So the adventure to Costa Rica begins! After months of bouncing emails and phone calls around to the group, all the decisions were made and the plans were in place. All we had to do now was get on the planes and go go go! On April, 25, that's what happened :) Paul & Kara flew from Boston --> Miami --> - Kevin from Louisville to Miami and me from San Francisco to Houston, with all of us arriving in San Jose Costa Rica w/in an hour of each other :) Hahaha, phase 1 complete and so after getting our luggage and changing a bunch of US dollars into CR colons, we boarded the rental car shuttle and headed to Tri-Color Rental agency to pick up our vehicle.
So, we get to the rental car place and I do all of the paper work, while the rest of the crew gets our luggage into the back of the 4x4. Just as we're getting ready to leave and our guy is doing the final inspection he says "hmm, the gas gage is on E when it should have a 1/4 tank" so he tells us to drive 1 mile and fill it up. Harumph, well, we go and fill it up, and as we drive the mile back to the highway, we notice that burned a 1/4 tank of gas. LOL figuring this was not good, we returned the car, and they swapped it out with another 4 door 4x4 (after filling the tank for us this time) and after about a hour total, we were off to find our house.
Our destination was the little town of Tarcoles, which is about an hour and a half from Juan Santamari International Airport. So, following the slightly confusing directions given to us, we started the drive. We ended up making one wrong turn which cost us about 20 minutes, pulled over once to ask a local if we were going in the right direction, and everyone got to deal w/me driving this piece of crap Nissan (which was a standard mind you on windy mountain sometimes one lane roads in a third world country on 3 hours sleep as if I were in my BMW! ROFL suffice to say, when we finally reached Tarcoles, everyone sighed a breath of relief when they got out of the truck! We stopped at a restaurant called Steve and Lisa's which is about a mile away from where our house was. We ordered a few appetizers and a round of two of beers before we called the property manager who lived up the road to come and meet us. Our waiter, Falco, brought the check, which was in the amount of 28500 colons. Now, the fun began. All of us were really tired, our understanding of the local currency was a little off AND Falco's handwriting sucked and the bill looked 78500. So as we get the check and the property manager pulls up outside, we accidentally divide instead of multiply and we leave Falco 80000 (figuring that he already has 10% automatically factored into the bill). Well, we'll come back to this not so little mistake later on..... :P Our property manager, Patricia, meets us and we follow her to Casa Sammie (click here for rental info)!
We were greeted by the 2 dogs (Sammie and Lizzie) who also called this place home and who became our companion as well for the remainder of the trip. Considering all of us had dogs at home (Paul and Kara left Skyler, Kevin left Gus and I left Clarice), we were totally psyched to adopt these pups during our stay.
Soon after getting the tour of the house and getting our keys, Patricia took off (she'd call us in the morning to setup any tours we wanted to do), and we got settled in. We unpacked, had a beer, and then decided to make a quick run to the grocery store to pick up some provisions. We drove about 15 minutes into town to the local A&M grocery. We picked up rum, bacon, eggs, empanadas for dinner and other food stuffs. Everything was priced about the same as grocery shopping in San Francisco so no real deals here, and when we got to the checkout counter our total came to about $100 US dollars or 50,000 colons. The exchange rate is roughly 500 colons to 1 dollar. Hmmmmmmmm, so now we're driving back to the house and we realize that we way overpaid our waiter for our meal of appetizers and a couple of rounds of beer. Basically for a $54 dollar meal (27,500 colons) we paid $160 dollars (80,000 colons). FUCK, we were pissed that our waiter didn't say anything. So, it was back to the house to drink some rum and beer, eat some empanadas and try and laugh at our mistake. Ha... ha... ha....
