Thursday, February 14, 2013

Costa Rica Day 12 - San Jose to Dallas to Austin

Long day traveling - I got really sick on the plane and filled up a barf bag, several of them in fact.  Oops.  Oh well, at least it waited until the good stuff was over. Finally got home around 5:30 or 6.  Now all unpacked, everything is clean and I'm ready for my next trip. 

This was a really great trip and I recommend it to anyone who loves to look at lots of pretty scenery, see different animals and birds in the wild, eat lots of good food and meet some really nice people. I plan to try and go on a really nice trip with this group (Collete Explorations and Sue Steakley) every year until I'm too old to enjoy myself any more.  There's no use just sitting home in my chair goofing around on the computer and watching TV ALL the time.  I might as well do it while I still can, even if I do clench up when thinking about the cost.  I'm trying to be less of a miser (thrifty?) and stop worrying about spending money.

It IS nice to be back in my own bed though.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Costa Rica Day 11 - Tarcoles to Sarchi to San Jose

Brochure:  After breakfast, travel to Sarchi, an important crafts center • Learn about the traditional crafts of this region and witness local artisans as they produce colorful oxcarts • Tour the Espiritu Santo Coffee Plantation which highlights the history and cultivation of coffee and its importance to the Costa Rican economy • Journey back to San Jose for your farewell dinner and overnight stay.
The day went pretty much as described. Both of the tours were neat and the drive wasn't too long. We went swimming when we got to the hotel but the water was too cold. The hot tub was amazing but just barely tolerable - barely even warm. Had a nice goodbye dinner and we face timed Heather to say goodbye too.  Afterwards, a bunch of us found a not-so-hidden room / area and had an impromptu talent show. "Put My Little Shoes Away" anyone? We got too loud, too late and I guiltily slunk away.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Costa Rica Day 10 - Tarcoles and Manuel Antonio National Park

Brochure:  Explore spectacular Manuel Antonio National Park, known for its pristine beaches and primary forest • Spend the morning leisurely walking the forest trails in search of native inhabitants like the three-toed sloth, agoutis, squirrel monkeys and iguanas • Take a swim in the inviting blue waters of its beaches • Relax for the rest of the day by the pool and absorb the natural beauty of your surroundings • This evening, enjoy dinner by the beach, overlooking the Pacific Ocean (weather permitting).
Had breakfast at the hotel as usual, and there were monkeys everywhere. It was so cool to see them running around everywhere.

Went to the park described above, but it wasn't leisurely. Took 2 hours to get there, then only had 2 hours there before we had to get cleaned up and head to lunch, which took forever, then 2 hours back to our hotel. Don't want to walk on the beach now since I just got cleaned up.  Saw a monkey close up though, so there's that.Think I'll sit by the pool awhile then go watch sunset on the beach. Not going in the water though.

Later: Emily and I got cleaned up then went out exploring.Walked back to the close beach but couldn't find the other one. Finally went back to our room to rest until dinner because it was so humid and the bugs were starting to get to be too much. That was the first time they have been a real bother. Drove a short distance to dinner, it was really good.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Costa Rica Day 9 - Arenal to Tarcoles

Brochure:  Travel the beautiful checkered landscape surrounding Lake Arenal while en route to the Pacific coast • After arriving at your destination, the remainder of your day is at leisure • Explore the natural surroundings and exotic wildlife.
9a Took my last volcano pictures, it was really smoking today.  We're leaving soon for our last stop, hate for this to be over.

11p Drove a lot today but stopped after lunch for a jungle cruise on the something-something river. It was very relaxing and pleasant, but we were supposed to see a lot of big crocodiles and only saw 2 or 3. we did see lots of varieties of birds though. Had a nice dinner outdoors there and then finally got to our hotel on the Pacific ocean around 8pm. It's a very large complex and 4 of us ladies went exploring and found the beach in the dark. Going to bed now, good night.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Costa Rica Day 8 - Arenal

Brochure:  Today you get to choose from 3 amazing experiences! Explore Arenal Volcano Rain Forest by horseback, see it from above on a zip-line, or soak in the soothing waters of one of the region’s famous hot springs • You may explore the Arenal Volcano Rain Forest on horseback, crossing rivers and following the trails, enjoying views of the San Carlos plains and the amazing lava paths of the majestic Arenal Volcano • Or, choose to go to Arenal Volcano Rain Forest for an amazing zip-line canopy tour • Gain a bird's-eye-view of the endless primary forest, Lake Arenal and the majestic Arenal Volcano • Or, soak away your worries in the luxurious soothing waters of one of the region's famous hot springs.
1p I'm sitting here in the shade at my private pool, relaxing after a wonderful trail ride up the foothills of the volcano. That was a lot of fun, but my knees didn't like it too much. I may be getting too old to ride horses any more, unless they are really skinny ones. I'm going to just relax until later this pm when we head over to the hot springs.

