Sunday, September 18, 2011

Costa Rica & Panama - Part 2

Monday, Sept. 5th:

We woke up bright and early to go zip-lining! We were picked up by a van around 7:30 AM at our bungalow and taken to Puerto Viejo where we eventually picked up a whole bunch of people. I mean…our.bus.was.packed. We were all basically sitting on top of each other- it was good fun and I suppose it helped break the ice. The people we picked up were a lot of fun – so I knew that the zip-lining would be a good time. We drove about 45 minutes through a really rural area, saw a bunch of cows and farms…which was kind of a strange sight - cows hanging out in a rainforest near palm trees. It was cool…we passed a bunch of really small homes and saw kids playing in the yards. It was a neat drive. I wish I would have taken photos of the drive out there; it was sort of an adventure in itself. We even had to cross some streams, which was pretty entertaining in a van full of people. I was sure we were going to get stuck!

Once we got to the zip-lining location I checked out the first line - not quite what I had expected! Ha. I thought the first line would be sort of a “let’s-break-them-in-on-an-easy-one-line”…oh noooo…it was a long line…and pretty high off the ground! It was probably one of the longer, higher lines we did. It was really fun! I was sort of nervous the first time, but once they pushed me off the nervousness was gone. The views were awesome, flying above all the trees. I think the longest line we did was a little over a kilometer. All in all there were about 16-17 different lines. Towards the end we did a Tarzan swing, which was pretty fun, too. I was a little disappointed we didn’t see any monkeys while doing all this zip-lining. The guides said that sometimes the monkeys will play on the platforms and lines…we didn’t see any, though :(. After several hours we were done with the zip-lines and snacked on some pineapple and waters. We were THIRSTY! The heat and humidity there is no joke!

We got back to town about 2PM and started scoping out different tour companies that would shuttle you to Bocas Del Toro islands in Panama. We had decided we wanted to go on Wednesday and needed to figure out the best (i.e. cheapest) way to get there. We found a company that would get us there for $30 each, so we booked it. Then we found a place with wifi and booked the flight from Bocas Del Toro islands back to San Jose, Costa Rica on Saturday – that way we could make our flight home. We ate lunch in Puerto Viejo, but I can’t remember the name of the restaurant…it had a great view of the beach, though, and we did a lot of people watching. There are some interesting people walking around Costa Rica, that’s for sure. We’d see people bicycle by with a baby in one arm, holding a coke, and texting. I don’t know how they do it!

The rest of the day was spent lounging at the reception center and then we made another trip to the beach…same beach as the day before – Punta Uva. It was definitely our favorite beach there, so beautiful. Frank stopped by the dive center to see if they had some lobster snares…he was on a mission to catch some lobster, I’ll tell ya! Of course…they didn’t have any and thought he was crazy, just like everywhere else he asked. So we headed to the beach and did some swimming/snorkeling…I stayed out of the water for the most part since it stung where I had some bad scrapes…which was pretty much everywhere :(. There were some howler monkeys in the palm trees next to the beach. Frank and I probably spent 45 minutes watching them in the trees above us.

That night we ate at this really good middle-eastern restaurant called Pita Bonita. I had never really tried hummus…it had always sort of grossed me out. Frank thought their hummus was the best he’d ever had. I didn’t have anything to compare it to, but it was alright! The rest of the food we had there was really good, some sort of chicken dish…yummy. The owners were super nice…also American expats. There are a TON of them in Costa Rica. Most places to stay and eat there are owned by Americans or Europeans. 

Tuesday, Sept. 6th:

Hello monkey!

Last full day in Costa Rica and probably my favorite one…sad face. We were sad that we were leaving soon. I kind of wish we would have stayed for the whole trip, but we really did want to see Panama, and I’m glad we did. On Tuesday we felt like we kind of belonged there…we started recognizing people in town…we felt like we were sort of in-the-know about stuff. I started thinking…hmm…I think I could probably live here!

