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Monday, January 26, 2009

Costa Rica (Jan 8th-15th)

I have no written in some time but lots has happened! Peter and I had been talking about going on some sort adventure vacation in January of 2009, but talking about it was as far as we ever got. We had been thinking of places like Costa Rica, Jamaica, Mexico, New Zealand (but quickly forgot about that one b/c airfare is deadly). I had no clue what to get him for Christmas and decided to go the mall on the last day I had to shop. Fortunately, I ran right into a flight center that was advertising airfare to Costa Rica for $299!!!!! I have had this $500 gift card to Flight Center for the past 7 months (I had won it through my last Job at Innovative Fitness)and had not yet used it. I walked in and chatted with the best travel agent,Roxy, for over 2 hours. The ticket sale was awesome and with the gift card I was able to afford round trip airfare for both Peter and I. There were still 4 days until Christmas and I had pretty much told everyone I knew, except Peter (which was very difficult). Christmas finally came and he opened up the bag with the tickets in it, and was sooooo shocked! We both just started smiling and immediately grabbed my lap top and googled Costa Rica, and spent many hours on their after that.

We were departing on Jan 8th, 09, a fantastic way to start the New Year. I attempted to pack the minimum amount of clothing into my backpack. Now that I'm back, I know I could have reduced it in half! Our flight was at 6:55am (or so we thought). Peter's lovely parents picked us up at 4:30am and we were off to the airport. When we finally found the location for our baggage claim at about 5:10am. What we didn't realize was that our flight was actually at 6am and we literally just sneaked in!!!

I was happy because the wait time was super fast and before we knew it we were taking off on our way to Costa Rica. After a quick stop off in Calgary (we didn't leave the place), a horrible egg sandwich and some complimentary "rum punch" (yes, it's as tasty as it sounds) we were in Liberia, Costa Rica! I was very happy that the temperature was HOT and not a speckle of snow anywhere. The last few days in North Van had been very cold and everything was covered in snow. We hopped in a Cab and paid $15 U.S to go 10km. We stayed at Hotel Liberia, checked into a lovely room (you never would know it only costs $20 U.S) and went to grab some food. The town was small with little going on. The first restaurant we went to (recommended by our Lonely Planet) presented us with the first of many 'Imperial' beers we would have on the trip (Peter and I both haven't touched alcohol since November). Our food came out, and it must have come directly from the ocean because I had never had anything more salty in my life. Needless to say, we drank our beer, left our food, paid, and found some pizza, which turned out to be a safe bet. After that, we went to bed.

Day 2:
We got up super early the next day, and headed out for our first run. It was very very hot. We headed down this gravel road that had locals walking and driving along it, which made it pretty dusty. I have never seen so many Chiwawa's in my life. Then we ran back along the highway back to our Hotel. We realized not much was going on in Liberia, so after our run, we ate, packed our bags, and headed to the bus depot. Our next destination was a small community on the West Coast called Montazuma. Without the ability to speak Spanish, we quickly realized it was going to be very difficult figuring out which bus we needed to get on. We asked one guy and he sent us on a 5 min walk to this other bus station only to have them send us right back. We finally found someone who helped us find our way and after a quick wait we boarded the bus. It was a 2 1/2 hr bus ride and a 25 minute walk to the ferry. I was stoked to take a ferry as the wind was blowing on this hot day and it was very refreshing. Of course,there, they sell beer on the ferry, so we sat back, enjoyed the view, and sipped on a cold one to cool our body temperature. After that, we got on a bus that would take 2 hrs to get to Montazuma. I am not to sure the life of a public transit bus in Costa Rica but it cant be long. This heavily weighted bus was driving down steep windy gravel roads for long periods of time, and they do this multiple times a day!

When we got there, it was dark out and we were struggling to find a budget hotel with any vacancies. This was turning out to be a popular tourist hit. We ended up staying at the one place the Lonely Planet said "you can find better". We checked it out and it was going to have to do. As long as I have a bed, I am happy. Shared bathroom and shower doesn't bother me, and for $10 U.S, I'll take it (that means more money to spend on good food!). That evening we ate at one of the best restaurants I have ever been to. It was a bit more expensive than some, but our table was outside on the beach about 20 feet from the ocean and we were entertained by fire dancers. We ordered this amazing sauteed mushroom and squid mixture that came on croustini followed by an entire grilled Mahi Mahi stuffed w/ Zucchini and rosemary. It was killer. After that we went and created our own bonfire at the beach. It truly was amazing.

