December 28, 2009

Pura Vida: Our Costa Rica Trip!

I would offer to try and make this brief, but that is like asking the sun not to shine. I'm wordy. I accept it. :)

Costa Rica: Arrival Day

They say NEVER drive in Costa Rica at night. Potholes, lack of signage, etc. So our flight arrives at 3PM, and the sun sets at 5:30PM. But, once we land, we STILL have to get our baggage, go through immigration, customs, AND find a rental car, THEN drive 3.5 hours to our hotel in La Fortuna. Yup, we're gonna drive in the damn dark.

Turns out, its really not so bad as long as you have a brain don't have A.D.D. so you can keep your eyeballs on the road. Plus, it REALLY helps when you have a sweet wife who is a super rad passenger seat driver. ;) After a time, we applied our fantastic I.T. skills, and developed a process: Simon maneuvered the unlit mountain pass-like roads in the dark AND in the fog, while I calmly pointed out the items in the road: "Pothole on the left. Big truck coming. One-lane bridge ahead. Pedestrian on the right. Bicyclist. More pedestrians. Dog. Cattle."

Now, you think I might be exaggerating, but DUDE. Peeps just walk IN THE ROAD. Even if there is a shoulder, which usually, there is NOT. Big work trucks have to drive down the center of the road, and they DO NOT slow down, and we HUG the edge of the road, hoping to not plunge over the side as they NARROWLY MISS us. I can sum up the driving there in one word: INSANE. No lights, no sidewalks, definitely no signs. We got lost (only) 3 or 4 times on the way to the hotel, and each time I asked for directions, they always had landmarks for the turns: "Turn left at the big church" and shit like that. In the dark. And the fog. With road hazards. And dogs and cattle and pedestrians. Did I mention IN THE DARK?

Anyway, it took us about 5 hours to get to our hotel, which was NOT bad - I thought for sure we would get totally lost and end up in Nicaragua, so I was pretty damn thrilled to see the hotel. Plus, they handed us a frozen drink upon arrival, so things were looking good!

Day One: La Fortuna & Zip Lines

As soon as the sun came up the next day, I was out the door with my camera. I am from Colorado, and shit is just BROWN there. There is a rare time in the spring where everything is really green before the sun scorches it away, but its always kind of a dark, piney green. NOTHING like this. I am obsessed with the tropical flowers IMMEDIATLY. And, bananas growing outside our front door? Are you kidding me??

We stayed at Arenal Springs Resort in La Fortuna, at the base of the Arenal volcano. This is now my most favorite hotel on earth. We had a little bungalow, with BIG windows to see the volcano from. We slept in, and then went into town to explore and have breakfast.

After we had throughly pigged out and explored, we went for our zipline tour! Most of the tours were in the morning, so Simon and I decided that, since we had a car, we would sleep in every day, and do our toury-stuff in the afternoon. GOOD PLAN (thanks Uncle Curt). We had the zip lines to ourselves - just us and the guides, who were HILAROUS, and took tons of pics and video. They even showed us some wildlife (aka super freaky reptiles). Totally smoking awesome - super fast cables, and just scary enough to make it super fun!

We ended the night with beers and dinner in town. Greatest first day ever!

Day Two: Hanging Bridges

Again, since this was VACATION, we slept in. It was raining off and on, and we decided to sit on our wonderful porch and read books listening to the rain, and wait till it cleared up. I am telling you, people, rest and relaxation like this will cure ANYTHING!

Once we saw a break in the weather, we got in our sweet off-roading rig, and headed for the hanging bridges (with raingear in tow, of course). This might have been my FAVORITE thing we did. It's this big long rainforest hike, with these amazing suspension bridges across valleys with amazing views, AND you are walking right up there in the canopy! Its supposed to take 1.5 hours to get thru, but I am a lollygagging/picture-taking machine, so we were in there like 4 hours. And, there was NO ONE there - just the 2 of us, with the exeption of a couple we passed, and we exchanged photo-snapping duties. After that, we only saw monkeys! Simon's favorite part was when I jumped up and down on the suspension bridge once we were smack dab in the middle, but he will never admit it.

