Wew were able to leave 14 hrs early to get out of Boston before the big snowstorm. Was nice to not have to wake up at 3am to get to the airport.
Wew were able to leave 14 hrs early to get out of Boston before the big snowstorm. Was nice to not have to wake up at 3am to get to the airport.
We had an easy morning and got to the Charlotte Airport in plenty of time. Today is the dreaded travel day of sitting and waiting. The flight was an easy 4 hours. We were able to get a taxi at the airport easily and headed to our San Jose pitstop – LeBergerac hotel. Excellent service. Quickly settled in and out to an authentic Costa Rican meal at Nuestra Tierra. Huge meals were scrumptious.
So we knew up front to expect a different perspective on time. It was so wonderful to have someone pick us up (at all our transitions) and not have to coordinate or worry about it on our own. At 7:30 we were picked up by a van taxi for a quick ride through the city to a small airport. There we checked in for our short 1 hour flight to Palma Sur. I don't fly in little prop planes often. But along the trip I kept thinking that everything was better than a ride at Disney, including the floating feeling of bumpiness over the mountain range first for a quick stop at Quepos then to our destination. We were met at the tiny airport by the next leg of the adventure. About a 20 minute way for another group and we were on our way for a quick 20-30 minute ride to Sierpa. Beautiful going through rural area of really tall palm trees into a tiny town.
Once we arrived at Sierpa we had another 45 minute wait as the boat 'driver' packed his vessel with our luggage and supplies for the lodge. What was supposed to be an hour boat ride ended up more like almost two. But I think we went the scenic route. The boat captain spoke no english but was good at spotting wildlife along the way - a crocodile bathing, birds, a snake somewhere in a tree that I still couldn't see. The french couple could interpret a little bit about what he was saying.
The river was smooth. He told us that when the tide is low the water comes from the ocean bringing debri. When the tide is high the water flows to the ocean. As the river widened I wondered whether some of the rugged docks were our destination. All of a sudden we hit a transition into the Pacific Ocean. Donning our lifejackets now we greeted the rough pacific with glee. The rocks of lava, I'd imagine this is what Hawaii might be like.
Finally we entered a cove and slowed down to a hum. Boats were congregating in a little area by lava rocks. There we pulled in and stepped out to our final destination (Marenco Lodge) into the warm waters of the pacific. Hello Pacific Ocean, I don't think we've met like this ever before.
Warmly greeted by Diego who we followed up a very steep hill, luckily paved/stepped with rocks. Our bags were loaded into a trailor on the back of a small tractor and magically transported to our bungalow out of sight.
Have we landed on Fantasy Island?? Palm trees galore. Huge bamboo lined the walk up the hill. After about 15 minutes in the newly cherished heat and humidity we made it to the main lodge and dining area. People there enjoying lunch already and happily gazing at the local birds in the trees.
We were greeted by very yummy juice and lunch. Afterwards the manager reviewed all of the logistics with us and we were shown our bungalow. I think we got the best room in the house. Overlooking the cove on the pacific where we had been let out of the boat. Enough room for the four of us, and our house pet 'Fred' the yellow and black salamander hanging out on the wall of the bathroom.
We all decided to get down to the beach. A hike down the hill and over to an area where a few other guests had congregated. The pacific water was warm like a bath. It was sensational especially having just left winter and a snowstorm behind. We hadn't thought about the hike back up the hill but it was worth it.
Relaxing was in order. Post beach exploration, I took my book to the dining lodge where I sat until dinner at 7. There were quite a few other guests so we were able to meet some interesting new people. And a large group arrived shortly after we did.
Dinner was served family style. The lodge was filled with chatter and laughter. The generator kept the electricity on for only a few hours. After dinner, I decided to stay a little while longer to read while the other 3 in my group got settled. I made it back to the room around 10 when lights went out.
Definitely fantasy island. I can hear tattoo now.
So settling into the dark bungalow the first evening, making myself as comfortable as possible on a thin mattress with a mosquito net surround. The heat and humidity did not wane. I didn't expect to be sweatier at night than I was in the day.
Luckily, my ipod served double-duty as a bed flashlight and sound machine. The sound of the waves outside were intense and soothing. The only thing I could get to synchronize was 'chant' by the Benedictine Monks.
Our day actually begins around 2 or 2:30 am when the rain starts. Now it's supposed to be the dry season, but it was refreshing almost to hear the sound of rain on the tin roof. By 3pm it was torrential and the howler monkeys were barking loudly. At 3:15, we all stirred and one by one we got up to go out and sit on our porch. The silence and joy of sitting in a canvas slingback pearing out into the moonlit darkness of the strom was absolutely incredible!! Couldn't have ordered it better.
