Bottom Line About Costa Rica

Ok, so now that were out of Costa Rica, what do we think? Well It is a really beautiful place. Compared to other Latin American countries, it is clean, safe-feeling, good roads, and you can drink the water. Compared to the US, it is cheap to travel around. That said, here are a few myths about Costa Rica which should be expelled:

To start with, the Pura Vida farce if youve ever watched a TV show about Costa Rica where a baboon-like travel host pontificated about the wonders of Ecotourism, they will have redacted for several precious minutes about how everyone in Costa Rica uses Pura Vida, as a sort of Aloha-like phrase. Not true. We spent almost two weeks there, and we heard it, MAYBE, a half-dozen times. And always, STRICTLY, from people directly involved in tourism. Locals never used it among each other that we saw.

Now, if you had bought an all-expense paid package to dive, surf, sleep and eat, youd no doubt hear it. But it is not a local thing – it is something that, apparently, the tourism department made up to attract tourists. As such, I find it mildly patronizing – not to say disturbing – that a culture reforms itself to appeal to tourists

Another example of that sort of thinking is the green season. See, from December to May the weather is perfect in Costa Rica. It seldom rains, isnt too hot, and is good to travel. This is called the dry season. The other half of the year it rains every day. In some parts of the country, it rains non-stop for weeks on end, Im told. But the tourism drops off sharply because of the term wet season which has traditionally, and appropriately, been applied to this season.

So the ministry of tourism decided to rename it. Now officially the time from May to December is called the green season. Because non-stop rain for 6 months makes everything green! I find that rather deceptive. But to be fair, tourism departments are created to bend the truth and attract tourist dollars in every country, so Costa Rica isnt alone in that.

Prices as I said are cheaper than the USA. If you dont require air conditioning (and most people wont in most parts of Costa Rica), and are willing to share a bathroom in some towns, you can stay for between 10$ and 15$ per person per night. Away from tourist areas, you can sometimes even get air conditioning for that price. They seldom have a price per room, it is always by the person. Food in local eateries costs about 5$ per person per meal. Fruits cost roughly half of US prices, most of the time. Prepared foods (canned/dried beans, pastas, candy bars, etc) cost about double

The quality of the food is extremely high. Costa Rica is a very fertile country, and so everything tastes better than the same item at home. Usually. This is due to the heavy volcanic activity and conservation efforts that have been made thus far.

The health of the people reflects those facts, as they are one of the longest lived countries on Earth. However, I would predict that those statistics will change in the next few decades since the people were looking quite overweight and unhealthy when we were there – not compared to Americans of course, but compared to other Latin Americans. They eat a heavy portion of white rice with EVERY meal. If it wasnt for eating the cheap cuts of meat which have more nutrition in them, and eating a good amount of fruits, they would already be like us. Fast food is spreading there, too.

Ticos themselves, while nice enough for the most part, were not a very happy people from what I saw. They were always in a hurry, they seldom had time to feed the pigeons or hang out with each other on the streets like other Latin Americans do. But my biggest complaint of all, is that there are no markets in the streets, and almost no street food!

Apparently, Costa Rica has an organization like the FDA that requires food to all be processed through their facilities before it can be sold (which accounts for the relatively high food prices!), and which prevents any markets from forming without a permit. And judging by the fact that I saw no markets in 2 weeks, the permit must be hard to obtain. I was very disappointed by this, because markets and the attendant street food is to me, the best part of Latin America.

The upside  is that almost all food can probably be eaten without worrying too much about Montezumas revenge and such illnesses. But I find it a high price to pay for that.

So bottom line Costa Rica is a great entry-level Latin American country.

If youve never gone south of the border before, for fear of Federales or Drug Raids or Man Eating Snakes or Belly-Eating Bacteria go to Costa Rica. Youll scarcely know you left home, except its more beautiful than the eastern USA and cheaper than any USA destination.

You cant see turtles the size of volkwagons nesting by the thousands in the USA. You cant see monkeys hanging from treetops in the wild in the USA. Costa Rica offers thousands of things like that you cant see in the USA, and in some cases, anywhere else on Earth.