SUNDAY: We got up and made some bacon and eggs to start the day. Turns out CR bacon isn't quite the same as ours, so we vowed to hunt down some 'real' bacon during our trip. Shortly there after, Patricia came by to check in on us and get info on the tours we wanted to book. We let her know we wanted to SCUBA dive and do the zip lines. We also told her about our mix up at the restaurant and I asked her if she could come with me down there to talk to the waiter and see if we could clear up this little transaction. She was happy to come with me as she personally knew the owners and we met the waiter there. Falco was a little surprised to see us and Patricia talked to him in Spanish and explained the mix up. The conversation went back and forth and at the end of it, our thieving waiter gave me back 40,000 colons (which still left him with a nice tip), and me, trying to be the nice guy, gave him back 10,000 as a nice gesture of his honesty. Unfortunately for me, I didn't realize that this bastard didn't even want to give me that much back and was trying to cheat me more. Well, anyway's, we got a good chuck of our money back and a lesson was learned. Suffice to say, Falco at Steve and Lisa's in Tarcoles Costa Rica left a bad taste in my mouth (LOL I purposely spelled that out in case anyone Goggles this place :)
After returning victorious from that lil adventure, the four of us went across the road to the beach and walked around for a few minutes to check out the fishing boats. It was already getting warm, and we'd find out that it would average 97 degrees each day. LOL well, that was ok, suffice to say, I did sweat a lot :)
After the beach, we got into the truck and headed into the town of Jaco, which was about 25 minutes away from where we were staying. Jaco (pronounced "ha-co" for all of you non spanish speaking peeps like me) is a little tourist trap of a town that is the place for you to pick up your souvenirs and such. We spent the afternoon doing a little shopping around. LOL we stopped into Pop's ice cream shop too cool off and get a frosty treat. I stepped up the counter first and in my best spanish asked for a chocolate milkshake...... well 2 minutes later I got a vanilla ice cream cone dipped in chocolate :( WTF.... not only was it totally wrong but it started to melt like crazy as soon as I got it. A minute later I asked for a cup, and instead of giving me the regular paper type cup you'd put a scoop of ice cream in, they gave me a small plastic one for water. WTF!?!?! LOL I started laughing, put the ice cream in it and ate it as fast as I could. Suffice to say, Paul, Kara and Kevin all got what they ordered. That bitch behind the counter must have hated me (then again, I can't speak Spanish, but the menu was in English. CHOCOLATE MILKSHAKE!). Hehehe, well, after a stop at a cigar shop and a few other little places, it was time to leave Jaco. We continued our exploration of CR by driving another 30 minutes or so down the coast and we ended up exploring a nice little beach just outside of Monterey in Quepos.
Well, the sun was getting ready to go down and we were getting hungry, so we got back in the truck and headed back to Tarcoles, which took us about 40 min.
For dinner, we walked to a very local bar/restaurant called Chepes. There we ate/drank with the locals and enjoyed some tasty ceviche, pork and rice dishes with rum and cokes. We all like the way the rum and coke was served. Everyone got a shot glass of rum, a glass bottle of coke, and a glass of ice. You mixed it yourself and the waitress left us all a bucket of extra ice. Very nice! For all of you sports fans, you'll be happy to know Kevin was able to convince the waitress to change the channel to ESPN and we got to see Ellsbury steal home plate in the Red Sox vs Yankees game :)
MONDAY: So, outside our house, we have a huge mango tree that dropped about 2 dozen mangos each day. That's right, basically we had an unlimited supply of some of the tastiest fruit in the world at our doorstep. Well, once we got used the thud they'd make when they hit the ground, we'd cry out MANGO and someone would go and grab it, wash it off and stick it in the fridge. Well on this morning, I decided to put a few to good use, so I cut a few up and mixed them into pancakes for breakfast. That along with some coffee and real bacon we found, made for a tasty way to start the day :) While cleaning up, Paul and Kevin walked to the end of our road (about 100 yards) where they bought 4 red snappers from the local fish co-op that were caught that morning. We put those in the fridge, and then headed out to do some exploring.
