Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Costa Rica! Finally!!!

Finally we made it to Costa Rica, or finally we posted our blog....hmm.... you decide:)

The flight from Chicago to San Jose was uneventful, with the exception that the kids were disappointed that the flight wasn't LONGER. As the captain come on to announce the 4 hour flight, our kids are "what?! you told me this was a LONG flight, no fair, gyp" Then on the 2nd flight, their response ? you are kidding? I thought we were going to another country, this is only a 2 1/2 hour flight?! when are we going to go on a REAL airplane ride?!!!!". I guess India changed their perspective on long distance travel. They still talk about the ride home from India in business class on British Airways "when can we travel like THAT again Mom?" I am with you kids. I am with you...

Spirit Airlines isn't bad. you have to pay for EVERYTHING, even water. There is no TV and its a bit of a Greyhound in the sky, but the people watching is fantastic and we got their safely (and at a pretty reasonable price - basically the same as a domestic flight - not bad for 5 people).

We then picked up our car (12 seater Central American "van", picture the comfort and luxury - bouncy seats, school bus driving, A/C that only worked in the 1st row, diesel, Nice.....) Julie was suppose to meet us at the airport but we ended up running into her at the car rental. Whatever, we are now on jungle time. Then came the 4 hour drive OVER the mountain, down the Caribbean coast and through the jungle to her village of Puerto Viejo. Its gorgeous and remote and not at all Western and reminiscent of India and majorly laid back. A PERFECT summer vacation get away.

We stayed at Aunt Sue's cabina, which sits on her larger piece of property with the house Julie lives in. Its a 2 bedroom, 1 bath enclosed space with a huge front porch and kitchenette that's "outside".

It was 25 ft from Julies and great to be so close.

This is Julie's house. 1 main elevated level with kitchen "outdoor" bathroom and a loft for sleeping. She enclosed the ground floor and Dan (her business partner) has a room, bathroom and kitchen. Its a bit communal but works out great. She lives on the river that leads to the ocean and so we were able to kayak down to the ocean 1 day to swim. Very cool.

The 1st day we were there, Julie's boys (Cedric - grade 3 and Solomon - Kindergarten) were in their last day of school and exams so we headed off for adventure. There is an animal sanctuary and rescue 1/2 mile from Julies and it was amazing.
As you know, Kay is a cheeky monkey and this trip proved it! The howler monkeys LOVED her. They crawled all over her and hugged her and basically wouldn't leave her alone. It was way cool.

Most of the monkeys are rescued from accidents (tourist/cars) and are rehabilitated to go back into the wild. They have had great success and take the monkeys out to the jungle everyday and let them play with the wild monkeys. There is 1 female that decided to join the wild monkey clan about a year ago, but she always comes up to the naturalists and gives them a kiss and hug. very cool.

This monkey has a death grip hug hold going on Kay.

Jimmy, on the other hand, didn't do so well. He kept freaking out and laughing every time one climbed on him so we never got a great shot (plus the monkeys started avoiding him - go figure)

They also had puma's, sloths, snakes, owls, birds, caymans (mini crocodiles) and just about every jungle animal you can imagine. It was cool.

This is Juanita. She is the neighborhood dog; meaning she is "owned" by 3 different families and she makes the rounds and hangs out, gets fed & fawned over at her leisure. She has 1 eye. The kids LOVED her. She hung with us ALL week. It was sort of cool to have a vacation dog. I think we won a permanent place in her heart when we gave her scrambled eggs. She won a permanent place in Billy's heart when .... he got a bug bite on his eye, his eye swelled shut for 4 days, he woke up and declared "look, I'm just like Juanita, I only have 1 eye too" They were fast friends the rest of the trip.

Different day, different swim suit, different beach. We packed 2 duffel bags of clothes. 1 for us, 1 for kids. We should have packed 1 carry one with 35 swim suits, 1 for each of us on each different day of the trip. We only wore 1/2 our clothes and the clean 1/2 even came back wet and smelling like the beach since it was way HOT and HUMID the whole time. In fact, if you ask Jimmy how Costa Rica was, he'll say "HOT!".

Jimmy, Ced and Bill

Ced teaching Jimmy to boogie board

Ced & Jimmy posing "rap" surfer style

Had to snap this photo for Angela in honor of her "ode to a hard freeze" blog in India. 1 of the top 10 blogs of all time. This locus was the length of my middle finger and 3 times as round. No wonder they were feared in the Bible. These aren't your Midwest variety crickets.

Birthday party for Stash (yep that's his name) he was turning 60 and there were "dancers" of the borderline questionable type that freaked Jimmy out (all clothes stayed on, but their moves were PG13) and some funny smelling cigarettes. The kids had a blast popping balloons, dancing and drinking soda.

