Thursday, June 23, 2011

Pura Vida!

Please note these pictures were all taken from friends, as my camera was stolen while in Costa Rica.
Emily gets speeding ticket in Costa Rica


Market in Quepos


Bride and Groom!



Walking through the National park, we found this thirsty guy

At the reception 

Black Volcanic Sand, Player Hermosa

Our house for the week!

These little guys woke us up each morning.


Storm rolling in, driving to Jaco









I’ve been to Costa Rica twice, I’ll throw in some highlights from the first time with my friend Michael, but focus on this last go at it. As most of you know, I spent Thanksgiving week of 08’ in Costa Rica for a friend's wedding (Brie and Rob).  We had a great time while there but the trip home is definitely worth mentioning. With one missed flight we ended up visiting 3 countries, 4 airports and drove through 7 states in 48 hours - all on about 8-10 hours of sleep.

Part of the reason there were so many countries, states and hours involved was due to a much failed attempt to save $450.00. It was $450.00 cheaper to fly out of DC than RDU with a route of USA, El Salvador, Costa Rica vs. USA to Costa Rica. The DC folks convince us this is the way to go. We should have known we were in for a full week of adventure when an hour before we leave (very early in the am) Kristin realizes her wallet is gone. It must be at the bar we were at the night before. But that does us no good at 5 am heading to the airport (you’ll be happy to know they had her wallet and she got it upon returning to the country).

We had an amazing week. The girls rented a newly built teak house that slept 13 or so of us. http://www.mimoshotel.com/ owned and operated the house. About 10 minutes down the road was the Jungle Villa, http://www.junglevilla.com/ aka the boy’s house, with the bride and groom to be and their families about in the middle between the two.

Our days were filled with excursions, laying on black volcanic beach sand, wandering through the jungle/ rain forest, exploring, watching local soccer games, shopping the open markets, people watching and being amazed about the simple way of life.

Highlights:

1.      Set on the edge of Manuel Antonio's hillside with a great view of the ocean and surrounding forests, this restaurant is actually housed under some permanent tents and the starboard wing of a retired army transport plane, hence the name El AviĆ³n, which means "The Plane." This specific plane was actually shot down by the Sandinista army, leading to a scandal that uncovered illegal CIA supply missions to the Contra rebels in Nicaragua. http://www.costaverde.com/avion01.htm
5.      Horse Tours: http://www.horseridecostarica.com/
6.      Palm Tree Forest


We decided to go out with a bang - dancing to a live band in Manuel Antonio, http://www.manuelantoniocostarica.com/cr/default.asp where were staying... ending up staying out a big too late. We had to go to bamboo jams, I mean the live music is only on Tues/ Friday and we missed the Tuesday band.

The next day, Amanda, Kristin and I set out for San Jose in the rental car.  Our morning alarm was set on my phone. Set for 7:30. I hear the alarm at 7:30 am, and make an executive decision to reset to 8:30. I get up, get showered only to find my alarm on the phone is set to eastern time, not central... so it was actually only 7:30 (no wonder I was so tired when the first alarm went off, it was only 6:30... and we went to bed at 2:ooish). Since we had all this extra time, we decided to stop in Hermosa, http://www.govisitcostarica.com/region/city.asp?cID=17 which is a big surfing community/ beach outside Jaco. This beach is a black sandy beach due to the volcanoes. We collectively decided we should stop and eat some eggs, hope to see some of the huge surfing competition that was going on (we did not however) and get one last look at the beauty of it all.

Next since Amanda and Kristin had never been to Jaco, I drive them thru the town... rather cute town I must say. I then tell them we MUST stop and see the crocodile bridge in Tarcoles, right outside Jaco. So we did. There were about 20 HUGE crocs lounging in the sun. Since we had been sipping on fresh fruity drinks all week, we decided we needed one last pineapple/ mango and rum frozen drink. And guess what? Right after crossing the croc bridge, we saw a bar. We stopped. This is when the "departure saga" began....

As we danced and sang and took photos all of a sudden, Costa Rican police step out into the road and we were pulled over. They got my NC license and passport and informed us we were going 103 km. Having never seen a speed limit sign while we were there, we didn't know what the hell this meant.  What it meant was we got a ticket. This also meant 20-25 min banter with 4 cops who could not speak our language or us theirs. We did get that we were speeding, 103 in a 60-80K (who knows how fast that is anyway?), we were probably getting a ticket, that were supposed to pay at a bank, but it was Saturday so banks were closed, which meant paying at the car rental place with a 30% mark up.  The cops chat us up asking where we ate, how we liked Costa Rica
and if it had been our first visit despite us telling them we were running late for our flight. One cop even had the audacity to answer a telephone call mid convo with me. He walked away from the car for about 2 min and didn’t come back. I got out of the car and had to lay the law down "I realize we were speeding, but that is a done deal. We need to go to the next step. I am sorry for doing it, but had no idea how fast I was going, since this country is in Kilomoters... and there are NO speed limit signs, or none that I can read, again, sorry... but what are we going to do about this? If you need to write me a ticket, fine write it, but we GOTZ to go, we got a flight to catch!" FINALLY, they wrote the ticket ($102 that we had to split 3 ways, awesome) and we were on our way. Please note nothing was said about the fruity drinks we each had in our hand...  Once arriving at the airport we find some of our crew and tell them about the ticket. They laugh as they told us they had been pulled over as well, but 5 min and $40.00 later, they were on their way. Geezus.

The flight to El Salvador was uneventful but we failed to take note of what accurate time our flight from there to DC was.   We stayed with the bride and groom the night before leaving for CR so Amanda’s car and all of our stuff was in DC at their house. This would be no big deal, were we all on the same flight back, like we were going down, but we are not. Kristin, Amanda and I are now 3 peas in a pod. Well, 16:15 = 4:15 and we failed to see the 1 in front of the 6...
 
