This is our final honeymoon post, the last day of our Costa Rican adventure. Is anyone still reading? This was such a fun way to keep track of our whole vacation, making sure it was a lasting memory with photos and stories that we can look at for years to come. Thank you so much for taking the journey with us through this blog!
There is a higher purpose to taking a honeymoon right after getting married. It’s more than just a vacation to a pretty place. Costa Rica has been more than beautiful, but the sands and gorgeous sunsets, fruity drinks and wildlife hiding in trees all served as merely a backdrop to the bigger reason as to why we were here.
To start our new life together.
I know, that seems obvious in a statement like that. But there’s more. All week long we’ve been able to practice saying husband and wife, or esposo o esposa, to people who don’t expect any different. Our minds are clear instead of muddied by parenthood, our jobs, or other distractions we place between us on a daily basis. We grudgingly took a break from social media and discovered it was the best thing we could have done. We slept better, enjoyed each other’s company, and fell deeper in love.
Today we leave for home in a day filled entirely with travel. I look forward to the end of this journey, when we get to collapse in bed and see our kids in the morning, and learn what it’s like to be married in our hometown. I’ve never felt so alive, my mind so free. And I don’t want to lose this. Shawn and I made a vow to use our phones less, focus less on other people’s Facebook lives, and put a bigger focus on what’s important. I’m anxious to take this new clarity and apply it to my writing as well, taking advantage of my unmuddied mind. The possibilities for our future are endless, and achievable as long as we keep working as a team and keep the barriers at bay.
It’s still early as I write this. Most of the hotel is still asleep, including my husband. I am soaking in one last morning of birds singing in the trees and echoing through the air, the intermittent rain rippling the pool and sitting the sidewalks, the moist and warm air, the ocean in the near distance, and Spanish words bouncing off the lobby walls, ping ponging off the floor, and diving head first into my ears to create nonsensical poems in my head that make perfect sense now, but will be gibberish once I’m no longer surrounded by this beautiful language. My broken Spanglish with wrong words and mixed up pronouns has gotten pretty good. It will be strange not to answer a question with Si or Muchas Gracias or Mas Cafe Por Favor.
The words I’m looking forward to saying?
“Have you met my husband?”
“Let me check with my husband.”
“Hello, I’m Mrs. Langwell…”
It’s been a wonderful trip. I love my husband more than ever. I love that we’re a team in this. Last night before bed, we stood in our darkened room and just held each other, sharing an intimate kiss before nuzzling into each others necks. I am his. He is mine. We are in this together. And I can’t believe how lucky I am that our lives led us to each other to form such a perfect pairing.
P.S. On this day I took a bunch of photos of the locals. Here are the people of Costa Rica, their homes, and everything else we saw as we headed out of town, towards the airport, and on our way home.
Our last day in Costa Rica, and the day of the zip line. I’d been awake since 3:30am, not because of nerves, but because it was hot and my bug bites itched like crazy. I got up early and spent it writing in the lobby till it was time to wake up Shawn. Luckily he was already awake because my key was being finicky.
The sky was blue and the weather already hot before it even hit 7am. The night before had been drizzly, but you’d never even know. We waited after breakfast for our driver to arrive, a Costa Rican native named Alejandro who had a hint of America in his native accent. We learned he used to be part of a call center who conversed often with New York, Florida, and the like. It helped with his English and have him a different accent. We were headed to his family’s property, land that had been in his family for four generations. It would one day be passed down to him. They boasted to having the largest zip line in Costa Rica.
More things we learned from our guide:
– The only tour guides we should trust are those that have ‘Turismo’ on the side. They have insurance and are make sure their vehicle is in good shape bathe other guys who offer cheap rides have no insurance and run their business out of jalopies. If anything happened, there’s no protection.
The average income in Costa Rica is $500 a month. The van Alejandro was driving cost $25,000 – used. If it were new, it would be $30,000.
– There are two types of police in Costa Rica – the ones who handle the laws and the ones who handle traffic and speed. There’s virtually no crime where we were at in Costa Rica, so the Policia basically do nothing save for the occasional drug situation or to enforce child support. The traffic police never visit this part, mainly sticking to the city (San Jose), so speeding, passing cars, and reckless driving is just a way of life.
– The Caribbean side of Costa Rica is considered dangerous. Alejandro referred to the locals over there as the ‘blacks’, and says they’re known to harm those who don’t belong there. He advised against vacationing over there. It’s also where they held their recent Carnival celebration.
Flamingo Beach, where we’re staying, is considered the rich area. Tamarindo is more of a party town. In the high tourism months, the town is filled with thousands of people.
We got to the ranch and were met by Oscar, the caballero who would take us to the zip lines by horseback. Having ridden with an English bridle in my childhood, it was weird at first using a Western. But the learning curve was easy. The horses knew their way well, and kept trying to trot ahead of our guide. Shawn did well, no nerves at all as his horse broke into occasional trots. He caught on quickly. My seat was sore halfway through. As I type, I’m painfully aware of my nether regions. We traveled through rocky trails, through a deeply flooded road, and up a steep hill before finally reaching the zip lines. Two guides met us, Elbert and Mario. Together they took us through a series of 10 zip lines. Some were very fast. Some we went upside down above the canopy. The last one was about 1/4 mile long, maybe longer. We were at times 318 meters high. It was pretty high up. The view was expansive!
