Posted on September 29, 2017
Change of Pace
We were able to enjoy ten days with Michu’s mom, Rebeca, and our friend Susannah (hereafter referred to as “The Abeuelas”), and it was a great change of pace.
Slightly diminishing the fun: I’ve managed to have a pretty significant stomach illness for the past, oh, three weeks. No need to go into details, but I certainly pretended it was no big deal for far too long, and am now avoiding the sun until the antibiotics run their course. It was not great timing; I had no appetite, which made it tough to cook on the boat, and I didn’t have a whole lot of energy in general. Still, we managed to get in some fun things.
The Abuelas stayed at a hotel right next door to the Costa Rica Yacht Club, so we spent more than a few days enjoying their pool and fruity drinks, and became a little too well acquainted with their restaurant. Puerto Azul is definitely on the snazzy side; we were dissuaded from our original plan to book a couple of package tours through the hotel by their insane prices and limited offerings. No worries! We just took matters into our own hands.
Our first big outing was back to Manuel Antonio National Park. We caught two busses and made it there in about three hours, where we met our guide from our previous visit. The relaxed meander of the trail was a good match for the Abuelas, and of course George came through for us, spotting all kinds of animals that we couldn’t see. And finally: a sloth! Very close-up, and very active; I don’t know what he was doing, crawling all over the place in the middle of the day, but it was very satisfying as he went from one tree to another.
Getting the bus to the Quepos/Manuel Antonio area was so easy, we decided to pick it up again a few days later and travel to Jaco. This surf town about an hour and a half from Puntarenas is at least half gringo; we took advantage of the smoothie shacks, and had some fantastic sushi—our first (that wasn’t homemade) in almost a year. And of course, when in Jaco, a person needs to sign up for surfing lessons.
Our lessons were more “have fun on a surfboard” than “learn to surf;” the instructor was always giving us a push to get us started, and spent no time teaching us about reading the waves or getting going on our own. Still, we were pretty successful with standing up, which felt like a huge accomplishment! Thanks to my illness, and being pretty out of shape in general, I only lasted for one hour of the two-hour lesson, but Michu stayed out the entire time. T was right along side, trying out our newest boat toy—a boogie board.
Our final trip was inland, to see the Arenal volcano. It’s a challenging trip to make by bus—I think it’s seven hours?—and no one wanted to make Michu drive those roads in a rental car, so we asked a local taxi driver for a recommendation and hired a van and driver for the day. Thanks goodness! By van, the trip was more like three hours, and even the stretch of Pan-American highway that we followed was mostly windy, twisted two-lane blacktop. It was enough work just to ride along. On the way, we saw every houseplant I’ve every killed, growing in fields ready for export. Clearly my house needs to be more like Costa Rica for those plants to thrive.
We decided to splurge a little bit more, and paid the entrance fee to the Arenal Observatory Lodge. Originally a research facility for the University of Costa Rica, the Lodge still welcomes scientists studying the volcano, but their main gig now is tourism; during the high season, the place is packed. When we were there? Not so much.
The last thing required when visiting an active volcano is to find some hot springs. All of the rivers around the volcano run warm, and many of the best soaking spots have been taken over by large resorts who offer full spa treatments. We opted for the locals’ hangout, right off the main road, where people had build up pools from the river rocks. Perfect.