Surcharges are a necessary evil we chose while traveling the world…More wildlife photos from Costa Rica…

Look closely to see the face, only a mother could love, of a live crocodile behind a chain-link fence at Zoo Ave.

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

Tom’s photo, early this morning, of a cute dog that stopped by to say “hola.”

Definition of “surcharge:”


an additional charge, tax, or cost.
an excessive sum or price charged.
3.   an extra or unreasonable load or burden.

Word Origin and History for a surcharge:

v. early 15c., from middle French surchargerfrom Old French sur- “over”
(see surchargier “to load” (see charge ). The noun is also first attested early 15c.

When most of us think of a surcharge, we believe in terms of an automatically imposed fee or tax added to a purchase over which we have little choice to accept as “the cost of doing business.”
Here’s a longer view of the above crocodile.

As world travelers these past five years, we find that we must bear the cost of a wide variety of surcharges that we chose to impart generally for the usual benefit of convenience.

Convenience is a huge factor in our financial lives. We choose convenience when we pay more than preferred or expected prices for many items, in an effort to ensure a better experience.
Let’s review some of these self-imposed surcharges, we encounter as a result of traveling the world:
1.  Baggage fees: Sure, we could travel “very light” hauling only backpacks and carry-on luggage. However, for the sake of having enough clothing, supplies, and digital equipment in our possession, we often pay excess baggage or baggage weight fees, depending on the airlines.
A curious turtle scurried quickly toward us.
2.  ATM fees: We do not go into banks or currency stores, paying exchange rate fees and credit card fees to obtain cash. More economically, we use ATMs to save money using our debit cards and thus incur only two fees; one, the cost of using the machine; two, the charge from our bank when using an ATM at an international ATM facility.
3.  Rental cars: At times, we pay higher fees for rental cars when we need a large enough vehicle to accommodate all of our bags; three checked bags and three carry-on bags.
4.  Medical costs: Recently, we incurred added medical fees to acquire a medical certification enabling us to board the upcoming Antarctica cruise, beyond the cost of the cruise itself. Soon, when we arrive in Buenos Aires, we’ll make an appointment at a travel clinic to update our vaccinations and get prescriptions for malaria pills prior to returning to Africa. We pay a premium for the few medications I use that aren’t covered by insurance and must be shipped to our location at any given time.
Turtles tucked away under the bushes.
5.  Tips: Particularly on cruises, we choose to add tips to the cost of the cruise at the time of booking which at this point, is running US $27 (CRC 15,372) per day. While on the ship, we may choose to pay additional tips for enhanced services and attention to detail befitting our convenience and experience.  In addition, for convenience, we may pay porter and bellman fees, depending on the circumstances.
6.  Flights:  On many airlines, they are now added extra fees for specific seats on the plane in the “coach” or economy section. At times, since we’re taller than the average passenger, we may choose a bulkhead seat or other seat with more legroom.
7.  Vacation Homes with added amenities: We prefer to rent a vacation/holiday home that includes Wi-Fi and all utilities paid, a pool, an upgraded kitchen with modern appliances and ample kitchen utensils, although we’ve had many exceptions. Of course, we always pay a premium for good views, which we’ve found is ultimately important to the our level of enjoyment.
8.  Mail and shipping fees: Since we’re unable to receive mail, piece by piece, in most countries, we often make purchases for clothing and supplies, accumulating them along with any snail mail that may arrive, placing them in one large box to be shipped. Most products we purchase include free shipping, but we must pay exorbitant fees to have all of the items sent to us at specific locations. For example, the box being shipped today which includes all the clothing we had to purchase for Antarctica, my new laptop and other supplies, we’re incurring a US $450 (CRC 256,199) shipping fee for the items to be shipped FedEx from Nevada to our upcoming hotel in Fort Lauderdale. This requires our mailing service to open all the arriving packages and boxes, toss the paper and packing materials and neatly place all the items in one box. Their fees imposed for this process are included in the above price.
A leopard atop a high perch.

