After another day spent lounging around the beach in Manuel Antonio, we took the evening bus back to San Jose. Manuel Antonio was the perfect ending to Costa Rica. There’s nothing like laying around the beach for a few days that makes you want to go home and find a job and be a productive member of society… or maybe that’s just me?
After a lazy morning in San Jose, my flight finally left for Portland. During my layover in Houston, they asked for volunteers to stay the night in Houston as they had overbooked the flight, and while I tried not to freak them out by running to the desk, I was officially the first person in line. :) So I now have a $300 flight credit for a future trip and I got to stay at a nice hotel for free. I totally would have slept at the airport, so when they said what hotel I would be staying at I just nodded like “yeah, I guess that’ll work,” and tried not to laugh. They totally underestimate the wonder of staying at a nice hotel when you’re a backpacker!
Even though Costa Rica was officially the last stop on my year of travel, it definitely won’t be the end of my adventures. It’s been an amazing year and I’m so glad I made it a priority in my life. I’d do it again in a heartbeat! So while this is the end of my “round the world” travel blog, stick around for more updates on my transition back into “real life”. Who knows, I might not be able to handle it, and you’ll find me on a beach somewhere rewriting my resume. ;)
I don’t remember who’s idea it was to leave at 5:30 am, but when you’re within six hours of paradise… chock it up to desperate times. On the way to Quepos we stopped to walk over the bridge of the Rio Tarcoles, and take pictures of all the crocodiles. These are totally going to be fueling my nightmares in the future. *Shudder*
We arrived in Quepos around lunchtime, took a quick walk around, and grabbed lunch downtown. Quepos is totally the type of town that you think of when you picture Central America. It’s also way more affordable than Manuel Antonio, which is a 40 cent bus ride away, and conveniently the bus stop is just outside our hotel. We spent the first afternoon sailing and snorkeling. So amazing! I could have stayed in the water for days!
The next morning, we checked out Manuel Antonio. The park was closed for cleaning, so we spent some time swimming and sunning at the public beach. We heard rumors that the park would be opening, with free entrance in the afternoon, so after grabbing a quick lunch, we headed back to the park. After wading through the swampy river at the exit, we were greeted by a free, empty and beautiful park! We walked through to the third beach on the other side of the park, and spent the rest of the afternoon swimming and relaxing. Oh, and we saw three giant raccoons just walking around near the beach, quite surreal.
We traveled from Arenal to Monteverde on Monday. It was supposed to be a combination of van and horseback riding, but apparently the horses being used weren’t looking too sharp (after reading in the Lonely Planet, this seems to be a hot topic in the area, but a good opportunity for travelers to support locals who treat their animals right). So we went horsebackriding in Monteverde instead. My horse’s name translated as “has little tantrums”. Yikes! Thankfully, he didn’t live up to his nickname and we got along fine.
Monteverde is one of the most visited areas in Costa Rica, and is home to the Cloud Forest (where the Pacific and Caribbean winds meet to create a Cloud Forest instead of Rain Forest). So needless to say, it rains quite a bit here. Now if you’re visiting from the Pacific Northwest, it might not be at the top of your favorite list. I still had fun in Monteverde, but the climate was so much like home (raining one minute and sunny the next) that I was more than ready to hit the beach by Thursday!
I felt like I was in Monteverde for three weeks, instead of three days! So I did a lot of walking, visited the Frog Pond, went on a Cloud Forest hike, toured the Quaker cheese factory, and went ziplining. Ziplining was definitely the highlight of Monteverde, and as the German couple keep saying “No risk, no fun!” ;)
Rafting day! After a quick breakfast, our rafting van arrived. We drove out to the Rio Toros, which is a class III / IV river and divided into groups. I was a little nervous, as my last rafting experience was with a less than professional company in Panama. After a brief intro and explanation on what we need to do, we hopped in the rafts and practiced a few commands and then we were off! I was a little nervous about being in the front, but after we hit our first huge rapid and our guide yelled, “get in, get in” I was glad I had a bigger area to hide as the big guy behind me went sailing over me and out of the raft. We got him back in the boat and off we went. Overall, it was amazingly fun and the day went by surprisingly quick. I think we were all glad that we’d picked the full day, class 3/4 white water rafting on the Rio Toro, instead of the half day 2/3. After rafting, we grabbed a late lunch and then headed back to La Fortuna, where we met the rest of our group and headed up to Arenal Volcano for a short hike and then waited in the rain, hoping to see the elusive lava glowing from the volcano. Side note for if you ever go rafting: Put sunscreen on your knees! My legs were already fairly tan so I didn’t, and ouch, they’re a little pink now.
Canyoning day! I had first heard of canyoning when I was in New Zealand. I wanted to try it, but it seemed too expensive, so I’m glad I waited for Costa Rica. The Defasio van picked us up around lunchtime and we headed up to the canyon area they use. After getting outfitted with harnesses and gloves, we walked down to the demo area, where they showed us how to hold the rope to self-belay. I kind of felt like I didn’t have enough information and that maybe I’d missed something since it seemed too simple! But after the first mini-waterfall, I was like, “What? That’s it?” So by the time we arrived at the first big waterfall that had a huge drop, I went flying down! Overall, it was great fun to be tramping through the water, but I would have enjoyed a few more adrenaline rushes. I guess I thought it would be more exciting. It’s a classic case of the Eiffel Tower/Mona Lisa effect. Anyway, I still had a great time, but if you could just choose just one activity in Arenal, I would suggest the rafting!
The journey back to Las Horquetas from Rara Avis, was not as pleasant as the trip up. It rained all night and poured all day. A few of us opted to hike out to El Plastico and then get on the tractor there. Since we were hiking in the rainforest, we ended up staying dryer than everyone on the tractor! However, since we were the last on the trailer, I had an end seat, which was like sitting in the shower with a raincoat on for 2 hours. I was glad to be out of the rain when we arrived, but then fairly upset when I discovered that my daypack had been in a leaky garbage bag. Thankfully, my ipod and camera are ok, while everything else is ring-out soaked. After digging into our backpacks and changing into random dry clothes, we headed to La Fortuna. I slept most of the way there and was in much better spirits by the time we arrived.
La Fortuna is like the Queenstown (adventure capital of New Zealand) of Costa Rica! After a hot shower and dry clothes, we walked to one of the local adventure booking offices. After the painful elimination process of deciding what tours I would do in the 2 and half days here, I decided to… just do it all! It’s much easier this way, and while it’s not the cheapest decision, it’s still way cheaper than the equivalent in New Zealand.
After a quick dinner, we went to one of the area hot springs, which was actually in some kind of resort/spa. After a few minutes soaking in the steaming hot pools it was hard to imagine that we’d been bumping around on a tractor all morning, in the rain! A brilliant evening to a long day.