Throwback Thursday Blog – Costa Rica – Pura Vida!

I am off to Barbados next week on my first “beach” vacation since 2011 and I cannot wait. I don’t want thinking about the edits of my novel to get in the way of my time in the sun, cocktails on the beach, feasting on fresh fish, and frolicking with friends and so I’ve been extremely regimented this past week about working on edits during lunch and after work. Unfortunately, that left no time to write an original post for my blog this week. Since I have vacation on the brain, I thought it would fun to share a “Throwback” post I wrote years ago about my trip to Costa Rica. My trip to Barbados promises more relaxation and less adventure but I’m certain it will be equally enjoyable :)

Without further ado:

I wasn’t sure in what format I wanted to post about Costa Rica so I am winging it. I consistently took notes and thought I might post in a diary format. In reading my notes back, however, I think the diary format might make for a boring blog. Instead, let me begin by listing the best/worst things about my trip and Costa Rica in general:

Best

1) Costa Rica is breathtakingly beautiful! The grass is greener; the sky is bluer; the flowers are prettier.
2) The coffee in San Jose is AWESOME. I typically order my coffee extra light with half and half and 2 Equals. (“Would you like some coffee with your cream?”) In San Jose, the coffee itself was so good that I did not need to disguise it with cream and sugar. Unfortunately, the coffee in the more touristy areas tasted like Maxwell House – nothing special.
3) Plantains – no further explanation required.
4) I was double proofed at Customs. Normally not a good thing but the agent didn’t believe I was in my mid-30s and made me show her my driver’s license on top of my passport to verify my age.
5) Imperial beer – nothing like a refreshing cold beer after risking my life and living to write about it (more information to follow).
6) First dinner in San Jose – hearts of palm salad followed by perfectly prepared Argentine skirt steak (entrana) followed by even more perfectly prepared dulce de leche crepes.
7) Every meal came with avocado – my favorite food on the planet.
8) The waterfall in Arenal. The beauty of the waterfall was well worth the strenuous hike to get there. (I also go through withdrawal after not working out for more than two days and it felt good to get my heart rate going.)
9) The “canopy” tour through the Monte Verde cloud forest. (Keep reading for more details).
10) White water rafting. (Keep reading for more details.)
11) The beach – The water was warm; the waves were calm; there were mountains in the background – it was an ideal way to end the trip. I especially enjoyed sitting at the hotel bar getting buzzed (ok, hammered) on beers. (I didn’t, however, enjoy the hangover that ensued from drinking too many beers in the sun on an empty stomach.)
12) Flirting with the Costa Rican guys who lead the canopy tour. I could barely understand a word they said but flirting is a universal language I speak fluently.
13) Falling asleep so easily after long days of heightened activity.
14) The Tabacon Hot Springs. For anyone who has never experienced hot springs, I highly recommend it, especially to those of you who like to pamper yourself.

Worst

1. My hair – Next time I travel to Costa Rica, I am leaving my blow dryer at home. At first, I made the effort of straightening my hair until it became painfully obvious that the effort was wasted. The minute I left the hotel, the humidity turned my hair into a frizzy mess. Eventually, I gave up and caved to the wave. I avoided all mirrors after that, but the evidence is in the pictures.
2. San Jose – I just didn’t like it (aside from the coffee and my first meal). It was like walking through Time Square (crowded and annoying) only worse because I could not understand a word anyone was saying. Very few people spoke English.
3. Gravel roads. San Jose is chock full of rocky, unpaved roads. Very uncomfortable, especially when one’s stomach is already out of whack due to fears of ensuing death in the form of plummeting to the earth from faulty equipment during a canopy tour. (Obviously, death did not ensue as I am here to write this blog but I feared my life in a big way!)
4. Tripping on said gravel roads during simple walk to cafe for a pastry and coffee. I have the scabs to prove it, but then again, it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t fall at least once during the trip (no pun intended)
5. Insects. My friend and I did a night hike through the cloud forest. My mother did not raise a nature girl so while everyone else was ooh and aahing the various spiders (including a tarantella), rodents and a community of ants, I was looking away, trying not to vomit and praying that none of aforementioned creatures were crawling up my legs.
6. Gigantic water bug in bathroom of hotel in Tamarindo Beach. I thought I left the water bugs back home in NYC, but apparently one slipped inside my suitcase. First I drowned it with water and then I smothered it with a giant telephone book. My friend then picked it up with an entire roll of toilet paper and flushed it down the toilet. Team work!
6. Very little eye candy. Aside from the guys who ran the Canopy tour and a bartender who asked me to meet him after his shift (at least I think that’s what he said. As I mentioned, my Spanish is rocky), there was very little interaction with the opposite sex. (By the way, I did not accept the bartender’s invitation. Sorry to disappoint – He was probably 20 years old and just not my type. I was, however, flattered that he found me attractive in spite of my frizzy hair!
7. Night life – Our activities revolved around day activities and, by night fall, we had very little energy left for partying. Aside from the beach town, I don’t think we were missing anything because there was very little in the way of bars. Although we attempted to live it up in Tamarindo (beach town), I found the bars to be much like those in NYC, basically full of couples, teeny boppers or groups of people not interested in co-mingling. I found myself longing for my younger days when I would get drunk, kiss strange men and have a great time every time I went out. I also found myself wishing I was there with CG or any guy with whom I was involved romantically. Finally, I just don’t like Spanish music. I don’t know why, but it just doesn’t move me (or entice me to move) and I wished the live band would take a break and prayed that no one would ask me to dance – I can’t salsa for shit and wasn’t drunk enough to try.
8. The food – perhaps it is because I live in New York where amazing restaurants are on every corner, but I was not impressed with the food in Costa Rica (aside from the first night in San Jose). Even the restaurants touted as being the “best in town” were, in my opinion, mediocre.

