Isla Tortuga


We have booked an excursion with Calypso Cruises and are both excited at dipping our feet in the ocean, feeling the sand between our toes and a catamaran ride. The trip will also give us a chance to see the road condition prior to our journey to the coast the following day. 

The tour begins early with a 0615 pickup at a San Jose hotel. We will need to navigate our way there as we are staying at a home in the mountains outside of San Jose. John calls the hotel to ask permission to park our rental car.  He is denied. We reach out to our host, Jorge and ask if he knows of alternate parking within walking distance. He calls the hotel again and receives the same denial in Spanish. He learns there is no nearby parking. He provides the approximate cost of an Uber though John and I silently reject the option, though politely we thank him for his time. Jorge then offers to be our Uber and we are touched by his generosity of spirit and time. 

He tells us he will pick us up at 0530. We are ready, though nervous as we were planning on leaving at 0430. Jorge navigates the streets expertly, pointing out landmarks from his youth. How different from our drives with our  pinched faces and economy of words providing the direction of the next turn and how many meters until said turn. We regale him with the story of getting lost. He advises John that if he can drive in Costa Rica, he can drive anywhere in the world. John solemnly agrees.  Jorge pulls up to the front of the hotel and suggests a coffee or breakfast to pass the time. John reads my confusion and taps his watch. We have arrived with 20 minutes to spare. We shake our heads certain we would still be twirling our way here had we driven. 

Our luxury bus arrives and we marvel at the skill of the driver as he navigates the bus through seemingly narrow passages. Our guide informs us that the road we are travelling on took decades to build and work remains, though the process is sloth like as bureaucracy stalls the progress.  We sit back, relax and enjoy the relative speed to the province of Puntarenas. 

Our tour company has done this trip since the 1970’s and are a well oiled machine.  We are ushered into the Shrimp shack restaurant for a traditional Costa Ricaan breakfast of eggs, plantains, rice, beans, fresh fruit and coffee. We are clearly on a tight schedule as our empty dishes are snatched away and dreams of a second cup of coffee are ruined. We are directed to board the Catamaran. 

The sun beats down as we slather ourselves with sunscreen. We marvel at the different climate from our rental in San Isidro. John tenderly applies sun tan lotion to his frost bitten nose obtained just a few weeks ago. Happily we sit back and enjoy the ride.   Soon the wake of the boat lulls and we are in holiday mode

A young lady spies humpback whales in the distance and the boat wakes as people leap from one side to another scanning the water for these majestic animals. A cry of excitement, then false alarm as a log is mistaken for a whale.  Then, pay dirt as a mother and calf skim the surface to excited cries. This is repeated several times though begins to feel predatory as we  pursue. It feels wrong and at that moment we retreat to our previous course, Isla Tortuga. 

We arrive to a busy, happening place. There are many craft anchored here, the beach busy. We are shepherded off the boat and directed to our designated area. There are many such areas on the beach, though ours does seem especially nice with its picnic tables and combo of parachutes and umbrellas to shield us from the sun. We receive an in service on the day plan, then are quickly loaded back on the Catamaran for snorkelling. 


John and I have brought our own snorkel gear, like the guy with his own bowling shoes, we prefer it that way. The rest of the group dons unfamiliar gear complete with fins. We all wear mandatory life vests. I’m excited to see the fish. We stand in line and wait seemingly forever for our turn. I jump in to a thrashing cauldron of snorkellers, chopping up the water and scaring the fish. The misuse of their foot fins kicks up the silt blinding the fish and making viewing impossible despite the special spray to clear our masks. I look around for John who is trapped on the boat waiting forever for someone to adjust their gear. His patience thins and he jumps in too.  Moments later the rest of our group bails for the boat, snorkelling complete for the day. John and I wait, the silt clears and we are treated to a few brightly coloured fish and a starfish. It is dismal snorkel pickings though the swim is nice. 

We travel back to the beach, enjoy our four course lunch, complete with wine. A talented trio plays music cementing the moment in our memory.  We enjoy the company of our picnic table mates speaking both Spanish and English we celebrate when we discover meaning. 

We wander the beach, browse the souvenir store which feels out of place, we buy nothing, instead we take photos, our favorite memento and search for beach glass, my favourite beach activity. We find only one piece on this pristine beach so different from the handfuls on Curacao just a short year ago. 


We queue up for banana boat rides and hang on as we are dragged behind a motor boat. Close to shore, we are driven in a tight circle where physics wins as we capsize despite our best efforts to remain upright. 

Too soon it’s time to go. Our group closes up the island and we board our craft for the journey back. I think about this, a boat ride for two hours, a bus ride for another three hours and a cab ride for the final 30 minutes.  We have enjoyed 5 hours on this island and I decide it was worth every moment of travel. John and I smile at each other, the snow and cold of Canada seems very far away. 

 

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Monkeys, Sloths, Canopy Tour and Hot Springs

The Howler monkeys wake us early with their screams. We are happy for the wake up call, though a volume control would be nice.

Our lodging at the Ceiba tree resort includes breakfast and happily we make our way to the dining room.

We opt to eat al fresco, enjoy the morning breeze, view of Lake Arenal and the amazing Ceiba Tree. The tree is over 500 years old. I sip my coffee and imagine what it has seen. I can imagine people in various attire marching through the timeline enjoying its shelter and all the animals that have called it home.


