Sunday, January 24, 2010

Vista Valverde ... our last few days in Costa Rica in Pictures

As I mentioned, our last few days in Costa Rica were spent at Tom and Susan's bed and breakfast in San Ramone, Vista Valverde (www.vistavalverde.com). We had a great visit full of good conversation, Tom and Susan's delicious cooking, and beautiful views (pic left is taken from right out of the main building of the bed and breakfast, the Taller which in Spanish means workshop). Although the beach was fun and we learned many new sports, Jaco is a very tourist-centered town. San Ramone, however, is how both my mom and I decided we would like to remember Costa Rica.

Vista Valverde is located at the top of a very large hill and my mom and I explored the mountainous area on foot via walking and running. Our run was quite a challenge! We ran down, down, down, down and then realized once we turned around we had to go up, up, up, and up! Here are some of the amazing views from where we were staying:




We also enjoyed several beautiful sunsets up in the clouds.



We saw so many beautiful and fun plants in San Ramone. Susan and Tom have spent a great deal of energy on planting beautiful plants that line the road leading up to and surround their bed and breakfast.




This was the most interesting seed I have ever seen on a plant!

This plant reminds me of a giant dandelion!

It's a Sago Palm! I have one of these back in Oklahoma.
It was fun to see them lining the road up to Vista Valverde.

I love the baby pineapple plants. There are many of these
baby pineapple plants leading up to Vista Valverde

Monday, January 18, 2010

Jungle Women!

We left Jaco saturday morning for Tom and Susan's bed and breakfast in San Ramone. We were sad to leave the beach, but were excited to see a new part of the countryside as well as spend some time with my mom's friends. However, before we left Jaco my mom and I had to have one last adventure: zip line-ing through the canopy! It was so much fun. I was a little worried since my mom is a tad afraid of heights ... we saw one of the zip line platforms during our run up the canopy trail the other day and she said, "oh Maya, look at that tree house!" and I responded, "Mom, that is one of the zip line platforms." Her only thought about it was, "crap that's high!" She was a little hesitant at first, but after the first few platforms, she started to get into it and have some fun. There were 15 total platforms that started high up in the canopy and gradually decreased in elevation so you could see all the different levels of the canopy.

video

We didn't see many animals along the zip line unfortunately. I think between the noise the zip line makes and the people noises, we effectively scared them all away. At the bottom of the zip line we did see a nest of little parakeets and several iguanas!



After our zip line adventure, we finished packing up our bags and left with several of my mom's friends who were going to drive us to Tom and Susan's bed and breakfast in San Ramone, Vista Valverde (www.vistavalverde.com).

We stopped along the way to visit the crocodiles. For some reason, there is a particular bridge between Jaco and San Ramon that is known for having tons of crocodiles. We hopped out of the car (but remained high above them on the bridge) to take a look. There were so many crocodiles there! Many were easily 15 ft long. It was quite impressive!


We made it to Vista Valverde late in the afternoon. Vista Valverde is beautiful. I am really impressed with the amazing views and beautiful countryside. We are now at about 4,000 ft above sea level in the mountains. It is so beautiful here, with rolling hills and large expanses of untouched terrain. Tom and Susan have done an amazing job building the guest houses (cabinas) and the Taller (workshop), where they serve meals for guests. Once we arrived, my Mom and Tom caught up on old times. We had a very nice evening hanging out and chatting.

One of the cabinas for guests of Vista Valverde

Our last day in Jaco ... (a couple of days late, Sorry!)

Our last few days have been so busy, I didn't have time to post anything. My apologies!

Our last full day in Jaco started with a run. During our run the day before we saw a dirt path winding up the mountain marked canopy tour and we wanted to see how far we could take it. It was a beautiful morning, much cooler than the past few mornings. We started up the path and quickly realized that the run needed to be more of a run/hike. We heard all kinds of birds and screeching monkies, though we didn't see any .... I think between the noise we made running and our initial chatting scared all the animals away. It was of course a beautiful view from the top. Unfortunately since this was on a run, I didn't have my camera with me but it was indeed awesome! We could look down off of the cliffs and see Jaco Playa where we were learning to surf. After we reached the top, it was a looong downhill all the way back to the main road. This run we were honked/flashed/whisled at 7 times (I counted; it makes the miles go by faster if you have something to focus on!).

Once we returned to the hotel we decided to get ready for our 9 am yoga class with poses on the yoga rock. I suppose the rock is not specifically FOR yoga, but there is this perfectly round rock in the middle of the grounds of our hotel, Dulce Lunas, that is pictured on their website with people doing yoga poses on this huge round rock! We had to give it a go. It was a lot more difficult than it looked.

The yoga class that morning was actually pretty challenging. It was supposed to be a vinyasa flow class, but the focus of the day was hip opening. I have such tight hips, sitting in poses like pigeon and the variations of lunges is quite difficult for me!