Right before the end of the trail, we heard this crazy sound all around us (here is where I look for some huge animal charging at us), and we realize it's the rain (I'm a genius)! We slap on our rain gear, and about 45 seconds after we first heard the noise, the rain was on us - it took THAT LONG to seep thru the canopy! AWESOME! Since the rain is like bathwater there (not this freezing drizzle crap known as Colorado rain), we happily marched along, super excited to be caught in a RAINstorm in a RAINforest.

There was a super small restaurant in the parking area, and I ate Casado (typical Costa Rican meal) for lunch, and we watched the rain start POUNDING at the windows. We sat there and talked to the owners for a bit, enjoying a coffee, and watching the rain. AWESOME day!

After that, it was more relaxing on our front porch watching the rain. I must say I welcomed the rain - it forced us to take some much needed downtime.

Day Three: Volcano Lava Flow

More rain. We ate breakfast in the open-air restaurant of our hotel, right next to the rain. It was so fresh and green out there! Amazing!

More relaxing in the room, and finally decided at about 1PM that we would go for the volcano hike regardless of the rain. The worst thing that could happen was we get WET. Big friggin deal. Off we went.

We were the ONLY ONES in the park. Which says two things: 1.) Rain can NOT stop us, you bastards! and 2.) We are the only goddam idiots crazy enough to hike in the rain. The hike only took us about 45 minutes, and as soon as we got out to the lava flow, THE RAIN STOPPED.

It was incredible. It was completely silent, with the entire valley opening up before us, with patches of sun peeking through here and there, reflecting off the lake below, and highlighting the steam rising out of the rainforest. I swear it was a religious experience.

We were in complete aw of the lava fields. "Can you believe this used to be FLOWING down here like WATER?" "Yeah, dude, I can't believe this happened only 10 years ago." And on and on. I am a total geographic nerd - I am one of those idiots that stops at EVERY info sign stuck on the side of the road that tell about some mountain or some valley. Yup, I hold up traffic for shit like that. Blame me.

I just couldnt get over the fact that things were GROWING on the lava stones. Amazing the way nature recycles, eh?? God, I'm such a hippie.

Once we had spent our max 20 minutes up there (which is all they suggest you stay, since it is still an active volcano, AND I didn't want to make the Darwin awards), we started climbing back down the lava flow, and the rain came back. Thank you for the brief moment, Volcano Gods!

As we were hiking in, we had heard a sound that was like a combo of fierce wind in the trees, and thunder. We, of course, thought nothing of it since we couldnt place it. We also heard it climbing back down the lava flow as we were leaving, and we finally made the connection - it was the damn VOLCANO! Then we realized why they had you back your car into the parking lot: so you can jump in, jam on the gas, and get the hell OUT of there when this sucker blows! It gave me CHILLS!

We made it an early night since we had a VERY long drive the next morning to get to Jaco. We were done with the rain, and ready for some friggin sun!!!

Day Four: Driving

We were pretty much used to the crazy driving there now, and Simon was a local: no turn signals, passing people all over the place, blasting through stop signs. I had my camera out like a maniac, except when I saw police - then I hid all signs of being a tourist, as a friend of mine on his honeymoon (can't really hide that you're a tourist when yer wife is blond) got pulled over, and had to give the cop a $40 bribe to NOT get a ticket. Sneaky cops!

We stopped halfway at this restaurant with so-so food, but an AMAZING view. This valley was HUGE, and falcons were ALL OVER the place. It was a nice rest so I could get my land legs back after the last 3 hours of hairpin turns.

More hairpin turns and 2 more hours on the road, and we made it into Jaco! We stayed at the Jaco Beach Best Western since it was cheap, and right on the beach. We unpacked a little, relaxed from the drive, then walked up the beach till we found a bar, me snapping photos all the way. I sat and took pictures of the sunset from my beer, and let the waves lull me into relaxation. After the sun went down, we grabbed some dinner, and went to crash early in our room. That drive was exhausting: 'Pedestrians. Cattle. Dog. Pothole." etc. ;)

Day Five: Hermosa Beach

May I just say, WOW. I had no idea that this place was a black sand beach. Its INCREDIBLE. We slept in, as usual, ate our breakfast at the hotel, then lubed up with sunscreen, and headed down to Hermosa Beach, which is right next door to Jaco Beach, but not rocky, and EMPTY EMPTY EMPTY!

