Monday, 30 January 2012

It's a long post... but it's good, so read it!

Wow, time sure flies when you're having fun! I can't believe it's already the end of January. It doesn't seem like we've been in Costa Rica very long but when I think back to our first night in San Jose and the few days we spent in La Fortuna it does feel like it was a while ago now. We've been fairly busy since the last blog post, doing some sight-seeing around Jaco as well as going on a short trip to see another part of the country. 

A few highlights: 

Crocodile Man Tour - we heard about a safari-style tour of the nearby Rio Tarcoles from some fellow Hermosa Bungalows guests and decided to check it out. The overall experience was really good in terms of seeing lots of birds, flora, and, of course, crocodiles. Up close and personal. Seriously. I could've leaned over in my seat and touched one of the monsters had I been brave enough. The boat driver was significantly braver (crazier) and actually got out onto a sandbar to taunt a massive male with a hunk of meat. We think maybe that's the reason for including "Man" in the name of the tour company. Chris snapped some great shots (NOTE: find us on Flickr and add us as a friend/family contact to have a look at all our trip photos; I was really impressed with the number of water birds we were able to see in only a short time. Our failure to see a roseate spoonbill meant we fell short of inciting major jealousy on the part of my parents, however. We got very close to several great blue herons, anhingas, storks, and egrets. 

Pili Pili - Jill and Modest returned from dinner the other night singing praise after praise about the spectacular meal they'd enjoyed. My first inclination was to assume that Modest was back to his usual overexaggerations but a quick glance at my mostly-healed foot blisters reminded me of my previous folly.  A few days later, Chris and I got all dolled up for a date night at Pili Pili. ...and arrived at the door to find it closed. Sigh. After slouching miserably down the street in disbelief, we settled on another establishment whose fare doesn't even justify a review. Okay, it wasn't terrible. But relative to what we were anticipating for our dinner that night it just didn't compare. The next day we were able to call ahead and confirm a reservation at Pili Pili. Since we'd already agreed to "babysit" (i.e. remain at home after Lauren goes to bed but not actually have to do any active baby care) that night, we decided to do dinner shifts - Chris and I would go at 6pm followed by Jill and Modest at 9pm. I think the Pili Pili employee that took our reservation thought we were nuts ("Si, dos reservacions por favor. Si, tanto para esta noche..."), but he was still happy to oblige. Dinner was excellent. I had a whitefish called snook in a ginger sauce and Chris had mahi mahi with a lobster tail. Yum yum! We discovered that the chef is French but prepares his dishes with an African flare. Delicious and also reasonably priced. We'd highly recommend this restaurant to anyone visiting the Jaco area. 

Montezuma - Chris and I just returned from a 4-day trip across the Golfo de Nicoya to stay in a small beachtown called Montezuma. Chris described it as more of a hippie/artist town in comparison to the surfer town feel of Jaco. There were more expats than we've seen in Jaco area as well. We stayed in a unique hostel located right in the jungle above town. It sort of reminded me of summer camp with a layout consisting of several small buildings with multiple rooms accessed from communal balconies and the bathrooms and showers located in other outbuildings, open to the air (and bugs). Our room was rustic but clean enough. I was slightly concerned by the giant gaps between the wood-plank floorboards  that were all that separated us from the jungle floor below but I didn't actually see any critters make use of these entry points during our stay. I think they mostly elected to come in through the big cracks surrounding our door....

Aside from the less than stellar accommodations, we really enjoyed staying in Montezuma. We spent our first day in Cabo Blanco Reserve, a national park renowned for being absolutely natural. The 4.5-km hike to a pristine white-sand beach was challenging both in terms of the terrain and the extreme heat of the day. We savoured a modest picnic lunch of tomato slices on fresh bread with a surprisingly tasty canned mixture of tuna, jalapenos, and carrots. Though unprepared for swimming, we couldn't resist stripping down for a quick dip in the ocean to cool off before making the trek back. Fortunately the long hike had deterred most of our fellow bus passengers from crowding the beach - we pretty much had it to ourselves. Along the trail we saw lots of capuchins and howler monkeys along with countless birds that I can't identify (sorry mom and dad).

