Pura Vida and Margaritas

Trip Start Jul 19, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Costa Rica  ,
Sunday, February 26, 2006

"Pura Vida" means "Pure Life" and all the locals here in Costa Rica use all day long to say, "What's up?," "Thanks," or just whenever they feel like it. Pure Life is exactly what we were living for the last week while the Stumpf Fam came down south of the border to visit us.

The first night they got in, they were our lucky charms, because we hit it big in the casino on the top floor of the Holiday Inn. Oddly enough, it was "Cowboy Night" with bales of hay lying on the floor and all the dealers in cowboy hats and plaid - they were lacking chaps though. We lost all our money at the craps table and were finishing our drinks to go home, when the raffle lady called out Eric's free raffle ticket number and he won $10. With that money, we proceeded to win $110 at the craps table - Natalie being the lucky high roller. With much restraint, we finally walked away with $50 up. It was looking like a good vacation already.

We spent the week in the Manuel Antonio area right on the beach and with the jungle looming right behind. If you close your eyes and picture paradise, you'll have a pretty good image of where we were. Or, if your imagination is frozen from the Indiana cold, just pop in the movie, "Jurassic Park." It was filmed in Costa Rica and a lot of the shots of beaches with cliffs towering above crystal blue water and soft, sandy beaches with some palm trees here and there, pretty much pays it justice. We did not see any Tyranisaurus Rex or other flesh eating dinosaurs, but we did spot some pretty big lizards.

We stayed at a Villa with huge balconies, from where we spotted lizard and monkeys and hung around in the hammock, where cabana-boy Eric mixed up fresh margaritas. The cabana restaurant was right below as well, and we never ceased to be entertained by Don Luis and his family forever chopping away at veggies and freshly caught lobsters (the lobsters were more of a hacking than a chopping) for dinner each night. The chopping usually took about a good two hours, but the lobster nachos were well worth the wait. Luckily, the drinks didn't take quite as long.

Manuel Antonio is a pretty popular tourist destination and there are NO shortage of adventure/pleasure tours to take part in. We wasted no time and signed up for the TinkerBell and TinkerBob tour, where you go flying through the rainforest on zip lines, repel from 85 ft. platforms in freakishly tall trees, and swing like Tarzan (Eric being the only one who actually made the Tarzan call). Let me just say, I have a new found respect for my parents and now have placed them in the "Bad-ass" category.

There were 18 zip lines that took you flying through the canopy trees, some of which you were able to hang upside-down, without hands, or in any crazy position you wanted. The guides were all crazy cool locals who would, after safely securing you to the line, push you off one platform and another was there to catch you on the next and keep you from slamming into the tree. The repelling was definitely the scariest part. Our knees were shaking as we stood on a platform way high above the floor, and watched one by one as people leaned off the platform and began their long descent. I don't care what anyone ever tells you to do, but don't look down in this situation. Your heart may actually freeze up in your chest.

Eric and Natalie dropped as fast as gravity and the guide would allow - looking like pros. I made the the mistake of being a chicken and going slow, which caused the guide at the bottom to start twirling and moving the rope. Didn't help with the freaking out factor, but it did get me down off the rope faster. And, the biggest surprise, my mom and dad both, came gracefully and calmly gliding down the rope as if they did this for fun on the weekends in their backyard. After all the drops and zips were over, they had much deserved cold beers and food waiting for us - which we happily (happy to be alive) devoured.

We also took a more tranquil sunset sailing tour out on an old wooden sailboat one night. We knew it was going to be a good trip when we got on and they offered us "Happy Juice." We sailed around the coves, looking for dolphins, drinking and eating, and at one point stopped off to do some snorkeling near some rocks. The water wasn't as clear as on the Caribbean side, but there was no shortage of fish. Our guide gave us a package of crushed saltines that we released underwater, and were attacked by schools and schools of fish. Think, Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" just underwater, and with fins. On the boat, we did spot some dolphins and the flying fish they scared out of the water that were then eaten up by the diving booby birds (that's what the guide called them - very official term). The sunset over the ocean was gorgeous and looked better than any post cards we've seen.

