Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Pura Vida

I'm back from a wonderful week in Costa Rica.

Oh, yeah. I flew. Twice. And survived. This was also my first *real* international trip, ever. I know, it took 33 years. Sad life.

It was a great time. The people were nice and hospitable. It's impossible not to relax even as you're hiking or sweating your butt off (you'd think, being from Miami, that humidity would be nothing to me, but no, this was humidity on a whole other level), because the views are just so inspiring and incredible. I've never seen anything like Costa Rica.

This trip has been more than a year in the making. My sister and BIL were celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary and really wanted to do a vow renewal ceremony in Costa Rica. We have some interesting ties to that country. For one, it's where they honeymooned and have returned a couple of times. My parents have also vacationed here. And in the early 80's, my father's family lived there for a few years after they fled Cuba. In this way the country is a part of us, and especially given the honeymoon factor, it was the right place to do a huge family trip.

For this was one huge group. Huge, as in, close to 50 people. We were a combination of family and my sister/BIL's closest friends. Like I said, plans began a year ago, so everyone had time to figure out if they could make it work with their schedules and budgets. My sister did an extraordinary job of coordinating this trip, from transportation to hotels to activity options. Really, she has a level of organization that is admirable and intense and exactly the kind I need for myself.

It was hard for me to be crazy excited about this trip, mainly because I never feel excited about anything until the moment it's happening. There've been too many times in my life where I've gotten ridiculously excited about something only to have it all go wrong. At the same time, I'm usually so anxious about stuff that pure excitement is hard. Between these two things, I don't feel, or allow myself to feel, too much before something is actually happening.

So with this trip, the planning and worrying about possible disasters kept me busy enough until the week before the trip. Don't get me wrong: I was very much looking forward to this, but I didn't give in to it until the plane landed and it seemed o.k. to loosen up.

We hit three parts of the country: Arenal (our hotel was at the base of the Arenal volcano, which yes, is active), Monteverde and Manuel Antonio. Each area was gorgeous in its own way, though I still can't tell what moved me more: the vivid green and peacefulness of the mountains and valleys in Monteverde, or the tropical lushness and sultriness of Manuel Antonio. Arenal, with the clouds coming and going over the giant volcano, was mysterious and ominous.

We spent our time in a perfect mix of adventure and relaxation. We luxuriated in the warm/hot thermal springs, ate (and drank!) to our hearts' content, hiked in a small forest as the sun set to catch glimpses of nocturnal animals, zip lined through a cloud forest, white-water rafted, snorkeled, played in the pool for hours on end and swam in the cool Pacific Ocean.

Of the activities, I'll say this: zip lining can kiss my ass. I hated it. Talk about effing terrifying! I'm such a wuss, I know, but seriously, there was nothing appealing about it to me. I did it for a couple of reasons: 1) to not be such a wuss and live a little; 2) because I knew it would be a good example for my son; 3) because no way was I going to stay behind while my itty bitty baby boy did this. I had to be near him and make sure he was o.k.; 4) to do it, period. It's a bucket list-type item, even if it wasn't on my list in particular. So, I did it, crossed it off the list, and that's that. I have no need or desire to do it ever again.


Not only am I flying across 1,000 feet, I'm also responsible for my niece's life!

That said, the views were amazing. Amazing. There were 13 lines, and the last one is half a mile long, the highest one of all, strung up way high over the trees. You're basically flying hundreds of feet above all the trees, nothing but a huge, wide open space all around. Terrifying. Amazing. I have no other words. Jevo and I did that last line together, which made it extra special (as I told him, "at least we'll die together."), and Max absolutely loved loved loved it. He was so excited about this and just did so great.


Bring on the zip lines!

Actually, Max was wonderful on this trip, except for the parts where he was so exhausted that he was a total pain in the butt. To be expected, I suppose, and he did nothing terrible or out of the ordinary. He proved himself once again to be quite an adventurer, open to everything we did, more or less listening or at least sticking with the bigger kids, and basically was just way too adorable in his excitement and wonder.

He was actually bummed at the stuff he missed out on, like white-water rafting (not old enough), though he loved our catamaran adventure: snorkeling and going down the big slide from the top of the huge cat and right into the ocean. His delight at the bright fish as the swam right in front of him was just too sweet.


We be snorkelin'.

Overall, an awesome vacation. Considering what a large group we were, it was very neat to have zero complications or issues come up (miraculous, actually). It was awesomer still that Jevo and I managed our own downtime, because, come on, how could we have done a place as wondrous and stunning as Costa Rica and not had some alone time? As usual, traveling with him was great, yet another chance for us to grow closer. I wasn't sure how we'd do a whole week in a foreign country with Max (and my relatives). But we were fine - a relief and a joy.

I've been home a few days and am already wishing I was back.


I mean, come on!!

Some other shots

Arenal Volcano:



Hiking in Manuel Antonio:


Monteverde (I know!):


Jevo showing M the crocodiles:


Monkey on the zip line:


Us:

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Posted by Tere @ 7/27/2011   | |

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