The next day we hiked up to the Montezuma waterfall. Reaching the first set of falls was fairly easy but we'd read in our travel guide that you could reach the second, more secluded falls by following the "well-marked trail"... which we could not find. Eventually we got pointed in the right direction by a nice expat and began the precarious ascent straight up the rocky embankment across from the falls. It was pretty sketchy, compounded by the fact that I was only wearing flip-flops. Chris managed slightly better in his vibrams (those funky shoes that have individual toe-slots and a decent rubber sole). Although gruelling and treacherous, it was worth the effort. The second falls were about 10 m high, cascading into a pool deep enough that courageous thrill-seekers could leap from various spots along the top rock ledge. We watched them for a while, egging eachother on from the precipice or from the victors' perch beside the pool below. Other small groups were swimming in the pool at the base of the third set of falls or making use of a rope that swung out from a dead tree conveniently extending over the water.

It was truly a gorgeous setting and a great way to spend our morning. The man that had given us directions up to the falls had also told us that there was an easier way to get down. Unfortunately, reaching the trailhead for the alternate route required traversing a narrow ledge right over the water or scaling a slippery cliff on the near side of the upper pool. Although attempting one or the other was of greater appeal to me than returning the way we'd come in my rather inadequate footwear, Chris was legitimately concerned about the risk of falling in while carrying his camera gear. So we went back the way we'd come. And, clearly I'm writing this blog post so I didn't fall to my doom. My poor feet are still pretty angry with me though.

We ate some really great food in Montezuma as well. Our favorite spot was Puggo's, a restaurant owned by an Israeli couple, where we gorged on hummus and a homemade focaccia-style bread, falafel, a stuffed portobello mushroom, fried risotto balls stuffed with salmon and peppers, and asian-inspired noodle bowls. We ate there more than once, for the record...

Fortuitously, we happened to be in Montezuma for the annual Artists' Festival known as Chunches de Mar. It was set up just off Playa Grande, a 45 minute hike along the oceanfront from Montezuma's main beach, and featured art created from random bits of refuse that wash up onto the beach. Part of the exhibit was set up in an abandoned house tucked back in the jungle. Behind the house, a young female acrobat performed using a length of red fabric looped over an old tree while her partner played flute. Chris sampled fresh agua de pipa while the "house band" started their first set for the evening. Overall, the festival was sort of neat but a bit underwhelming. Perhaps it was my misguided expectations of a more artisan-rich festival with crafts and artwork for sale. Regardless, it was a good way to spend our late afternoon before heading to Puggo's for one last meal.

I'm really glad we decided to make the trip over to Montezuma. Initially, I didn't think it would be possible to see that part of Costa Rica because it appeared rather remote. However, the recent addition of a jet-boat shuttle from nearby Playa Herradura cuts a 6 hour journey by bus and ferry down to about an hour (if you don't count the time waiting for the boat). It's an ass-bone-shattering, hair-tangling ordeal. But probably oodles better than Chris enduring another cross-country bus trip.

So now we're "home", back to Bungalow #1 at Playa Hermosa and all its comforts. Again, hard to believe we've been here for almost 4 weeks! I hope the rest of this year doesn't go so fast...
We spend a couple more nights in our cozy Bungalow before parting ways with Jill and Modest and heading further South to our originally planned destination: Quito, Ecuador. 

Thursday, 19 January 2012

We are officially slaves to electricity....

....and more specifically, refrigeration and A/C.

Jill and Modest warned us that they'd had rolling blackouts at the bungalow. Since our arrival we've had nothing more than a few flickers. Until today. It started this morning with a 30 min blackout. Not too big of a deal, except that it coincided with the typical morning parade to the bathroom... our plumbing is dependent on an electric pump. Meaning, we had one flush. For four adults. Who'd already consumed approximately 2 cups of coffee each. Yah.... Luckily, the power came back on before we had a real situation on our hands.