I guess Heather got off ok this morning. Haven't seen Emily all day, she slept in this morning and I'm too tired to walk over to her room and check on her. When we get to the next place tomorrow I'll be rooming with her instead of Janet, unless they fight over who gets me or who has to take me.

The hot springs was great, I'm so relaxed now I can barely stand up. All of us Texas people went and we had pina colladas and got silly.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Costa Rica Day 7 - Arenal

Brochure:  Share in the experience of a real “Costarican lechero” (Costa Rican milkman) • Learn about local fruits and organic farming during a tour of the family-owned Finca Don Carlos with fields of orchards, grasslands, medicinal plants, rivers and a private forest reserve • Follow a cheese-making demonstration with a traditional farm-style lunch • Spend the afternoon at leisure and enjoy the lodge's amenities, relax in a hot spring, explore nature trails or go horseback riding.
7am My internal clock is all screwed up from my roommate getting up at very early every day.  We could sleep in today but I woke up at 6:30 anyway. Oh well, might as well enjoy the sunrise. I'm going to have to train her to sleep in a little bit.

Going to the milk farm this morning and zip lining this pm.

6:30  Milk thing was pretty good but a little too long. Lunch was good. Saw another sloth or 2. I got to milk a cow and drink the warm milk. It was tasty.

The zip line was great. We drove to the other side of the volcano and up into the forest some. It was really long and fast and high. Much more so than the one in Athens. Looked like it might rain but it still hasn't. We're taking the bus to dinner somewhere because they're closing the restaurant here tonight for the police to use while investigating the double murder that took place last night up the road. It was the owner of the hotel and 2 of his sons.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Costa Rica Day 6 - Sarapiqui to Arenal

Brochure:  Begin the day with an early morning bird watching tour along the natural forest trails and nearby stream • Visit a local school and learn about Costa Rica’s educational system and the children’s way of life in a small farming community • Later, in Arenal, behold the spectacular views of Arenal Volcano.
1p Left at 8 am and stopped at a small elementary school to give gifts and visit with the children. Then stopped at a bridge where there were a lot of iguanas just walking around everywhere..  We just finished lunch at a restaurant in La Fortuna. I had chicken and shrimp fajitas for lunch, but I forgot to snap a before picture. it was really good.  Got some pictures of Arenal volcano.

3pm Wow, our hotel is really luxurious. Cottages and great views. The place is called Mountain Paradise and they stayed here on The Bachelor (I bet in our suite because it has a great view of the volcano).

11p We swam and relaxed this afternoon in the pool with the swim up bar. All the pools are warm, almost hot tub heat, except for the hot tub, which is cold. Go figure. Dinner was down the hill at a very nice place and I had tilapia. It was very fancy but open air.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Costa Rica Day 5 - Sarapiqui

Brochure:  See firsthand the process of producing chocolate from the cacao bean • Learn the history and continuing importance of cacao to Central America's economy • Add some zest to your life with an exhilarating Sarapiqui River rafting adventure • Before tonight's dinner, a Costa Rican chef offers a cooking demonstration including the palmito (Hearts of Palm) picadillo, tortillas, plantains and refried beans.
11am Nice hike through the rain forest to a small clearing where they grow cacao beans.  They hand ground the bean and made hot cocoa like the natives did.  Then we got very dark chocolate liquid like a syrup, then 2 pieces of chocolate bar. Very tasty.

On the way back, Jan and Sue and I took a detour trail to find a geocache way back in the jungle. Ran almost all the way there and back and got back about 20 minutes after everyone else. Missed buying chocolate bars in the gift shop but it was worth it. Got back a little late to the bus and the guide was not pleased,  so I have to be on my best behavior for a few days, ha ha.

6pm Just got back from river rafting. That was so much fun, the weather was great and the whitewater was just the right amount to be fun but not scary for the novices. Some guys on the shore had caught a huge boa constrictor, so we stopped to get a closer look.  They are doing a cooking demonstration now, but of course I'm skipping that.