Thinking we had a 3 hour layover, we went to the end of the airport to a restaurant that was playing the Devil Wears Prada. We asked that they turn the volume up so we can have a snack and watch the movie. In hindsight, this is likely why we didn't hear the airline paging us over the intercom just before our flight left us. However those nice people did take our luggage off the plane. We mozy on back only to find we had been left.  Let’s keep in mind we are not in a very large airport. 10 gates, at most.

Customer service spoke very little English and it took an hour or two to figure out our options:
 1) Stay in El Salvador until 4:45 the next day and fly to DC then, this also meant venturing out from the 15 gate airport, since they did not stay open all night. The next sign of civilization was 28k away, the nice people suggested we not do Option 1, as three American girls with their luggage should not go into town alone at dark, with no idea where they would stay (hey, at least they are honest)
2) Get on standby for a flight to DC later that evening, which was overbooked and had only 1 seat left and well, that is not an option really. Did they really think we were going to split up?
3) Fly to NYC and figure out our way back to DC from there. 

Since we decided 3 girls spending the night in El Salvador alone seemed daunting and unsafe we chose option 3 because we were sticking together.  We figure that we could stay with one of the guys, Jeff, who was at the wedding because he lives in NYC and his flight was coming in just after ours. Or, we know tons of people who live up there who would likely put us up. We got bumped to first class and were excited to be able to go out in NYC later that night. “What an added bonus, we’ll get to go out a night in NYC” Ha, yeah right… that proves the state of delirium. A) We’ve been in Costa Rica during their summer, its November in NYC so we likely do not have the appropriate clothes! B) We’ve been awake for what seems like days now on close to zero sleep C) We’ve still got to figure out how to get from NYC to DC  and its probably best we do that with as clear of minds as possible.

Well, we got to JFK and didn't see Jeff's flight on the screens. Insert slight anxiety (we’ve called all our friends and all are out of town or unreachable). Apparently the airline goes by two different names, shew. We were told that the only flight coming in from San Jose that night had been delayed 3 hours, arriving at 4:30 AM. We then called everyone we knew in NYC - no luck. So, we sat.  Just FYI, if you are ever in JFK at 4 am, you can get some lovely chicken noodle soup from Terminal C. Knowing sweet Jeff is our only escape from JFK, we refused to get a hotel room for a mere 5-6 hours of sleep that we would be using this room for, we called and called him. Before departing San Salvador we were told by Dave, cheek's phone was almost dead... this put us in a tid bit of a panic. But we called and called anyway. Not surprisingly, his voicemail box was full and could not accept voicemail at the time. Then we moved to the good ol' text messages  2:19am text---"Hey we missed our flight to dc. We had to fly to NYC. We want to stay the night at your house, but just saw ur flight is delayed til 4 30! Its only 2 30 now. We’re trying to figure out how to get home from NYC. Help us. We are at terminal 4 behind a large partition when you walk out of customs, come find us! Oh by the way, this is Emily, Amanda and Kristin"...please note: 2 of the 3 girls had just met Mr. cheek for the first time in Costa Rica. However, we were all new bff's. haha. 3:37am text--- "so flights are expensive. So we plan to nap at your house, for a few hours then rent a car and drive to dc, and yes, we are still at JFK waiting for you". 4:44 am: Em's phone rings. We all scream (who cares about the 5 people sleeping around us). This must be Cheek we say! IT IS. I answer the phone "HIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII Jeff, please tell me u are at JFK!" all I hear is laughter bursting thru the phone. Jeff as much in a state of delirium as we, all he can do it laugh. "Yes, I’m here. Stay put, I will be there in a min" Em: "can we" Jeff: "yes Em, yall can stay at my house, don't move". We gather our belongings. Run up and hug and kiss Jeff, it was something like you would hope to see in a romantic comedy! We def got some stares.

At 4:37 am, Jeff's plane arrived. We went to his house (getting a tour of Brooklyn along the way, lady liberty is rather beautiful amidst the almost sunrise) and crashed, sleeping from around 6 am to 11 am.  We decided to rent a car; it was cheaper than all other options and wouldn't take that long (or so we thought).  After waking up in Brooklyn we took our time, went and got brunch then got on our way around 2 pm. When we hit the NJ Turnpike we realized that it was THE WEEKEND AFTER THANKSGIVING, the most traveled day of the year. Awesome.  We pick up our car at Budget about 5 blocks over from Times Square, so hey, at least we saw Brooklyn, down town and mid town and crossed the Brooklyn Bridge before what would become known as a BIG MISTAKE, the drive. The 3.5 hour trip to DC took 7.5 hours. For about 4-5 hours, there was maybe 1 exit every 15 miles and every exit had a gas station with 5 or so restaurants.  Each of these exits had at least 300 cars so there was no stopping for a looooonnnnng time.  

Upon arriving to DC we discover that the key to get into Brie and Robs to get the car keys was not where we left it. Long story short, it had been taken inside because we were supposed to have a key with us. So, no matter when we got to DC, we would have had to wait for the newlywed's to arrive at midnight on Sunday to get in.  We returned the rental car Regan, the 4th airport of the day(s) and were picked up by Rob and Brie. We pack the car and set to leave and, you guessed it, the battery was dead. Got a jump and got on I-95. About 5 minutes into this portion of the trip we realized that the Honda radios require a code to reboot after the battery dies. Amanda did not have this code. So, our trip was finished up with the 3 of us cruising down I-95 listening to our Ipods...Got home right around 4:30 am. 

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