Friday, 17 August 2012

Costa Rica Part 3: Adventure Tour

 Saturday 28th July 2012

Another day travelling! We drove for 6-7 hours to the Caribbean coast. We watched Thor during the journey, which was awesome. Not much in the way of scenery – just rain, greenery and muddy rivers! But we stopped in the town of Puerto Viejo where we got our first sight of the Caribbean Sea! Then we drove to Almonds and Corals, our hotel. It’s right in the middle of the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, and we’re staying in eco-friendly jungle lodges in the middle of the rainforest! They’re really nice – we even get jaccuzzis in the rooms!

Unfortunately, it's been raining torrentially all day – we got totally drenched walking to dinner and the electricity went out twice! The first time was late evening, when it was pitch dark. All the lights went off while I was in the middle of the path between cabins, and didn't have a torch with me. I was scared to move in case I fell off the path! (they’re about a metre off the ground, with nasty poisonous things lurking in the bushes!) So I just had to stand there in the rain until the lights decided to come back on. It’s the kind of rain that has you drenched in seconds, which wasn’t fun either. Not sure I’m up for hiking in this weather tomorrow! To make things worse, apparently all the rivers are overflowing – we might not even get to go rafting at all! :(

Sunday 29th July 2012

They’ve had to cancel our three-day whitewater rafting trip to the Pacuare River because the river’s the highest it’s been in years – this has never happened before. Just our luck! So we’re here for another day, which would be nice if there was actually anything to do! Today we saw all there was to see. We walked along the beach (not the weather for swimming!) past the village, only to find that the river we were supposed to paddle across was a metre high! We had to wade across, and the river opened out into the sea and the ocean currents were so strong we had to form a human chain to stop any of us from getting swept away into the sea! Yikes! Thankfully we all made it across, and then had to climb a steep muddy hill for a nice view of the beach.

Back to Puerto Viejo this afternoon. And I got a picture of a three-toed sloth we found sheltering from the rain inside our hotel! :)

Monday 30th July 2012

We should be rafting today. Instead, we drove to another tourist town. There were a couple of souvenir shops and restaurants, and a tiny beach. Looked in some shops, but got bored. Drove back. So bored I spent the afternoon sleeping! Also read my book and did some writing. I’m working on a very rough draft of the sequel to The Puppet Spell – finished one chapter so far, plus more planning. I guess that’s progress.

Today’s wildlife encounter was with an extremely poisonous snake, which can apparently kill you in three minutes. It's in the rainforest less than five minutes from our cabins, which is... less than reassuring. We found a giant cockroach in our bathroom today, which hissed at us and then went and hid. Pretty sure it's still in the room. Lovely. Still, we got some exciting news tonight – whilst we still can’t raft on the Pacuare River, we’re going to be rafting the Sarapiqui River tomorrow instead! We’re stopping there on the way to our next stop, Fortuna! It’s not what we originally hoped for, but it’s the next best thing. :)

Tuesday 31st July 2012

Up at 4.20, when it was still dark, the howler monkeys just beginning to stir and scare the crap out of people (I can’t decide whether they sound like elephants or manic gorillas…). Checked out of Almonds and Corals and loaded our luggage onto the bus, then we were off! We drove northwest, away from Manzanillo and on towards Sarapiqui! A 5-hour drive; I totally failed at catching up on sleep, though. We arrived at the river around 11am, ready for some epic rafting! And it was totally worth the early start – now THIS is an adventure tour! It was frickin’ amazing! We rode the class 3 and 4 rapids, bouncing off rocks and over massive waves, getting absolutely soaked (though I, rather surprisingly, managed not to fall in!). One raft flipped over and we had to ‘rescue’ everyone (we were all wearing lifejackets so there was no danger of drowning!). I did manage to get sunburnt again…ouch! But it was really fun. :)

Afterwards we drove a further 2 ½ hours to Fortuna, which is near Volcan Arenal, the most active volcano in Costa Rica! We’re staying at Arenal County Inn, which is pretty nice. No ants in the rooms, for once! Tonight we went to a restaurant in Fortuna, which was nice.