We all finally got back to bed once the rain simmered down. The sun woke us up again around 6:30. The one who went to get coffee missed the white faced monkeys swarming our bungalow. From the top of a nearby 'cabin' they jumped into the trees by us, and came closer. A sudden thud and a turn to the left to see one peaking over the side. Guess they were hungry for breakfast!
7am was time for a scrumptious breakfast buffet of juevos, frutas, y gallo pinto. I don't eat bread but it was there for the taking. Maybe even pancakes.
Another trek down to the beach to board a boat. Our guide for the day was Carlos, a freelancer who had once spent much time as the lead guide for Marenco. The new lead guide was assigned to the bigger group. But Carlos was our guy, along with the french couple and their son we were off to explore Corcovado National Park on foot. After a 30 minute boat ride, we arrived. The morning was spent walking through part of the park, first the beach then into the woods. We were able to spot the native wildlife from monkeys, raccoon-like mammals, birds, and even the tiniest of hermit crabs.
Took a break near a small creek where we were able to enjoy fresh coconut. Yum. Back into the woods. I learned so much from Carlos, about the flora and fauna. So interesting. Then to the lunch spot.
After lunch we took a second short hike, this one a little bit more energetic up and down a hill via a very narrow path. The final destination a large pool of cold water beneath a broad waterfall. Not a tall huge stream of a waterfall but one that poured over rocks maybe 6-8ft difference. This was fun because there was an area to sit in the rocks and get a virtual massage. Super fun.
On the way back we finally got to capture some Pappagallos on digital. Another boat ride back to the lodge. After cleaning up from our day, I took advantage of the public dining area again to sit quietly and read.
When all of a sudden someone cried - "look whales'. And low and behold out in the ocean there indeed was a group of humpbacks. Lucky for the bigger group as their boat was just coming back at the same time so we could see them out in the water. Amazing!
So great to just congregate with others, no electricity, no cell phones, no computers. Looking at the birds and whales with our naked eyes and the binoculars there for us.
Horseback riding while the others in my group went snorkeling. I didn't know what to expect. Had seen several other groups on horses the day before. The manager at the lodge said I could go on a half-day (2 hours up and down the beach) or a full-day. The full-day was down the beach up into the country and included lunch with a Costa Rican family. Okay I'm in, but I'm on my own.
My guide Diego spoke a little bit of english and helped to point out a few things along the way. On the road on a horse with no name. He may not have been happy to be on the road, but went along in auto-pilot. The initial paths were so narrow and steep I never would have walked those on my own, so 5 feet above the ground was treacherous.
The first few hours went by peacefully along the beach, some monkeys and pappagallos. The dog hanging at the lodge followed me most of the way on the beach. Then all of a sudden we were going up. Now this is the native Costa Rica I was hoping to see. The one lane dirt roads, an occasional house. After maybe 2.5 hours we got closer to the destination. Houses became more common. Then a path down a very muddy wide road in the forest. The trail narrowed and all of a sudden through a gate we were there.
The owner of the horses family ranch. A daughter in the hammock on the porch. The wife/mother cooking away in the kitchen. No one spoke english and my spanish was not up to conversational skills. Waiting patiently in a rocker in this large dining area and kitchen. Watched the daughter shred carrots. What were we waiting for?
Finally about an hour into the wait, about 6 teenage girls walked into the compound. They greeted the daughter in spanish and French (what?). Then I thought I heard a german dialect. Lunch was on. Buffet style traditional Costa Rican meal. Started with soup of some sort. Then rice, black beans, beef sauteed with potatoes. Delicious.. At one point I could tell they were commenting that I didn't speak Spanish but they were speaking three languages, none English. Very lost in translation.
The ride back to the lodge was steep and muddy. The trail the guide new had been closed so the horse reluctantly went down a hill of mud. Leaning straight back the whole way down. Boy what a day.
Today was a transition day between the two legs of our trip. We had to be packed, leaving our bags for the staff to take down to the bottom of the hill. This was a return of the trip in – boat ride, van ride, plane, van, back to hotel in San Jose.
But a surprise awaited us!
Someone else at the lodge had mentioned mangroves but we hadn't seen them on the ride in. The first boat ride was supposed to take an hour but took almost two (island time). So the ride back we were met with a surprise when we turned quickly and found ourselves in this amazing mangrove with roots everywhere... Better than a disney jungle cruise any day!
We were famished by our journey by the time we got back to San Jose, same hotel, and settled into our new rooms. Decided to go back to the same restaurant as Sunday since it was so close. A 24 hour restaurant, early afternoon it was slammed. I ordered my meal and then ordered rice pudding - primero. "First?" the waiter was confused? Si. So I knew I could eat something quickly.
That evening we had to repack for the next leg of the trip.
Again delighted to not have had to plan all the little details of navigating our way to destinations. We were picked up at 7am by a bus with others in it – cool we aren't alone. On our way to the Pacuare River and lodge.
