Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Costa Rican Vacation

My lovely girlfriend Natalie and I recently returned from a fantastic five-day vacation in Costa Rica. We spent the first two days and nights at the amazing Rafiki Safari Lodge nestled along the Savegre River, and the last three days and nights at Arenas del Mar—a resort hotel on the beach near Manuel Antonio National Park.
Here we present (in no particular order) the top ten best and six worst moments from our trip.
Ten Best
  1. Drinking beers at a commune-bar in the sleepy town of Il Silencio. This is very closely related to one of the worst/scariest moments of the trip. We stuck out like the non-palm oil plantation workers that we were… are.
  2. Eating a typical breakfast of rice and beans like every morning. Rice and beans (and hot sauce) for breakfast: Who knew!? The Ticas. That’s who.
  3. Riding horses to Giovanni’s (Rafiki’s chef) mom’s house in Santo Domingo where she had a very nice lunch set out for us. My horse (whose name was—ironically—“The Tank”) almost broke on the way home. I think he stepped on a jagged rock or something.

  4. Seeing monkeys from the golf cart path when we decided to not be lazy and walk down (rather than take a golf cart) to the beach from our hotel. There was a mama with babies on her back… and possibly a monkey fight. We were unable to get quality pictures.

  5. Swimming in the ocean and enjoying the beach in Manuel Antonio.

  6. Joining the “Ten Percent Club” at Rafiki. Legend has it that if you go down Rafiki’s 100-foot concrete water slide in the nude, you go 10% faster. I’m not sure if it’s true, but it was certainly fast. It was exhilarating, but I paid the price (more on that later).
  7. Seeing a sloth in a distant tree while eating at Agua Azul—the simplest and best restaurant in Manuel Antonio. We later went there for dinner. They had the best chicken fingers I’ve ever had in my life, and I’ve eaten a lot of chicken fingers. I love chicken fingers.

  8. This is actually several moments: Juan Carlos—our driver and whitewater rafting guide—was ├╝ber-excited to showcase the flora and fauna of his country. It was completely normal for him to pull the van off of the road to grab at a leaf (or a berry, or a twig, or a flower) for us to smell. He would earnestly try to explain to us the plant’s use (medicinal or other). During our final ride with Juan Carlos, I strapped on my earphones to listen to tunes and enjoy the scenery. When he would pull the van over, I became kind of annoyed in spite of myself. As I pulled off my earphones, I felt like saying, “What, Juan Carlos!? What is it now!? What does this berry do!?” But I didn’t. I listened and nodded. Natalie was better at feigning interest than I (or she was legitimately interested and I’m just a Philistine who enjoys listening to the Strokes while driving on Costa Rica’s back roads). In all honesty, I commented several times on the trip at how refreshing it is to see tour guides who really care about what they are showing off. They were all so proud.
  9. The warm welcome we received at Rafiki. We were starving, slightly traumatized, and generally mixed up upon arrival. I had the pork loin, Natalie the calamari.

  10. Sitting on our balcony after arriving at Arenas del Mar: enjoying a typical afternoon rain shower and drinking blended mojitoish drinks that we spiked with Bacardi that we brought with us in tiny plastic bottles. Later, we went to dinner and then bought six diet Cokes (to mix with the bottle of Bacardi Reserve [we bought while shopping at the Sky Mall on US Airways]), baked Goldfish© crackers (original flavor), and mixed nuts. The electricity went out in the supermarket for a brief moment before we left.

Six Worst
  1. Almost getting washed off of the road and into the Savegre River before our vacation even really began. Just a few kilometers from Rafiki, we encountered a road that was overrun by rapidly flowing water. Our driver—Juan Carlos—almost went for it. He got halfway and then turned back to us and said, “We cannot make it.” So we headed back to the last town—Il Silencio—and kicked it for a bit. Later, Juan Carlos used an alternative route and Constance—the owner of Rafiki—met us along the way and picked us up in a 4x4 truck. The road up to Rafiki was BAD—narrow and flanked on both sides by cliffs that plunged down hundreds of feet. Our relief was short-lived when we began to question; first, Constance’s driving skills and—eventually—his sobriety. Long story short, we made it.
  2. The guilt we felt after practicing unsustainable tourism and pretty much ruining Manuel Antonio’s ecosystem by feeding an Iguana four baked Goldfish© crackers (original flavor) from our balcony. On the bright side, he really seemed to enjoy them and was back the next day at roughly the same time. He may still be there… waiting for his free meal. We hope he’s learned to fend for himself again.

  3. Not seeing any animals after paying $10 (each) to walk around Manuel Antonio National Park. We did see a lot of Halloween Crabs, but that’s about it.

  4. Getting an accidental enema after joining the “Ten Percent Club” at Rafiki. Since I went down the slide naked and at night, I was unable to clench during impact. This resulted in water shooting up into my deuce. This was very uncomfortable. I’m still trying to figure out what club membership entitles me to.
  5. Feeling like we weren’t going to get home after our passports (and my iPhone) became permanently locked in our hotel room’s safe. Fortunately, the hotel had a contingency plan: to break out a huge drill bit and annihilate the safe. It wasn’t our fault… seriously. We remembered (and remember) the code. It was 2905. I couldn’t shake the feeling that they harbored resentment toward us for forgetting the code. But we didn’t! The thing just broke! Seriously…
  6. Smelling the breath on the guy sitting next to me on the final flight we had to take to get home (from Charlotte to Washington DC). It was so bad that when he ate his mini pretzels, I was relieved that it began to smell like poop covered in pretzels.

Over all, it was an amazing experience.

1 comment:

BRN said...

Man, I feel sorry for "The Tank!" With you on him a name like "Smart Car" or "Mini Cooper" would seem a better fit.

Poor guy. You should check to make sure they didn't have to take him out like Eight Belles after you got off him.