Saturday, December 09, 2006

Top 10´s

It´s Saturday evening and I am back in Heredia after a day jaunt to Sarchi from Alajuela. Tomorrow, I will return to LA. Here´s my top 10 memories of Costa Rica:

Top 10:

10. Salsa and meringue dancing at Tipico Latino: Heredia
09. Zip-lining through the rainforest with Servatur: Santa Elena
08. Horsebackriding through the beach and forest: Puerto Viejo
07. Hiking Monteverde Rainforest: Monteverde
06. Playing Texas Hold´Em till midnight at Sleepers Hostel, Santa Elena
05. Visiting my roommates´family and also meeting their family friend, Liam: Puerto Viejo
04. Sightings of a howler monkey, white face monkies, sloth, and eyelash pit vipers: Cahuita National Park
03. The hike to and from the La Fortuna Waterfall and the waterfall itself: La Fortuna
02. Spanish and salsa lessons: Heredia
01. Meeting: (Heredia) David of IPED, Tatiana of IPED, Sam, host family, Micha, Lily, Shawn, Seraphina, Andrea, Carlin; (Puerto Viejo) Sinacola family, Liam, Yvonne of Sunset Bar, 2 exchange students from LA; (Monteverde\Santa Elena) Kevin and Helen, Michael and Shawn, Bonnai, Ronnie and Ronald of Sleepers; (La Fortuna) Jason, Amanda and Charlotte of Carleton College in MN.

Friday, December 08, 2006

La Fortuna, bus travel and bad weather

Over the last two days, I was constantly reminded of how time can be ephermal one minute and excruciatingly long the next. Take for instance, the unpredictability of the weather in Monteverde-Santa Elena or the fickleness of the Arenal Volcano. In both of these places, the chances to see a bit of sunlight, in the case of MV-SE, or a glimpse of the top of the Arenal Volcano in the distance can be merely minutes if not seconds. Although it is supposed to be the start of the dry season, both of these areas have been experiencing pounding rain, driving wind, and ominous cloud cover almost the entire time I was in both areas. Unfortunately, the side effect of this is that traveling by bus in Costa Rica is a long, monotonous, and sometimes bone-crushing ordeal on pot-holed gravel roads.

But sometimes this inconvenience of slow or even delayed bus rides can have memorable moments. After a short morning hike in the Monteverde Rainforest Private Reserve, about a 25min ride from the town of Santa Elena where I was staying, I rushed back to make the 2pm ¨Jeep-Boat-Jeep¨ trek to La Fortuna. The ride turned out to be an eerily surreal experience of riding through a fog-covered countryside of Costa Rica filled with pot-holes and cows crossing the road. At one point, my driver had to stopped in the middle of the road because a road repair crew with picks and shovels were repairing the road ahead, all barely visible in the thick fog and pelting mist. There were a few times I was worried the van (not a Jeep as advertised) would get stuck in the mud... but somehow, the little van made it through.

So, I ended up spending half my day traveling to La Fortuna on Wednesday. Although I was hoping that the weather in La Fortuna would be better than Monteverde, it was not. It rained heavily Wednesday night. Although it was a bit drier early Thursday morning when I set out to hike to La Catarata La Fortuna, or the La Fortuna Waterfall, it started raining towards the end of my hike toward the top of the waterfall. Fortunately, after I arrived at the top and started the descent to the bottom of the waterfall, the rain passed and I got a good half hour of beautiful weather. After the hike, I rushed back to the hostel to meet up with the others on an evening Arenal Volcano and Hot Springs tour.

The Arenal Volcano hike was alright - we spotted a squirrel monkey, a white-faced monkey, leaf-cutter ants, a sloth, and a huge turkey-like bird in the forest. The hike was through a private trail that led near to the side of Arenal Volcano. Had we been lucky, we would have seen some active lava spewing out of the volcano but unfortunately, volcano top was shrouded in very thick clouds. We couldn´t see anything both on the hike and 3 hrs later, after our hot springs visit.
I ended up spending all day Friday making my way to Alajeula, near Heredia and San Jose. After a 3 hr bus ride to San Ramon, I got a bit confused and had trouble finding my way to Alajeula. At first, I had hoped to just travel straight to Sarchi, a town between San Ramon and Alajeula, known as the center of Costa Rican handicrafts and furniture making. Unfortunately, I somehow goofed up and couldn´t get the bus for Sarchi... so, I ultimately decided to go to Alajeula. Tomorrow, I´ll make a morning trip to Sarchi (only 30mins away from the Alajeula bus station... that is if I don´t screw it up again) and then return to Heredia in the late afternoon.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Monteverde, Santa Elena rainforests

After a long 5 hr bus ride from San Jose, I arrived in Monteverde-Santa Elena late last night. Luckily, I met 2 Canadians on the bus that recommended me to stay in the same hostel as them (they had been to Monteverde a week ago and are returning again). The hostel, Sleepers, is great - brand new, just opened 2 wks ago.. cheap ($5 a night with breakfast). Unfortunately, when we arrived last night, a huge wind and rain storm was passing through and knocked out the power for the entire evening... we signed in through candlelight.

This morning, the power was back on but the wind hadn't subsided. There continued to be steady rain throughout the day (I guess that's why they call it a rainforest! but the rainy season was supposed to have ended already). After breakfast and a short hike around town, I, along with a father and son from Redding, CA went on a zipline and canopy tour in Santa Elena National Park. The zipline was awesome! We zipped 19 lines over the rainforest, at times over 330 ft. above the forest floor. I will upload some videos after I return. It was an incredible experience. We also did a Tarzan swing during the tour. After the zipline, we hiked the trails across multiple suspension bridges that let us see the forest upclose and above the canopy of most trees. I uploaded bunch of pics to flickr but because of the constant rain and wind, a lot of my pics have water spots.

Tomorrow, I plan to go on a 6am forest hike with an expert guide for 4 hours and then take the bus to La Fortuna, the town near the Arenal Volcano.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Heading to Monteverde and La Fortuna

Heading out to the the northern part of Costa Rica tomorrow after my last Spanish class. Monteverde is deemed as one of the top attractions here, one of the few places in the world to see a rainforest shrouded in clouds. The bus ride from San Jose to Monteverde will take over 4 hours. From there, I´ll head over to La Fortuna and the Arenal Volcano area where there are some great hot springs and waterfalls, next to C.R.´s largest and most active volcanoes. I should be back in the San Jose area by end of Friday and spend Saturday shopping and finally leaving for LA on Sunday.