But if you want to see the REAL Latin America – not what Latin Americans think Gringos would want Latin America to be.  and if youre wanting to make your dollar stretch a bit try Nicaragua.

P.S. I am sure this will offend some people. I am sorry about that, but this is the facts as I saw them. Im sure they would be perceived differently by other people, and some people think Costa Rica is like a Western Garden of Eden. I didnt.

Posted on February 9th, 2009 by Natnee and filed under Costa Rica | No Comments »

Corcovado to Puerto Jiminez

So next day the Taxi driver was supposed to pick us up at 5:30. He was late (he was grumpy about coming to this hotel, remember, so I think it was passive-aggressive resistance). He brought the 2 liter bottle of local milk I had asked him for, which cost me 2$, which was quite cheap, and it was quite good. I had had him chill it so it would be good and cold so it would last on the trek. He took us to the horses we had hired, which cost about 22$ each, and carried us about 7 miles up the trail to the edge of Corcovado park.

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From there it was about 5 minutes to the first park station, which I THOUGHT was Los Patos, but apparently it wasn´t. And, in case you need to know, you have to register at the park station before 10am or they won´t let you start the hike. Which is just as well, since we started at 9:30am and finished at 6pm.

At this juncture let me say that Corcovado is very poorly signed and the trails are not well maintained. I mean, most of the time they are wide enough and easy to follow, but they have a lot of trees down across the trail that require detours through the jungle, not all of which are easy.  For the price paid by a few hikers, that could have been fixed. And there were at least 60 people in Sirena when we got there. Sirena is the ranger station in the middle of the park where most of the action happens in the wildlife scene.

From the edge of the park, it was about 2 kilometers, mostly uphill, and fairly steep in spots, although not compared to Chirripo. Then we found Los Patos, which was entirely deserted and had been for some time. Huge spider webs were all over everything, it was kinda creepy. From there, the sign said it was 17km to Sirena. But again, I don´t see how that is possible. Everyone I talked to, people who hike all the time, said it was MUCH longer than that. At least 14 miles, or around 25km. It was a long hike, even though it was fairly easy through much of it. It was also a bit monotonous, since the forests were all pretty much the same.

The first 6k was uphill and downhill a lot. The net result was downhill, but it wasn´t noticable until you were on flat ground, and you were like ¨oh, this is flat now!¨ After that it was mostly flat. We saw some peccaries, a wild pig, got a really bad picture of one before they fled the scene. Saw three different types of monkeys, got some fairly decent pictures of them,  and saw a few birds. But the NOISE! It was almost unbearable. Some sort of cricket-like bug in the treetops was making a racket, and there were I kid you not, millions of them, and it was almost all you could do to hear anything. Talking was hard, it was so noisy.

We saw almost no flowers and little scenery worth noting. Sirena had a nice platform, covered, for the tents, but their bathroom facilities again, left a lot to be desired. For the price I alone paid for camping, the place could have been wonderful. It´s a shame to see something that close to right, but frustratingly not.

I had trouble sleeping so I took a hike down to the ocean at about 10pm. It was beautiful, the tide was out, tons of stars, etc. Next morning we decided to leave Sirena though. Didn´t sleep well, for several reasons mostly, we just weren´t prepared for camping and had none of the things we needed – big tents, pillows, sheets, vents in the tents, etc. Sirena was great, but not for the unprepared. The trail in was harder than they said it was, and longer, by everyone´s account.

On the upside, bugs were only bad at sundown/sunrise, humidity was no worse than East Texas in mid summer, and temperature was about 85 in the daytime, and 70 at night. But it didn´t cool down until around 1am, so wasn´t much help.

Sunrise from Sirena beach:

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It´s a nice beach for looking, but not for swimming or walking. To narrow, too rocky, and too shallow for anything but looking. So we caught a great deal on a flight out of there, since Crystal´s knee was bothering her again and we didn´t think we could walk out via the La Leona trail as we had planned. The flight took us 13 minutes to Puerto Jiminez and costa 50$ each. But I wanted to see at least something at Sirena before we left, so I ran down a trail, about a mile round trip, and saw a Taida (think of a cross between a Mongoose and a black cat) and then heard the plane and turned around and left.

