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Published: November 14th 2011
Amazing weekend retreat!
So in some ways you could say we are still living for the weekend... while we are definitely enjoying the volunteer work, the daily commute (which is new to us!) takes its toll and this weekend we decided to escape from the city for a needed break. Along with 12 other Maximo Nivel volunteers (and our fearless driver, Leo) we piled into a microbus on Friday afternoon for the 3 hour trip to Manuel Antonio, which came highly recommended by pretty much everyone we have met!
After checking into our hotel (Costa Verde) and having dinner, all 14 of us set out in search of the beach. By the light of the full moon (and some help from the iphone light app 😉 we managed to find our way down a steep hill, across a mushy field and onto a deserted section of beach. We were all extremely excited to reach the ocean - some people rocked out cartwheels and burst into spontaneous yoga, while the two of us waded into the ocean and stood marvelling at the sensation of the crashing waves melting away the sand from underneath our feet. It was a fantastic start to the weekend!
Sunset on the Pacific
The view from our room!
Saturday morning we all woke relatively early and enjoyed breakfast in the hotel's restaurant. Just as we were preparing to leave and get on with the day (i.e. get to the beach and get our tan on!) the sky opened up and a downpour ensued. We had hoped to enter Manuel Antonio National Park, but it rained off and on for the rest of the day, so we stayed on the public beach instead. We made the best of it despite the weather, and still had a great time in the ocean riding the 2-3 foot waves and relaxing on the beach! While the weather wasn't ideal, there really wasn't anything else we could complain about given our surroundings!
Sunday morning we woke early to tour the national park (rain or shine!). The rain held off and thanks to our guide and his powerful binoculars we were able to see many elusive animals that we never would have found on our own. These included a nocturnal white frog, a red-eyed tree frog, something similar to a chameleon, many colourful crabs, including a Halloween crab (but only a few of the 1500 species of crab in Costa Rica!), a red-winged
A friendly iguana relaxing poolside!
grasshopper, a huge iguana lounging on a tree branch, a toucan, and a couple of sloths (aka Chewbacca!). The vegetation in the national park (and in Costa Rica in general) is so different than what we are used to in Canada that this was also a highlight of our walk - the flowers are beautiful and everywhere you look there is a different type of tree or plant. We also spotted many things on our own such as caterpillars, leaf-cutter ants, butterflies and hummingbirds. At the end of our tour we arrived at the beach and were treated to quite the performance from the raccoons, coatis and white-faced monkeys - the monkeys were quick and the most mischevious of the bunch, hopping from tree to tree and even stealing food right out of peoples' hands or backpacks! We spent some time at the beach but had to head back to the hotel to check out by noon. After this we relaxed by the hotel pool (enamored by an iguana which was apparently trying to mate!) before leaving... of course it started to rain again so this made it easier to head back to San Jose... if it had been sunny
Relaxing at the pool with an ocean view.. this is the life!
we might not have been able to tear ourselves away!
On the drive home we stopped at a bridge that is known to be a good place for viewing crocodiles... so much so that the adjacent restaurant is named "Los Cocodrilos". Sure enough we saw probably a dozen of them! These animals are possibly even lazier than the sloths... they just lay around on the river bank or in the water... sort of how pigs wallow in the mud! It was cool to see them though, and the timing was perfect - right around sunset. All in all we had a great weekend, and even though the weather could have been better, Manuel Antonio definitely lived up to all the hype! (For those of you wondering, yes we took hundreds of pictures... we will try to post some better ones in the future!)
This week we are back at school, and in most of our classes the kids have a test, which we will be helping to administer and also grade. On Wednesday there is another teachers' conference so we will be going back to Carpio to help with the soup kitchen again. Other than that we will keep on practicing our Spanish and planning our next excursion!
Hasta luego (and all our love),
Liz & Chris
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