Here’s a video of me on the zipline. Note: this was soooo not my idea. Seriously.
Awkward…. In other news, check out my totally great leg posture.
At the end of the zip line lay a horse who looked up at us, then flipped his head back down. Mario told us he was infierno, sick. We later learned from Alejandro that he’d been sick for weeks, barely eating, and the injections weren’t helping. It sounded like they were getting close to needing to put him down.
Back at the ranch, Elbert brought us melon and water. We ate and fed the rinds to chickens. The mother visited with us for a bit before Alejandro drove us back.
After lunch, I grabbed a mojito and a lounge chair by the ocean with Shawn. After a few, I rolled over on my stomach and fell into a hard sleep. It felt good to lounge in the sun on our last day. Shawn rented a boogie board and played in the waves. When I woke, I went in the water too. The warm, frothy waves were as intoxicating as ever, though the strength of them kept knocking me off balance. A rain cloud overhead threatened to open up, but merely passed over us. It wasn’t till we went back in the hotel that the rain finally broke.We dressed for some final souvenir shopping and were greeted by sheets of rain. I was wearing my sandals, but the rain outside made it too slippery. I finally took them off and ran barefoot through puddles and the warm rain. We found t-shirts and a bag for me.
Then we took a drive up into the hills just past our hotel. The homes were exquisite, and we dreamed about what it would be like to live up there in such luxury homes. I told Shawn that if we had a home like that, I’d let anyone we know stay with us for free. We watched the sunset before coming back to the hotel. Here at the Equator, the sun sets around 5:30.
Our last dinner, and now we lay in bed watching an old movie before lights out (at only 9, wow we’re old) Tomorrow we fly. The kids miss us, as Summer has texted us. We miss them too. It’s been a beautiful honeymoon.
One of the coolest things about visiting a new country is that you cross paths with a lot of different people. As a writer, I was suddenly surrounded by a whole bunch of new characters that may just make an appearance in a future book (or perhaps the one I’m working on for NaNoWriMo in just two days). On one of our Costa Rica mornings, I woke up early and took inventory of all the interesting people we’d met thus far.
There’s a man here, that tourist who nearly ran us over with his excitement about being here, who claims his wife is una tica. He seems to be very proud of this fact, as he’s repeated it several times. Two days into his trip, we’ve yet to see this mysterious tica. It makes me wonder if there is a tica at all, or if he’s just made her up for this vacation. I can’t help but feel he’d make such an interesting character for a book – a lonely man who’s a cross between Martin Scorcese and Woody Allen who is outgoing and obnoxious and loves to brag about his beautiful native wife, but is actually unmarried and lives alone with a fish. Maybe not a main character, but an interesting side character.
Yesterday, the family I saw had character all over them. The mom and dad were typically oblivious, enjoying an afternoon of cocktails at yet another family vacation. The kids were used to this treatment, entitled. The girl was slightly embarrassed by her family, the boy a bit unhappy – like a typical 12 year old. He was adamant that their next vacation be to Greece.
There was the old tycoon who owned the restaurant we were at. He was probably 45, but in his second childhood he’d bleached his hair blond and walked around in shorts and a tank top. He looked like a California surfer, but was actually from Ohio. “What made you decide to buy a restaurant in Costa Rica?” we asked him. “Ohio,” was his answer. He lived partly there and partly here. His restaurant had two happy hours, and the bartender didn’t skimp on the alcohol. Having only owned the bar for two months, he seemed overly eager in a charming way as he greeted guests of his restaurant. But being that it’s the slow season, he might not make it to the heavy tourist season.
The woman with the jewelry I bought for DQ was a tiny little thing, dressed in shorts and a tiny t-shirt with a very short haircut. Her son was a big boy at 11, and kept tugging at his mom to go because he was hungry. She kept talking though. She told us how she had to hide food from him. But he had to hide cereal from her because she loved it so much. I got the impression it was just the two of them, their only income from the jewelry. I imagined her working hard on these every night, purchasing stones and materials with the little income she received, her son eating up most of her profits. But I also imagined her with a bit of a rebellious wild streak, perhaps easy with the men and maybe not the most fit mother in reality.
There was the homeless guy at the restaurant, teetering from all the alcohol he’d consumed. He walked right up to one of the tables and just started to eat from their food much to their bewilderment. “He doesn’t look like he belongs with them,” Shawn had noted, both of us missing the initial appearance of the man. It was clear that he wasn’t part of the group when he wobbled away. I wonder what he was thinking as he came up to eat off strangers plates. Was he mad about the tourists who had so much money they threw it away on overpriced food? Did he stare at their plates, mustering up the courage to get some much needed sustenance? Did it even occur to him that their food was not his own? One thing I loved was that the tourists did not shame the man as he ate from their plates. They found humor in it, but did not chase him away or yell at him. It was kind of a cool scene.
