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Thursday, July 2

Costa Rica Memories

No sleep on either flight.  Large man in between me and Rachel from slc to miami.  Hanging around in Miami airport.  The man in the blue shirt straddling his suitcase super comfy on the ground trying to sleep.  He ended up being on our flight home to Dallas too.  Forcing ourselves to stay awake during that layover.  Landing in San Jose, huge lines in customs, the man making me wait while he went to fill out some extra paperwork because my passport expired within the next 90 days.  Exiting the hotel with no luggage lost and being bombarded by taxi drivers.  White shirt guy who told us to follow him, then while we were waiting another guy came and said, "yeah, but did he had a vamos rent-a-car shirt on?"  Then he told us to follow him.  Finally we got to the rental place and had a scary time of it trying to get out of the city, toll roads and strange round about things.  I was supposed to be the second driver but I neglected to bring my drivers license with me.  We took super windy roads and a 3.5 hour drive with breathtaking views.  It looked so much like Jurassic Park, especially the part between the airport and San Ramón.  There was a man in a wheelchair of the narrow city roads in San Ramon and throughout the drive almost hit a child, several dogs, people on bikes etc.  We all start to adjust to the speed limits in kilometers and the quirks of driving in Costa Rica (like one lane bridges and putting on your emergency lights to signal stopping up ahead).  The coolest thing was seeing a toucan.  We were exhausted and then were were only 6km from la Fortuna when we hit a construction zone and the road completely dug up and covered with rubble, and the men waving at us to turn around. Rachel backed up and into one of the metal signs.  So we turned around stopped and asked some teenage boys with skateboards, the nice cute one was missing part of his arm up to his elbow.  Back down the road we came, realizing that s man who had waved a flag by the side of the road at us earlier was probably signaling for us to turn, so we asked for directions multiple times, got lost s couple more times, drove on dirt/gravel roads while the gps shouted at us to get back onto a road, the gps was freaking out at us.  So yeah, we had to go completely around tacking on an extra 30 minutes.  Relieved and exhausted we finally arrived at or hotel.  Went out to eat, my first authentic meal, little tiny grocery store next to the hotel , went swimming in the gorgeous pool!  Made plans for the rest of the time in La Fortuna.

Woke up and went to místico tours, our guide was Bernardo.  He was super knowledgeable about everything.  I was able to handle the suspension bridges because I went first and had them wait until I was across.  The views on the bridges of the canopy were breathtaking!!!  In the forest we saw hummingbirds, a tiny eyelash pit viper, a blue jean poison dart frog, saw and heard a bunch of spider monkeys howling around, a mat-mat bird and a tarantula.  I ate casado for the second time and it was delicious.  That night for dinner I had patacones with all the fixings (beans, cheese, pico) and the were delicious but filling).  We watched some tv and some horrifying Katy perry music video with a twerking cartoon ice cream cone.  Then we got on Netflix and there's a million good movies on there that they don't have in the states.

Today we had our reservation to go zip lining!  The guys that got us prepared then took us up the site but we couldn't go because it was raining too hard.  They loved teasing and giving us a hard time like Latin men do.  We postponed until later so we walked around the Los Lagos hotel and saw a frog farm and a butterfly farm and got lunch at a fancy place there, I got some delicious rice and chicken.  When we got back to the zip line place a few hours later it was still pouring, like torrential, like we had in a Utah a few times this spring.  So they told us to come back tomorrow.  We will try before we head to montezuma.  I believe this was the day that Rach and I did some swimming in the pouring rain.  It was a way fun pool and we discovered a GIANT beetle in the pool that I scooped out and it looked like a rhinoceros...wish I had taken a picture!  His was Also the day that as we were lounging around inside the room Rachel screamed, guys, you can see it!  And we spend some good quality time on our balcony watching the clouds roll off the mountain and our view of the volcano got better and better.  That night we watched our new favorite show Acapulco Shores, Fernando is our favorite.  Had a lovely dinner at El Vagabundo (an Italian pizza place where they fire the pizza in ovens) but I got lasagna.  It was a fun walk in the dark on the side of the road with no least it wasn't raining.  

I had a horrible night's sleep that night, we had packed and gotten everything ready to go for our drive to Montezuma the next day.  Before leaving la fortuna we stopped back by the zip lining place one last time and we were able to zip line.  There were two cute families from Spain/Ireland and a father/daughter from Florida.  It was amazing to zip line, I was only scared on a few of the wobbly platforms, everything else was good.  By then we were best buddies with all of the workers, the Ty look-alike Luis, Antonio(the older one), Cesar and the father of (the skinny one)5.  There was also an additional worker who was the photographer, I asked him a question on the shuttle about what music he liked and he said Christian music, we got to talking just a little bit about us being Mormon and about how evangelical Christianity has grown a lot in his town.  Then, the drive to Montezuma...