So tired! But happy! :D

Wednesday 1st August 2012

Today was supposed to be day three of the rafting trip, but due to the schedule being messed up we had a day to kill. So we went to a Costa Rican farm (owned by a guy called Don Juan – the fact that I instantly thought of Lord Byron’s poem is proof that I was the only English major there!). We learnt how things work there, including the effects of some pretty weird plants, and some people got to help out with tasks such as squeezing the juice out of sugar cane! Pretty interesting! The gardens were beautiful, too. It was freaking HOT though – the kind of heat where you can literally feel your skin burning through your clothes, ouch! We went souvenir shopping in Fortuna where I admired the volcano (it’s massive!) and bought a couple of souvenirs and some new flipflops (managed to break the other ones – well, they did cost £2.50!).

This evening, we went to the Baldi Hot Springs, which was amazing! It was an outdoor resort with loads of pools of varying temperatures – from warm to scorching! The warm water was nice, even though it really hurt my sunburn! There were some awesome water slides, too. :) A fun evening!

 Beautiful sunset behind Volcan Arenal :)

Thursday 2nd August 2012

Wow – today’s been amazing! We spent the day at Arenal Mundo Aventura, an eco-adventure park near Volcan Arenal. Today’s activity? Zip lining over the rainforest! We had a demonstration first, then put on the harnesses. Then we had a bumpy bus journey followed by a rather long climb up into the rainforest to the canopy! The views were amazing. We were right above the treetops, strapped into a harness attached to a cable – and soared through the air! It was incredible – not scary at all, just exhilarating! We did the first six zip lines in quick succession, jumping down from one to run straight to the next! Then we abseiled down the Pino Blanco waterfall, the highest abseil in Costa Rica! We began with a 90ft free rappel followed by a 164ft descent down the cliffs. We were pretty much in control, meaning we could go as fast as we liked!  I confess to stopping to admire the view of the waterfall, a sweeping sheet of white water pouring down the rocky cliffs. Then came the not-so-fun part: climbing back up the canopy via an incredibly rickety rope ladder up the cliff side! It was pretty scary! But then we did five more zip lines, of varying speeds and lengths, finishing with the highest! We had some truly stunning views - hills cloaked in dark forests, green fields and flowing rivers below us. I love this! My favourite experience so far! :D

As if soaring over the Costa Rican rainforest wasn’t enough, we also got to visit the village of the Maleku indigenous tribe. They gave us a presentation and we could admire their amazing hand-painted wooden carvings! Then we could purchase the photos and videos taken of us abseiling and zip lining – definitely a must! Today’s been the best day of the trip! I think I’ve found a new adrenaline activity I love. :P

Some of the photos taken!

Friday 3rd August 2012

Another early start for another travel day! This time we had a 5-hour drive to Samara Beach, but we watched Avatar on the way which killed three hours! I worked on the sequel to The Puppet Spell for a bit. We arrived in Samara early afternoon. Samara’s a seaside town on the Pacific Coast, with a really nice beach which actually looks like the postcard photos! The hotel at Samara’s pretty nice – it has a pool, which is great!

Nice weather = :D

Saturday 4th August 2012

Great. So our sea kayaking trip’s been cancelled because the waves are too high! What’s with our luck on this trip? Again, we’re the only group ever to not be able to do it. What bad karma have I walked into? Not happy.

Sunny weather, though, which is nice. I spent the day reading outside the room, before heading to the beach for the surfing lesson. That was…hard. I got beaten black and blue by my surfboard, and didn’t even manage to stand up once!

Hoping we get to go kayaking tomorrow!

Samara Beach - paradise!

Sunday 5th August 2012

At least we got to go kayaking, even if it was just a half-hour trip. It should have been simple, were it not for the newly-discovered fact that I suck at kayaking. The instructors actually thought I was hungover, I was so terrible at it! *hangs head*
The ride back in the trailer was fun, though. I spent the rest of the day reading/ lizard watching at the hotel. There are giant lizards living there!

Monday 6th August 2012

Back on the coach again for a 3-hour drive. Still, we got to go to the Rio Negro Hot Springs, which were natural springs hidden deep in the forest! It was like a smaller version of the other place, but also included a mud spa. Painted ourselves all over with mud – it’s a really weird sensation when it dries, like you’re turning to stone! It was pretty fun, except when our stuff got drenched in a storm, including my non-waterproof trainers. At least I had the sense to leave my camera behind!

