emo_episkey: (Sunflower)
[personal profile] emo_episkey
Costa Rica!

I’ll put the majority of the post behind a cut in case you aren’t interested (fair enough!).

So our travel day to get to Costa Rica was a Wednesday and our flight was leaving very early from O’Hare. We had to get up around 2 am and out of the house by 3 am. I had breakfast at the airport around 5 am which consisted of a cup of coffee and an egg white McMuffin (sans meat) from McDonald’s.

Our flight from O’Hare to Fort Lauderdale was fine. When we arrived to Ft. Lauderdale, we had an approximately 40 minute layover. Enough to transfer over to our new plane, right? Except Ft. Lauderdale is a crazy-ass airport and their set-up is insane. We actually had to walk out of the terminal we arrived in, out of the building, down the street, into a new building where the new terminal was in, and go through the security line AGAIN. I was pretty punchy, let me tell you.

We finally reached the new terminal and they had begun boarding. Nick & I got on the plane and we had a center & aisle seat. A couple minutes after we were seated, the woman who had the window seat in our row walked up. We stood up and let her pass so she could get to her seat. After a minute or so, Nick & I realized something smelled awful. I was in the center seat and Nick was in the aisle. It smelled so bad, it was making me sick. It was the woman sitting next to me. I have no clue what was going on with her, but the best way I can describe it is to imagine someone with horrible BO and then imagine they got sprayed by a skunk on their way to the airport. So intermingling BO with skunk spray. I swear to God.

On top of that, our plane was having mechanical issues and we proceeded to sit on the tarmac for an hour without moving. OMG. It was a pretty miserable experience. Nick finally whispered to me that he would get up to go to the bathroom and when he got back, he would take the center seat right next to her and I could have the aisle. The aisle was better, but you could still smell her. We even heard the flight attendants making jokes about it. Nick said maybe she had some kind of disease…? I don’t even know.
By the time we landed in Costa Rica, I could not wait to get off that plane. Then we had to go through customs, etc. The shuttle from our hotel came and picked us up and by the time we got to the hotel in San Jose, it was around 3 pm. I hadn’t eaten anything since that McMuffin at 5 am and I was STARVING. I told Nick we needed to find something to eat ASAP. We ended up walking to a nearby bagel shop and though it took some doing, we managed the menu in Spanish and ordered some food.

We didn’t do too much the remainder of that day since we were both tired and we had to get up early again the next day to be ready for our pick-up by the eco-lodge. The lodge had told us to be ready for the shuttle at 6 am the next morning. So we set our alarm accordingly and woke up a little after 5 am to be ready. At about 10 minutes to 6, the front desk of the hotel called our room to say the shuttle was waiting for us. Luckily, we were ready and we went down to the front desk. The guide from the eco-lodge was quite out of sorts – apparently, we were supposed to have been ready for pick up anytime between 5 am and 6 am and they had been waiting for us. I guess we delayed the entire operation.

We felt really badly, but Nick even had the print out of the email where we had been told to be ready at 6 am that he showed the guide. It was a shame because the guide was really upset and this was our very first contact with the lodge and really our first activity/experience in Costa Rica. It kind of sucked to have such a negative first impression. I could understand if it had been our fault, but it really wasn’t – it was the lodge’s fault if anything. The guide became slightly less prickly after Nick showed him the email, but he still kept saying things like, “Well, this just throws the entire schedule off,” etc.

We drove around San Jose picking up other people and then headed out of the city. We drove for awhile before arriving at the lodge’s operating center – which is where they store rafts, guest luggage, have locker rooms, etc. We were given breakfast there and then we had to drive some more to get to the starting point on the river for the white water rafting.

I was a little nervous, but the rafting was really fun. We got a great guide – not the same one that had picked us up in the shuttle – and he really knew what he was doing. He told us later that his family used to own the eco-lodge and he grew up there as a child – along with 13 brothers and sisters! I can’t even imagine! His father sold the lodge to a company years ago, but in the sale, it was stipulated that his family can remain living there for as long as they want. So his mom and 2 of his sisters still live at the lodge full-time.

