Monday, March 30, 2015

Costa Rica: days 6-7 Cloud Forest

Start at the beginning days 1-2.
La Fortuna days 3-5.

Day 6:
Just a ten minute drive over the hill, from our cabin in Santa Elena to the cloud forests of Monteverde, the climate changed from warm and arid, to tropical and lush.  We spent the day hiking through the clouds in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. The rain was perpetual. The landscape, ethereal. The mist hung in the air, blanketing the forest with stillness.

We didn't see many creatures (which is fairly expected with a toddler, and without a guide), except for a couple curious coatis in the parking lot. That became our running joke- it seemed like we always spotted wildlife in the unlikeliest of places.

As the sun set, we savored chocolates (made right at a chocolate farm) and sipped wine. The wind howled outside our cabin.

Day 7:
We gained a new perspective of the cloud forest at Selvatura Park. Hanging bridges allowed us to meander through the tree tops and admire the canopy. Howler monkeys swung on branches in the distance. Independent juni pouted when I made him hold my hand on the (very high!) bridges. When not riding in the backpack, we lured him down the path with the promise of bug discoveries.

We stopped at Taco Taco for lunch (one of many lunches, actually). The avocado tacos were photo worthy- they were damn good.

After a dip in the pool and a nap for juni, we set out to Children's Eternal Rainforest for a night hike. Donning flashlights and brave faces, our guide, Edwardo, led us through the rainforest, in search of critters. Fireflies helped illuminate the path. My favorite finds included glowing beetles, a huge tarantula and a sleeping blue-crowned motmot. Juni mostly munched on a carrot and looked around, but would get REALLY excited when a bug was spotted. At the end of the hike, after our last find- a couple of scorpions, Edwardo shared that instead of having cats and dogs as pets, he allows scorpions and tarantulas in his home. Perhaps not...but his point was that creatures of the night don't need to be feared, but rather, understood. He told us he speaks their language (and I liked that- reminded me of something juni would have said).

Where we stayed:
Cabanas la Pradera

Where we played:
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
Selvatura Park
Children's Eternal Rainforest

Favorite Eats:
Taco Taco
Cafe Cabure
*awesome deck for eating + chocolates!

TIP: bring warm layers and rain gear!

The adventure continues days 8-9.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Costa Rica: days 8-9 Orosi

Start at the beginning days 1-2.
The adventure continues days 3-5.
In the cloud forest days 6-7.

Day 8:
On the road again. With the cloud forest in our rear view mirror, we bumped down the dusty road to the coast. We pit-stopped at a black sand beach along the Pacific. Juni got his first taste of salty sea (literally- a wave knocked the poor guy down, drenching his clothes and dampening his spirit). Street meat, roadside fruit stands and a giant iguana dinosaur, all legitimate reasons to slam on the breaks and halt the trip inland. By late afternoon, we made it to Orosi- a sleepy, idyllic town, nestled in a valley surrounded by coffee farms. Dinner at Casa del Sabor exemplified how kind and friendly the Costa Rican people are (our waitress blew up balloons, handed out cookies, turned on cartoons and wisked cranky juni away to the kitchen, all so that we could enjoy our meal). That evening, we strolled the narrow streets, admired the oldest colonial church in Costa Rica and followed the smell of fresh baked bread to a local bakery. We wandered about, until dusk turned to dark.

 (you never know where a sticker will turn up...)

Day 9:
We devoured a breakfast fit for kings, while sipping lattes and coffee overlooking the coffee fields. Ready, set, GO! Once again, we raced the clouds to the volcano peak. We moon-walked the unusual terrain on Irazu's summit, and peered down into the crater. Clouds eerily crept in around us, as Juni played in the volcanic sand. The remaining journey to the coast, through mountainous back roads, farm fields, road construction and endless stretches of banana plantations, was slow going. The rain pittered on the leaves overhead, as we moved into our casa by the sea- Cabinas Punta Uva. We ate supper at a small middle eastern restaurant, while locals lounged on hammocks and smoked weed in the dining room.