Our tour guide was a character in himself, totally funny with a humor that crossed language and accent barriers. He bragged about his trips and why his tours were better than the other tours. “I don’t know why, it’s just nature,” was his response to all the wonders of the rain forest. He’d make calls throughout the tour, and I imagined someone on the other end being informed when to let the crocodile out, cue the monkeys, place the friendlier crabs within reach…
Our favorite waitress, a tica with an American attitude, is one tough chick. We passed by her one afternoon on her way home from work, and she was riding a motorcycle. She reminds us of one of our coworkers, Jaime, in her voice and mannerisms. She’s been great at explaining different things to us, from culture to who we should go to for a snorkeling tour. “I know a guy,” she told us, very valuable words on a trip like this. Knowing a guy means offering someone something familiar, sharing secrets most locals won’t discover, and possibly getting a deal in the process – or not. It’s also about helping out a friend of a “friend”.
Speaking of familiarity, we’ve been noticing lots of familiar faces in strangers. We’ve seen people who remind us of our coworkers, parents, friends….
“If you look hard enough, you’re going to discover the same people at your new school that you were friends with at your old school,” DQ told Taz as he struggled to make new friends. She listed off her new friends, naming the old friends whose mold they fit into. Taz admitted that one of his new friends was very much like one of his old friends.
This truth crosses countries as well, judging by the familiar faces and voices we keep running into. This really is a small world, filled with the same people over and over, just with different customs and circumstances. It makes even the most far away place seem not so strange after all, keeping home close by until the plane touches down on local soil.
Another post about what we did today coming this evening. With photos. Stay tuned!
Shawn and I fell asleep last night before 9pm while the baseball game was on (yes, we were watching baseball on our Honeymoon. After all, the Giants were gearing up for the World Series!). I’m not sure why we were so tired, but we must have needed the sleep. I woke up around 3:30, then 4, and every half hour after that until 6. Shawn finally woke up, and I stayed in bed with my eyes closed while he made coffee for the two of us. I could tell the day was going to feel better today, especially when I saw the blue sky beyond our curtains. Shawn was still enthusiastic about trying to go zip lining, and as much as I’ve been feeling unenthusiastic about it, I decided today was as good a day as any. Besides, it would finally get it out of the way.
The concierge wasn’t at her desk until after breakfast, and we talked with her about zip lining today and snorkeling tomorrow. She immediately advised against snorkeling since the water was too murky to see anything. But she suggested we add horseback riding to our zip lining adventure instead. I immediately perked up. Damn straight that sounded like a great idea! I laughed at Shawn’s expression over this, as he’s never ridden a horse and was nervous about it. But he didn’t even hesitate in agreeing this would be a great plan, knowing this was another something I wanted to do this week. I told him we were now even, plus it helped me to look forward to zip lining. However, a call to the company proved the grounds to be too soggy from yesterday’s rain for the horses. So we booked it for tomorrow. As a concession, the concierge suggested we visit Tamarindo. There’s souvenir shopping there, a great restaurant, and a local who gives tours on the river where we could see crocodiles, monkeys, birds, and more.
We packed up quickly and headed to Tamarindo. The roads were clear this time, and we arrived at the tour place in 20 minutes. A man named Victor Hugo (just like the infamous writer) met us and led us to his boat. It was a tour boat that held up to 8 or so passengers, but we were the only ones on it. As we floated, he shared stories about the different facts of nature around the river – The way the water line varies throughout the day, and at different times each day. How parakeets make their nests inside termite nests, never getting bitten while the babies earn their first weeks’ nourishment from the bugs, and despite the fact we’d be bitten mercilessly if we stuck our hands in the nest.
An osprey dove into the water in front of us and caught a fish, and Victor told us it must be luck. We passed a crocodile swimming in the water, and Victor told us how in the past few months a small dog had been eaten by one. Seeing him was also lucky, he pointed out, as the day before they’d seen none. A large tree Victor showed us held a large boa constrictor and a porcupine who had taken up as roommates.
“It’s nature,” Victor’s repeated response was, throwing his shoulders up to indicate that was all he had as an explanation.
Victor took us down a secluded river bend and shut off the engine. He pulled two shells out of his pocket and asked us to listen. “Do you hear that?” he asked. All around us we could hear clacking, like plates clanking together. Victor brought the shells together in his hand, and it gave the same sound. The sounds all around us were clams deep in he mud, opening their “mouths” and then shutting them quickly together. They were eating the mud. At night they stayed closed, but during the day they opened up. They were so strong they could take off a finger! Victor told us he won’t hunt them for that reason, only eat them in restaurants. Later when we passed by clam fisherman searching the banks for shelled treasures, I felt a huge amount of awe towards them. I also thought they were crazy.
On the banks were tons of spider crabs. Victor quickly grabbed two of them. Before I could think to be afraid, he handed one to me and one to Shawn. They scurried over us like spiders, but held a gentle presence. “See, they don’t bite,” Victor told me. I made friends with mine, and as we pulled away I asked Victor what I could do with him. He suggested I could take him home, have him for lunch… Instead, I held onto him for a little bit until I finally held my hand over the water to drop him in. The crab stayed put, moving slightly while watching me with its beady eyes, moving his claws slightly. I turned my hand over and he climbed on the other side to keep from going in. But finally I moved my hand so that he dropped into the water.