We met the other people in our raft and a 2nd raft of people that were also staying at the lodge. Three people fell out of our raft on the way to the lodge, but Nick & I both managed to stay in! That night was fun – there were about 11 of us all together spending the night at the lodge. The way the lodge works is the guides all cook for the guests and everyone eats meals at the same time in a central area. The 11 of us that rafted in together that day all ate dinner together and we had a great time. We had a funny Russian couple that were ironically from our area here in IL, a Canadian couple, 2 other couples from the US, and a single guy from Britain.

View from our lodge room:
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Our lodge building:
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The next day, everyone that we had rafted in with left (they were only staying one night) and went zip lining in the canopy before they left. Since Nick & I were staying 2 more nights, we did something different. We had a guide with us the entire time we were at the lodge and he did all of our tours with us, cooked for us, etc. So that day our guide took us out for the entire day. We started by hiking up to the river where there is a basket mounted on these lines across the river. You sit in the basket and zip along the lines to get across the river. That was fun, but I think I liked it better than Nick did, lol.

On the other side of the river, this kid that was 13 years old met us. He had horses for us that we all got on and rode the horses up this flipping mountain. Let me tell you, this was no romantic 20-minute horseback ride along the beach. We were on these horses for over 2 hours round trip and were basically going straight up a mountain the entire time. Also, my horse was a jerk. At one point, he took off galloping with me the opposite way he was supposed to go. Good thing I got the jerk horse because Nick would probably have panicked.

Me with Charlie, The Stubborn Horse:
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We stopped for lunch at this little village on the side of the mountain. It was some local woman’s house and she cooked us lunch! We just ate in her house – it was so funny, I felt like Andrew Zimmern.

Our lunch, at some random Costa Rican woman's house:
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On the way back, we stopped again at a butterfly garden. We didn’t go the same route back – instead, we went up to the kid’s house to drop off the horses and then we had to hike back to the lodge. Not that I regret the experience, but I was honestly never so happy to get off a horse in my life. Nick & I were sore for days afterward! The hike back to the lodge included walking down a staircase cut into the mountain that was 890 steps. I’m just happy we didn’t have to walk UP the staircase.

So that was a full day excursion – we left the lodge at around 9:15 am and didn’t get back until almost 4 pm. That day, no one rafted into the lodge to stay, so Nick & I were the only guests. At first we were a little bummed, but it turned out OK because it just so happened that the days we were staying at the lodge, a group of guides was there for the entire week completing a training course on this new kind of activity that the company wanted to implement called “interpretive tours.” There was a big group of guides and they were all really friendly and ate and talked with us that night.

One of the guides was actually one of Costa Rica’s experts on native snakes and he also teaches at the university when he is not leading tours. The next morning, we were told that this guy caught one of the native vipers on one of the trails around the lodge the previous night and was going to do a demonstration. It was pretty awesome! We were the only guests along with the other guides and the snake expert took the snake out of the container they had been keeping it in and did a whole presentation where he showed us its fangs, let it move around a little, etc. We got to be super close to it and then he let the other guides practice putting it back in a bin with the metal hook tool that snake wranglers use – I wanted to ask if I could try, but I didn’t think they’d want to let a tourist take the risk.

After the snake presentation, our guide took us on a hike around the lodge in the morning. Then we came back for lunch and then our guide told us that canyoneering was included in our stay which basically means rappelling down a waterfall.

We left after lunch and had to hike to the waterfall, which was a pretty decent hike again – almost an hour. All the hikes we were going on were not exactly easy; they were pretty demanding hiking “paths.” I was keeping up fairly well, but Nick was having more of a difficult time. When we arrived at the waterfall Nick decided he wasn’t going to do this activity. Actually, he had been saying for most of the time that he didn’t think he would, but when he saw the waterfall, he kind of noped on out of there.

I tried to convince him a bit, because c’mon! When are we going to have the opportunity to rappel down a waterfall again?! Our guide even said that there was a place about halfway down the waterfall where you could choose to either continue the rest of the way or stop there and he would come and get you. That did not convince Nick. Well, I was all hell yeah I am doing this! So I got all geared up and given instruction and started down this waterfall. I will admit that it does get scary because at one point, the water was crashing down on me – like gallons and gallons of water – and I couldn’t see anything and you almost start feeling like you can’t breathe (well, I did at least). I lost my footing for a few seconds and just had to hang there on the ropes while I got my bearings and found some holds for my feet on the rocks again.