Hayley started driving us out of La Fortuna and it was rainy, she came off the edge of the road and overcorrected a little bit and that was scary coming off the edge of the road.  All in all it was a beautiful drive along the lake but slow going.  In a few spots trees and branches had fallen into the road blocking our lane but there were workers out there and we were able to pass.  After an hour and a half or so...maybe 2 hours we got to Tilaran.  It was a cute town and I ran into the grocery store to use the restroom and get snacks.  Then Rach took over driving and we all began to notice after Tilaran how the vegetation was majorly changing, some of the land was more open, and there were some farms and ranches.  The rest of the drive was low key until we got to puntaarenas, Rachel was nervous about taking the ferry and I was stressed about how long it was taking to drive to town because I was afraid we might miss the ferry and have to wait for the next one.  So we pull into the ferry area behind one per car and the man is yelling, "run, hurry, go buy your tickets, quickly, you have to hurry" so I saw the man in front of me hop out to go buy tickets for his party so I hop out of our car and chase behind him, trying to ask for clarification about where exactly I'm supposed to buy the tickets.  I run across he street to where they are pointing to and where the other guy is headed when I see the other girls running full force behind me, the just abandoned the car and started ru. I got because they didn't know what was going on and they were scared.  I still laugh about this as I type it.  I feel so bad for not explaining to them what I was doing, I was just trying to get the tickets as quickly as possible.

Well, I got the tickets and we made it on to the ferry.  It was smaller than the one we took to Bainbridge last year but nothing too sketchy.  Because it was smaller it felt a little less stable in the water and so we kept looking around making plans about which island we would swim to if the ferry should go down.  They made me and Hayley walk on and off but Rachel had to drive the car on and off by herself.  Kind of freaky.  It was a beautiful ride though, and relaxing for the other two because they didn't have to stress about driving.  Me and Hayley hurried off so Rachel would see us when she drove off, we hopped in and off we went in search of Montezuma.  We stopped first in cóbano to get groceries and then it was another 7-8 kilometers on a dirt road to our turn off to our place, and then another kilometer or two on really rough road (glad we had the 4x4) to our place.  The place is beautiful.  We got right into our swimsuits and hopped into the soaker pool and enjoyed the view.  

Our first full day we woke up and decided to hike the falls.  I was cranky because I had gotten eaten alive by Mosquitos or spiders all over my arms and legs and hadn't slept very well because it was so hot.  I went and asked the house keeper and she showed us the entrance to the trail.  We had read in the guestbook that the hike was a little rough and it was a steep hike down to the river!!!  From there we headed down river to find the falls.  I decided to leave my water bottle at the "trail head" to help us find our way back to the house when we were finished.  There hadn't been a lot of rain in this area recently so the river was quite low in some spots.  It seemed like the entire riverbed was rock and we just hopped along the entire way down on different was kind of like tide pools at the beach or something, hopping from rock to rock.  I was grateful the river was low so we never got stuck on any rocks, and there was only one time we had to get on the shoreline, and it's a good thing because there really wasn't much of a shoreline it was thick brush and Forrest on either side.  We were so hot!  I have never in my life sweat that much.  I'm not being dramatic it's the truth.  My underclothing was soaking wet as if I had jumped in a pool, multiple times I was able to wring out my ponytail and tons of sweat came out each time.  I had so much sweat dripping down my face I could shake my head and sweat would fly off of my face in all directions.  I've been in really, really hot weather before but the humidity here on the Nicoya peninsula is like nothing else I have ever experienced, or maybe I've just gotten too used to living in the desert.  We got to the falls and felt accomplished and started back, I kept my eyes peeled for the water bottle and we kept trying to estimate how much farther we needed to go, and kept debating if we had passed certain landmarks.  Finally we got to an area where the river had changed significantly enough that we knew we had gone too far.  I was starting to feel a little stressed, because I had been looking for our trailhead and hadn't seen it, and I especially hadn't seen my lime green water bottle.  So we said a prayer, yes, cliche but we were technically lost in the jungles of the Nicoya peninsula nowhere near civilization (our "town of Montezuma" was basically like one road).  Then we headed back down slowly searching for our trailhead and my water bottle.  Finally Hayley called out, "I see it!" And I felt so much better, we made our steep hike back up into our camp (yes it was a house but it felt a little like camping to me, we showered outdoors and covered ourselves in bug spray constantly).  We were soaked with was time to jump into the large infinity pool, and let me tell you it was so refreshing!!

