DAY 1. 7/23/03. 10:11 PM (EST)
Since I'm a little jet lagged right now, I'll start from where I remember. First off, the flight took about 4 hours... first stop was Guatemala, and then the next stop was Costa Rica. We arrived at Costa Rica International around 6 AM (EST). For the most part, we drove back to our hotel... called the REAL INTERCONTINENTAL. It's a 5 star hotel that expands everywhere from Central America to South America. Man this is one crazy hotel.... kind of like... the inside of the Playboy Mansion. haha... But, when we got to our rooms, it was the perfect chance to catch a few hours of rest. Then I woke up around 12 PM to eat lunch. After that, the family stopped by the Multiplaza next to the hotel for shopping and stuff. Then all of us took a taxi to San Jose (AKA: the capital of Costa Rica) and stopped by a jewelry factory, where a tour guide took us to go see how gold and silver is manufactured through many machine and heating processes. It took about 40 minutes to finish up, and then... more shopping and a heck of a lot of walking around. :-P So Ryan and I went back to the room to rest up for dinner. We ate dinner extremely late because the whole family overslept... plus... we're in different rooms, so we might not be able to hear the phone ring while we're sleeping. After dinner, we walked around the courtyard with the giant pool. Then we slowly walked back to the rooms and slept until the next day. It's not exactly the roughest part of the trip mind you. It's only the beginning. The adventure hasn't even began yet. But TV is all in Spanish here, so it's pretty difficult to understand. I'm turning in early right now. It's 11 PM.
DAY 2. 7/24/03. 10:48 PM (EST)
Kind of a slow day now that I think about it. Whatever... it was what I'd like to call a chill day. The first thing that happened... woke up at 8 AM to go eat breakfast at the Multiplex mall. When we got there, it wasn't open... so we had to wait a good 10 minutes to get in. Ate McDonalds. Can you believe it? haha... Well... after that... we went shopping down in downtown San Jose. Man o man did I fool around with a lot of crazy stuff. Costa Rica has a sick sense of souvenir vending, I'll tell you that. I mainly fooled around with the swords, bow and arrow, and knives. I have pictures to prove it too. :-P The old lady who ran the place was laughing at me and my weird sense of humor. :-P haha... oh... then we went to the Campero! (AKA: The best fried chicken joint in Central America) yup... let's see... went back to the hotel to rest up for the big BBQ that Tauck Bridges was giving. So, I slept for about an hour, then woke up and go down into the courtyard where the BBQ was. All we did down there was eat and get to know our traveling group. Ate a lot of cheesecake.
I have to introduce all of you readers to the group. Well... actually let's start out with the people that stood out the most. Let's start with our family first. Nguyen family: 5 people, Vietnamese group from California, experienced in travel and roughing it. Me and Ryan... not too excited about all the thrills though. Paul McDonald: the tour leader. Cool guy, knows Costa Rica in and out... and he's only been here 3 times. Travels along with a group of Costa Ricans who are our bus drivers. Rodrigo is the most known out of all of them. Vivian Walker: 82 yr old African American women. As you can tell, she's pretty old and not too quick, but really tough and has endurance. She has the energy and vitality of a 25 yr old. I really liked her. James Whitney: 45 yr old Vietnam veteran. He's pretty down actually.. he's pretty funny, and he tells cool stories. He lives in Riverside, California with his wife, Debra, who also accompanied us on the journey. They said I could come over anytime for dinner... seeing as how I go to UC Riverside and all. The Kelley family: Debbie (mother), along with Matt (10 yrs old), and Chelsea (15 yrs old). They seem to be pretty much like us. I don't really talk to them, but they follow us around a lot. Reside in Florida. Peter Jensen.: Looks like a real nature enthusiast. Brought all of the essentials and more. He's tough, and he spends a lot of time talking to my dad about losing weight and jokes. Has a son named Peter Jr. also... and he is seriously the most annoying kid on the tour. He also has a wife who came along, but I don't know her name. David Fox: Physical exterior: 6'3" buff African American guy. Looks really tough, and he could beat the crap out of anyone on the tour if he wanted... but he's too nice. He was celebrating his 1 month anniversary (which is technically the honeymoon) with his wife who is Caucasian... and she joined us on the trip too. Sloane Schneer: 8 yr old girl who played with Kristine throughout the trip. She's a really bright kid. Came with her grandmother, Nola, who is also a very bright and kind woman. Connie Wilhelm: a woman who came with her 6 year old stepson Cole. Cole plays too rough, especially with Kristine. Kind of worries me. Tyler Koepke: a kid who likes to play Game boy as much as Ryan. He also hangs out with Peter Jr. a lot, so I try to stay away from those two as much as possible. We leave tomorrow at 6 AM, so I got to sleep now. This is going to be one heck of a trip.