But that wasn't the end of it. Two more short blackouts before noon and then, just before Lauren's nap-time, the power went out and did not come back on for the rest of the afternoon. The mid-day temperature in Playa Hermosa is well over 30, not counting humidity. Within 20 minutes, the bungalow temperature reached equilibrium with the sweltering heat outside. Minus the sea breeze. Poor Lauren didn't last long, waking in a pool of sweat, even without her usual sleeping attire. Meanwhile, the fridge and freezer also warmed, compromising our delicious food (and beer!). Without electricity we were limited to consuming things that didn't require cooking. Tortilla chips and fresh guacamole only carry you so far. Eventually, a crew arrived to check things out and began poking around at the power lines with a bizarre tool that looked like a tiny hammer on the end of a skinny orange pole. Sparks flew, there were a few big bangs, and finally, FINALLY, the air conditioning hummed back to life. We were saved!! For the time being...

The power remained intact just until it was time for Lauren to go to bed.... the crew had returned after dark to do more permanent repairs (or at least that's what I assume; this time they brought a truck with a man-lift so it seemed like serious business). Hoping the repairs would be quick, we tried to make our "headlamp party" fun and entertaining (i.e. not scary) for Lauren. She seemed confused, mostly. Then, when it came time for her "milka-milk" and "booka-book" the real severity of the situation became clear. Powerless (/groan), we had no way to heat up her milk!!! Or did we.... being the brilliant minds that we are, we came up with a potential strategy: we poured the milk into a small pot and suspended it over 4 candles. Yes. We did. And it worked marvelously, thank you very much. Thank goodness, because Lauren fully rejected the cold milk Modest tried to give her in the first place. Crisis averted.

Yah, it's a tough life.

What else have we been up to? We visited a nearby national park (Carara). It's a transitional forest that connects the subtropical cloud forest with the full on tropical rainforest of the coast. After foregoing the offer of a guide (for US$40, over and above the $10 per person park entrance fee... have I mentioned the consistent gouging in Costa Rica?), we embarked in search of the scarlet macaw nesting site as per the instructions of the park office attendant. A short ways down the trail we encountered an agouti traipsing through the leaf litter. Chris snapped the photo at right.

We then spotted a few birds on our own before coming upon a guide and his client who were observing more birds in the low-brush. I watched them for a while but inevitably got bored and walked down the path a bit further, staring skyward in awe of the intricately woven canopy of trees and vines and mosses. My gaze was attracted the movement of some leaves falling from high up above. That's when I saw what I thought was monkey. I called Chris over and, after watching for another moment, he realized it was actually a sloth. It's extremely rare to see a sloth moving around in the daytime - that activity is usually reserved for nighttime, when it's cooler and, ostensibly, safer. As we watched it became apparent that the sloth had a baby with it. The guide came over to see what we were looking at and was astonished at our discovery. Felt pretty good to surprise the guide with our spotting! He said something must've startled the sloth in order for it to risk moving around in broad daylight. Pretty neat experience. The rest of our short hike included spotting a few species of trogons (colorful birds) and a few lizards. We were also asked by all of the guides we passed on the return trip if we'd seen the sloth and where could they find it... I wanted to charge them US$40 for the tip but I didn't. I'm so Canadian sometimes.

Other than the excursion to Carara we haven't ventured far from home. Chris and Modest have gone to Jaco Beach semi-regularly to hone their surfing skills and Chris took me for a nice steak dinner last night. Tonight, now that the power outage fiasco is over /(knocks on wood....), Jill and Modest have gone for dinner in town. They are going to check out a French/African/Asian fusion restaurant called Pili Pili. *snicker* All my microbiologist friends out there will know that pili is the term used to describe what are basically bacterial penises. Basically. I did not mention this fact to Jill and Modest. Hopefully their dinners are delicious!! TTFN.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

We are officially beach bums

Paddle-boarder at sunset near Playa Hermosa. 
Photo credit: Chris Newman
A slow day of cautious eating and hydration lead to victory over Chris's food poisoning. We caught the 6am bus to Puntarenas the following morning, excited to meet up with Jill, Modest, and little Lauren. The first portion of the trip was spent winding slowly down towards the coast via the usual winding, treacherous, nauseating roads. Chris looked a bit green but the Gravol knocked him out before the situation worsened. Meanwhile, sunrise lit up the mountains and valleys... and the thick clouds of dirty dust that permeated the entire bus. I found myself trying to hold my breath until there was a stretch of shade and the particulates became invisible once more so I could pretend the air was clean. Ugh choke ugh.

