Costa Rica trip #2 Tamarindo + Arenal Volcano
Like most everyone else in America, we would be allowed one week of vacation per calendar year. It would take us about that long to save up for the next vacation anyhow without having to put it on a credit card. When we bought and while owning our own business, it makes it even harder to take off, even if for just that one week. Owning your own business can be fun and have its perks, but it is definitely a lot of hard work to get it to where you want it to be. With that being said, nothing is impossible! We worked Saturdays and Sundays, there was no off at 5 p.m.'s and we would bring work home. We did that for several years. This particular year was a first for us to travel more than just that one week. It was five months in between visits. And we were itching to be back. Packed and ready to go, we head to the airport to meet some friends and catch our flight. We board the plane and get ready for take off. Our friends also been to Costa Rica prior to this trip, we were all stoked for what was coming. As the wheels of the airplane hit the ground, I get goose bumps all over my body from head to toe in excitement. Seeing the airport workers doing their daily duties, the first thing I notice are their smiles. I take note that the young lady from Costa Rica boarding the back of the airplane is the same one from the last trip. Gleaming with a sense of pride, she climbs up the airplane steps and enters the plane. I just remember the words, 'cross-check complete' being said as it is my turn to gather my things from under the airplane seat and make way towards the front of the plane. If only I could re-live the moment of landing over and over again. As soon as my feet hit the ground I feel some sort of obligation to countdown to the days until we have to leave. Knowing we had seven full nights made it a little easier to breathe. No phone calls, no texts, no answering to anybody. We take the bus transportation from the airport over to where we rent our car. After loading the car with the luggage we take the same route as before and start for Tamarindo. Windows down, radio up, we enjoy the moments we have together taking in the views and the people. Smiling and waving at the kids at each bus stop that we pass gives me pure happiness seeing them as they smile and wave back. We see the fruit stands that we had in the previous trip offering the different types of delicious fruits. The one fruit I wanted but was not in season was rambutan. You'll find that a lot of people call it lychee and the locals will go along with you. I just recently discovered the correct name for it thanks to my girl, Google. If you ever get the chance to try one, you won't be disappointed. The fresh fruit has a 'delicate, whitish pulp' with a floral smell and a fragrant, sweet flavor. We pull into the town of Tamarindo and notice how alive the town is. Much busier than the last visit. Locals mixed in with people visiting from all around the world left such a positive vibe. I just wanted to jump out of the car, walk in the middle of the road and throw my hands out to the side making a T, while turning in circles. Almost like you could envision a little girl doing in the middle of a field of flowers twirling her dress around and around. It was not long before we figured out that January and February were there summer months. And this month was January. There is something about Costa Rica that makes you feel young and vibrant. And I love ever inch of it. We drive through town and head to The Suizo. We booked the exact same room as before, room #4. As we are about to pull in, we notice a guy about to take off on his motorcycle. He sees us and removes his helmet. We all make eye contact. I jump out of the car and run straight to him to give him a hug. It was Brando. We couldn't believe it, I don't think any of us could. We all stand together exchanging numbers so we can get together and keep in touch. Luckily we were able to catch him just in time as he had just gotten off of work for the day. After parking the rental car and checking in, we see a lot of familiar faces throughout the hotel. The same gentleman working in the concierge, the same pool guy, the same bartenders. It was so nice. We felt at home and at peace. We felt like we never missed a beat in those five months. We throw our luggage down on the bed and head to the bar. Another familiar face .. Luis Diego. I smile from ear to ear, astatic that we are connecting with our friends from CR. Our friends that came with us to CR happen to be staying in another hotel just a few minutes down the road from where we were. We all spent the next few days together surfing and eating delicious cuisines, laughing and catching up on life. On the last full day at the beach, we booked a fishing trip in hopes to catch sailfish like we had in the past. I guess you can say, we wanted luck on our side because we booked the exact same boat we had in August. Good for him, but unfortunately for us, the deckhand we had prior, had moved up to captain on another boat. However, this Outcast crew still outdid themselves. Although no one caught a sailfish, a 25 lb. amberjack was caught along with two tuna and three shark attempts. The beer was cold, the sun was hot and we all had a great time that we will never forget. The deckhand filleted the amberjack and put it on ice so we could take it back to our hotel and have them prepare it for us for dinner. He had definitely cleaned a fish or two before in his lifetime and it showed. As I looked around the boat, I noticed we all had our eyes peeled watching him work his magic. And just like that, he was done and the fish was in the bag and on ice. Before we knew it our half day trip had come and gone. We climb back onto the dingy boat that had taken us out to The Outcast and head back to the shore. Fish in hand, we jump over the boat into the ankle deep water and make our way onto the sand and back to the hotel to get cleaned