My Adventures

Costa Rica Travel Blog

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Costa Rica Day 4

Today began around 8:30 being picked up at the hotel with my luggage for my jeep, boat, horse trip to Monteverde. I found out along the way that I would be traveling with a group from Gap Adventures. Some of the members of this group were actually a part of my rappelling tour the morning before so it was cool. All of our luggage was loaded into the van and we got on our way. We had about a 15 minute ride to the lake where we would then load onto the boat that would take us across to where we would saddle up on our horses. The boat ride was fun and there were lots of nice scenery. When we got to the other side we learned that we would leave our luggage on board and it would be taken to the end of the trail where we would be reunited with it.

We gathered as a group in the middle of some trees that had all of our horses ready and waiting to go. One by one we were matched to our horses based on level of riding experience and size/weight. My horses name was Tequila and was very beautiful. After we were all saddled up we began our 3 hour ride towards Monteverde. We all had a great time and were in awe of the scenery we saw along the way. The guides allowed us to trot our horses at times so that helped to make the ride seem not so long. One of the girls had a minor mishap when the horse she was on started to gallop down hill and she was thrown off. Fortunately she only suffered a few scrapes and bruises. After cleaning off and calming down her nerves she mounted back up and we continued the rest of our ride.

Just as we got to the end of our trail it began to pour down rain. Little did I know that this would be the beginning of a very wet next 3 days in Monteverde. We quickly got off of our horses and ran for shelter at the little store where our vans were waiting to transport us the rest of the way into town. It was about a 2 hour drive from the store into Monteverde. It was one of the bumpiest rides I have ever experienced ever as well. I have learned to realize that you never get anywhere quickly while traveling around Costa Rica. We finally got to the hotel where I was going to be staying for the next three nights and it was still raining. It was also very cold and windy. I decided that I didn't want to trek out in the rain for the night so I relaxed in my room and watched a bit of t.
v. before calling it a night.

Costa Rica Day 3

Today had to be one of the most amazing days of my life! I began bright and early like yesterday by being picked up around 7:30 for my day of fun filled activities. The first item on the agenda was to rappel off of waterfalls in the middle of the rainforest. Words can't begin to describe this experience. After about a 15 minute safety lesson we began our first rappel. It was quick and easy and I seemed to get the hang of it easily. We had to walk through the streams from waterfall to waterfall. The scenery was absolutely amazing. After two more waterfall rappels we had to do a freefall rappel of the edge of one of the cliffs. I won't lie that it was very scary. We had to walk to the edge of a platform, turn around and grab the bar, then we were slowly lowered backwards with our feet against the platform until we were safe to freefall rappel.
That was about a 45 foot drop…craziness. Next we continued on our journey and completed one more small rappel before we got to our last big waterfall. This was a 90 foot drop that was absolutely amazing! I would totally do this again.

After that adventure ended it was off to the next most incredible activity ever – white water rafting. I was transported in the truck that was hauling the boats to meet up with the rest of the group that would be on our tour. Also in the truck with me was Carlos from Costa Rica and Colin and Billy –from Utah - who were rafting guides in Yellowstone National Park in the summer and then traveled to Costa Rica during the winter to work. They were all cool to talk to and I learned a little about the country as we traveled about 30 min to the start of the Balsa River.
Once we got to the starting point we geared up with paddles and lifejackets. We were broken up into groups and assigned our various boats and guides. I was in a boat with a married couple from England and two of the guides from Desafio.

We loaded the boats into the water and off we went. During our training we were informed that there would be various commands that would be given that we had to adhere to – paddle forward, paddle backwards, stop, high side right, high side left, right forward/left backward, and left forward/right backward. Let me tell you, when you are in the heat of the moment and the adrenaline is rushing, it is very difficult to remember the left and right hand side commands. We made our way down the river successfully without too many problems.
We did get stuck a few times and had to bounce our way off of the rocks, which was very hard. I had a few close calls of falling out of the boat twice, but managed to keep myself in with the help of the others. Just as we made it to the end of our trip it began to pour down rain! It was a good thing we were all already soaked. We quickly scrambled to get things packed up and everyone loaded into the vehicles to head off for lunch. On the way back to our hotels we stopped at a little restaurant where we were served a lunch of rice, beans, chips and other various dishes. It was very good.

I got back to the hotel, took a long hot shower and was so exhausted that I decided to take a nap. After I woke up I wrote a few postcards and then decided to head out to grab some dinner.
I decided to try out one of the local restaurants, Don Rafino, that had been highly recommended. The food was great and I just sat at the bar relaxing while I ate. The next adventure came when I decided to head out to find Chellas – a local bar that was the hotspot for Monday nights due to the popular Karaoke night. Once I got there I ran into Billy, Colin, Carlos, Michael and all the other guides from rafting. We all just hung out, listened to Karaoke and danced the night away. Before the night ended I ran into Failan, on of my guides from rappelling that was very cool. I ended up talking to him and his friend Maurice for about an hour before calling it a night. Then it was a short walk back to the hotel to head to bed since I would be transported to Monteverde bright and early.