We speak to fellow Canadians at breakfast. One man asks what we thought of the drive, it’s clear his opinion as we detect a twitch. His wife is not ashamed to say she was car sick. We sit a little straighter, perhaps we are doing okay. We learn the mountain traverse last night was not necessary and that the roads are smooth. The map app cost us an extra tortuous 60km. We hate her and are happy to ignore her for part of the way back.

John is interested in a Canopy tour, a chance to zip through the jungle like Tarzan. Wanting to be his Jane, I nervously agree. We begin our drive and stop at a shop to inquire about the tour. We learn it is mere meters away.

We arrive, park in an impossibly large parking lot, pay for the tour and browse the over priced gift store chock full of tchotchkes. No knickknacks needed, we browse our way through. We find a beautiful lodge and enjoy a leisurely coffee. It is a beautiful place with its manicured plants and sanitized experience. How different from the more authentic experience we have been enjoying, less North American, more Costa Rican. I’m ashamed at the excess that seems to be required in places like this one and happy for our rental in the mountains.

We complete the paperwork for the tour supplying our passport information and blood type. We agree we understand emergency services may take time. We are then fitted with our gear for the Canopy adventure and my heart beats a little faster. A young family arrives with a young girl of 4 years. She declares it is her first time, I admit it is mine too. We both resolve to not be afraid.

We receive an in service and soon just like Tarzan and Jane, John and I are zipping from tree to tree through the jungle. The perspective unique as we see the trees from our perch then fly over with a birds eye view.

Eleven trees later we arrive at the terminus. Our ride back is an open air affair pulled by a tractor up steep inclines and impossibly narrow roads, equally exciting it is our bonus tour.

We change gear and soak our tired muscles in a series of natural hot springs rich in minerals. Each spring progressively cooler as we descend. The view of Volcan Arenal breathtaking with its frame of lacy palm fronds. A worker directs our sight to a Sloth in the tree. We watch him for a time, he scratches and like fireworks we ooh and ahh at the movement.


We have enjoyed our time at this resort and reluctantly begin the long trek back to our lodging. We comfort ourself with the knowledge that without the unnecessary extra mountain we have only 110km to travel. We allow 4 hours for the journey.

Every minute is required as we discover rush hour has waited for us. I’m toughening up as I no longer feel the need to cry, bite my nails or grip the dash. We crawl through the final hour. The map app throws up her hands once more as she directs us in a marionette circle. We are on to her though, allowing her to yip out directions in the background while we use our memory and find our way to our lodging in the dark.

It occurs to us that the GPS signal is likely being lost in the mountains and that perhaps the map app is not out to get us as we feared.

In any case, today we have enjoyed the journey, the car ride part of the adventure though not the entire story. 

Lake Arenal Costa Rica

We venture to Lake Arenal. Google maps tells us it will take 2 hours for this 187 km journey. We laugh at both the optimism and naivety of the map app. We plan on a more realistic 4 hours to allow for the certain twists and turns.

The road is well paved, the twists and turns relentless. Our host has told us that the road will flatten out at the end. We look forward to the reprieve. There are steep drop offs with no shoulders or guard rails. We are doing this free form. All manner of vehicles pass us on blind crests, we focus on the task at hand. John is focused on keeping our vehicle shiny side up, my task more mundane announcing the meters until the next turn. At times I look at the beauty all around, waterfalls, rainbows and every colour of green is represented. The road improves, never flattening though less curves allow our necks a rest


We pass small towns, fruit stands and interesting sights. We forego the journey and focus on the destination. Despite our focus, we near the five hour mark. The road deteriorates quickly like a bad joke, we jerk along. Dirt bikes pass as we are forced up and over a mountain. This can’t be right I lament. John doesn’t engage in this fruitless conversation as there is no room to change direction.

We near our destination a few kilometres away, when the map app throws up her hands and has us twirling in circles as we listen intently to her directions. After a few turns, we realize we are on our own and engage our tired brains to figure out the puzzle.  We remember pictures of the resort with its view of the lake and move closer to the water. John spies a forgotten sign with a close approximation of the name of our resort and distance of 5km. We decide to give it a whirl. Tucked around a forgotten corner John spies an equally tucked resort sign. His voice shrill he asks if this is the name and logo. I check and excited announce that we have arrived. He shakes his head with the impossibility of finding this needle in a haystack. The entrance is very narrow at an acute angle seemingly too tight for the SUV. John expertly enters and we begin the steep, vertical climb to reception. John shoe horns the vehicle into the last remaining spot and we climb the remainder of the incline. A lovely zen couple and their children greet us, show us to our room with the view of the lake. We are still twitching from the drive.


We snap off a few pictures just as the light fades and commiserate about the trip as we wait for dinner. Our mouth waters as our Chef host tells us what we will enjoy for dinner. We have stopped for nothing, our last meal 15 hours past.


Our dinner fantastic, roasted pumpkin, potato, pork tenderloin, squash soup and cheesecake for dessert. We share a bottle of wine, relax and plan tomorrow’s adventure. We decide to stop, look and see as we learned in kindergarten. Our over arching plan to enjoy the journey, the destination will come soon enough.