Park Hike, Catamaran Trip, Snorkeling.

Trip Start Jul 22, 2013
Trip End Jul 31, 2013

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Flag of Costa Rica  , Province of Puntarenas,
Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Emma, Kim and I got up at about 6am this morning, so Emma could milk the cows.  She seemed to enjoy that, and Kevin got a chance to do it, too.  Then, we went with the farmer to feed the ducks and also the tilapia, too.  The whole tilapia that I ordered a couple of nights ago for dinner came from this pond on the property, and the milk, cheese, and eggs for the wonderful omelets Eve and I have had for breakfast were all produced here, too.

After we finished our farm tour, we got showered, packed up, and had one last breakfast at the resort before hopping into our van for what was supposed to be a 5 hour drive.  This time, our driver spoke English fairly well, so we were able to learn a bit about the towns and crops we saw on the way.

We stopped for a drink break after about 2 hours, while we were still on very windy roads.  We were on the Pan-American Highway (which goes through all of Central America) for a bit, and also on a fairly major toll highway, too.

Then we stopped at a bridge crossing the Tarcoles River, and saw a total of 40(!) crocodiles!  It was amazing to see so many all at once, and so many big ones, too - Kim got some great photos of them.

We continued on to a very nice restaurant at a hotel named Hotel Villa Caletas that overlooked the Pacific Ocean, and then after another hour or so, we got to Quepos and our resort.  The whole trip ended up taking closer to 6 or 7 hours - not sure if we stopped too many times, or for too long, but it definitely was a long trip!  Our driver had to make the return trip to La Fortuna, so I guess I can't complain too much.

Our hotel here (Hotel Costa Verde - is OK, although not quite as luxurious as our last one.  For example, we have a gorgeous view of the Pacific Ocean, and our room is on the fourth floor, which means we actually look down a bit to see the coconuts out our window.  But, there are a lot of tiny ants on the counter of our kitchen in our suite.

We wandered around the grounds a bit, which included a trip on a short hiking path (which given the fact that the girls had flip-flops on, it was getting close to dusk, and it had rained earlier in the day, which meant the trail was slippery, probably wasn't the best decision, but we survived).  At the end of a trail was the body of a 727 jet that is now used here as a hotel room.

After exploring the hotel grounds a bit, we looked for a restaurant.  The first place we stopped in was off of their regular menu, and only serving pizza, so we ended up leaving that place, and finding another place (called el Avion) further up the (steep!) hill which also had the body of a large plane inside it.  It was allegedly involved in the Iran Contra Affair - this is one of the actual planes that Oliver North used to get guns to
Nicaragua.  We enjoyed dinner, and also saw a sloth in a tree right next to the open-air restaurant, along with several small lizards.

After that, we were all looking forward to some quiet time, and taking advantage of a reliable wi-fi connection, so we're back in our room by 8:30pm, and looking forward to our snorkeling trip tomorrow afternoon.  I think we were all asleep by 10pm or so.

Monday, July 29, 2013

I woke up at 5:30 and couldn't get back to sleep, so I decided to come out on our balcony overlooking the jungle and the Pacific.  There were lots of Costa Rican sounds - birds, howler monkeys, insects, and the crashing of waves against the shore.  I could get used to this.

I caught up on some work, and then updated this blog, but the girls were still sleeping at 7:30am, so I went for a walk.  I tried to get to the beach, but with the narrow windy roads and other private properties, I gave up after a half-hour or so.  It was an exhausting walk back up the steep hill, and I asked at the front desk the best way to get there.  Turns out I didn't walk far enough!  Oh, well - gotta make sure that the girls are up for a strenuous walk before we try to tackle that the next time.

My travels this morning weren't for naught, however - I've got a much better understanding of the layout of the resort, and also, I saw a group of 5 or so Capuchin monkeys!  I was as close to them as I've been to any monkeys so far this trip, and I was able to see that one had a baby on its back.  I don't know if the video I uploaded here from my iPhone will show the baby well or not.

