North America · 70 Days · 61 Moments · June 2017

Cathy's tour through Costa Rica

4 September 2017

Last views of Costa Rica! Even gorgeous from the plane!

3 September 2017

Then we did white water rafting on the Sarapiqui River. It was level 1-3 rapids. So fun!
Whitewater rafting was amazing!
Stopped at a fruit stand and tried some new fruits. I also tried lime and chili Pringles. They were good but very strong flavoring
Rounding up the trip and thinking of the tops but really I loved most everything. Still bummed we weren't able to see the Paos volcano though.

2 September 2017

Then we stopped to see the Church of Sarchi and to see the largest ox cart in the world

1 September 2017

We saw our last beach sunset, and got some ice cream -- I got espresso (so good) and Pineapple Basil (AMAZING!!). Then later we went to Los Amigos for dinner and I got Ceviche, which is fish cooked by acidity, and it's flavored like pico de Gallo and served cold. It was so so good. Highly recommend it.
One of the really cool things about Jaco was the street art. They definitely have Berlin beat on beautiful artwork. Berlin may have more because it's a bigger city but the colors and talent is way better here.
After the beach, we went to lunch at El Avion, which was a really cool restaurant because it had a beautiful view and it has an entire plane within the restaurant. They disassembled parts of it and brought it in chunks at a time to reassemble it. The inside of the plane in a bar.
It's impossible to see, but we got to see two sloths. They hang out really high on the trees and their nocturnal though so they didn't move much.
This one was really friendly and cute. He was just playing in the sand like a little kid. He was pushing the sand around and didn't care that we were so close. Sooo cute
More monkey pics. Such an angry faced monkey. We saw squirrel (tika) monkeys, cappuccino (white face and white body) monkeys and as we were leaving, we saw some big howler monkeys. They move a lot slower than the other monkeys.
We saw iguanas
But the best part was the monkeys. This one was like an angry old man. He tried to dig through someone's bag and they shooed him off and he just had this big pouty face.
We went to Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio --a state park with a beautiful beach. The water and sand was beautiful. Right off the bat, we saw raccoons running around and digging through people's stuff. It was sort of funny because people were surprised by it every time. Chris watched all our bags for us so we were fine.

31 August 2017

We got to see the sunset on the beach. It was beautiful
Tyson is a National Geographic named and tagged crocodile that's 18 feet long. He is the biggest one in the river and he's unique because he has some scales missing.
This is the main spot for crocodiles. They just hung out. Some can get up to 18 feet and it's weird because they don't have a typical life expectancy. They don't age in the way that most creatures do. Alligators have lips and crocodiles don't do it so you always see their teeth.
After dropping our stuff off at the hotel, we did a crocodile tour. It stayed sunny for the whole day which was awesome because the previous days had been rainy by 12 pm. It also gets dark at 5:30 which keeps throwing me off. The lucky thing was that because it had rained a bunch, we got to go down the river further than our guide has been in years because usually when he takes people on the tours, the water is too shallow so they can't reach the main crocodile spot. We saw a bunch of birds and our EF guide, Chris, pointed them all out to us. we also saw some iguanas. We also saw Jesus Christ lizards and a pair of Scarlet macaws fly by (they mate for life and fly everywhere as a couple).
More views on our way to Jaco
The views on our drive the next day

30 August 2017

We all went to dinner as a big group. The restaurant got us a chili Guaro shot. Guaro is Costa Rican alcohol that is made from sugar cane. The shot tasted like salsa with a kick--definitely interesting.
Then we went to a local school and some of the kids in an afterschool club showed us some traditional Costa Rican outfits and what they represent. Then they did some of their traditional dances. It was cute and then we showed them our "traditional" American dancing --aka the Cupid shuffle which was amusing. The dresses sometimes have 25 feet of fabric in order to create the wave like move of the skirt. EF donates to them whenever we go so that they can continue to keep the club funded.
We went back to the Treehouse for lunch. I got a pic of the tree in the center of the restaurant. I got a burrito and a salad. And a cappuccino. It was all delicious.
At the highest point, we got some amazing views of the forest at a look out point
This Python millipede crawled across our hands . Apparently they can fart cyanide.
This is what ferns look like before they start growing completely--little sticks with curly-qs
These "spit wad" looking things are from spittin bugs
We saw this bug --apparently it's in the wasp family but it was going through some sort of change so it was numb and not moving
More of the cloud forest
As we walked, we passed a bunch of tarantula holes. They were everywhere along the walkway. They would created these nests by putting a web over a hole and hiding within the hole, so when prey gets caught in their web, they poke out to eat it. These tarantulas won't kill you if they bite you. Unfortunately we didn't get to see any
This fern is amazing because it's translucent. You can see straight through it to whatever is behind it. Our EF tour guide was a science teacher before he started working for EF so he knew all about the plant and animal life and gave us great explanations. He was so excited that you could tell he loved wildlife and plants.
The next day we went to The Santa Elena Cloud forest. It was one of the prettiest place I have ever been. The concentration or gorgeous plants was amazing. And the best part -- up until 1977, it had been a grazing pasture with no growth. Then they decided to let nature take over and preserve it and it became what it is today in that short of an amount of time because the eco system is perfect for it.