DAY 3. 7/25/03. 8:35 PM (EST)
Sigh... only 3 days have gone by. Considering I only got 3 hours of sleep, it wasn't the best day today. Woke up around 6 AM as planned. The tour provided us with a continental breakfast that was free, so I went and had something to eat. After that, I went back to the room to pack up everything. Around 7 AM, we were scheduled to take a group photo... one for the whole group, and one for the kids. Afterwards, everything went like clockwork. The tour bus was so damn uncomfortable! Through rocky roads and dangerous mountainsides, it took approximately 5 hours in the rain to get to our destination, Monte Verde. Saw a lot of strange looking animals and cows in the fields, and quite a few up in the mountains. Basically, I couldn't get to sleep on the bus because it was shaking so much. We finally got to the lodge around 2 PM. The lodge offered the entire group a big lunch, so I guess it was worth the wait. The only setback was that there was another group from the University of Kansas, and the lodge was pretty full... so we had to wait a little bit more.
After lunch, Paul took everyone on an expedition through the huge rain forest, and looking at various wildlife. It was really crazy. Did a lot of stuff out there, like canopy rides, digging holes, collecting dirt so we could study the patterns of certain animals. So dirty and rough out there... and the scariest thing about the whole expedition were the heights. We were about 900+ ft above the ground! Man it was so tiring! About a 3.5 mile walk above the rain forest is just what I needed though. Ugh... then we went back to the lodge and ate dinner. I went online a few minutes, but it was so slow! DIAL-UP! grr... Costa Rica has good food, I'd like to point that out. Around 7 PM, the power went off completely, so I'm forced to write this entry in candlelight. Me and Ryan had a tough time trying to get back to our rooms in shear black. Plus... we had to get around the bugs. This sucks... no TV, no phone, and curfew is 9 PM. A curfew? That means... I got to go now. Lights out.
DAY 4. 7/26/03. 9:06 PM (EST)
Woke up at 7 AM today... went online for the most part, then ate breakfast (ham and eggs) really quickly. Didn't have that much time to spare. After that, the tour bus arrived, and it took the whole group throughout the jungles and rainforests that we haven't been to yet. First stop was the Monte Verde Cheese Factory, located on this secluded farm privately owned by a small family. This factory is the sole supplier of dairy products for Costa Rica and parts of South America. The tour guides took us through the whole factory, and then they took us through the farms where the cows and pigs were harvested and raised. The thing I really didn't get was that they made everyone soak their shoes in iodine before we could step in... but it was an outdoor farm. weird, huh? Anyways... it stunk like crazy! haha... but eh... then we went to the butterfly farm where every single species of butterfly and bug that dwells in the Costa Rica rainforest habitat. For the most part, it was alright. The little kid got mad because she couldn't catch any butterflies.
In the end, Sloane gave her one that she took by the wings. haha. It got really tiring after that, and I mean TIRING. We went through this entirely different part of the rainforest with a tour guide that didn't speak English.. and I almost ended up breaking my ankles a few times because I couldn't see where I was stepping. It took about 3 hours, and by the time we were finished, we headed back to the lodge to rest. O man... we move at such a fast pace that it's hard to keep up. I can handle it though... and I'm surprised that Kristine can to. It's 9:24 PM now. Lights out.
DAY 5. 7/27/03. 8:54 PM (EST)
Today is the day we leave Monte Verde and venture off into the wilderness once again. This time we're heading for a danger zone that I'd like to refer to as... DEATH TRAP. Next stop is the highly active volcano of Arenal. It reminds me a lot of that movie Dante's Peak, but as I think about it even more, it's going to be a lot of fun. I LIKED THAT MOVIE! :-D haha... It took us 5 hours to get off the mountain and back into the city. For me it was about 2 hours because I was sleeping most of the way. We went to the hot springs located at the base of the volcano in a little place called Tabacon. The water is extremely warm (40 degrees Celsius), so it took a HELL of a lot of getting use to. There was a lot to do in Tabacon, like eat, sleep, rest. We left around 9:30 PM, and then we headed off to our lodge. It's still around the red zone, but it's safe. It rained heavily, much to our expectations, and now I'm sitting here thinking about the day... resting up in Tilajari. We actually have TV and recreational facilities around here, so it should be an enjoying 2 nights here. Tomorrow is another busy day, but hopefully the rain dies down, or the volcano doesn't erupt.
