella, after our Mombacho hiking friend.

There hasn't been a single day since we left (over two months ago now) that we haven't thought about the Treehouse and talked about going back.  We will go back, and next time it will be with our kids.  And we will reenact the Swiss Family Robinson, assuming we can find an ostrich to race on the beach.

Monday, March 18, 2013

A perfectly good bag

We like to tease Suzanne for being the "bag lady," mostly because she has a hard time getting rid of any bag. To Suzanne, they're all "perfectly good bags." Well, we recently received a load of gravel in a giant, super-duty bag, and it was, indeed, a perfectly good bag. We just didn't know for what purpose. Until Tenny had the idea to take it for a ride.  We've been dizzy ever since.


Monday, March 11, 2013

Nicaraguan Adventure - Part 6 (El Gigante)

After spending the first half of our trip exploring ancient Nicaraguan cities, jungles and volcanoes, we spent the last half of our trip sitting alone on the most beautiful beach we have ever seen (more on that later).  If you want to get off the grid, boy have we got the perfect spot for you!  To reach our private getaway, you have to drive about 15 miles south of the nearest town, on a rough dirt road through the rain forest lining the Pacific coast.  And that town is El Gigante, a sleepy fishing village of less than 300 people, which is itself completely isolated.

If we ever go missing and our home looks deserted, the first place you should look for us is El Gigante. The most laid back people you've ever met live here, and they eat fresh-caught seafood and play in the waves on an amazing beach in a gorgeous half-moon bay.

There are more boats than buildings, and you can count the number of cars/trucks on two hands.  But if  one of your hands is busy shoveling fresh lobster into your mouth, you can count on your bare toes, as there's simply no reason to own shoes if you live here.

The local gas station.

El Gigante town square.

El Gigante as seen from Playa Gigante (the beach).

Another benefit to El Gigante is that it is impossible to get lost there (as opposed to the rest of Nicaragua).  There are two streets in El Gigante, so you're either on main street (pictured below) or you're heading out of town.  This is the only place in Nicaragua where we didn't have to stop and ask for directions at each intersection.

There's an old lawyer joke that if there is only one lawyer in a town he'll starve to death, but if you have two lawyers in town they'll make a fortune.  And as if El Gigante weren't already the perfect place to go expat, it is, indeed, a one lawyer town, just waiting for us to arrive and claim our fortune!

Our lives have been so crazy busy since we returned from Nicaragua that there have been a few times we've looked back at El Gigante and thought it might be better to set up shop across the street from this guy (which would also be nice because we would have oceanfront property), homeschool the kids, and live off of fresh fish and sun.  As soon as they get a Slurpee machine in their gas station, we're there.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

From the mouth of boys

Recent quotes from our ever-talking boys:

Tennyson: "Mom, from now on I expect you to clean up all my messes."

Tait: "I have a big bum like Julie!"

Tennyson: "Mom, let's make today a yes day." Suzy: "What does that mean?" Tenny: "You say yes to everything I ask." Suzy: "What's in it for me?" Tenny: "Well, I have to do everything you ask, of course."

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Ski Day

I had so much fun skiing yesterday with Holl, Jason and Denver that I've spent the last 24 hours wondering how I can possibly live even one more day without a season pass to Snowbird.  I'm sure I'll survive, once I figure out a coping mechanism.

Awesome day.  Awesome company.

I'm really grateful the Dalpias Ski Team would be seen on the slopes with me.  They're really classy skiers and I'm, well, not.

I was super impressed with Denver's abilities, particularly since he just started skiing this winter.  Here's a video of the 6th grader tearing it up.

It's officially time to teach Tenny how to ski, if for no other reason than to give us a good excuse to get out more frequently ourselves.