After yoga, mom and I had a couple of hours free before our surf lesson. Our whole time in Jaco, everyone kept mentioning how huge the waves on Hermosa playa are. We decided we needed to see it for ourselves. We hopped on our rented mountain bikes to head south. Hermosa Playa is technically just a few miles from Jaco, but what we didn't realize is that these few miles are a few miles of really steep hills! So not only were we riding in the heat of the day (almost high noon); with semis and other large vehicles on the main road between the cities; on bikes with rusted chains, rubbing breaks, and only occasionally working gear shifts; we were climbing hills! It was quite a ride to say the least. All we could think about when we got to Hermosa was getting off the road with a cold drink. We stopped by a little beach side restaurant for refreshments and lunch. The waitress of the little restaurant came over to our table and directed a question in spanish about ordering something...not entirely sure what (I think she was asking if we wanted to order drinks). It is kind of amusing; I think I really confuse the Ticos (a word used to refer to Costa Rican locals). I don't have the right skin tone really to be considered a Tico, but I guess I am muddled-looking enough to possibly be able to speak Spanish. After I turned to my mom, unsure about what the waitress asked, she said in a quite slightly suprised voice,"oh." We both ordered Coca cola Lights (I don't think a Coke ever tasted so good ;-). Lunch was delicious. We had Ceviche, which is fish marinated in some sort of lime juice with onions and other veggies. Oh, it was amazing! I had tuna sashimi, which was also some of the best sashimi I think I have ever had! It was served with avacado and scallions on top which are some of my favorite vegetables (which I guess isn't fair since I really like most vegetables, but they are definitely at the top of the list!).

After lunch we checked out the surf. It was pretty windy that day and the waves were huge! That day there were easily swells of over 10 ft. The picture to the left was of the Hermosa beach taken from a cliff when we were on our way out of town. It really just doesn't do the waves justice...

It was starting to get late, so we hopped on our bikes to head back to Jaco Playa for our surf lesson. The waves at Jaco, although nothing compared to Hermosa, were some of the biggest we have dealt with on surf boards! It was quite a lot of work trying to get out once you ride the waves back in. We were constantly getting smacked in the face with new sets of waves as we fought to get back out to the ocean. Although we both were a bit frustrated that we tanked on more waves than we had other days, we both had several good rides during the day. I actually caught a couple of waves on my own without the extra push from a guide to get me moving.

After our surf lesson, we rushed back to room to get showered and gussied up for our evening out on the town. Since this was our last night in Jaco, we were going out to Casa del Caletas to watch the sunset. It was an amazing ride up the mountain to Casa Caletas. The the thin road was bordered by a hand laid stone wall leading up to this amazing ampa theatre to have a drink and watch the sun set. It was a beautiful end to a busy day!


If a picture is worth a million words, I am going to end this blog with 2 million words:


Friday, January 15, 2010

A new sport!

My mom and I rose this morning for a quick bite before our 7:30 am pickup for our paddle board lesson. Paddle boarding is as my mom described it a cross between surfing, kyaking, and yoga. It is really quite a good work out, but very meditative at the same time. You work your abs and core muscles paddling, but balance and centering body weight is very important to stay on the board. I discovered the importance of focus when I stopped to briefly glance down at my watch and ended up in the water!

Unfortunately, after about an hour of paddle boarding I asked to go in to grab water and more sunscreen (I am still lobster colored on the backs of my legs). However, once we got in the wind started to pick up and the waves started to churn. Paddle boarding is really best on calm waters...Unless you are really good and can catch the waves!

This afternoon my mom and I went into town to get lunch and do some shopping! We stopped by a fish taco bar for lunch. It was really cute! The stools around the bar were all hanging swings. The food was quite good too. We had Wahoo fish tacos!

By this evening, my mom and I were getting a bit punchy and dropping absolutely everything...this resulted in an unfortunate mishap with one of the gifts my mom purchased for someone which involved her getting clunked on the head! We broke down in a puddle of giggles as we realized what a hopeless pair we were. She was icing her head and I was icing my sunburned legs! We really need to remember how to ask for ice in Spanish. I think that will be an important one for us.

This evening my mom and I went for a run and were honked at by several trucks, yelled at by at least 2 other men, chased by 3 dogs, and ran into 3 dead ends. We did however find a papaya farm which was pretty amazing. I need to go back tomorrow to take a picture! I always expected papaya trees to be really tall, but these were only about 6 feet tall.

Some funny/neat things:

A sign outside of a restroom for a bar in Jaco

Trails left by an unidentified beach organism on Playa Jaco. I think it is some sort of crab that lives in burrows since the trails always center around a burrow hole.

The insects here are huge! This is a giant beetle we saw while waiting for our pickup for paddle boarding this morning

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Costa Rican day 2 and Critters!

