by Wendy Bishop

Wendy Bishop of New York – you have won! By joining Tango Diva and this amazing worldwide community of travel savvy women – you have made an excellent choice! We will treasure your words of wisdom when it to comes to traveling in Central America!

Wendy embarked on her Pura Vida adventure in late-January 2008. The excerpts below follow her through her amazing Central American journey.

In the beginning… There was Costa Rica

“The trip to the surf camp has changed my life…really. It has opened up opportunities that have been hidden in my heart and just waiting for the chance to be release again!”

Where: Pura Vida Adventures, Malpais, Costa Rica
Why: Tango Diva provided the opportunity!
Latest and Greatest: Pura Vida Surf Adventures is opening a new camp in Brazil!
Drink of Choice: Caipirisca (at The Place)
Food of Choice: Victor’s Fish Tacos with an Imperial cerveza

January 2008: Costa Rica
Lying in my hammock, I hear the birds chirping away – a good deal to say in the heat of the day. Swaying back and forth, I smile as my mind drops in on my wave of the day. She is a glassy right, head high, holding up and allowing me to dance up and down her face until, both knowing, the time comes to part ways. Its moments like those which fill you from top to bottom for days to come and keep you returning for more!

YYYYEEEHHHAAAAA! The shade is embracing me as the canopy of cool blows a soft breeze over and through me. I hear the rest of the girls laughing pool side which brings a smile to my face. Everyone has had a good session today and it’s our 5th day at surf camp. Our surf family is composed of 15 women from all parts of the United States who took it upon themselves to take a trip of a lifetime and surf! After the third day what were 15 individuals became one family, practicing yoga together, sharing meals together and of course catching waves.

The view from our bungalow looks over a myriad of trees, flowers and ornamental bushes as it slopes down towards the Pacific. I take a deep breath as if not wanting to stir from this dream. The camp has been everything and more, exceeding my expectations; from the food, and entertainment to the consistent surf and of course the hot bartender for the camp. Delicious eye candy!

A Typical Day at Camp:
Our on-site morning yoga class, followed by a delicious breakfast which leads into our morning surf. Post surf session includes lunch then a few hours of either lounging by the pool, a massage, or siesta hammock style with a cerveza in hand. The optional sunset surf takes us to the water in awe of the sun dipping into the Pacific; the glow of the vibrant green jungle changing colors as the sunlight dances across the leaves for last time that day. A deep breath follows as the mind takes in the surrounding beauty as we float in the line-up and take it all in. Life is good…really good. As we paddle in from the sunset, the mind floats to the evening meal with cocktails and surf talk with the girls in one of the many restaurants in town. After dinner, we usually manage one more cocktail poolside basking in the star glow before retiring for the evening. And the best part of the evening is knowing that we get to wake up and have another adventure tomorrow.

The Skinny of It:
Pura Vida Adventures rocked. Tierza, the owner, has figured out how to incorporate surfing and comfort into a nice package. The food was incredible. The services were great. I had one of the best massages of my life, thanks to their great therapist Sheryl! And they keep the camps small enough so you are given quality surfing instruction as well as getting to know your fellow woman surfers.

I am looking forward to checking out the new Pura Vida Adventures camp in Brazil and if it is anything like what I experienced in Costa Rica then it is going to be well worth it! If there are any Tango Diva’s ready for an adventure south of the equator, then let me know!! Let’s Go!

Don’t know when I will be back to the States as Malpais is a hard pueblo to leave! But if you are in the area, send me an email…would love to go for a surf!!

And thank you again Tango Diva for allowing me to experiencing a trip of life time to Costa Rica!

