Thursday, August 23, 2012

PURA VIDA in Costa Rica!

Earlier this month we went on an AMAZING vacation with some of our friends.  There were 4 couples and we all left the kids with grandparents and set off on one big adventure to Costa Rica!  This trip was one of the most fun trips I have ever been on.  We were going nonstop the entire time.  While most vacations are full of relaxation, we were repelling 200 ft. waterfalls, ziplining through the jungle, rafting  class 3-4 rapids, hiking in the cloud forest, snorkeling, horseback riding and sailing down a 400 ft. waterslide!  There was never a dull moment and most of our time was full of laughter and fun.  We couldn't have went with a better group of friends.  This post is going to be so very long but I didn't want to leave anything out for my memory's sake.  I've selected a few pics from each day, and believe me, this doesn't touch the total amount I have plus what we will have once everyone combines everything they took.  I will have a fun time designing a vacation book for this trip.
We left on Friday, August 3 at 5:30 am.  We flew to Houston then on to Costa Rica.  Most of that first day was spent traveling.  It takes hours to drive to places in Costa Rica and trust me these aren't smooth roads.  Our driver, Raphael, could get our van on 2 wheels going around curves and they don't mind passing in a curve over there either :)  I also should mention that right when we got to Costa Rica we found out that some of our bags were lost (3 out of 6 and mine was included in that).  Luckily, they arrived at our hotel late that night.  We were pretty glad to finally arrive at the Volcano Lodge that night safe and sound.  The Arenal Volcano was right in front of our lodge.  They say its very rare to see the top of it but we actually had clear views 2 out of 3 days!  We snapped a few pics on our drive in...

We all got settled that night and crashed from the long day.  We had a big day ahead too!

Day 1: Saturday, August 4
Our first day we were scheduled to go canyoneering.  This is the waterfall repelling and hiking.  We were picked up at the lodge and then we drove to a spot where we had to climb in the "jungle limo" which was basically in the back of a truck.  

We drove up this winding dirt road and got to the spot where we would get our gear on then load up to head to the starting spot.  We had 4 waterfalls total to repel...a 10 ft, 150 ft, 15 ft, and 200 ft.  We had a couple of surprises along the way and had to hike between waterfalls through water.  Needless to say we got good and wet on this trip!  At one point along the way they split us into groups and we sat on these rocks.  We noticed 2 of the guides laying across the rocks...later to learn they were damming up the water only to release it so we would get SOAKED!  We figured out real quick what they were doing so we knew what was coming.  It was very refreshing to say the least and as the pictures show we got wet!  At one point all you see is water and we are somewhere under it!    This was so much fun though and we all said it was a great way to start the trip and that it would be hard to top.  It was pretty challenging though.  I had some trouble on the first waterfall.  It sounds funny, but the bigger waterfalls were much easier to repel because the smaller ones were more like climbing backwards down rocks.  Looking down 200 ft though can be a little nerve wrecking but it was so much fun!  

Boys all ready

Our 2nd waterfall...from the top looking down!

down I go...

Here comes Kelly!
Thumbs up from Hubby!
A view from the bottom of the waterfall

Getting ready to get WET!
Alan's face says it all
Here it comes....
We are completely covered!

 Going down the last one...200 ft!

After our repelling trip we spent the afternoon doing a hike at the Volcano National Park.  We hiked to the lava field and got a beautiful view up there from the rocks.  My battery went dead on the camera so I will be getting pictures from the others from this trip...
One bad part was I failed to wear socks with my water shoes...not thinking!  I got the worst blisters on my heels from the hike and I would feel those for the rest of the trip.  Thank goodness for Neosporin and Band-Aids!!  We also discovered the wonderful hot tub at our lodge that night.  We would spend time there every night!  It felt so good to soak our sore muscles and just relax.  