Later that day we went to the beach and it was actually our first time into the town of Montezuma.  It was much smaller than I ever imagined it would be, but felt like how I imagine a tiny little town in the carribean to be.  Shoddily assembled colorful buildings and hardly any room in the streets for cars.  We weren't crazy about the beach in Montezuma, where we went at least had a pretty hefty undertow but the water was warm.  Later as we were sitting out this guy we had been watching skim board walked past Hayley and said, "will you marry me?" And then walked away.  He came back later and started talking again explaining that he was joking/teasing.  I started speaking to him in Spanish and then ended up translating a bunch of stuff.  I talked to him for a minute about Mormons and what we believe because I told him we don't smoke or drink, to which he replied, "why did you come here then?"  We read in the guidebook on our way to Montezuma that it is nicknamed montefuma because of the boho vibe and the hippies in the streets who sell jewelry and marijuana.  Our conversation kept going and he kept bragging about all of these foreign girls he had met and how much he loved Hayley's blue eyes.  At one point he even was poetry/rapping to her, finally Rachel stood up and was like, "we should go" so we got up to leave and he was walking with us and then finally he took off ahead of us.  We got some food in town and brought it back to the house, my arroz con pollo was delicious!  We went swimming again in the infinity pool and watched the sun set, lovely.  I covered myself in peppermint and lavender essentials oils and managed to only get one bite that night.

We still didn't sleep well that night and I woke up at like 5:30 in the morning.  We got going and headed into town to do our Tortuga Island visit.  Since we got there early we went looking for breakfast, me and Rach got smoothies and while we were sitting waiting our friend from the beach came in and wandered around and wouldn't leave, we said hi but thankfully he didn't sit down and start talking to us again.  

When we got back to our Eco tours tent it was time to go, we followed this guy who walked barefoot down the street and then onto the sand/beach and there was our boat in the water, we stepped into the water and hopped into the boat.  Barefoot guy later became known as gold teeth.  The guy who drove the boat was named Elvis.  He seemed a little bit like a pirate to me, I was a little afraid because he was such a little guy that I doubted his capabilities to drive our boat in the middle of the ocean.  Beside the three of us there was a mother/daughter from Texas, and a older (50's) Italian man.  Gold teeth pointed out some cool things along the way like a little waterfall called el chorrito.  As we thought we were getting closer I was startled at the boat suddenly sped up and the next thing we knew we were chasing a pod of dolphins, at first it looked like there were maybe 4 or 5.  But in reality we probably saw 100 of them or more, it was magical and our boat was right over them, gold teeth joked that we were lining up the boat to catch one as they leapt out of the water.  

As we got even closer we noticed the water started getting really clear and we could see the bottom in some places and was a beautiful turquoise color.  We went through this freaky arch thing and it was so tiny that I thought our boat was going to crash on the sides, which is probably the only part of the ocean I would be okay sinking in because the water was pretty.

When we got to the island we hopped out in shallow-ish water and waded to shore. It was so hot there, I could hardly think of anything else, the sand started burning my feet badly, like eyes started watering.  Rachel had dollars and so she paid for an all day chair rental but the guy wouldn't accept my car, he said I had to go to the gift shop.  So I get there and a woman is talking on her phone and I'm almost in tears because I'm stupid and didn't wear my flip flops over to the gift shop.  I wave my card at her and say in Spanish that I need to pay for my seat rental.  She points to the guy back at another tent who had sent me to the gift shop and then ignores me and continues talking on the phone, I was super irritated but it was probably made worse about the thought of running all over this darned island with burnt feel trying to get someone to tell me where I'm supposed to pay for my chair rental.  To make a long story short the woman eventually got off the phone and the man down the beach yelled at her that I was paying with a card and she needed to ring me up, so then she writes up a little thing and makes an imprint of my card and tells me it will be $9.  Thus ensued a long discussion/argument about why my friend only paid 7 but I had to pay 9.  She even walkied to another guy who confirmed I was supposed to pay 9, and then I said forget it and ripped up the paper and started crying.  Then she charged me 7.
The rest of Tortuga Island was uneventful pretty much, it was hot and I wasn't feeling good but had already taken 1,000 mgs of acetaminophen so I was nervous to take more.  Wading in the water felt nice, it was really clear, but the waves were strong and powerful, still, I could see these white and yellow tropical fish swimming by my feet in waist deep water.  Lunch was pretty good, it reminded me of something I might eat in Argentina plus here was also a bunch of really good fruit, the pineapple in particular was good and they cut it up really cool.  Gold teeth hacked open a coconut and gave me the liquid in a cup and gave me some of the coconut meat.  That was nice of him.  By the time we needed to wade back in and hop in the boat I wa really sunburned  so I donned my big floppy hat :). This was probably the most exhausting and stressful day of the trip for me because my body was so tired from the previous few days (zip lining and hike = sore muscles) plus not feeling good (bad aches and cramps and feeling like throwing up...time of the month) plus the sunburn and the burnt feet and the argument with the cell phone lady.  I was hoping to swim that night but everybody else was tired so we showered and went to bed early.