Had soup for lunch in Puerto Jiminez, about 4$ but it was a gigantic bowl. And their soups are really delicious.  Called home at about 30 cents a minute, caught a bus for San Jose and that´s where I´ll stop for today.

Posted on February 5th, 2009 by Natnee and filed under Costa Rica | 1 Comment »

Puerto Jiminez to Nicaragua

On the bus I sat next to a french woman for part of the way who spoke no english or spanish. I studied some french so I tried to talk to her. It was very hard at first because I was in a Spanish mode, and French wasn´t coming easily. But as I stumbled a bit it came back to me and by the time we were done I was actually, almost, communicating!

When she got off, someone got on with a chicken in a bottle. No, seriously.

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We asked them ¨wow, how did you fit that bird in that bottle!¨and they got a kick out of it. (There was a notch cut out of the other side). Apparently it was a special cornish hen that would have very nutritious eggs that were worth a lot. That was about all I was able to get. Anyway, the ride from Chacaritas to San Isidro was new territory for us, and it was quite beautiful. Just one sample:

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That afternoon saw us in San Jose, where we transferred to a bus for Liberia, to spend the night in a hostel there. The price of the hostel was quite cheap for Costa Rica – 7$ – but we got scammed a bit. See, he quoted us 7$ each. So 14$ for tw0. He then asked for 8000 colones, which is a favorable rate for him (about 550 per dollar, which is close to right). I then didn´t have many colones (I was not wanting to get stuck with many at the border) so I gave him a US 20$, worth about11,000 colones. He then gave himself a very, VERY favorable rate of exchange on the change, at about 500 colones per dollar, thereby giving me back 2000 colones, or about 4 dollars. So all in all, he scammed me for about 2 dollars.

Not huge, but worth noticing since it has happened to a lot of travelers I talked to. Especially at this hotel. Hotel Liberia it was called, and it is quite run down, and the owner not too nice. Lonely Planet gave it a great review, but evidently it is not as nice as it used to be. Anyway, it was cheap. So we caught a bus to Nicaragua and saw the biggest Papaya I had ever seen

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And the rest later

Posted on February 5th, 2009 by Natnee and filed under Costa Rica | No Comments »

Uvita to Corcovado

Ok, so after being dropped off at the road to Uvita, which was out of town where the bus picked up, (a different bus went south from Uvita) after about 45 minutes we got on. I wasn´t sure where I was going, but I figured south was a good idea. So we went south, and on the bus met a couple from Seattle and a couple from Denmark. Neither spoke much spanish, so I helped them a bit to get their bearings on the bus and where we were going, which I had figured out by then. Turned out we were all going the same place at the same time so we saw alot of each other over the next week.

The bus ride to La Palma, where we were all spending the night, was quite exhilirating. The road wouldn´t have qualified as a county road back home, was quite curvy, and the bus driver seemed to actually speed UP on curves. It was quite a ride, I spent it hanging from the handles on the bus so I´d swing with each turn. Great fun. So we got off the bus in La Palma, and were beset by taxi drivers. Now I knew that La Palma had hotels, but I couldnt´remember the name of the one I found on the internet. The other couples didn´t know where they were going, they were following me, and I had no clue. But I told them that up front, so it was their fault if they followed the blind into the ditch!

Anyway, we found a taxi driver willing to shuttle all of us to a hotel by the beach for 6$, which wasn´t bad. Although we later found that 4$ was the going price. Oh well :) Spent the night there, the next day the taxi driver took us to his house to call the ranger station about park permits. Unfortunately, the park was full until Friday (this was Monday). None of us wanted to wait, but none of us wanted to miss Corcovado. So we split up for a few days, Crystal and I going to visit our friend in Golfito, Anna and Jacob from Denmark going to enter the park from the south end, and Huck and Margaret from Seattle going to enter from the east end on Friday morning with us. We had to go to Puerto Jiminez, about 45 minutes by bus, to make reservations so I went on ahead and made reservations for the entire group. Which was harder than it should have been. See, imagine this

A small, dusty town, a few miles across. In the middle, there is a bank. Outside of town, on the other end, is the park office. We had to go to the park office first to get reservations. Then when that was done I had to hurry back across town to pay for the park service at the bank (you can´t pay at the park, for some reason!).