After a 2 hour layover in Puntarenas (not super exciting... standard port city) we were on our way to Playa Hermosa. Modest had offered to pick us up from town, warning that the bungalows were a bit of a jaunt down a dirt road. The bus dropped us off a block or so from Modest's recommended pick-up point, the Backyard Bar; a local resto-bar at the south end of the playa (beach). After obtaining vague directions from a local, we found the access road to the bungalows and ventured a ways down before stopping to evaluate the remaining distance. It didn't look very far. And we decided it would be more fun to show up and surprise Jill and Modest than to call for a ride when it was only a few more blocks. With our giant backpacks. And daypacks. In 35-degree heat. Plus humidity. Like a scene from a movie, we walked and yet our destination refused to get closer. Insects and birds voiced an ominous chorus from the grasses to our left and the ocean waves sent teasing sprays of warm mist to burn our nostrils. My comfy sport sandals soon transformed into wretched, scavenging lizards, tearing tender strips of flesh from my poor feet with every grueling step. The dusty bus to Puntarenas was more like a hyperbaric chamber compared to the sandstorm now whipping clouds from the road into our faces. But we pressed on, stubborn or stupid, and made it to the bungalows alive, albeit sweaty and exhausted. I am still recovering from the blisters... Lesson learned: wear better shoes for the Inca Trail. Also, Modest doesn't ALWAYS exaggerate. Next time, call for a pick-up.

Anyway, we are now comfortably set up in the bungalow and have spent the past few days lounging and playing in the waves. We are oceanfront and Playa Hermosa is a popular surfing destination so there's lots of free entertainment to be had just by looking out the windows or sitting on the deck.

Our home for a few weeks. 

The kitchen.
The view.
Chris and Modest took surfing lessons one morning and have been out a few times since. They're having fun. I'm still not really up for giving it a go. For those who don't know, I have a weird phobia that often crops up when I look down into water (lakes, ocean, even pools sometimes) and see how things are distorted by the waves and light penetration. Rocks, sand dunes, plants... anything does it. Even just shadows. No idea why; I've never had a bad experience in water. I actually love water. But I've never been able to go snorkelling or swim out to the dock... at least not without feeling terrified 99% of the time I'm doing it. So yah. The prospect of swimming out avec surfboard and then waiting in the swells for a perfect wave just doesn't really appeal to me. Boogie-boarding is a whole different thing. THAT I can handle. Super fun! Went out this afternoon and had a great time!

Yesterday we hired a local guy to take us horseback riding along the beach and up into the surrounding mountains. It was amazing. Despite being pretty hot out (even at 8 in the morning...) we thoroughly enjoyed this little touristy indulgence. The ride up into the mountains afforded some spectacular views of nearby Jaco beach and our own stretch of playa as well. We saw white faced capuchins, toucans, and a giant spider along the route and enjoyed visiting with our guide who assured us that Ticas definitely like Americans and other northerners, si. Interestingly, he confided that they have lots of problems with Cubans, Columbians, and Dominicans. I read between the lines to understand they like the folks with money to spend here and not the folks that compete for jobs. And chicas. 

