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Costa Rica Trip , Dec 2011

An inspiring experience

sunny 30 °C

Costa Rica - An experience not to be forgotten, an experience to be cherised and remembered for life, an experience to be passed down for generations...The place was soooo beautiful that I got inspired to write my first ever blog.

My hubby and I went to Costa Rica on our honeymoon. We took the adventure package offered by REI. Throughout the trip, I couldnt help but compare the striking similarity between Costa Rica and Kerala (India). Just that Costa Rica was x times more beautiul. But the lifestyle of the ppl, the climate, all were just too similar to believe even though both the places are apart. I guess its time that I dive into the details of the 10 day trip

Day1: We landed at San Jose, CRC earlier, ahead of the rest of the group. So we just went around San Jose downtown to get a taste of the local life there. We kept getting a little lost (thanks to the lack of the road signs). We found that the streets were pretty deserted and then suddenly, out of nowhere, all the crowd was there in a particular road side mall. There were a few streets with just shops everywhere and it looked like the whole city was there at that point of time. My husband and I stopped to get a milkshake at a local shop and that was where we realized that lack of knowledge in spanish made it harder for us to communicate with the localites (Ticos/ Costa Ricans). It was an interesting experience to communicate using hand signs and little english:) We met our trip members the evening and it was a calm day.

Day 2 : We left in the morning at 8am and headed to Arenal Volcano. We made a stop at a local farm where we saw a lot of plants and vegetables and got to taste some really bitter and tongue numbing leaves. The best part of the farm was the sugarcanes. They made sugarcane juice using the traditional style (similar to the one used in India). We were super excited on having a sugarcane juice that we couldnt resist getting another serving. And then we hiked up an old lava (it was a mini hike). This was like a mini introduction to the rain forest:). We saw the snake with the eyebrow.

Day3: The adventures start here. We left in the morning for waterfall rapelling It was pretty nice. If you have ever done rock climbing before, well, it is very similar to the climbing down part of it. The difference being that you either do it in the waterfall or beside a waterfall. Me being pretty scared of heights, it was scary at first. But the guides made us feel very comfortable by repeating over and over again that it was 100% safe..What a confidence booster:) In the noon, we went ziplining across the tallest and the longest lines. Wow. All the people in my tour group loved the ziplines, which were atleat 1000 feet + long, but for me the fear overtook the fun..but it was still a good experience.

Day 4: According to me, this was the most strenuous part of the trip. We woke up at 6 am and took the optional bird watching tour. We just walked around and saw some beautiful birds of the forest. Then we did the difficult cerro chato hike through the tropical rainforest. No words can describe the beauty of the rainforest. It is a must see, must feel, must experience thing:) Cerro chato is an extinct volcano. As we began the hike, we saw the top of the of the Arenal Volcano (the active volcano) clear up. The clouds parted away the first time in the 2 days that we were there, giving us a beautiful sight of the top of the volcano. It was so clear that we could actually see smoke coming out of the volcano. After stopping by to click a few photos, we proceeded on our tail. And on the way we saw a lot of wildlife. It was interesting to see the leaf cutter ants workhard. When our guide Luis explained about the animals and the importance of all of them in the forest and how they all lived, it was really nice to hear all that. It was a 4 /5 hour hike. At the top of the hike, we could peek into the emerald pool that filled the crater of the hike. A few of us took a break there while the rest of the group climbed down into the crater and came back. We then began our descent. A rain that had come there a few days ago making the descent hard and muddy. Shoes were getting stuck in the mud. And I closely missed being bitten by a non-venomous snake (false fer-de-lance) that was peeking out of the tree where i was standing to let people pass. My husband and I made sure we didn't hold trees after that experience. Snakes can be scary even when they are non-poisonous. At the end of the hike, we had a good lunch and celebrated the b'day of one of our tour mates.
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Then we went to La Fortuna waterfall. I stopped midway at a point where I could see the waterfall since I was already tired from the hikes. But the rest went down to the base of the waterfall. And at the end of that, we went to the eco thermales hot springs. One of the best highlights of the tour. Natural hot water getting collected in a small pool. And when you look up, you can see the surrounding forest/trees. One could not ask for a better location especially when your body is tired. My husband and I had a refreshing drink in the hot spring. A perfect honeymoon moment;)