Costa Rica Day 2

The day started bright and early with an 8 a.m. scheduled pick up time to be transported from San Jose to La Fortuna. A quick side note, I noticed in reviewing my vouchers for the trip last night that most of my activities are first thing in the morning with very early pick up times…so much for sleeping in on vacation…hehe. Anyway, so I arrived down in the lobby in plenty of time to meet the schedule. About 8:15 I was still sitting in the lobby and a little worried that the company forgot about me. I called the touring company shortly after and was assured that I would be picked up and that the transportation arranged was probably just running late.
Sure enough, finally about 8:30 a tourism van arrived and I was on my way.

The ride was pretty good and I was really enjoying the scenery along the way. There were 4 other people in the van with me and they were all from Canada…we like Canooks. They were in Costa Rica visiting and also to attend a friends wedding in Manuel Anotonio. Our driver was friendly, but unfortunately new little English and the rest of us knew very little Spanish…definitely created a barrier for communication. He was also a little bit of a crazy driver…American's have nothing on Costa Rican's when it comes to being crazy drivers. They drive on whatever side of the road they feel like, pass vehicles with very little time to spare, and just don't seem to worry about anything.

Along the way I saw many interesting things.
There were many people just standing along side of the road, or should I say on the road at times, in random places just waiting for the bus. Occasionally you would see what looked like a small shack that was a shelter for some of the bus stops. I'm surprised we don't hear of more deaths in Costa Rica from this sort of thing with the crazy drivers. Another thing that was very noticeable was locals selling fruits, vegetables, and other goods on the side of the road. Sometimes they were pretty close together and it was interesting because how do you know which person has the better goods. A final thing that was kinda crazy along the way was the random speed bumps that would be in the middle of nowhere that we had to go over. Some of them were in the towns - which makes sense - but many of them were just out in the country for no apparent reason.

So we were trekking along nicely and had been traveling for a little over an hour when all of the sudden our driver pulled off next to a little roadside building, which ended up being a tourist stop that sold souvenirs and coffee. This was announced to us by the driver that it was going to be a coffee break. I had read about how Costa Rican's take many coffee breaks in the day, but never had imagined that we would experience it while traveling. We unloaded from the van and went inside the little shop for a 15 minute stretch. After our coffee break we continued on our way to La Fortuna.

As we got closer to our destination, the driver began to point out many plantations along the road. We saw coffee bushes, papaya trees, mango groves, and even ---- the root plant.
One of the Canadians asked the driver how many years it took for the papaya trees to grow since we saw small ones and big ones. He informed us that it didn't take years, but only six months for a papaya tree to reach full growth…how crazy. One of the coolest things that we saw as we were just about to town was the Arenal Volcano. This was my first time ever seeing a live volcano…it was pretty impressive. And it was cool because this was the only time that we were able to see it the rest of the stay in La Fortuna due to the rain and cloudy skies.

I was finally dropped off at my next hotel and took some time to get settled in. The hotel was much more basic than the first night, but I did choose to go with the economy stay places since I knew I wouldn't be spending a whole lot of time in the room.
I began my day there with wanting to go for a good run, as I needed to stretch my legs from all the traveling. I inquired at the front desk where would be a good place to go and he informed me of a soccer field/ running track about 5 blocks away. I went for my run, realized that I was in bad shape after not running in so long, but persevered to get the exercise in. I then came back to the hotel and took a nap from being so tired…hehe.

After my nap I just lounged around in the hotel and watched t.v. as it was raining pretty heavily outside. I had a little bit of time to kill before my 3:30 pick up time for my first adventure hiking in the rainforest at the Arenal Volcano to be followed by a night at the Baldi hot springs. When the van arrived there were two guys that had been picked up already that would be part of the group.
Jonathan and Eric I discovered were on vacation and were from San Francisco area. They were pretty cool and I enjoyed meeting them and talking with them. We then picked up a group of four people – David, Jason, Josh and Lauren – who were traveling from Virginia. We stopped at one last hotel on our way and picked up another couple, who I didn't really meet, before we headed to where the hike was to start.

It was about a 20 min. van ride after picking up the last couple to the area of the rain forest we would begin our hike at. Our tour guide began by giving us a brief history of the volcano's formation and activity levels. It was mentioned that before the 1968 erruption, the last major eruption was in the 1560's – a period of around 400 years that the volcano was dormant.
Pretty crazy. Our hike finally began and very early on we got to see two different species of monkeys. While we were walking it began to rain and so we got to experience a true "rain forest" hike. Our guide made mention that only 10 to 12 percent of the rain that falls actually hits the ground of the rain forest. The rest of it is captured by the many trees and plants.

During the rest of the hike we spotted a few other animals as well. We say a grey hawk, a tarantula, and lastly, a very poisonous snake. I don't remember what kind it was exactly though. We finished up our hike and then proceeded to the Baldi Hot Springs for dinner, which was included in the tour, and relaxing. When we arrived we had the choice to have dinner first or last. The group of four from Virginia and I opted to eat first, as we were pretty hungry after our hike.
I had cream of Asparagus soup as an appetizer, chicken fajitas for the main course and a pretty rubbery version of cheesecake with a jello and peach topping for dessert. The appetizer and main course were excellent, but the dessert was not so good and I chose to not finish it.

