Costa Rica: Days 5-6

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Costa Rica seems like ages ago. But it’s taken me until now to finish up this series with this final installment.

For the last leg of our trip, we left Playa Samara and headed for the mountains. As you recall, our original plan was to go straight there from Playa Brasalito, but I got sick and we decided it would be best to turn around and head back to the coast, a shorter distance. So that’s what we did.

After a jaunt in the ocean and Jason’s island conquering in Samara, I was feeling much, much better, so we packed up for Monteverde, a touristy but cute little town in the mountains of Costa Rica’s Guanacaste region. The British couple we met early on in our trip said it was, by far, the best place they’d visited during their month-long time in the country. They told us of butterfly gardens, cloud-forest zip lines, exotic frogs, and a great hotel they stayed in. Sounded good to us.

They also warned us about the road to Monteverde, which is very bumpy and at times, only questionably drivable. They said they had to ford three rivers on the way up. Hmmm. But, we decided that our little four wheel drive rental was a lot like theirs and if they could do it, we could, too.

And we did. It wasn’t bad at all as we started driving down the nicely-paved, winding road out of Samara. We stopped at a soda a few miles down the road for lunch. It was a stunning view, as it was perched on the side of a cliff overlooking beautiful green canyon. We sat under its metal roof and ate ceviche, a local favorite, while the rain poured down outside.

With our bellies full, we drove in and out of one little town after the next, looking for signs to Monteverde. We thought we were headed in the right direction when all of the sudden we left civilization and the road seemed like it was going nowhere. We found a bar and asked where we were going. “Monteverde,” they said. Okay.

After that we traveled on at the dizzying speed of 20 kph, the road getting bumpier and bumpier. It still felt like we were going nowhere. If we passed any cars (I don’t remember), it had to be two or three. Occasionally we’d pass through a town (a few houses) and then come to a hopeful little hand-painted sign that said Monteverde, with an arrow.

We went up and up slowly, the rain coming down pretty much constantly. It got colder. More fog. And we kept passing by these fields of some small trees with red berries. Turns out it was coffee.

When we finally reached Monteverde the roads turned perfectly paved and remained so throughout the town. We thought this was very weird. While there we learned that the Quakers, who originally founded the town, did not want visitors so they made sure that it was very hard to get there. But, obviously that didn’t stop us and it hasn’t stopped quite a few tourists since then. And we definitely appreciated the paved roads while we were there.

Over the course of the next few days we enjoyed free reign of Hotel Montana (recommended by the Brits), being one of only a few guests there. The staff there was super helpful in pointing us in the direction of local attractions. Unfortunately the continuous rain put a damper in our plans. Going to the cloud forests to see the wildlife was pointless, as so much fog would make it hard to see. The zip lines would leave us soaking wet and cold to the bone. Outdoors stuff was pretty much out of the question.

Trying to make the best of the situation, we spent time checking out Monteverde’s little shops, the Hummingbird garden near the cloud forest (Jason loved that), and a great little bookstore where we picked up some CDs of local music. We also bought our only honeymoon memorabilia–a piece of Costa Rican art I fell in love. It’s a colored drawing of a little girl and a cat (weird cat lady comments NOT allowed).

The highlight of our time in Monteverde culminated with our tour of the Don Juan Coffee fields. Our guide, Rolondo, was awesome–he not only talked coffee with us, but also Costa Rican history and economics as well as world soccer. We learned a lot about the world of coffee and we felt like we made a friend by the time we finished. Rolo even let us bag our own ground coffee to take home to friends and family. And, in the end, we met Don Juan himself (although we couldn’t actually communicate with him since he spoke no English).

After a few days of sightseeing, we headed down the mountain. During the ride, we were fortunate enough to get some no-rain moments, with even a little sunshine. We saw coffee fields, emaciated cows, this horse, and a few Costa Ricans in galoshes and umbrellas walking to a nearby neighbor’s house. We also got into the habit of naming all of the stray dogs we would see on the side of the road (for example, Jorgito, pictured below).

The most exciting part of the ride back was when we came to a point where the road disappeared due to a mudslide. All that was left was 5-foot-wide pathway of mud, with a cliff straight down to the left and a wall of muddy earth going straight up on the right. There were tire tracks through this little path, so someone had survived through it.

We slowed down for a brief moment, as Jason surveyed the situation. I could tell he didn’t know if it was drivable. But, in the end he put his foot on the gas and we slowly drove through the little opening. My heart was tempted to stop in those few moments, but once we got to the other side, we laughed and looked at each other in amazement.

That experience made me realize how used to Costa Rica we had gotten in our week there–roads that seem to go nowhere? Oh, it’ll go somewhere. Miles and miles of bumpy roads and holding on for dear life? Unsurprising. Navigating through a mudslide? Doable. We spent so many hours driving through the countryside, it was starting to feel like a daily routine.

Even though we adapted, it didn’t lessen our desire to get back to Seattle. I was done with the headaches that resulted from the bumpy roads. I was ready for my own bed, and some normalcy. This was especially evident when we got back to Liberia (from where we were departing for home) and the first thing I did was go to the Subway across the street.

After a night’s sleep, we got up, got on a plane, made a transfer and were finally back in Seattle. Home. At the same time, it was a very odd experience coming back and knowing that I wasn’t coming back to my old home, but to a new one, and in many ways, a new life. But, no need to blog about that. I already have been.

Here ends tales of Costa Rica. We’ve decided our next big trip we’ll actually do a honeymoon–Hawaii is a safe bet.

Here are photos from this leg of the trip. View all our Costa Rica photos here.

Watch the final Costa Rica video

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