This is a really great trip, the things they've planned for us to do have all been lots of fun, so far.   Leaving tomorrow for Arenal volcano.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Costa Rica Day 4 - Tortuguero National Park to Sarapiqui

Brochure:  Embark on a leisurely boat ride to the mainland as you travel to the fascinating Sarapiqui region • Visit an organic pineapple plantation and learn about the various types of this exotic fruit and why Costa Rican pineapples are among the world’s best • Join a local expert at La Tirimbina Biological Reserve for a fascinating bat tour explaining the biological importance of these flying mammals.
9:30am  On the river boat back to a town with roads. There are 20 people in our group, which makes it a nice size. 8 of us old ladies (except for Heather, who's the youngest) and 12 others from the US, Great Britain and Canada. Several couples,  a few single travelers, all various ages so not just retired people, 5 men. Sue is not doing any tour guiding so we're all 1 group.

5pm. Had a long bus ride on a gravel road to get back to the highway, then stopped for a nice lunch. We were running late because the driver kept stopping to show us stuff - sloths, rhinoceros beetles, some other stuff I forgot. So we went straight to the pineapple plantation for a tour. was surprised to see a Texas flag there, but the plantation is owned by Collin Street Bakery,
from Corsicana.  They even have a shop there, but it was closed. The tractor tour was a lot of fun and he kept feeding us fresh pineapples right out of the ground. Ended with pina coladas served in the pineapple.

9:30pm Just got back from a nature preserve where we got to look at and pet some bats.  Getting ready to head to the room for bed.  Didn't get much exercise today but we're all tired from the long drive. Going on a river raft ride tomorrow I think. Good night for now.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Costa Rica Day 3 - Tortuguero National Park

Brochure:  Set out on an early morning bird watching excursion that explores the variety of local species and migratory birds that flock to this area • On a boat cruise, keep an eye out for wildlife that includes howler monkeys, sloths, toucans and caimans, as well as exotic flora • Tortuguero National Park, a study in rain forest, freshwater, and marine biology, protects over 350 species of birds and mammals • Seek out green macaws; 57 species of amphibians; 111 species of reptiles; and 60 mammal species, including 13 of Costa Rica's endangered animals, including jaguars, tapirs, ocelots, cougars, river otters and manatees.
8a Fixing to get on the boat for a cruise down the river to look for stuff.  Went to bed early last night because we were so tired, but the howler monkeys started up around 3am.  Man they are really loud, more like howler roosters.  Then they started throwing acorns on the roof or something. They finally stopped and I got a good night's rest.

6:30p  What a great day we had. Saw lots of different species of birds, reptiles large and small, and monkeys.  In between the 2 boat trips Jan and I took a water taxi to town and walked up the beach to look for my first Costa Rica geocache.  Found it!  Dinner is about to start. They're feeding us 3 meals and 2 snacks a day. Never even have time to get hungry.  Leaving in the morning for the next stop.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Costa Rica Day 2 - San Jose to Tortuguero National Park

Brochure:  Begin the day traveling through the Braulio Carrillo National Park to the Caribbean low lands • En route, experience mountain scenery, changes in eco-systems, and Caribbean-style villages • Later, your guide explains the rain forest eco-system as you cruise the rivers and canals of Tortuguero National Park • Stay for two nights at your eco-lodge surrounded by the beauty of a tropical forest and wildlife • Learn more about your surroundings with a visit to the world's first Green Turtle Research Station • Discover how to protect the turtle's nesting habitat and eggs • Join your fellow travelers this evening for a welcome reception followed by dinner.
6am - got up at 5, packed and we are in the lobby waiting to board the bus. This is a beautiful hotel but we didn't get to see much of it. Looking forward to seeing the countryside. More later.

Beautiful drive through the national park. Now we're stopped for breakfast. See the picture of our first Costa Rican meal. I'm going to get fat on this 3 meals a day plan. Took a couple of pictures of a Ceibo tree. Very big. A few of us wandered away from the group (tsk, tsk) and saw a sloth, those dirty rats.
The boat ride to Tortuguero was amazing. It was like the Disney Jungle cruise except with real animals. No hippos, but we saw a crocodile, caiman, emerald basalisk, egrets, herons and a spider money. Got pictures of the crocodile. Eating lunch now, heading to town later. Cottages are great.

Took the boat into town and walked on the beach. Didn't have time to go for the geocache, didn't want to miss the boat back. Going to go swimming before dinner. Then I'll upload this and the rest of the pictures I took today. Early to bed tonight, we're all really tired.