Thursday, July 3, 2014

Costa Rica Recap: Day 13

It rained all night. Hard pounding rain. This morning the volcano is still completely shrouded in clouds. We never get to see it, darn it. The whole reason we made a one-night stopover in Arenal is because I wanted to see the volcano!

We do get a few good looks at Lake Arenal, which is beautiful. The view from our cabin would be gorgeous if we could see much of anything through the mist. There is a great little deck off the cabin that looks out at the lake and the volcano. It's still a really nice place to sit and the kids love playing on the deck and the little lawn surrounding the cabin.

The night was so humid and cool that all our clothes are still wet. We eventually dress in wet clothes because at least they're clean. When we drove up to the breakfast room, a dog blocked our path. Not at all unusual...there are dogs everywhere in Costa Rica; both strays and pets. You can rarely eat a meal at a soda (since most are open air) without a dog hanging around. This dog blocked our path into the parking area. He sat in the road with his back to us and wouldn't budge. I finally got out of the car and walked up to the dog and clapped to scare him out of the path. He startled and moved. As he moved to the side of the road, a gardener from the hotel came around the corner and mentioned "that dog, he don't hear very good" explaining why the dog hadn't moved when we approached. Ticos love dogs and would not chase him off or get rid of him for a little thing like deafness. They love cats even more - no wonder Aaron identified so readily! And cats are never left to be stray; they are very well-protected pets.

Ticos love kids even more. One if the things I love most about Costa Rica is how excited everyone is to see children. In the U.S.  walking into a restaurant with 4 kids means you see the hostess barely concealing her irritation and trying to figure out where to put us to bother people the least. And always the comments about how 4 kids is so many (implied, too many). In Costa Rica, entering anywhere with the kids results in cries of "ninos!!" "Oh so beautiful bebes!" "So lucky with your big family!" "Hola, papi y mami."

They're genuinely thrilled too see the kids and love them. They hug and kiss the children when we arrive or leave. Waitresses will pause to drop a kiss on top of one of the kids' heads as they pass by. It is awesome. Everyone here is so friendly already, and even more so to the kids.

Breakfast from the hotel restaurant is lovely. Toast and fresh preserves, fresh fruit that they plate and bring it to you - and by fresh,I mean it was probably picked this morning from the gardens behind the kitchen - and tipico Tico. The cheese was better than usual today.

 Aaron and Rylen took a short drive while the other kids ran wild at the cabin It was nice to have a small yard and nice patio for the kids to play. On Aaron's drive they saw a tree that had fallen overnight and the huge trunk was blocking the road. Road crews are diligent in Costa Rica. We have always seen them out first thing in the morning taking care of problems that came up overnight, like digging out ditches that have gotten blocked with debris, clearing small falls of rocks, mud, and plants, or out with machetes, weed whackers, and chainsaws clearing larger obstacles. Someone had taken care of the downed tree by cutting out a large section of the trunk... one lane wide for the two lane road, of course.

When they tried to come back to the cabin the road at the bottom of the hill was blocked by the gardener and his deaf dog. Aaron caught the dog's attention once and got him to move partially out of the way. The gardener then made the dog move the rest of the way. Before Aaron could drive forward - as soon as the gardener turned his back - the dog laid down in the road again. Apparently Rylen was done accommodating the dog at this point, since he cheerfully told Aaron "I guess we have run him over!" (They did not.)

We got everything packed up and got on the road again. This was just a one night stop on our way to the other side of the country. I had really hoped to get a good view of the volcano, but it had been so rainy and clouded the entire time that we never saw more than the lower slopes. Stopped for lunch at Soda Viquez. They remembered us from last night and greeted the children with cheek kisses and big smiles. 

Arrived at our hotel in late afternoon. It took some doing to find it; it is very secluded and tucked away behind hedges and gates. When we got there the gates were closed and I rang the bell. Annette and Sebastian came running out to open the gates and welcome us. Sebastian opened the gates and lifted some vines that were in danger of catching on the luggage rack on our rental. Sebastian even helped carry luggage to the cabin. To make our stay easier, Sebastien trimmed back the vines first thing the next morning.

They gave us a short tour... there's is a comfy lounge area...The only place to get Wi-Fi. Off the lounge area is the dining room attached to a very nice modern outdoor (mostly) kitchen. Annette and Sebastian have a nice two story section with a big deck as their private living quarters. There are gorgeous gardens all around with huge plants and beautiful flowers and statuary. Even a koi pond. All on the banks of Rio Blanco, a very picturesque river. Our cabin is along a gravel path through the gardens, located right next to the river. Unfortunately the swimming area we were hoping to play in had been destroyed by a recent storm.

Our cabin is rustic but lovely and well constructed. There is a decent size main room which has a huge king bed, a single bed, and a set of bunk beds. There's a small bathroom with a toilet (no flushing tissue, of course), a heating element shower that makes you worry just a little about electrocution but it's quite a nice shower overall, and a little sink and mirror with resident gecko. It is all decorated nicely and appropriately for the style of the cabin. The beds are quite comfy - probably the best we've had on this trip. There's a really nice deck with bench and chairs where you can sit outside and enjoy your surroundings.

There's no a.c., so in the afternoon it's really warm and humid. It would be nice to have a.c. at that time. But the many screened windows and the ceiling fan are quite effective during the night and it's cool and comfortable shortly after dark. And honestly, if there had been a.c. available, we would have had it turned on and the windows closed and we would have missed really experiencing the rainforest around us. With the cabin open to the outside as it is, you can hear the river roaring outside and the sound of birds, frogs and insects all around you.

When the rain comes it pounds madly on the tin roof and it's so cozy to lay in the comfy bed in the dark and listen to the rain and river and jungle noises. So in the end, the only thing I'd really change is the Wi-Fi access, which is available only in the lounge area.

While Aaron and I were finishing up check in with Annette and enjoying some ice water in the lounge, Sebastien took the kids to the gardens to pay ball with the dog - nice guy! After settling in, we went out to find some dinner. Because it's dark so early, it feels like it's super late when we leave, even though it's barely 7 pm. Sebastian lets us out the gates, lifting the trailing vines again. He cheerfully waved us on our way, letting us know that we should just honk when we return so he could come open the gates again. (Although we occasionally felt bad about calling them away from whatever they were doing and tried to minimize our ins and outs, they never gave the impression that it was a trouble or inconvenience.)

We tried to go into Guapiles to find dinner, but misunderstood the directions from Annette and got a little lost. We wandered around Guapiles for a while before finding our way back out to the highway and toward our hotel. We ended up at a restaurant only meters from the turnoff to the hotel. It was very tasty, though. We got back around 9 pm and honked as instructed (even though it felt rude) and Sebastian came out to admit us. He and Annette were relieved to see us, since they'd worried about us out on our own at night, but felt better when reminded that 1- we'd been in the country for a couple of weeks already and were used to getting around on our own, and 2- Aaron was a former resident and even familiar with Guapiles itself.

Back to the cabin and into bed before the rain started. The path was very dark, so Sebastian walked us back to the cabin with his flashlight.

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