Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Costa Rica & Panama - Part 1

Sept. 3rd (Saturday):

Our rainforest cabana at Tierra De Suenos

We woke up around 3:15AM and groggily made our way to the kitchen to make coffee’s for the road. We had all our bags packed up the night before, so all I had to do was brush my hair. I didn’t even bother with makeup (this becomes a trend of the rest of the trip, never blow dried my hair the entire trip, and rarely put on anything more than mascara). One thing that sucks about flying out of Atlanta is that we pass from Central time to Eastern on the drive there, therefore we have to leave EXTRA early for flights which are at reasonable times in the morning out of Atlanta. 

While we walked to the gate at the airport I got a weird feeling in my stomach and it was like our honeymoon all over again. Would the flight get delayed, or cancelled because of the weather in the gulf? Would Frank not get on as a standby, leaving me to fly there alone? Ugh – I told myself if we don’t get to CR this time, we aren’t meant to go! If you didn’t know, we were supposed to go for our honeymoon, but the flight got delayed and we missed our connection in Atlanta, and the gate agent literally closed the door in my face and wouldn’t let us on the flight. The next flight didn’t leave for 2 days. Delta lost our luggage for 4 days. We still had a wonderful honeymoon at the Grand Cayman islands instead, but we wanted to make it to Costa Rica eventually. This was our second chance.

Everything worked out perfectly this time. Frank got a first class ticket flying standby and offered it to me (he’s a sweetie), so I got to enjoy mimosas and a free lunch on the flight. It was pretty non-eventful, I read the entire time. Once we started the decent into San Jose I couldn’t keep my eyes away from the window. It was so green and beautiful; I didn’t want to miss anything…everything is so pretty from the sky.

I was pretty giddy once we landed…we’re finally here! We’ve wanted to go on this trip for over a year, and we’re actually here! We took a cab to the bus station about 30 minutes away, and waited for the bus to Puerto Viejo (which is about 4 hrs away on the southeast side of CR). Once we got to the bus station, it was pretty apparent that we need to learn Spanish…ASAP. We finally figured out what bus we needed to be on, but not knowing much Spanish made it a little difficult.

The bus to Puerto Viejo was nicer than what we expected, pretty comfortable, actually! The thing that struck me first about CR was the fresh air. We sat near the back of the bus and opened the windows…once we were out of San Jose the air was so fresh and smelled sooo good. I swear it was the freshest air I’ve even inhaled…I guess that’s typical for being in the rainforest! It was awesome. The drive was beautiful; we drove through rainforests and mountains and saw a good portion of the country (lots of banana plants). About halfway through the bus ride it started to drizzle and rain very lightly…Frank fell asleep leaning on the side of the bus wall, and I passed out on his shoulder. It was the best nap ever. We talked about that nap the whole trip. The cool air on our faces with the light rain cooling us off, and that fresh air…ahhhh…There are a couple of naps I remember with Frank that I love the most, and they all include rain. This one takes the cake, though :).

We had a short stop in Limon on the way to Puerto Viejo, we just stepped out and grabbed a few snacks and we were on our way. We got to Puerto Viejo around 6:30ish and decided to wander around with our bags and find a place to eat dinner. We stopped at this place called Tamara’s (which we later found out is one of the oldest original restaurants in town) and had a pretty good dinner. We didn’t stay too long, though, since we needed to check in at our cabanas before 8.

We stayed at Tierra De Suenos, which is about 7 rainforest bed & breakfast cabanas tucked away a few miles south of Puerto Viejo. Once we arrived and met the owners, I knew we would like it there. They were a younger couple from DC (Jake and Maureen) and had been in CR a little less than a year; they were really laid back. We all got along great, and ended up hanging out with them quite a bit during our stay. The cabana was so cute! It was all hardwood, and had this romantic bed with a mosquito net around it, with really pretty mosaic tile work in the bathroom. The patio in the front had a small table and 2 hammocks waiting for us. It was nice not having a TV or internet…we were off the reservation and ready to chill out and relax!