February and March 2008: Colombia
Just want to assure everyone that I am safe in Colombia. I have been in the Pacific Coast in the Choco region in an area called Bahia Solano for the past 5 days. There is a STRONG army presence here as there have been a few kidnappings over the past couple of weeks in the surrounding areas (specifically on the road to El Valle and down around Nuqui). Bahia Solano is a very laid back town on the beach surrounded by jungles with numerous waterfalls, gold beaches and rivers that take you to where the birds sing all day and peace is abundant. The area is very raw in the sense that it has not yet been raped of its nature. It is home to MANY endemic species of plants and animals and an area that must be saved. Currently, there is a Canadian/Colombian living in town that has a deal with China in transporting primary forest logs to China. Not good. This agreement was made only a few weeks ago but you are just starting to see the helicopter of the Canadian scouting the land. They go into the forest, pick out the prime wood then chainsaw down the trees and airlift them out with the helicopter. In the next couple of months, they want to put in a road for easy access to the trees!!! NO, NO, NO. The family that I am staying with here is in the process of getting media attention, both locally and internationally. I am assisting in the international level…and will be reaching out to my biologist friends and connections to save this fruitful biological region in the Choco. Awareness is key. We cannot have clear cutting here! We have seen what has happened in Costa Rica and Panama…

ANYWAY, I get a bit passionate on the topic. As expected, Colombia is an amazing country…from the alpine scape down to the numerous beaches covered with jungle and life! I could not have expected anymore from the hospitality of this great country that is encountering so much strife. The past two nights we have sat up and listed to the news coming in regarding the take down of a major guerilla on the Ecuador-Colombia border. It is the first big hit to the FARC in 50 years, and this president Uribe is doing everything to turn around the future of Colombia and the first objective is to get rid of the guerrillas.
The guerrillas are responsible for the drug trafficking and the kidnaps of locals and tourists in the region. There weaponry is amazing and being back by Chavez and the Ecuadorian president shows the lack of support from Colombian neighbors. As you know Chavez has put troops on its border with Colombia and news just came out that the Ecuador president was allowing a safe haven for the guerrillas on the Colombian border. So here I am sitting off the dirt road in a tiny internet cafe in Bahia Solano with the army and police watching my every step to ensure that that I am ok.

Whenever the family and I go off on adventure, we have to check in with the Major of the army. Amidst the beauty of this region, if things start to heat up anymore, I will be taking the next plane back to Medellin then up into Panama. For the time being, I am feeling very safe and taken care of with the wonderful family I am staying with here. We have taken pangas up the river Magena and visited Indian tribes…swam in the clear river water, closed our eyes and meditated to the jungles music and were greeted by locals with fresh crab and ice cold beers. They have taken me on treks up and over mountains to pristine beaches with not a soul around…as well as to the abundant amounts of waterfalls flowing crystal clear water from the jungle oasis above. I cannot wait to share my photos with you.

But in the meantime, please know that I am safe, and looking out for myself. As the saying here goes “Vaya, vaya, pero no des papaya” which translates to “Go, Go but don’t give papaya”…meaning, you can go down that path if you want but don’t be stupid as you don’t want to be somewhere you shouldn’t be. Don’t be stupid. Use your head in other words! And I am following that.

The surf potential is great here…if El Valle becomes a safe area to head to I will check out the surf down there…that is where you would see the SW swells pulling in some fun waves…but as the saying goes Vaya, vaya, pero no des papaya!!! And I am sticking to it!

April 2008: Costa Rica and Panama
The first rain came last night signifying the start of the green season. The sky opened up and poured down water with thunder and lightning accompanying the dance. The land crabs scurried down from the hills to the beach and the rain just kept coming down; just a teaser for the upcoming months.

