Monday, January 29, 2007

Homeward Bound

Dear Swatchy,

After all the hiking and visiting and seeing cool stuff, it was finally time to come home.
Knittah's Dad carried me in his bag. I'm really glad, after reading about your airline baggage scare!
Dad made sure I was safe on the plane.
And we said goodbye to Costa Rica!

I hope I get to go back soon!

Love, McSwatchy

Sunday, January 28, 2007

McSwatchy versus The Volcano

Dear Swatchy,

Our last expotition was to Arenal, one of the world's most active volcanoes.

It's a long trip to get there from the beach, so we stayed overnight at another hacienda.

Here I am with my friend Maggie on the grounds of the hacienda.

Can you see the hummingbird in this picture?

You can go hiking all around the volcano, which is pretty cool. But it is soooooo hot! Everyone had to drink lots and lots of water. There's a big warning sign posted near the trail:
That's because the volcano is so active. The ground rumbles and sometimes, rocks come flying down. There is also lava flow, which cools into rocks.

If it were me versus the volcano, the volcano would definitely win!

Love, McSwatchy

Saturday, January 27, 2007

McSwatchy at Work

Dear Swatchy,

You've never travelled with Knittah's Dad, so I have to clue you in. He never stops moving!

Some of the time, people were meeting about The Leatherback Trust. Meanwhile, students were working with the turtles. I couldn’t get any pictures of the turtles on the beach. They come ashore at night, and it’s dangerous to use lights around them. They could get confused. Knittah’s Dad says that when the turtles are done laying their eggs, they go back to the water by following the reflections on the water. The water is lighter than the forest. But if you have a flashlight, or a light on your house inland, the turtles go the wrong way and get stuck in the forest.

Knittah's Dad does all that work, plus he tries to make sure everyone has a good time. That's why we got to take all these day trips. But another thing that happened was everyone got sick! There was a nasty stomach bug going around, and Knittah’s Mom got it a day or so after we got to Costa Rica. She missed a whole day of exploring. But Dad just kept going and going.

He wore me out!

Love, McSwatchy

Friday, January 26, 2007

More Skating

Dear Friends,

Boy, McSwatchy, your trip sure sounds fun! Meanwhile, Noricum and I did some more skating last night. This time we went with Noricum's dad to The Forks, where we met up with a bunch of his friends from his singles group. Jennifer wanted to know what Noricum was making (Bron's socks, still not a toque for me), so Noricum passed her the completed sock. Then dad prompted Noricum to show me to Jennifer. (Although he calls me a "muppet".) Jennifer is friendly:
She's legally blind, but has a bit of tunnel vision in one eye. However, besides having to deal with some pressure cracks in the ice (sneaky things!), she skates much better than Noricum. ;)

Here's some photos of the river trail near The Forks:
River Trail
River Trail
(The pressure cracks were mostly near the bridges, of which there are many.)
Here's a map of how far we skated:
What We Skated
(Our route is marked by the white line on the river.)
We didn't make it quite as far as the Osborne Street bridge, because Noricum didn't want to accidentally go too far.
However, she did skate nearly two kilometers round trip.

Afterwards we had some yummy hot chocolate and made-fresh-while-you-watch mini doughnuts!
Here's Noricum's dad (in the orange toque she knit for him... it seems everyone *except* me has a toque by her!) with his friends:

Oh... and watch out! There's a bear at The Forks!
The lights in the trees are pretty, though:


Muddy McSwatchy

Dear Swatchy,

On another day, we went to Rincon de la Vieja. It’s another park, more than two hours away from Playa Grande. This park is famous because there are nine volcanoes in the park!

It was really hot, even hiking in the forest.

I needed lots of rest breaks.


One of the most interesting things in the park is the hot streams and mudpots.

The volcanic activity creates hot spots where water mixes with the dirt. Since it stays hot, the mud bubbles – just like boiling water.

The mud goes "bloop bloop" and splatters all over.

There are places you can go and actually soak in the hot springs, but Knittah's Dad said there wasn't time. At least he didn't let me get too muddy.

Love, McSwatchy

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Santa Rosa

Dear Swatchy,

After goofing around on the beach and in the forest, we went to Santa Rosa National Park, about an hour away from the beach.