The first leg of the trip was the 2.5 hour van ride. We stopped in the mountain area for another traditional breakfast. Gallo pinto, juevos, and this really yummy cheese with fresh fruit. There was a chill in the air and the fog quickly settled in.
about 45 minutes later we were dropped off and told to walk down the hill, a steep hill. At the bottom, the boats were waiting. Our things were put into waterproof bags and we donned our safety gear. The group separated into two boats and we were on our way. Cold water but super fun. A nice stop at a small waterfall. This was just a teaser though.
We arrived at the Pacuare River lodge in the early afternoon with hot chocolate and the manager awaiting us.
This place was amazing. It was a gorgeous camp for adults.
An afternoon hike into the property and another waterfall - very cold! Happy hour with all our new friends and an amazing gourmet 3-course dinner. What!
A free day at the Pacuare lodge is just what the doctor ordered. They had many options for additional activities, so I decided on the early morning birdwalk rather than the more expensive canopy tour. Partially because I wanted an excuse to return to this part of heaven and partially because I wanted to have some alone time without the group.
I opted for the morning bird walk. Sun came out for a bit in the morning. This was supposed to be the dry season but two weeks earlier it had rained so much that they'd closed the river for a day or so. It was so nice not having electricity, being isolated from the rest of the world.
The 3 meals a day were incredible. Breakfast and lunch were buffet family style. Dinner was 3 courses with choice of two different items per course. Amazing! The staff was delightful and helpful. The happy hour was another opportunity to mix and mingle with the people who came in with us on the boats and those that arrived today.
Today is the day we'd all pined for – whitewater rafting on the Pacuare for the full day!
Words cannot describe this experience. I have been waiting for this day for so long and planning this trip finally coming to fruition. Our guide from the day coming in had to raft others out yesterday so we got a new guide - Gustavo. Although not as funny/entertaining, Gustavo was experience, knowledgeable and walked us through each rapid beforehand. Asked later he said this was his favorite river to raft out of all of them (originally from Argentina and works the circuit including the states). Mostly because the river changes every day, year round.
There were six boats plus our gear. On one of the early rapids our boat was one of the first down. I looked behind me and realized that all the other boats went down a different route. That's when I realized our guide was taking us through the more complex parts of the river. Some of the other boats included most people who'd never been on a river before, so I was grateful for my limited experience. Not being the rainy season the Pacuare was a little shallow but that also allowed us to see the terrain. We got stuck on rocks on occasion but it was all in good fun.
A stop at an amazing waterfall and then a big group lunch. We were at a point on the river were there were no roads in or out. Complete jungle. Indigenous indians somewhere within. On the final leg, our group rearranged our order and we were much more in synch.
On the second to the last rapid all the harping on safety was needed. I'm not sure what happened, but maybe we hit a rock. My friend in front of me started to slip out sideways. I couldn't reach her and the other two shifted their weight and we all went tumbling. At the top of the rapid in shallow water I immediately hit rocks and had difficulty turning my body so that my feet were first. Finally letting go of the oar, I was able to get myself so that my feet could brace the impact of the rapidly approaching large wall. All the while holding my nose and keeping my eyes closed under water. Came up twice and got pummeled through to the end where I came up surrounded by boats.
We were all rescued quickly. It took the wind out of us. The next rapid the other boat of our new friends 3 fell out at the bottom in calm water but nothing as dramatic. Our fun was slowly coming to an end. The river was becoming more flat. At the take out we were able to dry and change before getting in a van for a three hour drive back to San Jose.
Where do I sign up to do this again??!
We had an easy morning as our flight wasn't until 3:30 in the afternoon. I got up fresh as a daisy and after a quick breakfast decided I really wanted to take a walk into the city center area to get some photographs of the city life. It was just at rush hour and most of the people on the street were coming towards me, not to mention all the traffic heading my way on a one-way street – lots to photograph.
The travel day home adds to the exhaustion. Must get to the airport early. Some technical things that disappointed me. Couldn't get good information on the departure tax so got cash out at ATM (and charged by bank). No signage at the airport to direct you to paying the departure tax before getting in the line. Was very strange that a foreign country has a cash register with US dollars and charges you to leave in US dollars. I had to check my newly purchased hammock and decided to have it wrapped for nine dollars to protect it (good because the wrap was showing wear when I picked it up at the end). Once we made it through the ticket line we were stuck in the airport. Trying to find decent food was unsuccessful. After a week long experience of amazing local food we were smacked in the face but horrible US chain food and no other choices. $10 hamburger from BK is not my idea of nutrition. The food at the airport was expensive and I'd paid more than I'd anticipated for food in San Jose.
8 hours later on two flights our adventure wasn't quite over. It was middle of the night in a Boston suburb with 2.5 feet of snow on our cars that had to be shoveled out before we could go home, except for the friend who let us park at her house.
You know you've had an amazing vacation when it takes at least half the time to recover!