Archive for the “Excursions” Category
We made it! We had a long day, and not without stress, but we’re safe and sound.
- our property manager arriving 45 minutes late to pick up our money and keys
- driving around and around the airport looking for the car rental office which turned out to be half a mile away with no signs
- the $25 per-person departure tax!
- finding out one of our bags was too heavy to fly
- having the sinking realization that our 70-minute layover in Houston did not account for baggage claim, customs, and re-checking our bags
- miraculously making our connection!
- Dean being “that baby” on the Houston-Austin flight
Before I went to bed last night I bought a six-pack of Fireman’s #4 and some Taco Cabana. I kept spontaneously laughing out loud in the grocery store: How could I choose from all the milk? Shelves upon shelves of maple syrup!! We’re all so amazed right now by the opulence of our Texas life that we’re walking around in a kind of daze. The Internet is so fast! The U.S. quarter dollar coin is so small!
We’re not done blogging just yet. We have a little post-processing to do.
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This morning we drove to the zoo in nearby Alajuela for a dose of Costa Rican wildlife.
This monkey is nursing her baby!
The zoo had a lot of interesting conservationist signs, including this one:
That’s Viagra in the turtle’s hands, in case you couldn’t tell.
The afternoon was rainy and sleepy. Everyone napped and I finished a good book (The Tenderness of Wolves). Tomorrow we pack; Monday we go HOME!
More photos in the slideshow.
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On our last day in Monteverde, we hiked in the Children’s Eternal Rainforest. It’s protected land that children from all over the world have donated money to buy. The trails were lovely, and there was a cool learning house with games and puzzles for the kiddos to play with at the end.
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Last Friday was Mother’s Day in Costa Rica. I didn’t think much about it at first, but after being wished “feliz dia de madre!” by a few Ticos, I was quite into enjoying my special day — I’m so easily influenced!
In the morning I took the boys hiking in the Santa Elena Cloud Forrest Reserve while Zach worked. It was a perfect outing. They have a 1.4 km youth trail that was just long and challenging enough to be fun. Graham led the way with boundless enthusiasm; carrying Dean in the Ergo, I lagged behind just a bit. It was so indescribably beautiful. The pictures I’m posting don’t begin to do it justice. After the first trail, we took a break at the reception area, got something to drink, and the boys talked me into some stuffed monkeys. Then we hiked some more!
In the afternoon we visited the used bookstore/cafe/laundromat in town, then picked up some Japanese food for dinner. I finished up the evening with a trashy novel and some chocolate-covered macadamias while a massive storm thundered all around us. It was a perfect day!
Photos from the forrest. Our interwebs here are too slow for me to post individually, so here’s a slideshow.
Belated Feliz Dia de Madre to all my beloved mamas out there!
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This last weekend we got a taste of what the “real” rainy season here is like. Apparently, it rains really hard, and for a long time. We got a little stir crazy.
On Monday I took the boys to the botanical garden, which was hazardously muddy, but a lot of fun.
Even the tree here have to decorate themselves so as to out-beautify.
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This story is a few weeks old, but I didn’t want to neglect it:
As we came down out of the mountains on our way to San José from La Fortuna, the first substantial city we entered was San Ramon, the place we were to meet up with the interstate highway. As soon as we were within the city limits, we were flagged down by the transit police. Right away I had a lump in my throat, since I was driving with an expired license. Maybe they won’t care. It’s not a Costa Rican license anyway. By the way, this was one of those things on my getting-ready list that slipped through the cracks.
Señor Transit Police was middle-aged with gray hair. His English was just as bad as my Spanish, which is to say bad. He double- and triple-checked: “¿No habla español?” Of course he noticed right away that my license was expired. He seemed incredulous that I would just grimace and nod, and not try to make an excuse or beg for mercy (maybe it was just that I didn’t know the Spanish for “mercy”). He indicated that he was going to write a ticket, and still I just nodded and said “Sí, claro.” Nonplussed, he said he would go get his friend, who could speak English. I was beginning to wonder if they were going to take my family of four “downtown.”