Our first stop was Villa Lapos, which was about 10 minutes away from us. It's a nice looking resort up in the mountains that had some cool local artisan gift shops and was located on some nice grounds. We spent about an hour there, before leaving and heading up the road a bit to the Pura Vida Botanical Gardens. We browsed their gift shop (I picked up a sweet print, which is my main souvenir from the trop) and looked around the place. We were going to come back for the tour, but we never did (next time!).
Well, it was back down the mountain where we quickly stopped back at the house so that I could grab my camera and then it was off for a road trip North to Puntarenus. LOL well, we drove about 50 minutes to this little city only to find that Puntarenus must translate into "armpit of Costa Rica"! Hehe, there was nothing in this city that was at all attractive and it seemed that the big thing there was the ferry landing. I have no idea why there is a Marriot Doubletree Resort near there, but oh well. We did find a decent little restaurant to have lunch at where Paul proclaimed to have some of the best octopus he's ever had!
After lunch, we headed back towards home, stopping off in Ortina at MEGA-SUPER which is a local super market chain. I was immediately targeted by a local as someone willing to part with a few coins for a locally made empanada to "help the children...." LOL being a sucker, I did, but hey, it was tasty :) We picked up some more rum, a papaya and headed home. For dinner that night, Paul cleaned the fish, stuffed them with mangos and grilled them up. He also made a rice dish with papaya and tomato's that he and Kara had on their honeymoon. It was a delicious meal and we washed it down with a few rum and gingers before calling it a night around 9:30 PM.
TUESDAY: We were up early and on the road by 7:00 AM to head up North to the town of Montes de Oro where we'd end up at Adventure Park Hotel Vista Golfo for a 1/2 day of horseback riding up a mountain and then taking 25 zip lines down it! Our ride there of course had a bit of an adventure as we made a couple of wrong turns that took us down some crazy off the beaten path roads that were actually really pretty (hey, that is part of the fun of exploring someplace new!). But we eventually made there on time (if not a few minutes early) where we were greeted by our German host Barbara. She got us all squared away with signing forms and stuff, and as we were finishing up, she pulled me aside to ask me how much I weighed, since the horses were 'small ones'. Heheh, I told her I weighed about 260 and she said OK, and that they'd hook me up with a good strong horse. I was like, great! Well, a few minutes later, we got debriefed and then it was off to our horses!
We'd ride up the mountain for about an hour, and that was a lot of fun on the horses, except for the part when we went downhill for a wee bit. Let's just say all of the guys were groaning a little bit as our "kibbles and bits" got slammed up against the saddle :)
We finally reached our destination, and there we'd trade horses for harnesses. After getting a few minutes of instruction, we were ready to go! 25 zip lines....!
It was an awesome time! After we were done, we were provided a very tasty lunch of pork chops, beans, rice, plantain and ice tea. All in all, a true Costa Rica trip highlight!
That evening, we decided to give Steve and Lisa's another try, cause other than the waiter incident, the food was good. LOL of course, we got the same waiter, but he was pretty cool and even cracked a little joke when he brought the bill to make sure we got the amount right. Ha..ha..ha! Well, after that, it was back to the house where much rum was consumed and we had an awesome night of listening to lots of great music provided by our 4 iPods and my Bose docking station that I brought out with me. Each of us would pick a song and then the iPod would go face down on the table. When one song ended, I'd switch iPods and pick the next one. Hahaha, we created an awesome play list that night filled with lots of smiles and dancing around :)
WEDNESDAY: It started off a beautiful morning, and after a tasty breakfast (yes, there was bacon) we decided to do a load of laundry. I figured out the interesting washer that was out on the back deck, and just as soon as the clothes were done and hung out on the line, the sky started to darken. LOL we had a torrential downpour for the next few hours, so we all sat out and enjoyed a good rainstorm.
Around lunch time, the rain stopped, so we headed into Jaco for lunch at a local Mexican type restaurant. Afterwards, we went to the beach and enjoyed some kick ass waves and warm water.