Day 3:
We got up and headed out for a run. It was even hotter here than in Liberia and we slept in a little longer than planned and it wasn't as cool out as we had thought. We ran 30 minutes out a long a gravel road that was directly along the beach. It was amazing to be running next to that scenery. Along the way we saw huge Iguanas and a few monkeys. We found the trail that goes up to 3 waterfalls and decided we would go there after. On the way back, it was becoming increasingly difficult to mentally hold it together because it was soooo damn hot. I started to pull ahead of Peter because I just wanted it to end. He gave me the keys to the Hostel and when I got there I immediately layed down on the bed with the fan blowing directly on my core. I waited for about 10 minutes and started to get worried about Pete. We had only taken 500ml of water each, which is enough for me but he could have used over a liter. When he got back, he was in need of fluids. I ripped over to the grocery store and bought some Gatorade's and more water, ran back, and we rehydrated. Badwater Ultramarathon (135 mile road run in Death Valley) is on my list of runs to do before I die. It is runs like that where I question that thought.

After we both nurtured ourselves back to health with fresh papaya, watermelon, and kiwis, we went on a little hike up to the waterfalls. It was so nice and refreshing to sit back, relax, and soak in the cool mist of the waterfall. It was stunning! People were cliff jumping from extreme heights and it was so fun to watch. We noticed some people climbing up this steep slope and realized there was a 3rd waterfall. We were starting to get hungry, as we had been there for 2-3 hours, and headed down for lunch fully knowing we would be back the next day to find the 3rd waterfall. We discovered this cute little cafe called Organica. It had the coolest atmosphere and we went back here 2 more times over the course of our stay. I had to go to the little girls room at one point and it wasn't the first time I had seen this in Costa Rican bathrooms. After you 'did your thing' they asked that you put your toilet paper in this little garbage instead of the toilet. Needless to say, I wasn't too excited about opening up this little garbage. After that we roamed the beach and relaxed on some hammocks we had overlooking the ocean outside our hotel. We went back to the same place for dinner, had some delicious mojitos,fish soup and brick oven pizza.

The next morning, we went on a 7 mile hike along the beach to a waterfall. Adventure groups offer this same hike guided and on horse back. We decided to save $40 U.S each and did the hike on our own. There were trails that weaved in and out of the forest and beach. Often times we would just walk along the rocks instead of the trail off the ocean. It was so beautiful, tons of huge crabs moving along the rocks at super fast speed. We also stopped to watch the Pelicans in the air. Their hunting tactics are wild. They will soar in the air searching for fish and once they spot one they literally dive bomb into the ocean. It's neat to see all the different species that exist and all the physical adaptions they have for survival. We finally reached the waterfall an 1 1/2 later and it was great. We couldn't swim at this one, but we took a few photos. Just 10 minutes prior we had passed by this lake that people were swimming in. It was the weirdest thing. The lake seemed as though it was layered. The top was warm, and just below that it was cold, and below that it was warm again. After some swimming, we walked back, had some lunch, and trekked back to find the 3rd waterfall. It was stunning. It was a bit of a climb to get there but it was worth it. There were lots of people cliff jumping, jumping off hanging trees, and Tarzan rope swinging. We hung out there and then hiked back down. That night we went back to Organica for dinner. We noticed that they had homemade ice cream and for desert we both ordered the brownie ice cream. It was by far the best ice cream I have ever had. As much as we loved Montazuma, we had done all the things we wanted to do, and decided to go somewhere else. Next stop, Monteverde.