After seeing a few more crocodiles, blue herons, and a couple iguanas, Victor took us to the area of the monkeys. My pretty sandals were soon covered in mud as we walked from the boat through the trees and rain soaked forest floor. All along the path were large holes. Larger crabs scurried away as we came close, hiding in the holes. From far away you could see moving orange and brown crabs all over. As we came close, gone.
The first monkeys sat above us, and I pointed then out to Victor. He beckoned us to keep going until we came to an area deeper in the forest. He then started to bang a bottle of rocks on a tree, hooting into the air. All around us, monkeys began howling back at us. Shawn joined in, much to my amusement. I took pictures of them all around us. A baby curled up with his mother, moving around to act like he wasn’t watching us at all even though I know he was aware of our every movement. A larger monkey opened his mouth and enthusiastically chatted with Victor in a series of hoots. The echoes of the monkeys made it seem we were surrounded. “You are very lucky,” Victor told us again, reminding us that even the monkeys were not around the day before. Part of me was skeptically amused, even though I was impressed with all he had shown us. I wondered if all this nature were planned, if he called in the monkeys before we got there, or if this were more like an open space zoo than wild nature. But regardless, we were totally enthralled with finally seeing the animals of the rain forest we hadn’t seen yet on this trip.
Following the tour, Shawn and I took a drive into town to eat lunch and find souvenirs. We ate at Nibbanas, which means “Nirvana”, at the suggestion of the concierge. It was owned by a guy from Ohio who walked around the tables to greet everyone. Next to us sat a family from San Mateo, the dad wearing a Giants hat to match the t-shirt Shawn was wearing. They had a 12 year old son and a 16 year old daughter. When the parents disappeared, the boy sneaked a drink of his dad’s rum and coke to see what it tasted like. He immediately spit it out, and Shawn and I giggled secretly. The boy looked so much like Taz, I once again missed the kids.
It was happy hour at the restaurant. This meant that my one Hawaii cocktail became two, and they were not made lightly like the ones at the hotel. I felt warm and tipsy after only half. This is probably why I didn’t shoo away the jewelry vendor who sold me a bracelet and pair of earrings for DQ.
Following lunch, we found a few more gifts and then headed to the Super Mercado for coffee and Lizano. The Super Mercado is a magical place. They have everything you need to eat like a local, allowing us glimpses into the kitchens of Costa Rica. Plus, they have areas of small gifts, though overpriced. We chose bags of coffee for us and our parents, Lizano for me, snacks, and a few more items. The lady at the register asked if we wanted to donate to breast cancer, and I thought she was referencing my inappropriate amount of cleavage. But Shawn understood and translated for me. I am so amazed at his ability to understand the language and converse with the locals. If he’s faking it, I would have no idea. It’s actually pretty sexy, I might have to marry that man. Oh wait. 😉
Maybe it was the Hawaiis, or perhaps it’s just the freedom of the days, but the afternoon was spent gloriously lazy with a midday nap. We woke just in time to miss the sunshine. We still lounged by the pool, however, before dressing for another meal. This time it was a traditional Costa Rican buffet with delicious Yuccan root, various meats, seafood stew, rice and beans. A table held a variety of desserts. And the center of the room was a salad bar. 10 pounds might be an understatement about how much weight I’ll have gained after this week. But tonight’s dinner was worth it, and my very full belly feels incredibly happy. Wonder how deprived I’ll feel when I go back to healthy eating next week?
Tomorrow, horseback riding and zip lining. And our last full day of Costa Rica. 🙂
It was raining in the morning. It wasn’t just a little rain, it was as if the sky opened up to dump the monthly allotment of rain in one sitting. According to the concierge, this may have been true. The rainy months are generally September and October, yet the first rain of the season was yesterday.
It was lame, really, that this bummed me out. But one look at the rain and I was suddenly cast into a state of restlessness, boredom, and a bit of homesickness all in one. We’d booked a kayak and snorkel tour for the morning that had to be cancelled because of the weather. It was the only thing we had planned for the day, and left us wondering what else to do. We ended up going on a search for souvenirs. Shawn found some Costa Rican t-shirts, I found nothing. We went back to the hotel and decided to try a drive up the coast. However, a fallen tree blocked the road towards the southern coasts. So we set out towards Liberia. Again, we were blocked by bad roads and severe flooding. It seemed as if God was telling us it was best if we stayed put.
But I was restless, bored, and homesick.
Here’s a video of what we saw all day long:
Ok, admittedly it’s kind of pretty. And a rain storm here totally beats the pants off of a northern California cold and dreary rain storm. But still, I was restless.
Shawn was a saint. I know he was sensing my unrest, and yet he remained calm and patient with me. “What would you like to do?” he’d ask me. “I don’t know,” I’d say each time. We were nearly accosted by an overly eager hotel guest who had apparently discovered that Costa Rica has caffeine. Shawn and I spent the next 30 minutes trying to escape him, an amusing game on such a rainy day. Eventually we discovered the exercise room, and I realized that more than anything I just needed to do something besides relax, eat, and sleep.
