Pura Vida

Authored By Jennifer

“Pure Life.” That´s the slogan here in Costa Rica. I´m not sure I agree with it, but it´s on every souvenir here, so we´ll go with it. Brian and I have both wanted to come to Costa Rica for the natural beauty, outdoor adventures and ecofriendly travel. In fact my Costa Rica Lonely Planet is in storage still waiting to be read. We picked up the Shoestring version on the road and I read through it and mapped out our adventures for the last two weeks of our trip.

First on the agenda, white-water rafting on the Rio Pacuare. The 18 mile section of river is reportedly one of the top 5 in the world to raft because of its beauty. It runs through a gorge with virgin tropical rainforest, waterfalls and wildlife all around. We saw several tropical birds and the beautiful blue Morpho butterfly. And of course the rapids were fun and furious. The river is surprisingly warm and the rapids range between Class III and IV. There were only 5 of us on the boat, Brian, myself, our Tico guide Carlos and two women from South Carolina, Holly and Linda. The two women had rafted down a lower-class river once before, but didn´t look very strong. Plus Linda was applying makeup before we got in the water, so really it was up to Brian, me and Carlos to do the paddling. And I only count as half a person really. There were several times when we didn´t think we were gonna make it. At one point our guide asked us, “paddle harder, please!” But somehow we managed to stay in our boat the entire time and it was such a rush. There was a slow part of the river that passed through a narrow gorge and our guide told us to jump out. For the next 5 minutes we drifted down the rivers on our backs taking in the scenery and tropical rain falling; it was magical. We had an amazing time and I can´t wait to go rafting back in California.

Next we headed to La Fortuna and that´s when the unfortunate bag theft occurred. It definitely put a damper on our plans, and not a day goes by that we don´t think about it. We´re sitting in the US embassy as I write this, waiting for Brian´s new temporary passport. There are 15 other Americans here who have also had their passports stolen. In the paper we read that there are more passports stolen in Costa Rica per year, then all of Central and South America combined. Anyway, enough of that.

La Fortuna is the main tourist destination in Costa Rica. There are plenty of activities and nearby Arenal Volcano that draw the crowds. It´s low season now, so there aren´t as many tourists, but we like it that way. There´s a thunder and lightning storm every afternoon followed by 1 or 2 hours of rain. It cools down the heat and humidity, so we don´t mind. We decided to take a tour of the rainforest, check out the active volcano and take a dip in some thermal springs.

We took our rainforest tour at the Hanging Bridges of Arenal. The Hanging Bridges is a two mile trail through the rainforest that is connected by 8 fixed bridges and 6 hanging bridges. Some of the bridges are pretty high in the air so that you get to see the top of the canopy instead of just the forest floor. Our guide Gustavo from Jacamar Travel was hands down the best guide we´ve had on our entire trip. He pointed our the flora and fauna along the trail and even knew some bird calls. Not only is the rainforest just absolutely beautiful, but the wildlife is amazing. On our 2 1/2 hour walk we saw lizards, howler monkeys, poison dart frogs, leaf-cutter ants, snakes, all kinds of tropical birds, and even a small birds nest with babies inside that didn´t yet have their feathers. It was fascinating. I´d say it was the best activity we did in Costa Rica.

The next day we took an afternoon tour of the Volcano. We were expecting to see lava flows like the volcanos in Hawaii, but what the Ticos call lava is really pieces of rock falling down the side of the mountain. The only thing you can really see is the smoke from the hot rocks. Not nearly as exciting, but we didn´t know this when we booked the tour. We did get to see a lot of black lava rocks, which were kinda cool. And since it was the afternoon, of course it started raining. We had our ponchos, but they weren´t quite as water proof as we were led to believe. We waited about 15 minutes for it to clear, hoping that it would also clear the clouds that were around the top of the volcano so that we could get a better look. The rain didn´t stop, so we quickly made our way back to the van. One part of the trail back goes through the forest and the howler monkeys started howling and scared the crap out of me. Those guys are loud!

After our cold, wet tour of the Volcano, we headed to the Baldi Hot Springs. Baldi has 16 hotsprings nestled between tropical gardens. By the time we got there, it was dark and the rain was still pouring, which was actually perfect weather for the springs. We enjoyed a couple of hours of bathing and some drinks, but really hot water is hot water and the drinks were incredibly expensive.

The next day we left La Fortuna and headed to the cloud forest of Monteverde in the mountains. We took the jeep-boat-jeep option which was a van ride to the lake, a boat ride across the lake, and a van into the mountains to Monteverde. At the lake we boarded the slowest boat I´ve ever been on. The ride that should have taken 15 minutes, took an hour. Four hours later we finally reached Monteverde. It is very pretty in the mountains. We came across lots of farms and coffee bean bushes. And it was much cooler in temperature than La Fortuna.

Our sole purpose of going to Monteverde was to check out the zip lines in the canopy of the cloud forest. We booked a two hour tour with Sky Trek. The tour included a total of 11 zip lines that go through the forest (which all together, have a length of 2 miles approximately), with distances that go from the 120 feet to half a mile, and heights from 60 to 360 feet. Brian is slightly afraid of heights, and was a little leary, but I couldn´t wait. We had a harness and helmet on, and used a pulley to fly through the sky on the zip line. The first six lines were small and slow, but we steadily got higher and the lines got longer and we were having a blast. The fog started to roll in and at one time we were flying through the air and you coudn´t see anything but fog. As usual it started raining and the wind picked up. For the last two lines Brian and I went together (the extra weight guaranteed we´d make it across in the high wind). We went pretty fast and we laughed the whole way. Brian´s face was covered in dirty water when we were done and the picture is priceless. As soon as we get our pics uploaded we´ll share them with everyone. Another great adventure.

We only stayed in Monteverde for two nights. We took in the butterfly garden had a wonderful mediterranean meal of hummus, falafals and pitas, and of course called our moms for mother´s day. Then we headed to the beach to enjoy the last 5 days of our trip.

One Response to “Pura Vida”

  1. Jason Says:

    Please tell me you told the costa rican prostitutes to “quit standin’ around and get some jobs!”