Day 5: All of us were sore from the previous day's hike. But luckily the next part of the trip was more of exercise only for the upper body and rest for the legs. Yes, we were going for rafting on Rio Pacuare, ranked the 4th best river in the world to do white water rafting. It was my first ever rafting and i was pretty nervous because i do not swim very well. Plus it was going to be a 2 day rafting experience in class III and IV. Well, the first day of rafting turned out to be pretty neat since we just faced class II for the day. We stopped in the middle on the banks for a 5 minute hike to a place in the river where we can swim and then had our lunch. At the end of a rapid, the raft hit a rock and my husband flew off the raft into the water. I was too paralyzed to react properly. Thanks to our tour mate, she extended her hand and grabbed him back onto the raft. At the end of the rafting, we stayed at the most beautiful lodge I have ever seen. The logde was on the banks of the river. So you could constantly hear the song of mother nature and it was in the middle of the forest. Also, I had my first experience of relaxing on a hammock. The rafting guides prepared, what I call the best meal of the entire trip:)

Day 6: We resumed rafting on day 2. It was class III and Class IV rapids today. And we got a different guide. This guide was very good. He made the already fun experience into mega thrilling adventure. In the middle of a class II rapid, he made us all stand in the raft as opposed to sitting down. It was a pretty interesting challenge. Then in another rapid, we all went to the back of the raft and saw the water lift the raft almost vertically. But my favorite experience in the whole rafting was when our raft got stuck on a raft. The raft did a 360 degree spin on the rock and it slid down backwards back into the river. And this backward fall, gave me a feeling in my stomach, the same feeling that I get during any roller coaster ride. And my husband had to be the guide on the smoother sections of the river. I was scared when an inexperienced person was made the guide. But for sure, my hubby did do a good job of steering the raft in the right direction:) And then towards the end, everyone got to do a jump from a cliff 20-30ft high into the river and then we all swam in t he calm river for 5 minutes. Though I held on to the raft for swimming. At the end of the wonderful rafting experience, our guide took us to a serpentarium to see snakes. It was nice to see all the snakes and take photos upclose. But the best part in that for me was realizing how my husband was scared of snakes. He and another guy in the tour ran far away the moment the snakes were brought out by the owner for photos.

Day 7: This was the part that I was most looking forward to. The part of the trip I had trained for. We went biking (cycling) for 35 miles in turriabla. It was a combination of mountain in the day time and flat land in the noon. The uphill was the hardest part where lot of them pushed their bikes up. I would have completed some 27 miles. I skipped the uphills. We had a very good local lunch provided at a house. The water squash was delicious. The as we all completed the biking, our tour guide praised us saying we were the first group where he saw everyone complete the biking completely. And I sure did feel proud about it.

Day 8: The tour got over for majority of the people in our tour but we were taking an extension to manuel antonio. My husband and I went to Manual Antonio. On the way, we saw a lot of crocodiles at the bank of the river. We then went on a Mangrove boat tour in the evening. The tour was nice except that I wished I had the time to do it during the day time. Nevertheless, it was nice to see an estuary for the first time in my life.
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Day 9: We went on a guided tour to the Manuel Antonio National Park. Sadly, none of our trip mates got to see a monkey in the 8 days of our trip. So I told my tour guide that I wanted to see a monkey before I leave Costa Rica. And we went searching at all places, but guess we were just not there at the right time at the right places. I was a little disappointed. But then when I saw the manual antonio beach, I was very excited. Living in California, it felt nice to see warm pacific water for a change:) And as we were leaving the beach, lo and behold, we get sights of monkeys:) We got to see some white faced monkeys. We also saw sloth and Iguanas upclose.
Then in the evening, we hoped onto the last part of the tour , Sunset sailing. My husband went snorkelling to see the fishes. The water was not too clear though. But after that, we saw whales and dolphins up close. The best part was seeing the sunset with the dolphins and all my favorite songs (I'm yours Jason Mraz and Lucky) being played on the sail. What a beauty it was. It was the perfect end to a happy vacation and a perfect beginning of the new year. Yes, we were there on Jan 1st. The trip's end couldn't have gotten better.

Day 10: Next day morning, we left to the airport. And I must say, it was the liveliest airport I have ever seen. There was a band playing music on marimba, drums and guitar. It was very nice.

Overall, the trip was wonderful.
We ended up learning a few basic spanish words.
We realised how much ppl love their rice and beans.
We learned that they do not have an army.
They really take in amazing efforts to preserve the environment.
It rightly deserves to be ranked in the top 5 greenest countries.
No wonder Costa Rica is also voted the 'happeist country' in the world.

Overall, all I have to say is that I am amazed at the awesome country. It is a must visit.

Pura Vida!

Posted by LakshmiE 05.01.2012 15:55 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged vacation costa_rica rafting arenal_volcano central_america pacuare

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