world wanderers grounded by pandemic

Photo of Vancouver sunset

Recent sunset in Vancouver.

Like many world wanderers, we had to cancel our Spring travel plans due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We had booked our flights, reserved a rental car, and lined up some of the accommodation we would need. But just as we were about to organize further, travel restrictions started to be put into place, the nature of the outbreak became clearer, events were being cancelled or postponed, and finally, the Canadian government urged people to avoid all non-essential travel, and to come home if they were already out of the country. Sadly, we cancelled everything.

Our plan was to head back to the warmth and slow pace of the Caribbean. We have made several trips to colder parts of the world, last year to the UK in the spring and to Eastern Europe in the fall. We were overdue to follow the sun and lay on the beach for three weeks.

We’ve regularly enjoyed the sandy beaches of Cuba, Cancun and Belize, but of all our Caribbean destinations, Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica remains a favourite. Although, readers may recall that we have reported it has changed dramatically over the years. Once a laid-back backpackers paradise, it has become a crowded weekend getaway for SUV-driving families from the capital.

This time around, the beaches, tropical birds, and cultures of Trinidad and Tobago, and Barbados, were calling. The Airbnb we lined up in Trinidad was a spacious cabin in the woods on a coastal mountainside, a 15-minute walk from a sandy Caribbean beach. We were looking forward to seclusion except for the birds, sandy beaches, and warmth.

We would then take a fast ferry to Tobago and be there for the Easter weekend. In addition to the usual festivities associated with Easter, the locals hold goat races that are apparently hilarious to witness. It’s from a time when plantation workers and others who could not afford to participate in horse racing culture, came up with an affordable option.

Then it would be time to island hop once again and head up to Barbados. It is promoted as the “most English” of the Caribbean islands once occupied by a variety of colonial powers – many are still overseas territories of European countries.

We were looking forward to seeing more beaches and birds, and enjoying more cultural experiences. But it was not to be. We still have our planning notes, so we’ll get there some day.

In the meantime, a big shout out to the health care professionals on the front-lines of fighting this pandemic, the corporations shifting production to manufacture much-needed medical supplies and equipment, scientists looking for a vaccine and better treatment options, and ordinary people keeping things going with a whole range of essential services and supplies.

Together, we’ll get through this!

Photo of sign supporting healthcare workers

7 things we love about Puerto Viejo

As 2014 comes to a close we want to share with you what we love about Puerto Viejo. We first enjoyed the charms of this laid-back, off-the-beaten-track Caribbean gem during our travels throughout Central and South America in 2012. At the time we knew we would return, and from the last couple of posts, you know we did — for three glorious weeks. So here they are, the 7 things we love about Puerto Viejo:

1. Wide sandy beaches
There are about 15 kms of beach from the town of Puerto Viejo to the village of Manzanillo to the south. You can walk from one end to the other with your toes in the sand about 80 percent of the way, just a few diversions around uprooted coral reefs and rocky points. Some sections are quite narrow, but there are numerous 2 and 3 km stretches of wide sandy beaches — we were staying just 100m from our favourite, Playa Cocles.
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2. Warm and clean water
Did we mention this is the Caribbean? If you have visited Cancun or Belize, or any of a number of islands located in the Caribbean Sea (like Cuba for example) you know how warm the water is, and in the case of this stretch of beach, clean and almost completely free of the trash that plagues many beaches around the world.
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3. 850 species of birds
Our last two posts probably tell you everything you need a bird watching in PV. So we’ve dropped in a photo of a Resplendent Quetzal about to eat a wild avocado, taken in the cloud forest just a few hours away.
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4. Lazy Mon bar and restaurant
This visit and last, our “home away from home away from home” was the Lazy Mon. At least 3 or 4 times a week we would walk into town from Playa Cocles to get a few groceries and other supplies, and drop by the Lazy Mon. On the beach itself at the edge of town and popular with locals, tourists, families, and Rastafarians, not to mention up to about a dozen laid-back dogs, it also features live music every night, mostly bands of expat musicians keeping themselves and the beat alive.
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5. Expat musicians
Speaking of expat musicians, out favourite group in PV is Tracy and the Two Davids, regulars at La Biela Sabores del Mundo restaurant and bar. Tracy has an incredible vocal range, David One on guitar is extremely accomplished, and David Two knows his way about a bass.
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6. Safe at night
Many tourist areas around the Caribbean are unsafe at night, hence the high barbed wire-tipped fences and armed guards that surround many resorts. Not so in PV. Yes there are a few low-key resorts, but most of the accommodation is in two categories: hostels and vacation house rentals. Almost everyone night we walked either 3 kms north into town, or 2 kms south to La Biela — and no matter how late we returned we did not feel unsafe, other than from cars speeding by too quickly in the dark or swerving to avoid potholes (the only north-south road is paved but not well maintained).
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7. Laid back vibe
Although it’s only a few hours by car or bus from the capital, PV has not experienced the same tourism-fueled development that one finds on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. It continues to attract young backpackers and old expats alike from Europe, Australia, Canada and the US anxious to mix with sandy beaches, warm water, and displaced Rastafarians from throughout the Caribbean. There is an abundance of wildlife, a coral reef, and an annual chocolate festival that celebrates the local organic cacao harvest.
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Did we miss something you love about Puerto Viejo? Let us know!