Costa Rica Trip - Celebrating our 25th Anniversary - December 19, 2012


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Published: December 21st 2012
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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Today is an awesome day. Cindy and I have been married 25 years. This is totally awesome.

We had a very busy day today. Our day started at 6:00am with a wakeup call and then eating a quick breakfast in our room from the items we bought Tuesday. We meet our tour operator at the front of the hotel (Swiss Tours) at 7:00am. There were two other couples on the bus with us. The driver/guide on the bus said we would drive for about an hour and then go to the tour company’s central headquarters where we will join the bus will be traveling on for the day.

At about 8:15am we transferred to our bus for our tour. Our tour guide was Edwin and the driver was Hime. Our first stop was about 3 hours away so for this part of the trip the tour guide spent a significant amount of time talking about Costa Rica, primarily about the ecology. Our three hour journey took us along the Pan American highway which apparently starts in Alaska and ends in Chile, however the route through Columbia is a swamp, so there is no highway through part of Columbia. We also crossed the continental divide when traveling to our tour spots for the day. It was very interested we started off in the Guanacaste side where it is generally dry and ended up in a tropical rainforest area. A little bit about the eco system in Chile courtesy of http://www.therealcostarica.com/travel_costa_rica/ecology_conservation_costa_rica.html. Here is a little summary of what the tour guide also discussed.

“Costa Rica is located in Central America, between Nicaragua to the North and Panama to our South. It is not an island, despite what you saw in Jurassic Park!

Much of the country is in a fault zone and thus includes a large number of volcanoes and mountains. This is part of the Andean-Sierra Madre chain, and runs the length of the Costa Rica separating the Caribbean Sea to the east from the Pacific Ocean to the west. Costa Rica has twelve distinct ecological zones - incredibly, more than all of North America combined! While Costa Rica is assuredly in the tropics, the extreme variations in elevation provide climatic conditions that separate it from tropical climates elsewhere. The Pacific coast lowlands averages about 90° F while the mountain Cerro Chirripó has peaks above 12,800 feet and where you will find daytime temperatures that seldom exceed 48° F. 1,000 species of butterflies

§ 1,200 varieties of orchids

§ 850 species of birds

§ 130 species of freshwater fish

§ 4,000 species of insects

§ 160 species of amphibians

§ 220 species of reptiles

§ 1,600 species of fresh and salt water fish

§ 208 species of mammals

§ 9,000 species of plants

§ Cloud forests

§ Rain Forests

§ Volcanoes (2 active!)

§ Mangrove wetlands and swamps”

After a three drive, we arrived at our restaurant for lunch at 11:10am. The restaurant was called Lajas by the lake. It was situated on a hill overlooking Arenal Lake at the base of the Arenal volcano. It was an awesome setting outdoors where we enjoyed a chicken dish with mashed potatoes, vegetable, roll, and desert. After a yummy lunch and great conversation with a couple from Canada, Cindy and I walked around the grounds of the restaurant. There were beautiful gardens and a gold fish pond. There were some great photo ops here.

Our tour left the restaurant and took a quick five minute ride to Arenal Lake. At Arenal Lake we boarding a pontoon boat for about an hour long journey from one side to the base area of the Arenal Volcano. Our tour guide was also our narrator on our boat journey. He was so well versed on the plant and birds, we were very lucky to have him along. Our boat went into several coves to see the beautiful birds. The most noticeable was the snow eggert, however there were other birds. I attached a photo of what we saw. As we get closer to the end of our boat ride, Arenal Volcano became more visible. At first the very top was covered with clouds, however just before the end of our boat ride, the boat driver stop and just a very tiny part of the top was covered with clouds. We told the tour guide earlier in the day that it was our anniversary today so with that he told Cindy and I to step up to the front of the boat to pose with the volcano in the background. He had one of the passengers take several photos of us. The tour guide joked that this was a National Geographic photo opportunity. After our photo, the rest of the boat took photos. In my eyes, this was truly the best photo shot of a volcano I have ever seen. There is a photo attached for your viewing.

After we disembarked from boat, we re-boarded our bus and drove to the foot of the Arenal volcano. Here were going to take a hike or walk through the rainforest which was east side of the volcano. The west side is still active with lava flow from time to time. Here we were told to put on our bug spray. We were told the bugs were awfully bad here. The tour guide said there would be two guides our walk/hike. The walk would be more interactive and not rugged; the other was a hike, less interactive and more rugged. Cindy took the walk, I took the hike. It sounds like from Cindy that her walk explored more of the fauna and animals and mine was more navigating through the rugged terrain seeing where the volcano eruption in the 60’s had affected the land and the eco system had regenerated itself. Cindy was able to take photos of monkeys and a poisonous toad. One thing that Cindy and I did get to see was a plant that if you touch it goes to sleep. The plant goes from a perfect bloom appearance to after you touch it shrivels up. After a short period of time, it opens back up. No matter the tour, we both had a blast on the walk/hike. I told Cindy after my hike that is was by far the best rainforest hike I had been on.

We re-boarded the bus from the rain forest walk/hike and then drove to our next stop, Titoku Hot Springs. This area is feed from the volcano via thermal springs. Titoku Hot Springs had 8 pools, the top pool was the warmest where the bottom pool was the coolest. Surrounding the area were beautiful gardens and palms. The tour guide said the hot springs would make us feel five years younger. We disembarked from the bus and went to the reception area where they gave everyone a key for a locker to house our personal items. Cindy and I quickly changed into our swimsuits. We started at the coolest pool first and then worked our way to the warmest. Cindy and I told each other that we would not buy a drink while here, however after the second pool, what the heck; we bought a fruit adult beverage. It was great just relaxing in the pools, however the hot one was a little tricky for me. After about an hour, we needed to change back into our tour clothes, pay our bill, and then head back to the bus. That was too short of a time.

After re-boarding the bus, our next stop was dinner. The hotel was beautifully situated at the base of Arenal Volcano, however this evening the volcano was covered by clouds, darn it. The hotel we had dinner at was called Hotel Arenal Kioro. This restaurant was on the second floor of the hotel and was open air. It was great because you could feel the cooler evening breeze next to the window. This dinner was great very interesting, we were able to pick of a small menu instead of being told what you can eat. Cindy had steak with a mushroom sauce (yuck) and I had the steak the pure way. We also had potatoes and veggies. Cindy and I also celebrated with a glass of white wine. What a great way to end our anniversary day in an open air restaurant at the base of an active volcano. We had an enjoyable conversation with two couples that sat at our table. One couple newly married (in October) from Chicago and the other couple from New York, not yet married after dating for three years (what’s up with that). We had various conversations but one that was fun was discussing how we all meet each other.

After an awesome dinner, we re-boarded our bus for a 3+ hour bus back to the tour company headquarters. The journey back was long; however Cindy and I got a little shut eye along the way. We arrived back at the headquarters around 9:15pm and then changed transportation with the other two couples to return to the JW Marriott.

We arrived at the JW Marriott around 10:15pm. After a little night cap drink, we feel asleep.

To summarize today, it was a great experiencing, exploring, and hearing about the Costa Rica. The countryside is full or beautiful landscape and very diverse terrain. It is amazing that such a small country can be so diverse ecologically speaking. Everyone that we meet today that were Costa Rican’s all were super nice and always willing to make your stay here memorable.

On Thursday, tomorrow, we are just hanging around the hotel relaxing. In the evening we are having a special dinner on the beach. More to come on that in my next blog.

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