It won’t surprise me if I end up with 10 extra pounds after this honeymoon, though it’s starting to bum me out. The all inclusive plan we have at the hotel allows us to eat and drink as much as we want. After months and months of starving myself and exercising to be in the perfect wedding shape (and it really paid off on my wedding day!), the past week has become a free for all, calorie-wise. My favorite are the alcoholic beverages I’ve enjoyed on a daily basis. Today I had a Pina Colada. Yesterday and the day before were delicious mojitos. The first day was a Mai Tai. On each plane ride was a gin and tonic, as well as sips from the congratulatory champagne. At home, I never drink. There are too many calories, I don’t want alcohol in the home due to mischievous teenagers (namely my teenage daughter, DQ), and I’m such a lightweight that the cost just isn’t worth it. But for “free” and while we’re on vacation? Pour me something fruity, bartender.
However, my waistline is expanding. I flipped through photos of our stay in Tabacon, and was horrified at what I saw. Instead of luscious greenery and gorgeous waterfalls, I saw a round belly and thick thighs. I can’t help but check my profile repeatedly in the mirror, blown away every time by how small my bathing suit bottoms seem to have gotten in such a short amount of time…
At any rate, the exercise room was there, and it was calling my name. My dear sweet husband told me he’d love to join me in getting a bit of fitness in. So we quickly changed and headed to the room. It felt amazing to run again, working up a solid sweat as it pissed outside. Shawn took turns among the weights and the elliptical. I mostly stayed on the treadmill, adding in a lite elliptical, ab exercises and stretches at the end. By the time we were done, the room felt muggy and hot, we were dripping with sweat, and we felt amazing. It was just the thing to turn the day around.
The rain suddenly felt inviting as a way to cool down, so we each grabbed our books and headed to an umbrella’d table to read while sipping a Pina Colada (me) and coffee (him). He napped while I got immersed in the story (The Lovely Bones, for perhaps the 4th time ever).
The concierge came and visited us during this time to refund our money for the scuba diving trip. She was 29 years old , but looked as young as a 16 year old. While Shawn went to get change for the money she had, she and I discussed where I was from, and vacations in general. She admitted she always wanted to visit California, and said that if she ever did she’d visit the redwood forest. It was funny to hear her say this, as redwoods are something I definitely take for granted. Shawn has told me that in his short time living away from Sonoma County, he missed the redwood trees the most. I never thought about whether I’d miss them or not, and I find it hard to believe that I would. But her enthusiasm over these kind of trees reminded me of my own enthusiasm over seeing the rain forest and the wildlife it holds.
After another filling meal (urp) we soaked up the sun that had finally appeared. We’d booked misajes (massages) earlier, and only had 40 minutes till it was time. It was just enough minutes for me to grab a cat nap. I set my alarm and immediately passed out. What felt like 2 minutes later, the alarm was sounding and we were off again. Two pretty ticas (Costa Rican native gals) waited for us at the spa. We’d scheduled deep tissue misajes, and these two looked so tiny and young. But man, could my masseuse hurt me good. She rolled my hamstring flat until I finally had to ask her to back off. From there, she kneaded every muscle in my body with precision. Shawn and I opted to be in the same room, and it made me curious if they were performing the same routine.
Now I’m sitting by the pool, rehashing the day to the sounds of Spanish Caribbean music. Shawn attempted a dip in the ocean, but the storm kicked up so much gunk it was like swimming in chunky stew. He came back looking something like a drowned rat, coconut husks and sediment all over his body and trespassing in his shorts. The air is a little cooler, probably the coolest it’s ever been during our stay. Hopefully it will be a bit warmer tomorrow when we may go zip lining (not my favorite idea, but my husband is truly enthusiastic about this idea, so much that he was willing to forgo massages in favor of it).
All in all, I think today was meant to be a down and relaxing kind of day. It worked out for the best.
P.S. Several times today, Shawn and I have been able to refer to each other as husband and wife. I love the excited feeling it places in my belly each time. I hope I never get tired of hearing him call me wife, or me calling him husband. 🙂
Alas, no pictures were taken on this day. But never fear, there will be more tonight when I post Day 5!
There’s some notable differences between Costa Rica and the USA. La Policia seem to be here merely for decoration and presence rather than to enforce any kind of law. There doesn’t appear to be any dangerous crime around, though I’m sure it exists. Rather than chasing speeders or questioning loiterers, they seem content merely parking on the side of the road and hanging our in packs.
The speed limit here is merely a suggestion. The KPH is clearly marked on the road, and I haven’t seen it followed yet. Cars drive the streets at various speeds. Some can barely make it up the hill, exuding strong gas odors at everyone trapped behind them. Others travel the windy roads at breakneck speeds. Double and single lines mean nothing, as cars pass one, two, three or more cars at a time – sometimes barely missing the oncoming traffic. One car today passed a truck in front of us on a blind corner, and I held my breath as they came within inches of a head on collision.
Pedestrians walk on the road as if they are invincible. We were constantly maneuvering around people walking on the shoulder, something even more scary at night when there were no street lights or lines in the road to guide our way. Even the dogs here seem unafraid of passing cars.