I found my way back to Malpais after being offered the opportunity to assist as biologist on a180 acres of raw private land which shares a border with the first national park of Costa Rica, Cabo Blanco Reserve. For the past few weeks, I have been living in the Reserve about 10 cartwheels from the reserve beach, Playa Cueves del Murcielago. It is on this beach that Tim (Geographer and Manager of the property) came upon a turtle hatchling that did not make it to the water. He saved the specimen for me and photographed the tracks and turtle. After a bit of research and data collection, I was able to identify the turtle as a Hawksbill, one of the most endangered marine species! And apparently our little beach plays host for their nesting ground. SWEET. The beach is actually an ideal location for them due to the rocky outcrops, healthy reef and ideal beach opportunity. With this finding, we have been trying to locate funding to support a turtle monitoring/research program in the Reserve. Currently, there is no (and none planned) turtle research or protection program being done in the park! I met with the marine biologist for the Reserve (the only biologist for the Reserve by the way, and he seems to be pretty overwhelmed as it is) and said if I could take on the turtle monitoring project and get funding then he would assist in the overview of volunteers, project etc. So for the past few weeks we have been researching and meeting with biologists to undertake this project. Fortunately this research took me back to Panama (thank you Tim and Mr. Dan – owner of the land) to meet and view turtle monitoring beaches just off the coast of Bocas Del Toro and Isla Bastimentos. During this trip, I was fortunate to see a Leatherback Turtle +1 meter from the canoe. What an incredible creature! She looked like a HUGE boulder in the water until I saw her massive head pop up. The trip was relatively successful although many of the biologists were on manana time so many appointments were cancelled and ended with a bit of disappointment. It was great to see this part of Panama as I have mainly seen the Pacific and southern Caribbean regions.

Upon returning from Panama, we found the house a bit disheveled. The jungle had reclaimed it and the animals had apparently been partying in it for days. The households not only me and Tim, but also an assortment of free roaming creatures ranging from boa constrictors, Mexican monkey possums, land crabs, ants, spiders, iguanas, and scorpions to name a few. Let’s just say it is quite “holey.” When the weather and barometric pressure changes, land crabs will begin to take over the house at which point the game of Crab Hockey takes up the night festivities. Crab Hockey is played with a broom and the goal is to get the land crab out the door and flung as far as humanly possible away from the house. Yeah, not very PC but they find their way out the door in one piece…so all is good. Tim has mastered the game, and I am still learning my way around the crab movements. It is always an adventure going to the bathroom at night as you never know who you might run into.

A typical day for Bishop:
Wake up at 4:50am, up and out of the house with coffee in hand and heading for a morning surf at Playa Carmen. The sun is still asleep and I am usually the first one in the water. The waves have never been less than 3 ft with most cases of head high to over head waves…and the season is just starting with waves coming in that will definitely be out of my surfing comfort level. I walk with my board back to the office, take a quick shower and prepare for the day activities which either consists of entering field data or strapping on the machete, rubber boots, backpack and hiking the property. Usually I am 2-3 days in the office (partial or full day) and 4-5 days scouring the property. The land is incredible with views into the Cabo Reserve and outlining areas. Mainly composed of secondary forest, traces of primary trees exist growing strong and thick! Just incredible! If I only had the money to buy this land I would…just a few million short but would be worth every last colon!!! We have deer, white face and howler monkeys, coati, boa and python…and the list keeps going. It holds stunning views of the Pacific into the Reserve and to the north towards Santa Teresa and beyond. One of the most incredible pieces of land I have ever explored. Currently, I am documenting and collecting data on the various flora and fauna on the property…and let me tell you it is a full time job. I come off the mountain around 5:30pm soaked to the bone and ready to dive into the ocean as my shower. At 5:40, I drink in the sunset before clamoring to the refrigerator for a cold Imperial beer and dinner. Bed time finds me at 8pm, dog tired and ready to wake up and start another day!

I am glowing in this jungle-beach environment. It is what I have been waiting to do, meant to do and I feel ALIVE doing it. Feel like I am living the dream right now…and am truly fortunate for this! Thank you all who have supporting me in this.
In the meantime, I am doing well and will be down here until July…when my “contract” ends. Hopefully, I will be extended for there is so much to study and follow up with!! And of course more waves to be surfed!

Stay tuned… More to come…