The Best Day of My Life.

5 04 2012

I’m sharing photos a little out of order. My hard drive is full. I am unable to edit and upload all of the photos from Costa Rica at this time, so I started with my favorite days of the trip. Fortuna, Volcan Arenal, and Danaus.

Wednesday morning I awoke at 4am in my brother’s host mom’s house in Bo Pinto, San Pedro, just outside of San Jose. I was headed to La Fortuna and the bus left from the station in downtown San Jose at 6:15am. Somehow, in Costa Rica, this early didn’t seem nearly as painful as it should have. In fact, it really was easy to get up and get moving! I packed up my messenger bag and grabbed a banana from the fruit basket, that was always fully stocked, on the kitchen table. After the short walk to the InterAmerica I hopped on the commuter bus downtown. It’s amazing how inexpensive transit is down there. 210 colones to ride. This is approximately 45 cents in USD. So amazing!
The drive itself was beautiful and amazing. So many different types of forests, so many different types of plants, all depending on what altitude you are at in the mountains. Simply beautiful and amazing.

I arrived in Fortuna around 11:30am and Royo (I think is what he said his name was!) was waiting for me at the bus station from Cabinas Jerry, the hostel I was to stay at. The hostel was only two blocks from the bus station, but it was still nice. I settled into my clean, private room with private bath ($20/night), and headed out to explore La Fortuna. Fortuna is a small city and a beautiful city. Volcan Arenal looms over the city, there is almost no where, where you can not see the iconic cone shape. I had lunch at an over priced, but good touristy place called the Lava Lounge. It had a pretty view of the volcano and decent food, but was more expensive than I should have picked. Ah well, you only live once and I haven’t been on a vacation in over 7 years! I continued to explore after lunch. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a non-tourist place to buy a beach towel, which I foolishly forgot in San Pedro. I now have a Costa Rica, mariposa nacional souvenir towel. HA! oops. I also bought a bottle of water, which was the only well spent money of the morning.

At 2pm I had a tour with RedLava Tours… or so I thought. Turns out that the lovely girl who had booked my hostel and tour for me in San Jose, had emailed my booking of the tour to the owner of the company instead of calling him. He didn’t get the email in time. So after much fussing and phoning on my behalf by the owner of the Cabinas, I had a private car come pick me up, to catch up to the rest of the tour group. Talk about a ride! My private driver had a broken speedometer and raced around the mountain roads at break neck speed, passing cars and buses on blind corners while answering his phone! It was a riot. I’m sure if I had not been grinning about it, he would have been a little more responsible, but it awesome! When I caught up, my group agreed my ride was probably more fun, and told me all I had missed was our tour guide Christian climbing a tree like a monkey to pick us a fresh guava and the silhouette of two toucans. I was caught up before the group even entered the park. Apparently what took me about 15 minutes to traverse had taken them about an hour! So we entered the park, changed into swim suits, tried some delicious guava, took tons of photos of aves (birds) Montezumas and headed out for our hike.

The hike was amazing. (I know I keep saying everything was amazing, but it all really was amazing!!) Christian was a wonderful guide. He really knew his stuff. Traci, of Mike and Traci the newlyweds, in our group was going to college for the study of plants, and for once there was someone taking more pictures than me! She also had wonderful questions for Christian about all kinds of uses for plants. Through out the tour he had us chew on raw sugar cane, eat some palm heart, smell a bunch of different leaves of plants including one that smelled just like anise, and “strangle” a flower to get the natural bug repellant, that smelled like pine and honey, out of it. He also dug up some of the volcanic mud for free facials at the hot springs later on in the tour. About half way through the hike we came upon a wonderfully beautiful waterfall, like the kind you see on postcards, and we got to swim!!

(photo: Christian, Olga & Talia)

It was cool and refreshing. Christian also showed us where we could climb up the rocks a bit and jump off into the pool. It was magical. Eventually there should be photos of us all swimming and goofing off in the waterfall pool. It was quite the magical experience. We made it back to the main deck area for sunset over Laguna Arenal. Dejan had a little run in with a critter who wanted the banana in his bag so bad it latched onto his bag for a little spin. One of the other employees later put some banana in his hand and led the pesky thing around the complex to show all of the other tourists! What a job. It must be so much fun, most of the time at least. After sunset, Christian took us on a mini “night hike” to try and find some spiders and snakes and things. What we did find was a gigantic bull frog! I mean this guy was monstrous and we have pretty darn big bull frogs in the Midwest! We didn’t get a really good look at him since he slipped into his apparent home under a log pretty quick, but we could kind of see into the hole and get a glimpse of him! He was probably around 8 inches in diameter! We also found several small (by Costa Rica standards) spiders and one little snake that was too young for Christian to be sure of it’s species but he was pretty sure it was a fairly venomous one. I can’t remember what he said he thought it was though.