There are young mothers with their children riding backwards on the handlebars. Small motorbikes are everywhere. Pickups with kids in the back sputter along the roads. Potholes appear out of nowhere. And yet, all the dangers of the road seem to have no effect on the accident rate. There are no skid marks, broken trees, or crashed cars on the side of the road to signal car accidents. Us with our millions of laws regarding speed, passing laws, etc and there are accidents all over the place. Here it’s as reckless and carefree as ever with smoggy cars and dangerous driving, and the only signs are a few crosses on the side of the road.
Similarities? There are many young people with their eyes glued to their smart phone.
Another interesting thing I noted were how the locals all seem to find their entertainment watching people from their front porch. Almost every home or business has people sitting out front watching the world pass by. I couldn’t stare at them because every person we passed was already looking in our car to see who we were.
The service here is like nothing in the states. They are happy to help. The art of full service is revived at the gas stations, where they not only fill it up but wash the windows too. We weren’t sure if tipping was expected, but we handed out gas attendants each a $2 bill to which they happily exclaimed over it.
Today, our day started with a continuous sheet of rain. I woke at 5:30 with the air stale because the AC had stopped. The electricity was out. I quietly got dressed and went outside to watch the rain, soon joined by Shawn. The door had woken him up. We dressed and went down for breakfast before hitting the road. Our biggest plan for the day was to hit the spa at Tabacon, a posh resort 3-4 hours away. We also hoped to get in a few other adventures like a walk on a 2-mile bridge across the rainforest and some zip lining. That proved to be overly ambitious however.
The drive there was long, longer than the 3 hours we were expecting. We broke up the drive with a stop at Cafe Macadamia, a coffee shop the boasted being one of the top 5 spots to stop at according to Trip Advisor. There were signs posted all along the way leading up to the cafe. We were totally curious about this coffee shop, and bypassed many others on our way to it. The signs said “10 more minutes to Cafe Macadamia”, and then “You’re almost there”, and then “3K more”….etc… 20 minutes later, and we were beginning to think Cafe Macadamia was merely a myth. Just as we were about to give up, Cafe Macadamia broke through the rain forest and appeared out of nowhere. We walked in, and two ladies ran the shop. One spoke not a word of English. Another could speak it a little. But the coffee was good and strong, the bread still warm with a taste like challah, and our view of the lake below us was phenomenal.
A cool part was they had a wall that held patches from different police stations around the world. Looks like the Santa Rosa, CA police were there. 😀 (Click on photo to see it bigger)
We got to the Tabacon Spa, and were mesmerized by the many pools. A maze of a walkway led us around secret nooks where different pools lay with various attributes. Some were shallow and warm, some hot with waterfalls, some cooler to take a break from the heat. There were so many it was possible to find private moments in each to steal a kiss or just enjoy the solitude. And all around us was the rain forest, tropical plants and colorful flowers, scurrying lizards, the calls of wild birds, and the warm, moist air.
We ate lunch first, though I was so full from breakfast, a cocktail of Metamucil (gotta love getting old), and our midday pan y cafe. I ordered food out of obligation, but gave most of it to Shawn to finish up.
Following lunch we took turns soaking in the various pools. The pools are heated from the volcano Tabacon rested on.
Side note: The Arenal Volcano, where we were at, is a live volcano. Until 2010, it was considered Costa Rica’s most active volcano. For centuries it had been considered inactive, until one day in 1968 when it violently erupted for days, taking with it 87 people, 3 villages, livestock, and affected 232 square kilometers of land. From that day until 2010 it continued to spew ash, lava, smoke, and hot rocks regularly. Now it stands in an “indeterminate phase”. (more info on the Arenal Volcano can be found at www.arenal.net)
The air around us was already quite warm. I was having a hard time not feeling overheated, plus totally stuffed from lunch. Soon I could only bear to sit on the edge of the pool while Shawn reveled in the comforting warmth.
We took a break from the heat by retreating to the rest area at the top of the resort. Several lounges with curtains were there, meant for an afternoon siesta in between soaks. We claimed one as our own, pulling the curtains closed and laying next each other in our little fort. Shawn’s breath became slow and heavy, and I fell asleep soon after. We probably only slept for 10 minutes, but it was just enough to refresh us. We considered allowing this to be our ending moment and just head home, but the pools seemed so inviting. We visited a few more, taking advantage of ones with rushing waterfalls that worked out the kinks in our backs and the deeper pools that allowed is to float while memorizing the canopy overhead. Throughout our adventure we took turns snapping photos, ensuring the memories would stay longer.
Here’s a short video clip just to show you a snippet of what we got to enjoy while we were there.
The drive back was easier, the roads not so foreign anymore. But it got dark quickly. It’s advised that driving be kept merely to the daytime since there are so many potholes and not much light to guide the way. We got stuck behind a slow moving truck with an exhaust problem. The situation only got worse when the truck caught up to an even slower truck. And the windy roads made it impossible to move around. Shawn was quickly becoming a pro at maneuvering the roads like a local, passing cars and all. But even this gave him pause. So we were stuck for an hour behind the truck, gasping as brazen drivers still managed to pass all of us.