Surfer in the Playa Jaco Backyard Bar Surf Competition. 
Photo credit: Chris Newman

We watched a surf competition on the beach by the Backyard Bar. The surfers are incredible here! (Chris and Modest should be ready to enter in a few years - stay tuned...) People-watching was great too. And the competition music selection was decent. Arcade Fire are becoming as ubiquitous as Nickelback. Wait. What?? Mmm. Anyway, it made me remember something I forgot to blog about earlier. One bizarre thing I've noticed about Costa Rica is their love of retro music. Seriously. Every restaurant, soda, or cafe we've been to has had a playlist straight out of the 80s or early 90s. That means mucho saxophono.... which means unhappy Ange. Yah. Saxophone "music" is like fingernails on a chalkboard in my books. I also heard the massive Mr. Big hit "To Be With You" no less than 3 times in one week. Evidently it's a Tica favorita. Anyway, it's sort of strange. I wonder if Ticas really do like this music or if they think they're appeasing the touristas by blasting it in every venue from coast to coast. Not sure. But the Backyard Bar is certainly more with the times. Probably owned by gringos....

Tonight we are considering treating ourselves to take-out pizza. This, after two miserable attempts to master our "barbecue". It's an old-school one with brickettes (sp??) and no fuel hook up! What the what?? We've tried two different methods for heating up the coals to no avail. Well, we managed to cook hot dogs on it the one night. But really, that's not much to brag about when you can eat hot dogs raw. The small cows we tried to grill last night were an epic fail. Ended up broiling them in the oven, which resulted in a very smokey and hot bungalow. So, unless we get expert advice on how to use our barbecue, we will not be buying grilling meats again. And I think we will also try to avoid using the oven.

Alright, this is turning into a novel. And I'm tired of fighting with the formatting, trying to get the text to wrap nicely around the photos. Also, it's time to go watch Chris and Modest surf at Jaco beach. Tough life.

Thursday, 12 January 2012


The aforementioned tarantula. We encountered this beast of a spider during our night walk near Santa Elena. As I understood it this species lives mostly in it's burrow and does not need to stray far from its home to eat. It senses minute vibrations in the soil near its burrow and pounces on whatever was unlucky enough to wander by.
The guide lured the spider out with by 'tickling' the ground near its burrow with a small twig and it was a little terrifying to see this thing pop out... it was about the size of my hand.
After our group moved I put a couple spotlights on this guy and was able to get some great close ups. Very cool experience. Biggest spider I have ever seen in the wild... easily.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Spiders and Vipers and Sloths! Oh my!

We are currently in the highlands of Costa Rica, located in the central interior. The remainder of our stay in La Fortuna was rainy, precluding any good views of the famous volcano Arenal. We took a guided hike anyway and enjoyed the guide's description of local plants and other wildlife while trying to imagine the volcano through the clouds. The tour package we bought also included admission to one of the local hot springs resorts known as Baldi. It was ridiculous. The sprawling grounds have been cultivated into a tropical garden with 25 pools of differing temperatures and depths that branch off a maze of slippery trails. There was definitely a hedonistic atmosphere to the place despite the many feral children screaming and splashing about. Overall, I think it was worth going, especially after the volcano hike. It was nice to lounge about and gave us a reason to be grateful for the cool, rainy weather. We also enjoyed watching a couple struggle to capture the perfect photograph of themselves embracing rather provocatively in one of the hot pools. I'm not sure they actually found time to enjoy the warm waters but hopefully they got at least one pic that will make it look like they did!

In general, we found La Fortuna to be pretty relaxing and a nice way to start out our holiday in Costa Rica. Learned a minor lesson about making sure you get a receipt when you pay for a tour through your hotel.... their book-keeping consisted of a coil notebook with dates, names, reservations, etc and evidently the front desk clerk neglected to note that we'd paid the $120 for our volcano tour and hot springs visit. Made for an awkward few moments at checkout where we had to argue with another clerk about whether we'd paid. Next time we will remember to get proof of payment!

The trip from La Fortuna to here was rather unique - we took a jeep-boat-jeep journey, which is really moreso van-boat-van. The water portion involved crossing Lake Arenal and was by far the most efficient in terms of covering distance towards our destination. As with most of this region, it takes about 3 times as long to get anywhere as it would by Canadian hiway... The roads are "gravel" with a plethora of potholes and ditches to dodge along the way, winding through the mountainous terrain in a seemingly endless chain of switchbacks, up and down and along precarious slopes devoid of guard rails or even enough room for two vehicles to pass eachother. Makes for a slow and bumpy ride but it's the best way to do it!