That day Jake gave us a ride to the Jaguar rescue center and we got to see all kinds of monkeys, sloths, snakes, etc…no jaguars, though! The stories about the monkeys are sad…if something happens to the parents of baby monkeys (if they get hit by a car or electrocuted on the power-lines, etc.) the baby monkeys will just sit by their parents bodies and howl. None of the other monkeys want them; they are sort of an outcast. The rescue center gets theses monkeys and nurse them back to health and eventually release them back in the wild when they are adults. They usually keep them for a year or two before they release them, though. It’s pretty cool – they’ll let the baby monkeys out of the cages and let them play with wild monkeys in the trees surrounding the rescue center. The ones that belong to them will always come back at the end of the day…they are trained pretty well. We got to go in a cage with about 15 monkeys and they crawled all over us…they are super playful. Pretty sure Frank was in heaven. He friggin’ loves monkeys more than anyone I know. He could watch monkeys all day long…it’s actually pretty entertaining to watch him watch monkeys, ha. When the tour was over he wanted to stay for another hour or so, so we hung out and watched sloths and monkeys for another hour.

We walked home from the rescue center by the beach - Playa Chicquita…another beautiful, unspoiled beach. There were many times that we were the only ones on the beach, it was so nice to have it be just the two of us hanging out, exploring the beaches together. We got some lunch at a place called Pasta & Pizza. The owner didn’t speak any English and we had a hard time ordering – another time I REALLY wish I knew more Spanish. I tried to converse with him the best I could. Then I found the gloriousness that is fresh-squeezed Passion Fruit Juice.

O.M.G. Heaven!

From then on, anytime I was at a restaurant I would order the fresh squeezed juices…why don’t more places offer these in the U.S.?! It is a shame, because they are absolutely amazing! Passion fruit was so good. Passion fruit margaritas….mmm…normal margaritas will never be good enough anymore! From that point on, anytime I had a margarita, it was a passion fruit margarita.

So anyway…I need to find somewhere around here that sells passion fruit so I can make my own juice. The end.

We made our way back to the bungalow and hung out at the reception center a little while…tried some funny looking fruit called rambutan. Yum! It tastes like gummy candy (same consistency, too). I’m going to have to find an Asian grocery store to find them…they are good!

We decided to ride our bikes to Manzanillo, which is the last tiny town on the little road south of Puerto Viejo. WOW. That place was amazingly beautiful. Super tiny town, there was one convenience store and one restaurant. We took about a 2-3 hour boat ride along the coast south of town…almost to Panama. The coastline was some of the most beautiful I had ever seen.  So much jungle and many desolate looking beaches…tiny rocky islands with just a few palm trees on them. No buildings or people in sight. Frank and I were both in awe…we didn’t expect it to be so beautiful, but it was. We stopped at one beach for about 15 minutes, and then at another for about 45 minutes and did some snorkeling. We started boating back to the town once the sun was about to set. Sad that we didn’t spend more time in Manzanillo…it was spectacular. I’m glad we were at least able to spend a few hours there, though!

The bike ride back was horrible. Frank’s bike broke and the chain wouldn’t stay on. We were a 45 minute bike ride from home…and the sun was setting. It’s not safe to bike those roads at night, lots of people told us that. Soooo, before the sun completely set, I decided to try and find a lodge or hotel along the road so I could get someone to help us out. We had NO cash…so this would be interesting. I didn’t find a hotel, but I found a house with a nice looking couple in the kitchen. I figured this was my best bet, so I went up to the front door and tried telling them in my best Spanish that my husband’s bike was broken down the road, and we needed a taxi. They were very friendly and before I knew it there was a guy on the side of the road that offered to drive us back to town. He said he was a taxi…who knows…it’s hard to tell who is a taxi and who isn’t around there. He seemed trustworthy enough, so I waited with him for Frank who wasn’t too far behind me walking with his bike. He brought us back to our bungalow and we explained that we had no money. We were going to try and borrow some from somebody, but he wouldn’t take it). We finally got him to take a half bottle of vodka we had as payment, haha.

After we showered up we hung out in the reception area with Jake and Maureen and split a bottle of wine, listened to some Mumford & Sons…just chilled. We were waiting for 8PM so they could close the office and we could go with them to Tasty Waves for half price tacos and drinks!

Tasty Waves was fun – different from the rest of the places we had been in that it was more Americanized. Most of the people there were American (I don’t think one person spoke Spanish). They played American music, it felt like we were in the US for a little while! The tacos were really good, and then we enjoyed a few passion fruit margaritas and beers. This was our “going-out” night. I’m sad that I have no photos from this night :(. That’s what happens when you have a good time, no time for photos.  The only photo I have is of me standing next to a pole that has the same print as the dress I was wearing. Oh well. We probably stayed out until 12:30AM and then headed home. We had a big travel day coming up the next day.

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