In general, I was impressed with Costa Rica and would love to go back someday. There is so much more to see and do than I ever imagined and I sincerely wish I had more time. In the week we were there, we packed in a lot of activity and traveled through much of the country. There is little, if anything, I would have planned differently in hindsight.

As much as I was impressed with Costa Rica, I was more impressed with myself. Yes, me! I am inherently chicken shit and yet I did not let fear prevent me from doing some amazing things this past week. I went white water rafting despite my fear of falling into the water and riding the rapids on my bum. And, for the record, I did not fall off of the raft. I did, however, tense my leg muscles in an effort to maintain my balance to such an extent that my legs were sore for the next two days. Additionally, all of the people with whom we shared the raft were over the age of 65 and way braver (and more coordinated) than I. The host actually had to remove me from my spot on the raft temporarily to show me how to row properly. ( “Use your entire upper body!!!”) To my defense, I was merely trying to row in sync with the old lady in front of me who was very slow. Apparently, our group was not as skilled as the individuals on the other rafts (with the exception of our tour guide and perhaps my friend) because every time we came across a Degree 4 rapid, the tour guide yelled “GET DOWN”. This did not mean that we were expected to boogie in the boat; it meant we were to literally “get down” and sit inside the boat to avoid falling in the water. The other two rafts in our tour were allowed to ride the more difficult rapids. (I publicly “blamed” the senior citizens but knew that the tour guide likely had me in mind when he made that call!) My fear of white water rafting cannot even compare to the nausea I felt when I woke up the morning of the canopy tour. In a canopy tour, one is attached to a zip line with a safety harness and “flies” from one tree platform to the next. The night before, I had the misfortune of reading about two women who had died from faulty equipment in the past ten years and I pictured the attendees at my funeral if I joined them in that fate.  There was no way that I was going to wimp out though. I would never forgive myself nor was I willing to admit such a cop out to my friends at home. Initially, I did take the wimpy route – I was accompanied by one of the tour guides who did all of the work (breaking at the end of the platform to avoid crashing into the tree) while I got to appreciate the view from the top of the trees confident that we would make it to the end of the platform safely. My friend did that as well. We did this a few times until we simultaneously came to the conclusion that we wanted to try it solo. Personally, I felt a bit stupid since we were the only adults accompanied by the guides. I am SO glad I did it myself because it was such a rush and not all that scary. From high up, the forest looked even more beautiful than from the ground and without the distraction of holding onto the guide, I was better able to appreciate the view. Mostly, I was just so proud of myself. In the past year, I have been making a conscious effort to do things that are outside of my comfort zone and this was definitely one of them.

Half way through the zipline, the tour guides “surprised” us with a Tarzan rope. At first, I did not even consider participating. Doing the zip line was one thing, but jumping off of a platform, free falling and then swinging back and forth on rope? Not for me! Then I remembered that one of my goals (things to do before I die) is to bungee jump and this struck me as similar. I just knew how wonderful I would feel if I did it despite my rampant fear. So, I did it! I hated every minute of it, but I did it. I did not like climbing the platform; I did not like watching the tour guides position the ropes; I did not like the sounds that came from my body when I was pushed off of the ledge, eyes tightly shut; I did not like the wave of nausea in my stomach as I dropped from what felt like the top of the Empire State Building to the bottom of a deep well; and I did not like swinging back and forth over and over again until the tour guides eventually grabbed my legs and helped me to the ground. I did, however, immensely enjoy the pride I had in myself for pushing my fears aside and just doing it! GO ME!

And those are my thoughts on Costa Rica. Anyone else been there? Care to share your favorite and least favorite things?

Comments

  1. Wow, Meredith, I hope your trip to Barbados is great. What fun, reading about your adventures in Costa Rica. That sounds like an amazing vacation, despite the drawbacks. And good for you for trying that Tarzan rope. I don’t think anything in the world could get me to do that, but it sounds like a lot of fun. Enjoy your vaca–you deserve it!

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