Sparky

Back in Malmö

Santa Teresa – San José – Newark – Zürich – Copenhagen

We were a little uneasy about flying in the same type of small aircraft (Cessna Caravan) after the Nature Air mountain crash a few days before we left Santa Teresa. But to be totally upfront, I felt slightly more trepidatious when we boarded United’s vintage 737/800. After the captain pulled us up over the clouds and we hit our cruising altitude, I calmed down. At least until we landed at the always inspiring Newark Airport where chilling cold weather and the usual chaos welcomed us. Like New York City’s subway system, the state’s airports (I’m including New Jersey’s Newark here) are in really, really bad shape. I don’t get how you can let three airports and one of the world’s greatest city’s subway systems just fall apart until their current state of dilapidation.

Come to think of it, I actually do understand how that can happen – and anybody that knows me well enough will also get what I’m talking about here. Nudge, nudge. Anyway, it’s called neglect and its pathology stems from an unwillingness to recognize or acknowledge that action must be taken for things to get better and not worse.

The flight with Swiss to Zürich and then with Lufthansa to Kastrup were both uneventful. I slept through latter and watched and really enjoyed the latest Tom Cruise flick, “American Made” during the cross over the North Atlantic. Maybe it wasn’t the best movie to watch whilst on a plane as there were a ton of daredevil scenes (performed by Cruise himself?) in a small turboprop.

So, we’re back in Malmö now. It’s been amazing weather since the taxi pulled up here Sunday afternoon. Foggy at night, though. A prerequisite for fog is however that there’s barely any wind – which is unusual here where the Baltic Sea and the North Atlantic converge.

Speaking of the Baltic Sea…

In a couple of weeks, I’ll be visiting an old friend and revisiting one of my favorite islands in the world, Gotland. I think Gotland is nothing short of magical. Yes, even this time of year. I lived, worked and studied there off and on for 5 years. So I’m obviously biased. Hope they have some snow when I get there. A snow covered Visby is about as pretty as can be.

I shot the above photo of our neighborhood yesterday, Monday afternoon with the help of a little flying friend we call Sparky. Want to see more images from Västra Hamnen here in Malmö? Then click on over here.

leica-q-titanium

Travel Photography with the “Q”
This visit to Costa Rica is my first serious travel assignment with the Leica Q as my main camera. I’m impressed with just about everything; dynamic range, focus speed and battery usage.
I’ve tried to use it as a film camera and make every shutter release count. I would of preferred a 35 mm lens for portraits, but the 28mm is so versatile in other situations that I didn’t really miss any other focal length. Only a handful of times did I miss having a longer lens or the convenience of more megapixels. The Leica Q will likely be my go-to camera for a long time.
costa-rica-airport

A long flight home

Shot the above image through the window of a Cessna Caravan as we flew past the airport here in San José on our merry way to the coast.

Three weeks have passed by in what seems like light speed. Time to leave Costa Rica behind and fly back through time and space to catch up with reality. Our reality, anyway.

Yes, we’re impressed by this country. For sure. Would love to see more of Costa Rica’s rain forests and perhaps test the surf on the Caribbean side.

Though much of the roads outside of the capital are in desperate need of repair and pavement, the country as a whole seems to work just fine. In 1948, Costa Rica dismantled their armed forces and has since invested heavily in education (96% literacy rate, about 10% higher than the US), in healthcare and environmental protection.

It’s cool in San José this time of year – cold even – and we’ve been wearing sweaters for a few days now. Though after my workout at the hotel’s gym this afternoon, I went for a swim in the heated pool and thoroughly enjoyed a few laps.

Our flight home will be somewhat masochistic. All told, it’ll take about 27 hours from door to door – with plane swapping in both New York and Zürich.

In the future, airline staff at the airport will gently put passengers – whom will be lying down in full-length sleeper capsules – into a medically induced coma. After their flight, each passenger will be awaken as soon as they’ve arrived at their hotel. Everyone will feel relaxed and rested. And probably really, really hungry.

As I write this from a comfy king sized bed in our hotel room, just a few minutes from Costa Rica’s International Airport, I can’t wait to climb out of the taxi on Sundspromenaden in Västra Hamnen/Malmö, take a long, hot shower, unpack my dirty laundry, brush off my sandy camera gear, back up my media files, eat a crunchy, homemade salad and then, finally, jump into bed and hope the jet lag won’t be too bad.

sloth

Sloths

Photographed my very first sloth earlier today at the Toucan Rescue Ranch outside of San José. The ranch’s 40 some specimen are either rescued from poachers, traffic accident survivors or orphaned baby sloths. Apparently these distant relatives to anteaters and armadillos move much faster in captivity than in the wild and I was a little surprised at how agile they were. And yes, they’re extremely cute, too.

During the afternoon visit, we we’re given an extensive tour around the ranch and saw several two and three fingered sloths as well as spider monkeys, parrots, owls and a few other animals in various stages of recovery.

According to Wikipedia, “…sloths are so named because of their very low metabolism and deliberate movements. This is an evolutionary adaptation to their low-energy diet of leaves, and to avoid detection by predatory hawks and cats who hunt by sight”.
san jose costa rica

San José

So, now were in San José. A place I have some mixed feelings about. I like it here. But it’s not really that likable.