Sept. 4th (Sunday): 

Snorkeling at Punta Uva Beach
We woke up a time or two during the night to the sounds of the rainforest, namely…howler monkeys! It didn’t bother me, though…it was pretty neat being in the rainforest with all the animals, even if it wakes you up now and then. Howler moneys sound nothing like I had expected, so much noise from such a small animal! It's pretty crazy that they can make so much noise. The sun rose early and we showered and got ready for the day. We didn’t have plans, we just wanted to explore Puerto Viejo and check out the nearby beaches. We had breakfast at the reception area…the fruit was really, really good! You can’t beat eating fruit in Costa Rica, from Costa Rica…yum. Not even the freshest fruit here compares with the fruit we ate there.

We rented two pedal bikes and biked our way north to Puerto Viejo. Our first stop was Playa Negra, a black sand beach. It was pretty, but we didn’t stay there for long. We biked around town and checked things out. Puerto Viejo is a neat little town. It has a surfer/Caribbean vibe…lots of small restaurants line the street with little trinket shops here and there. The nearby beaches are big for surfers, especially Cocles beach, just south of town. We saw lots of younger people who looked like the backpacker type hanging out, very laid back atmosphere. We split some fajitas for lunch at a beach bar/restaurant…and ordered two margaritas. They were super good…and quite larger and stronger than normal…which may or may not have had anything to do with the events that occurred later that day.

After lunch we started biking south towards where we were staying. We stopped along at a small place that had wifi so we could email the family and let them know we were alive and had made it okay. We also wanted to look into flights from Panama back to San Jose in case we decided to go there for a few days. The woman running the roadside wifi bar was an American expat, but had traveled a lot in Panama, so she was able to give us some good advice. What was supposed to be a quick wifi stop turned into a 2 hour stop and a beer or two, and I’m pretty sure we know this woman’s whole life story...her views on religion and politics, and pretty much her entire personal life…ha. She was a talker.

After we left the bar we stopped by the cabana to drop some stuff off and get some beach towels and head to the beach. At this point it was already pushing 3PM. It gets dark early there, around 5:30…so we didn’t have much daylight left. We headed to Punta Uva…a beautiful beach about a 5-10 minute bike ride south of where we were staying. It was probably the prettiest beach near Puerto Viejo…think wild, untouched jungle backing up to white sandy beaches with crystal clear blue water. Frank rented some snorkel gear and we snorkeled along the rocky ledges that framed the side of the beach. Frank found some lobsters, but didn’t try and catch them because he wasn’t sure what the rules were on catching lobster. When we returned the snorkel gear we told the guys renting it about the lobsters, and they said if he would have grabbed those lobsters, they would have cooked them for us. Darn! Oh well…Frank had it in his head to go back and get those lobsters for the next few days.  He actually asked a few people in town if they had a lobster snare…they just looked at him like he was crazy…haha.

Then we have the bike ride home from the beach. Note: Never try and race someone on gravel roads on a pedal bike. Bad decision.

So yeah. I had this bright idea to race Frank home from the beach. I picked up a lot of speed on a portion of the road that was paved, and then it turned into gravel with potholes. That is pretty much the last thing I remember before I was laying on the ground and watching feet walk past me. Apparently I crashed my bike (this dude walked by and didn’t even see if I was okay! What a jerk…ha). Anyway, Frank didn’t see it because I was around a corner. Once he turned the corner and saw me laid out on the road he rushed over to make sure I was okay. I was mostly okay…no broken bones or anything. But, I was covered in gravel road rash and bruises. Ugh. Wonderful way to start the vacation! Haha. I looked pretty beat up, not gonna lie. I had this one really big bruise on my chin that basically looked like a beard for the first several days. Even now it’s not completely gone, but it’s much less noticeable. I’m just thankful that the crash wasn’t any worse; otherwise it might have affected how much I enjoyed the rest of the trip! The first day afterwards I was pretty sore from it all, but after that it wasn’t so bad.

I don’t really remember the next few hours very well, I think I tried to erase that whole crashing-and-burning part of the trip from my memory - haha. We showered up and planned on having dinner at a place called Selvin’s.  Once we left the cabana we stopped by the reception area to see who was hanging out and show everyone my battle wounds. We ended up talking with a couple from Seattle who was in the cabana next to ours for about an hour or so…and once we got to Selvin’s they had just closed. We found another place that was open later, though…right next door to where we were staying, called Shawanda Lodge. It was a really nice place and we enjoyed the dinner there. After dinner we headed home and called it a night. 

*I'm going to upload a photo album soon with all our photos *

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