Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Surf and Sand in Malpais and Santa Theresa

An early 7 am departure from Monteverde took us down the arid, agricultural landscape of the Pacific side of the Continental divide. The rough boulder roads turned into smooth tarmac and the drive was smooth sailing all the way to ferry in Puntarenas. Here we met Diane and Kevin, a wonderful couple from Nova Scotia. It would turn out that we would end up in the same town and share some laughs together.

The locals serenade us with song for the duration of the short 1 hour ferry crossing to Pacqura. Another few hours of dodging crater-like pot holes and we finally arrive at Frank's Place, a popular hang out. Unaccustomed to the surge in temperature, I don't recall when I appreciated air con and a swimming pool so much even though the pool water was warmer than the air temperature! At least it was wet! A lovely bar serving 2 for 1 Mojitos for Happy Hour, a cooler plunge pool and large green iguanas basking in the sun just topped off the 4 day chill out.

We walked to the beach to watch the sunset. This was a daily ritual for visitors and locals alike. Larissa tried swimming in the waves and became a body surfing machine. She just wanted to keep swimming.

Over the next several days, we chilled out by the pool, went body surfing in the ocean, browsed around town, dabbled in some shopping, drank beer and Mojitos, walked along the beach, explored other beaches up the coast, visited the Rain Forest Sanctuary for rescued animals, went shopping and lunch in Montezuma....a nice chill out to end the holiday.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Quetzals and Cloud Rainforest

The paved roads around Neuvo Arenal turned to gravel. Well, more like mud with large rock with boulders. We drove rough mountain winding roads surrounded in lush vegetation, as wisps of clouds misted the car. I thought the driving was lots of fun but it is always different when one is in control of the vehicle. I knew exactly when to brace for the bumps! I'm not too sure Barb and Bob thought it was 'fun' getting tossed around in the back seat. We climbed higher in altitude finally reaching the Monteverde Cloud Reserve area on the Caribbean side of the Continental Divide. There are several cloud reserves in this are so one could spend weeks exploring them. Steven had booked the well equipped Los Pinos Cabinas in St Elena, a perfect location for us to relax while watching the clouds float by. The weather finally turned for us, the sun shining between floating clouds.

We were able to make our own breakfast and planned to cook one evening meal at home. I love shopping in supermarkets. Mangoes, heart of palm, exotic corn munchies and beer (of course). We browsed around town that afternoon and relaxed. An excellent thin crust pizza accompanied by Tico tapas at Johnnies restaurant was enjoyed by all that evening. St Elena has changed from a few years ago when Steven and Michael last visited. The town roads are now all paved to attract more tourism.

We spent an entire day at Selvatura Park which is essentially a one stop shopping adventure park, cloud rain-forest style. It is located near the Sana Elena Cloud Forest Reserve. We branched off to do our own thing. I was determined to try zip-lining and the crowd eventually convinced Larissa to accompany me. We walked the walkways and bridges through the misty cloud rain-forest, toured a lovely butterfly garden, a snake and reptile exhibit and left the grand finale of zip-lining for the late afternoon. What a hoot! My only regret was bringing my camera. I should have left it in the locket because there is no way in hell I could take photographs while screaming the length of a zip line. I ended off the tour with a "Tarzan Swing Jump". Larissa says I screamed the loudest (followed by a fit of laughter). What an amazing feeling. That is likely the closest that I will ever get to a free fall jump. We returned with our faces covered in mud and big smiles on our faces.

The following morning, we met our guide Alexander for an early morning walk of the Monteverde Cloud Rainforest. Admittedly, this park is full of people. Don't go without a guide. I cannot image anyone having the fortune of finding a quetzal, sloth or snake. I would have just walked along and not known where to look. Rather, these guides come equipped with telescopes and knowledge of the places to look for wildlife.

No trip in another country would be complete without me experiencing at least one six degrees of separation moment. Of course, I bumped into one of my colleagues sisters in a cloud rain forest on a mountain in Costa Rica....because it always happens. But what fun it is. Here is Paula, from Ottawa....I work with her sister! Small world. (I used to work with her cousin too, I think).