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Landfall-Learning > Ship's Log

Ship's Log: Updated July 7, 2008

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Checking Out to Stay Legal

While we feel completely at home here, the legality is that even though we are now property owners, we are still only visitors. So, we have to keep our visas current and valid. Because we arrived on a sailboat, we can stay longer than visitors by airplane, but we still only have five months before we must leave the country for 72 hours.

As the June visa expiration date neared we realized that Tracy would be leaving for his US visit in time to clear his visa. So I opted to go by bus across the nearest border to Costa Rica with Tommy and Cynthia of Moondancer, cruiser friends who also had to renew their visas. We stayed in Puerto Viejo, a scruffy beach town just 35 miles as the crow flies north of Bocas del Toro. However, buses don't fly; it takes most of a day to get there! Up before dark to leave Dolphin Bay at first light on Cricket, to make the 7:00 a.m. water taxi from Bocas to Changuinola. After a one hour boat ride, take a fifteen minute taxi ride to the border, or a less-expensive, half hour bus ride--but the bus doesn't leave for a while. Pooling resources, we opted for the taxi.

Check out of Panama, get stamped out, relinquish our Marino visas. Then walk across a decrepit one lane railroad bridge to cross the river border and enter Costa Rica. Gaping holes, rusted trusses, uneven, rotting planks: a bit daunting, given what you'd fall into!

Try to check into Costa Rica at the little immigration office window at the end of the bridge (the following exchange was all in Spanish):
"Do you have your return airline ticket?"
"Well, no, we're coming back here in two days."
"OK, then, you have to go buy a bus ticket from the Panama border to Changuinola."
"Where can we buy the tickets?"
"Two blocks that way, at the pharmacy. Then come back here "

Hmmm...but doesn't that mean that we'll be in Costa Rica already?

So we walk to the pharmacy, buy a return bus ticket, and go back to immigration and get stamped in. Walk three blocks to the bus station, pay for the bus to Puerto Viejo. Be sure you get on the right bus! From there, piece of cake. Three bumpy hours later...

We stayed at a very off-season, off the beach, inexpensive hotel ($15 single, $25 double, private cabina). Pictures were lost; not much to report. But we did rent bikes and take a 12 mile ride (one way!) to the end of the road, to a little surfers' town called Manzanillo. It took us almost all day, down and back, partly in the rain; Costa Rica is known for its potholes and bad roads, and this road was no exception!

The weather wasn't great; my traveling companions were mugged by three teenagers on bicycles on the way back to our hotel from dinner (nothing taken--they fought them off); we had to buy our bus tickets home twice, and then ended up taking a taxi anyway; but all in all, I'm legal again, so it was a fine trip!

Find the Wildlife

One of the many things we love about living here is the variety and abundance of wildlife. The other day the howler monkeys were roaring out their territory and eating in the trees next to Mary and Carl's fence. How cool!

What a big leap!

Another afternoon the vultures came to visit. Carl and Mary's house is up so high they often fly by at porch level.

This critter is often found on Landfall, but more and more often is found on Cerro Velero, which she much prefers!.

Water Plants for the Cerro Velero Jungle

Neighbor Mary and friend Mary Margaret of Angel Heart took the water taxi to Changuinola about a month ago. They had heard me say that I was hoping to have a water garden at the bottom of the ravine, so when the water taxi got stuck in the huge mats of water hyacinths blocking the river, they grabbed a hunk for me. The plants have been living in the cooler on the aft deck of Landfall awaiting planting. Doing well, too!

Meeting Some Other Neighbors and Their Jungles

Our neighbors across the bay, Sue and George, are former cruisers (as are Mary and Carl and about a dozen other land owners down here). They own forty-five acres they call Loma Diamonte. Every Sunday morning they walk their boundaries to be sure no squatters have taken up residence and to check on their fences. Sue is an avid gardener and has planted a huge variety of native flowering plants right around their house that attract all manner of birds and butterflies. Away from the house they leave the rest of their jungle to mostly tend to itself. I joined them one Sunday, along with Tom and Sue from Limerick. Yep, this one is big!

And this one is little.

We saw a huge blue morpho butterfly but it fluttered away before we could snap it. Saw raccoons, but they were very shy and we could not get a picture. Also lots of parrots, hummingbirds, toucans, kiskadees, warblers, a hawk, and many more I could not name. Such abundance!

Closer to home, neighbors David and Linda Cerruti own Green Acres, a chocolate farm and jungle. They grow, harvest and roast the chocolate, and sell it to visitors. (They don't add sugar, but you can if you want to.)

Linda is an avid gardener and founded the Bocas Garden Club. She and David offer tours of their property and I joined them one day. She patiently named plants while I took notes and pictures. So much to learn! We have many of the same plants growing wild on our property, or would be growing there if the cows hadn't eaten them. My goal is to clean our place up after the mess the cows made, restore it to a less disturbed state, and then let nature have it's way. Mary, Sue and Linda have all offered me shoots, roots and seeds to help get the Cerro Velero property looking as nice as theirs. Quite a challenge!

Here are a few of my favorites.

Shampoo Ginger

Torch Ginger

Rostrada Heliconia

Parakeet Heliconia

Wagnerian Heliconia

Pink Ginger

Vanda Orchid

Stay tuned...

Back to previous page

Old Logs


Landfall the Darkland Lighter

Savoring Bocas

Hunkered Down in Paradise

Moving on Again (to Bocas del Toro, Panama)


Christmas Greetings from Isla Providencia

Halloween Fun and Fiestas on Isla Mujeres

Feasting on Isla Mujeres

Living on Isla Mujeres

More Isla Mujeres Adventures: Hurricane Dean!

Isla Mujeres Adventures

Staying in Isla Mujeres for a While

Key West, Florida to Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Pensacola to Key West, Florida

Gulf Shores, Alabama to Pensacola, Florida


Olympia, Washington to Half Moon Bay, California and Half Moon Bay to Mobile, Alabama