See the World: Costa Rica

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While some of you have been working hard at making those resolutions habit, Apple Crisp and I spent the first few days of 2016 stuck in our Costa Rican adventures.  We came back a little tired from 17 hours of travel, but thankfully with a hint of a tan, without some of that holiday bloat and with a new refreshed perspective on life.

Costa Rica. Let’s talk about it.

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Photos courtesy of Pure Trek

It’s been on my list for a few years ever since more and more of my friends have been going but kept getting pushed to the bottom because…my list is long. Also, it’s tropical and my friends know well and good that I don’t do tropical vacations, unless they want to hear me complain endlessly about how hot I am.

Yeah, I really am that bad.

Anyway, Apple Crisp (“AC”) first suggested we go about 6 months ago, which was sort of a big deal since it was her first time away from home without her two darling boys (and one darling husband) since the former two arrived in this world four years ago.  Given the gravity of the situation, this really needed to be a vacation worth our while. 

After some research, we decided to stay at Rancho Margot, an eco resort up in the rainforesty parts, about a windy 3.5 hour drive from San Jose.  We figured that if we just wanted to sit on a beach at an all-inclusive, we might as well go to Mexico. Costa Rica and Rancho Margot seemed to offer something different…and it really did.  Here are some of the lessons learned on The Hungary Buddha Goes to Costa Rica.

1.  Costa Rica is not Mexico.  Nor is it the Caribbean.  Really, nothing like it. It’s it’s own wonderful beast.

The landscape was nothing like I’d ever seen. AC noted that it reminded her of Hawaii, but at the same time, was much stood on its own two feet.  We didn’t go near the beaches and stayed pretty much inland, as a result found ourselves immersed in the rainforest.  As a result, it wasn’t really hot or cold.  It’s a weird concept to grasp, but the temperature was perfect.  Says the girl that abhors the heat.  BUT, it was damp. Very very damp.  After three days on the balcony, the clothes did not dry.

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 2.  Costa Rica practices what it preaches.

We all talk/hear about being good citizens of the planet, but do we ever really do it?  Both AC and I got the general impression that Costa Rica is very eco-conscious, and the farm at Rancho Margot is a model is self-sustainability.  Everything we ate, the ranch grew.  They used poop to make methane to heat the water.  And let vegetation grow on roofs to keep everything cool.  And the sun to dry everything. It was truly fascinating.  

3. Don’t visit an attraction called the Hanging Bridges if you’re afraid of heights.

We were fine, but some people…

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4.  When signing up for waterfall canyoning, be sure you know exactly what waterfall canyoning is.

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AC, like most of my friends, is a little bit of a daredevil. She pushes her limits and as a result I often go along for the ride. In case you don’t know, waterfall canyoning (or repelling) is strapping oneself to ropes as you zoom down off cliffs and through waterfalls after hiking through the forest.  Oh, and there’s a mini zip and a free fall.

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This was all news to her until we were lined up to go down repel #1.  I was admittedly freaked out myself but after that first go, I stopped smiling the weird nervous smile and was hooting and hollering the whole way down.  It was THE BEST TIME.

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5.  There are no crocodiles in the central part of Costa Rica (but there are on the Pacific side!).  However, it’s always good to have a plan.

I’ve mentioned before that alligators and crocodiles are the most fascinating and terrifying thing to me.  And as a Florida girl, it’s hard to believe that they just don’t “show up” in any tropical climate.  Though it was my idea to sign up for paddle surfing on Lake Arenal, which I was assured had not a single croc, I had my plan in place. Should I see a crocodile, the first thing to do is to freak out. Then, calm down, get down on one’s knees and paddle away quickly, being careful to not hit said crocodile.  AC advised against shoving the paddle in its mouth.  Good idea.

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This was all a moot point, but it’s always good to have a plan.

6.  The tastiest thing in Costa Rica was apparently me.

The mosquitos love me. Or hate me, depending on your point of view. I came back looking like I had the chicken pox or some other spotty disease.  Repellant was no match, and sleeping under a mosquito net provided little security. After two days I resigned myself to the fact that I was dinner.

7.  Costa Rican food is…only okay.

I know you really want to hear about the food. And I really wanted to tell you about the food! Except that the food was…not all that interesting. One good thing about staying at Racho Margot was that all the food was included but not in the massive buffet way often standard at the all-inclusives. After driving and dining around a bit, we realized that we were actually getting a very typical Costa Rican dining experience: rice and beans, chicken, veggies and more rice and beans.  However, none were really seasoned all that much or well which was, admittedly disappointing.  I’ll stick with Mom’s.

Disclaimer to the above were two lone food things:

First, the coffee.  It was truly outstanding. Thought we didn’t get to tour the local coffee plantation, we learned that the beans are not roasted as much as they might be back here.  It was so fragrant, and strong. Seriously, I’d fill half of my cup in the morning with leche caliente and the color barely seemed to pale at all.  I did bring some home, and it left my backpack with an intoxicating smell.

Second, Salsa Lizano, a condiment native to Costa Rica, and very easy to reproduce at home.  In all the blandness, this chili sauce was the one bright spot.  More on that later this week. 

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So there you have it- our sights, sounds and tastes of Costa Rica.  If you’ve ever thought about going, consider this your PSA to do so.

Written during trip recovery.

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