04 July 2003
Friday I woke around 7 a.m. and proceeded to slowly wake up and prepare myself for the day. The previous evening I had asked the proprieter of the hotel to arrange a guided hike for me this morning, but I had not heard anything last night so I was not expecting to have anything to do. However, upon leaving my room to head up to breakfast about 8 a.m., she came running out telling me that my guide was here. I hurridly asked for a piece of toast before heading out on the hike.
The hike, through a private reserve, lasted about two and a half hours. During that time, the guide and I discussed many topics, including conversation, the various flora and fauna, and I learned some fascinating tidbits about the rainforest. For instance, I saw a species of tree that sheds its defense against parasitic vines. I also saw some orchids and micro-orchids, bromeliads, tree-ferns, banana and coffee plants, and a variety of berry and seedlings. We also spotted a tucan, and the three-wattled bellbird, which has a unique call that goes “Boonnnggg!” followed by a whistle.
After the hike (and a milkshake at the cheese factory), I wandered around killing time before the Sky Trek zip line canopy tour I had scheduled for that afternoon. This fun-filled activity involved taking eleven ziplines through the jungle canopy, the longest of which was 750 meters, and the highest of which was, well, high. A group of about 10 was assembled, along with two guides that would attach us and detatch us at each end. The first zipline had me freaked, but by the third one I was really in to it, having a blast. The point wasn’t so much to see nature as it was to hurtle at high speeds. Unfortunately, about halfway through the tour, the afternoon rains rolled in, leading all of us to get soaked through, as none of us were smart enough to take along the raincoats. In fact, the rain had started coming down so hard that when combined with the speed of the zipline it actually stung. I could barely keep my eyes open on the last three or four lines.
While drying out in the lodge waiting for the bus, I started talking with Laurie, from Washington State, and Ellen (see the photo! She did NOT look like she’s 22, regardless of what she said!), from Toronto, who were on the tour (and also quite soaked through). They had been working on a Habitat for Humanities project for the previous five weeks and were finishing up some fun touring about before heading home. In order to warm up, I also had my very first cup of coffee, ever. And it was AMAZING. If you try one thing in Costa Rica, make it coffee. You won’t regret it. Not that I plan to start drinking coffee here, but I would definitely have some again when I find myself back in Costa Rica.
After the zip line tour, I was dropped off back at my hotel. I changed in to some dry clothes and walked the half a kilometer down to Teormonti, an Italian restaurant, where I had some good Lasgana for dinner. The dessert, a pineapple pie a la mode, was incredibly sweet, and I could barely take a bite without wincing. I couldn’t help but think that the ice cream must have come from the Cheese Factory, and I happily ate it all. The walk back, after dark, without a flashlight, was not one of my smarter moments. I was less-than-pleased to not be able to see where I was walking at all, as it was pitch black outside. And when the dog started following me, I was even less happy (yes, dogs do run wild in Costa Rica. I was cautioned not to pet any dogs unless I could see that they were clearly owned by someone).
Stumbling through the dark, I arrived back at La Colina and went to bed…
05 July 2003
This was the first day my stomach was upset since leaving. I left about an hour later than I had intended, not that it would have mattered. I had been planning to set out to the Monteverde Cloud Reserve, hopefully to arrive in time to secure a guided hike. As it turns out, I wouldn’t have been able to, as the person at the entrance instructed me you really do need a full day’s advance notice.
Regardless, I paid the entrance fee and headed in to the reserve, guidelessly viewing the various flora and, with less success, fauna of the rainforest. It really is a spectacle, walking along narrow paths through an overwhelming green forest that feels both peaceful and vibrant at the same time. The sounds of the insects and animals abound, and it’s rarely silent, though it can quite down some.
Along the path I met a couple (apparently in their early 60s (Betty and Donald, I think. At least, that’s the names I’ve convinced myself of), though I thought they were perhaps in their late 40s/early 50s when I first met them). We talked for much of the trip, about the rainforest, our experiences in Costa Rica, and our mutual desire to travel. I received many words of wisdom, which I will try to put in to practice. I also encountered a woman in her early 30s (my guess at least), who was doing some birding. Oddly enough, it turns out that all are of us are originally from NJ, and that three out of the four of us are Rutgers grads. Talk about a small world! As coincidence would have it, the young(er) woman, whose name I absolutely can’t recall, was staying at La Colina as well. Actually, in the room next door.
After the hiking, I picked up some souvenirs at the Hummingbird Gallery’s gift shop, I accepted an offer to take a taxi back to La Colina, sparing me a further two+ kilometer hike. I also made a quick stop at the Cheese Factory, taking in my last ice cream for the trip.
Back at La Colina, I killed an hour and a half reading while waiting for dinner, which I had decided to eat in that night. As it turned out, the woman I had met hiking was also eating at the Lodge. I had a great conversation with her through dinner and until about 8. She’s had quite a number of travel experiences, including a year and a half period when she gave up on work and decided to wander around the world. Talk about inspiration! I feel like I could do it myself, now, and I’m also starting to feel as though I really want to.
06 July 2003
This morning was the morning I was slated to head back to San Jose. The driver came as scheduled, 7:45 A.M.. Much to my surprise and pleasure, it was the nice guy who had driven me up here on Thursday morning.
The ride itself was uneventful, with the exception of the snotty American college students (I’m guessing on those two points) in the back. They sounded as though they had been on a trip, and were making fun of some of the people they had met. Thankfully I was able to just sit there quietly until we reached San Jose. We did have some trouble locating a hotel, including asking several people in San Jose for directions, but everything worked out in the end. One of the guys on the ride was from Argentina, so I peppered him with a few questions, as I am considering it now as a destination.
I arrived at the hotel around 1, ate a delicious lunch, wandered around the area near the hotel for a time, watched some TV to become more acquainted with the goings-on in the world, relaxed, ate dinner, and went to sleep before 10.
07 July 2003
At ten minutes of 4, I awoke to the sound of my alarm buzzing. Running through the morning steps to preparedness, I was ready and out the door for my taxi ride by 4:45 a.m. I arrived at the airport, groggily passed about an hour and a half after check-in until the flight boarded, and it was on the way back home.
Just two things are noteworthy at this point. The Flight Attendants (FAs) on the San Jose – Houston segment of the trip were among the friendliness and most professional I have seen. They were enthusiastic and talkative, and actually appeared to enjoy their work. One of them even came around shaking hands with all the paxs before we landed.
To counterbalance the positives, the Houston – Newark segment was delayed on the ground in Houston by about an hour, and then delayed in the air for another 45 minutes or so. Go figure. Of course, I was seated with two pharmaceutical sales reps from the Houston area on each side of me, from different pharma companies no less. It made for some interesting conversations.
So, what would I say about Costa Rica? The people are friendly and the country is beautiful. At least once you leave San Jose, and San Jose’s not that terrible. The air quality isn’t the greatest, that’s all. Once you head out of the city, the diversity of plant and animal life is phenomenal and the natural beauty left me feeling happy, relaxed and quite pleasant. Even the other travelers tend to be happy and quite approachable.
Costa Rica has definitely jumped to the top of my destinations list, and I would actaully love to buy some property there. Perhaps one day I will.