Day 2: Sunday, August 5
Sunday we were scheduled to do white water rafting.  This was the one thing I was most nervous about before the trip.  I had never been and I had a fear of falling out of the raft and hitting my head on a rock.   You name it, it had crossed my mind, and if anyone would fall out, it would be me!  I was worried about the class 3-4 rapids too.  Doing the canyoneering certainly helped calm this fear since it was more challenging than I had thought.  By the time we were getting set to raft, I was feeling ok about it.  It turned out to be so fun!  I loved it!  We had a great guide too which really helped.   The 2nd half of the trip we actually had 2 guides in the raft and they were trying all kinds of tricks with us.  We were having a ball.  Each of us also had a turn at "riding the bull", which is sitting on the front of the raft and pretty much just holding on!  That was also the spot to get a face full of water :)  We would follow Stevan, our guide's commands, and then he would say "high 5 team!" and everyone would hold up their paddle and shout PURA VIDA!  Pura Vida is "pure life" and it is said for everything down there. We picked it up immediately and it became the phrase of the week!   The rafting was awesome!
A BIG group picture
Jennifer & I getting ready

Pura Vida!

Jen riding the bull!
Me riding the bull...about to get water in the face!
A picture with Stevan
 After lunch we had about a 2 hour drive back to the lodge.  On the ride back we got our first wildlife sighting.  It was a sloth up in the tree and we also saw a tree full of iguanas.  It was pretty cool getting to see the sloth!

 Day 3: Monday, August 6
On Monday we had a travel day.  We had to pack up from the Volcano Lodge, take a bus ride for about 30 minutes, get on a boat for about 45 minutes to cross the lake, and then hop in another van for about a 3 hour drive to Monteverde.  This was one of the bumpiest rides we had.  We did see some pretty parts of the country though.  One of the things that amazed me was how they would build their fences.  The fence post would be tree trunks. There is a lot of farming in Costa Rica.  We saw several brahma cows and it became a fun joke in the group.   Costa Rica is very green as you can see in the pictures.  It really is a pretty country.  We loved passing through the little towns and seeing the schools. Its so cool to see how things are in other countries.  It really shows you how well we have it here for sure!
We had a great view our last morning

Kelly & I are convinced that is smoke on the top.  

On the boat!

A picture showing the fence posts

Once we got to Monteverde we were ready to get out and explore.  We decided to take a hike in the cloud forest.  We ate a quick lunch then began our hike since we were limited on time.  It gets dark quicker over there and its already a little dark inside the rain forest!  We were so itching to see monkeys by this time.  Unfortunately we didn't see any that day but we got a good hike in.  My poor heels were mad at me but it was very neat.  Everything is so green!  One tree limb is covered it all kinds of things, leaves, moss, who knows what else!  We created our own excitement as well.  The guys found some really good Tarzan vines and took turns swinging on them.  Since we couldn't see real monkeys we had to settle for watching the boys be monkeys!  Especially watching them use socks on their hands to get better grips on the vines!  Like I said, we had lots of laughs and fun on this trip...on a daily basis!

Our view at the top

Westley taking a big swing!
Kelly swinging...notice the sock hands!

After our hike we were ready to eat!  We found a restaurant close to our hotel.  The food is Costa Rica was ok.  We ate LOTS of rice and beans.  Here is a picture of my food that night which they call "Casada".  Casada is their word for marriage and it means typical.  They say once your married every day is the same or typical and this is the typical meal in Costa Rica.  They even have rice and beans for breakfast!  You also have a meat and it is usually chicken or fish.  
After dinner we had some ice cream and walked back to our hotel.  We decided to take our own little night hike looking for something.  We found nothing but ants though :)  We ended the night playing cards.

Day 4:  Tuesday, August 7
Tuesday was our day to go ziplining.  Costa Rica is known for its zip lines and we were zip lining at the #1 spot in Costa Rica...Selvatura.  This was some of the most fun!  These zip lines were awesome!  They were long and fast.  We loved it!  The tour had 13 lines and then we did a Tarzan swing at the end.  By this time we have all learned to rock a helmet and a harness really well too! The last line was the longest and you had to do it in pairs.  Kelly and I tried videoing and it is crazy to watch.  You are WAY up there and are flying over a huge valley.  You really can't be afraid of heights doing this.  It is so much fun though.  We are laughing constantly on the video.  I would try posting it but I think this post is already long enough!  It was hard to take pictures but we did manage to get a few.  Most of the time you are zipping from one platform to the next only to take off on the next line.  They know how to keep you moving!    The Tarzan swing was also very fun.  You had to jump off a platform and true to its name you swung out into the trees.  The initial jump was a little scary but like everything else it was a thrill!  After the zip lining tour we did a tour of the hanging bridges.  We did a lot of hiking as you can imagine.  The bridges were neat but once again we were hoping to see a lot of monkeys and didn't find any.  Right as we started our hanging bridges hike, the bottom fell out of the clouds.  We had been very lucky every day on the weather.  We had a lot of sunny days which is odd this time of year since it is the start of rainy season.  The rain didn't last long at all though.

