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Archive for the ‘Parts Unknown’ Category

Adios Costa Rica

We finished off the last few days in Costa Rica in much the same way we did the rest of the trip – with a poor return on investment. We enjoyed another day of sunshine. Pool, beach and lots of fun. Charlie made friends with two little boys from Massachusetts and they had a blast together. We really did have an amazing day – likely our best in CR and then I fell victim to the flu.

I spent our third night sleeping on the bathroom floor capitalizing on none of our $85USD/day all inclusive package. Madeline ended up sick in bed again the next morning so the two of us had a lazy recovery day inside our hotel room for our final day in the sun. I dragged myself to the shore for one last look at warmth and ocean late afternoon before we called it a night.

Our trip back home went reasonably well – all things considered. We got checked out of the hotel and headed for the airport – we even managed to make the entire 4.5 hour trip without stopping. We are safe and sound back home now after a couple of flights and a long night.

Jacob and I had reservations about Costa Rica as a destination when we booked in November. I would have to say it lived up to its expectations. We certainly had some unfortunate extenuating circumstances – we were robbed, we got sick, we got rained off the Caribbean coast – but that aside, Costa Rica just wasn’t for us. The biggest reason for me was the value. I was blown away at how expensive it was. We paid American prices for Central American services. The food was wildly overpriced, both in restaurants and the grocery store. The hotels were equally expensive. Plus, there was no good cheap wine or beer, which we clearly needed.

We still have lots of great memories from the trip. Nora learning a few Spanish words and learning to swim. Charlie making friends everywhere he went. Madeline making herself at home on every beach and braving the pools. We got to see monkeys up close, walk over tree tops, visit a chocolate farm and see a volcano. We had fun, it was warm and we spent a month together just our little family. Costa Rica just doesn’t make into my top 25 countries.

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Tuesday we all woke up soaked. Turns out after 36+ hours of rain everything is damp. Jacob was only feeling slightly better and our wifi that had so promisingly turned on Monday night was off again. At the prospect of spending the rest of our vacation damp, sick and with nothing to do we made some drastic changes. At 9 I started packing and by 10 we were on the road searching for sunshine. We had within an hour essentially decided to drive from home to Quebec City for the night with three kids under 6. We en route verified that Margaritaville in Playa flamingo was as expensive as we thought but they did have rooms and we spent more than our previous two accommodations combined for the final 4 nights of our trip.

We managed to make the 7.5+ hour drive (9 due to banana traffic) in just under 10 hours stopping only once for supper. We were beyond proud of our kids. It certainly helped when at about hour 5 we let them guess where we were going and Charlie let us know that he was about ready to die with excitement.

All three kids basically bolted out of the car, did laps in the lobby while we were getting to our room so they could change and swim in the pool that they coveted the three days we spent here at the beginning of the trip. He thanked both Jacob and I at least three times each. I hope I remember this when the visa bill comes in.

Everyone got to bed late but managed to fall asleep well. We had a rough first night when Madeline woke up puking – keeping with the theme for the trip – no good deed goes unpunished.

We have had a relaxing day while M tries to recover. C and N spent the morning in the pool. N has found her sea legs and her bravado and is launching herself into the pool to keep up with the bigs. I’m sitting in the shade of the mangroves trying to catch some vitamin D while everyone rests in the hotel room across the street. Guess it was worth the money.

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Caribbean Coast

We haven’t really done much the past few days. We were basically disconnected at our tree house – no cell reception or wifi so we set out our first morning to see what we could see. We did a little tour of the area and surrounding beaches and stumbled upon a surfing competition. We grabbed some snacks from the grocery store and set up our picnic. Jacob and I even had a mojito made out of a backpack while we watched.

We decided to check out our local beach for the afternoon. The kids had fun playing with another family that they quickly made friends with. The game got rained out before too much fun could be had and we headed home for the evening.

The next day was basically the same. We headed into town and found a beach with a break that made for some nice little swimming pools for the kids. We enjoyed the sun and the view for the morning before lunch.

We headed back to our local beach for a walk in the afternoon since it had clouded over. We even managed to find a sloth hanging out in a tree above our car. The kids and Jacob set out on a frog hunt as soon as it turned dark. Charlie especially was loving the adventure.

We had been settling into a nice little routine in what was my favourite area of CR so far. The rainforest was pretty. The beaches are wild but gorgeous. The kids were enjoying the animals. Then the rails kind of came off. Sunday night it started pouring. We had definitely had some rain the previous two days but not like this. It rained, and I mean rained, for 36 hours straight. By the end of it everything we owned was soaked. Turns out not having any real “inside space” means that we are basically living outside, in both rain and shine. Now the rain itself wouldn’t be so bad, but we have no wifi, data or iPad AND Jacob got sick. With no sign of the rain letting up we packed up Tuesday morning (in the pouring rain) and changed our plans. Again.

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On top of the trees

For our final day in La Fortuna we booked ourselves into Mistico Hanging Bridges – 22 different bridges through the rainforest, 6 are hanging bridges in the treetops.

We set out at about 10am for the 2 mile round trip walk. Thankfully this was also mostly stroller friendly so we managed to complete it in around 3 hours. The kids did fairly well all things considered. It was pretty steep in places and not surprisingly it was hot. We didn’t see a whole lot of wildlife – butterflies, lizards a badger and a snake but the trees themselves were pretty impressive.