29 August 2017

That night we stopped in a place called the Tree house for a drink. It had a giant tree growing in the middle of the restaurant. And then we went to taco taco for dinner. There are a bunch of stray dogs in town and they just venture into the restaurants and hang out. Everyone loved getting to pet them because they are all really friendly.
Zip lining! It was so fun! The views were stunning and we were so high up. A bunch of people brought go pros so I'm hoping to get some of their videos once they are home. I want to do it again--it was so so fun.
Preparing for zip lining
The drive through Monteverde on the way to zip lining

28 August 2017

Next we went to the Kulumba natural hot springs that was also a water park. It was so fun and we did all the water slides. I haven't done water slides in a long time. The best part of it was that the park is closed on Mondays so we had the whole place to ourselves. No lines and no tourists. Then we had our welcome dinner included. It was delicious again. Lots of fresh veggies and fruit. They barbecued chicken, pork, and beef and I tried everything but the pork. The potato looking stuff is called yuca and it's pretty good. They sell yuca chips at grocery stores.
We went to do kayaking next in the largest man-made lake in Costa Rica, Lake Arenal. As we started out in our kayaks though, a big lightning storm started so we had to turn back around. It was a bummer that the activity got skipped but there wasn't anything we could do about it. we had views of the Volcano (Arenal) again though
Next we went to Don Juan farms for lunch. The food was amazing. Every meal has been delicious so far. The ingredients are all so fresh. There was a view of the Arenal Volcano there. They produce sugar cane there so we got a sugar demonstration when we cranked a sugar cane through a grinder and got to sample the sugar water after.
I also tried a spoonful of melted chocolate with chili powder and salt--a traditional combo. It was surprisingly good too. We had to melt and crank our own chocolate. It was really good.
Next we went to a chocolate plantation and learned about the chocolate making process. Our tour guide was hilarious. Truly the best guided tour I have ever had. My group was really awesome with audience participation too. The cacao plants are either green and then yellow when they're ripe or red and then purple when they're ripe. Once you remove the shell, there was soft seeds inside. We sucked on them and they tasted very tropical, sort of like mango. We bit the seeds in half and the centers were purple. They cover the seeds for 7 days to let them get bacteria, ferment and dry out. After seven days they look brown and dry. Then you roast them and crack open the shells. It tastes like chocolate. We got to try a bunch of chocolate. One was a chocolate drink that Cortez brought back to the U.K. When he brought the cacao bean --hot chocolate, chili powder, vanilla extract and corn powder. It was surprisingly tastey. We also tried a spoonful of melted chocolate w/ almonds and coffee beans.
We kept seeing it from different look out points and every time it was stunning.
La Fortuna Waterfall. 200 feet We saw a much more impressive waterfall the next day near La Fortuna, the town we stayed in. It was huge and we got to swim right by it. We had to walk down about 600 steps (and then back up those steps when we were done) to see it but it was gorgeous. One of the most impressive sights I've seen.

