Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for September, 2009

Our first day in La Fortuna, Kelly and I got our bearings around the town and booked our night trip to Volcan Arenal (Costa Rica’s most active volcano) and to take a dip in the ‘free’ hot springs.  La Fortuna has a handful of very expensive resorts that have natural hot spring pools surrounded by lush landscaped gardens…tickets to these resorts run anywhere from $20 – $60 per person.  Since we are trying to do things on the cheap, Gringo Pete’s package of a night trip to the volcano, plus a visit to FREE hot springs for $17 per person sounded right up our alley.   Kelly and I and our new friends all signed up.

The van picked us up around 5:30 p.m. and we headed  out on our evening adventure.  Our guide parked on the side of the road a few miles outside of town and led us down under a roadway bridge to the ‘free’ hot springs.  We quickly realized why they were free…it was basically water running off into the river from the fancy resort next door.  We all waded around in complete darkness on the side of the road under some random bridge.  It was pretty ghetto (and funny), although I’m sure it was much nicer in the daylight.
 
We then drove several miles to the Arenal Volcano National Park and walked across an extremely rickety bridge to a viewing area with a covered roof.  It was difficult to see the volcano in the dark and there was cloud cover around the top, but we had high hopes for seeing lava.  It also helped that our guide brought a bottle of rum so that we could have cocktails while we waited.

Daytime view of Volcan Arenal from La Fortuna

Daytime view of Volcan Arenal from La Fortuna

View of Arenal from the roadway

View of Arenal from the roadway

Volcan Arenal erupts constantly, but had a massive explosion that basically wiped out the surrounding area as recently as 1968.  It was crazy to imagine that at any moment, the same thing could happen again…we were nervous and excited to be so close to an active volcano!  After about 20 minutes, we heard a loud rumbling and saw a bright orange stream of lava creeping down the mountain…it was pretty amazing.  The sound of it erupting is what really fascinated me.  We were lucky to see lava three more times that evening before stumbling back to our van and heading to the hostel.  
 
After a sweaty night’s sleep (there is no AC in most places here and our room was the size of a closet with no ventilation.  On the other hand, it was only $5 per night), Kelly and I had a fantastic breakfast of gallo pinto (Costa Rica’s signature dish of rice and beans) and headed out to see La Catarata de La Fortuna (the Fortuna Waterfall).  We had a steep climb down the side of a mountain, but it was worth it once we got down to the falls.  It was absolutely beautiful and Kelly and I spent some time taking photos and just enjoying the scenery around us.  We should have brought our bathing suits and swam, but were idiots and forgot them.

Gallo Pinto and Juevos Rancheros

Gallo Pinto and Huevos Rancheros

La Catarata from afar

La Catarata from afar

La Catarata up close

La Catarata up close

Swimming area next to the waterfall

Swimming area next to the waterfall

 
(Sorry for the sideways view of the pic above, but it took about 10 minutes to upload and I’m not going to go through that again).

We headed back to our hostel to hang out for a bit and then caught our shuttle to one of the fancy resorts, the Baldi Hot Springs.  We just had to see what all the fuss was about.  Tabacon is the more well known hot spring resort in Costa Rica with amazing views of the volcano, but entry here is $60 per person!  Baldi looked pretty nice from the tourist brochures AND it was only $24, including dinner. 
 
Those sixty dollar hot spring pools at Tabacon must be encrusted with diamonds, because the less expensive Baldi was awesome.  There are 25 hot spring pools of varying temperatures (one as hot as 150 degrees!), 3 wet bars, 3 super fun waterslides, and beautiful gardens and trails.  The only thing that we were a little disappointed in was the price of the drinks…$10 for a cocktail and $6 for a beer, which is totally outrageous, but that’s the price you pay at a resort.  We spent all afternoon checking out the different pools, walking around the gardens, getting beat up on one of the fastest waterslides I’ve ever slid down, and splurged on ONE cocktail at the wet bar.  We even got to catch a little bit of the UT game on tv while lounging in the pool!
 

Enjoying our expensive drink at Baldi

Enjoying our expensive drink at Baldi

Under a waterfall at the springs

Under a waterfall at the springs

One of the pools

One of the pools

We headed back to Gringo Pete’s around seven and took it easy since we had to catch a van-boat-van to Monteverde the next morning.  Kelly and I loved La Fortuna, but were glad to be moving on, if anything to get out of the tiny sweaty room at the hostel.  Kelly will soon be posting about our first couple of days in Monteverde, so stay tuned.
 
Also, I’m trying to upload our photos to Flickr, but it is excruciatingly slow and takes literally HOURS to upload one batch.  Please be patient and we hope to have some up soon!

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

And So It Begins

After a long day of flying (two layovers…UGH) Kelly and I arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica around 9 p.m.  My friend Leticia has family in Costa Rica, so her lovely cousin Yesenia offered to pick us up from the airport and host us in her home for our first two nights.  This was a great way for Kelly and me to ease into a new city and culture at the start of our trip. 

Yesenia and her son Andres live in Santo Tomas de Santo Domingo de Heredia, a small community outside of San Jose, surrounded by mountains and coffee plantations.  Our first day in Costa Rica, we got a coffee plantation `tour´ from Yesenia´s dad, ate a cheap lunch and played with Andres at InBioparque (a biological park),  had coffee and yummy pastries at a mountain cafe, and were basically spoiled rotten by Yesenia.  She served us a delicious breakfast of the typical Costa Rican tamale and made us ravioli and tomato sauce from scratch for dinner.  We hope all of the food is Costa Rica is this good! 