Today was quite a busy day. It started bright and early with a 7:30 pick-up for our kayaking trip. We kayaked out to a beach a little ways off and stopped for a brief snorkeling trip. The region north of jaco is experiencing super strong winds (I hear 60-90 mph!!!) which has churned the ocean up quite a bit, even in the much calmer playa [beach] Jaco. Unfortunately, that also means relatively cloudy conditions for snorkeling. Despite this problem, I did however find several very bright blue fish which I think were some type of wrasse (however this is such a large family encompassing so many different species, I am probably safe guessing wrasse). I also think there were a couple of surgeon fish or butterfly fish, but it was hard to tell from above through the murky waters. After a brief break on the shores and some delicious fresh pina [pineapple], sandia [watermellon], and coconut we hopped back in the kayaks to head back to the vans.

Following our kayak adventure was our second surfing lesson. My mom did great catching a bunch of waves all the way in to the shore! I had a couple of good waves today, but I tanked on a bunch of waves and the instructor just kind of looked at me and gave me a look that said, "what just happened?" I also was trying really hard to get the board turned parallel to the wave to ride it in, but I just couldn't get it around! I asked him for advice and he said, " don't know why you are having problems, that is just strange. it is so easy." Well great. Anyways, I did catch one that I got the board around and I did have a few I road all the way in on, so it was still good. This evening my mom and I continued on for a Bikram class at the studio at the hotel. It was a good way to end the day.

Anyway, I promised critters in this blog. Sadly, because I didn't have my camera out with us during all of the water adventures, I don't have my own pictures to share of all of the exciting animals, but I found some pictures from other sites. The first evening we were here, we were eating dinner outside in the resteraunt and pieces of bark kept falling from a nearby tree. I was really confused until someone came out with a flashlight and found up in the tree a coatimundi or "pizote." They are kind of like the tropical racoon.
(from naturalphotos.com)

Today during our surf lesson we actually spotted several different types of birds: the giant frigate birds (or fragata en espanol) and the beautiful macaw. The Macaws were flying in a group overhead, so I am not entirely sure if it was the scarlet macaws, but they definitely looked red and blue so I think it is quite possible.

(two scarlet macaws from http://cityparrots.org)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Fun in the sun ... until crispy

This morning was our first yoga class in the yoga studio here at Duce Lunas. It is a beautiful studio with lots of large windows overlooking the hotel grounds, which are packed with tropical plants. The class was a mix of vinyasa flow with some bikram poses and corepower abdominal work thrown in. My mom is a yoga rockstar! With some assistance she got up into a headstand from crow posture and also did an awesome inversion in locust pose. It is quite hot here, however. I now understand how they do open air bikram classes! It is so warm in the studio that even without heaters we were sweating up a storm

On the way back to our rooms after the class, we spotted an amazing spider hanging out in its web between two trees over the walkway.
I wandered around the hotel grounds a little this morning before the surf lesson to take pictures of flowers. They are all so beautiful here! I am not sure what types these are, but here are just a few of the ones I saw!


This afternoon we had our first surf lessons. It was so much fun; I actually got up on the board quite a few times and started working on turning. I did, however, take quite a few face plants into the water! When I was just starting to turn, the instructor kept telling me to "turn left, turn left" so I finally got my board around to the left and ... surfed smack dab into my mom! I tried to bail, but I knocked her off her board in the process (yes, gracefulness runs in my family in case you were wondering). Despite liberal application of sunscreen, after 2 hours out on the board, the back of my legs achieved a lobster-red coloring. ugh! This evening I was instructed by another visitor to put vinegar on the burns to reduce swelling etc. I now know how a salt and vinegar crisp feels ;-).

The beach was gorgeous with both black sands (from the nearby eroding lava flows) and lighter quartz sands (probably quartz, but not entirely sure).

The next adventure ... Jaco, Costa Rica

My mom and I have been talking about taking a girls bonding trip for who knows how long. Since I finally have a couple months to relax after my last job in Woods Hole and before I start Graduate school, we decided to carpe diem! We arrived a bit worse for the ware but happy nonetheless yesterday afternoon in San Jose Costa Rica. After a little confusion with the taxi driver we grabbed a shuttle to Jaco where we will spend the next few days doing yoga, surfing, and many other activities. On the way up we learned all about the coffee bean; the plants grow rampantly here. The beans are hand picked, peeled, and then roasted. During the drive we also saw a tornado over the ocean. It was fairly brief, but we watched as a definite funnel developed from a foreboding wall cloud and then elongated down to the water. It was pretty exciting! It is truly beautiful here. The hotel feels like we are right in the jungle. There are hotel cats roam all over the grounds and are always happy to come up and rub against your legs requesting a pat on the head. I was so tired I just crashed last night when we arrived at our hotel. My mom got up early to go for a run (while I continued to sleep) and we are now about to go to our first "Power Yoga" class is this morning. I will get some pictures today to post!~