DAY 6. 7/28/03. 9:55 PM (EST)
Rough day today. Woke up at 6 AM and ate breakfast really quickly. Then the tour bus took us 20 km north of Tilajari to stop at this rapid river. The whole group went on a whitewater raft expedition around 7 AM... and the waters were rough. It took us all the way downstream and into crocodile territory. Once we passed, we observed a lot of birds and river creatures. Afterwards, we stopped by a farm where this old man of about 91 yrs old was running it, along with his younger brother... who was about... 88. The family treated us to tortillas, cheese, coffee, and pudding. We were surrounded by dust, dirt, not to mention cows and chickens everywhere. The little kid was really excited because she never got to play with live chickens before. It was a good day. We paddled our way downstream, and in a few hours... we made our way up the slippery hill to get back to the bus.
After I woke up from my 2 hour long nap, it was about 6 PM... and that was when our volcano watch was. I grabbed all my dirty clothes and put them back on... because my parents rushed us really quickly. We made our way up to the volcano to check out the sites. Unfortunately by the time we made it up there, it started getting really foggy and dark, so we couldn't see anything. All I know is... the volcano was right in front of us. The whole tour group sat down on tables and ate chips and drank cold drinks... it was really fun. Got back around 8 PM, ate dinner... and then started packing for Tortuguero... our next stop. It's a remote island where you can only get there by boat. Should be fun... I think. On a sad note, I just heard that Bob Hope died. Poor guy... lived to be 100. man...
DAY 7. 7/29/03. 11:04 PM (EST)
Today we left Tilajari and began our quest to Tortuguero... in search of the sea turtle... that comes to Costa Rica once a year to lay their eggs. After that, they get their asses back in the ocean and migrate elsewhere. Their patterns are screwed up. But the first stop was the bug art museum, where a world-class display of insects and collections of artworks were shown. We spent about 30 minutes there just to settle down and have a snack. Then we took off to Tortuguero. After about a good hour of driving, we came across this university called EARTH. What it was was an agricultural and ecological resources university where students and professors work together in order to benefit the world both financially and ecologically. While we had lunch there, two of the school's students came to talk to us about their experiences and studies abroad. It ended in 15 minutes, so it was ok. Stopped by the university gift shop and got 2 safari hats (one for Kathy), and that was it for that. Along the way, we came across a dirt road, and that took us a long time to get through. About an hour and a half of bumpiness. Once we got to the water port, we split into groups to get into speedboats. Estimating the distance, we were about 50 km from Tortuguero. Along the way we encountered a banana plantation from the Del Monte company. The tour guide Max gave us a brief overview about it while we headed down. When we got to the water taxi, it took us about an hour to get to the Tortuga Lodge. Along the way we encountered a lot of wildlife out there.. but all in all, we had fun cruising. This place... I have to admit... is the worst place that we've stayed in all throughout the trip. The water is dangerous to drink and shower in... no TV, no air conditioning, a lot of bugs... and not just regular bugs! o man... but there are some good qualities. Good food, good accommodation, people are nice. Shortly after, we had dinner. Then we headed back to our rooms to change into dark clothes. Tonight is supposedly when the turtles come to hatch their eggs. Took us about 5 minutes by boat to get to the beach... and 2 hours of walking through the Caribbean to get to the right spot. We walked nearly 2.4 miles to get there... but we did it. Fortunately, we were able to find 2 turtles out there burying their eggs. One of them ran back to the ocean because it got nervous. Now we were tired, but walking back was a pain in the ass. No one could see... it was pitch black... and all we could hear was the ocean. We came back around 10 PM... so it took about 4 hours to see anything. Now I'm sweaty and tired, and about to drop dead on the bug infested floor. Lights out.
