The (Naked) Pool

Deep in the jungle (actually not far at all) you will find a little natural pool that’s a great place to cool down on a hot day.

We discovered the pool a number of years ago when we were looking for a source of water for the property. It was full of gravel and big rocks then but once we had moved the loose sand and stone and used the rock to make the dam higher we found we had created a beautiful little bathing pool.

The area around the pool is a great place to spot our little green and black dart frogs so bring a camera.

The pool is mostly shaded by the forest canopy but the light shining through is particularly pretty in the early afternoon.

It’s there for you to use whenever you like and as the name suggests skinny dipping (though not obligatory) is perfectly fine!

In rainy season the stream that feeds that pool can carry a lot of loose gravel, fallen leaves and branches with it and it’s not uncommon for a particularly prolonged downpour to deposit enough gravel to completely fill the pool. However we usually have it cleared in a day or two!

Twenty years later…..

Happy Birthday Jim:-)

Twenty years ago today, we sailed away from Granton harbour in Edinburgh on the good ship Charmer. Since then we’ve sailed thousands of miles together, met wonderful people and seen amazing places. The friends who waved goodbye that day, are still our friends. The new ones we’ve met along the way have changed our lives. The plan ( did anyone say ‘plan’?) was to be home in Edinburgh circa 2002, so we are a little behind schedule. Instead, I wake up to the sounds of howler monkeys most days, and look out at the Caribbean. We work, sometimes it feels like torture, to make Tesoro Verde the kind of place where people feel welcome, and can share our adventure. I am looking forward to the next one (!)

Your smile makes my day, every day, love you……. H

The Potting Shed

is how we, in the UK,  would describe a small structure somewhere in the garden. Traditionally the home of the gardening tools, plant pots, seeds being sprouted. Somewhere you’d go to hide from the stresses of the real world maybe.

In plan form it started as a storage space, but as the construction progressed, it has morphed. Included in the design are plans for a mezzanine sleeping platform, a tiny kitchen, and the possibility to add a deck and a second floor. It will be the perfect space to put friends and family in, even ‘workawayers’, and I suspect we’ll be sleeping there at some point in the future. But not this year. The rent for friends and family will be very reasonable. Tetley Tea Bags, Branston Pickle, Marmite, Cadbury’s Twirl or Flakes….. is everyone getting the message here?

The roof should go on this week, it will need secure doors and windows, and then we will fill it to the gunnels with all the ‘stuff’ filling the upper construction site :-). And when that upper house gets more ‘liveable’, space will become available in the Potting Shed, for our less intrepid visitors……

The Island

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Jim & Jason at base camp

We can always justify an expedition by calling it research, and our trip to explore ‘Los Farallones’ fell into that category. This loose collection of small islands and breaking rocks sits a few kilometres off the coast near the village of Cacique. The largest island which hosts an unmanned lighthouse was our destination. It was our second attempt, the last time the swell was too big to allow a safe landing, and even this time in the flat calm the lancha could only get us within 50m of the rocks and we had to paddle our gear in on kayaks and a small dinghy.

We ferried our camping gear and supplies ashore as fast as possible, piled it up and quickly covered it with a tarp before an approaching squall hit. Even torrential (warm) rain and wind isn’t really a problem in the tropics, and as the sun quickly reappeared, we assessed where to put up the tents. A stark and vaguely hostile environment, dead skeletal trees, a jumble of bare guano-covered rocks, no shade, curious frigate birds and boobies wheeling overhead. We decided to explore and see if there was an easier place to make a camp.

We scrambled over the rocks, climbed up the scary near vertical steps to the lighthouse. The views were breathtaking but there really wasn’t anywhere obvious to set up. In the end Jim wished he’d brought a pick axe as we worked to create a flat space for our tent near where we came ashore. Jason ended up sleeping on a canted piece of concrete slab ( left over from the sea-destroyed dock ) and Amy & Austin decided on a spot up by the lighthouse. There was very little breeze that night and when it got too hot they abandoned their tent to sleep outside on the bracken-like grass. Amy said there was nothing quite like waking up to the sensation of a hermit crab combing through your hair (!) Jason felt the birds were deliberately using him as target practise, as he woke to find streaks of bird poop ONLY on him, and not his surrounds. We were lucky, slept much better on our lumpy floor than we expected, but it was sweltering.