Santa Elena/Monteverde has been our home for the past 3 days. We arrived at dusk and checked into our hostel. The building is adjacent to a babbling brook just down a sort of back alley from town. Kinda divey, but clean and 2/3 nights have been very quiet. The town itself is reminiscent of somewhere like Banff. Souvenir shops, tour companies, and hotels occupy the majority of the infrastructure here. Everything costs money including access to the nearby waterfall and entrance to either of the two cloud forest reserves. We spent the better part of our first day here wandering the trails of Santa Elena, the less popular of the two reserves. It was beautiful. We didn't see much fauna but the flora was spectacular. And we finally managed a glimpse of the elusive volcano Arenal from one of the viewpoints along the trail. Chris snapped a few shots that we'll post soon.

The big tourist attraction in these parts isn't simply the reserves but the zip-lining and tram and sky-walk tours. We decided we didn't need to do the zip lines, as we recently indulged in some in Newfoundland. We opted for the marginally cheaper walk-ways (suspension bridges). Pretty much a waste of money. The views were amazing but I hardly think the cost ($30 US per person) was justified. And the companies nickel-and-dime you for everything. Admission to the walkways is ONLY for the walkways - it's an extra $15 per person if you want to go into the butterfly garden, serpentarium, or hummingbird garden. EACH, not for all three. Ridiculous. Oh well. Lesson learned.

Thinking yesterday would be our last night here (/foreshadowing) we booked a night walk: a guided tour into the forest at dusk when more of the creepy crawlies and larger mammals come out to play or hunt. Or pee, apparently. This was the highlight of our time in Santa Elena/Monteverde. During the the few hours spent  hiking in the dark with our guide, Alejandra, we encountered 4 sloths, a poisonous viper, an enormous walking-stick bug, an astonishingly massive leaf-cutter ant colony, possibly an armadillo, several bird species, lots of other bugs, and a huge tarantula. My personal favorites were the mom and baby sloths. So cute! Photos soon....

Our time in Santa Elena was supposed to end early this morning with a bus ride to Puntaneras and on to meet up with Jill, Modest, and Lauren (Chris's sister, bro-in-law, and niece). Unfortunately, Chris awoke feeling sick not long after midnight and has continued to suffer with food poisoning-like symptoms since then. We skipped our bus ride and have decided to stay an extra night here until he is feeling better. Not sure what got him... could've been the nasty huevos revueltos he had for breakfast (free at the hostel; I did not partake) or maybe the fish tacos at Trios restaurant after our night walk. The fish did taste a little gross. Not off, but maybe. Regardless, he's having a rough morning. Hopefully the worst is over and we'll be able to enjoy at least part of our unexpected extra day here. Then on to the beach tomorrow! Or manana... as the case may be.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Cost Rica - San Jose to La Fortuna

We made it!!! No issues with our flights aside from not being able to check in to our connecting flight before arriving in Phoenix.... beware booking itineraries through Expedia if they involve more than one carrier. Despite Westjet's propagandamercials advertising how their staff will go the extra mile for clients, we were not met with such gratuitous assistance during our check-in on Wednesday. Instead, we were chided for not booking our entire flight with Westjet's US partner, American Airlines. Thanks condescending Westjet agent who looked suspiciously like Blanch from the Golden Girls... What??! Maybe if we'd simply needed our spare tire installed....

Anyway... arrived in San Jose last night and traveled luxury style (i.e. by taxi) to our pre-booked hotel. The one and only Hotel Europa. Errr, okay, the one of TWO Hotel Europas... Yes, San Jose has two hotels with the same name. Luckily, our taxi driver managed to clarify with us which one we had booked before we drove across the entirety of San Jose's urban sprawl to discover this fact. The hotel was in the heart of downtown. Or the anus, to be more accurate. Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a smidgen. It was more like the armpit of downtown. Actually, I'm not sure San Jose has much other than armpits and anuses. Wow, what's going on here??? Am I really complaining already??? Haha. No no. It's a well-established fact that San Jose is not a destination of choice for travelers to Costa Rica but rather a necessary stop in order to enter the south-central part of the country. Knowing this, we'd savvily (word?) planned to spend just the one night there. So, after checking in to the hotel, we bravely ventured out into the armpit in search of sustenance. A few blocks away and without any terrifying encounters, we found the gringo restaurant recommended by our trusty Lonely Planet guide. After dinner we pretty much crashed. The time change isn't significant between here and home, but the long day of travel had wiped us out.