DAY 8. 7/30/03. 5:31 PM (EST)
Starting this entry early because I got to pack my jungle clothes along with the book, covered in mosquito bites and insect repellant, it's really quite interesting to know where we went. First off, we missed the 5:30 AM expedition to downtown Tortuguero... so all of the family woke up around 8 AM, and ate breakfast half an hour later. The next expedition was around 10 AM, so I just fooled around with the board games. Played Scrabble and a few games of chess with the bro. Then it started to rain heavily during the boat trip, so things were really messy along the way. The first stop was the turtle museum, where a brief history of the sea turtle was given, and a 15 minute video was shown. Then we went back to the coast of the Caribbean where we walked last night. Despite the heavy rain, it looked really messy. To take cover, we walked another half a mile in the heavy rain to a gift shop located in the town. Interesting stuff. Around 12:30, we had lunch, and then came back to our rooms to rest up for the next tour, which was a jungle safari in the murky waters, of course we used a boat, but the point was to scout out the different types of animal life out there, saw iguanas, caimans, turtles, monkeys, vultures, etc. So much out there, and we also went into this wildlife refuge that contained most of the creatures that we saw. Now here I am, gazing into the sunset, and pondering about our official last day here. Tonight is the farewell party for the Tauck Bridges tour, and it starts in 5 minutes. Be back in San Jose in approximately 21 hours.
DAY 9. 7/31/03. 11:05 PM (EST)
First of all, I have to talk about last night. It was a BBQ very similar to the one we had at the beginning in the courtyard of the INTERCONTINENTAL. A lot of good food, and we spent most of the night talking to everyone. Now for today. Woke up at 5 AM, my parents and the little kid stayed in our room because of a major ant problem in their room. Soon the bugs started to come into our room, but good thing was that this was the last day of the tour. Ate breakfast around 6 AM, and then waited a while for the boat to take us across the river and to the plane. About half an hour later, we were ready to board the plane... and we split into groups to see which planes each person would go to. There was an 18-seater, and 3 4-seaters.The planes took us to a coffee plantation called Cafe Britt. It's suppose to be one of the most famous plantations in Costa Rica. The tour guides (which were really famous TV stars from Costa Rica) took us on a huge tour and explained to us every single detail about coffee. oh man... these guys were so funny, it wasn't even HAHA funny. We watched a few videos, sampled some coffee, and watched as they put on a lot of comic sketches. It was a blast. Then we went to their gift shop, which was like any other gift shop down in Costa Rica, but bigger. Then after all that, the bus dropped everyone off at the airport... so it was a goodbye. But for us, we decided to stay another night at the INTERCONTINENTAL. Me and Ryan watched a lot of movies, and slept for a little bit... and then we went to the Multiplaza to get some dinner. It rained hard, so we had to get a hotel van to take us there... because of the insane traffic and all. That's really all I can think of at the moment. Got to wake up early tomorrow to go to Guatemala. I sure miss being in the city, and now that I'm back... I can sit here comfortably without worrying too much about bugs.
DAY 10. 8/1/03. 11:30 PM (EST)
I never seem to get any sleep during my vacation. But o well... it also seems that time moves very slow nowadays, so who needs sleep? Anyways... woke up incredibly early and packed all my clothes into the suitcase. Left for Costa Rica International at 6 AM, and got there around 6:30. Customs and departure tax... and waiting in line... ALL THAT TOOK AN HOUR AND A HALF! But we managed to make our 9 AM flight to Guatemala in time, and EST was about an hour and 20 minutes. I slept through the whole flight, and I got the whole aisle to myself. :-) Arrived in Guatemala around 10:30 AM, and customs was once again a bitch, but at least we got out fast. Alvaro was there to pick us up from the airport, and he dropped us right off at the Quinta Real. It's a 5 star hotel... better than the INTERCONTINENTAL.. and it's usually where our family stays while we're in Guatemala. For most of the day, I was at my dad's office building in downtown Guatemala fooling around on the internet. Yes! Finally a place where I can go and communicate with my people. yea... well... around 7:30, we went to the famous steakhouse called El Portal de Angel and I ate a lot. Well... busy busy Friday today. This is where the mellow part of the trip begins. 10 days down, 2 more to go.
DAY 11. 8/2/03. 10:54 PM (EST)
So... I'm sitting here... in the office building once again, thinking about what happened today. First off... I think I'm getting use to waking up early again. I guess after all that jungle tour expedition stuff, it's kind of had a good affect on me. For the most part, me and Ryan waited in our rooms around 10 AM for Oscar to pick us up. Around 12 PM, he came... and we headed for the office. Traffic was horrible, because there were about 2 or 3 accidents up ahead, but we got there in time... and for the most part, here I am doing this thing. This is the real mellow part of the trip like I said. Hmm... after we closed up the building, all of us (which was about 13 people) went to this Italian restaurant. I ordered a pizza, which was pretty damn good. haha... and everyone else ordered something fancy that they couldn't finish. Well... whatever... then we went back to the Quinta Real and rested up. If you ask me, it was a fairly awesome Saturday.