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Creative Casey's Blog

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Costa Rican Adventure

The day finally arrived for me to travel to Costa Rica. I had been researching this destination for over a year and then finally decided on a dark and cold early November evening to book the trip. I had one of those life moments where you say to yourself, "What are you waiting for? Just do it!" and so I did. Then I didn't think a whole lot more about the trip because life became to hectic and crazy for several months.  About a week before the trip it finally dawned on me that the time had come and the trip was going to actually move from being surreal to being real.  I became more excited, started planning and eventually packing (the night before).

My flight was to leave at 5:30am on a Thursday morning; however at about 9pm the night before as I was just finishing getting everything ready, I received an automated phone call from the airline company stating that my flight had been canceled and I needed to call them immediately.  I took some deep breaths and attempted to not freakout, called the airline, was put on hold for 15 minutes, eventually spoke to a woman who barely spoke English and was told that the best they could do was have me leave at 2:30pm the next day. Boy did that put a wrench in my plans which was to be in Costa Rica by 1:30pm and at the pool relaxing by 3pm.  To make a long story short I never made it to Costa Rica until mid-night and eventually got to my room by 1am.  

I was determined to not let the set backs from that first day ruin my trip and instead chose to appreciate each moment I was there.  It ended up being an amazing trip. Costa Rica is a beautiful country and it's ecology is amazing.  It is a small country but has a vast diverse ecosystem. Each location I visited from the capital city San Jose, to Arenal, to Monteverde, to Jaco, to Manuel Antonio had completely different terrain and weather.  The cloud forest and mountain area was colder, windier and rainier than other parts while Jaco and Manuel Antonio were hot and humid beachy areas.

So what did I do in this wonderful country? Everything!  I visited a couple of national parks and saw an active volcano (took some lava rock to give to my little nephew per his request). I saw mammoth iguanas, little geckos/lizards, sloths, toucan birds, tons of other exotic birds, 3 different types of monkey's (howler and white faced monkey's where my favorites), and a coral snake and 2 poisonous little frogs. Oh, and a wild deer that was so used to people it walked right along you and you could touch it.

Here are some highlights from my trip:
1.We stopped at a rural school where we met about 40 preschool to 12y/o children who attempted to sing in English and in Spanish and did some traditional dances for us.  Then one child grabbed a hold of each of our hands and escorted us around the school showing us where everything is.  They gave us cookies, pineapple and juice afterwords.  We brought school supplies (which I brought all art related materials) and some of the money from the cost of my trip went to donate to the school to purchase things like supplies and computers. My dance partner and tour guide was a 10 y/o boy named Jordan. He was very sweet.

2. I tried some new foods like calamari (ick), plantains (not so bad if crispy), rice pudding (a small amount is good), coconut flan (not to bad but it's not chocolate), a type of fish (that wasn't fishy tasting), hart of palms (yew) and avocado (which I actually really ended up liking and having multiple times on the trip). Oh, and I can't forget to mention juice, juice and more juice. Juice replaces water if you live in CR (I tried sooo many different kinds of juice I can't remember them all.)

3. Bugs- The insects weren't as bad as I expected. I didn't get bit up until the next to last day when I went canyoning. Hopefully I didn't bring home any Costa Rican bug illness.  However, in the last hotel most of us ended up having some type of insect problem.  One had geckos living in their doorway and would find some randomly in the bathroom. Another had a giant and I mean giant (I saw the picture before the kill) spider that crawled out of her suitcase one day and later that night a gentleman found that giant carpenter ants had colonized in his suitcase when he went to pick out some clothes and found over 100 ants crawling around.  My tiny ants in the bathroom the entire time seemed small in comparison to others issues.

4. Apparently the water system in CR doesn't handle toilet paper to well so you have to put all and I mean ALL toilet paper in the waste basket every time you use the toilet. (double yewwww)

5. Tours I would recommend if you visit CR that were a blast:

  • Quepo Canyoning which hosts 7 fun filled adventures (waterfall rappelling, monkey drop, suspension bridge crossing, tree climbing, inclined rappelling, zip lines, and treetop rappelling.
  • 100% Selvatura Canopy Tour in Monteverde hosts the longest zip line in Latin America and the Mega Tarzan Swing.
  • Visit the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and the Gallery of Hummingbirds.
  • The Don Juan Coffee/ Ca-cow Tour was pretty good. I was highly disappointed in the taste of Ca-cow (or cocoa beans).
  • A tour of Manuel Antonio National Park and beach.
  • A walking tour of the Las Coladas trail in Arenal National Park
  • Stop at Sarchi, an artisan town and check out the traditional oxcart painting and watch men actually painting the oxcart and other handmade items.
  • Definitely take a trip the EcoTermales Hot Springs or another one of the one throughout CR. You will NOT regret it.
  • Eat at The Alvion for dinner while in Manuel Antonio- it's an actually plane from the US that broke down and landed in CR in the 70's and the US government denied it was theirs because it was carrying weapons and intended for a country it shouldn't have been heading toward.  Another great place to eat is the Tree House in Monteverde. Extremely unique. The restaurant was built around a huge tree so while you eating there you are outdoors and up on the second story of the tree house. Very cool!
  • Other things recommended by other people I met; Catamaran day with snorkeling and ATV riding.
6.  One of the best parts of the trip was all of the people I met from all over. I can't say enough about how fun they made my trip and I have plans to stay in touch with many of them.  (By the way CR men are pretty hot!)

7. Prepare for bad roads. Ugggg, I'm lucky to have my kidneys!  So many dirt and gravel roads that were narrow and curvy. Although it's a small country and you wouldn't think it would take long to get from one place to another, it DOES. Plan to spend many hours on the bus or if you are renting a car you will for sure need a passenger to help navigate. I heard even GPS isn't much of a help there.

Tips I've learned for the next time I travel:
1. Make sure your sunscreen isn't out of date: Although I applied mine 3x's one day I still got burned and then I looked and it had been expired since 2012. Oops!
2. If it's hot and humid and you go in any kind of forest, despite what anyone else says, put insect repellent on.
3. Always always bring a sportsbra!  It sucks to run in a regular underwire bra and you will pay for it even a week later. Have Band-Aids ready.
4. Learn some Spanish before going. Guides could speak some English but most others couldn't.
5. Be prepared to pay a departure tax when leaving some countries, like CR which makes you by a $29 departure fee to even leave their country. (In almost all restaurants tax and gratuity is automatically figured into the price you view for the food. High taxes and 10% gratuity is what to expect.)
6. As always, expect to be angry at the airlines!

Below are some of my favorite pics from the trip. Enjoy!
Until next time "Pura Vida".

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