To read in order scroll down and begin with Day 1 on May 24, 2011
Day 10 - Thursday
The bright sun helped me awaken this morning and we began to get around, dressed and packed for the journey home. We had some wonderful Costa Rican coffee and some fresh slices of mango. We visited a bit around the kitchen bar and then loaded our stuff in the rented van.
Brother Schwarz had already made two trips to the airport before I got up. Roy Fisher and his group of five from the Western District had to be at the airport about 4:30 AM. They were the early risers (I think some of them didn’t even go to bed)!
About the time Brother Schwarz got back, it was time to take the Florida group to check in for their flight to home. Adrian was in Florida for her sister’s graduation before the trip so she booked a round trip from Florida. She planned to get on her return flight from Florida to Phoenix shortly after her arrival in Orlando. Unfortunately, the second leg of their flight was canceled or something so they were stuck for awhile in Panama.
The final group from Phoenix left the Bekuo hostel about 9:00 for the airport so we were there in plenty of time and check in was a breeze. We told the Schwarz goodbye from the curb and began the homeward journey.
In Costa Rica there is an exit visa (a tax of $26) so I gathered up our passports and paid the fee with a state agent. We then checked our bags and proceeded through security. Near gate 4 there were some eating places and a Britt coffee gift shop. Gayla and I shared a Burger King chicken crisp sandwich that was 9.00 US! We skipped the 5.00 fries 🙂
The flight was on schedule and we took off for Houston with a smooth ride. The three and a half hour flight was broken up with food service on the international leg of this itinerary. We had a choice of ham & cheese or roast beef sandwich. It came with a little macaroni salad and a piece of cake. It was actually pretty good considering it was airplane food (maybe I was just hungry)!
We had an hour and a half in Houston which seemed like plenty of time to walk around and find a Starbucks or something, but by the time we cleared passport entry, collected our bags, went through customs, recheck bags, and were rescreened through security, the flight for Denver was already boarding. We got on and settled in for the hour and 52 minute flight to Denver International airport.
In Denver we went to the restroom, got some prepared (slightly crusty from sitting in the warmer) pizza from the airport Pizza Hut, and went to our gate area to eat our snack/dinner. By the time we finished off our mini pizza the flight was boarding for Phoenix. This last flight (less than two hours) seemed to be the longest. After a very long ten days, six church services, our community service projects, touring the sites, and unfamiliar beds in hostels I was past ready to be home. I was tired and cranky by the time we got to Phoenix. (Hope it didn’t show!)
We actually arrived about fifteen minutes early at Terminal 2, Sky Harbor airport. We made our way to baggage claim and retrieved our luggage without incident. We only waited about 5 minutes at the curb. Pastor and Sis. Martinez picked up their daughters and Gayla and I at the airport and we made the 30 minute trip home.
Home at last. It was about 11:30 PM Arizona time, and an hour later in Costa Rica. What an amazing trip. No one lost luggage, had anything stolen, got sick, or lost in the woods. We were thanking God for a successful trip and a safe return.
Day 9 - Wednesday
Today I was up and showered early before breakfast. I went upstairs to the kitchen to scope out the breakfast. I got a cup of coffee (made with the boiling water poured through the sock filter). It was very good coffee. I went back downstairs and got Gayla to come up for coffee and breakfast. We sat at one of the three tables; the one with chairs! Most of the chairs were backless stools. They brought us a plate of fruit (watermelon, bananas, & pineapple). Oh yes, Gayla sliced up a mango that we brought up from the coast. They also offered us granola and milk and scrambled eggs and toast.
We planned the “Bridges” tour through the cloud forest for this morning. A Toyota “coaster” bus came at 8:30 to take us to the Santa Elena reserve. We were delivered to the Selvatura Park where we checked in at the reception office, received our tickets, and headed down the trail for the self guided pathway through the jungle.
It was an awesome hike and allows you to get right out in the midst of a living cloud forest. There is a series of eight hanging bridges connected by winding paths and steps to get from one crossing to another. It was really incredible. However, had we known how far and how rigorous the trail was we probably would have gone into the forest for a while, over two or three bridges and returned to the reception area.
Once we got over the fourth bridge we figured it was closer to just continue rather than to go back. I’m not sure it was! I got concerned that Gayla would not be able to make it without assistance (other than me!). We trudged on, taking fewer and fewer pictures as we went unless something was really unique. We took pictures of leaves, flowers, caterpillars and birds … and a lot of green! We took pictures of really little ferns the size of a hand, and really big ones you can’t reach around. It was absolutely beautiful.
