Thursday, August 09, 2007

Day Six, August 9th

This was perhaps our fullest day yet. We booked a canopy tour, a horseback ride, and spa appointments without much down time between. Jorge had already completed the canopy tour during his previous visit, but he kindly repeated the Tarzan-style tree hopping for my entertainment. The guides encouraged us to be a bit daring. As if zipping through the treetops clipped to a pulley high above the rain forest floor isn't enough, we both did so upside down and super bird style (see videos below).

Jorge = Super Bird

amy zipping away into the trees

This experience didn't afford for much wildlife viewing, but it was a thrill and a half.
Immediately after the canopy tour we met Roy, our stable guide who took us on a horseback tour around the volcano. Breathtaking views but ouch. We payed for this two hour excursion for the next two days.

Jorge and Roy

Volcano View during horse ride

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Day Five, August 8th

The drive from Manuel Antonio to Arenal started well. On the highway from Quepos to Jaco, I got pulled over for speeding by a state policia. A close retelling of this conversation, translated from spanish, follows (the part of the state trooper is played by an older, more distinguished Eric Estrada)
"Can I see your license and passport?" (a stern question, posed by a portly dark skinned man with pink cheeks)
"Of course!" (uncharacteristically cheery, the copper is suspicious)
"Where are you headed?"
(unnecessarily detailed description of our trip)
"I'm stopping you because you were going 92 in a 60 zone" (this was true, although KPH, not MPH, which is less exciting)
"Oh, well I was trying to pass that bus back there, I apologize for that" (this is a lie)
"Well, it's going to result in a fine. A ticket."
(nodding) "Of course. Well, just write it up for me and I'll take care of it."
(long stare) "Well, you're going to have to go to either the bank or the car rental place to pay for this, and the rental place will charge you extra to do it."
"That's fine, we're going to be here a while longer. I'm studying here for a few months at the University near San Jose." (another lie)
"Well, let me tell you something. I want to help you out."
(long pause)
"I won't write you a ticket, but you need to slow down. This is the number one road for fatal car crashes."
"Oh I know, I've been reading about them in the newspapers." (this is true)
Then we sped away, I kissed my girl, I put my pilot's goggles back on and put the top down (none of this is true). Amy thinks he wanted me to bribe him, and that might have made for a better story. How does one even do that? Do I do the handshake thing like you would a host when you're trying to get a table at a restaurant? And how much would I offer? I'm not fit for a life of crime.

After not creating an international incident, we drove north back to Orotina. On the map below, you can see a purple line where we should have gone, were it not for road construction that sent us on a detour to the right. This little setback set us back around 2 hours, as we found roads that went from paved, to potholed, to trails, to a pile of mud in someone's backyard. Lather, rinse, repeat. This happened to us over and over as we were stuck in these little mountain towns south of San Ramon. A closer look at the inset map gives a better idea of what transpired, without including all of the dead ends or cursing that was going on.

today's route

highway through hell

Eventually, we made it through and arrived at Los Lagos, really only by luck. The hotel was at the base of Volcano Arenal, which means we have learned absolutely nothing from the tragedy of Pompeii. This part is actually not funny; they used to have a cabin or two much closer to the volcano itself, until an avalanche of lava a few years ago ended up killing a guide and some other people. So they no longer rent that room. The only tragedy connected to our room was that some kind of critter kept running across the roof at night and it gave me nightmares. Other than that, the swim-up bar made it totally worth the risk.

Volcano Arenal

Upon arriving in Arenal, we dumped our belongings in the room and headed to the swim up bar (!) which borders the heated pool. We alternated between this pool and another which was a bit chilly but boasted a long water slide. This night satisfied my recent (and foolish) desire to visit Raging Waters.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Day Four, August 7th

I will leave much of the narration of this wildlife filled day to the colorful photos and video clips. We visited Manuel Antonio National Park where visitors pay to wander a nature reserve full of birds, butterflies, iguanas, sloths, and monkeys. These animals are not penned in cages or fed by humans but instead they roam free in their natural habitat while posing (and often acting) for the lenses of visitors' cameras. The beach is almost always in view while wandering the trails which makes for a really picturesque experience. We were not wise enough to wear/bring our suits and thus we suffered through the warm, humid day with the ocean persistently taunting us.

view of Manuel Antonio national park from the hotel

It was here that I shot this excellent video of a Capuchin monkey who boldly wandered within two feet of my digi cam. Perhaps I was the bold (or foolish) one - that monkey wielded battle scars from a recent monkey brawl and could have easily lashed out at me, too. Thankfully he didn't.

capuchin monkey

surprised monkey

lazy lizard

amy holding a hermit crab

Monday, August 06, 2007

Day Three, August 6th

Today’s trek was 225 km and less cement-friendly. Once we got past Puriscal, the road to Orotina was very rough and remote. We would drive as far as 30 minutes at a time without seeing any signs or homes, unsure if we’d gone the right way. It was along this windy mountain path that we came across this questionably constructed bridge.

narrower than it looks, i think

mapping the road south

Once we hit the coastline, it was a speedy burst past Jaco to Quepos/Manuel Antonio. This was a two-lane highway and the only excitement was trying to pass slow moving trucks and big-rigs in the Terios. At one point, we were getting passed on the left by charter buses, which was emasculating. We arrived without incident.