San José is livelier [yet much, much safer] than Guatemala City. It’s quieter than Havana and architecturally speaking, an almost unfathomable patchwork of pleasing and displeasing styles, materials and hues. Come to think of it, the Costa Rican capital’s almost comically wide array of architectural styles isn’t too dissimilar from that of Malmö. Aside from the mostly well-kept Art Deco buildings on display here.

Barrio Amon, a few blocks with the epitet “old town” was interesting but took some time to find. During our quest, we almost got ourselves into a precarious situation with some shady dudes whom wouldn’t have been entirely misplaced if transplanted to a street corner in L.A.’s South Central.

Like on the coast, folks here are extremely polite and genuinely friendly. And it’s certainly not hard to find interesting subject matter.

Tomorrow we’re going to visit a sloth or two.

costa rica iguana

Last Iguana Breakfast

Finally had an opportunity to capture one the hotel’s many chillin’ iguanas today during breakfast. Lizards are fascinating creatures and we’ve seen a lot of them here along the coast.

The Raboff’s are heading back to San José later this afternoon and hope that we have a safe flight. It’s been 10 very pleasurable days of surfing, practicing yoga, Qi Gong and enjoying a very agreeable climate. I’ve also worked a few hours on most days and eventually, I’ll cut together an inspiring video about our experiences in this relatively untouched/unexploited part of Central America.

Looking forward to exploring Costa Rica’s capital to see if I can find something intriguing or challenging to photograph and thereby counter San José’s reputation as a lackluster destination.

Santa-Teresa-Costa-Rica

Morning View: the Pacific Ocean

My morning view from just outside our hotel as 2017 comes to a close. The Pacific Ocean has always and will likely always hypnotize me. It’s the combo of salinity, color and smell that puts me into some kind of spell.

As much as we’ve unreservedly savored our visit to this stunningly beautiful beach, and I think I can speak for the entire family here, we are now yearning for a less sandy existence.

A day after 2018 arrives we’ll depart this unforgettable coastline and fly back to San José where we’ll stay for a few days. On the agenda in the capital is a visit to a famous coffee plantation and a much anticipated tour at a sanctuary for sloths.

yoga class in costa rica

Tropical Yoga

Shot this during yesterday’s yin yoga class here in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica. Amazing weather and the perfect location for yoga.

surfer dude

Beachlife: Surfer Dude

Met this meditating fellow earlier today on Playa Carmen. Gratifying to know that I’m not the only middle-aged surfer dude on the beach here.

Playa-Santa-Teresa

Koh Samui & Costa Rica

We’re almost a week into our first expedition to Costa Rica and I’m flabbergasted at how under-developed the beach communities along the coast are. No large resorts, high rise hotels or a single fast food restaurant or convenient store. That’s right, no 7Eleven or burger joint by the clown or king.

I find myself being reminded of Koh Samui, circa 1988, a few years before the airport was built and when both Chaweng and Lamai beaches were still dusty fishing villages which were mostly populated by transient backpackers. There might have been maybe two hotels on the entire island back then and only a few dozen dodgy bungalow resorts. I worked at one of them, the Golden Sand.

I remember how hard it was to find a restaurant on Koh Samui that served decent western food and that you had to drive a motorcycle or take a flatbed truck taxi ride to the ferry town Nathon and there wait patiently in line at Koh Samui’s only post office to make a collect call to wherever.

That was thirty years ago.

Santa Teresa is similar in a few ways and undeniably different in others.

Like on Samui three decades ago, we mostly have the beach here to ourselves. You pass maybe 20 people during an hour’s long walk up and down the coast. Half of them are surfers. This despite it being absolute peak season.

There are perhaps a dozen hotels scattered along the beach and a few bungalow places located on either side of narrow, unpaved lanes just above the main road.

Unlike Samui ´88, there are a plethora of really good restaurants here. We’ve enjoyed very tasty Japanese, Lebanese, Thai, Mexican and some seafood during our week.

We’re a little surprised at how expensive it is, though. So far, we haven’t been able to spend much less than $70-80  for a dinner for three. Which is almost as expensive as in Europe or even the US.

Then again, Costa Rica has been popular among affluent American families and well-to-do college kids for decades. So the high prices are likely a reflection of an upper middle class tourist demographic.

The thick, unmistakable smell of ganja is prevalent almost everywhere – especially on the beach just before and after sunset. Just as it was on Samui wayback when.

For a photographer and travel writer, there’s plentiful of things to be inspired by here. Including the dense jungle just a few steps beyond the beach and the large flocks of pelicans that soar majestically in fluid arrow formations just above the tree tops.

The weather has been great so far. Cool mornings with temperatures in the lower 20s and middays in the mid 30s. It’s a dry heat, though. Nowhere nearly as humid as in Thailand but significantly hotter than on the Hawaiian islands.

Finally, I think one of the main reasons why Costa Rica is enjoying increasing popularity is in no small way thanks to the friendly atmosphere among locals and guest workers alike.

It’s pura vida all the time.