9.  Internet/Wi-Fi/SIM card fees: We cannot travel without regular access to Wi-Fi; not at hotels, airports, and vacation homes. With our daily posts, photos and research, we chose not to be without Internet services for even a day. Ensuring a connection is always readily available often results in us paying added fees, including SIM cards for phone and data, when we chose not to pay the outrageous costs for roaming cell service in the US.

10. Visas – entering and exiting fees: Upon entering and exiting some countries, an arbitrary fee is charged for visiting their country. This is not the case in every country, but when we encounter such situations we may pay as much as US $40 (CRC 22,7773) at each immigration stop.
All of the above fees and more quickly add up to thousands of dollars each year. Although under many circumstances, we’ve opted for the lowest possible costs for each of the above, willing to forgo some conveniences, we’ve found paying these fees, although often begrudgingly, make life just a whole lot easier.
Sloths, known to by shy, are not easy to photograph when they tend to stay well hidden and out of sight.
We’re not backpackers. We don’t live in hostels. We don’t always use public transportation, preferring taxis and rental cars as an alternative. We aren’t 25 years old with minimal requirements. Nor, are we “high maintenance” always requiring the “best” of everything. Most likely, we fall somewhere in the middle, seeking a somewhat comfortable and somewhat convenient life as nomads.
May your life be comfortable and convenient.
Photo from one year ago today, November 14, 2016:
Tom’s shot of the sunset as we set sailed to our next destination. For more details, please click here.

Shocking effects of Hurricane Harvey…The devastation continues…

These young rabbits appeared to be part of a herd, living in a “warren” in the well-designed spacious habitat of Zoo Ave.

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

From the veranda, we spotted another fire burning on a nearby mountain.

As we continue to share more photos from our recent visit to Zoo Ave, bird and animal sanctuary, and rehabilitation center here in the Alajuela Valley, we’re reminded of all the animals being rescued from floodwaters in Texas and other states due to Hurricane Harvey.

The habitat for rehabilitating birds and animals was as natural as possible, with wide-open spaces, vegetation, and apparent cleanliness in the care of its inhabitants.

Of course, the devastation of the loss of human life supersedes all else, along with the loss of all of the worldly possessions of individuals and families across the land. But, in the mix, in the hearts and minds of many who’ve already lost so much, is the frustration and fearful pursuit of finding beloved pets, including dogs, cats, birds, horses, and barnyard animals.

A parrot pair were sharing a large banana leaf.

As animal lovers well know, an animal can be as much a part of a family as its family members and, for many, their only day-to-day companions. When we’re reminded of our loving dogs over the years, we can’t even imagine the fear many are possessing at this time as they try to find their beloved pets, now that they and their family members are nearing safety.

Many enclosed areas housed several compatible birds and other creatures.

Can we envision the chaos as citizens of the ravaged areas scrambled to their safety coupled with the worry that their pets may be lost to them forever? What a comfort those pets could be at this horrible time of loss and grief, losing people they love, belongings they treasured while finding themselves homeless without sufficient funds to rebuild their lives. It all takes time and money, neither of which survivors may have at this point.

Bunnies are commonly seen in Costa Rica in the vegetation-rich environment.

Although not a good comparison and certainly under considerably different circumstances, I can recall the last few weeks we spent in Minnesota. The four-day professional estate sale found us reeling over how little value there was in our treasured personal belongings, all of which we had to let go of.

Based on the size of their habitat, most likely, they had no concept of being confined, as was the case for most of the residents of Zoo Ave, a highly rated animal rehabilitation center.

We were left with a paltry sum due to the sale of our belongings and our home during poor market conditions at the time. Tom continued working 12-hour days up until the day we left on October 31, 2012. 

Please see this link for our story during that painful process.

We had to leave the house during the sale of our belongings and stayed with dear friend Karen at her lovely home in a nearby suburb. I was swamped with Tom’s retirement party preparations and finalizing details of the many items we’d overpacked to take on our journey. 