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If these are Boobies, does that make their perch site a Boobery?

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Base camp from the lighthouse

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Sunset over the Caribbean….

 

Our underwater experiences more than made up for the discomfort of the camping… we had wanted to explore out there for years… the visibility is spectacular, 10m, 15m, 20m? The fish obviously don’t see too many fisherman. We almost got tired of the Angels, both French & Queen. We’ve never seen so many Black Durgons. A pair of majestic Eagle Rays glided (glid?) past  several metres below us. The underwater landscape is like nothing I have experienced since Gozo in the Mediterranean, or Saba in the Caribbean.

The viz is out of this world, far enough from the mainland that runoff from rivers, or aguaceras, has no effect. The current sweeps it clean also.

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Holding on tight!

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A pair of Porkfish

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A beautiful French Angel fish

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Typical sea life

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A Honeycomb Cow fish

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Lined rock and pounding surf

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School of Doctorfish

It was a great trip with great folk, and as Arnie would say “We’ll definitely be back!

Weather-proof Pizza?

Jim and I are always a wee bit nervous around the time of the full moon. As sailors know, the full moon can mean stormy weather, and when you are catering for hungry guests, the last thing you need is a downpour, and, heaven forbid, soggy pizza!

We decided the solution was a roof. Now Jim knows a person very handy with an industrial sewing machine ( that’s me ) and I know a person who can make a simple request of a few tarps over the serving area, into a major design project ( that would be Jim ). Keep it simple is NOT in his vocabulary.

The result, though, as always, is stunning.

From now on, Full Moon Pizza is pretty much weatherproof, and our new, sheltered, eating area was so over-subscribed, we had to do it all again the next night (!)

 

Monkeys & Skyways

Three of the four monkeys often seen at Tesoro Verde….

When we first bought this piece of land overlooking the Caribbean, we didn’t have a definite plan of what to do with it, other than plant bamboo. It had been a finca, or farm, several decades back and then left untended. Most of it was infested with a several metres tall plant called paja mala (bad grass). There were very few trees at all, and consequently, it wasn’t an attractive prospect for the monkeys to cross feeling safe. We decided to change that, and from the start almost ten years ago, we either planted trees, or allowed them to grow. I coined what I think is a new word, skyways, ie planted rows of trees that allow the monkeys to cross our land. It means we get to see them close up. Howlers, Tamarins, Capuchins. We see troops of them most days. They are too wary to come close to the buildings, we will never leave out food for them ( I prefer to encourage plants that they can forage for themselves ) and so far it seems to be working. In dry season, as the leaves fall, we notice at least half a dozen sloths everyday, and in the wee sma’ hours, the night monkeys pass by on their regular route. Olingos are frequent visitors, Tayras, Woolly opossums, Armadillos. Jim once even saw an Ocelot ( sooo jealous!). My ‘best’ sighting was an Anteater carrying a baby. This month saw us opening for business as a BnB, and our guests so far seem to love this place. We’ll try to build on what we’ve done so far….

Photo credits; Howler & Tamarin; Kyle Noble. Capuchin; Fraser Andrews

 

 

 

Losing ‘Charmer’

12th Feb; Yesterday morning I got the phone call that anyone who owns a yacht dreads. “Charmer is adrift and moving through the anchorage, don’t worry, there are people in dinghies with big, powerful motors pushing her away from anchored boats and I can see someone onboard, don’t worry, I’ll call you back”

So. That puts your heart in your mouth. Jim was cooking breakfast for the guests, he started turning things off and I looked for the boat keys and rang someone and asked them to pick Jim up at the dock….

It’s been blowing hard for a few days, and it’s always at the back of your mind that something might go wrong when you aren’t onboard.

We were very lucky. If she’d gone on the reef with this weather, she’d have been pounded to bits, and lost. And if it had happened at night, maybe no-one would have noticed. Like I said, heart-stopping.

Over the years we’ve helped save many boats, and maybe we’d built up enough Karma, because certainly some friends and some total strangers saved Charmer for us.