up. Brushing my shampoo'd hair from the tangled mess in the shower, I sit and watch the waves lap over the rocks and sand. Everything was calm and relaxed. No crazy people running around like a chicken with their heads cut off, no kids screaming for a phone to play with. It was just simply peaceful. Once everyone was ready, our friends met us at our hotel, The Suizo. Walking to the restaurant, I notice Leo, the restaurant manager (he is also a chef). In my head I'm thinking, 'no way'. It had all come full circle. I throw my hands up in the air almost in disbelief and give him a hug. It was so good to see him too. We introduced everyone to each other. We drank. We laughed. We ate until we couldn't eat anymore. There was no way we were all going to eat the entire twenty-five pound fish and gave half to the employees to cook for themselves. We played ping pong on the beach until the sun went down and you couldn't see the white ball any longer. The trees around the hotel on the beach were lit with different colors of strings of light. It was beautiful. We hung on the tree branches, swinging like monkeys. We laid on our backs in the sand side by side looking at the stars and the moon trying to point out where the big dipper and little dipper was. Nothing else mattered. No war, no media to tell you what to think, no politics. It was like heaven on earth. I actually felt free. Truly free. I did not want that night to end. More than that, I didn't want to end the peaceful vision I had on life. The following day we were to get in the rental car and head to our second destination of the trip, Nayara Springs Hotel at Arenal Volcano. It was time for our friends to head back to Texas, as they had just been to Arenal several months before. We say our goodbyes in the streets of Tamarindo and locate waze on our phones to see our route. The drive didn't really feel like a drive. You would constantly find something to look at along the way whether it be the mountains in the distance or the big tall windmills that swooped overhead. The closer you get to the rainforest and hotel, the more you can start to see the volcano through the clouds. I have never in my life seen a volcano in person. Only on TV or in magazines. Four hours and some amazing views along the way, we made it to our destination. In Costa Rica - 206 kilometers = 121 miles. The roads are narrow, some rocky and almost all the way up it is turn-y. I don't think I have ever seen anyone on their phone while driving. It's either stay focused and drive or go over the side of the cliff and you know what happens next. Guard rails are almost non existent. Unless it is pouring rain, you will find my hand outside the window feeling the wind blow through it. The grass is tall and leans over onto the road so I will reach my hand out hanging my body half way out of the car door trying to flap the grass on my hand to make a noise as we drive by. We arrive at the hotel, park the car and walk towards the concierge to check in. They hand us our welcome drinks, we look into each others eyes and 'cheers' each one. Once they show us our way around the hotel on a map, they load our luggage onto a golf cart. As they are loading, they ask if we have seen the sloth. Sloth? Where? They point to a tree adjacent to where we had been standing and would you believe it .. a three toed sloth sitting in the branches not even bothered by what was going on down below. Not everyday do you get to walk outside of your hotel and see a volcano or a sloth. We are in awe over the sloth and stand there watching his every move for about what seemed to be 15 minutes. We forget that we had even been checking into a hotel, we were in the moment. Actually LIVING. We climb into the golf cart with the hotel employee and he drives us to our room. The first thing you notice are the two big glass doors to the right that lead out onto a porch. It featured a hammock, two Adirondack chairs with foot stools .. an outdoor jaccuzi. *my favorite spot to be* A yellow sheath curtain lined all the way around the top and sides. Our hotel room we stayed in was right in the middle of the rainforest. In the morning, during the day and at night you could hear the sweet sounds of the wildlife surrounding the hotel. You could see the volcano straight through the glass doors. For the most part, the weather depended on if you could see the it and at what points during the day. The clouds move fast so during the moments of the volcano being clear, we'd stare in amazement.The grass was lush and green while the forest was thick and plentiful. The weather was also cooler in the rainforest than at the beach. It didn't feel quite as humid. However I love to be hot so the beach weather did not bother me one bit. Nayara Springs is hidden in a lush paradise in the heart of Arenal Volcano National Park. It has been recognized as one of the world's best resorts. It offers wondrous natural surroundings of tropical gardens and pristine rainforests. If you get the chance to go, check it out, you won't be disappointed one bit. The following day we call for a taxi to go into the town of La Fortuna. It was only a five minute drive from the hotel to town center. The first thing we notice as we pull up, is the church and its steeple. It was a beautiful open air church. Directly across the street sat central park where we see a mariachi band that was playing under the pavilion. It was Sunday. There were locals and tourist mixed among the crowd. Some were sitting on the park benches visiting, others listening to the band. Some kids were running around the grass playing tag and some dancing or tapping their foot to the music. Their were no phones out, other than ones that were snapping photos. Shops lined the street on all sides of the park, other than the side where the church had sat. We continued along the sidewalk across the street into more shops looking for the kids instruments we had promised we'd bring them back this trip. Along the