Aventuras en Costa Rica – Dias Finales

In Uncategorized on August 7, 2009 by tishamarie

Rigo picked me up at 7:15 and, bless him, stopped at Hotel Marañon so I could pick up my voucher before he dropped me off at Quality Hotel next door to a Pizza Hut. Yes,  Pizza Hut and on the way we passed Burger King, McDonalds, Subway, and El Pollo Campero which I’ve seen by Alicia’s house in Inglewood (Salvadoran food, I think).

Church made of metal to prevent earthquake damage

Church made of metal to prevent earthquake damage

The van came at eight and we proceeded to weave in and out of busy San Jose streets stopping at four other hotels before he transferred us to a larger tour bus with Melvin – the world’s best tour guide – and a driver with the grace of a gazelle up and down the windy mountain roads, even in the rain, some unpaved.


I learned about contemporary Costa Rica from that bilingual, three-hour drive which wasn’t in the whole book I read. I feel like my education is complete. We also stopped in Sarchi to feast on the local artisanias wares. I spent too much – yes, I am a souvenir whore.


I was the only single; good thing I don’t have a complex about it. I stopped feeling anxious after I chatted up the first couple who boarded – two older lesbians from England who visited different parts of the world every six months, sometimes together, sometimes with their families. They shared adventures in Australia, Greece, Brazil, Canada, and New York. I became their surrogate child. They inspired the beginning of my increased longing for familia. The second couple who boarded had just said good-bye to their med-student daughter who is living in Costa Rica and interning in public health. She speaks Spanish; they do not. I guess people living in New Jersey, who think Baja Fresh is great Mexican food, don’t need to know more than taco, burrito, and (her favorite) tostada ensalada. I tried not to hold that against them. He is a DJ and they don’t look old enough for grown children. Lunch with them was a treat. She reminded him not to drink the water unless it was in a bottle. I drank the tamarindo only slightly wary. She ordered a Corona. He and I both went back for seconds on chayote and rice.


Volcan Arenal from lunch spot

Volcan Arenal from lunch spot

Later that afternoon, the five of us spa’d together (I had to exchange my volcano mud wrap for body exfoliation when I found out about the sulfur.) I was the spare tire when he left for an extended bathroom break or when one of the shes felt a little too warm for the hot springs (her blood pressure combined with altitude sickness).


Later that night we all ate together at the hotel’s Asian buffet – I guess their regular guests would get tired of beans and rice every night. I wasn’t feeling adventurous enough for sushi, but indulged in tempura – eggplant, zucchini, onion, and my new favorite, cheese. There was fish in cream sauce – avoided that, chicken chimichurri – not exactly Asian, and BBQ pork – my favorite. I ended my meal with a plate of fresh fruit and a fruit punch con ron. How can I be in Costa Rica without trying the rum? It is my new favorite. (I will one day make up a song about it better than the piña colada one.)


Volcan Arenal from dinner spot

Volcan Arenal from dinner spot

After dinner at the hot springs, as darkness covered the country, we boarded the tour bus for our Volcan Arenal photo opportunity. Fireflies scattered across the field danced for us like Disney’s electric light parade. Flashes of nature illuminated the sky behind the volcano and after watching for less than ten minutes, she erupted. Lava flowed down the right side, bright red and broken into chunks, each the size of a modern automobile.


Can you see the red tip of the volcano glowing?

Can you see the red tip of the volcano glowing?

I was exhausted and ready for a long shower when I was finally dropped off at Lavas Tecotal, my hotel. It was super dark, serial-killer dark, when the young man escorted me down a windy hilly path to the smaller rooms at the back of the property. After a few hours of reading, I fell into a deep sleep. Until 3:30 am when I awoke in digestive agony. I took a pill, drank water, rolled up the pillow under my abdomen, and tried sleeping on my stomach, but nothing worked. I was tossing and turning until about 7:30 when it finally subsided. I had two hours of good sleep before my free breakfast time expired.


The skies that final morning threatened rain. Clouds the color of a charcoal briquette lingered just south and west of the hotel, but clear blue sky and innocent clouds fought them for space.


Breakfast buffet and my first taste of Costa Rican coffee then a  short walk down the highway to the artesanias who offered objects carved from Madera wood and jicaro. On my return, two hawks beckoned to their young and I stood mesmerized as the danced across the sky, returning to the top of a tall tree.


I continued to watch the hawks from my balcony, spending a leisurely morning with Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver. Laughed out loud. Cried, too. (Finished it on the plane and highly recommend it!)


I had time for a light lunch before my shuttle returned. The most delicious tilapia al mojo de ajo with a side of rice and jugo de piña. A thick flaky savory steak of fresh fish grilled to perfection. El mejor tilapia en todo el mundo.

The first part of the van ride down the mountain was designated to instill fear in our hearts. As the driver fiddled with his ipod or phone or something in his lap, we almost surprised oncoming cars and once the right front tire slipped off the paved road and bumped onto the shoulder. Now if you know about my previous foreign country tour van incident you’ll understand the prayers I began to rattle off at that point.


After an hour, we arrived safely at Tierras Enamoradas – Lands of Love. An Israeli restaurant, hotel, canopy tour spot, and local artist store. It was a brief stop, but I was able to get hand-crafted earrings and a hand-painted volcano magnet. Young people from Los Angeles (Valley and Hollywood) shared their sip line video with us and we proceeded to plummet south towards San Jose.

Leaving Costa Rica was also an adventure and a true test of my perseverance. The taxi arrived a four am, darkness greeted my freshly washed face. I was ready, relaxed from reading, and lugged my 72kg suitcase down the stairs to load in Rigo’s cab. I practiced my Spanish in response to his questions about my visit, my writing, and my teaching. We lamented together the work ethic of young people.

After paying $25 departure tax and $75 for my over-weight, over-sized suitcase, I was able to wait the hour and a half in the terminal wide-awake. I didn’t start feeling the effects of limited sleep until about eight am, after the first beverage service. Even with my nap, finishing my book, and some comic-relief television, I felt like the flight was my longest ever.

When we landed in Denver at 12:15, I was starving. I inhaled a Domino’s personal pan pizza before I got a call from my cousin, Troy. He was car-less and watching four kids, so I hopped in a Super Shuttle with all my bags and it delivered me right to his doorstep. What a view! We chatted out on the balcony, and then had dinner with his roommate and the kids. The pasta enabled me to slip into a carb-coma as soon as the plane took off for LAX. Before that I missed the bus returning to the airport from downtown Denver so I called Super Shuttle again and they picked me up in front of the sushi place across the street. I was a little anxious about making my flight, but the Frontier Airlines area wasn’t too busy.

At LAX, the complete opposite – madness! Raul had to fight crazy traffic to get me even though it was eleven pm. But we made it home safely and were sound asleep when the clock struck twelve.


One Response to “Aventuras en Costa Rica – Dias Finales”

  1. Welcome back! Sounds wonderful and you made me soooo hungry. Hope you brought home a recipe or two (along with a completed manuscript). When’s dinner??
    Can’t wait to see you,

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