We spread out in the sand, soaked up the sun, frolicked in the ocean (even Simon went in - a bunch of times!), and had a super beachy lazy day. The surfing there is incredible, and you should have seen the waves!! There is NOTHING like lying there in the sand, the sun shining through your closed eyelids, and hearing the surf crashing on the shore. Especially when you're from Colorado. The closest sound we ever hear like that is the trash truck being emptied behind our house on Friday morning. Stupid.

After we were thouroughly sunbathed, we headed back to the hotel for some food. We both had a rude awakening once we got there. I went to take my suit off in the bathroom, and I GASPED at the sight of myself. I was FIRE ENGINE RED. Not Lobster Red like normal sunburned idiots. FIRE ENGINE, folks. We were not even out there that long, AND I was wearing SPF 50! I guess down there at the equator, you need to put sunscreen on every 10 minutes. MY BAD! Plus, you should have seen the sand in my shorts. It was HOT. It was stuck to the creases under my butt once I got the bottoms off, and Simon just laughed his face off at me, claiming I was the SEXIEST thing ever. Well, DUH! ;)

After a nice COLD shower, and lots of lotion later, we went back down to Jaco beach at sunset (we CLEARLY had enough of it during the daylight hours) to take more pictures, and to gather rocks for my beach jar I planned to make when I got home, which later got confiscated at the airport. I SUCK at smuggling.

We went out for a nice dinner, and decided to partake in some Guaro, the local liquor made from sugar cane. We sat and ate and drank and talked out faces off. It helped to drown out the sunburn pain. I wore an orange dress, which looked rediculous on my red skin. I looked like a pitiful, splotchy mess. But I OWNED it. ;)

Here is where I will insert my FOOD collage. Gallo Pinto is the typical food here - rice and beans, with chicken. Or shrimp. Or eggs. Or whatever you want. The entire trip, I ate rice and beans with queso fresco (fresh cheese) every single morning. Then, in La Fortuna, I would eat it again for dinner, with shrimp. Once we got down to the beach, I ate nothing but seafood, tho! We also discovered this drink with 'leches', which means milks (sorry, Holly!), ice cream, and strawberry jelly stuff, called a Churchill. This is my FAVORITE foody discovery from Costa Rica, and we ate them whenever we found them. Which is why there is no pictures of me on here with a bathing suit on. :)

Day Six: Pool

Since we were banned from the beach until sunset (unless we wanted melanoma), we spent today at the pool in the SHADE. It was actualy a SUPER relaxing day filled with reading and frequent dips in the pool to cool our poor crispy skin. We could still hear the ocean in the background, so it turned out to be a great day! Notice, there are no pictures in the DAYTIME. Yup, I banned-out the sun.

Once we lazed the day away, we drove over to Hermosa Beach for sunset this time, planning on stopping for dinner on the way back, plus some souvenier shopping for our friends and family back home. I had the best time chasing the little crabs over the sand, trying to snap their photos, and watching the sun sink into the ocean. It was a bit sad, since we had to get up and leave early the next morning, but I was satisfied, and ready to go home. A passerby snapped a photo of us getting our feet wet in the waves to say goodbye to the ocean. Ah, we will MISS you, Jaco!!

After saying goodbye to the beach, we cheered ourselves up by stuffing our faces with the best yellowfin tuna steaks we ever put in our mulths. Seriously killer. We shopped a bit on our fully tummies, then headed home to pack for our early morning.

Costa Rica: Departure Day

I think I ate extra rice and beans this last morning, just to get my last fill. We checked out of the hotel, then braved the crazy drive back to San Juan. Amazingly, we FOUND our rental car place again, dropped off the car, and headed to the airport. Sad to leave, but good to be headed home.

I miss Costa Rica already. With a 3.5 hour flight back to Houston, then a 2 hour flight to Denver, Costa Rica is SERIOUSLY close enough to visit often, which we definitly plan on doing! This was definitly the top destination I have ever been, and, if my bag biz takes off and I can work from ANYWHERE, it will FO SHO be from Costa Rica.

But inside, safe from the sun. Ouch! ;)

1 comment:

  1. Arenal is a great windsurfing destination with the major drawback being the drive there and the need to hump your own gear in.

    Pics: Need to have pop-out blowups of them if possible. I don't think the blog-friendly thumbnail sized ones quite do them justice.

    Great pics and write up!