Unfortunately, when I got to the bank, I discovered that the bank required a passport to use my debit card. So I had to walk BACK to the park to get my passport. The bank of course closed at 3;30 and so I had to practically run since this was about a 2-mile round trip journey and I had 15 minutes. So I got back to the bank just in time. Then I walked all the way BACK to the park office (because, of course, once you pay, you have to get the receipt validated at the park office, across town!!) .. and the park office, was, of course, closed!

Needless to say, I was tired of walking And thoroughly irritated at this BACKWARDS way of setting up a payment system. Anyway. Then we wanted to catch the boat to golfito. But it was leaving any minute, we were told! So we had to half walk, half run, with our packs, clear out of town another mile or so, to the jetty to catch the boat! Which, as it happened, didn´t leave for another 30 minutes. Oh well, that´s latin american for ya.

So in Golfito we were able to relax for a few days, our friend took us out to his farm, but we didn´t spent much time there although we did get to eat young coconut for the first time. If you catch it before it gets ripe, the juice is very, very sweet and the pulp is like jelly. I think I drank/ate three coconuts there. They call them ¨pipas¨when they are young. They say it has more electrolytes than gatorade, and obviously it´s much better for you.

Later, we mentioned we wanted to try exotic fruits and everyone said ¨You HAVE to see Robert!¨ Robert is an ex-pat from Maine who has lived in Costa Rica for 50 years, and has an absolutely fabulous garden with thousands of plants over about 20 acres. We ate a Rollina for the first time, which is something like a giant cactus fruit with a custard pie inside. Seriously, it tasted like a good coconut custard pie. It was out of this world right off the tree. If you´re in that part of Costa Rica, a little ways south of Golfito, you absolutely have to see it, it was one of the highlights of our trip.

He also introduced us to velvet apples, which looked like a giant peach with rather dry, sweet flesh. The taste was rather well, it tasted a bit like eggnog. He also cooked us some African Palm fruits, which they use to make palm oil, which is his cash crop, but they look like a large date, taste rather like a very stringy, greasy sweet potato with a huge nut inside. He then roasted the nut, which tasted like a cooked, smoked, garbanzo bean. All of it was delicious. We spent several hours there and it was delightful. He has a website at:

http://paradise-garden.tripod.com

Next day we borrowed some bikes and went for a ride about 6 miles round trip, along the beach/jungle in Golfito. Didn´t see much wildlife, but the ride was very nice. It ended on a beach called Cacao beach, but we didn´t quite go all the way. We wanted to catch the boat back to Puerto Jiminez since it was Wednesday and our friend was really busy with work at the time. Back in Jiminez I got my park permission validated, then we tried to hurry to catch the bus to La Palma. Which we were in time for, just before 4pm, but which didn´t show up until 6:10. Again, Latin America, just gotta go with the flow :)

The park fees and camping fees for 3 nights and 4 days for 2 people cost 100$, which was a bit steep, but ok. We wanted to stay in the hostel, but it was full, regrettably. So back in La Palma, the Seattle couple wasn´t were we had left them, which we later learned was because the campground was by an enormously loud Karaoke bar. And as we all know, karaoke is meant to be sung by, and enjoyed by, drunks.

So we drove around in the taxi looking for them for awhile, but to no avail. Someone told us they were farther down the beach, at a certain hotel, but the taxi driver refused to go there – said the roads were bad. I later learned that was a lie, and that we were caught in the middle of some sort of feud where this taxi driver and that hotel owner hated each other and the taxi driver refused to take people to their hotel. But for that night, we hit the sack and found Huck and Margaret at the hotel where we´d been told they were.

Played euchre for a few hours, during which time I took this picture which I am quite fond of

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Two scarlet macaws crossing in front of the sun. They were everywhere, eating the wild almond trees that grew by the beach. Jacob tried to open one, spent 5 minutes cutting into it, and found the tiniest nut you ever saw. It really was a letdown after all that work, but it was fun anyway ;)

They also had cashew trees there. Ever wonder why cashews cost so much? This is how they grow:

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That is a cashew fruit. That thing on top is the cashew shell. Inside of that is a normal sized cashew. So for every handful of cashews you eat, a few dozen of these fruits have to be processed. It´s amazing they are as cheap as they are! (The fruit itself was rather green-persimmony, although it might have had uses somewhere).

