Bumming around Austin - Monday, May 26, 2003

It's so weird being "home" and not on the go every day. We've been working on our homework (studying and travel planning), eating great tex-mex food, catching up with friends, and just being lazy. Pretty wonderful! With the continuing troubles in Israel, another new travel warning for Kenya, and SARS, we're going to have to be pretty flexible with our travel plans over the next 9 months. Thank goodness our ticket is completely flexible!

Since we're not doing much, our updates will be few and far between until we head to Europe in the next 4-6 weeks.

 Our last Costa Rican adventure.... - Tuesday, May 06, 2003

...It was all Jerry's idea, but of course an idea we heartily agreed with. (BTW - Jerry is affectionately known to all the locals as "Yeti".)

Yeti wanted to go rafting seeing info on the internet about the awesome rivers in Cost Rica. So we found a company that ran a 2-day trip down the Pacuare River. This river is considered by many experienced rafters to be the most scenic class III-IV white-water rapids in the world and is considered to be among the top 5 rivers to run in the world.

Day 1 - Hiking and Dominos
After a 2 hour trip southeast of San Jose, we loaded into our raft with another couple from France and our guide Arturo. Fernando followed on an additional raft with all our gear and food for the next 24 hours. We rafted about a 1/2 hour then stopped for a swim/hike in a riverside stream. We arrived at the Pacuare Lodge an hour later and enjoyed the afternoon at this stunning ecolodge. The property is in the middle of primary rainforest with no road access or power and is owned by the rafting company and managed by a local indian family. The grounds are stunning and the accomodations and food were 1st class. After the late afternoon downpour and a nap, we enjoyed happy hour with the French couple, Arturo, and Fernando (GREAT GUYS!!) where we learned a new game of dominos. Of course we quickly became addicted....maybe that's because we ALL (even Yeti) had a bit too much Guaro and coke. Guaro is the local sugar cane alcoholic drink..mmmmm....

Day 2 - Real Rafting Begins
After a leisurely morning, we all piled into the raft and headed down the Pacuare for our 4 hour rafting journey. As we were vacationing at the end of dry season, the river wasn't that high and was a bit more technical to run (more paddling and rocks). About an hour into our fun, it started to rain and the 1st big rain of the rainy season descended upon the river. The rain was going sideways within seconds and the wind started howling. Because it was the end of the dry season, all the rain ran straight into the river from the surrounding hills and was not easily absorbed. This brought lots of waterfalls, mudslides, higher water level (made for better rafting). Unexpectedly, trees lining the banks started tilting with the wind. One of them even fell into the river ahead of our boat just missing us by ~50 ft. The guides smartly pulled the rafts into the middle of the river to wait out the big wind gusts (and trees). It was a bit unnerving but very exilerating. The rest of our trip was in the rain. Luckily it was ~ 85 degrees out--refreshing! The increased water level made the trip more fun.

All in all, we had an amazing time!!!

 Volcan de Arenal - Friday, May 02, 2003

Our trip from the Monteverde area to Volcan de Arenal had two options. A 5 hour winding bus ride around Lago de Arenal or a 4 hour trip by horse and boat. Of course we chose the horse ride, and we are glad we did. It was an amazing adventure as we started early on Friday morning at around 5000ft in Monteverde and descended along the ridges and through the valleys leading down to the lakeside. We forded two rivers and took in numerous beautiful vistas on our journey to meet our boat ride across the lake.

We spent two great days hanging out at Cerro Chato Eco Lodge run my Miguel Zamora and his family. He was awesome and treated us like his own family even hosting a birthday celebration for he and Dave since they shared the same b-day. One of the first things Miquel suggested was to visit a hot springs since we had spent four hours in the saddle. Each evening we winded down the day with a long soak and a couple of cervezas at the hot pools. Our favorite was the fancy Tabacon Hot Springs where we enjoyed an afternoon of soaking followed by a great buffet dinner.

Aside from the hot springs, the big attraction around the Arenal area is the volcano which is constantly erupting. At night you can view the liquid hot magma spurting from the cone at the top. We hiked through the national park around the volcano (the best way to see the mountain) offering us great views of the eruptions (puffs of smoke and gas) and sounds of the tumbling rocks. The last day a few of us hike to the local waterfall for a refreshing swim before heading back to San Jose (Marisa and Maria did some yoga and went shopping?).

Miguel and son Miguelito drove us back to San Jose where Lisa and Maria had to catch a flight home the next morning. We continued along with Jerry to our final adventure in Costa Rica!

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