Wednesday, December 17, 2008

costa rica adventures: things get brighter, then seriously foggy

we wake up on friday morning in a much better frame of mind. i am still hivey, but less so. and the bolshevik and i are just thrilled that we finally made it out of the tri-state area.

we sit on this lovely patio dining area, and have what the costa ricans refer to as casados which means "typical meal." their typical meal includes rice & beans, eggs (scrambled or fried), a couple slices of cheese, a few slices of tomato, a selection of fresh fruits, coffee or tea, and fresh squeezed fruit juices (we had the option of orange juice, watermelon juice or "mixed fruits"). pretty sweet. dare i say that the boshelvik and i first bonded way back when over our mutual love of brunch (although it may still be a point of contention that he prefers pancakes to waffles). anyhoo, you can imagine that we were very pleased with this spread.

after breakfast we waited for our car and took a short stroll aroung the grounds of our hotel. even though the hotel wasn't in an area known for natural beauty (ie next to the airport), it really was very pretty. there were paths and trees and little benches and exotic flowers. very nice place to wait for your rental car people to pick you up.

by 9 or so we get in our trusty SUV (with GPS) aaaaand ... we're off!

aaaaaaand ... we're lost! turns out that costa ricans don't believe in road signs. anywhere. no road signs. why label your roads? i guess if you don't already know how to get where you're going you probably don't want it enough and therefore are not worthy of being shown the way. but after driving in circles for a little while our handy little GPS system finally kicked in and got us onto the panamerican highway. it was about this time that the bolshevik remarked that once we got on the "real highway" we would probably make excellent time. and then i informed him that this small two-lane highway was actually the biggest road in costa rica. and that is when the GPS system chimed in with it's lovely automaton faux british accent, "in .2 ... miles ... turn ... onto ... unpaved road." turns out almost every road in costa rica is named "unpaved road."

so we are having a fine time getting jostled up and down as we drive over huge potholes on our unpaved rocky muddy costa rica road. we pass beautiful sights and hop out of the car to take pictures now and again. it's kind of like driving some adventure video game, where you have to keep both hands gripped tightly to the wheel while you get bounced around. after a while we get the hang out of it, and start playing a car game that our friends the Confined Nomads taught us. so we're having a fine time, no? it's a costa rica driving adventure, right?

suddenly, with no warning from our GPS system we approach a small bridge that is very obviously "out," and i don't mean that it's gay. it has two huge piles of rubble blocking the entrance, and it is quite apparent that we are not supposed to drive on it. then off to the side is a steep gravel ramp of sorts that leads to a small river. it is at this point that the bolshevik remembers reading something about how in costa rica sometimes you have to drive through rivers. and lo and behold as we are wondering whether or not to drive through this river, a little subaru outback comes zipping past us, through the river and onto the other side of the road. so we decide to go for it, thanking our lucky stars that we upgraded from our compact car.

as we are bravely traversing a river in our SUV, we notice that those big metal things that hold up bridges (columns? i-beams?) are no longer attached to the bridge beside us. they're just hanging out in the water, leaning against some rocks, while the bridge above it is supported by nothing. glad we didn't try to cross that one.

it takes us several hours but we finally make it to santa elena. during our car trip i tried to think of some phrases i could use on a pharmacist so that he or she might take pity on me and give me some cortisone. since i have no idea how to say "hivey" in spanish, i settle on soy allergica a los todos el mundo. necessita prednisone.

anyhoo, we walk around santa elena a bit, get some helado, and that is when the bolshvik spots a pharmacy. so i go in and try to give it my best shot. there's a young woman sitting behind the counter sucking on a lollipop while reading a magazine. i quickly realize that this will be easier than i thought. i don't even give my sad sad allergic story. instead, i merely say necessita prednisone. then, get this, she stands up and grabs a box with the words "prednisone 5 mg" and says "esto?" and my dear blog readers, without a prescription and without any explanation of my medical woes, i am sold 50 mg of prednisone for the bargain price of $3. i heart costa rica.

as it is too late in the day to start any true adventures, we make a reservation for a canopy tour (more info on that later) for the following day. then we go to the ranario, frog pond, where we see all these cool tropical frogs. turns out the boslshevik loves frogs. who knew? then we get back into our SUV for the oncoming adventure of finding our hotel.

the navigation system gets us a bit turned around and we wind up leaving and returning to santa elena several times. i believe it was the third time that i helpfully pointed out, "there's the ranario again," (much in the style of clark griswald in european vacation when he keeps saying "look kids, big ben!" fyi: there is no traffic circle by big ben). and that dear blog readers is when the bolshevik and i got into our first fight. but we got over it fairly quickly.

on the drive further up the mountain to our hotel we are suddenly enshrouded in mist. turns out the monteverde cloud forest is not just a clever name. it is seriously cloudy up there. we drive down a long private road, boucing around for several miles, and when we are truly in the middle of nowhere we see a cluster of green cabins on a hillside. we assume that they are overlooking a beautiful view of mountains and valleys. but due to massive fog we can't actually see past the cabins.

so we are given our very own huge cabin (this thing could easily sleep 4-5 people), with a wood burning stove and candles for "lights out." turns out this place is run on generated electricty, and the power is shut off every night at 10 pm.

we grab a quite bite to eat in the main cabin, which kind of looks like a tropical ski lodge, and then head back down the mountain for our night time rainforest tour. when we get to our SUV, a small monsoon has begun and the fog is so thick we can barely see 5 feet in front of us. oh but my courageous bolshevik drove us down the mountain safely.

after our tour (in which we got rained on a lot and we saw a tarantula), i drive us back up the mountain through the fog and rain to our hotel. they don't call it the rain forest for nothing. and apparently it rains outside the forest as well. when we get there it is completely dark, even the little light posts on the pathways between the cabins have been turned off. since we don't have a flashlight, we wind up using our navigation system as a light source, trying to shine it on the pathway. the bolshevik and i run up and down several different pathways getting soaked in the rain trying to find our cabin.

after running up to numberous cabins, we finally correctly identify and enter our cabin. we putter around in the dark for a while, lighting candles and attempting to start a fire. why didn't i pay more attention when the men in my family were making fires all through my childhood? drenched to the bone, the bolshevik and i cuddle in front of the pathetic fire i build ... thus ending another day of costa rican adventures.

to be continued ...


Peonys said...

Your drive, although bumpy and long, sounds lovely. Who knew you can drive through rivers?

Miss Dewey Decimal said...

i know, crazy right! i guess SUVs do serve a purpose sometimes.

attention SUV owners in Costa Rica: i forgive you for owning an SUV.