After we finished eating we went to the locker rooms to change and then began our search for the perfect hot spring to relax in. There were approx 15-20 different pools that we had to choose from that varied in temperature. I relaxed in a few of them for a bit and then went exploring around the area. It was a very cool place to be at. I think I ended up trying out 7 of the different pools. Our tour bus was scheduled to pick us up around 9:30, so around 9 or so I decided to change to I could walk around and take some pictures.
Then it was back to the hotels we went. I decided to call it a night since I was so relaxed and had to be up early again for my next adventure.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Costa Rica Day 1

So the adventure has finally started. I figured that I would just start a blog with my daily happenings so I will not have to repeat myself so much in telling everyone what I did. Most of my closest friends have a myspace, so now you can just read about it!

I began my journey by heading to LA for my flight around 6:45 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 2, 2007. Traffic out of San Diego was a mess as usual, but once I got past Carlsbad it began to ease up thankfully. The plan was to park my car and my friend Michael & Jenn Pust's house and they had agreed to take me to the airport since the live litterally 7 minutes from LAX.
Thank goodness for good friends who can save you money for parking! I actually made it to LA in 2 hrs, so that was really cool. That gave me time to hang out and just chill before the airport madness began.

I finally got to LAX around 10:15 or so. The checkin went smoothly since I had purchased my ticket online. Got my tags for my suitcase, which was 2 lbs over the limit before they start charging, but the lady at the counter was really nice and said I was close enough so I didn't have to pay the $50 bucks...sweetness! Next went on to the long ass security line and just patiently waited my turn. Finally got to my gate and had about 1.5 hrs until boarding time.

My first flight from LAX to DFW (Dallas) left at 12:55 a.m. on Sat. Nov. 3. The flight went pretty good and I was able to nap a little bit on the 2 hr and 20 min.
flight. When I got to DFW it was 5:30 a.m. and my next flight to Costa Rica wasn't scheduled to leave until 10:20 a.m. That was almost 5 hrs that I had to figure out what I was gonna do. Fortunately, I had my friend Matt in Dallas who agreed to come pick me up and hang out. We went and got some breakfast and chilled at his place until it was time to head back to the airport. That definitely helped to pass the time by quickly. And breakfast from a local place was much better than breakfast at the airport for sure.

Got back to the airport around 9:15 or so and made it quickly through the security line as DFW seems to have it together in that arena. Got to my gate and had about 30 min. of waiting time before we started boarding. My seat on the flight was almost to the back of the plane on a quite full flight.
Fortunately I had a cool guy named Logan who was a restaurant owner from Aspen who sat in my row. And we lucked out that the middle seat was unoccupied so we had room to stretch out during the flight. The conversation was good and the movie was ok. I managed to catch a little cat nap as well.

Once we landed in Costa Rica, we arrived at our gate and then had to wait about 1/2 hr before we could deplane because there were no busses available to take us from the middle of the airport down to the end where you actually go inside to get your luggage and stuff. We finally got off the plane and made it to the main part of the terminal, only to be greeted by a very long line waiting for immigration and customs. Gotta love international travel. Fortunatelly I was able to hang out with Logan and chat some more while we waited in line.
Finally after one and a half hours we finally got through immigration, found our luggage that was just chillin around the baggage claim area, and cleared customs.

I decided to exchange some money before I left the airport. A warning to all those traveling to Costa Rica in the future...never exchange at the airport. I learned this the hard way as I found out later that I actually got ripped off because they cheat you out of money because the exchange rate is not as good as doing it at a bank. The lessons we have to learn the hard way really suck!

The next adventure was to find the touring company that was to take me to my first hotel in the San Jose area. I finally found my name that was hand written on a piece of paper and being held into the windows of the airport as you were leaving.
What a crazy experience that was trying to find my name in the first place. And since I don't really speak spanish, it wasn't exactly like I could ask very easily for help.

Finally made it to my first hotel about 3:30 p.m. local time and got settled in. I was very very tired since I hadn't really slept since I woke up for work on Friday morning. I decided to take a little nap to get some more energy. Slept for about an hour and a half and felt much better. I then decided to utilize the gym since I have been slacking in that dept. for the last 3 weeks. Was bummed to find out that they didn't have a treadmill as I really wanted to go for a run. Instead I had to settle for riding the bike and using the elyptical machine. Got a good 40 minute workout in so that was good.
Next on the agenda was finding food. I got ready and headed downstairs just to grab a bite at the restaurant at the hotel. Food was pretty good and the service was good as well. I ended up getting to talk to one of the workers named Laticia, who was definitely an angel in disguise as my physical exhaustion led to some emotional exhaustion and she was a good person to talk to.

I finally decided to call it a night and head to bed. I have to be up and ready to go at 8 a.m. for my real adventure to begin. I will be transported in the morning to my hotel in La Fortuna, Costa Rica. Then at 3:30 p.m. I am scheduled to go hiking at Arenal Volcano and into the hot springs. I will blog all about that adventure tomorrow. It's time for bed now. I hope you enjoyed reading about my first day!
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