An unexpected love affair – Costa Rica

I have to admit this trip of mine was totally unexpected and one that I was not looking forward to.  I am an Indian and it is embedded in my DNA that if I am spending money to fly overseas I have to make it worth every penny.  Flying somewhere to just be there for four nights didn’t seem worthy to me; certainly the thought that I wouldn’t be able to cover every single square footage of the province was disheartening to my bank account.  Why did I go you ask?  Well you keep your promises you make to your best friends, and I must say this is one promise I am glad I kept.  The days leading to the trip were rather gloomy, irritating more like it.   I had no clue where I was going, why was I going? What am I doing there?  We did discuss about the tours there and the adventures things we can pursue on our holiday, but this was mostly researched by her.  I took no interest in it, as Costa Rica was never on my list of places to travel.  So with much pushing and putting up with my crappy attitude, we finally make it and meet up at Liberia Airport.  The minute you get down the heat and humidity gets to you, I slap myself more thinking stupid just stupid why did you go through with this?   My attitude got a little adjustment once I saw my smiling friend and a proper “I have missed you terribly” hug.  I realized that it’s okay the trip wasn’t about the place, it was about who you are with.  It took us a little while to find the shuttle service, well it took us a long time as we missed the first one there were a few choice words exchanged by my friend (though am certain they understood nothing she said as she was blasting off in English).  As I was famished I decided to check the store for some snacks at the airport, I saw a pack of Doritos and decided why not I am on vacation I can eat junk food.  That bag of Doritos cost me 7 bucks, more shocks more anger, who charges 7 bucks for a bag for Doritos? I enjoyed every single last bit of that cheese flavored corn chip.

After butting heads for a while with the airport transportation, while eating Icebox cake (she was kind enough to pick up for me from Miami) and that packet of Doritos we were finally on our way to the resort.  The deal was from Groupon so yet we had no clue what we were expecting or getting ourselves in to.  I have to say in spite of a few hiccups with pick up and such, overall the resort was beautiful and located right off the beach.  I had no clue that we would be dragging our luggage two floor up, but was a good lesson to learn on packing light.  Of course the resort had Wi-Fi but with a charge, and we Indians don’t spend money in such unwanted luxuries.  The view of the water from the resort, the colors from the exotic birds, and the warm breeze was enough to untangle all the knots and put a smile to your face.

Our first day was rather calm, we had nothing planned so decided to walk on over to the beach.  We were right off the Hermosa Beach aka Playa Hermosa.  But please don’t look to me for Spanish lessons here, I am not the expert.  It was rather nauseating to see people smiling and happy all the time, coming from an anxious setting where I was surrounded by angry doctors complaining.  I really didn’t get the point why people were so glowing and saying Pura Vida, what is it some kind of a drink? I was sure to think it was a shot of some sort, because in my world only a rather boozy shot is the only thing that can make me so happy.  But playing along, if I am here I am going to enjoy it, and I will tell you folks it didn’t take four days but less than four hours after checking in to the resort that I fell absolutely in love with Costa Rica.

We walked around the beach, dipped our feet in the water.  The water had a different color to it not because it was dirty, but because of its high mineral content.  There were ladies with carts on the beach serving up grilled seafood and meat.  We found a quaint food hut with live music on and more smiling people, I kid you not must be something in the air.  Decided to indulge ourselves in some local yucca fries, chicken wings (though have to say the chicken need to fatten up their diets here as they were puny) Exhausted from the travel and just being so relaxed we decided to turn in early to bed so we can be all fresh and somewhere smiling in the morning.  Our tours were scheduled for early morning; the idea of that itself was making me groggy.

The breakfast here was included with the package and resort, and I am glad it was.  The variety of fruits on the breakfast buffet was surprising.  Not just the variety but the quality of it was rather shocking as well.   We had succulent, sweet pineapple, meaty papaya, tangy blueberries, refreshing cantaloupe, fresh cheese, rice, black beans, meats and yogurt.  Omelets made to order, pancakes, fresh juice and not to mention the delicious coffee.  Compared to what I have here a bowl of cereal, and boiled eggs, I really didn’t want to leave the breakfast area for the tour.  We met our tour guide; we were one of the last people to be picked up so of course we had the crappiest seat in the van as the front ones were taken.  But did that really matter?  Yes to me it did for a whole of five minutes until we met Marco (our tour guide from Tico Tours).  You have to know one thing the people here in the Guanacaste province of Costa Rica take much pride in their region and country.  Our first stop today was that of Miravalles Volcano and Waterfalls, a bit of a drive from the resort.   We visited the crater of this dormant volcano, protected because of the surroundings that it offers.  The volcano is surrounded by sulfur springs, and bubbling mud pools, you seriously feel like you are standing in the middle of bunch of boiled eggs.  We also had an iguana following us around the crater, maybe a guardian of the crater?  But regardless the soil around here was red and surprisingly the atmosphere was pretty soothing here.  We dipped in to the warm sulfuric puddles, walked through some hanging bridges, saw some marvelous waterfalls.  Not to mention we were treated to some very authentic and homely Costa Rican food.  Overall the day was very active yet very relaxing, we came back and still had the energy to walk around the beach and get us a beer with some skinny wings.