Kelly and Yesenia´s dad on the coffee plantation

Kelly and Yesenia´s dad on the coffee plantation

Our yummy lunch at InBioparque

Our yummy lunch at InBioparque

Kim, Andres, and Yesenia at InBioparque

Kim, Andres, and Yesenia at InBioparque

Us and Andres at the Cafe

Us and Andres at the Cafe

The view from Yesenia´s house

The view from Yesenia´s house

The next morning, Yesenia drove us to San Jose to catch a bus to La Fortuna.  Downtown San Jose is complete chaos.  After asking several locals for directions and receiving five different answers, a taxi driver graciously led us to the station.  Kelly and I would have been totally lost if it wasn´t for Yesenia.  We were so happy to have her as our guide. 

We then had a bus ride from hell to La Fortuna.  What should have taken 4 hours ended up taking 6 and a half because of some stalled cars in the road.  It was crowded, hot, and rainy and I swore we were going to plunge off the side of the mountain two or three times.  On top of that, an American that we befriended on the bus had his backpack stolen from the overhead compartment.     Fortunately, Kelly and I had a seat so we didn´t have to stand up the whole time and we did manage to make friends with 2 guys from DC and 2 Swiss girls. 

All of us ended up staying at the same hostel in La Fortuna, Gringo Pete´s, for less than $5 a night.  For a private room.  For both of us.  Awesome.  One of the DC guys made us a yummy chicken curry dinner (seriously, food has been handed to us since we´ve been here) and we spent the night drinking and playing games with everyone at the hostel.

Some things about Costa Rica that we´ve noticed so far:

-There are no numerical addresses here.  Their addresses are `the house at the end of the street, three houses from the bakery, next to the house with the green roof…´

-The coffee is delicious.

-It gets dark by 5:30 p.m. year round.

-There are bugs everywhere, but they are friendly.

-The traffic in San Jose is horrible and people drive CRAZY.

Today we are going to see the Arenal Volcano and take a swim in the hot springs.  We´ll bring everyone up to speed in a few more days!

Read Full Post »

Peace Out

Passport?  Check.  Bags packed?  Check.  Tickets?  Check. 

Kelly and I spent our last night in the US trying to stuff all of our belongings in our one carry-on bag and daypack, which was pretty entertaining for our parents.  It was an emotional night…we´re excited, scared, nervous and thrilled to be doing what we are doing.  Thanks to all of our friends and family for your support and sending us off with a whirlwind of parties, dinners, and happy hours.  We will miss you all!

First stop, Costa Rica!!

Read Full Post »

Goodbye Austin

Wow.  We leave tomorrow!  I’m sitting here at Jared’s house, just finished cleaning, and it’s starting to sink in.  Wow.  I’m sorry, I  had to say it again.  We will be leaving for Houston in a couple of hours.
 
Our final going away party was on Saturday.  It was sooooo much fun!  Kelly and Sidni are the best hostesses ever.  It was so great to see everyone and have such a good time!  A keg of Lone Star, a vat of Kelly’s famous lemon drops, Sweet Tea Vodka….oh yeah, we had fun:)  I really do have the best friends in the world.  I’m so sorry Kim was sick from either allergies or her flu shot, but she hung in there!  However, the good time made for a VERY rough Sunday.  After finally going to bed at 5am, I woke up with one of the worst hangovers EVER.  But, I will say, the delicious banana pancakes and eggs Kelly made us did help.  Yummy.  After I said my goodbyes, got sick a few times, cried for a few hours in my room, I was ready to start tying up all my loose ends (around 5pm).  I had dinner with Leah, took the Honda out to my grandmother’s in Taylor, and then headed back to Jared’s where Tina helped me pack.  Looks like everything is going to fit! Heck yeah! I then said goodbye to Tina (tear….) and headed to bed. What a day…
 
Jared woke me up this morning for coffee and some wonderful, inspiring words.  Gosh I love that man! I’m so glad I was able to stay with him and feed off his positive energy.  I will see him again when he comes to visit us in Thailand!!
 
So now I’m here with Izzy….letting it sink in.  This is so crazy.  I’m so excited that I get to fulfill this wonderful dream with Kim!  We really did it!  It’s been such a long road to get here.  But I have learned to so much about myself in the past 2.5 years.  I know that my persistance, determination and discipline that I have basically mastered, will really help me along the way.  I am so anxious to see what all else I will learn about myself in the next year. 
 
I just want to say thank you to all of the people that have helped me and put up with me the past few years as I worked toward this.  All of my friends and family have been so supportive and motivating.  I couldn’t have done this without all of you! And Kim especially.  She really is a phenomenal person.  I have  the best sister in the world.  Love you lady:)
 
NOW LET’S DO THIS!!!!!!!!WOOOOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

Read Full Post »

The Countdown

Kelly and I leave in 9 days.  NINE days.  There is so much to do and we have such little time in which to do it all.  There is more gear to be bought, more bills to be paid, more research to be done and more details to be sorted, all while trying to spend every minute possible with friends and family.   When I quit my job, I thought 3 weeks of doing ‘nothing’ before we left would be plenty of time to get things wrapped up in a pretty bow…I wish now I would have given myself another week!

Right now we are visiting our mom and some old friends in Port Neches and this weekend and next  we have a couple of ‘going-away’ parties that are being thrown in our honor.  I think it is finally hitting Kelly and me that we are leaving for a year and the emotions have been overwhelming.  We have both been wondering when the ‘oh crap-I-can’t-believe-we-are-actually-doing-this’ moment would hit us and it’s safe to say, it’s here!

Read Full Post »