Where we stayed:
Orosi Lodge- Orosi
*small, hidden gem!
Cabinas Punta Uva- Puerto Viejo 
*rustic cabin, in a beautiful setting

Where we played:
Irazu Volcano National Park

Favorite eats:
Casa del Sabor- Orosi
Orosi Lodge 
*awesome breakfast!
Pita Bonita 

Last stop days 10-14.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Costa Rica: days 10-14 Caribbean Coast

Start at the beginning days 1-2.

Day 10:
The morning sky was angry. Storm clouds hovered over the Caribbean. The surf was intense (and wickedly fun, albeit a little scary at times). We body surfed, got sand in our pants, and giggled like kids. We had the beach, one of the most picturesque, pristine beaches I've ever been to, to ourselves. Juni was cautious of the waves, and unsure about the sand, but he warmed up with a few borrowed beach toys. A two-toed sloth munched leaves by the shore. We quenched our salty palettes with oranges (a juni tip!). Later we ventured to Puerto Viejo, a quirky, tie-dyed town of hippies and transplants. The streets were bustling with vendors- smoking grills and pipas frias by the wheelbarrow full.

Day 11:
We visited the Jaguar Rescue Reserve in the morning. It was heartwarming seeing injured animals being cared for, rehabilitated, and released back into the wild. There were tiny monkeys being fed bottles, escaped monkeys eating bananas on the roof, sleeping sloths, and a crazy, wandering anteater. My mom got sick during the tour, and juni was unusually cranky, so our visit was cut short. We would later realize my mom was the first one down, in a domino effect of illness, most likely caused by contaminated water. We took a drive to the neighboring town, Manzanilla- where the road ends (before Panama). It was a postcard day on the beach and later that evening, we relaxed on our porch as bird-sized lightning bugs zipped past. Juni and Grampy "hunted" crabs with their headlamps, waiting patiently beside their holes on the jungle floor. Now, writing this several weeks later, juni still makes "click click click" noises and pincher hands, remembering.

Day 12:
We walked long stretches of beach, from cove to cove, finding washed-up sea urchins and cast-off treasures. The surf lapped over our legs, as we sunned ourselves along the shore. Once in a while, a sneaky large wave would surprise us (and we'd quickly lift juni up). We found a battered, cracked surf board and caught a few waves (on our bellies, squealing, looking like fools). Pizza and mojitos followed- everything tastes better when your toes are in the sand.

Day 12.5:
I caught the illness and spent the night hugging the toilet. There were cockroaches the size of rodents crawling over my legs...and I was too sick to care.

Day 13:
Juni's turn with the illness. The original plan to drive back slowly and sightsee, was changed to 'get us the hell out of the car as soon as possible'. The usual central american slow-ups (dogs, horses, people, the road, plus many roadside diaper changes and terrible semi-traffic, made for a turtle's pace). In our haste to reach our hotel, we got pulled over for a minor traffic violation. It went...a little like how you hear it might 'go-down' on internet forums...*details skipped*...the traffic stop never happened and we are short some cash. Our hotel was a heavenly oasis for some much needed rest.

Day 14:
A flight with long layovers, and issues with our tickets, similar to our arrival flight...with the addition of some extra security, customs digging apart our bags, and extra long lines. We were sick, and it definitely sucked, but dang, it is still amazing to me that airplanes fly, and that you can travel across the world in less than a day.

My dad came down with the illness that next day, making the only one to escape it, Luke.

Where we stayed:
Cabinas Punta Uva
Trapp Family Country Inn

Where we played:
Jaguar Rescue Reserve- Puerto Viejo

Favorite Eats:
Selvins- Punta Uva
Bread and Chocolate- Puerto Viejo
Amimodo- Puerto Viejo

TIPS: The water throughout our trip was drinkable out of the tap (treated and safe). With the exception of where we were staying on the coast- the one place we chose to exclusively drink bottled water. Even though we took that pre-caution, we were too lax in other ways (teeth brushing, ice in drinks, etc.). I recommend taking all the pre-cautions in these more remote areas (we learned the hard way)!

We chose the caribbean coast for its calmer waters (among other reasons). I'm not sure if it was due to the recent storms, but the surf at Punta Uva was much more intense than planned (there was even surfing off the point). During our stay, the water was too rough to snorkel.