Sometimes a girl has to weigh her expectations to reality and determine if maybe the disappointment is her own fault.
I mean, I am not really disappointed in Costa Rica from a vacation perspective. It’s warm. The people are lovely. We’ve done some fun things.
The thing is, this is my fourth day here and I kind of expected that by now if I lifted my arms a la Snow White, with a lovely song, that I would suddenly be surrounded by sloths, toucans would alight on my arms to help me dress, iguanas would scamper about lightly and playfully flicking me with their tails all while howler monkeys came by and fed me fresh cut papaya.
When I type all that out and read it out loud to myself it really doesn’t sound like a big deal to me. But sometimes, when traveling to foreign countries, the best laid plans go awry. My suggestion, be prepared.
For example, on Tuesday when we got back from dinner we received a letter from the B&B management that the following day there would be no running water because the city was going to shut it off from 7AM to 4PM. Upon waking up the next morning it was clear that water is the Spanish word for electricity. The water was running fine, but there were no lights, no microwave and most importantly no Wifi.
This was a problem in that I was working remotely. No Wifi means little-to-no-work getting done. It also means that as soon as the battery on my computer died, “little” would be out of that equation. I used Andrew’s cell phone to call work and let them know I was going to be unavailable until 4PM CST and would work that evening, and Andrew and I grilled our gracious host for things to do in or near San José.
Immediately Elizabeth grabbed our map and started showing us how to get to Volcán Poás (that’s volcano, not Vulcan – although, I would be interested in seeing either). We headed out for a lovely day trip.
Apparently we lucked out on the volcano trip. The day before it had erupted mildly – though, in truth, that would have been awesome to see and there was a little part of me hoping it would blow again. Also, it’s situated in the cloud forest, so oftentimes it is not visible due to cloud coverage.
After visiting the volcano we took a hike to the nearby lake. The sign to the lake said the entire lake route was 2.6 kilometers and would take an hour. Andrew and I started up the path scoffing at the time frame – “Heh, that’s for people who don’t exercise.” “No, it’s for the sloths.”
It turns out the sign was for us. The route just to the lake was 800 meters, uphill, at elevation. Within 30 steps neither of us was laughing, but mostly because we had no oxygen and we had to conserve our breath.
The path was beautiful. At one point Andrew said it reminded him of The Princess Bride. So I said, “Well, I’m not saying I’d like to build a summer home here, but the trees are actually quite lovely.” in my best British accent. And then I had to have a lie-down to regain my breath.
The trees were actually quite lovely. And the canopy over us as well. The entire time a light breeze was playing through the area. But, despite it being a cloud forest, we did not actually walk in clouds.
By the end of our walk our necks hurt from attempting to spot sloths and monkeys in the trees. We did however get to see quite a few humming birds and some interesting plants.
On our way back in to town we stopped at a restaurant touting, “comida tipico.” I was kind of excited. We are in the tropics – land of banana, papaya, mango, sloth, coconut, melon! This was going to be a meal to end all meals. Instead it was a meal to end all hope of Costa Rican cuisine excitement. Andrew and I each ordered a different chicken plate – the other options were American-style burgers – and it turned out that they had listed the same item on the menu twice once as pollo a la plancha and once as fajitas. We each had a scoop of white rice a scoop of bland fries and a scoop of chicken fried in onions – also bland.
I did manage to spot some cows on the side of the road. But, the pictures I took of them were less than stellar – imagine a cow picture right here with the caption “Costa Rican wildlife.”
By the time we got back to the hotel the electricity was back on and I got straight to work. I also rescheduled some meetings for the following day because we had decided to head out to the Caribbean Coast first thing in the morning and work the rest of the week from there.
Andrew did some online research, while I worked, to figure out how long it would take to get to the coast. Research came up with 2-6 hours. With a timespan like that I determined we had to be ready to leave sometime between immediately and 9AM the following morning.
Another lovely breakfast of fresh fruits and scrambled eggs and a fond farewell to our host – including hugs, and promises of future visits (really, if you are going to the San José area – Alajuela to be exact – you must stay at Casa Primo. Absolutely fantastico!) – we hit the road. I was the copilot armed with a map, Andrew the driver armed with a copilot and a sense of familiarity of the area being he’d been lost in it so much picking me up from the airport.
Getting from Casa Primo to the highway to the coast was maybe about 10 miles, or as they say in Costa Rica 1 – 700km; it took us about an hour and several u-turns to finally find the highway out of San José. I think that the signs guiding people onto the highway were on strike that day.
