Thursday, May 25, 2006

Day 6 - Costa Rica - The beach and monkeys

Thursday we spent most of the day at the beach. There is a park on the beach that has trails and nice beaches, so we went there. It was a little peninsula that stuck out in the ocean with beaches on both sides and a jungle in the middle.

After relaxing on the beach for a while, we decided to head back and found a small trail that we hadn't explored yet. It was dark from all the trees and vegetation blocking the sun, and no one was on it, so it was quite eery. We kept seeing these bright colored crabs, orange and blue I think and we could also hear them scurrying in the bushes. As we went along there were more crabs and they were bigger, so we decided to go back the beach and go another way! :)

At the main trail to the beach a monkey all of a sudden jumped from a tree on one side of the trail to the other, which startled us! The white faced monkeys were right there. They came down and were looking around. I was standing right in front of one of the monkeys and I'll admit I was a little nervous, but I was getting some great video! :)

Later that afternoon while we were eating lunch at the hotel restaraunt, with a gorgeous view by the way, some squirrel monkeys were jumping and climbing around in the trees that were right next to our table. We thought after about ten of them that we wouldn't see any more, but there ended up being about thirty of them at least that came by. The squirrel monkeys were smaller and had a high pitched squeel....I think I would have thought their sound was from a bird if I couldn't see them with my eyes.

That night we met up with Alicia's friend Krissie, who lives in Costa Rica. She and her boyfriend, Jason, were very nice and took us to a local hangout spot in Quepos. We walked around the little town afterwards, which made Alicia nervous because it was dark and late and there were bums on the street. They also gave us a tour of Jason's father's house in Manuel Antonio, which was huge, with a great view and pool and rents for $10k a week! Bruce Willis and other stars have stayed there with their families.

Day 5 - Costa Rica - Drive from La Fortuna to Manuel Antonio

Wednesday was a long and rough day. We drove from La Fortuna (Arenal) to Manuel Antonio, which took us about 7 hours. Most of the drive was in the rain and we didn't really know where we are going. The signs in Costa Rica have much to be desired, and the roads were wet, windy and narrow.

The best part of the day was when we got back to the Pan American highway, and then pulled off at a town and saw a Pizza Hut. We were starved and this medium pepporoni pizza was the best food we had the whole trip!

We were so relieved to finally arrive at Manuel Antonio and find our hotel, Si Como No. This hotel was very nice, but different than Tabacon. Manuel Antonio is next to the Pacific Ocean and our room had a spectacular view of the ocean! We had our own deck with big windows overlooking the ocean.

Day 4 - Costa Rica - Butterflies, Hike to the Waterfall

On Tuesday we ate breakfast and then headed back up the bumpy road toward the Arenal Observatory and Sky Trek, but this time we went past Sky Trek to the Butterfly Observatory. It was very humid and we were sweating a ton! The people working at the observatory were very friendly and told us all about the butterflies and showed us a poisonous frog that has a red body and blue legs. He said in Costa Rica, they say they have blue jeans on.

The butterflies were in these mesh tents, like greenhouses. We took tons of pictures and video and were amazed at the various types and colors of butterflies! Then, it was back into the Dihatsu.

We drove back to the Arenal Observatory and this time we walked on a trail down to a waterfall. The hike was only about 30 minutes, but was fun to get out into nature.

The rest of the day we spent back at Tabacon at the pool and at the hot springs. That night we saw the volcano lava go down the side of the hill. It looked like was awesome! I didn't realize you could see it at night until someone pointed it out to me. Then I spent the rest of the evening trying to capture it on my camcorder! :)

Day 3 - Costa Rica - The Zip Line!

Monday morning we woke up early, ate the complimentary breakfast offered by the Tabacon resort, and started the drive to the Sky Trek zip line tours. We had good directions from the concierge at Tabacon, but we had no idea that the final road up to Sky Trek was going to be an off-road adventure! The road was gravel, or bigger rocks in some areas, and really wasn't too bad, but in our little Diahatsu it felt like we were going to need serious chiropractic care when we got back to the states! :)

When we arrived at Sky Tours, we were amazed at the beautiful view from the base. We were introduced to our tour guides, Hector and Elvis. We were lucky that we were there during the off season because normally they said 4-6 people would be on the tour, but in our case, we were the only ones! The views from up on the canopy platforms were amazing! We could see Lake Arenal and the Volcano Arenal.

Our tour guides showed us the basics of zip lining and then let us practice on a short line. After that, we were ready for the big lines! I had so much fun that I think my favorite thing I did on the trip! On the way down the zipline, I would get going so fast and then I could look to one side and see the lake and then look down and see how high I was above the trees. In all, I think there were around 8 different zip lines.

Afterwards, we went over to the Arenal Observatory, which is like a park with paved, and unpaved trails. The view of the volcano was great from there. We hiked around the grounds and saw some monkeys in the trees, took pictures of them, and then drove back to Tabacon.

At Tabacon we went swimming in their beautiful pool that was steps away from our room and ordered cheeseburgers. We were in paradise!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Day 2 - Costa Rica - Crazy Drive to Tabacon

This was an interesting day!

