We came to to Costa Rica because we knew a few people who love it here (thanks Carna and Peter) and that international living, a website for expat retirement, rates CR as one of the top places to retire. Unlike most travelers we did not have a list for particular sights or experiences that we were interested in. This is a blessing and a curse, one it takes the pressure off of trying to fulfill an itinerary but it means that you have to research activities while you are here, sometimes miss “must see’s and do’s” and you have less time to complete the research. Between the two of us, I definitely want to see and do more than Leah and I also plan things are a little more aggressive than Leah might plan, sometimes this works out and sometimes it doesn’t.
On a whim, we (I) decided to head into Heredia, a town about 10km away from the house for some McDonald’s (!) and to check out the central square which has a few attractions around it. We had lunch (Big Mac’s hmmmm), discovered a massive playplace and then headed to the center of town. Found a parking lot and headed toward the square. It was threatening to rain, but most of the time the threat of rain is an idle threat so I led the crew into the square; then the heavens opened up. We ran to the nearest store front with a canopy to wait out the storm. Everywhere you would look, people were huddling under canopies and in door alcoves watching the rain; likely the first they have seen in 5 months. When it started to rain we were safe under our canopy but as it progressed the wind shifted and soon there was only one little spot under our canopy were the rain wasn’t hitting. It also started to hail. Needless to say most of the crew was unhappy about these circumstances.
I decided to brave the rain and ran across the street to get some ice cream to help pass the time. It was good ice cream though Matty didn’t really prefer it. After 15 minutes, the wind died down and the rain stopped but now we needed a bathroom. Most stores in Costa Rica don’t have a customer washroom but we found one and but felt obligated to make a purchase. Thankfully it was a chocolate shop so it wasn’t all hardship to buy some. Got a little lost on the way out of town because to get onto the main highway heading east you have to exit Heredia heading toward San Jose (south) pull a legal U-turn re-enter Heredia and then get on the highway heading toward home (east).
Not the best introduction to Heredia or the most cost effective trip. Can’t win them all.
A few days later we got up early and headed toward Volcan Irazu which is about 1.5 hours away. Due to a lack in signage and not the best google map directive we ended up taking about 2 hours to get there. Leah gets really flustered when we get lost which adds to the stress level in the car. We almost always find our way and I enjoy the challenge so I don’t get as upset about being lost – the journey may become the destination instead of our chosen destination! The volcano was inactive so it was really just a big hole on the top of a mountain, not nearly as exciting for the crew as it was for me. Also because we got lost we didn’t get there as early as desired and only had about 30 minutes before clouds made it to the top of the mountain and obscured everything. Reportedly on clear days you can see the Caribbean and the Pacific Oceans at the same time but we only saw clouds. The funny thing is that as we left there was a huge line to get into the park – at least 20 minutes. It was a holiday so the Cost Ricans were out in droves. Seems like a long drive up the mountain to get to the crater and not be able to see into it, better to get up early and go rather than sleep in. Going down was awesome, the countryside was so beautiful and was the highlight of the trip for both Leah and I.
Once back in the valley we stopped at a roadside fruit stand, 8 bucks for a big strawberry container ($3), 6 mangoes ($3) and 3 pineapples ($2!). Then got lost again! This time in San Jose and ended up in a less than desirable neighborhood. But a little help from google and the GPS got us out of there and safely home. Definitely suggest you use GPS when you travel in Costa Rican Towns! When we got home we were all sunburned even though we spent most of the day in the car but we did have windows open all day. I did read that the high altitude at the Volcano also promotes sun burns so maybe thats what happened. Matty got it the worst of the kids because he puts his head as far out of the window as we let him (think dog in car) so he was in the sun most of the day. My left arm was cooked a bit and Leah’s right arm was too. Ethan’s neck got a bit of sun and James had the least because he had his window closed all day.
Two trips that didn’t go as well as planned, partially because of the destination (for the kids), the weather and because we got lost. You can’t knock it out of the park every time and we are definitely batting over 500 so I can’t complain. We are so blessed to be here exploring this beautiful country and we need to remember to take a breath and enjoy the journey as it comes when the original plan doesn’t work out.
Back to the lonely planet book…