27 August 2017

La Fortuna, San Carlos CR
Driving through Costa Rica provided tons of views. We also stopped to look at some wildlife and waterfall views. San Fernando waterfall Coati (long nose) are in the raccoon family
Strawberry plants
Then we went to Corsos dairy and strawberry farm. We got to milk a cow, which was a pretty gross experience. You have to pet the cow, then squeeze milk onto your hands and then you can actually milk them. Glad I got to try it though. Then we saw some strawberry plants. Not the most exciting tour really. We got to try some cheeses and strawberries. The strawberries didn't compare to discolls though.
We went to the butterfly house next. So many huge butterflies
We went to Doka coffee plantation the next day and learned about the process of growing and making coffee. I got some really pretty pics around the grounds
Once the beans are gathered they through them in a large pool of water. The best beans sink to the bottom and the worst float. They suck up the sinkers and run them through a machine to remove the skins. Then they ferment them for three months. Then they either put them in a drying field (literally a paved lot) and take them every 45 mins so the sun dries them or they put them through a drying machine. Then the seeds are put in bags and they age for about 2 years. Then they can be sent to manufacturers to be roasted and sold. Coffee beans are white until they're roasted. The beans that float go through the same process but they are lesser quality so they are sold to manufacturers to use. None of a coffee bean is wasted.
There's 5 stages for coffee making and our tour guide walked us through it. The coffee beans have a green shell and when they turn red, they're ripe. They can be peeled like a banana and the seeds inside are slimy. The workers get paid per basket. It's about 1000 colones or $2 for one basket. The beans are picked one bean at a time, and they only pick the ripe, red ones. Most of the pickers come from Nicaragua and everyone in the family works. The plantation provides food and home for the family. Light roast has the most caffeine but is cooked the shortest time. About 5 mins French roast is medium roast. Cooked about 15 mins. And Italian roast is dark roast, cooked about 18 mins. They send their beans to Germany to decaffeinate the beans. Costa Rica doesn't have the machine because they're very expensive. But Germany does it for free because they extract the caffeine and sell it to Coca Cola, Red Bull, pharmaceutical companies etc. it's decaffeinated by steam.
The currency here is the Colones. 1000 colones =$2 Quick currency conversion: 9000 ... 9x2=18 Popular dish - Sevechay. Fish cooked by the acidity of lemon juice. Really good. A chewy consistency. Costa Rica - Second producer of bananas in the world
The plantain chips were sooo good. I tried the lemon and salt ones, and the salt and lime ones. Both were delicious and I can already tell I'm gonna be bummed that they don't have them in the US.
We ate breakfast at the hotel, which was a rice and bean dish with a Costa Rican sauce - lazano -, scrambled eggs, fresh pineapple, papaya, and some really good coffee. It was really good. I can tell I'm really going to like the food here because rice is popular, which I love, and they have great fruit and coffee. After breakfast, we had an orientation meeting where our tour guide reviewed everything we are going to be doing. Unfortunately, one excursion to a volcano got canceled, which I'm super bummed about, because the park has been closed for three months because the volcano is active and giving off noxious gases right now. Instead we are doing a dairy and strawberry farm visit. After orientation, we got on our bus and went to a grocery store. Our guide, chris, gave us a bunch of recommendations of things to try. I got some plantain chips and some popular chocolate wafers. Chris bought us Yipy, a kids chocolate wafer treat, to try. It was really good.

26 August 2017

Unfortunately when we got in, the weather was cloudy and gross but warm. :/. Hopefully it gets better when we move on tomorrow.
Barrio Tournon, San Jose CR
I should not have made my first flight but shockingly I did. I got overly confident and treated terminal 1 like terminal 2. Got to the airport at 5 for a 6am flight. I was totally gonna miss my flight because of the checkbag line alone but thank goodness, they called people from my flight to jump the line. I was exhausted though and slept almost the entire way through both of my flights which was great. I was surprised they actually treated my 3.5 hr flight to Costa Rica as an international flight and served a sandwich and has personalized TVs. I was most of the movie Snatched (can't recommend) after I woke up. Our tour guide met a group of us at the airport and shuttled us to our hotel which was fantastic. We went to eat at Papa Pez and I ate so much I felt uncomfortable (so unlike me), and I had an amazing cappuccino. Then we walked downtown San Jose (not very exciting); then we did the hotel hot tub and the hotel bar to watch the big fight is on tv between McGregor and Mayweather

26 June 2017

Apparently I wasn't the only one who struggled with their flight but I was far more successful than the other people. Quite a few group members missed their flights entirely. I really liked getting in with a group of other people in my group and getting to meet them right away though. We had all day to casually hang out and get to know each other. Obviously I didn't get to meet everyone yet but it's been nice to get to know the majority of the group in a more laid back way. Everyone seems to be between 21-28 years old so we have a good range of age groups and a lot of the girls speak fluent Spanish because of their ancestry so we don't have to worry about a language barriers. Most everyone's a college grad or currently a full time student. Luckily, since I picked a timeline that's at the start of a typical school year, it's mostly people with jobs so we are all on the same level there which is great.