Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ahhhh, La Pura Vida

How to capture what a great time we had our last week in Costa Rica without boring you to tears? That is my afternoon dilemma. I'll do my best! (or you can just check out the slide show, skip the long novel below, and make up your own story)

We left Turrialba after eating lunch with Jose at a soda (essentially a Costa Rican diner/cafe) that used to be the town's old train station. As always the comida tipica (typical local food) was delicious. It was sad to say goodbye to Jose, but we were also impatient to get on our way to rest and relaxation.

Gertrude the GPS was put back to work, as she guided us out of town and up, up, up into the mountains. Along the way, her "partner" Bill would interrupt with little tidbits of information about whatever little town we were passing. Gertrude is spot-on accurate, letting us know about upcoming speed bumps, "dangerous" bridges (which had me nervous at first, but it just means a one-way bridge), and sinking roadways (that one still has me nervous, as I have since seen several sinking roadways, and I don't like them!). She even knew about the obscure little turnoff that took us down, down, down to El Trogon Lodge, which turned out to be our own little piece of paradise.

There wasn't much to do down there in the valley, but it was perfect. Our two nights' stay consisted of eating (a ton of) fantastic food, drinking, sleeping (and more sleeping), reading (and more reading), going on a hike, watching the hummingbirds, enjoying the lush landscape, and playing pool, all while listening to the occasional torrential rainstorms. The weather was cool, the room had a nice warm heater (not to mention an even warmer hot shower ... heaven after a week of cold showers at Jose's!), and the staff were extremely friendly. And after the first night, we had the entire lodge all to ourselves.

Wednesday morning, we reluctantly packed up our stuff and drove up over el Cerro de la Muerte ("Mountain of Death," which "Bill" assured us did not get its name from the crazy drivers) down to the Pacific coast to the surfer's town of Domincal. And it was definitely a surfer's town. If you weren't out on a board, there wasn't much to do but sit in the bar, watch the 24/7 coverage of the Chilean miner's being rescued, sip Pilsens, eat seafood, and chat with the locals. But seeing as we were in complete relaxation mode, it was all good. (Though an air conditioner in the room would have been nice. It was swelteringly hot there!) We didn't have the best nights' sleep, thanks to the heat and humidity (not to mention my fear of geckos pooping on my head) and to the huge thunder and lightning storm that roared off the coast in the middle of the night (which was actually very cool). But the people were nice, the food was good, and the beer was icy cold. What more do you need?

The next day, we stopped in the town of Quepos to meet up with Kika and Natalia, two former Slovakian women's team rafters who helped out a ton with the race. Quepos is a town that leaves much to be desired, and I'm so glad we didn't spend much time there. After breakfast, Kika and Natalia headed south to Domincal, while we programmed Gertrude to lead us north, to Playa Bejuco (after a slight detour to check out Manuel Antonio ... a ridiculously tourist town, with a fantastic beach, that serves as an entrance to Manuel Antonio National Park, which we did not enter).

To get to Bejuco, we drove past miles and miles of palm trees. We weren't sure what they were for, as they didn't look like coconut or banana or pineapple trees. As we kept guessing, "Bill" finally interrupted us to say, "You may be wondering what those acres of palm trees are ..." I swear sometimes he eavesdropped on us. Anyway, according to "Bill," they harvest the fruit of the palm trees to make oils for margarine, cooking oil, cosmetics, even machinery oil. That explains why there was such a vast expanse of trees! The crazy thing was, according to "Bill," it's not even a native plant. This species of tree was brought over from Africa. Hooray for another mystery (to us) solved by "Bill."

The only mystery that "Bill" was not able to solve is why we passed no fewer than three airplane fusilages in the mountains and possibly a jet engine on one particularly hairy mountain pass. Every now and then, out of nowhere, a huge old jet would be sitting on the side of the road, slowly being devoured the landscape, once again reminding me of Romancing the Stone. The only one that made even a remote bit of sense, but not really, was the massive jet inside a bar in Manuel Antonio (I wanted to stop in for a drink, but Mark nixed that idea. Next time!).

Anyway, Gertrude wasn't much help in finding Bejuco, but if it were on her map, that might mean other people would have been able to find it too. As it was, we had the entire beach almost all to ourselves. I "swam" (I was actually too wimpy to swim, what with all the signs warning of rip currents and my own ridiculous fear of sharks, jellyfish, electric eels, etc., but I did float in the shallows.) while Mark rested on the shore (keeping an eye on our car just in case). But it was just too miserably hot to stay on the beach, so we ventured back up the road to the Delfin Hotel, where they were kind enough to let us relax by their pool. We sipped gin and tonics, ate just-made ceviche and homemade tortilla chips, and chatted with a couple ex pats. A wonderful way to spend a lazy afternoon. If we hadn't had to make the drive to San Jose that night, we most likely would have stayed the night.

But, alas, San Jose was next on our agenda, so off we went again, with Gertie by our side (actually, in my lap) to guide us through all the various detours and mountain passes. There is a brand new highway that leads from the beach to the capital city, allegedly cutting travel time nearly in half. We had heard that it may or may not be open, but since the toll booth operators took our money, we assumed it was open. Silly us. Thank God it wasn't foggy or dark, as we very easily could have plowed right into the two concrete barriers blocking the road. No flashing lights, no warning signs (well, none that we could interpret anyway), no reflectors on the barriers. Yikes! The unmarked detour was one of the windier, steeper roads that we had experienced, but it offered stunning views from the top, and it was a beautiful way to drop down into the sparkling lights of the city of San Jose.

On Friday, after Mark's meeting with Rafa, the three of us went out for a massive lunch at a Brazilian steakhouse. So good, but so filling! Later in the afternoon, Mark and I wandered around the city in search of gifts for the folks who watched Kai for us. The rain was pouring down, and it was Friday evening, which is payday. The streets were packed with people, all carrying umbrellas that hit us right at eye level. I was glad I had my glasses on, otherwise I might have lost an eyeball or two. But the entire adventure ended up well, as we stumbled upon a market where we found probably the most delicious coffee I have ever tasted. No sugar or milk required. Just straight up goodness. I'm still raving about how wonderful it was a week later.

And that, my friends, is the end of our two weeks in Costa Rica.

Next up? Halloween!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

loved the blog, but why cant i see the pics? Sharon