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A little practice trip to Costa Rica

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Looking at Arenal Volcano from our hotel - Hotel Linda Vista

Erinn and I had the opportunity to do a little travel practice over Christmas and New Year’s in Costa Rica. My family was going to join us for a family get together on the second week, but Erinn and I wandered for the first week between class 4 rapids, active volcanos,  giant humming birds, and Howler (or more aptly grunting) monkeys. We spent most of the week around the active volcano of Arenal (at Hotel Linda Vista) enjoying the hiking (Arenal Observatory Lodge – recommended hotel for next time!), canyoneering, and potholed dirt roads (or as one guide called it “Costa Rican massage”).  We found it to be a good week to prepare for our much longer adventure by reminding us of things forgotten, traveling lightly, getting used to speaking another language (or at least trying), and trusting each other! I have to say one of the best parts for me again was just being in a different culture of people and meeting others on our travels. Our first day, which was rafting the Pacuare river, we met an English couple, Jimmy and Rachel, who are just starting a 2 yr voyage including a work stop in Australia. It was great to meet another couple who were taking time off from their professional lives to explore. It gives Erinn and I hope that we’re really not alone in our craziness!

We also experienced what I’m sure we’ll have more of in the future – BAD travel days…  One of our last days in Arenal it rained (and I mean RAINED) the entire day. We were a little bored to begin with as we learned that we had stayed one or two more days than we needed and were missing out a bit on the rest of the country (yet another thing we learned about our travel scosta-ricatyle). We couldn’t leave because our hotel wouldn’t let us out of the reserved nights as it’s “high season” ($$ ; ) We spent the morning at our favorite coffee shop in La Fortuna and then decided to try to do something touristy. We ended up going to a little nature preserve just out of town. The rain had lessened and we being from Seattle and all figured we could get a little wet. As soon as we bought our tickets the rain decided to pick up the pace. Seattle rain is usually more of a mist which means you don’t really get that wet. This was not Seattle rain. This was rain forest underwear soaking rain. We decided we better go back into town and either get rain jackets or an umbrella. After buying our umbrella and driving back we set out on the “wildlife” preserve. I guess the Costa Rican animals didn’t like the rain any more than we did because walking through this little piece of jungle yielded nothing but wetness and signs saying there

Star Wars character?!

Star Wars character?!

was wildlife present. Thankfully one of the young boys working in the shop showed us a very wet sleeping sloth that looked like something from Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back as well as showing me the poison frogs. After this fiasco we were hungry so we went back to La Fortuna to get something to eat. As soon as the waiter seated us he said “You’re lights are on”. As I walked back to our rental car, I suddenly had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I didn’t even need to walk further… I had locked the keys of the car in the ignition with the lights on. I sheepishly walked back to the waiter and told him my problem to which he

Not quite what I had "ordered" for my dinner... a plateful of shame!

Not quite what I had "ordered" for my dinner... a plateful of shame!

responded “Are you crazy Gringo?!” He was very kind though and ran to some other stores in the area to see if he could help while I reveled in my shame (not really). Finally he came back and said that he had found a locksmith that would help “for a price”. $60 later we had our keys back and enjoyed probably the most mediocre to bad meal we had in Costa Rica. By this time we were actually laughing at how our bad day had turned out which in some way was very comforting as I’m sure there will be more.

The second week we joined my family for week near Tamarindo. Highlights included a local rodeo (where my brother and I got in the ring with the bulls), surfing,  and a day on a boat fishing, snorkeling, and watching whales, dolphins, and rays. Traveling with family (15) is a bit different than with just the two of us and it reminded us more of what I’ve started to call our travel style. This vacation reminded us that we like being surrounded by the culture and differences, being free to move when we want, meeting others both locals and other travelers, and being out in nature. Something that was reinforced on this trip was just how much other cultures cater to us as Americans. Almost every place preferred dollars and almost everyone spoke English even when I tried to speak Spanish. Almost every non-American traveler I met spoke at least two languages if not more. It makes me think about what it would be like to travel as a non English speaking person… perhaps a bit more difficult.

For more pics go here.

Alana and Jarrod this is for you… which one do you think we saw???

Erinn having fun with a picture in our hotel room!

Erinn having fun with a picture in our hotel room!

More realistic version...

More realistic version...