Once on the highway it became apparent that this two lane road was also the truck route to the coast. Some trucks were driving full speed and some at 15kph. What the trucks were carrying seemed to bear no weight as to whether they were willing to risk on-coming traffic to pass the slow trucks. At one point a truck with more “Flammable” signs on it then truck (it may have actually been made of the warning signs) passed a fruit truck driver. It also, quickly, became apparent that Andrew has a real low tolerance for driving and stress. He eventually passed enough trucks to get us to a decent sized town where I grabbed a cup of coffee and the wheel. I asked for the coffee ” sin leche y para llevar” or without milk and to-go and it was given to me in a plastic, recycled coca-cola bottle. I took a sip and it tasted as though they had forgotten to take all the coca-cola out first. Next time I know to ask for my coffee “sin coca-cola.”
I ended up getting us to Cahuita in time for my first meeting of the day. The first thing I noticed was how much more hot and humid the coast was. The second thing I noticed was the hammock.
I wonder if I can get a hammock installed in my office cube.
The birds were chirping and the dogs were barking in the background of my conference calls, but I get a lot done when working prone.
We went to the town and grabbed some lunch. On our way there I saw a sign for yoga Friday nights.
“Oooh, look Andrew, yoga! You want to go?”
“OK. Mmm I love hot yoga.”
“Wait, is it hot yoga?”
“All yoga around here is hot yoga.”
I was super excited because on the menu was pollo en coco (chicken in coconut). Yay! A restaurant using the local flavors for deliciousness. Unfortunately, it was basically the meal I had had the day before, with a little bit of coconut sauce dribbled on the bland chicken. So much for my expectations.
After we finished work, Andrew and I went back to town to grab some food for the apartment and just see what night life there was. Pretty much every restaurant in town is a photo copy of the others. They are all catering to the tourists but don’t seem to realize that travel food has turned an exciting corner since the 1980’s and no one wants bland chicken and white rice for dinner. We grabbed some food from the Mini-Supermar and stopped at a street-food stand with barbecued pork, chicken and beef skewers served in tortilla. We had a few of those then headed back to our B&B to Crossfit and blog a little.
I was changed into as much workout gear as I could muster in the heat and humidity. Andrew was trying not to nap on the couch.
Me: Are you joining me?
Andrew: Are you really doing this?
Andrew: Ugh. I need to digest.
So I did a quick warmup of pushups and sit-ups and squats and then did a workout of:
1 squat 1 breath
2 squats 2 breaths
etc., repeat going up to 10 then back down to 1.
I finished and was sweating a storm and breathing heavily.
Andrew: Was that the workout?
Andrew: Was that all of it?
Me: Yes. Are you going to do it?
Andrew: Yeah, but I will probably add pushups so that it’s a bit more of a workout.
I sat back in my chair and did a little more work as I watched Andrew struggle to stay awake. Andrew’s was too worn out from the AMRAP Mock Hadas’s WOD that he couldn’t stay awake to do the squats (and the pushups to make it a real WOD).
I sent Andrew to bed and we fell asleep to the sound of a cooling rain, for values of cooling that equal not getting hotter.
In the morning we grabbed some breakfast and headed off to the sloth rescue place right down the road.
(Yes, I know the camera should have been turned the other way. I was too mesmerized by those sloth eyes to think. Also, yes, that is me squeeing in the background.)
These sloths are rescued and live together, which is a bit of an anomaly. Most adult sloths prefer to be solitary – except when mating – kind of like introverts.
This sloth only has one arm. When he was found the other arm was gangrenous and had to be amputated.
The sloths are so adorable and there was a lot of squeeing. Also, another disappointment – no hugging the sloths. In fact, no touching the sloths. And apparently no taking them home with you. It was a bittersweet tour.
Andrew and I viewed the sloths before the Pacific West Coast was even awake. Then we drove to the next town over to go to the Super-Mini-Supermar and got food so that I could cook something with flavor for lunch (sigh, food snob).
I ended up making a paella style dish with chicken and papaya. It was pretty good.
We worked, we ate lunch, then it was time for a run.
Andrew stayed in.
After I got back I worked some more and reminded Andrew that there was yoga to be had at 5:30 in town so we needed to leave at 5:15 (it’s like a block and a half away). About quarter to 5 Andrew went to shut his eyes for a minute (I guess my run had worn him out). At 5:15 I kissed him goodbye and went to yoga without him. At 5:30 I returned home because class had started at 5 and I don’t know how to read signs properly.
Instead I had Andrew take me out to a romantic dinner:
Our view from our table. That hammock was dessert.
The dinner I had was a lobster. It was slightly salty and a bit over-cooked, but honestly it was the best restaurant meal I have had in Costa Rica so far.
Tomorrow we are slated for a hike which I am sure I will end up doing alone while Andrew mocks me, from the B&B, while napping. I guess I already have a sloth of my own.
If you would like to read Andrew’s take on this trip we are kind of she said/he said-ing it. Check his blog out here.