God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Costa Rica, Episode 2--Arenal

About this whole episode thing....blame it on Downton Abbey, of which I was not even aware for its first two years. Soap operas in any form, even sophisticated PBS imports from the BBC, always seemed that they would be a little tawdry and appealing to our baser natures (not that I ever watched one to see how wrong I could be)--besides, waiting from one week to another for the next "episode" seemed much too suspenseful. Of course, I did do Mad Men for a while which definitely was tawdry. Anyway, it seems that Downton Abbey has become a craze in many sectors, not least of all among my friends. So....firing up Netflix, I watched Season 1, Episode 1 as it was clear that season 3 could not begin in a vacuum. That happened last week and now I am on episode 6 of season 2, with the VCR recording season 3; tawdry has been replaced by high intellectual value.

So, in keeping with my new addiction, this is Episode 2 of the Grand Costa Rica Christmas adventure, taking place in Arenal, home of the elusive Arenal volcano. This is what we saw of the volcano as we arrived at our lodging. Shortly there after, it disappeared into the mist and rain for the next 4 days. I believe it reappeared shortly after we left.

Beginning shortly after our arrival, the rains began--torrential, deafening, wet rains, night and day. In between the heavens emptying, there were light rains and misting--but keeping the motif of wet. We  never were reduced to lowly sprinkles. But..never fear, we did not travel all this way to be intimidated or have our plans derailed. We carried on in true Downton Abbey fashion.  Fortunately, it was not cold and beauty surrounded us, lifting our souls.

About our accommodations, suffice it to say they were lovely. A very large room--very large--with a balcony spa and a straight-on view of the volcano--or what should have been a view. The grounds were tropical with birds, monkeys and other scurrying wildlife. Because the Lost Iguana is quite a distance from the town of La Fortuna, we had our meals there (except for lunch when we were almost always away). Glad to say the food was quite good. The rooms are scattered through out the property and so golf card pick up service was available when needed--like when the skies opened up and it was dinner time.

OK--what did we do? Well, adventure #1 was white water rafting. When we first began working with Costa Rica Expeditions, Gustavo our agent, scheduled us for level 5 rapids which did not seem like such a good idea to me, a total novice. He seemed to agree once I explained this so we settled on level 2 and 3 rapids on a different river--the Sarapiqui.  I can tell you that it was amazing fun even when the rain came down so hard that it was truly impossible to see. The best part of this was that it made the rapids even more exciting and we certainly could not get any wetter.   

Above is our raft group. The guy in blue is Enzo our guide. See if you can spot us in the other two pictures? The paddles are lifted in the air as we shout Pura Vida after successfully conquering each rapid, and, I am pleased to report, I did not fall into the river, needing to be rescued by the kayak guy. Although, my body of ancient years did know it had had a workout which gave cause for a leisurely, wonderful massage in the late afternoon.

Oh yeah, you may wonder how we took such wonderful pictures of our adventure; well, clearly we didn't. I am not sure how they happened but it seems that there is this magician man who jumps from location to location along the river taking photos--quite difficult to picture. As we were all having lunch with our guide after the rafting, this guy sat down, opened his computer and showed us 35 amazing pictures of our trip down the rapids. Of course, we bought the cd just to have some pictures to show you.

The next day came the activity which had caused me the most apprehension--zip lining. However, as friends had assured me, this is really super easy and an incredibly memorable experience. Check this link to get a pretty good idea of what it was Sky Trek. The first line (well, the first real line as there are 2 baby ones so you can make sure you want to continue) started in the rain forest but within a couple seconds I was sailing through the air, looking down into a deep, really deep, chasm--quite an adrenalin rush. One line was 700 meters, allowing a fantastic view of the surrounding forest and Lake Arenal. I was so ready to start over when finished--except it is not a cheap activity. And...to prove that I am not a vain woman always needing to be beautiful...here I am fearlessly jumping into the unknown. See, I did do it.

Our third major activity (there were smaller ones), was CaƱo Negro Wild Life Refuge, a 2 1/2 hour drive but well, well worth it--beginning with it being warm and sunny, rather than wet and rainy. This tour is on the river right along the Nicaraguan border. Here we had a leisurely boat trip down the river, spotting all kinds of wild life along the way---birds, colorful male iguanas and their dull, brown females, caiman, birds, monkeys, birds, lizards, horses, cows, sloths and birds--and, I am undoubtedly forgetting something. We liked this excursion a lot and highly recommend it. It was one of the best wildlife viewing places we were as when in the rain and cloud forests, it is actually difficult to see many things other than frogs, spiders and some birds--at least that was our experience.

After lunch, we took a quick 5 minutes detour to the Nicaraguan border but, with security guards ever busy eye, we thought it probably wise not to pass by the barbed wire. Zendar, our very good guide, quite agreed.

So, these are the highlights of Arenal. We loved everything here--even the rain. If you decide to go,  be sure to consider The Lost Iguana Lodge. It's only drawback is its distance to the town of La Fortuna if you are wanting nightlife, shopping, etc We were quite content to stick to nature.

Next up: Episode 3--Monteverde, bats, cloud forest (as opposed to rain forest,) and coffee.


Gil said...

This is great! I can't wait for the next one.

Terry Freemark said...

What a thrilling trip. The rain made it even more of an adventure. I admire you for ziplining - not for the feint of heart.

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