We got up this morning and made our way to the San Carlos bus terminal. First "trek" with a full backpack and daypack. Wasn't too bad.... but I'm not excited about the prospect of having to go much further/longer loaded up like that. Less than a dozen city blocks mostly just served to give me major back sweat and remind me how out of shape I am. One of those two things will likely improve over time...

While waiting for the bus we chatted with two girls who were travelling from Berlin. They'd spent a week on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. Their review was less than stellar so I guess we're not disappointed that we've left that region off our planned itinerary.

The bus trip was long and stuffy. Not a ridiculously hot day in Costa Rica, but humid and warm enough to make it somewhat uncomfortable. And the terrain we had to cover to get to our destination of La Fortuna was crazy!! The roads wind up, down and around hairpin turns for the better part of 3 hours. It was a bit too much for Chris, who reunited with his old friend Motion Sickness after a particularly harrowing stretch. So I guess those who had bets on who would get sick first can cash in or cash out depending on how you cast your vote! Maybe that sort of "sick" doesn't count though....

Anyway, we made it to La Fortuna and are presently at our hotel, the 0.38star Dorothy.  :P  She's a basic set-up, not pretty by any stretch of the imagination. But she'll do for our few nights here. The town is touristy but nice. The sun set around 4:30, which surprised me. Doesn't it set at that time in Edmonton? Aren't we much much closer to the equator here? Shows what I know about those things. Chris is reading his Kindle by head lamp, swatting phantom mosquitoes intermittently. Okay, there probably are mosquitoes but they can bite me if they want to. I'm taking Mefloquin. I'm basically invincible.

Apparently Thursdays are big for Discos in La Fortuna. I'd best go spit-shine my platforms and dig out that sparkly gown I brought (thanks for reminding me about that one Tim).

Sunday, 1 January 2012

2012 begins....

Well, Happy New Year everyone (said in anticipation that someone will eventually read our blog...)! It's happy indeed, in large part because.... this year is going to be a very different sort of year for Chris and I. We are going to spend it abroad, traveling in South America! In actuality, we are starting in Central America with a one-month visit to Costa Rica, but the majority of our upcoming adventures will take place throughout S. America, beginning in Ecuador.

Our decision to travel for a year evolved from a mutual interest in seeing more of the world and dedicating a real chunk of time to doing something other than working jobs in our respective fields. Of course, we both have specific and personal reasons for making the choice to quit our jobs, leave/sell our homes/belongings, and say goodbye to our friends and family for a year. Undoubtedly some of those motivations will be shared as we document our travels in this blog. For now, readers are free to assume we are either crazy or courageous. Maybe we are both. ;)  Regardless, we know we are extremely fortunate to have the means to actually do something like this.

Chris and I have chosen S. America for a few reasons: both of us have traveled independently through various parts of the world but neither of us have been to S. America; the majority of the continent's countries are Spanish-speaking, which means we will only have to struggle to learn one new language (we are just going to fake our way through the Portuguese-speaking nations...); we really like wine and the wine culture of S. America is phenomenal; when we arrive, it will be summer there instead of winter! yay!; the geography of S. America is diverse and will afford us the opportunity to partake in many of the outdoor activities we already love as well as the chance to try some new ones; did I mention wine country??

We hope to use this blog as a means to record our experiences for reflection after we return and to share with anyone who's interested in following what we're up to. We fly to Costa Rica on Jan. 4. ONLY THREE MORE SLEEPS!! We are so excited for this adventure together. It is going to be amazing!