Drove straight to the hotel afterwards. We’re staying at Hacienda Guachipelin, which is right next to a farm. :)

Tuesday 7th August 2012

Wow – a really long day, but epic! We had to get up super-early and go down to the stables ready for horseback riding! I was pretty nervous, given that I’d never ridden a horse in my life, and the horse I was riding had a mind of his own! He kept trying to race and overtake everyone despite my protests, leaving me hanging on for dear life! Got dragged through a bush once, lol. But I actually enjoyed the experience! Everyone found my running commentary hilarious (it's how I cope with to myself. :P).

We rode along a track up to the Oropendola Waterfall, which is pretty impressive. Then we got back on the bus to drive to the next activity: tubing! Basically, we each sat in a rubber ring and rode the rapids of the Rio Negro! So much fun! :D

Then in the afternoon we had the hike we were supposed to have had yesterday. It was OK, except it was raining pretty heavily, and my bag’s not waterproof so everything got soaked… But we got to see geysers and boiling mud, which was pretty cool! The hike itself wasn’t too tough either (compared to some on our project!). Though if I never see another stepping stone, it’ll be too soon!

Afterwards we went to the Simbiosis Mud Spa, which was pretty much the same as yesterday – mud and hot springs. And rain. Costa Rica’s unleashing one of its hellish thunderstorms at the moment! Tonight we had to repack for our final journey back to Heredia. The adventure tour ends here! Well, it’s been an experience, that’s for sure. I’ve done some awesome things and seen a lot of cool places. But five weeks is a LONG time, and I’ll be glad to be home!

Horseback riding!

Wednesday 8th August 2012

Last day in Costa Rica! We got up early to help milk the cows at the farmhouse, which was another new experience! Then finished packing and loaded up the bus for our 5-hour drive back to Heredia. We stopped at the El Jardin souvenir shop on the way for some last-minute shopping, and arrived at the hostel around 3pm. I’m too tired for any more adventures. I’m physically and mentally exhausted…

Thursday 9th August 2012

Well, this is an interesting turn of events…

Basically, ISV decided to book us onto a flight with only 40 minutes between our connecting flights from San Jose to Houston and from Houston to London. So we knew we’d be pushed for time – then our flight was delayed by 15 minutes. Unsurprisingly, I spent most of the 3 ½ hour flight panicking about not making the connection! We were ready to leg it out the plane when we landed…

Then the plane couldn’t land because there was another plane already at the gate! We had to sit and wait for 20 minutes, which we really didn’t need…

As soon as we were allowed off the plane, we ran. We must have looked like lunatics, six British tourists running at breakneck speed through Houston Airport – but we’d missed our flight.

There was about a minute of ‘What the hell do we do now?!’ followed by a tense hour at the help desk as they tried to get us on an alternative flight. Thankfully, the airline took responsibility, meaning that we got a free room in a hotel tonight and free meals – good job, because I don’t have any dollars and my debit card won’t work! They got us on a flight tomorrow, meaning we’re spending the night here in Houston! In a REALLY posh hotel! We get huge rooms with two double beds each, TVs, hot showers (a godsend!)…and loads of freebies!

I’m liking this little mini-adventure. It amuses me that we’re stranded in Texas! Pity there's no time to explore. :P

Friday 10th August 2012

Well – now I’m home. For real. At last. Got a pretty good night’s sleep in the amazing hotel room, then took some photos with the rest of the group before getting the free shuttle bus to the airport. We arrived in plenty of time for our flight, leaving us four hours to wander around like tourists! :P Then it was time to board the plane! When sleep failed, I spent the 9 ½ hour journey watching films. And I was so happy to reach London at last – not to mention to find that my luggage was safe! Said good bye to everyone and met my parents at the exit. It’s so weird being home – everything looks so different! Of course that might be because I haven’t slept in 36 hours…but who cares. I’m home.

Finished at last! It's 3am, so I'm off to bed. Normal posting shall resume once I get everything sorted - so much to catch up on now I'm back!

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