Natalie, Eric and I all took surfing lessons our last day at the beach. We are now officially tubular surfer dudes and dudettes, and are allowed to say things like, "Hang Ten" "Narley" and "Killer Wave." Surfing isn't as hard as one would first imagine, but then again, not as easy as it looks. Jorge, our teacher, said in the two years he's been running the school, without a doubt, the girls always do better than the guys. But, Eric, who's always up to a challenge, showed him wrong. He was top in the class, second only behind the 40 year old mom that put us all to shame. Natalie, was good in a typical Natalie fashion. She hit herself in the face with her board only twice, took out her own knee with the board (and Andrea's head once) and she also managed to burn the backs of her legs to the color of lobster magenta. With all this, she still managed to surf some big waves all the way into shore, where she would usually then fall off the board and land in the 3 inch water on her butt. Who would think three land-locked Hoosiers would be such naturals and somewhat dominate the killer surfs in Costa Rica.

The rest of the time, we laid around the beach, drank Margaritas and ate delicious food. Pretty much the recipe for a perfect vacation. One restaurant we went to was called, "El Avion" (The airplane) where we watched another sunset over rounds of beers. The restaurant was built around the original C-123 cargo plane that was used during the Iran-Contra scandals in Nicaragua. One of the planes crashed, and the other never left the Managua airport. Some guy bought the plane and moved it to Costa Rica, part by part, where he reassembled it into a restaurant. You can check it out at www.elavion.net

Eric also ran into an old high school friend, Abby Harlan, at ladies night at the Lounge. She has been living down in Manuel Antonio for the past two years, and was completely stoked to see Eric there, the only person she's seen from home down in Costa Rica. She recommended we head into the nearest town, Quepos, and check out the local discoteca. We never did find the club, but we did spend about an hour walking up and down the streets, avoiding the weirdos and looking for cabs to take us safely back to our touristy paradise.

The last night in paradise, we did some more quality eating and drinking, and danced the night away to a Latin band at a nearby restaurant called Bambu Jam. The padres went home and then we all headed out to the disco on the beach to continue the dancing fever. Margaritas and sun can make you pretty darn tired, so it was back to bed by midnight.

Our last day we squeezed in last minute beach time, and one last order of chicken wings from the only bar that sold them, and then got on the bus to head back to the Villas and prepare to leave. The cosmos were in alignment and sent us signs that my family should not leave. The bus back got a completely deflated tire, and Natalie, Eric and I had to get off in our bathing suits and start walking down the road. After about 10 minutes of watching occupied taxis pass us by, a local guy picked us up and said he'd drop us all near the hotel. About 5 minutes later, he pulls over and tells us we have to get out, because the traffic police were out and checking all taxis for their licenses, which obviously he didn't have. So then we had to walk the rest of the way back to the hotel to a very preoccupied mom and suitcases that needed to be packed in 15 minutes. I still stand by the fact these were "signs" that they shouldn't leave.

But, since the shuttle was already booked to head back to the city, off we went. There was a big music festival in San Jose, in the park right outside of the Holiday Inn, with a mix of styles ranging from hip-hop and break dancing, to Irish step music. Our last meal together we spent WAY TOO LONG recapping the entire week - of course the pitchers of Sangria might have had something to do with that.

Now its Sunday morning and the fam has gone. We had SUCH A GREAT TIME!!!!! It was the absolute perfect vacation. It was very sad to say goodbye, but maybe we'll be seeing them real soon. I'm still sitting here hoping they decided to not take the flight back, and come running through the door at any minute. But seeing as how they have no idea what Internet cafe we are sitting at, and Natalie has an important cool new job, there is quality golf to be had back in the states, and a house to prepare for Spring, the odds aren't in our favor. We need some of that high roller, beginners luck from Natalie again. But she's gone too. Sniff Sniff. We love you guys a lot and can't wait to see you again! THANK YOU THANK YOU for everything!
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