Twins for the day!

Here is a view of one of the zip lines.  Its hard to capture these in a picture!

Waiting on the platform

After our zip line tour we had to hop back in a van to be driven to our next destination...Playa Ocotal.  This was our last stop and it was at the beach.  When we go to get in our van we find out that our driver is once again...Raphael!  This meant hang on! :)  I have to say that our transfers were always full of fun.  Alan would use his iPhone and his translation to Spanish app to try to talk to the driver.  Some knew good English but regardless we felt like we needed to speak Spanish which was hilarious.  We might say a sentence and out of the sentence know about 3 words in Spanish.  And our little Spanish accent was another laugh.  Why we felt they would understand us better I have no idea but it made for a great laugh which we weren't short on at all!
Here is the beautiful sunset we got to watch as we arrived at the beach.  We then headed to Father Rooster's for dinner.  We ate here 2 out of 3 was convenient and good!

Day 5: Wednesday August 8
Wednesday was our relax day.  We ended up doing a snorkel tour.  We were staying in 2 condos at Playa Ocotal.  We woke up and did a little bird watching.  We did see some pretty green parrots.  It was hard to get a great picture of them since they camoflauge so good into the tree but I did get one with his wings out and hopefully between all of us we will have a couple to use in our book.  There was one blue bird called a magpie jay that was pretty aggressive and really wanted to eat our food if we would share.  We got some good pictures of those but they were so common to see that we were not impressed after a while.  
Magpie Jay

Waiting on a crumb from hubby

An iguana in the tree at our balcony


That morning we chose to snorkel at our beach.  There was a great cove to snorkel in and we also went over to this private beach.  Our beach was a black sand beach and this one over was a white sand beach.  So close but different sand!  The beach was empty other than us being on it.  While we snorkeled we saw some pretty fish of all kinds, and we even saw a sea turtle!  That was definitely my favorite.  Once we got to the beach we were amazed at all the crabs on the beach.  They were almost neon and they were everywhere under the trees!  I know I've never seen so many and never one that colorful.

Sea Turtle! 
A close up of the bright little crabs

Its hard to see but these crabs were everywhere under this tree.

Later after lunch we went on a snorkeling tour.  We had great guides once again who were nothing but fun!  They took us to 2 different snorkeling spots.  On the way to the first one we saw a school of dolphins and they were so close to the boat!  We were amazed of course.  When we stopped to snorkel we saw more cool fish and even saw eels and a sea snake.  This was when I was so happy I bought a new camera for the that was also waterproof!  Kelly took some great pics on both snorkel trips.  We also got to go in these caves which was so neat and so pretty.  We looked pretty rough but I had to have 1 picture to remember it by.
Our 2nd stop was at a place they call Monkey Rock.  The rock is shaped just like a gorilla head.  You can see it in the picture!  We saw a spotted ray here and that was so cool!  Unfortunately we didn't have the camera :(  We'll have to log that one in the memory bank!

Our 2nd snorkel sight...Monkey rock.


sea snake

In the caves!
After our fun snorkel trip we got ready and headed back to Father Rooster's.  That night we went out on our beach and collected some hermit crabs for the kiddos.  Hermit crabs were EVERYWHERE on the beach.  You couldn't walk without stepping on them.  It was a little crazy.  Cohen was pretty excited over her shells though.  She has the book, "A House for Hermit Crab" so she was excited to get an actual crab house from Costa Rica :)

Day 6: Thursday, August 9:
Thursday was our last day.  We couldn't slow down now!  We had decided this was a once in a lifetime trip so we were planning something else!  We had a driver pick us up and we headed to Buena Vista where we would zip line again, horseback ride to the hot springs, take a mud bath, and then finish with a 400 meter water slide.  Sounds like fun!  I do have a fun photo to share...on the way there this is what we came to which puts a whole new spin on road work... 

