Long Week of April 10 - 21, 2008
Well, a bit of time has elapsed since I got around to organizing our jaunt to Costa Rica in the Spring of 2008. I can release a barrage of excuses; however, the truth is, I got so involved in our work and some personal matters that our website received a lesson in patience. But alas, remembering my enjoyment in creating these pages, I am once again back at the keyboard.
Gerson and I went to Costa Rica to spend some time with my sister, Alexis, and three of her four children (and a couple of their friends). My sister decided to take the family to the Jaco area for their Spring Break and we thought, what the heck, we could use a little zip-lining, rafting, surfing, hiking, swimming, horseback riding trip ourselves. We flew in a few days ahead of time so we could find a place for us and to set up some of the experiences that we wanted to introduce to the kids.
Being rather fortunate, we found a terrific 3-bedroom, 2-bath condo to stay in just a minute from the beach and a few hundred feet from the main strip through the town of Jaco. As I was inquiring about various tours, Gerson made his way into a little bar nearby. By the time I got there, he was on a first-name basis with an ex-patriot (someone that was from the United States but now lives in another country) that lives in town. He eagerly referred us to a real estate man and we wandered off in search of his office.
When we arrived at the office, there were a couple of other gentlemen sharing the realtor's company and upon hearing of our wants, one of the men (Keith) offered us an unbelievable deal on a rental condominium. We strolled over and took a look and that was all we needed. We paid him cash of $500 for a total of 13 nights and moved in. Lo and behold, Keith was our next-door neighbor. Having this place so centrally located and with a friendly ex-pat next door, made the trip even more enjoyable.
The additional days spent around Jaco also gave us the opportunity to take our little rental car to places that we were better off not discussing with the rental car agency. Ah, but no worries as we did not encounter any problems and found some remarkable corners just north of the city.
(This page will seem a bit picture-laden and that is because we just did so much in such a short amount of time and the pictures themselves tell much of the story).
Besides those quiet little corners, Costa Rica is known for its spectacular beaches and it did not disappoint. I think the only things that shared our beach were the occasional skittering iguanas.
After a few days of peace, the troops arrived at the Los Suenos Marriott Beach & Golf Resort, a small, upscale development north of Jaco. Spending a day poolside, looking out over the ocean, reminded us of our many pleasurable days in Brasil. The only difference was the ability to float over to the pool bar and order one of those ridiculous fruit concoctions that we hate to admit that we love to drink. As I affectionately say about the difference between my sister and me, Alexis is "Rolex" and I am "Mickey Mouse" (and yes, she wears a Rolex watch and I wear a Mickey Mouse watch).
But it was nice to deviate from our normal humble travel practices and indulge in some 5-star treatment.
After a day of much ado about nothing, we dragged the clan into the mountains (Montes de Oro) for a day of horseback riding up and zip-lining down. We had a perfect day for what was to be a laugh-ridden and scream-filled experience. It was so much fun to see the kids unhesitatingly jump onto the zip-line and hear their excitement as they flew down the mountain.
Even my sister (who I swear had a powder compact hidden somewhere on her person as she always made certain she looked totally put together), dove right into the spirit of things and took advantage of our flights over the various pools and waterfalls by dipping her feet whenever she could.
One of the best parts of this excursion were the many pools and waterfalls that we went over and through. We crisscrossed a long, steep, winding river and oftentimes we vaulted off the edge of a cliff overlooking the waters. I would like to go back and hike the entire zip-trail because there was so much beauty to see that I missed in the whiz of the ride.
We had a respite at one waterfall and we just could not resist figuring out the way to make the best of it. I started to climb up the sheer wall when I just could not see the toehold necessary to cross out into the water. Fortunately, I caught a brief look from one guide to another and I realized that THEY knew how to get over to the water so with my imploring look, the guide showed me the trick. A few carefully planted footsteps and I was sliding down the face of the waterfall.
No sooner than Gerson and I were down the waterfall, when Reid and Christian scrambled up the rocks to do the same. Of course, being young and seemingly immortal, they decide to "surf" the face of this rock wave to the horror of Alexis. I do not know what was more fun, watching Reid and Christian make it down the slide or hearing Alexis loudly gulp her breath as her son jumped to his feet and started slipping down the stone.
We concluded the adrenaline-filled day with a terrific lunch at the Hotel Vista Golfo, a picturesque mountain-top hostel. Only the local birds competed with our voices as we recaptured our day in various embellished synopses.
The next day, we were off to the beach to indulge in the waves. We headed south of Jaco (near Playa Hermosa) and found a wonderful black-sand beach that we had all to ourselves. However, a short time after we arrived, we discovered why the beach was somewhat deserted. I will give you some hints: black sand beach, strong sunshine...yep, it was quite amusing to watch everyone make the hot-sand-hop to the water.
There is something about having a cold beer on the beach that is akin to a bag of peanuts at a baseball game or perhaps, a cup of hot chocolate by a fireplace on a cold, rainy night. It just tastes better! We have enjoyed the local beer Imperial before (as rated on our Beer Index) and this time was no exception.