The girls got up, and we went to breakfast at the hotel.  After breakfast, we walked down a very steep hill to go to the beach.  The beach was great - very un-crowded, lots of cool rock formations just off the shore, great waves, vendors hawking their wares, tiny hermit crabs, and more.  After our walk, we walked back up the steep hill to our hotel - definitely got our workout this morning!

Emma and I spent a few minutes in the adults-only pool (we still don't know why they put us in a part of the resort for only people over 18 years old - oh, well!) and then we got ready for our catamaran and snorkeling tour, which left our hotel at 1pm.  We picked up two other families at other hotels, and left the Quepos dock at about 2pm.  It was a very nice sized catamaran, and there were only 13 of us aboard, other than the crew - a very nice family from Mexico City (he had a big scar on his chest like mine, and he also was a big Dallas Cowboys fan, so we had a lot of things in common to talk about!), a family from Los Angeles, and us.

The first two hours or so of the trip were just riding around - we didn't see much wildlife at all, and to be honest, it was probably the most boring (or, relaxing, depending on your perspective!) part of our week so far.

The last hour or so we were able to do some snorkeling.  Our guide had some bread with him, which he threw in the water right around us and hundreds of fish ("Sergeant Majors") swam around us eating the bread.  Our guide then dove to the bottom (15 meters, or about 45 feet!) three different times and brought up a sea urchin, and two different species of starfish - the first one was called a spider starfish, and the second one was very unique - our guide didn't know the name of it, and seemed genuinely excited about finding it.  We got to hold all of them.  The cool thing about the second starfish is that it left parts of its suckers on our hands when we were done holding it.

After snorkeling, we took turns jumping off the second level of the boat into the water - it was probably a good 15 or 20 feet above the ocean.  I was impressed with all of the girls (including Kim) doing it!

Then, we had a light bite to eat, before our guide (Thomas) asked us to come to the top level for a concert.  He got our a banjo and gave us all tambourines, maracas and cowbells to join in.  He sang a few songs (Bob Marley!) as we went back to the dock.

All in all, it was a fun day, but a bit low-key compared to white water rafting and zip lining!
Tomorrow, we have our last full day here - starting with a 3 hour hike in a national park which we have to be ready before 8am for, so we're all getting ready for bed now at 10pm.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Our last full day here in paradise.  We started it with a 7:50 pick-up time at our hotel's front desk with Iguana Tours (the same folks who did the catamaran tour yesterday).  They took us the Manuel Antonio National Park, which is Costa Rica's smallest, but most diverse, national park.  If we did this first on our trip, we might have been really thrilled with it, but at this point of our trip, seeing a few more sloths, lizards and toucans wasn't all that.  I guess we're spoiled now, huh?

But, nearing the end of the hike, we did get really close to several white-faced monkeys.  We've got lots of pictures and videos of them only a matter of a foot or two away from us.  They're almost tame.  We're told that the monkeys have a tendency to take unattended bags, and once they do, they're gone forever!

We spent some time at the very quiet (almost no one else there) beach inside the park, and then left the park, crossing over a little stream that was clearly marked "no swimming - crocodiles".  Then we walked to the little town outside the park, and did some souvenir shopping, and had lunch.  It started to rain pretty hard, and we knew we wanted to spend some time on the beach still, so we took a taxi back to the hotel, dropped off our trinkets, and then got ready for the beach.  The rain cleared up, and then we got a ride back to the beach from our hotel van.

Emma, Eve and Kevin all went into the ocean, and proceeded to get pounded by the biggest waves that any of us had ever been in - I'm guessing they were 8 or 9 feet tall.  After that, we explored some more souvenir shops, and then Emma got her hair braided, before finally having dinner, and then taking a taxi back to the hotel to shower (finally!) tonight, and pack up.  Our ride is here at 7am tomorrow, for the 3 hour drive back to the San Jose airport and a 12:30 flight.

Before we know it, we'll be back to the reality of Pennsylvania, and out of this exotic country.
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