The bridges were designed like suspension bridges but about a yard wide. It reminded me of an old fashioned swinging bridge except it was more stable. The bottom walkway was made of expanded metal screen you can see through (not good) and there was expanded metal screen on the sides. There was a good three inch gap at the bottom of the side fence and I was paranoid that I might drop my camera and could just see it bouncing out the side. But, we were careful and no one had any problems that I’m aware of.
People come here from all over the world. One group was speaking Chinese. We were on the bus with some people from Atlanta and we met a couple from Kentucky on one of the bridges.
When we finally finished the tour we drug ourselves back in the lobby where we would wait on our bus and collapsed in the chairs. Our group had come in ahead of us and went up to the restaurant to get coffee and hot chocolate. We settled for a water bottle and coke from their gift shop so I didn’t have to walk up the hill to the restaurant!
We took the shuttle back to town and were going to go back to the hostel. When we got close Ethan asked the driver to stop at a restaurant just down from the hostel. The sign said “Christian” restaurant. Not sure what that meant but they had fish symbols, the star of David, and a Jesus sticker on display. More importantly, they had good food already prepared. It was like a buffet line and they charged you depending on what you selected. Because the food was prepared it made it quick to serve our group.
Back at the hostel Ethan arranged for the zip line adventure for those who wanted to go. It was about 40 minutes before the bus was expected so Rhette, Siarrah, and I walked up to the Supermarket to get some coffee and jam to bring back home. Rhette also wanted to get some last minute gifts. Some of the others also came in the store after we were there for a few minutes. We made our purchases and walked back down the hill to the hostel.
The van arrived and the zip-line people got on board with a little nervous hesitation. All the group went expect for Adalynn, Gayla, and me. We planned to go with them to take pictures, but the bus was filled with paying customers so we stayed behind. The woman at the hostel office allowed Gayla to lay down on one of the beds and I sat on the bench outside fighting off the flies and worked on this journal.
I called the Schwarz’ about 1:00 PM and they were on their way up to Monteverde to pick us up this evening. He predicted they would be here about 4:00 PM, but they made good time and arrived at the hostel about 3:30 and called. We went out to meet up with them. They found parking places across the street from the hostel and in front of an insect museum. The museum was closed but someone was there and told Brother Schwarz he would be happy to show us around the displays they have. Apparently they are undergoing a change of administration and are in the process of preparing to reopen. The worker was a very friendly Tico and loved insects. He was quite knowledgeable of the insects and the varieties native to Costa Rica. We tipped him about $22 for opening us and showing us around a good 30-45 minutes. That was our consolation prize for not going on the zip-line!
He gave Bro. Schwarz a huge rhino beetle, probably about six inches long including the rhino snout. It was dead. 🙂 He put it in his camera case for safe keeping. By the next morning when he went to remove it from the case it stunk so bad he threw the camera case away!
The zip-line crew finally made it back to the hostel about 5:15. We had them load up their suitcases and headed out for the valley in the gathering dusk. The cloud cover had gotten pretty thick toward the evening and I was some concerned about fog on the way down the mountain. There is 15 kilometers of gravel road with some sheer drop-offs on the side. I was glad that we were getting off the mountain before it was totally dark, before the fog got any thicker, and before it rained more. After we got through the fog there were a few views of the Pacific Ocean in the distance and a bright orange sunset in the west behind the clouds.
There were some great stories told about the zip-line experience, the rappelling, and the Tarzan swing. Several pictures and videos were taken of the group to share and to remember the sheer terror of jumping off into nothing, high above the jungle trees. Hearing about their screams and prayers I knew I made the right decision to remain behind and look at dangerous bugs and insects at the defunct museum!
Even after hitting the paved road there were several miles of curves and narrow roads before we got off the mountain. At the junction where we met the Pan-American highway there was a gas station and market. We stopped for the banos and to buy snacks. We were still an hour and a half from fast food restaurants. There were very few restaurants of any kind along this route.
The first area where there were several restaurants was in the edge of San Jose. We arrived there at 8:15 PM. We stopped at a mall that had a large food court with all the fast food varieties. We only stopped long enough to go to the restroom and get something to eat and pushed off for the Bekuo hostel. We got there about 9:30 and unloaded everyone.
The Schwarz had invited Gayla and me to stay with them for our last night in Costa Rica so I retrieved our extra suitcase at the hostel and we drove back the 15 minute commute to the Schwarz’ house. They rent a very nice home in a nice neighborhood. Of course, all homes in Costa Rica have iron gates and security. They have an electronic gate to open up for their garage. We just got in the house when the rain began once again. We sat and visited for a few minutes before going our room. I took a nice hot shower and had no trouble going to sleep in a comfortable bedroom after a very busy week and several nights in hostels.