Then we went kayaking for an hour or so, they were one-man kayaks for 2$ an hour each. I explored the mangroves around there in some detail. Next morning we were up early and caught this sunrise and we´ll pick up that story next!

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Posted on February 2nd, 2009 by Natnee and filed under Costa Rica | No Comments »

Change Of Plans

When you´re traveling, you have to go with the flow. That´s part of the experience. So it shouldn´t come as a surprise that we´ve drastically changed our plan. Originally we had planned to fly out of San Jose back home on the 11th of Febuary. But before I tell you our new plan, let´s catch up so far. I´ve got details of what´s happened so far, and pictures, but I don´t have time to upload them now. So in general, after Uvita we went to Puerto Jiminez, got park reservations to hike Corcovado, went and visited my friend in Golfito, went back and hiked Corcovado, then caught a plane out of Corcovado for reasons that will be explained later.

But we´re way ahead of schedule and don´t really think there is much in Costa Rica that we just HAVE to see yet, and we´re anxious to get to a slightly cheaper country. So we had planned to go to Nicaragua anyway, and so we start for there tomorrow. But we got to thinking, that by the time we came all the way BACK from Nicaragua, we could be north into Honduras and from there, we could just come all the way home by bus, instead of flying home from San Jose Costa Rica.

This has the advantage of getting us to see every Central American country except Panama and only take another week or two away from home, and give us a taste of what each country has to offer. So that´s the plan. I may get a chance to post some more and get everyone caught up tomorrow, but now I have to go sleep so I can catch a bus at 5:30 in the morning!

Posted on February 1st, 2009 by Natnee and filed under Costa Rica | No Comments »

San Isidro to Golfito

So bright and early the next morning, still stiff and stumbling, I walked about a kilometer or two to pay back the people who sent us the horse. I had trouble finding it, so I asked someone and they said it was downhill, this way. I said ok, walked about a hundred yards and asked someone else. They said it was uphill, that way. This was confusing, but given the choice between uphill and downhill, I went downhill. The next two people said downhill, so I was encouraged by that. Then I got to the downhill and discovered that, while it was downhill on the road, it was UPHILL off the road. And I do mean, a steep uphill; probably 100 above the road. Not too much fun after the last two days Id had. But I did it, left the money at the desk (hopefully they got it!) and got back down to the road just in time to catch a bus back to my hotel. We got out of town about 7am and headed for San Isidro.

 Well, Crystal had been craving yogurt, and wed had some really good yogurt in Latin America before. Unfortunately, so far here everything wed seen had artificial this or that in it. So finally we found some ciruela (read: plum) yogurt. It had nothing in it but yogurt and ciruelas. So we poured ourselves a big glass and discovered something. Apparently, ciruela ALSO means prune. And prune yogurt doesnt taste as good as it sounds – which is saying something.

Fortunately, we also had a papaya to cover up the taste. Then we went to the beach town of Dominical to spend a quiet weekend recuperating. Of course, to get there we had to take the bus. The bus however was interesting. We got on the bus, and set down – and our legs were exhausted – and this old lady comes up and starts yammering on at us in spanish. I couldnt really follow it, but apparently she wanted our seats. So I showed her our tickets to show that we did in fact, have seats, and she pointed to another bus that had just pulled up, apparently going to the same place.

Well, we were hesitant to get off, so I got up and asked the driver. The driver said no, we were on the right bus. By now our seats were filled, and so were the ones on the other bus. So we were standing in the aisle, and I was looking at our tickets, and she had scrawled em pie, which apparently means standing, or literally on foot. So we had bought standing tickets. Which is better than walking, but I really didnt want to stand. Oh well, we finally got to sit down during the last 30 minutes of the 90 minute ride.

Found a hotel in dominical, with A/C, but then the A/C didnt work. Someone came and replaced the entire unit, and then the ceiling started leaking (and it wasnt raining!). Apparently the locos upstairs were taking a shower and getting water all over the floor, which was not water tight.