Day 4:
We paid more money this time to get a shuttle van. This way our transportation was all set up and it was much quicker. We boarded the tourismo van at 7am with 10 other people. The van took us back to the ferry. It was much nicer being in a small van versus public transit, and it took about half the time. They drive a little wild in Costa Rica and I was a bit scared at times. The ferry we were on was much larger this time. I slept through the entire ride and before I knew it, we were boarding another bus to Monteverde. This ride took us way up into the cloud forest. It was also a shaky gravel road and the lady in the front seat was feeling sick and had to get out for a moment. We arrived 2 hours later and got one of the last vacancies at the Santa Elena Hotel. I would suggest this one to anyone. The owners were so helpful and they were from the states and spoke English! It was much colder up there and I put on my sweater for the first time. We went on a nice walk to grab a bit to eat and were followed by these 2 dogs. They followed us all the way to the cafe, sat outside until we were done, and then followed us all the way back. We went on a mini hike which turned into a longer hike because it was sooo steep. Steeper than the Grouse Grind. It was worth it once we saw the view at the top. Everything is so green in Costa Rica, I love it. The canopy is so thick. The run down was a bit brutal and I could feel it the next day. We got back, went out for dinner, and went to bed shortly after.

Day 5:
Today we got up early to board a bus that took us into the cloud forest. We paid the bus driver but he charged us both ways. We had already decided that we would save our money and run back from the Reserve. He and the rest of the people that were in our van thought we were crazy but he refunded us back the money. We looked a little out of place with our running gear and small camelbacks on. Peter's bright green gator's were throwing people off I think. There were 4 different trails of varying length. The estimated time for each was 3.5 hrs, 2.4 hr, 1.5 hrs, and 45 minutes. It was so beautiful in the forest. You were covered in cloud, it was like a cool mist. There was so much green, hanging vines, and bridges. It resembled North Shore trail running. It felt like home! After 1 hr and 45 minutes we were done and on our way back to the hostel (8km). Along the way our bus driver drove by and gave us a wave. We also came across a hanging bridge. They advertise these as a tourist grab but this one was deserted and looked a little old. We walked across it for fun but I was freaking out inside the entire time. We got back, ate, played some crib,relaxed, read in some hammocks, ate again, and talked about what the next day would bring. Peter really wanted to go spend our last day on the beach and I was up for that as well. We decided to go to Tamarindo. It wasn't far from the Airport and seemed like a convenient place to go.

Day 6:
We got on a public transit bus at 6:00am. I wasn't feeling that great when I went to bed last night and I didn't feel that great when I woke up that morning. We bussed over an hour to the main road and waited for another bus that was heading to Liberia.
We boarded and about 2 hours later we were in Liberia. We walked back the original bus depot we had previously visited on day 2 but considered ourselves pro's and quickly figured out on our own which bus we needed to get on. This next bus ride ended up being 3 hours long. It was very very hot and I was starting to feel sicker and sicker. We checked into our wonderful hotel called Villa Tamarindo. It was the nicest place we had stayed in yet and was only $30 for the 2 of us. We hung out by the beach for a while and did some body surfing. The ocean seemed to be extremely salty here. We went back, showered and made it back just in time to see the wonderful sunset. It was so surreal. We had a nice dinner and one of the best blended mojitos I have ever had. We ended up chatting with our server for a while. It seemed as though there were so many business's (especially restaurants) without anyone in them. He told us that business was down about 50% and that no one was really traveling these days. I again wasn't feeling so good after dinner and went back to our room and read. Peter went to get some money out and when he came back he said there was some major drug pushing and prostitution going on. Tamarindo was more of an American tourist destination and it was quite dirty. I wouldn't go back to this place. The beaches were nowhere near as nice as they were in Montazuma.

Day 7:
Our flight wasn't leaving until 5:55pm. We had the whole day to spend there. I was feeling very sick this day. It was the kind of sick where you feel like you need to throw up, but you know you're not going to. It was very hot and I wanted to stay away from the sun. We had a hammock hanging outside our room in the shade and I spent the morning reading in it. It was very relaxing! Peter had gone out surfing and had lot's of fun. He came back and we went to eat, and then relaxed on the beach one last time. We got our things together, grabbed a cab, and in less than an hour and a half we were back at the Airport. The flight was late leaving, apparently they do everything very slow in Costa Rica, but we were off. The flight went by pretty quickly and before you knew it, we were on our way home (thanks Kathleen)and were sound asleep by 1am.

A week seems like a short amount of time, but it went by nice and slow and we were able to get a lot in. The amount of travel we did in that week was a bit draining but it was worth it. We saw some beautiful places and it was fun trying to find our way around without speaking a lick of Spanish. Still though, I find myself always coming back home very excited. We live in a beautiful place and coming home is never a bad thing. Pictures will come shortly!

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