Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Costa Rica 4: La Fortuna

Welcome to La Fortuna, a beautiful little town at the bottom of the Arenal Volcano. Here in the center of Guanacaste, Costa Rica, we experienced the most spectacular rain forests. All that elementary school education about tree frogs and sloths finally came to good use! We were sooooo lucky because we happened to have perfect weather for our entire stay (they don't call them "RAIN forests" for no reason). And usually the clouds are so thick and dense that you can't even see the volcano. But the gods came in and parted those fluffy cumulus muffins and left us a perfect view of this majestic beauty - every. single. day. See for yourself!

BUT - getting to a perfect destination requires some imperfect travel (Ce La Vie?). Since we decided to do public buses, we ended up having a full day trek from Nosara to La Fortuna. Yeah, tell me about it. And this time it wasn't by choice. In the end we took five different buses and went to the following towns: Nosara, Nicoya, Juantas, Canas, Tilaran, and then finally La Fortuna. A total of 6 towns, 5 buses, and 10 hours! It was long, but the journey was pretty hilarious. Our bus from Juantas to Canas was so packed that I had to squeeze into this little space at the bottom of the back door. I was surrounded by many small children. We didn't have room to take of our packs and Rachel's straps kept hitting the kids in the face. I kept trying to move them, but Rachel and I just busted up laughing every time we looked at each other. She tried to capture the moment, but as I'm sure you can imagine, getting a picture in that mess was an adventure itself.

See that kid on the left? He was hanging on for dear life. His toes were hanging off 6 inches of standing room. One time we stopped and started really fast so I put my hand up to keep him from falling. My hand just happened to be really close to his derriere. Aaaawkward. Haha. 

At our final stop before La Fortuna, we enjoyed ourselves some species of oranges. YU-UM! In Costa Rica they scrape off the hard outer edge so you can squeeze the orange for your very own juice. 

When in Costa Rica, do as the Tico's do. And by golly you better do it with joy!

These lil guys were our first encounter with Costa Rica wildlife (aside from those scary Howler Monkeys... *shudder*) They are called Coati and they feed off human scraps. Soooo, Tico Racoons. Every country has 'em I guess. I imagine they like their cheetos spicy, so keep that in mind. 

For the rest of the day, we just wanted to chill. Our hostel had a pool. Wahoo! So we saw no reason for getting out of beach mode just yet. But lucky me what did I discover out on the pool deck?

THIS GUY! I call him Gustavo. 

He was a little camera shy. And Jenny shy. We made eye contact and he smiled before he ran away.

But he made up for it by showing off his swimming skills!

Ok, enough of Gustavo. Sorry girls, if you want more, come over and see the action series I got of him. I'm thinking of making it into a calendar. 

Anyway, La Fortuna is pretty much activity central of Costa Rica. Rachel and I participated in three. I had to separate them into different posts, but here is activity 1: Hanging Bridges!

These pictures were taken at the beginning of our trek. It's part of the national park. What a beautiful view! And that Volcano sure looks great too. (haha, ok, oldest trick in the book, but I just couldn't resist. 

We finally made it into the rain forest. Apparently there are so many people on this trail everyday that most of the wildlife has fluttered away, but we got lucky. We found THIS GUY!

Yep, that's a snake. Be jealous. So jealous. 

And when the wildlife was sparse, Rachel and I became the wildlife.

This my Spider Monkey face... caught in the act!

Watch out Tucan Sam! Tucan Rachel's on the rise!

Now I'm an alligator... ready for the kill.

And Rachel is... uh... a SLOTH. Reaching, reaching, reaching... She'll get there eventually.

And then we actually saw a sloth. People, I can not tell you how EXCITED I was! All I really wanted to see was a sloth. Most people go their whole Costa Rica lives never getting in contact with these fine fellows, and there I was, face to ...sleeping bod. But he was a sloth. And I fell in love.

Oh my GOSH! Isn't he the sweetest?

And just to prove that we were on a high hanging bridge, we had the "Credible" Richard (our chill-tastic tour guide who said "Yes! I am so credible!") snag a quick photo of us. 

Pretty nifty indeed. And this is the beautiful view from the that very hanging bridge.

And just to prove it wasn't all rain forest, I made Rachel take a picture of this sa-weet squirrel. She chided me saying, "when I get home, I'm going to look through all these pictures and say 'Why are there so many %*#@ pictures of squirrels!?'" (she actually only said dang, but I had to add the exclamations for effect... tee hee).