After that, we headed back towards home stopping at the Crocodile Bridge to see some HUGE freaking crocs that you would not want to mess with. For dinner that night, we went back to Chepe's where we got to watch Paul eat a deep fried fish head. LOL, no it did not taste good :)
THURSDAY: While Kara go to lounge and relax by the pool, Paul, Kevin and I headed into Herradura to the Herradura Dive shop. Soon thereafter, we were on a boat where we'd spend the next few hours diving off the coast and having a lot of fun blowing some bubbles :)
After diving, it was a quick stop at the grocery store to pick up more rum (hehehe), a roasted chicken, a pork tenderloin and some other food stuffs. We got back to the house and had a nice lunch including the pasta salad that Kara made. We'd spend the afternoon in the pool and then around 4:00, Paul and Kevin went to the kitchen and started to prepare for dinner. Paul seasoned the pork tenderloin and put it on a banana leaf that he cut from the backyard along with a pineapple from the tree out back and mangos from the tree out front. This would get wrapped up and then placed on the grill around 5:00 to slow cook. Meanwhile, Kevin pureed mango and papaya, poured that into a pot with some rum and sugar, and cooked it down into a tasty syrup. Mmmm, we'll come back to this in a moment.
After the pork was on the grill, we took a 10 minute ride to the absolutely gorgeous Hotel Villa Caletus which just happens to be a 5 star resort. This place is amazing and the next time I come to CR, I want to stay here for a night or two with the right lucky guy! (yes, he will have to sleep with me :) The four of us enjoyed some tasty cocktails while we watched the sunset from this amazing vantage point.
After the sun went down, it was back to the house for probably the best dinner of the trip! That pork tenderloin came out perfect and it was served up with friend plantains and Kevin's amazing fruity jammy sauce that was just amazing. We washed it down with 2 bottles of Rosenbloom's Lyons Reserve Zinfandel that I brought with me, and it was just a wonderful night :)
FRIDAY: Our last full day in CR, we got up as the ass crack of dawn and found ourselves at the national park at 6:45 AM. We got ourselves a guide and would spend the next 2 hours going through a real rain forest in search of monkeys, sloths and other fun critters. Well, despite the best efforts of our guide, we didn't find any monkeys or sloths, but we did run across a few interesting creatures including a cute little frog that was poisonous enough to kill us!
After our tour, we were pretty tired and sweaty, so we headed back home where we'd cook up a kick ass breakfast and try to use up the rest of the leftovers. Kevin served us up an egg scramble with pork, toast, bacon and plantains and it was yummy! We'd spend the rest of the afternoon being lazy and sitting the by the pool. For dinner that night, we ventured into Herradura to the Los Suenos Marriott® Ocean & Golf Resort for dinner at the Hookup Grill overlooking the marina which was filled with million dollar yachts. The food was tasty and it was the only time during the whole trip we really ate any type of resort food. It made for a great way to end the day. Afterwards, it was back to the house to pack and sit outside and watch the stars and the ocean one last time.
SATURDAY: We got up and finished our packing. We gave all of the leftover foodstuffs to Ramon, who was our awesome caretaker who made sure our place looked nice each day. Hahaha, on the way to the airport I actually got caught in a speed trap (I swear it was something out of the Dukes of Hazard) and got a 2100 colon speeding ticket. Folks, that's about $4 US dollars :) LOL I paid it at the rental car agency before we headed off the airport and we began our respective journeys back home. After hugs and goodbyes, we were off to our terminals to catch our flights.
My flights back were all on time. I got into San Francisco at 11:30 PM and as soon as my bag came off the belt, I went outside where Justin Allen picked me up and drove me home. It was a kind gesture as he drove out from the East Bay and basically dropped me off and drove back to the East Bay for the night.
On Sunday, I slept in as much as I could, hung out with Clarice for a wee bit and then was off to Black and Blue tattoo where I'd spend 4 hours getting more work done by Clio. I'm really pleased with the way it's all turning out!