Crystal had a taco, which was weird to say the least, and not at all like a taco. We bought some fruit and called it a night. Next morning we walked around to the lagoon and got these pictures:

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Found an iguana who walked on water. Seriously. The dude was creepy he ran so fast. Had planned to catch the bus at 4:30 but when 4:00 am came around I decided that was just silly. So we took the 10:30 instead. You know, Costa Rican coins are really hard to use. Theyre all the same!  

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Same size, same color except (not shown) there are three different types of 5,10, and 20 colon coins (corresponding in value to penny, nickel, and dime). Pay phones will not accept 100 colon coins, only 10,20,50 and 500. And as you can see, the 500 colon (dollar value) coin, is not that much bigger than the penny. Its very confusing. Anyway, we stopped for awhile in the Uvita bus station to catch the bus to La Palma, and thats where the next story will pick up

Posted on January 28th, 2009 by Natnee and filed under Costa Rica | 4 Comments »

Pictures From Chirripo

Here are some of the pictures I promised earlier; Im at a friends fast internet now, so I can upload them. These are from the trip up to Chirripo:

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Those are of the ascent; bearing in mind that I took over 200 pictures on the way up, its a small sample. There were literally thousands of flowers, especially at the higher elevations. The next pictures are from the summit, at about 3820 meters, which is around 12,000 feet.

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Those are some of my favorite pictures from Chirripo. Here is the last one I took that night, forgive the quality but the horse was moving, it was dark, I was stumbling and so was the horse so were lucky we have any picture at all!

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And a picture of the Volkswagon Thing by popular request :)

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Posted on January 28th, 2009 by Natnee and filed under Costa Rica | No Comments »

Down Cerro Chirripo

So the same day I summited we decided to get down the mountain because it was quite cold in the hostel – no heat, no cooking equipment, etc. Not to mention we wanted to be able to breath again! We had rested up some, but we were still a bit stiff. So we started down the mountain at 10am. Everyone said the descent took them about 2/3rds of their ascent time, so we though no problem! – so we were descending, making pretty good time at 2k per hour, but the descent from km11 to km7 was very difficult, non-stop downhill. We started to wonder how we ever went up it in the first place!

 Crystals knee was starting to bother her with all this downhill, so we stopped at the half-way emergency shelter and had some dried beans for lunch. We were still on schedule to be out of the park by 4pm or so. Then it started to rain. That slowed us down. Then at about km6 Crystals knee was hurting so bad that she couldnt go on. So I had to carry her pack and that helped a bit, then she couldnt go even without the pack. So finally I found her a walking stick (it WAS the jungle after all, there were sticks!) and she tripped her way down the mountain, at a much slower pace. We kept this up for hours, since we didnt want to spend the night on the mountain. Somewhere in this,  some people wed talked to briefly on the way down the trail passed us on the way down and saw Crystal was hurt. Didnt really offer any help, just said that the stick would help and kept sailing on down the trail. At the time I thought some good samaritans they were! – so we kept hobbling down the hill. Crystal with a hurt knee and me with about 60 pounds of pack weight.

 We continued this until dark, at which time we were at km3. We kept going with flashlights, until finally at km 1.5 I saw someone coming from downhill. Someone with 4 legs who went whinny!. Apparently, the good samaritans that had passed us had gotten worried that no one had heard from us and had hired a horse with their own money (25$) to come and get us. So with the horse to carry Crystal and the guide to carry one of the packs, we finally made it down the mountain a little before 8pm.  I dont think either of us had ever been that tired before.

The horse was amazingly able to handle the trail. It was a rough trail – rocky, steep, unpredictable – and the horse did it in the dark, without looking at is feet. Quite impressive. The guide said they train for 3 years on the trails before they are used for people. The people who had sent the horse werent around, but some other people wed met from NJ were waiting and told us what happened. And they helped me carry the pack the last little bit to where the car came to pick us up from the hotel.

I was practically unable to move when I finally got in bed that night. Chirripo did have magnificent scenery, and some really beautiful flowers, birds, and vistas but I would not have done it had I known how hard it would be. Ill post some pictures of the trek when Im on a better computer, and give some more detailed information for anyone considering climbing it themselves.  