In keeping with the days so far, we were off to yet another adventure: white water rafting. What we did not know was that just the journey to the river was a good part of the excitement. From driving along a bone-jarring road through palm tree (for palm oil) and teak groves, to stopping to pick up the colorful (and harmless) spider, to crossing precarious wooden bridges that I would swear were not wide enough for the bus. It was quite the trip and we welcomed anything the river wanted to splash at us.
An interesting note about the palm groves. When the older palm trees are no longer fruitful, new trees have to be planted (as the palm tree does not have an infinite lifespan). The caretakers pour diesel or fuel oil in the roots in order to suffocate the plant. Once the tree dies from the suffocation, the top of the tree falls off and room is given to the new trees to be planted.
We came to the end of our road, literally, and disembarked at the river's edge. After the bus ride, the rafting trip did not seem so scary and we were giddy with excitement. We were lined up and outfitted and even participated in some stretching exercises before jumping into the raft. On the sly, Gerson was talking with the guides (in Spanish so the kids would not understand) and telling them to not worry if we get soaking wet and to give us a wild ride. I could hardly mask my laughter as the guides just grinned and nodded to each other. Yep, we were in for a wet and wild ride!
The guides took Gerson's request seriously and both boats did a disappearing act in the rapids. The photos compiled here are a combination of the photos taken by the rafting company's photographer and what I was able to take with my own camera. Fortunately, I was able to keep my camera safe in a waterproof bag and at every pause in the action, I tried to get as many photos as I could. It is always easy to take great pictures when everyone is smiling from ear-to-ear.
After several rough spots, we pulled up onto the shore for a little trek time up to a waterfall. It was immediately apparent that this was a fall made for jumping off of and we raced to the top of the rock. I think I most enjoyed having my sister look over at me while Grace, her youngest, was leaping off the rock and giving me this look of "where did that come from?" I just knowingly smiled and was inwardly so tickled to see Grace be so fearless.
Whilst playing in the waterfall, the boys decided to sit underneath a smaller cascade that we later deemed "leech ledge". Yes, you guessed it! There was an assortment of various sized leeches and the boys recreated a famous scene from "Stand By Me" when they searched every nook and cranny for the affectionate creatures. Fortunately for them, they did not find any hanger-on'ers, but it did put us in temporary hysterics.
I lost count of the number of rapids we battled through before we had a few minutes to drift along in the calmer waters. The kids did not waste any time diving right in and floating down the river. It was a nice reprieve from the hard work of paddling and the canyon echoed with our laughter while telling our version of survival in the killer waters.
We were soon back into the fun parts and finding ourselves immersed in the white foam of the churning water.
What an exceptional day. We were so tired that we hardly noticed the bus ride back to civilization.
The next day, we ran off by ourselves and gave the kids their time at their "resort". We ventured up into Monteverde and its cloud forest and it did not disappoint. We found ourselves within an eerily quiet forest that looked like something out of a Stephen King novel. We had to wear rain gear as the "clouds" were so heavily laden with moisture that we would have been soaked to the skin. As it was, the mist swirled around our heads and dripped down our necks as we walked the curious trails.
The further we walked into the forest, more and more incredible trees came into our view. We often found that we were not looking at just one tree, but many forms of plant life clinging to the "one" trunk.
After our cloud forest jaunt, we dropped into a open-air hummingbird plaza and a butterfly garden/insect hatchery (Mundo de Los Insectos) and oohed and aahed our way around these special places. Standing in a cozy patio, we were surrounded by sounds of the hummingbirds whizzing by our ears. These delicate birds would fly so close to our faces that we could feel the air displacement as they shot by.
Funny thing is that we greatly anticipated the visit to the cloud forest and we actually had more fun and more amazement at the butterfly garden (and insect display). As luck would have it (and probably our noticeable enthusiasm), we were chosen to hold a newly emerged butterfly and encourage its release into life.
When a butterfly emerges, it is still wet and has to take some time to dry its wings. During this time, the butterfly will just sit calmly, slowly opening and closing its wings to assist in the drying process. Something about holding this fragile and beautiful creature gave me chills right down my spine. What a lovely experience!
Still coming off the pleasure of our time with the smaller inhabitants of Costa Rica, we spent the next day with the family which meant back to the beach. We had yet another glorious day with the sun and sand and we especially liked having drinks, ceviche and local fruits delivered right to our towels.
Coming to the end of our action-packed trip, we decided to stay close to home. This gave us the excuse to relax at the resort and watch the boys play with the personal watercraft. Of course, even before Reid disembarked from his ride, he was yelling to his mother "MOM! You need to buy one of these when we get home". Alexis just played the "I'm old and getting deaf" card and pretended not to hear him.
Savoring the last hours of what was a fantastic trip and even better, no injuries in all the stunts we pulled off. The photos do not lie and I figure this page is worth about 100,000 gleeful words.
And again, we come to the conclusion of yet another fantastic adventure which was made all the more delightful with the inclusion of my sister and her kids. So, even though I am completing this page some months later, the memories and the warm, exhilarating feelings are as fresh as ever. What fun we had!