The next day was our drive to Sámara.  We packed up and headed up the peninsula using our trusty gps which I called "Sadie"...Rachel called her "Stupid".  Sadie said it would be a quick 2, 2.5 hour drive which we were excited about.  We had to go slow because we were on windy/hilly dirt roads--we were really grateful for 4wd because some of the hills were really big and steep.  After being on the road for about an hour we came around a curve and there was a river running through the middle of the road.  Sinking feeling in all of our stomachs!  We could even see where the road came out on the other side of the river.  At this point we were terrified to try and drive through it, especially not knowing if our crazy GPS would continue taking us through rivers and really rough roads, plus we were getting low on gas.  So we turned around and drove 45 minutes back to the little town where we knew there was at least a grocery store and people who could give us advice on where to find a gas station (since our only map of the country showed 2 gas stations on the entire peninsula and none remotely near us).  The people in the town of Cóbano were good to us and helped us find a gas station and at the gas station one of the service guys gave us a better map of just the peninsula and told us the safest way to go (come to find out or gps was taking us a way where we would have had to cross at least two more rivers and drive down "roads" that got even rougher).  So from that point and a full tank of gas it ended up taking us 3.5-4 hours but we got to spend about two-thirds of the drive on paved roads.  We drove through the capital city of the peninsula called "Nicoya" and it just delighted me, I would live there I think, it's still very small, probably smaller than San Martín (Mendoza) but sososo endearing and only about 45 minutes from the beach of Sámara.  In between Nicoya and Sámara we first encountered children standing and either side of the road holding a string/banner at waist level prohibiting us from driving, so as we see it Rachel slows down and I start freaking out, "what's going on, what do they want?".  I had no clue what they were trying to do other than stop us on the road.  So we get close to the, and I see a sign that they are trying to raise money for a school dance or something like that, so the girls up front roll down the windows and say in their best gringo "no hablo español" to he kids and they drop the string and we drive over it.  Relief.  I had panicked for a second that they were stopping us because another road had been closed or something.  Phew.  Another 10 or 15 minutes go by and we are seeing a large number of people on the sides of our mountain road, one guy gives us a little hand signal to slow down.  So we go probably 300-400 more meters down the road and there is a throng of people creeping down the road in the oncoming was a funeral procession, a few cars but mostly people walking.  I wanted to take a picture because it was so colorful and slightly bizarre but it also felt reverent to me and I just couldn't do it.  After that it was smooth sailing into Sámara where we met the property manager Luis who led us up to villa linda vista.  It was a gorgeous house and only 3-4 minutes to the beach (about 1 mile) and mostly paved road to reach the house.  The house was filled with gecko/lizard things but few spiders and mosquitos and other things that might bite me so I was happy.  That night we went back down to the town to grab some dinner and I don't even remember if I swam after that or if we just crashed.  The next two days in Sámara consisted of breakfast on the beach in the shade and then ocean time after that and then pool time in the afternoon.  We explored the town just a little bit and I bought two lava-lava wraps as souvenirs, got some ice cream and went grocery shopping one day.  Nights were starting to get boring for me because the house was so hot and I knew how close the town was I considered walking down to the town to see if there was any nightlife or even calling Luis the property manager to come get me on his moto but I was too chicken when it came right down to it, instead I just read my book.  Have I mentioned that Luis looked like Sayid from LOST?  Well, he did and I had a little crush on him because would come and check in on us and was super helpful, even dropping by a flyer for food delivery which we got our last night. Since we were there 3 nights each of us got a turn in the air conditioned master bedroom, and as cool as the tall and modern windows were at night for seeing the starry sky, the best part was waking up in the morning with the most amazing view of the ocean and the jungle.  This house also had lots of howler monkeys but we still never saw one.  There were also really cool birds in this house as well, I loved just laying in the pool and listening to them and watching them in the trees and bushes.  The grounds on this house had beautiful trees and plants.  One day though, I was about to hop in the pool when I saw a scorpion down at the bottom, so I got as brave as I could get and hopped in and fished it out with a dustpan (it had an extra-long handle).
On the day that we headed back to San José we kind of stalled and lounged around all morning because the gps said it was only 2 hours back to San José.  We decided to hit up a little animal sanctuary in the neighboring town of El Carillo and saw some cool animals that I had never heard of before but the best were the parrots, they made cool noises and one really cracked us up and kept saying "hola" in a deep masculine voice.  When we finally hit the road and punched in our hotel's name in the gps it said 4.5 hours and not 2, so that was kind of a bummer, we weren't expecting it to take as long and Rachel was worried shed end up having to drive part of it in the dark.  Most of the drive back we were on familiar roads, at least until we got closer to San José.  We drove through Nicoya again which is where I'd want to live if I lived in Costa Rica (side note:  I would never live in Costa Rica if my house didn't have some type of air conditioning and really good window screens for the bugs) and there was an lds church on the main road in town, and there were people in it because it was Sunday at like 1:30 or 2.  After reaching puntaarenas we started heading inland (east) towards San José and apparently so was the rest of Costa Rica, maybe on Sundays everyone goes to the beach for the day, and traffic was atrocious.  We also had to go through several tolls, using up most of my leftover colónes that I had wanted to save and show to my students.  We were starting to get closer to the city and pretty soon the gps told us to exit the freeway.  But it still said we had 45 minutes to our destination.  I was confused as we passed near the airport and it said we still have 35 minutes to our destination because our hotel was supposed to be 10 minutes from the airport.  So we drive completely through the city and start heading up into the mountainside on some windy roads and we get to a hotel/lodge in the jungle that is clearly NOT the place where we had a reservation.  Our driver was not happy that we were lost and terrified of the prospect of driving all around San José in the dark trying to find the right hotel.  Hayley and I walked into the reception area of the lodge place and called our actual hotel and they confirmed that they were indeed waiting for us and then gave us the gps coordinates which we put into "Sadie/Stupid" who then told us that we were only 22 minutes or so away from our hotel.  We drove back down the mountain and back into the city the exact way we had just come to realize that we had passed by our hotel a block or two away.

