Monday, July 16, 2012

Adventures in the Rich Coast

As promised, more about Costa Rica! You know how a perfectly delightful vacation gives you nothing to talk about? "Yeah, the weather was great, everything went as planned... uh, I got sand in my swimsuit." Not much there.

Well, most of our trip was perfectly delightful--we saw dozens of species of birds (including white-ruffed manakins displaying on their arena, a pair of mot-mots, and a toucan).

Either a Passerini's tanager or a Cherrie's
tanager (that's his bright red back;
he's looking away from the camera).

We had a two-toed sloth and a troop of capuchin monkeys hanging out right by our hotel.

Capuchin, right overhead. The whole troop
went within a few meters of us.

And we received some warning head-bobs from the resident ctenosaurs and basilisks. There were tons of animals, which was what we wanted to see. It was great!

Ctenosaur (not an iguana!).
These guys are big--up to a meter in length

We spent a day at the base of the Arenal Volcano, swam in the hot springs, and enjoyed our first tropical downpour. Then it was off to Monteverde via the van-boat-van.

Arenal as seen from our hotel. We were told
we'd feel rumbles from this active volcano,
but it was quiet while we were there.

The van-boat-van is touted as the quickest way from Arenal to Monteverde. By taking us across the lake, we could avoid the windy mountain roads and shave hours off our trip. Sounds great, doesn't it? The first van ride was a quick jaunt around the volcano to the lake shore. We lucked out with a rain-free trip across the lake.

The calm before the storm (-y drive).
Lovely, isn't it?

So far so good.

When we got to the other side, the driver told us he couldn't take us the normal route--the roads were too slippery. Too dangerous. So he'd have to take us the long way around.

Now, in my mind (and in my experience driving in the Rocky Mountains), the normal route involved a rutted, rocky, single-lane unpaved road. The rains made it wet and muddy, so we couldn't go that way. Surely that meant we would be taking paved, less-steep roads instead, right?

Not so much.

We spent nearly three hours jostling around the inside of the bus, racing down bumpy hills at breakneck speed only to skid to a halt as we careened around a bend into
a herd of cattle...
or an ox-cart...
or someone on a motorbike...
or a stray dog...
or a big patch of mud. 
At one point the wheels began spinning in the mud, and I had visions of us pushing the bus to get it unstuck. (Uphill, of course, and did I mention it was raining the entire time?) At the last second, the wheels found traction and we lurched ahead.

I grew up in the mountains, so I felt surprisingly at home during the whole excursion. Beloved Husband, on the other hands, had to periodically pry his hand from the seat in front of him, just to get some feeling back in his fingertips. But he was a champ.

We made it to Monteverde as the sun set and the rain cleared. I haven't seen that many stars in the night sky in a very, very long time.

It was worth every minute of the drive. (Beloved Husband might disagree.)


  1. I remember the mountain roads of Costa Rica well, Alison! Your husband is a grip-and-release champ for sure! Sounds like that was some ride!

    1. It was an adventure, no doubt about it! One I'd do again in a heartbeat. :)

  2. "You know how a perfectly delightful vacation gives you nothing to talk about?"
    I'm sure you actually have a lot to talk about, it's just not on your mind yet ;). Thanks for sharing the pictures. It looks indeed like a perfect vacation for the both of you :).
    And about the mountain drive, it reminded me of my own experience. Except I was the one driving and my aunt was doing the grip-and-release on the back seat instead :D.

    1. I do, but it sounds so boring. Long lists of the cool animals we saw, for the most part. I'll post something about our zip-lining adventure. That was just amazing.

      I'll be your aunt will never ride with you again! :D

  3. Beautiful pictures! I'm absolutely jealous. Sounds like you had a great trip.

    1. Thanks Laura! I highly recommend it if you ever have a chance to go. Just be prepared for a bumpy ride. ;)