The park is famous as the site of La Casona, which is the hacienda in the picture. That’s where the Costa Ricans defeated an American mercenary named William Walker in 1856.
Here I am on the steps of the hacienda.

There are also some historic corrals nearby. The rock wall was nice and cool.

After we checked out the hacienda, we hiked around in the forest for awhile. Can you see me in this picture?

Isn't that the coolest tree trunk? I forgot to ask Knittah's Dad what kind of tree it is. He was too intent on the historical plaques.

While we were in the forest we saw a coati. They’re kind of like squirrels, but bigger. They are everywhere, and will do anything to get to food.
To be honest, Swatchy, they scared me a little. What if one of them had grabbed me and run off? I'd still be in the forest somewhere!

Love, McSwatchy

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Tarzan McSwatchy

Dear Swatchy,

Even though Playa Grande is a beach on the Pacific ocean, the area around it is dry forest.

Look! A cactus type thingy!

This isn't what I imagined the jungle would look like.

Oscar helped me re-enact a Tarzan moment, though.


You Swatchy. Me McSwatchy Tarzan.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Breakfast of Champions

Dear Swatchy,

So our first full day in Costa Rica started with breakfast, of course. Most of our meals were at Kike’s. It’s a restaurant about 10 minutes from the beach. The owner is named Kike (pronounced key-kay), and he is very nice. He takes good care of everyone who comes to visit the turtles. I spent the morning making my rounds at the table.


You know, doing the meet and greet. It’s hard work being an ambassador, but you already know that.

That's me with Dr. Hal, who works with Knittah's Dad, and Hal's mom. She's been to Playa Grande a bunch of times.

This last picture is one of my favorites.
This is Oscar and Barbara, old friends of Mom and Dad. They knew Knittah when she was just a little baby. They are the nicest people, and they even let me borrow some sunglasses!

Love, McSwatchy

Not in Kansas

While in funky town, Eliza and I stayed at the Marriott. Hotel rooms in this part of the world typically and considerately try to help to orient the guest to the direction of Mecca--usually with a medallion in the desk or ceiling pointing the proper direction. Whereas American hotels might have a Gideon bible, these hotels offer a Koran in the nightstand and a prayer rug conveniently stored in the closet. Here is the marker in Eliza's hotel room (sorry that the reflection of the flash somewhat obscures the arrow itself):

arrow to Mecca

The hotel also has exercise facilities. Separated by gender, naturally. Conveniently, with 24-hour access. Except that the ladies facility, at any rate, appears to be locked for about 14-16 of those hours. As you might imagine, this makes for some interesting interactions with the hotel guards when one shows up to work out at 0500 hours... Nonetheless, I was determined to maintain my fine figure during the trip. Eliza teased me about my choice of exercise, but I'm somewhat of a traditionalist (dreadlocks notwithstanding--all part of my indefinable charm and allure):

c exercises

What the 1960s TV ads for these gadgets seem to omit is the complication of friction. Not pretty.

More later!

bye, swatchy c

Monday, January 22, 2007

McSwatchy Rolls Out

Dear Swatchy,

I’m finally able to post about my trip to Costa Rica. Knittah’s Mom and Dad have finally given her all the photos and notes from my trip. I’ve been dying to tell you all about it!

Here I am with Knittah’s Dad at the airport before we left. It’s a long trip, so we had to get ready. First we flew from the East coast to Texas, and then from Texas to Liberia, Costa Rica. THEN we had to take a van from the airport to the beach. Here I am in the van with everybody. Look at all our luggage!


And here is Playa Grande:

You might be thinking, big deal it’s just a beach:


But Playa Grande isn’t just any beach. It is a nesting site for the great leatherback sea turtles, and that’s why we were there. We were visiting the research station there, and doing some work for The Leatherback Trust. More tomorrow! It was a busy trip.

Love, McSwatchy

Winter Fun

Dear Knittah,

Ice Climbing
While out and about on Saturday, we saw some people climbing a man-made ice structure. I asked Swatchy if he was interested, but he declined. (I don't blame him!)

Festival Du Voyageur
The upcoming Festival Du Voyageur, for which snow sculptures have started popping up, had him more excited.

For now, we satisfied ourselves with some skating on Sunday:
Ice Skating
(Awww! Swatchy's first time skating!)