The suspension bridges were incredible. They were up to 150ft high and 300ft long. It was seriously impressive to be up that high with some spectacular views.

At the kids request we headed back to the hot springs for another trip down the water slides. Charlie eventually wore me down and got to try all of the slides at the park. He was one happy little boy. We set out for the Caribbean coast in the morning for the last leg of our trip.

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Arenal Volcano

The main reason we are in Costa Rica is so Charlie could see a volcano and today is the day. Well, after we file a police report it will be the day.

Jacob spent the morning itemizing what was stolen at the police station while I tried not to lose my mind in the hotel with the girls. Charlie accompanied Jacob to the station to offer his assistance and fill the police in on all the clues he had found.

We had originally planned on heading to the main national park to hike over the hardened lava flows but since we were getting a late start and essentially hiking in the hottest part of the day we decided to head to the stroller friendly La Península instead.

I was disappointed to not get to see the lava flows – Jacob and I have seen them before in Iceland but Charlie had been pretty excited. He had to settle for the view of the volcano and lake instead though. We definitely made the right call on the stroller path. Neither Madeline or Nora had any interest in walking the 3.5km in midday heat. Charlie was a trooper and didn’t start complaining until the very end.

We rewarded everyone for their hard work with a visit to pops ice cream shop.

For dinner we headed to this little pizza place just down the street from our new hotel. It was an easy decision when we discovered they had a play area. We apparently were not the only family that had seen these pictures; this place was packed. The kids had a great time flying off the end of the slide while Jacob and I enjoyed a pitcher of sangria.

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We had an incredible day today. We had originally planned to visit the volcano today but when we woke up it was quite cloudy and they were calling for possible showers. Since it’s going to be a challenge to get the kids to hike the trail we figured we would wait and hope for better weather since we have a few days. We had seen signs for a chocolate tour only a couple of kilometres from our place so we decided to check that out.

The chocolate tour did not disappoint. We were taken around the family plantation and fed all kinds of different fruit as we went along – star apples, soursop (it tastes like ice cream!) papaya, pineapple and starfruit. We saw mangoes, avocados (that grow to 2+lbs!) ginger, taro, rubber plants, bananas, breadfruit, chilies, coconuts and peppercorns. The kids got to juice a sugar cane and drink the juice.

The third stage of the tour is where we saw all of the cacoa trees. Turns out chocolate grows in these huge cocoon like things that turn from green to purple to yellow. When you crack it open there’s just milky white goo with seeds inside. They then showed us the process of turning the white goo with seeds into chocolate which of course included a taste test.

We went back to our house for afternoon nap where we caught a glimpse of the volcano

We decided for the rest of the day to visit Los Logas Resort on a day pass and relax in the natural hot springs. The heat from the volcano looming in the background makes the pools about 38 degrees. We splashed around for a few hours while Charlie enjoyed the water slides. Our day pass also got us supper so we feasted at the buffet before heading home.

Normally this would be more than the end of the day for us. That’s two pretty jam packed activities. Turns out we were wrong. We got back to our house to find out we had been robbed. Someone had broken in while we were gone and taken our computer, iPad (also known as our sanity), Jacob’s backpack, my hair straightener and all of Nora’s diapers. Thankfully the thieves had a conscience and chucked our passports back in the house before the took off.

Surprisingly this is the first time we have ever had anything stolen while traveling and I’d have to say it stinks. It’s not so much the stuff, although I’m really going to miss that iPad entertaining our children, but it was really scary. They really didn’t manage to steal that much – we had no money in the house, no credit cards and we still have our passports – there was definitely a moment of utter panic when I thought those were gone. The problem is now though we no longer feel safe where we are staying. We quickly messaged our hosts who were possibly more upset than we were, packed up all of our stuff and booked ourselves into another place. We settled in around 10:00. The kids were upset and confused about why someone would steal our stuff – and why we had to move but overall they handled it fairly well. I feel incredibly lucky that we didn’t come home while they were there, that our passports are still with us and that no serious harm was done.

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Rio Celeste

We set out for La Fortuna Monday morning. La Fortuna will be our home base for the next four nights. Charlie especially has been looking forward to this part of the trip – waterfalls, volcanoes and suspension bridges. We decided to break up the three hour drive with a stop at the Tenorio Volcano National Park to check out Rio Celeste – a wildly bright blue waterfall and river.

The local story for the colour of the waterfall is that as God was painting the sky he dipped his brush in the river. Science says it’s due to certain minerals coated in silicon, oxygen and aluminum from two spectate clear water rivers meeting. The size, suspension and reflection of the sun give the river an incredible blue colour. Whatever the reason, I will say it was beautiful.

We landed at the national park and started the 1.5km one way trip into the waterfall. Charlie did incredibly well, Madeline whined for the majority of the trip and Nora made it about half way in before she revolted. We didn’t end up climbing all the way down the scary steps since by this time Nora insisted on walking instead of being carried but we still got a great look.

We grabbed some lunch at the soda across the street before finishing the journey to La Fortuna. We got settled into our new place where everyone has their own room (hooray!) and got set up for tomorrow.

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