Ok, well, he may not look like much to you, but check it. He was Brown, Black, AND Tan. A Tri-colored squirrel! You should have seen it, he was great!

And just because I couldn't resist, I took some pictures of flowers that are native in Costa Rica. Impatiens and begonias. Look at those colors! Beautiful aren't they? Apparently they grow like weeds. How "unfortunate."

Tomorrow we get to explore the Rio Celeste - a beautiful river that has been turned blue by volcanic sulfur. We will also discover the town of La Fortuna in all of it's charm. I'm getting excited just thinking about it!! 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Costa Rica 3: Playa San Juanillo

I think it's time to share a secret. I'm a giant, shameless... nerd. And the next couple of posts will probably prove it. He're the part of our trip where we (or I should probably say I) start to get excited about the crrrraziest things. But what's it to ya? It makes for more interesting blog posts, right?
Here are two videos of our ATV ride to Playa Juanillo near Nosara. Holy moly Costa Rica has a beauuuutiful countryside! We also had our own little "high adventure." We had to traverse a river to make it to this beach. I'm just glad we weren't in a car. Probably wouldn't have had to guts to make it...

And we made it. Playa Juanillo, most definitely one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever been to. I felt like I was living in a commercial. And check out all that greenery!

And then there were feet pictures.

Nerd alert part 1: I made Rachel stand in front of this rock while I put the camera in action mode. Hence the perfecto splash picture. Also hence the 400 other pictures of the wave coming, Rachel freaking out, and then standing perfectly poised as she was drenched by awesomeness. I'm particularly fond of the picture below... "Er... is this water sanitary??".

Nerd alert 2: We found a sea urchin hole and I was so excited. I tried to get Rachel to sit in it... but she was afraid of getting stuck - or maybe getting sucked into a third dimension. How cool would that be!? Side note: I actually also got an action shot of a water snail. If I ever get the energy to put all the action shots in a movie, you will see how freaking cool this sea life can be!)

Nerd alert 3: Yep. We snorkeled. There wasn't much to see, but I had a blast floatin' with my lil fishes in the sea. I'm pretty sure we had some special bonding moments. With the fish.

We only had the ATV for 4 hours, so we had to head back while the sun was still high. But it was ok, because we discovered a black sand beach and ate at a cute little "soda." 

This is the bathroom at the Soda. That door states "Bano de Mujer." hehe, waaaay more effective than those silly little pictures of stick girls in the States!

And when we returned the ATV we found this little treat.

Classy boys, reeeeeal classy. But I must confess, we giggled lots anyway.

Even though it was our last night in town, we were pooped. So we decided to watch the sunset (again) and give ourselves some Costa Rican delicacies. TRITS (a juicy ice cream and graham cracker treat) and Pina Coladas (sin alcohol!). 

Had it not been for all the walking and playing we did, those TRITS may have been responsible for a 5 lb ring around my mid-section. Come to think of it, I still may be walking off those suckers. 

But our time was up in Nosara, and again it was time for us to move forward on our trek. So we got our back packs packed and our shoes tied tight... and hoped we wouldn't get in a fight... (reference anyone?) and woke up early (5am) with the Howler Monkeys (um... can I say they are some scary specimen?) to start our journey to La Fortuna. 

Watch out, tomorrow we have a SLOTH ALERT! Get excited people. Get. excited.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Costa Rica 2: Nicoya and Nosara

Note: Public travel in a foreign country is an experience. Rachel and I learned the backpacking way that buses take FOR-EV-ER. Naturally you can't just hop from one town to the other, and there's no red or blue line directly to your destination (as with the subway or metro). No, colors for these buses indicate level of comfort. Grey: you've got your own comfy seat and plenty of AC to calm the oncoming heat stroke. White: you still have a comfy seat, but make sure you're sitting next to a window. 'Nuff said. Yellow: WATCH OUT! Unless you are one of the first 5 people in line, this is standing room only and you will likely be riding with the groceries waaay in the back. Make sure you don't lock your knees cuz it's going to be a long 2 hours before you stop again. Needless to say, Rachel and I got our fair share of yellow buses. I guess they are called "chicken buses" because it isn't uncommon to have people bring their pet chickys with them. Hehe... actually I kind of liked the adventure.