And sweating

another beach - check out Kay, the only girl in the crew:)

more boogie boarding

pick up game of soccer on the beach before dinner

Billy's pretty ruthless and Kay can hold her own. Of course Jim and Ced "won"

Kay wins best dressed though

Dinner that night was an all you can eat beach grill in Manzinilla (about 1 mile north of Panama). WAY too good, included grilled banana's and french fries. YUM!! (oh and local beer:))

Kay with Juantia - I'm telling you, she hung out with us the WHOLE time, even went to the beach with us a few days.

My do over birthday celebration and cake (my actual birthday was a bust so I called a do over). Julie traded Salem a massage for a cake. I think I won on that trade. We ate this cake for breakfast for 4 days and we were ALL bummed when it was gone. Nothing better than stale homemade chocolate cake and fresh Costa Rican coffee. Really.

blowing out my candles

David (Julie's ex boyfriend and the boys father) took us to his "secret" waterfall on his property (also known as the farm). The kids climbed up the waterfall and jumped into a deep pool of clean cool water. They LOVED it!

We headed to south of Manzilla 1 day to hit the best surfing beach in Costa Rica. It entailed a hike through the jungle and some interesting characters (think Indian's out on a Saturday holiday) It was gorgeous!

Solomon, Kay and Ced

Billy joins the 'snap'

Great family photo if Jimmy would ever smile. The rapper gansta look has got to go.

Julie and her gansta's

The boys -'nough said

THE girl

I have never seen Julie surf and it was really cool to see. Amazing what your sister can do and you never really apprecaited it. There were also a few other surfers there that day, including the #1 ranked Costa Rican pro surfer. FUN to watch!

The best surfing beach is also the best hermit crab beach and the kids spent hours finding hermit crabs, making them a home in a coconut shell (including furniture and food) and then ptiching a fit when they crawled away (the NERVE, after all that WORK!) Too cute.

another beach

4th of July (no we didnt celebrate other than all wearing matching shirts, going on a botanical walk and making a spectacle of ourselves.)

Ced & Jim "posing"

hot hot hot nature hike

Zip lining or canopy tours. huh...how to best describe this....
we have a DVD of the whole venture but need to weed through it for a few key highlights. We'll load those later. Needless to say, it was Tom and I, 5 kids 8 & under on the hottest day of the trip. Billy was convinced he wasnt "blave" enough (see last blog on Billy) and Jimmy was giving him a ROYALLY hard time. Ced and Sol were totally stoic (why not, they've already done this 3 times, no biggie) and Kay was clueless. Before I knew it, they had picked up Kay and whisked her off. Billy was next (before he could pitch a fit) and they MADE me go as I was the "babies" mother. urhhh... Next up, Ced and Sol, the old pro's. in the final draft? Jim and Tom. No way, no how. Jimmy absolutely REFUSED to go. Fits were pitched, tears shed, negotations executed (both from Tom and Jimmy)- to no avail. He wasn going, no way no how. It turned into a good life lesson on peer pressure, choices, courage to stand by what you did ( or in this case didnt) want to do and patience (waiting for the rest of us to finish a 2 hour tour with NO entertainment). Cant say I really blame him, there were times on the ride where I wondered if I was going to live through it as I hung 10 stories up from a wire in the jungle. Billy and Kay, on the other hand, LOVED IT! Billy gave every ride a major thumbs up and yelled "whee" the whole way "awesome" "favolite" "do it again" were heard over and over. Kay had a huge smile on her face the whole time. Ced and Sol never changed their demeanor. Never a smile or yippee. Stoic the whole way, you have to wonder if they even had fun.
It was a great trip. There were no cell phones, internet, TV, newspapers, clocks or real contact with the outside world. You know its a good vacation when you have a dog, dont know what day it is (other than Clean Tshirt Day) and have your pick of a different beach everyday. The kids loved just hanging with their cousins and learning about the jungle (bugs, snakes, animals). Tom and I had a great time meeting Julie's friends, hanging with her and getting a glimpse of her life in Costa Rica (not to mention the awesome massage - THANK YOU!)
We packed up the family truckster with all 8 of us and headed back over the mountains to San Jose to catch our flights to the US. The loudamericans to get back into the swing of their US lives and Julie/boys to extend their summer vacation with more cousins (our sister Tammy's family), Grandma & Grandpa in Glen Lake and Aunt Sue in Green Bay. We wish we could have kept traveling with them, but all great vacations must end. (so that we can start planning our next!!)
Thank you Julie and Sue for letting us stay at your place and thanks for ALL you did to make this a fantastic trip.
We love you!