The whole thing is completely safe; I was literally just hanging by ropes completely vertical on this waterfall and not going anywhere. When I got to the bottom, our guide said I had done pretty well and I think I did the whole thing in about 20 minutes. Nick got some good pictures of me at least, lol.

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We had to hike back to the lodge and I was pretty wiped at that point, so we just rested until dinner. More people had arrived that day that were spending the night, so we had people to eat dinner with again. The next morning, we went zip lining in the canopy before we left the lodge. Nick did do that and it was fun. Then we started our raft trip out of the lodge. The way the rafting out works is that there are usually people doing the entire rafting trip as 1-day (they don’t spend any nights at the lodge), so the people at the lodge that are leaving have to wait for the day trip rafters to arrive so everyone goes together.

Our guides decided to let us raft for about 20-30 minutes down the river alone and then we would stop, go on a short hike to a natural pool to swim, and wait for the day trip rafters there. This did not go so well for me, as the hike to the natural pool included walking a good bit over all of these wet, slippery rocks. Things don’t dry off very well in the rainforest so the rocks are always wet and have moss growing on them. I slipped and fell fairly hard and landed with one of my shoulders getting jolted pretty badly. Our guide got scared for a minute because he thought I dislocated my shoulder. Luckily, I hadn’t. It was just really sore (and stayed that way) and I ended up with a pretty bad bruise on it. I also later realized I hit my shin and ribs because they were all bruised and sore as well.

This day was probably the worst day of the vacation for me because of the fall and it is also when I started getting sick. I went from feeling pretty good when we first got up in the morning to awful within a span of several hours. I had started feeling bad as we were still rafting down the river (it was an over 2-hour rafting trip). Nick looked over at me once and said he thought I was going to throw up.

By the time we got back to the operations center, changed into dry clothes, and got back on the bus to drive back to San Jose, I was in pretty bad shape. I was super nauseous, my throat was killing me, and I was terribly congested. I was so happy to get off the bus back at our hotel in San Jose. I had thankfully decided to pack a Rx I have for Zofran (for nausea) and I was so grateful I had them with me. I took one as soon as we were back in the hotel and it really helped. I couldn’t eat much for dinner so Nick went to ask the hotel restaurant if they could make me something and they were super nice and made me some plain mashed potatoes and even brought it to the room. I was in no shape to go out anywhere so Nick just ordered a meal for his dinner from the hotel restaurant as well.

The next morning we were scheduled to be picked up again at 6 am for our trip out to Tortugeuro, and I really needed to rest so that’s pretty much what I did.

I’ll leave the rest of the trip for another post since this one is super long.

Other things to mention – we really liked the eco-lodge portion of the trip on the river. The food was always very good, they were happy to accommodate no meat for me, and we met a bunch of interesting people. One night at dinner, we were talking to our guide and he happened to mention to us that he missed his brother’s wedding because of our trip, pretty much. I mean, he didn’t say it like that, but he had thought he’d be able to switch with another guide and then wasn’t able to so he missed his brother’s wedding! I felt pretty terrible about that. I suppose there is a chance he was lying to us, but I doubt it. At the end of the trip, we gave him a $60 tip. I really have no idea if that is good or not, but we tried to ask some other people and they mentioned giving less. The Canadian couple we met told us that a monthly salary of $600 is considered good in Costa Rica, but I don’t know how much the guides make relative to that and $600/month is awful.

Hammock & rocking chair pavilion overlooking the river at our lodge:
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Just a shot of the river:
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(no subject)

Date: 2013-12-04 02:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] miss-meliss-a.livejournal.com
Wow, that sounds awesome (except for the getting sick part)!

(no subject)

Date: 2013-12-04 02:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pinotgris.livejournal.com
Looks like an amazing trip! "Pura vida," eh? =)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-12-04 12:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pinkfm.livejournal.com
I've never heard of anywhere where the tour guides cook for you. And stopping at that lady's house and her making you lunch, it's just so friendly and welcoming. Something like that would never happen here in the US lol

I'm with Nick, there's no way I would have gone down that waterfall, but good for you! Those pictures are just amazing.

And Zofran is a miracle drug. I had to take it a few years back when I was sick and it's just like magic!

This sounds like such an amazing trip, I can't wait for part 2!

(no subject)

Date: 2013-12-05 08:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] katyblue.livejournal.com
WHat a fun trip! The Eco-lodge adventuring trip sounds really cool. Did you guys do this for something special?

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