But since we had to travel through our share of towns we decided to take advantage of it. From Tamarindo we took a bus to Santa Cruz, which then dropped us off in Nicoya. After many hand signals and lots of Spanglish, Rachel and I discovered that there were two buses leaving to Nosara that day (our final destination on this leg of the trip), one 30 mins from that time and one 3 hours later. So naturally we took the  later bus! And I'm so glad we did.

Nicoya is a charming little town tucked in the middle of the Nicoya Peninsula. It's main attraction is this old mission-style church. Unfortunately there weren't giving tours on Tuesdays, so we just showed ourselves around. 

Look at that majestic wood work! We were in awe at how simply beautiful it was. 

We also found these cool benches in the park outside of the church. They each had different native artwork on them. It has started to fade, but you can still see all the cool Indian-style details. 

After we finished walking around the church (and resting our heavy packs), we took a stroll around the town. I was excited to find this 'lil treasure!

I asked Rachel if we could stay the night there. Pleaded really. But she said it looked skeevy. "Pa-sha!" was my reply. How could ANYTHING named Jenny be "skeevy?" Silly Rachel. She wasn't convinced. Fine, next time I stop by Nicoya, that hotel is ALL MINE. Literally?

And then... we found a pastry shop. As you can tell from my expression I was totally in eating shock. My mouth wouldn't stop moving in on that bready stuff no matter what I did. Nom nom nom nom nom... Rachel couldn't pull that chocolate, cheesy goodness from my cold dead fingers. Yet somehow she found a way to make me share with her. She's cunning like that.

Sunburned Chikas in front of one of those fateful yellow buses!

Frutas! We didn't buy more of that stuff till later in the trip. We were too engrossed with pastries and such. Our digestive systems suffered from that choice. But hey, isn't it the cutest street style picture?

This is inside our rickity bus to Nosara AFTER we had passed our stop. You can tell by the way no one is on the bus that something was wrong. Very wrong. Eventually the bus driver told us to get of and go "that way." I swear he pointed in a swirly 45 degree angle direction. Luckily we found an English speaking cab driver who said he would give us a "good deal" of $20 to take us 5km. Ah-hem Mr. taxi driver, we may be gringos, but we are not stupid gringos. He took the price down to $10 - a "special price" for us. Had our skin been brown we may have been able to trade a chicken. But no such luck for lobster-skinned Americans.

This is where he dropped us!

courtesy of 

courtesy of 
Of course it was completely pitch dark when we got to "the Bueno," but we were given beds. Kind of. I was assigned a bed on the first floor. Somehow I knew I wasn't going to get any sleep that night. Maybe it was because the kids were already a lil tipsy, and they hadn't even gone out yet. So Rachel and I shared a twin bed that first night. After that I got my own bed upstairs. And now you know how to get really close to a travel mate ;). But the Solo Bueno ended up being a really cool place to stay. We met some fun travelers here and really enjoyed the laid back feel of this surf town. Basically we spent all of our time here on beaches.

I have to say it was the most beautiful beach by far I had ever been to. Crystal clear water, beautiful scenery wherever you looked, and pristine weather. 

Unfortunately we were still rather sunburned, so we found a tree to chill under. I got a great way through Freakanomics. Ahhh, I miss that calming moment.

Rachel found her new BFF. Mr. Hermy Crab. He was a little frisky - just kissed and ran! But we got it documented before he went too far.

And then we watched our first sunset on the Costa Rica coast. Oh my heavens it was beautiful. 

This Sasquatch-lookin hooligan is Boyd, one of the Dutch guys staying in our hostel. He was taking pictures of the surfers at sunset and we couldn't resist capturing the moment he strolled on by. 

And this is why people move to Costa Rica. To be apart of this picturesque moment.

We had a very fun/interesting stay at the Solo Bueno. Our hostel ended up getting robbed the first night while we were sleeping (we were the only ones unaffected because we locked up our valuables. One point for paranoia!!), and actually we didn't sleep much because our hostel-mates were quite the partiers. But that's what you get with $12 a night, right? But I'm still glad we went and stayed there. We cooked for ourselves a lot and we met a lot of really cool travelers at the Bueno. I had some great conversations about traveling, surfing and life. I also had quite the time convincing people that America was worth traveling to. Apparently Jersey Shore has done more damage than we think. Yipes!

But one of the best parts of going to Nosara was taking the ATV ride to Playa San Juanillo. It was our first real activity of the trip and boy was it a great way to start! Stay tuned for our ATV snorkel trip coming up next.