pathway was a chocolate shop. The glass windows enticed you to come inside. And being as I was in culinary school, I was curious what they offered. Each chocolate filled plate had a card that read the names; Beer Chocolate? and Chocolate Covered Pineapple? A few meters down sat a fruit market where bananas hung above the shelves while watermelons sat in shopping cart baskets. An assortment of fruits fill the crates and shelves along the walls. Noticing that was the last store before we need to turn around, we wait for the cars to pass so we can cross the street. As we cross the street, we look up and see the volcano. It seemed it was only a few hundred meters away, almost like an illusion. You could only sit and wonder what would happen to that small town and the people in it if the volcano erupted. In awe of its beauty, we made our way across the street towards more shops before getting run over by passing cars. With the kids new instruments in hand, we see our driver had been waiting on us and make our way into his red taxi and back to Nayara Springs. We had been talking about riding the zip lines while on this trip and had booked through the hotel we were staying at. The transportation was included in the price. One of the most amazing places to visit while in Costa Rica is the Arenal Volcano, where Sky Adventures Park is practically located. It is one of the most, and if not, the most impressive and breathtaking Volcano of Costa Rica. Until 2010, the Arenal was one of the most active volcanoes in the entire world, but for now that eruptive cycle has been paused. As we get to Sky Adventures in Arenal Park we get geared up and ready to go with our helmets, shop gloves and harnesses. It was about 12 paying customers and 8 employees total. They have a small zip line located directly off of the porch area. They have each person clip up to the line to try it to make sure we know what we are doing. I wait in line until it is my turn. Thinking to myself, "I've got this", I climb up the metal stairs so the attendant can reach my harness to the zip line. I do as he tells me, lean back, legs crossed and arms straight out. He unclips me and I go. Easy Peasy. I did no research whatsoever, so here I am, thinking in my mind it is going to be fairly short and barely above the ground the entire time. Once everyone has had their turn they usher us to the Sky Tram cars. Assuming there was just a little way to go, I climb in reluctant and ready for what lied ahead. The tram kept going. And going. And going. I was starting to get anxiety and my hands were starting to sweat. Don't get me wrong, it was one beautiful sight, but my goodness I was freaking out inside. It must have been a 10 - 12 minute cable car ride up to the very tip top of the mountain. Once we arrive, I am somewhat relieved to have my feet back on solid ground (I know, live a little right?!). The wooded platform that we stepped out on from the tram has a hangover with a lookout vantage point for photo ops. Once the crowd gathers the photos they are wanting to capture, we make our way to zip line number one. Looking for that short, barely off the ground zip line like we had previously practiced on, I was enamored (yet shouldn't have been surprised from how far up we traveled) to see where the other side of the line ended up. You couldn't see it at all. Now the sweat was starting to roll and my heart was starting to pound out of my chest. I kept telling myself, 'this is the only way back down' to help make it better. I knew I was in for an experience of a lifetime. The first 6-7 people go. The gloves that were strapped around my harness, I know have to put on as it is my turn next. I wipe the sweat from my hands onto my shorts and shirt as best as I can. I take the gloves off only to put them back on over and over again to make sure they are tight and do not fall off. I climb up the metal stairs and stand waiting for the tour guide to clip me in. He tells me to do just like before, lean back, legs up and crossed with arms staying straight. I hold onto the handles with my sweat drenched gloves and pull one leg up and then the other. I cross them and lean back. I think for one split second and place my feet back on the metal stairs, terrified of what lied ahead. The only thing I kept thinking was, 'What if that line breaks half way through?, What if I stop in the middle?' I quickly shook it off as I hear my husband tell me I've got this. I take a deep breath, not sure if it would be my last and get back into ready position. The guide looks me in the eyes and asks to make sure I am ready. And with that, he unclipped himself from the line and let me go. That was the first time I had done something like that on my own. Even when I went skydiving, I had someone strapped to my back. This .. was all me. It's a scary yet exuberating feeling once you achieve it and make it to the other side. Although I never got comfortable with the 7 zip lines and had to keep my gloves 'tight', I did it! I realized that when my heart was pumping and my head and hands were sweating only meant I was living. And it felt exhilarating. When they say, 'life begins at the end of your comfort zone' please believe it. We had about 3 hours before our next tour, the Sky Limit. It was at the same location so we did not have anywhere to drive to. The park had a restaurant and bar along with some amazing scenery of the volcano. We figured we'd grab a bite to eat to waste some time before the tour started. While we were ordering our meal, we start to ask the waiter a few questions about the volcano and it's history as we really didn't know much about it at all. I don't think I'll ever forget his story for as long as I live. In 1967 the water temperature of the Rio Tabacon, a spring-fed river that descends the slopes of Arenal, suddenly rose. It was a warning of danger, but so few people lived in the area - and no volcanologists - that it went unheeded. At 7:30 a.m on July 29, 1968, Arenal Volcano