By the time Jim got there, an anchor was down and she was secure… bouncing up and down, but safe for now. We will have to wait for things to calm down a bit, and also work out how to recover the mooring and get her back on it.

In the meantime, our heartfelt thanks to everyone for going to the rescue, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!!!!

Update Saturday 20th… I am posting this as a blog, because so many people have contacted me because they heard what happened by word-of-mouth. As of yesterday we have Charmer reattached to her mooring, just by line for now, but hopefully soon with new chain, etc. Still investigating what went wrong. Jim found the mooring at our second attempt with a grappling hook at dusk last night, and we then scrambled to haul up 70 m of chain and anchor then motored the couple of hundred yards in failing light. Back in the lee of the island, she feels like home again, and not like being on a roller coaster in the wide open anchorage. The winds haven’t dropped. We’ve had to relocate several boat trips and kayaking tours because our usual put-in points are too rough. Luckily with the mangroves giving shelter for the kayaks, and the option of several beaches nearby, we’ve managed to keep everyone happy….

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Wildlife moments

Most days Jim and I compete as to who has seen something remarkable. It can be a new animal, or a new behaviour, and if you manage to get photographic evidence, so much the better. Of course, if you didn’t carry the camera, something good ALWAYS happens.

Yesterday wasn’t unusual. Tamarin monkeys in the quebrada ( burn or stream ) at dawn. Our resident Great Black hawk who is now completely unperturbed as we walk under his favourite tree. A couple of sloths above the papaya patch. Capuchins and Howlers crossing from east to west as part of their daily commute across our garden.

So I just want to reassure the many people who have written concerned, I wasn’t bitten by a ‘wild’ animal, and it wasn’t on our property.

Charmer is anchored off an island 5km away. I had just finished cleaning the hull, and as my reward I finned over to the shallows, planning to look for seahorses around the pilings of the abandoned dock.

As I snorkeled along parallel to the shore, I became aware of animal noises. I pushed my self up on my hands to investigate, saw two monkeys staring intently at me and one immediately launched himself from the sand, jumped on my back, and took a bite at me. It happened so fast. His momentum toppled me back into deeper water, which was when he let go, and then I saw all the blood! As luck would have it, Jim wasn’t testing the main engine. He heard my panicked scream, and I waded out backwards into deeper water ( the only easy way with fins on) together enough to want to get further away from them, and also not wanting Jim to have to come in too shallow, with the outboard. I clambered inelegantly into the dinghy, and he told me to keep pressure on the wound, and we headed back to Charmer. Once onboard, I started to hyperventilate, and officially fainted briefly.

Thank heavens for friends. One phone call, someone met us on the mainland to help Jim get our dinghy out and onto the trailer, the vet was on hand to treat me ( who else has better experience of animal bites?) and, the hospital in Panama City were great. Two weeks on, I have graduated to steri strips to help the wound heal, antibiotics done and apart from frustration at not being allowed to do anything, all is good.

The back story? The animals were released there more than twenty years ago, along with some peccaries ( wild pigs) and various birds. As the US pulled out, bases were closed and these monkeys were part of a zoo in Fort Sherman. They were initially fed, just as in their previous life, but not caged, they were always free to roam. A family lived there and cared for them, but after they left, I am guessing it was assumed the monkeys had learned enough to forage for themselves.

The world has changed, and what was once a remote, relatively un-visited part of the Caribbean coastline, has slowly become busier. The white sand beaches nearby attract weekend visitors, and it has become a regular stop on the water taxi routes… stop and feed/watch/photograph the monkeys. But it isn’t regulated. Some days they score a lot of junk food ( no idea how that affects them physically but it can’t be good), other days people throw full beer cans at them…  one of the people who helped placed them notes they were already pretty mischievous when still in the zoo, used to stealing sunglasses and picking pockets.

In the past I had never seen them enter the water, and that’s why I felt secure. Up until two years ago, they were my closest neighbours, and because of the many incidents we observed, we never set foot on the island.

They were, and are, completely unpredictable. Please note this change in behaviour, and give them a wide berth. That was one wildlife moment I intend never to experience again