After arriving in Manuel Antonio, we ate and later went night swimming in an unpopulated and unlit pool which sat perched above the Pacific which we could hear but not see. As we paddle raced the perimeter of the pool, lighting periodically illuminated the sky above which was a unique thrill. We briefly discussed the possibility of being zapped while being immersed in the water and then quickly dismissed the fear. We also spied bats flitting about overhead (not a unique sight given the fruit bat population at LMU) and a raccoon sneaking around our pile of towels, sandals, and our rain jackets containing the key to the room. I jumped out of the pool and stomped loudly to scare him off, conveniently forgetting how nasty the little suckers can be. He darted away jauntily never to return again. Soon after, we retired for the night.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Day Two, August 5th

Sunday morning we ventured north to see La Paz Waterfall and Gardens. This is just south of Poas Volcano in the midst of coffee plantations and cattle grazing on the mountainsides. The park has an impressive aviary where we saw a scarlet macaw, a feisty African grey chasing a blue macaw, amazon parrots, and friendly toucans, among other avian varieties. The frog house boasted an open terrarium which we walked through hunting for native frogs. A kind park employee showed us how to take sharp close-ups, the result of which is the scarlet frog below and my blurry attempt at demonstrating how diminutive that little green guy is. We marched onward toward the falls (5 in all), where we snapped the following self-portrait while standing under the second waterfall.

amy and jorge getting mildly drenched by a waterfall

a mini-frog, finger for scale and to annoy the mini-frog

a very poisonous dart frog, which is why i let amy take this picture up close.

a big morpho butterfly

amy pets a toucan. between this and the parrot she has at home, she has officially become the "bird lady."

the big version of amy's parrot from home.

a monkey of some sort

a crotch butterfly

I rented a Daihatsu Terios (pictured below) which is an SUV so small, I am taller than it. I rented it from a German guy in San Jose named Thorsten. Hearing a German guy describe to his partner (Morten) what he wanted from KFC in Spanish with a German accent was unnerving. I thought the USA got into WW2 to prevent these guys from coming across the Pacific. In any case, he gave me a free map and highlighted some preferred roads. The map has red lines for paved roads, broken red lines for dicey paving, and yellow lines for unpaved. He told me to try to avoid the yellow lines, as this is the rainy season and a lot of the unpaved roads can get swamped over when it starts to rain in the afternoon. Amy and I resolved to leave early every morning so that we wouldn’t get caught in the p.m. rainstorms. This resolution was never dutifully kept.

the tiny car i rented. it has four wheel drive and I didn't have to replace the AA batteries even once!

before leaving for our long trek, we stopped at the big mall to get a compass and an itrip. i am not amused by this picture.

On the map below, you can see the 238 km trek from Colon to La Paz Waterfalls (purple), La Paz to Sarchi (light blue), and Sarchi back to Colon (orange). It was on this orange leg that we got lost in Alajuela, a town that is less politically neutral jungle paradise and more East Berlin before the wall came down. It was an ugly, crowded, industrial shanty town where streets would just end for unannounced construction and a maze of one-way streets had us stuck in a vortex. Leave it to a McDonalds sighting to let us know that we had finally returned to civilization on the fringes of San Jose. The tricky part about driving in a country of unnamed streets is that you can follow the signs that point towards the waterfalls and volcanoes to get to your particular attraction, but getting home, you’re on your own. This is why we got lost in Alajuela, and this is why we will get lost again.

waterfalls and home map. click on the map to zoom.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Day One, August 4th

Jorge finally finished his coursework, and the real adventure begins. What follows is an unorganized, but true retelling of our ten days driving up and down Costa Rica in a car we rented. Each paragraph's author identified in parenthesis. Enjoy.

I arrived in San Jose at 12 noon on Saturday after catching a red eye from LA (thanks to Josh, Jen, and David for feeding me and dropping me at the airport). I slept most of the way so I arrived fairly refreshed and ready for a partial day. Hitch: The airline lost one of my suitcases (the big one with all of my clothes, my toiletries, and our gifts for Jorge’s host family) so I spent the first night feeling airplane icky, but the bag arrived later that night so I was a relatively happy camper. I met Jorge at the hotel and after checking in, we immediately went out for local fare. After dinner with Jorge’s host family, we met up with some of the other students in his program for a casual farewell at a new bar run by the Chinese Mafia. (Jorge) The wiseguy at the bar was trying to shoot a Girls Gone Wild video of the drunk American girls dancing with each other, but probably didn’t get enough footage to fetch 10,000 colones (roughly $19.99).

Friday, August 03, 2007


perhaps i tend to underestimate my accomplishments because just when i think i have nothing to report, the following list of general busy-ness flows from my fingertips while sitting here in the glow of my computer screen.

from my list:

vitamins: my nurse practitioner said not to bother plus i’m trying to eat well. as i embark on a new diet (second attempt, same diet) i might take them just in case because there are a number of foods I can’t eat for a few weeks and i’m trying to stave off the headaches i got the first time around. that’s really something i should add to the 26 before 26 list: reach my goal wait and maintain it. more on this after vacation!

save money for car: forget saving new money, I have investments! it looks like i’ll be buying a new rav4 a the end of the month. wahoo!

save money for costa rica: done. i'm off!

book club with christin: christin and i haven’t necessarily been meeting to discuss books, but we are both part of a small informal group of writers (all fellow lmu alums). I haven’t really accomplished anything in this arena other than occasionally showing up and discussing the writing of the other members, but i’m still substituting the writing group for the book club because time is scarce and writing is related to reading and i’m trying to strike items off my list!

what I am currently digging:

girly, pretty things and clean, organized spaces.

felty, buttony hand-crafted arts and crafts. i recently shopped here: etsy ;
check out my profile

I found such great deals on truly pretty things on this site.

one of my favorite magazines is real simple

i’m continually learning that my style is simplicity, clean lines, and nearly naked surfaces.

what i’ve been reading:

(i’m sorry i don’t have time to review these right now, but i will try to do so next time)

Animal Dreams, Barbara Kingsolver.

every time i read one of her books, i fall more deeply in love with her language and her characters. she writes about issues that matter but not in a pedantic manner.

Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, Klosterman

The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd