Mal Pais is a small coastal town on the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. It is a 30-minute drive from the more famous beach location of Montezuma. It is also the location chosen as a reunion destination with our very good friends the Mensink family.
Over the years we have met many interesting people when traveling. We exchanged emails and information, keeping in touch initially with many travelers, however over time some of these contacts were lost. The people we did keep in touch with long term have become our extended family. I know I have said this many times, but we feel so fortunate to have so many good friends from all over the world. The Mensinks were there at the beginning when we started to collect our world family members.
We had met Marco and Miranda in 1998 on our previous trip to South America. We were staying in the same hostel in Nasca, Peru, spending a few hours together in the middle of the night while we all waited for buses that were hours overdue. Enjoying each other’s company we decided to meet up again in the next town of Arequipa. Being tour group snobs, we organized our own tour to Colca canyon to see the sometimes-elusive condors. Two Canadian lads joined us for the trip.
This trip is what sealed a lifetime friendship; dancing in the rain and fog with drunken villagers during a festival; nearly dying of dehydration in the Canyon itself whilst being circled by condors; soaking in hot springs to recover from the trauma and sharing a few drinks to seal the memories. Since that first meeting 18 years ago, we have met up again, 9 times on 4 different continents in 5 different countries, and sharing 3 Xmas’ together in 3 different countries.
It was during one of these get togethers that Maartje aged 1 1/2, giggled at Mike melting his heart, and he was sold on the whole idea of having a child of our own. On another occasion whilst visiting the family in Belgium, Marco had us touch a statue that he told us was for luck. Only afterwards did he inform us that in fact it was a fertility statue. 11 months later Keira was born.
Marco and Miranda are parents to 3 amazing kids, Maartje (aged 13), Marijn (aged 11) and Marjolein (aged 9). We often refer to the family as the 5 M's.
FERRY TO NICOYA PENINSULA
Our journey out to the Nicoya Peninsula involved taking an hour-long ferry across the Unfortunately due to delays with repairs on Priscilla, we were unable to catch an earlier ferry with the 5 M’s. Fortunately for us, this put us on the ferry at dusk to witness a very beautiful sunset.
Marco and Miranda had rented a villa for us all in the hills above Mal Pais. It was amazing! The views were spectacular, the setting “tranquil”, and we had everything we needed.
We finally had a real bed to sleep in, a sofa, a real kitchen and a pool.
The road up to the Villa was quite steep, needing 4x4. Usually we would all pile in Priscilla for our daily excursions. The kids loved this, as it was like a roller coaster ride. Keira loved screaming out very dramatically " we're gonna die!"
The kids did a lot of playing and the adults a lot of talking. I think we covered all the main topics; politics, the state of the world; religion or our lack of; and our plans for the future. All a little more dramatic with a few glasses of wine and rum.
And the 5 M's brought us " stroopwafels" (yummy caramel filled Dutch wafer cookies) "drop" (Dutch licorice") and Belgium chocolates. We were very happy!!
We celebrated Christmas together. Not having traditional items like a tree and decorations, we made our own. The kids even baked Xmas cookies. Christmas Day was not traditional either; dinner was a cookout, and we played a treasure hunt game. It was how Christmas should be, relaxed, free of comercialism and spent with people you love.
Marijn and Mike spent time cooking together and playing computer games! Downtime was the occasional movie.
There was an abundance of wildlife surrounding us. We had resident iguanas and geckos who visited us everyday, and monkeys who would make their way through the trees.
THE NATIONAL PARK
I asked Marco to write the entry about the National Park near Mal Pais, as he worked in the park 25 years ago. For us all, it was exciting to be with him as he returned to the Park, relived his experience there, and shared his stories and knowledge with us. We all particularly liked the story where he lent on a snake when reaching for a tree! As we hiked through the park sweating profusely, we marveled at how Marco did this hike and more in the rainy season with intense humidity and mud everywhere. Here is his account:
La Reserva Natural Absoluta Cabo Blanco is the first national park established in Costa Rica, already in 1963. When I first arrived in Cabo Blanco in 1991 with two of my friends, one of the original founders, Karen Morgensen was still living in Montezuma. The director of the park at the time was Joaquin Alvarado Garcia, whom we met in the Netherlands. He invited us to come over and work in the park. Without knowing anything about it, we flew to Costa Rica for one of the best times of our lives.