After the night hike we headed to the hot springs. No cameras, no clothes, not even shoes came along to the hot springs. We had all opted for the “natural river” hot springs. Definitely the right choice. It was like growing up swimming in the Huron River. We were just down stream from a road overpass, that held very little traffic and was paved underneath. Where the paving ended there was a small waterfall that we were later shown, you could get under. Apparently the local “romantic hang out,” since we interrupted at least one couple making love under there! Other than our tour group it was all locals hanging out at this hot spring location, which only made it more awesome. Screw fancy cement shaped pools, I’ll take a real river any day! It felt like you were in a heated pool, but there were trees and rocks. Oh it was heaven. While at the hot springs Christian mixed us drinks of a local liquor, Guaro, and grapefruit juice. Yum!  He also mixed up the volcanic mud with some water, in an indent in the top of a boulder. He then tenderly applied mud masks to all of us. There was plenty of mud left and many of the locals took advantage. Soon nearly everyone there had a mud mask on and about half of us had back/chest/arm masks on too! Once the mud was dry, all you had to do was rinse it off in the river and, as Christian put it you’d be as smooth as a baby’s behind.

When our time was up at the hot springs, the RedLava driver dropped us off at each of our hotels. As we got out Christian invited each of us to go out with him and his friend for some drinks and Talia and I both wanted dinner. So after a quick shower and change of clothes (unfortunately my nice stuff was all in San Jose!) Christian and his friend Julio came and picked me up. Talia was already in the car and we picked Olga up before heading to Establos (I think was the name) a bar with awful karaoke, but good beer prices and food. After Talia and I had dinner and the guys had some fries, and we all had some beers, we danced. Olga actually kind of knew how to Salsa. Have to say, I was a little jealous. I wish I knew how to Salsa! Even after Julio tried to teach me a bit, I’m still pretty sure I’m clueless. It’s all good though. I had a fantastic time. I love dancing. I wish people here in Chicago liked to dance and not just to shitty rap “dance” music. Julio tried to convince all of us to go back to the hot springs. We knew what that implied. The other girls thought Julio was crazy. I just think he was having a good time, so why not ask? Olga and Christian danced a lot, Julio and I danced a lot, Talia sat and chatted with their other friend Rico, from New York. They drove us all to our prospective hostels and that was that. Just a wonderfully fun evening.

The next morning Talia, Olga and I met at a Cafe for breakfast and then headed out for a short walk at Danaus. It was a beautiful, easy walk. There was a fantastic butterfly house that we spent a very, very long time in. The butterfly house was a “half-way house” for the butterfly populations the reserve was studying before release. On the walk we saw a Jesus Christ lizard, a two toed sloth, a three toed sloth, a little “blue jeans” Dart frog, a few other lizards and little animals and tons of birds. We had enough time after the walk at Danaus that we walked the short 5 kilometers back to downtown La Fortuna. It was a beautiful and amazing walk through rural Costa Rica. Small houses, families, horses, banana trees and papaya trees. Just beautiful. Olga and I were both headed back to San Jose that day, so while we hung around near the bus station waiting for the bus, we stopped by Red Lava’s office for Talia to look into taking a boat to Nicaragua the next day. We told the owner how much we’d loved our tour with Christian the day before. Christian even showed up and chatted a bit in between a morning tour and another afternoon tour. Very nice, friendly people.

I would really love to live in Costa Rica someday. I’m looking at going back to school, to Grad school. Specifically my interest is in Michigan State’s International Development with a focus in Sustainability M.S. and a minor in Spanish. Prior to Costa Rica I was thinking about getting a second Bachelor’s degree in something like Ecology or Environmental Sciences. After contacting MSU upon my return, they told me to look into going straight to Grad school, (unlike U of M) they don’t require undergrad to be in the same area of study. I didn’t know this was an option. Combining international sustainability with photography sounds like a good plan to me. A much better plan than starting completely over with a science bachelors degree. Even if I don’t get to live overseas, I have always wanted to travel a lot. I get antsy if I stay in one place for too long, vacation helps, travel for work would be better. I like adventure! I like flying! I love meeting people!

I can’t wait for my next adventure!



4 responses

14 04 2012
Boende På Koh Samui

very good stuff 😉 definitely enjoyed this article, i’m going to read more on the site after i’m done with work! 😛

6 07 2012

Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it!

16 04 2012
back linking

Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is a very well written article. I will make sure to bookmark it and return to read more of your useful info. Thanks for the post. I will definitely comeback.

6 07 2012

Thank you for stopping by my blog! Glad you enjoyed my article! (:

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