When we finally got settled we embarked on the adventure of getting the car into a paid parking lot for the night, finding a bank so Rach could pull out cash to pay for the hotel (they didn't accept card--she was pretty ticked about that) and finding some place to eat.  I loved walking around Alajuela (city near San José) at night.  I felt like a missionary.  There were so many people around and there was some celebration going on in the plaza.  We stopped at a little Peruvian restaurant and the owner lady spoke English.  As we stood outside looking at the menu on the window she came outside to greet us and shooed us right in, she was so welcoming and hospitable and sat down and chatted the night away with us, convincing us to go to Peru and stay at her house there.  It was a nice ending to a somewhat crazy day.

The next morning we woke up early, I was up by 5:30.  We had a mostly smooth drive to the rental place despite our stupid GPS, we had to do one u-turn but we made it.  At the airport we found out that we had to pay a $29 dollar tax in order to get our boarding pass and leave the country, that was a surprise and this old man in line behind me was pretty furious about it.  At this point we were true Ticos and we were just like, "oh well, pure vida".  I made it through security without taking off my shoes and with full bottles of shampoo and conditioner and a ton of other liquids, I didn't want to pay to check a bag so I fit it all in a backpack and a carry on suitcase.  I thought I was home free until after checking our boarding passes but right before stepping onto the plane they made us lay out our stuff on tables to check it for any liquids.  I just played dumb but the lady made me check my stuff there at the counter which was actually fine by me since now I didn't have to pay for it!

We were fed breakfast on the plane ride to Dallas and there was just a skinny teenager between me and Rachel so it was a much more comfortable flight!  In Dallas we all were dying going through customs because they have this new automated way of doing it and a machine takes your picture but it doesn't tell you when and our faces looked stoned and puffy, I wish I could have kept the printout!  While waiting to board our flight to SLC I ran into some former students, a brother and sister, who were coming back from spending 3 weeks in Peru with their relatives who live there, it was so fun to see them.