Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What I Did On My Winter Vacation, Part One

When we went to Costa Rica for our honeymoon, Bill’s arm looked like this:

A blue waterproof cast was our unfortunate
travel companion.
We wanted to go white-water rafting when we were there but, as Bill’s right thumb and wrist were unbendable we bailed on that plan. But, his booboo arm became the perfect excuse to go back to do what he wasn’t able to do the first time around. Earlier this year Bill suggested that, for our birthdays and Christmas, we gift each other with a trip back to Costa Rica.

Best idea ever.

Last Friday we got up at the crack, hopped on a plane and headed to Charlotte, N.C. And then to San Jose, Costa Rica. As the plane began to descend we immediately felt the cold of the northeast turn into sweet humidity. I am cold at all times and I was immediately thrilled to have eight days and nights where I didn’t have to worry about being freezing.

Our bags were the first in the baggage claim! We were first in line for immigration and customs! We found our rental car van driver guy right away! Best vacation of all time! The driver sped away from the airport and we zoomed onto the highway. The zooming lasted for about 60 feet when we met up with a giant mofo traffic jam. We sat and sat, but we didn’t care. Vacation, dammit!

Then, something special happened. One by one, each car, 18-wheeler, banana truck and bus began u-turning. On the highway. No police help, no honking, no yelling. Just non-angry drivers collectively deciding to calmly get themselves out of crazy traffic. Just like what happens in Philadelphia. Except not.

Anyway, we grabbed our car – manual transmission. On our honeymoon we had to switch our rental from stick to automatic because of the booboo arm. Bill apparently loves driving stick but renting one meant he would be doing all the driving. I can drive a manual as long as I don’t have to start, shift, stop, park, go, turn left, turn right, go forward and go backward. Otherwise I am good at it.

We still had what we thought would be about a three-hour drive to the Caribbean coast before making it to our first destination. After working our way through San Jose rush hour we began weaving over, under around and through mountain after mountain. It got dark. Fog rolled in. Rain soon followed. The lines disappeared from the road. The speed limit was 40km/hr. We were going 30. Then 20. We got wedged between two giant trucks for miles as we blindly made our way toward the coast.

Our three-hour drive turned into five hours. We finally made our way to Cashew Hill Lodge, eight cabins on the edge of the rain forest in Puerto Viejo. Andrew, the owner (a 25-year-old kid and his girlfriend who, a year ago, where house hunting in Rochester and ended up in Costa Rica instead) warmly welcomed us despite the late hour and the fact that we were basically sleeping with our eyes open. He helped us get settled in our cabin and we fell into bed.

I was wide awake at 7 the next morning and headed outside to see where exactly we had ended up.

Works for me.
We walked into town to look for some breakfast (the ketchup and cheese sandwiches I assembled in the car the night before didn’t really cut it) and ended up at Bread and Chocolate.

Bread? Good! Chocolate? Good! Everything was vegetarian, made in-house (including the bread, chocolate, peanut butter cups (!) cream cheese and regular cheese and the eggs were from some chickens wandering around the back yard). French-press coffee for the equivalent of 80 cents. What a happy place.

We packed a pack and headed to Cahuita National Park. A narrow path carved between the rain forest and ocean lead the way past butterflies, birds, sloths, sweeping ocean views and little coves where we eventually ducked in for a swim. By the end the trail shoes I’d been hiking with were dirty, sandy and smelly. As were Bill’s. We realized that, for the next eight days, we’d be spending the bulk of our time in nasty, smelly shoes. Part of the fun.

At first I thought this was a seal. Instead it is just wood.

Sloth?! Chunk!

Had to sprint and dive to get into the water before the timer went off.
Good exercise.
We speculated that there had to be poisonous snakes nearby but decided to pretend that there weren’t. Coconuts falling from the trees were, fortunately, the most dangerous thing we encountered.

After scrubbing off as much funk as possible, we headed into town for dinner – aside from fish, everything was vegetarian and everything was delicious. Headed to a bar for a few drinks. I felt like it had to be at least midnight and I was getting sleepy, so we headed back to the cabin. It was 9:40. I am old.

The next day the sun was blazing. We decided it would be a perfect day for surf lessons – the water didn’t look too rough and we quickly found a dude who traded a bit of cash for two boards and a three-hour lesson. Bill’s surfed before plus he snowboards. I’ve never tried and I ski. Thus, the lesson was as follows: Bill surfed, I stood with both feet pointing directly forward and then fell into the water over and over again. I still had fun and quickly realized that with a bit of practice surfing would be pretty fun. An old board lives in our basement and I am going to drag it to the Jersey beach this summer, I swear.

After “surfing” we headed out for a run onto a path behind where we were staying. The path quickly turned into sliding down muddy hills, scrambling up muddier hills and trees, flowers and other pretty things, at least at first. The path eventually ended on private property, also known as a giant marijuana farm. We ran away. Bill ran faster. I took pictures.

Took a turn onto some side trails that were the sloppiest, most rooted, most entertaining things I’ve ever run on. The shoe-sucking mud almost claimed my Cascadias over and over again. But, fortunately, they stayed put. After about a mile we realized that the trails were getting a bit complicated. Wanting to become neither marijuana farmers nor permanent residents of the jungle we decided to head back and begin the task of trying to get out trail shoes less nasty.

We are cleaner.

Our little cabin in the dark.
That night the rain came. I mean, it is the rain forest after all. It poured and poured and POURED. AND POURED. I slept like a lump, lulled by the rain on the tin roof and birds that seemed thrilled by the storm.

Woke up bright and early and the rain continued on. This wasn’t a drizzle – it was the type of rain that hurts when it hits you, the type of rain that negates raincoats and umbrellas in seconds.

Fortunately, we had nothing planned for the day except lazing around and moving on to stop number two, all of 3k down the road. When planning our trip we found two places that looked cool and couldn’t pick. So, both.

Coming soon: Place two.


HeathPS said...

What happened to Bill's arm??

Mallory said...

OMG that looks AWESOME! So jealous! Looks like you had an amazing trip!

Laurie said...

Heath,that picture was from our honeymoon. Aftet the wedding he traded the B&W cast for a waterproof blue one.

Abby said...

Sounds like an incredible trip! Did you hang onto enough tropical warmth to get you through the Philly winter?