The sky was now dark and we still hadn’t eaten. We’d planned on finding a local Soda (small restaurant) and sitting for some traditional fare. But thing is, adventures while it’s still light out feel mildly safe. Once the sun disappeared, we were no longer in the mood to experiment with our food. Two hours down the road, however, stood a place called Volcano Brewing Co that we had noticed on our way up. We decided to give it a go. We left the road for a long dirt driveway that made us start to second guess ourselves. The skateboard ramp (a sign outside said “Seriously, check it out”) made us smile. So did the sign boasting about the pools. But when we pulled up and found an open bar with a pool table and a lively energy within the patrons inside, we knew we’d made the right choice. The clincher was hearing Jack Johnson singing from the speakers while little girls played pool. There are no mistakes.
The restaurant/hotel was part of a project started by a couple from San Diego. They’d surfed their way down south, starting their own surf company and brewing company. 8 months ago they added the restaurant. And we were now in this little slice of California within Costa Rica. I realized that even surrounded by the beauty of the rain forest, California would always be my first love for my home. The food at the place was alright. But the cost ($17 to feed us both!) and the ambiance were perfecto. The final note as we left for our hotel was on GnR’s “November Rain”.
P.S. Check them out at volcanobrewingcompany.com. They’re located near some really cool tourist attractions, and their room rates and food rates are dirt cheap.
Some October rain greeted us as we got close to our hotel. Tabacon had been sunny and warm. But the closer we got to the coast, the wetter it got. The drizzle became a torrent, causing us to run to our room once we reached the grounds. Yet the air was still warm.
It’s 11:30 now. Shawn is asleep, and I am once again fighting my eyes as they try to close and end the day. Tomorrow we leave with a guide for a morning of snorkeling (hope the rain lets up some!), and an afternoon of sightseeing by foot and a search for souvenirs to bring home. Another perfect day in paradise. Pura vida!
There are some things a photo will not describe. The way the air feels warm and moist from first thing in the morning until we collapse in bed at night, curling my hair and giving a soft sheen to my skin. How it feels to step onto sand so soft, our feet would sink through as if we were walking on pillows. How warm the water is, and the addictive relief it gives when it rushes over my body in confident waves and a persistent undertow. The sound of a million hermit crabs scuttling away from passerbys, hiding in their shells if we get too close, and tumbling with gentle clicks of their shells as they fall from the rocks they were running upon. The feel of the warm sun breaking through the clouds as I sip a lime mojito when it’s not even noon yet. The freedom from inner obstacles preventing us from being fully there, fully alive, full in the moment….
Despite the lacking abilities a photo possesses, we took so many photos today in an attempt to keep the day with us long after the trip is over. We woke early, rising effortlessly at 6am after the best sleep we’d had in a week. We got up and drank a cup of coffee in bed, honestly the most delicious instant coffee we’d ever had. Following that we had breakfast, a buffet of choices. I happily filled my plate with red beans and rice, eggs, a muffin that tasted like pound cake, and a bowl of fresh fruit.
A note about the food. I feel like I’ve been eating ever since I got here, and have probably already gained 5 pounds in several days time. The food isn’t over the top delicious (though this particular breakfast was right up my alley), but they give you so many choices you’re enticed to try the starters and apps, a hefty entree, and a delicious dessert. Add to that the daily cocktail by the pool and we’re talking a million calories. My stomach already has a nice pooch going on. It’s not my favorite to feel this full, but I excuse it because I’m on my honeymoon. When I get back, I’ll take it off again. But for now I’ve had my indulgences, I’m now only eating what I’m on the mood for and giving myself permission not to clear my plate, and forgiving the few extra pounds I’ll still likely go home with.
After breakfast we took a walk down the beach. What started as an intended short exploration ended up in a full fledged trek down the shoreline, across the volcanic rock, and through myriad tide pools that held countless treasures in the forms of crabs, scuttle fish, anemones, sea slugs, urchins, and more. If I stopped and waited, the wildlife appeared from their hiding places and went about their business. As soon as I moved again, off they’d hide once more.
I was mesmerized by the hermit crabs. They’d hide in a flock of seashells when I walked close, appearing to be nothing but lifeless shells. But as soon as they thought the coast was clear, the sand became a moving carpet of hermit crabs, hundreds of them traveling to an unknown destination. They were in various shapes and sizes, harboring colorful shells as their homes, tumbling across each other in a race to the finish.
Shawn laughed as I picked them up, placing them in my hand, me who makes him save me from spiders at home. Here, I was placing the shells in my hand, waiting patiently for the crab to finally emerge and flutter across my hand before tumbling to the sand. I was also in love with petting the sea slugs and letting sea snails muck across my palm. An angry crab raised its large red claw at us, challenging us to a fight when we got too close. A family of crabs scrambled over rocks in an effort to run from us. And the sea moved back and forth over the rocks we walked across, bringing new life for us to discover.
After collecting as many sea shells and colorful rocks I could find, as well as snapping pictures right and left, Shawn and I made our way back to the hotel. It was just 9am, but the weather was perfect for some lounging time by the ocean. So we changed into our suits, grabbed our books, and then laid on lounge chairs with the ocean as our view. Shawn got me a mojito while he sipped a coke. And both of us enjoyed the feel of the sunshine on our skin. Soon Shawn fell asleep, and I felt the need to feel the ocean.
