Sunday, September 9, 2012

Connections through Miami where everybody looks like they are having a good time. Spent the layover at the Corona bar and discussing the future of American tennis with the bartender...we agreed, it is looking hopeless. Flights have been on schedule, thankfully Hurricane Isaac has had no impact this side of gulf.
San Juan's Juan Santamaria International airport looks like a cross of many Asian airports I have been through in the Philippines, Indonesia and India...where you have people all dressed up to come and receive their dear ones. I share a ride with a US State dept rep to the Crown Plaza close to downtown where Saritha has been staying this last week on business. We head to the bar downstairs for my first taste of Imperial, the local beer and I am sad to say it tasted like cold taste and no fizzy.....I am hoping this is because it is an old batch...still optimistic for tomorrow.

Downtown San Jose is one you could miss and not regret one bit, not a whole lot to see really. We spend some time at the national theater and the metropolitan cathedral....institutions we understand the locals are proud of. We wander down the pedestrian street, take in the sights of the locals shopping and milling about. The mercado is just as we expect in Latin America....lots of local foods, I mean souvenirs and a collection of other assorted crap I always wonder who buys. I am looking for cigars, but the Cubans are missing or look disingenuous. We lunch at the countries first five star hotel, that I suspect has ceased to be one called the Gran Hotel Costa Rica or more specifically the 1820 lobby restaurant. This is right across from the Plaza de la Cultura in front of the national theater. The beer is cold and the food looks good...tastes all right. A red cab back to the hotel to catch our ride to the Arenal volcano. 
The 3 hour ride is bumpy and they call it the Costa Rican massage.....well I don't recommend it. The country side is serene and one that is particularly inviting. This journey heading north from San Jose through San Ramon and splattering other little town and villages does make the the clock perspective to the rough and tumble of our daily lives. The cloud has dropped to a 500 feet and adds to the sense of blissful melancholy, the landscape is lush and green and stretches beyond the horizon if you could see one.
We are about 10 minutes outside La Fortuna a backwater town of the yester years but now a bustling tourism hub thanks to the living volcano. Nayara resorts we are staying at has independent cottages, Casitas they call them with private terraces facing the volcano....this is beautiful and I am feeling pampered minutes after checking in. May decide to just stay here forever. The resort provide a lot of privacy and the vegetation is lush and plentiful. The birds are having a grand time too. Humming birds in particular are every where and they are fast to capture pictures. The views from our terrace are incredible and Saritha and I spend a lot of time just relaxing there. The food and service are of a very good quality...nothing amiss between the massages, happy hours and grand meals. 

We take a walk around the Arenal volcano one morning and get as close to the crater as the park will allow, which is still perhaps a 1.5 miles away as the crow flies if not more. It is raining cats and dogs, and given we don't have ponchos to protect against it, we are carrying resort umbrellas. The rain and cloud cover prevents us from seeing the top of the volcano.  In retrospect, without the rain this walk would have been as boring as watching paint dry. We do see some interesting vegetation and some birds (pictures)...I captured a Tucon and a few parrots. Later after the walk we end up in La Fortuna, wandering around looking for interesting souvenirs. We also eat at a local eatery, that serves "Tipical" food, which comprises of rice and beans, piece of meat and fried plantain. Some cold Imperial/Bavaria helps wash it all down. The rest of day is all about chilling on our terrace waiting for the cloud cover over the volcano to clear so we could see the craters. Here is the video when we 1st see the top of the volcano.

My Zip Line (Video): This next morning is a bit of adventure for us. We head to the Sky Adventure's canopy tour where we are going to zip across 8 lines, some of them are as long as half a mile....incredible experience given this was the 1st time we were going through it. There were some brilliant views of the Arenal volcano and lake as well as the canopy of the rain forest from the top. Highly recommended!!!

Earth Quake: On the last day Sep 5th we drag ourselves to the vehicle that is driving us back to the airport, some 3 hours away. About 30-40 minutes out, Saritha has a craving for Coconut water. So our nice driver pulls over at a road side bodega. Seconds after we park and get out of the vehicle, the ground starts shaking rather violently. The locals start looking up...I suspect that they are seeing if the Arenal Volcano erupted, luckily that is not the case....but still we are shaken hard for about 30 seconds, but seems longer. This the 2nd strong earthquake I have experienced in 12 months (Aug 2011 in Washington, DC) and I have to admit, I don't like the feeling of total helplessness. If we had continued to drive, we could have been part of a landslide 3-4 minutes outside from where we parked. I imagine we were lucky. I was also glad to hear that while there was minor damage around the country and we saw some along the drive, there were no fatalities.
We were also lucky to view some of the most exquisite vegetation and birds in Costa Rica. Here is a link to those pictures.

Thank You Costa Rica for the opportunity to relax despite the adventure, allowing us to stop and rest a bit. Highly recommended despite the earth quakes and volcano's. Adios!