Cabo Blanco is a relatively small reserve, but full of birds and animals. It is the park most tourists miss out on, but actually the park that one should always include in a Costa Rican travel itinary. One finds monkey in the trees above, Ocelot, Pizotes, Iguana's, snakes and spiders all around. And a stretch of west coast rainforest that is unparalleled.
We lived as park rangers for three months, in both the ranger station and research station. We had no running water, no electricity, no food other than rice, beans, avocado's and fruits. And most important no mobile phones! We used to walk 11 kilometers to Mal Pais or Cabuya to reach a shop or phone.
Coming back 25 years later mobile phones have arrived. But the park is the same. And our friends and park guards Lupe and Maria are still there. Carlos was in good shape and 76 years by now. Showing the park to our extended family, kids, Mike, Riss and Keira was amazing. We walked the trails to the beech and got bombarded with nuts by the white faced monkeys, again. I renewed my love affair with the place.
BEACHES IN THE AREA
We visited several beaches in the area. Keira got a boogie board for Christmas which the kids enjoyed playing with.
We had such an amazing time with the 5 M's. It was so easy to be together.
For Mike, and I, we felt an extra closeness to Maartje, Marijn and Marjolein on this trip, as they are now understanding English and Maartje is speaking English very well. With a drease in the language barrier we were able to get a greater depth of understanding of their personalities, We are so thankful that they speak English because frankly after all these years, our Dutch has not got beyond "drop", "Stroopwafels" and "pindakaas" (peanut butter).. So sorry guys, we know we are pathetic!
Saying good-bye was really hard but we talked a lot about future trips together and are all committed to making them happen.
We love you guys and look forward to meeting up again.
HIGHLIGHTS/CHALLENGES OF THIS AREA:
MIKE, RISS AND KEIRA:
MOST VALUED POSSESION: our Dutchies; not really a possession but they are ours!
BEST EXPERIENCE: Mike-Marco, Miranda and the kids ; Keira-meeting the kids, well I had meet them before but I was little and didnt remember; Riss-hanging out together
MOST CHALLENGING EXPERIENCE: Mike- -having to work some of the time whilst together/saying good-bye; Keira- saying good-bye to the kids; Riss- saying good-bye
BEST FOOD DISCOVERY: Mike-,stroopwafels; Keira- "stroopwafels" and red icing cupcakes from the bakery; Riss-"drop" and "stroopwafels" and belgium chocolate
BEST CAMPING SPOT: no camping, yippie!!! A wonderful villa!!
OH and worst food- well they were ok, but there is something not right about having to take plastic wrap off each individual hot dog before cooking them.
THE 5 M's:
HIGHLIGHTS/CHALLENGES OF THIS AREA: Visiting this amazing place again after 18 years. For Marco after 25 years. And meeting our best friends again after 4 years
MOST VALUED POSSESION: our Aussies, our extended family
BEST EXPERIENCE: Marco-waking up with the sound of the howler monkeys; Miranda-the easy going nature of being on holiday with you guys; Maartje-the meeting in the airport hotel and Keira's WE ALL GONNA DIE; Marijn- cooking with Mike and Marco's walk in Cabo Blanco; Marjolein-the visits to the smoothie- and ice bar
MOST CHALLENGING EXPERIENCE: Marco- leaving Costa Rica and my friends ; Miranda- leaving, saying goodbye ; Maartje- when Mike was throwing me in the pool and the waves took our towels ; Marijn- sand everywhere and the bug bite at Cabo Blanco beach ; Marjolein- my heat rash after some days
BEST FOOD DISCOVERY: Marco- coconut milk at the beach ; Miranda- Mike's cooking ; Maartje, Marijn, and Marjolein-coconut ice cream made by Riss and the smoothies from the bar in the village
BEST CAMPING SPOT: Our beautiful villa in Mal Pais, most valued possesion at the villa was definitely the POOL
Just a place to keep our mates informed on where we are at, and what we are up to.