Sunday, January 8, 2012

Costa Rica Arenal Day 27


We are living the dream in our last few days in Costa Rica.  Arenal Nayara has proven to be much much nicer then we had expected.  Our Casita Deluxe has a hammock and double whirlpool tub on our deck and a shower that leads out to a gorgeous outdoor shower / garden.  And what we didn't realize when we selected this hotel is that it is rated "the most romantic hotel in central and south america" and "top 5 most romantic hotel in the world"!  So even though there aren't any other kids here and the pool is not really for kids - they seem to love it and the honeymooners seem to love them!  

Today was our 3rd full day at the volcano, and we were very lucky to see it.  We met some other people here that left before the clouds briefly opened up to show the volcano.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Costa Rica Playa Chiquita Day 22

We arrived a day early at our new hotel.  Luckily, they had a vacant bungalow that we were able to stay in last night.  It had just 1 king sized bed that we all slept in.  The four of us configured to maximize the space - I was along the bottom making an L with Christian and the kids diagonally in between.  It worked out well.

The pool here is beautiful.  Jaida is really getting good at swimming the length of a large pool.  Also at the pool was a giant beetle, dragonflies and an enourmous butterfly (but the body was like a small bat - we are not sure what the heck this thing was).

The gardens are amazing.  The trees have so many things growing on them (vines, ferns, flowers).  There is one giant tree - it is one of the biggest trees I have ever seen.  The woman that built all of these bungalows said that it was measured by the surveyors and it is said to be the 2nd tallest tree in Costa Rica but it is the girth that amazes us.  It's canopy has an opening around it and the green leaves glow against the blue sky, it is magical.

The food at the restaurant here is excellent.

Our bungalow has a huge deck with a couch and hammock and cozy lanterns.  Inside the very tall a-frame structure, we have a king sized bed and 2 singles.  There are meshed windows on all walls and the airflow is great.  It truely is paradise.

We continue to take illegal cabs everywhere we go and the kids are getting tired of it.  We tried to rent a golf cart at the red eye rental place in Puerto Viejo but the guy says none of them have a battery.  We also tried to rent bikes and a quad but it just hasn't worked out yet...

the night the 4 of us had to sleep in 1 bed

our bungalow

my favourite tree - 100 ft from our deck

yes, this car is driving

look at the size of that beetle corpse

our deck

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Costa Rica Punta Mona Day 21

We went to Punta Mona Center for Sustainable Living and Education for 2 nights.  This is a huge organic farm along the southern most Carribean coast of Costa Rica just a few km from the Panama border.  The only ways to get there are by boat or a 2 hour hike through the jungle with a machete.  We took the boat.  The center uses solar panels for power, collects and filters the water for drinking and grows 80% of their food.

The kids absolutely loved going there and didn't want to leave.  It was an exciting adventure for us and we are really glad we went.  We were supposed to stay 3 nights but there were a few things that weren't working for me so I was wanting to leave early and then we were told a storm was coming in and the boats might not be able to take us out on the day we were supposed to leave (it happens all the time) so we left a day early.  

The good:
  • The gardens were outstanding.  They had little colourful wooden signs hanging from some of the trees.  Cherries, Guanavana, lime, cacao, pomegranite, zapote, star fruit, papaya, mango, cocnuts.  We all had the chance to taste things we've never even heard of - like a fruit that tasted like peanut butter.
  • For dinner, we went out into the dark garden through a path of jungle that took over the previous 8 years of edible gardens with flashlights and clippers.  We picked kutuck, spinach, star fruit and some other delicious green stuff to make the salad.  
  • The food was unbelievably delicious (for me and Christian - not so much for the kids).
  • The sounds at night: geckos, frogs, crickets - from all directions so seperate but somehow coordinated and perfectly in balance.  And then the rain - it was so loud in our cabin that Christian and I could not talk to each other.
  • The sand castles on the beach.
  • The hammocks.  There were so many hammocks around, we played boat in each one of them.
  • The firefly's and giant toads at night.
  • The boat ride to get there: it is an outstanding view, it was warm, the water was fairly calm and we had to surf our boat to get in between
  • The boat ride to get home:  getting stopped by Costa Rican coast guard because we were in an unlabelled unlicensed boat so close to the Panama border.
  • Toucans.
  • Uno, gin, pick up sticks, memory with the kids.
  • The humming bird that liked to fly through our cabin.
  • The home of an 85 year old man that lives alone, off the grid, in that house on the beach for 50 years.  Each night all the volunteers would go over to his house and play dominos for hours.