Large birds were sitting in trees.

During the difficult last days, I came down with the flu and lost my voice. I was very sick but couldn’t stop. I had to keep going. Each night of the four-day sale, I met with the estate sale company to reprice items. Little did I know the devastation I’d feel when I’d show up seeing people walking down the road carrying “our stuff,” for which they paid but a pittance. 

We noticed hundreds of turtles of varying sizes and some ducks, all seemingly busy sunning and foraging.

It was during this period that, for the first time in my life, I knew what it felt like to forfeit every “thing” that I knew and loved, let alone the upcoming process of saying goodbye to every “one” we knew and loved. And this was voluntary! There’s no comparison to the horrific sudden losses so many have suffered due to Hurricane Harvey and others.

The grounds at Zoo Ave are meticulously maintained.

Can we even imagine the loss the people of Texas and other states are feeling when every “thing” they knew and loved was ripped away from them, not by choice as in our case, but coupled with the fear of losing their lives and, in many cases, having lost people and pets they’ve loved? It’s heartbreaking.

The gift shop at Zoo Ave (Ave translates to “aviary” in Spanish)

We’ve all experienced losses in our lives. That’s all a part of the “human condition” over which we may have little control. How we respond to those losses determines the meaning, the purpose, and the quality of the remaining years of our lives. And, for all those lost souls in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, we pray for their healing and recovery in times to come.

Photo from one year ago today, September 2, 2016:

When we returned to Bali for our second two-month stay after a two-month stint in Southeast Asia, we were excited to see the buffaloes walking along the beach shortly after arriving. We only paid for the villa for the two non-consecutive 60-day stays and were happy to return to the beautiful villa and location in Sumbersari, a four or five-hour harrowing drive from the airport, the only part we didn’t care for. For more details, please click here

Accomplished another task…Plus, sightseeing in Costa Rica..

Tom shot this excellent photo of a leopard high above the ground on a perch.

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

Early last evening, before the most powerful rainstorm since our arrival in Atenas, this fire was burning on a hill. We took this photo from the veranda. Only moments later, thunder and lightning filled the sky, and pouring rain put the fire out in a matter of minutes. Our pool was almost overflowing from the rain.

When the shipped package from our mailing service became lost in the mail while we were in Tasmania, one of the main reasons we were worried was the fact that, as requested, had placed our paper mail and tax documents into the shipped box along with many other essential items.

Ducks and lots of turtles.

When we didn’t receive the package in time to do our 2016 taxes (it was later found and shipped to us in Sydney), our new accountant in Nevada filed an extension for us. Our prior accountant had decided to quit the business that eventually led us to Donnie Castleman who proved to be fast, efficient and reasonably priced in getting our return completed. 

With the extension, we had until October 15, 2017, to file the return. But, with a plan to put anything weighing heavily on our minds behind us, I got to work over this past week and sent Donnie everything he needed to complete the process.

We’ve seen these “flowers” in many botanical gardens throughout the world.  Thanks to friend Louise in Kauai Hawaii, she’s identified this as Pine Cone Ginger.  Thanks, Louise!

This morning at 5:00 am, I received an email from Donnie that he’d completed the return and all we needed to do was print the signature page, sign it, scan it and send it back to him. By 6:00 am, we’d reviewed everything, completed the few tasks, saved the documents to our external hard drive and cloud, and paid his bill via PayPal. Whew! That’s a significant relief.

The only significant items to accomplish between now and the next few months are extending our visas for Costa Rica by 23 days. Tom is waiving Part B Medicare when the documents arrive in the snail mail in Nevada before his 65th birthday on December 23rd. 

As in my case, Part B does Tom no good outside the US which results in the necessity of us having International Health Insurance.  Neither of us has made a health insurance claim of any type in almost five years. We’ll write more on these two topics as it transpires. 

There are six varieties of Toucans in Costa Rica.