erupted with a pyroclastic flow that raced down the mountainside and incinerated villages of Tabacon and Pueblo Nuevo - taking the lives of 78 townspeople. Huge incandescent boulders exploded out of the cone, halfway up the mountain, and left large craters as far as 10 km / 6.2 miles away. Things are much quieter today, but Arenal can still be deadly. During the summer of 2000, an eruption down a crevice and enveloped a young American woman, her daughter and a Costa Rica guide while they were on a hike at the edge of the safety zone. All three were badly burned. Sadly, the guide died two days later; the girl a short time after. I sat thinking about that story for a while. It puts things in perspective that you never really do know when will be your 'lasts'. We finish our meal and head to check on the time for our tour. The gentleman at the front desk kindly lets us know it is still about 2 hours out and offers us to do the Arenal Park Sky Walk. We kindly accept, purchase two waters, and take off for the trail. Sky Walk uses trails and a series of suspension bridges for a more relaxing introduction of the flora and fauna of the forest canopy. It allows the vision of the forest from a different perspective which starts with a hike on the ground and then taking you to explore the treetops, a hardly discovered habitat called the "canopy". There are 5 hanging bridges that stretch over canyons that bring unique viewpoints. The trail was 2.2 miles in distance and took us a little over an hour and a half to walk. Along the way, we come across an elder lady (60's) that was also hiking the trail. On our way back we happen to see her stopped sitting at a waterfall. Whether she had been from CR or not, I thought it took some sort of bravery to go it alone. We watched her for a few minutes stating that we want to be like her - out and enjoying life. We figured it had to be time for our next tour, Sky Limit and head back to the front desk to check in. Sky Limit is a high performance circuit that combines a high ropes course, zip lines, canyoning, rappel and Tarzan swing, bridges. Sky Limit begins with an ascent in our aerial tram, Sky Tram, to then start a circuit - that can also serve for competition - consisting of twin zip lines, and other defiant challenges as it is walking a tightrope and descending a ladder hanging on trees. I have never repelled before in my life so I was a little nervous. Again naively thinking that it was going to be a story or two off of the ground was laughable. After seeing what we were really about to conquer had me like OMG. We had the same safety measures as before .. helmet, work gloves and a harness. It was just BJ and I on this tour with about 8 guides, some there to help and the others that had wanted to do the course for fun along with us. We talked and got to know the guides and about their personal lives. It is always interesting and we listen with open ears taking in all the information we can. We repelled down a cliff next to a waterfall. The feeling when they told me to step over the side of the mountain so I could dangle off ... my anxiety level went through the roof. Trying not to show it, I smile and slowly sway my body over the rolling water below next to this enormous cliff. I had complete control of the cable with my right arm behind me giving me slack while my left hand was closer towards my head keeping the slack out of the rope as I go down. I wanted to so badly but I could not look down. I was concentrating too hard on just getting down. We climbed up rocks that were on the side of a cliff. http://www.facebook.com/DiscoverLife.LIVE/videos/207488103003565/ We jumped off of rocks into the river. We ran across an obstacle course that was suspended in the air, racing each other running down a mesh screen and up a rope ladder. BJ ran through the course having no fear. Me .. well, I finished last. The Tarzan swing was pretty awesome. We jumped from a platform and swung over two waterfalls. (of course the go pro would accidently turn off just seconds before we take the plunge) We ended the tour after we zip lined down two more cables. http://www.facebook.com/DiscoverLife.LIVE/videos/207480576337651/ This time, we didn't have the handles to hold onto, we strictly used our hands. Putting both of our hands in an 'O' shape onto the rope that is over our head just barely letting our hands glide as we speed through the rainforest at speeds up to 60 mph. They let me know not to hold on too tight because it would brake my stop and I definitely did not want to be stopped in the middle of the cable 2,000 feet up. My death grip on the cable got the best of me and I ended up stopping 3/4 of the way through. When going at speeds like that, it was only normal to me to 'hold on'. I made it about 3/4 of the way before I had to turn myself around backwards and pull myself across to the end of the cable using my arm strength (which is slim to none). Ten long minutes and two arms that felt like they were going to fall off later, I pulled my way across, not looking down in Bob the Builder style saying "I think I can, I think I can." I can only imagine the look on my face at that moment. I had a full day of emotions. It wasn't until we got back to the hotel room at Nayara and started looking at the days photos of what all we had done that we realized we DID some things that day. We couldn't believe we did half of the things our camera was showing us we did. We made new friends that we will never forget. Alejandro, Freddy, Levy. Through tears not wanting to believe our seven days have come and gone, I gather my luggage and wait for the golf cart to come pick us and our luggage up and bring us to the concierge to check out. I close my eyes to listen and take note of all the sounds before entering the rental car that would take us straight to the airport. From the wildlife, to motorcycles and Costa Rican accents. I knew when I got home, I had more garage selling to do amongst a list other things.