I don’t know if Señor Transit Police numero dos could speak English, but he certainly didn’t attempt it. What he did do, was to ask for twenty thousand colones (equivalent to forty U.S. dollars) and insist that Elizabeth drive instead. Elizabeth and I started digging through our pockets. Between the two of us, we had around four dollars. I said I needed an ATM (Necesito un cajero automatico). He conferred with his partner, who said “¡Que lastima!” Various internet searches suggest that this either means “What a pity!” or “I’m in pain!” Take your pick.
The first cop came back to the window. He said he was going to help us by letting us go. I wasn’t sure I heard him right. I think what I said to him translates as “I can let’s go?!”
As I pulled cautiously away from the curb and took a couple of deep, cleansing breaths, Eliabeth said, “Was that a shakedown?” The fog in my head began to clear. “Yeah, I think it was.” Welcome to San Ramon, gringos.
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Overall I don’t find getting around in Puerto Viejo to be all that intimidating. I’m comfy on my bike, the roads are bumpy but flat, and it’s impossible to get lost unless someone blindfolds you and spins you around. Even then, I think you’d find your way eventually. No one stops at stop signs, but there are so few intersections that it hasn’t been an issue. And for the most part, cars don’t drive insanely fast or close to bikes. (There are exceptions to those last two, and I may or may not have muttered a word or two in Dean’s hearing that I ought not to have.)
I do have one complaint. Lanes mean almost nothing here. People pass like it’s the national sport, and sometimes, just for kicks, they stay on the other side of the road for a loooong time. On a two-lane dirt road, that means anyone coming in the opposite direction is in for a little suspense as to whether the passer is going to get out of their way in a timely fashion. Usually they do, at least for other motorized vehicles. I have yet to witness any accidents or be plowed down by oncoming traffic (knocks furiously on wood), so I guess these drivers know what they’re doing.
The disdain for lanes extends itself to bikers and pedestrians as well. Most cyclists stick to the right side of the road, but just enough do not to keep me on my toes. I confess, it can make me a little cranky when I have to dodge a biker riding down his/her left side of the road, or a group of three or four pedestrians taking up a full half of the road oblivious to the traffic behind them. FYI, the wrong-sided bikers tend to be Ticos, but the walkers are usually death-courting tourists. [People of North America, please stop doing this. It really isn't safe -- I guarantee that the not everyone is looking out for you. They are too busy looking for an opportunity to pass other motorists. Thank you.]
Really this isn’t a big deal. However, I think it’s going to be thrilling to return to the States and have cars staying in their own lanes, stopping at stop signs, and being somewhat orderly. Ah, sweet order! Who knew I was so uptight? Actually, don’t answer that!
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We’re back to sweating and itching in our jungle home after a whirlwind trip through the center of the country! I’m happy to report that there were no more brushes with death, though we wildly underestimated how long the driving would be on each leg of the trip, so Graham and Dean would probably argue that they were perilously close to being bored to death quite a lot.
We arrived at the Arenal Lodge in the late afternoon on Saturday, played on the playground, introduced Graham to foosball, and had a delicious dinner. On Sunday we were able to upgrade to one of their “chalet” rooms — it was incredible! The chalets are up on a hill with a gorgeous view of the volcano and surrounding valley and lake. We took a nature walk, played in the butterfly garden, and spent some time in the nearby town of La Fortuna. A pizza for dinner in our room, Star Wars Episode 3, and an awe-inspiring thunderstorm completed our day.
We didn’t see any lava (too cloudy at night), but the volcano did make some impressive sounds. We were suitably impressed.
On Monday morning, we set out for Santa Cruz, a little town in the hills between San Jose and the Atlantic coast. “Surely,” we said to each other, “driving through San Jose would be faster!” Oh, to be so naive and starry-eyed again! Six hours of driving, and much doubt in my heart that we would ever reach our destination, brought us to the Guayabo Lodge, a remote little jewel of a bed and breakfast.
Its beauty could not be adequately captured by photographs, but here are a few anyway.
The boys especially enjoyed making friends with the resident baby animals, and Graham played his first game of ping pong against an eight-year-old Dutch girl.
Click below for more photos.
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