Also, by November, we’ll need to select our clothing for the Antarctica cruise and have a physical exam by a local doctor certifying we are fit to travel to this remote location. Neither of these items causes us any concern and we’ll be diligent in getting them done on time.  

In the interim, we can begin to relax a little and check out some sightseeing venues here in Costa Rica. We’re not going to go crazy and go out every day. However, we do plan to do something special at least once a week while spending plenty of time exploring on a variety of road trips.

We’ve yet to see a Toucan in the wild, but indeed, over these next many months.

Many have the perception that Costa Rica is run rampant by wild animals, birds, and colorful frogs. This is not necessarily the case when staying in a vacation home, resort or hotel.  No doubt, there are plenty of colorful birds flying about but we’ve yet to see a colorful frog.

Many tourist activities include hikes through the rainforests where one may be more inclined to encounter unusual wild animals. Right now, as I continue to recover from this outrageous gastrointestinal thing, I’m not feeling like hiking in a rainforest.

I gushed over these baby rabbits as they crawled out of a hole in the ground.

Instead, yesterday we embarked on a two-hour hilly walk at what is called Zoo Ave located not too far from Atenas. As many of our readers know, we aren’t big fans of zoos.  We prefer to see native fawn and flora in a natural setting, not behind bars. 

However, when a facility advertises itself as a rehabilitation center we’re more inclined to check it out. As it turned out Zoo Ave (ave means “bird” in Spanish), located in La Garita, Costa Rica was well worth the trip, especially when we observed signs that depicted they’d rescued over 1000 animals in the past year.

White and black bunnies were hanging out together.

It doesn’t appear that Zoo Ave has its own website so we’ve included tourist’s comments from TripAdvisor here. With positive reviews of 4.5 of out 5, it seems others have enjoyed this facility with its intent to return rescued wildlife back to the wild when they are sufficiently healed and able to do so. 

Of course, some native animal can’t ever be returned to the wild when they’ve become dependent on human supplied food sources, making them incapable of foraging on their own. This is an unfortunate but necessary reality of rescue facilities.

We had the opportunity for numerous Iguana sightings at the facility including some not in cages with one walking across the path we walked.

The hard part for me was being unable to take good photos of delightful creatures who were ensconced in cages. Although none of the animals were housed in small or inadequate cages they had plenty of room to wander, fly and navigate. 

Taking photos through chain link fences is impossible for an amateur photographer like me. So I apologize for any of the less-than-clear images we’ll be posting over the next several days. We enjoyed ourselves and easily managed 10,000 steps on my FitBit, a goal I try to reach as often as possible.

This bird is giant, about half the size of an Ostrich.

It’s funny how during our two-hour walk through the facility, I kept thinking of Africa and how practically face-to-face encounters with wildlife has become so crucial for both of us. And yet, we’re still drawn to the opportunity to see what each country has to offer in the way of its native wildlife and we often seek rescue facilities when we’re unable to spot them any other way.

Actually, even in South Africa, we visited a few rescue facilities finding them dedicated and exciting in their commitment to returning as many animals as possible to their natural environment. 

Any suggestions on what this bird may be?

Now as I look back, I could kick myself for ever going to a facility that “trains” its inhabitants to perform for humans. We’ll never visit such a facility again if we can help it.  Over the years, we’ve become more educated and informed about wildlife which has had a tremendous impact on our views.,

After last night’s massive rain storm today is damp and humid. We plan to stay put, continuing to work on small tasks and perhaps relax and enjoy ourselves a little now that some more significant tasks are behind us. 

A green Parrot, comparable to the one that had flown into the glass on our veranda and survived.

May you have a pleasant day!

Photo from one year ago today, August 24, 2016:

Many residential streets are narrow with room for only one car to pass without a bit of maneuvering. The previous night there was a bombing at a nearby location. At this point, we had nine days remaining until departure and we were anxious to be on our way. For more details, please click here.