The bad:
  • Lying in bed smelling the outhouse beside us.
  • Snuggling into a blanket that had a giant beetle that pinched me.
  • Christian sitting on a toilet and finding a small snake crawl on his leg.
  • Sleeping in a mosquito net with a few mosquitos trapped inside and a 6 inch cricket on top.
  • Depending on other people for our food and electricity.  The first night we hung out in the main dinning area for an hour in the dark alone and hungry.  Finally someone came around and turned on the electricity and told us dinner would be in half an hour but that was a Costa Rican half an hour which actually was an hour and a half.  So the first night Blake fell asleep in my arms before dinner was ready. 
  • The fly's on the fruit before we ate it.
  • Being 3 of 10 people in a 60 person camp made us feel very alone.
  • Mosquitos.  We counted over 200 mosquito bites - and that is after using the spray and wearing long pants and shirts.  So much for avoiding dengue fever!

Jaida loved the boat ride

arriving at Punta Mona

view from eating area

our cabin

our main hang out

hammock fun

stinky outhouse in our cabin

not sure what it is, but the body is about 3 inches long

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Costa Rica Puerto Viejo Day 17

We beached at Punta Uva today - voted one of the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the world.  We found a little spot sheltered by a coral reef so we could sit on the steep slope of the beach and let the water calmly wash over us.  The beach DJ played some chill reggae (reggae plays everywhere in Puerto Viejo) and we played in the sand for a few hours.

What interesting sand.  It is so soft and fluffy and it was golden brown.

We tried getting chips and salsa with our beers and fruity drinks but we ended up with yucca chips and some mayo dill dip but it was awesome.

We went to Nadia and Antonio's house for a visit, they are the owners of our villa.  The moved from Italy 5 years ago and say that life in Costa Rica has been a dream come true for them.  They built their house and 3 villas that they rent out.

I am inspired to learn Spanish.  I was sort of able to have a noun-only conversation with our taxi driver today.  It is very similar to French - I was on fire recognizing the words and coming up with some myself!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Costa Rica Puerto Viejo Day 16

We have had an exciting few days.

Christmas morning was very fun for the kids as Santa brought them a small sock full of goodies and a number of gifts they were thrilled with.

Our trip to Puerto Viejo took 10.5 hours.  Surprisingly, Jaida, Blake and I were totally fine, the kids not complaining once.  Michele got terribly car sick during the drive.  It got so bad she questionned travelling up to Arenal next week because it is another long, windy drive.

Puerto Viejo is a very special town.  To me, it is something out of a fairy tale.  The town isn't much larger than 16 blocks square and the beach is butt up against the main road without even a sidewalk in between.  There are tons of hippy cyclists (zero helmets) and the town has a very Jamaican feel but is much more touristy than I would have thought.

We have settled into our villa, a two bedroom home with a small kitchen and patio for eating.

The morning after we arrived we heard a deafening roar from the property next door.  The kids ran into our room terrified.  You would have sworn it was a wild boar fight or an air raid siren.  Nadia, the property owner, told is it was a howler monkey.  We now find out they are one of the loudest animals on earth.  I still cannot believe that this sound comes from a relatively small monkey.  Apparently they have a special bone that helps amplify their "roar".

Today was breakfast at Bread and Chocolate, an outstanding cafe with organic foods, a trip to the Chocolate Museum where we cracked cocoa beans and made chocolate, a swim at the Museum's pool, an afternoon lunch on the beach with a few beers and a game of foosball with a local boy about eight.

-- Christian

Christmas morning

Cacao plant


Friday, December 23, 2011

Costa Rica Manuel Antonio Day 11

We've been totally chilling.  A little beach, a little pool, a little coffee, a little beer.  A nice balance.

The beach today was quite different from all the other days.  It was a hot sunny day (our first sunny day) and the beach was packed.  We went at high tide and there were some decent surfing and boogey boarding waves.  Pablo told us that my surf instructor Charlie saved a man and his son after they were pulled out by a rip tide earlier.  So we kept to the super shallow water but had a great time with the waves crashing in all directions.

Jaida and I went on a night jungle walk at Si Como No.  It was amazing.  I cannot believe how loud the jungle is at night time.  We can hear it at our hotel because we have jungle all around us, but when you are in the jungle without buildings and roads it is 10 times louder.

Unfortunately, I do not know how to use our camera very well.  I attempted to get pictures of red eyed tree frogs, a tarantula,  and some crazy big bugs including a walking stick bug but none of them really turned out.