It was cool at first, but soon I was intoxicated by how warm it became. The waves were strong, but predictable. I let them rush at me, trying to knock me off my feet. Shawn woke up and joined me, and we laughed as we became more bold against the water. Soon we were above our waists, the waves coning straight at my head. One wave stole my glasses before I could grab them. I laughed as I fumbled for them, but knew it was no use. We sat in the shallow water, letting it move us around with its force.
Following our refuel with lunch (arroz, frijoles, pollo, y salsa lizano para mi!), we drove up the coast to explore the white sands we were curious about. We found a secluded area after a 4WD through some muddy roads, parking our car discretely and hoping for the best. We felt a little nervous, unsure if we were on private property or putting our car in danger of getting broken into if we moved out of view. So we set up camp with the car in sight before walking down the shoreline. The sand encased our feet, enveloping them in plush pockets. I’d never felt anything like it.
We both walked towards the water, loving our luck of finding a place so private. Shawn took me in his arms, and we danced in a kiss that sent chills up my spine and down his. We stopped only when we heard dogs barking down the beach. I watched as Shawn bristled slightly. They were pit bulls, one brown and one white, and coming straight for us. But as they came they playfully nipped at each other and splashed in the waves. I could tell they weren’t angry, just happy to see other humans. I kept looking down the beach for their owners, but saw no one. I told Shawn to relax, knowing that any fear we showed could translate into a threat towards them.
The brown one reached us first, running around us before planting himself next to my leg. I carefully placed my hand near his nose, praying silently to him not to bite me. He didn’t. Instead he licked my hand. He was young with a happy smile on his face, full of energy as he ran back and forth between us and the waves.
The white one reached us second. I could see he was older, possessing one light blue eye and one brown eye. It looked as though he was winking, with his blue eye so light against his white fur. He had a pink scar above his light eye, and while just as enthusiastic about playing and rolling in the waves, he moved slower than his brown pal.
The dogs kept with us as we moved back to our towels. I was still waiting for their owner to call out to them, or for us to cross some imaginary boundary that would cause them to turn around and go back. They were beginning to make me nervous with the way their playful energy was starting to feel possessive. The clincher was when the brown dog suddenly jumped and snapped at Shawn, barking at him in a more aggressive form of play. Shawn yelled out, and I quickly reminded him to remain calm. The brown dog stayed near Shawn now, barking every now and then. The white one kept his distance, but stayed at an even pace with us.
When we got near our towels, the brown one raced ahead and sniffed at both of them. He found mine and then lifted his leg to pee on my camera case. To me, it felt like he was sending us a message that this was his beach and not ours, that we didn’t belong there. It wasn’t until later that it occurred to me that he might actually have peed on my case as a way of holding onto me as his human. It was beginning to be apparent that these dogs were homeless and probably starving, hoping to find a home or at least a plate of food (we later learned that all dogs have much more freedom than dogs in the US, roaming free as if they’re wild. These dogs probably did have an owner but were just enjoying a day on the beach). The urgency in them was becoming a sign that it was time to leave.
I forgot my reminders of keeping calm, and yelled at the dog to back off my stuff. The sheer audacity of this dog was immediately humorous, and I laughed as I wiped off the few droplets of urine he managed to get on the bag, all while the dog grinned at us a few feet away. Shawn and I gathered our things and got in the car. The dogs followed, not getting the clue that we were leaving them. A few yards away a car was blocking the road, its engine refusing to turn over. I felt trapped between the car and the dogs, feeling threatened in the strange scenario. I wondered if it were all a trick to steal our belongings…or worse. But the car eventually moved and we made our way back from where we came. The brown dog chased after us, trying to keep up and not let us go. I felt sad for him even as I felt relief in getting away. I watched in my side rear view mirror as he finally gave up and sat in the middle of the road while we drove further away.
We never did stop again, seeing the strange encounter as a sign that our safety was only guaranteed at our resort beach. But we did take a few hours to explore the neighborhoods. Each turn took us past all different homes, greenery, and ocean views. We dreamed big as we passed large homes with lush lawns and leafy trees, the stucco walls riding above tiled steps and enticing us with wide balconies that looked out across fields of green. We drove past locals balancing precariously on bikes, children unstrapped in the back of teetering pickups, exotic buzzards, cattle, and countless dogs both domestic and wild. The homes varied from brightly colored shacks to majestic castles that loomed over the poorest of neighborhoods. We wove through the roads, passing rustic businesses and finding more things for me to point my camera at.
Eventually we recorded the sunset on film before calling it a day and heading back. After another filling meal (urp), we retired to the room where we now sit unwinding. Tomorrow is a new day where we will spend it at Tabacon, a resort 3 hours away with hot mineral baths and a promise of relaxation. It will surely be another perfect day in paradise.
P.S. it’s getting easier to keep away from the outside world via Facebook – probably because this scene is so much more interesting than my newsfeed. It’s also possible that my attention span is starting to get longer. Hm… Could it all be related? Likely.
Giving the kids something to talk about in therapy.