Friday, January 2, 2009

Pura Vida

Pura Vida. This is the motto of Costa Rica, it's everywhere you look. On water bottles, billboards, tee shirts, cheap surf boards. Literally it means "pure life", it's a perfect slogan for a country that seemingly has no sense of urgency about anything. We would call it..."laid back". With no standing army since 1948, the locals or Tico's are a very non-confrontational people. Our trip took us to the southern most region of the country near a duty free zone called Golfito. The journey began here in Milwaukee with a lengthy bus ride down to Chicago where we spent the night due to the early nature of our flight the next morning. We took it as a good omen when we checked into our hotel which was SUPER swanky but only $89 bucks online- go figure?

With an impending storm, we flew out the next morning (only to find out later that we were one of the last planes out and then they closed O'Hare) and arrived in Houston to a voicemail that the entire rest of the gang were delayed in Denver and couldn't make the connection to San Jose (the capital of Costa Rica). We continued on south, arriving in San Jose at dusk. Kelly the travel master had arranged a shuttle for us to a great little gated hotel complex in Escazu, a region above San Jose. We listened to gunfire and fire works as the Christmas holiday approached. The rest of the family arrived that night via a different airline and flights.

The next morning we loaded into a sweet little Toyota van that puts most American cars to shame. As a side note, ALL their cars put ours to shame. We rode in a Toyota Hilux while we were there and when we asked our driver what kind of mileage it got, his response was "I can't count that high". Matt and I did the math, roughly 50 miles to the gallon. But back to our trip down, our driver Antonio would prove to be one of the highlights of the trip. His Tico knowledge of the country was invaluable. From the coffee highlands to the coastal regions he gave us the brief history of Costa Rica and explained all of her idiosyncrasies to us. The ride down took 10 hours, five of which were on a two lane dirt road. Brutal to say the least. When we arrived in Zancudo we flipped out. It is truly at the end of the earth and there are a significant lack of amenities to prove it.

We dropped our bags, put on our suits, and RAN into the ocean like lemmings to the sea! Pura Gringos I think. When we got back to our cabinas we realized just how remote we really were. No phone, no TV, no radio, no Internet, no communication with the outside world at all. There was a small "convenience store" two minutes walk away with surfboards, beer, and pink marsh mellows. Other than that, we could bust open any of the coconuts outside our door and the restaurant at the "resort" served us most of what we needed. I say "resort" because it was comprised of four buildings, the restaurant, the owners house, two cabinas, and the surf shop. Oh yeah, none of the buildings had insulation, glass, or hot water. Screened windows, hardwood floors, and fans, lots of fans.

The next week is a blur. I can tell you we swam, surfed, walked the beach, took pictures, drank Imperial beer, and pretty much just lazed around the black sand beaches in the sun. We took a tour through a wildlife refuge, THAT was COOL! A few highlights were the dolphins swimming next to our little skiff boat, snorkeling a coral reef (waiting on the underwater camera to be developed) and the spider monkey showing Matt where it wanted to be scratched...funny as hell! We ultimately got the surfing thing down, what a blast! It took us all a day though to realize why you need a rash guard. We thought it was for the water...negative ghost rider! My abs, knees, and inner ankles all still bare the wounds of wax rash where I lay on the board to paddle out through the surf. We walked to the "center" of Zancudo which was nothing more that the police station and school, the best part of which was as we were walking back along the beach, we were adopted by a beagle named Magio. The owner of the Coloso Del Mar informed us that "we were his now and not to try and shake him." Magio was great, he was our personal body guard for four days.

Our journey home took us along the Panamanian border and through many police checkpoints where when asked about our travels the policia would look at us with confusion when we told them we had been in Zancudo. Barely making all our connecting flights back, we came back to Milwaukee two nights ago, weary from two days of travel, and fighting some nasty head colds. We'll continue to add to this post with new photos when everyone sends them out, here are a few to tide you over. In summation, the trip was amazing. We saw way more country than we thought we would, met some great people, and enjoyed the Pura Vida. We wouldn't recommend this trip to just anyone, there's a reason it's at the end of the earth. It takes a long time to get there and at times it's not the most comfortable trip but in the end, it was totally worth it. Adios

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