Alarm goes off – it is day 2, today I am in a much better mood or I can say rather excited for our second day.  Mostly because I wanted to get to the breakfast buffet as soon as possible, all the food that was waiting for me.  It seemed as though my taste buds were pining for the pineapple all night, the pineapples here were out of this world.  This time we were waiting for the tour van to pick us up, rather than them waiting on us.  Once again we were the last stop, back seat and off we go, but we had a rather good surprise.  We were accompanied by another tour guide in training and if I may say so Costa Rica just doesn’t have amazing landscape and happy people, Costa Rica has some very dashing looking guys as well.  Even though Jonathan had a hard time speaking English, all I needed was language of love to speak to him.  I really didn’t know what my sister from another mister signed me up for today.  This is what you get for blindly saying yes and not taking interest in the trip.  We had a horse ride ahead of us not only that but also zip lining.  I am not very trusting, so sitting on a horse and having him take me to uphill and around the cliff to the zip lining location was rather panicking.  I got on that beast, and tried to bond with it to make sure there was a connection so he doesn’t topple me or throw me off the cliff.  I thought channel your inner princess you can do this, but when the horse decided to take a detour from the group and find a shortcut to get up my life flashed before my eyes and I for sure thought I was going to be dead.  I managed to talk non-stop all the way up to the canopy and my shooting darts at me with her eyes, for heaven’s sake shut your mouth.  We finally make it to the top, but imagine being next to a waterfall and at height hanging from the zip.  Here is when panic attack number two hits, my friend encouraging me that I can do it, Jonathan ready with my camera to make sure he captures what I was thinking was going to be my last shot.  To encourage me she decides to go before me, just to show that it will be safe.  I think she forgot to turn the volume of her scream down, because that sound felt like someone who was free falling from the cliff.  To cut it short, I got on the zip and off three times, poor Jonathan gets the camera ready, you can do it I am right here.  I had this satisfaction that at the very last moment of my life I had this hunk with a camera waiting to take my picture.  I finally felt bad for him and decided to go for it, what is the worst that is going to happen right?  Everybody else made it there and well there was no backing out now as the van had already left down the mountain.  I did the first zip and ten more down the mountain, and that was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life.  I wanted to get on the horse and gallop back up to the zip and do it over and over again.  As I was walking towards the water cooler to hydrate myself, I turn around only to see Jonathan walking wiping his sweat off with this shirt.  This is where you see the birds, hearts and cupid circling around your head, but worry not I was bought back to reality rather quickly by my friend’s screams.  She decided to try one last stunt before meeting me for lunch.  Our canopy tour ended with an excellent lunch of beans, chicken and rice.  Then we sat in a sauna that was built on top of a hot spring so it was all natural and we felt like we were now in a pot with the eggs getting boiled.  The sulfur content is rather healing though and leaves your skin really good.  They had mud from the volcano for us to rub on ourselves, a quick shower and on to a chilling pool.  The spa experience here was relaxing and as I was sitting and freezing my butt off in the pool of cold water, I realized the true meaning of Pura Vida.  It is truly here that I felt the calmness of life, one with nature how healing it can be without any gadgets or phones or any electronic disturbances.  Smiling people, rubbing each other with volcanic mud and no inhibitions of running around in our swimsuits.  We were all strangers yet we had all bonded in a very different way, it didn’t seem like I was sharing this experience with people who I just met a few hours ago.  I guess when your mind, body and soul come in alignment at the most deepest level we are all just one soul and we find our connection.  We came back and decided to hail a cab for dinner, the cabbie was not very well versed in English but we had a whole conversation with smiles where he managed to tell me he was celebrating his anniversary the next day and what all he had planned to do.  We walked around the markets at night, had some crappy pizza (yes our fault we went for pizza in CR but had to try).  Visited some rather
“interesting” stores, saw an auto rickshaw and suddenly felt like I was back in India.  Second day was when I fell in love with Costa Rica and the love affair just seems to grow.

Day 3 was rather mellow; we took a tour to the Palo Verde Park, picked up some pottery from the local.  Checked out road side restaurant where they cooked in clay ovens.  Took a tour of how the coffee is process from green beans to different color and the reason after that.  We also stopped at a grocery store; I somehow find grocery stores of different countries very fascinating.  I stocked up on a few things to bring back home to remind me that life actually has to be very simple.  You don’t need fancy things to be happy, we ended our last night dining at a local chef’s house.  My friend did get blessed with a gecko falling on her head while we were having dinner, but hey that is what an authentic experience is.  Overall the place the dinner was at was beautifully located.  The house had a good view, we had some decent food and the mosquitos enjoyed the food through our blood.  We wrapped it up, back to the hotel all packed and deeply sadden to leave this place.  This is the only vacation where I ate the most without any concerns, stayed away from technology (most of the time), and came back 7 pounds lighter in weight.  So folks it is actually not how much you eat, it is what you eat and how stressed you are in life that makes you gain weight.  One of the best lessons I learned from Costa Rica is to be one with nature, eat whole, smile and no matter what happens just say Pura Vida! If you have not made a trip there, I highly recommend the place and one I would definitely want to retire to.  A truly amazing place with loving and kind citizens, I will forever be in love with you Costa Rica.

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