Posted on January 27th, 2009 by Natnee and filed under Costa Rica | 2 Comments »

Cerro Chirripo

So after leaving Alonsos thing behind (a picture of which is coming, as soon as I can get to a computer fast enough to upload pictures), we took the bus to San Isidro De El General. We had to change buses there to head for Cerro Chirripo, the tallest mountain in Costa Rica, which we were determined to climb. Unfortunately, there are 4 bus stations in San Isidro each of which is on a different corner of town. And naturally, the locals directed us to the wrong ones first. So it took us about 2 hours of walking around town to different bus stations before we finally found the one that was headed to Chirripo (pronounced Cheery-POH).

 That bus took as long to travel 15 miles as the other had to travel 70, because the last half of the ride was on a gravel road. This bus went places I wouldnt have taken a car. And it was packed to capacity although capacity is a term that doesnt really mean anything on Latin buses; there is ALWAYS room for ONE more!

 So we found a place to stay at the base of the mountain that offered free transfers to the trailhead at 5am the next morning. We rented sleeping bags to take up the mountain (the hostel at the top doesnt supply them for some reason). Started that morning. The hike was brutal. Thats just the only word. It was 14 kilometers, supposedly, but I think it was more like 20. Their kilometers seemed flexible, if you know what I mean. And a total elevation gain of about 7500 feet. It was much harder than the guide book had let on, which wasnt helped by the fact that the last 5k was above 11,000 feet. We were dog tired when we made it to the top, after 12.5 hours of solid uphill hiking. I mean, REALLY tired. We seemed to be slower than everyone else, most seemed to average 7 hours but then these were people who climbed in the rockies, in British Columbia, etc. Everyone there was an experienced mountain hiker but us. So the average wasnt fair.

 Well, next morning Crystal was way too sore to finish the 5.1k hike from the hostel to the top of the actual mountain. I was supposed to get up at 3am so I could be on top of the mountain at dawn, but as it happened I overslept until 4:45 – which isn t bad considering when I usually get up at home!

 So I missed the sunrise from the summit, but as it was I was walking for about an hour in the dark before it started to lighten up. I was tired, and the last 100 meters to the summit was almost a vertical scramble at 12,000+ plus. I more or less crawled to the summit, but I made it. I got a video of myself juggling at the very top of the summit in the early morning light, which I will upload soon to youtube and post here. So then I had to go back down the mountain, which should have been easier right? Decide for yourself after the next post 🙂 

Posted on January 25th, 2009 by Natnee and filed under Costa Rica | 1 Comment »

We Be Here

Spent a long 12 hour day in airports or in flight yesterday. During the first flight out of DFW, the airline overbooked the flight and there were two people with the same seat. They both showed up fairly early, so one of them moved to a spot across the aisle. Of course, the person who had that spot then showed up and so the new person found a new seat. By the time it was done, about 5 people had swapped seats – then the plane filled, and the last person showed up, and they were all in the wrong seat, and one person didnt have a seat. So they spent about 10 minutes in the middle of the aisle all trying to figure out who was sitting where. All I knew was, my ticket said 18C and that was where *I* was sitting!  They eventually did sort it out. But it was rather entertaining to watch.

Had a layover of almost 4 hours in Atlanta. Sat next to an Australian girl who was an engineer on her way to Costa Rica to volunteer for 6 months. Helping to design an orphanage. So we chatted for most of the second leg about Australia and travel in general. Finally we arrived in Costa Rica, started to land, then had to break off half-way down and circle around for a bit because the Continental plane in front of us designed to lollygag around too much.

Got landed, met our Hostel host Alonso, who introduced us to his volkswagon thing (youll have to see it to believe it) which rattled and chugged up to his hostel. We stopped on the way to the hostel to buy some fruit for dinner. The hostel was very nice, but the road noise was awfully loud. Finally got to sleep though. Met some German women this morning from Stuttgart and Bavaria and chatted for awhile. Now were off to catch the bus for Cerro Chirripo. Go us!

Posted on January 20th, 2009 by Natnee and filed under Costa Rica | 2 Comments »

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