When we got to Buena Vista we got harnessed up to do zip lining first.  We were ready since we knew how much fun it was going to be, and to get us even more excited, when we started walking into the jungle we heard the best sound...MONKEYS!  You could hear the howler monkeys in the trees.  They were so loud.  We didn't see them right then but I know we had to walk right by the tree they were because you could hear how close they were.  We had 8 zip lines on this tour and even though they weren't near as long, they were still fun.  It was very laid back.  We had a few people even zip line upside down!  They would bounce our lines up and down too.  It was a lot of fun.  About half way through we came off of one of the lines to find monkeys in the tree!  This totally completed our trip.  We had to wait until the last day to finally see monkeys.  They were everywhere in the tree.  We even saw a mama with her baby.  I wish so bad I had my big camera to zoom in on them but I only had the small one.  We got pictures but the lighting wasn't the best so we had to take what we got!  It was so fun to watch them though.  

Brad going upsdie down! 
One of the monkeys

After the zip lines we headed straight to get on horses for the horseback ride to the hot springs.  Looking back, this was probably the scariest thing of the whole trip!  haha!  Riding a horse in shorts is not something I would recommend even on a short ride, but we had to.  I thought my thighs would run off right there on that saddle!  To make the ride even funnier, Kelly & I both had horses who liked to be in front.  They would be walking along and then take off running!  We were holding on for dear life at a few points.  I think they were really getting running starts on the hills but it was not so fun holding on.   I was praying I would not fall about making the rafting look like a walk in the park.  I actually liked walking down hill because the horse was slow and careful instead of bouncing us around.  My horse being as competitive as it was, was the first one to the spot and I was sure glad to get off of him!

My horse :)

An iguana was there when we got off our horses

Happy to be on the ground again!
At the hot springs we changed into our swim suits and then we were sent in the sauna for 5 minutes.  This was a hot, steamy 5 minutes.  We were leaning over to get some cool air.  We then came outside and rubbed mud all over us.  MUD BATH!  We had some fun with this.  We were head to toe covered in mud and the guys even had their hair covered . We decided to take some fun pictures!  Our driver, Carlos, stayed with us the whole time and had all our cameras.  He took a lot of pictures for us.  Once we showered the mud off we went the hot springs pools for about 30 minutes.  It was nice to sit and relax in the warm water!

showering off the mud

Soaking in the hot springs
 After the hot springs we headed to our last stop...the 400 meter water slide.  We each had to get a tube and we headed up to the top.  Jennifer and I were lucky enough to have a stylish black "diaper" thing we had to wear.  We felt so hot!  This slide was a blast.  You would fly down it!  There were times I thought I was going to slide over the side!  We each did the slide twice.  It was a great way to end our adventure!  We had lunch then headed back to the beach.
sporting our sexy black diapers
We got ready to head to Playa Coco for dinner.  We wanted to eat in the town one night and check out some souvenir shops.   Before we left we decided to take some pictures on our balcony.  Alan, Jennifer, Kelly, and I were in a condo together so we were taking pics for each other and decided to set the self timer to get a group shot.  We never could get the camera high enough so finally we had the others come over to take one.  Our attempt was hilarious!  We had no hair dryers at this place so needless to say my hair tie became my best friend.    

Me and the hubs!

This was our tripod we tried to build :)  No luck!

 We had a fun night in the town eating and shopping.  We got several souvenirs to bring home.  Here is a picture of us in the restaurant.  My favorite was the bike in the background.  I knew my waif girls would love this place!

Day 7: Friday, August 10
We had a long day on Friday traveling home.  We rode about 4 hours to the airport, flew 3 hours to Houston, then 2 more hours to Atlanta.  We then drove home arriving at about 2:45 am.  Larry & Lydia had come to spend the night at our house so we could be here when the girls woke up.  Cohen was actually in our bed.  She woke up when we got home and just laughed and smiled when she saw us.  I think she was glad to see us and we were glad to see her too!  I was glad to see both my girls!  We had a trip of a lifetime and I wouldn't trade a day of it!  I thank God for great friends to take trips like this with and for the opportunity to get to go!  PURA VIDA!

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