Alamo was supposed to deliver our car to the hotel, so I had found the directions to the highway that would take us most of the way to our next destination, Volcano Arenal. However, we were taken clear across the city of San Jose to the rental car location and had to get new directions.

Driving in Costa Rica was quite an experience! You take your life into your own hands when you make the decision to get on the roads with those crazy Costa Rican drivers! The roads are narrow, with no lanes. If there is an opening, a taxi driver or a big bus will fill it somehow, darting in and out, squeezing in between a parked car and a truck. They are crazy! Most, if not all of our marital fighting was while we were driving. There are no street signs, limited directional signs, and ABSOLUTELY NO RULES!

Once we got out of San Jose, it was much better. The highway had actual lanes and was in decent shape. We were on our way to San Ramon, a midpoint on our trip to Arenal. This road was not as crazy as San Jose, but had its own peril. The road was windy and narrow. This didn't seem to phase the Ticos. They sped around the corners with no thought as to if someone was coming the other way. They would sometimes even pass us on these blind corners!

The countryside was beautiful. So green! Rolling hills, Cattle, and farms...something off of a postcard or travel magazine. Every once in a while there was a small quaint town with the villagers sitting right on the highway watching a local soccer game. Several times we had to avoid hitting a Tico walking right down the street and not even flinching as we went by. It seems that the people there don't care if they live or die. Alicia liked the chickens that were outside most of the houses along the highway. There were signs everywhere of Cheese for sale, clean bathrooms, canopy tours, horse riding, or steak houses.

Since there is a lot of rain in Costa Rica, it makes sense that there be a lot of rivers, creeks, and streams. Well, because of these waterways, there must also be a lot of bridges on the highway. Well, in Costa Rica, they decided not to make bridges where cars in both directions can pass at the same time. We went over so many narrow bridges, wide enough for only one car. They put a Ceda or yield sign on one side of the bridge so that if two cars arrive at the same time, the one with the yield sign must wait. The most interesting bridge was one that was long and narrow, with gaps about half a tire in width and toward the end of the bridge there was a huge piece missing, so they just took a ramp from an auto garage to "bridge the gap" so to speak. :)

The drive was way more beautiful than it was dangerous! When we arrived at La Fortuna, we knew we were close. We could see the huge volcano in the distance. From there, the road weaved up to the right of the volcano with restaurants and hotels lining the road. Finally, we saw the rock sign of Tabacon and the cobblestone driveway. The hotel was absolutely gorgeous and the staff was very nice. They greeted us with guava juice and rolled up wet towels to cool our face.

After getting settled into our spacious, beautiful room with a great view of the volcano, we walked down to the natural hot springs. Tabacon has a restaurant, swimming pools, and beautiful natural hot springs that seem as if they come down from the volcano. The walkways and paths are paved with small bridges and waterfalls, with lots of private pools tucked away into the vegetation. The flowers and plants around the whole premises are absolutely spectacular. We walked around, got into the pools, and I stood under the waterfall with the hot water pounding on my shoulders. It was like a free heated massage!

Day 1 - Costa Rica - Fly to San Jose

Our day started with our ride to the airport not showing up at our house. So, we packed our bags into my Tahoe and parked in long term parking. We arrived plenty early at Sky Harbor International airport. We flew Continental Airlines and our trip from Phoenix to Houston went smoothly. I had brought the portable dvd player and some dvds, but we didn't need them because we had reading material.

In Houston we had a three hour layover and the airport was nice! We ate lunch at Papasitos (a Tex-Mex restaurant) in the airport, changed some dollars into colones (the Costa Rica currency), and I bought a book at Borders. As I was getting onto the next flight from Houston to San Jose, Costa Rica I thought about how glad I was that we had the dvd player for the three hour flight. The dvd player!!! I didn't have the portable dvd player!!! I had left it safely tucked under the seat in front of me on the previous flight!!! I frantically asked the Continental staff at the gate where I was boarding my flight. They said that since our plane was taking off in 15 minutes, that I should just board and fill out a report at the Costa Rica baggage claim. I was so mad at myself!!! But, we boarded the flight and Alicia was pretty nice about the whole thing.

We arrived at 9:30 pm in San Jose, CR and we went through customs. We had arranged our trip through a travel agency and there was someone waiting for us to take us to our hotel, Hotel Brittania. It was the first time I have ever had someone waiting for me with my name on a sign. We felt important! There were tons of people at the door outside the airport waiting for their brother, sister, dad, cousin, or maybe even aunt to arrive. They were all pressed up against the window like fans waiting for Michael Jackson.

We checked into the Hotel Brittania and got into our room. We were shocked at how small it was. It had two beds, one full and one queen with a little closet and a bathroom. There was barely enough room for the 13 inch TV! The best thing was the see-through "bath towel" that barely fit around my left butt cheek, or maybe it was the beer bottle opener installed on the tile wall in the bathroom. Pretty classy place!

I think we have turned into mattress, pillow and sheet snobs because of the nice ones we have. Neither of us slept well on the cement hard mattress with potato sack pillows.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Texas state capitol

Lake austin