Sunday, July 20, 2014

Feeling blessed

I’m going home……

A slice of heaven (Vista Atenis)


Saturday we traveled from La Fortuna back towards San Jose and the airport.  Our plan was to tour a coffee plantation and have lunch there.  It so happens that a young couple from the Tampa area (some of our group go to their church)work and volunteer there.  I don’t really know  all of the details, but they both speak Spanish and they hung out with us the first few days at the Bible camp.

Rainy travel day


Well, there was a miscommunication and our bus driver made a wrong turn.  I think he assumed we were touring a different well-known coffee plantation.  When we figured this all out, we were over an hour away, so we had to forgo that trip.  Many of us were not disappointed because we are tired and weren’t really up for another excursion.



We did make a stop off in a little town called Zarcero.  Most every town of any size has a central park.  This town has a really unique and beautiful park.  It has landscaped gardens as well as shrubs that have been clipped into cool shapes.  Check out all of my pictures.



church by the park

We stopped off at the town of Sarchi for lunch and souvenir shopping.  Costa Rica is known for its painted ox-cart wheels and this town is well known its giant painted ox-cart.  Most of us ate a delicious lunch at a restaurant called La Finca and then looked at a souvenir shop afterwards.


Sorry, I took a bite out before I remembered to take a picture!


The next stop was our B&B, Vista Atenis.  It was great that we didn’t do the coffee plantation because that meant that we got there before dark and had several hours to enjoy the 360 degree views.  We found out that the mountain as wells as several of the others around us were called, “Gringo Mountains” because many “ex-pats” lived there.  Our B&B was run by a lady from Belgium.  The grounds were beautifully landscaped, there was a great breeze and we had the whole place to ourselves. 


Some of us enjoyed the pool (even Jose, our bus driver, not me though), but all of us enjoyed the views and cool breeze.  We ordered pizza to be delivered for dinner and we all had fun sitting in Steve and Janet’s larger room.  The room was equipped with dishes, but since there was more than 20 of us, people were drinking out of anything they could find!!!  (Shot glasses, measuring cups, wine glasses, etc.)  It made for lots of laughs.  We ended the evening with some kind words from our leaders, “Bind us together”, “Get Right Church”, “Greatest Commands”, a prayer, and cheers for our leaders and bus driver.



My flight departs at 8:40 in the morning, so that puts me in the early flight group.  That means we are to leave at 3:00 am!!  I made it though and I’m sitting in the CR airport typing this on free Wi-Fi!!


I’m sure I might have a follow-up post once I’ve had time to process all of my feelings.  All and all, it was a great mission trip and it’s been a long time in my 8 years since I’ve gotten to end with a retreat.  This was my first year to come to Costa Rica and I’m positive that it will now be part of my annual trip!!!


It's after 3 am and I'm waiting for the slowpokes to get up!!

Pura Vida y Proximo Ano!!!


PJ  xoxo


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Pura Vida (Hike in the Rain Forest, Shower in a Waterfall & Boatride at the base of the Volcano

Pura Vida

(Amazon 6, you are welcome to add to my attempts to describe our hike!!  Words don’t do it justice!!)



That is the expression that they say all of the time here and the best I can tell it means, “The pure life”.  All of the workers at this resort say it all of the time.  You also see it on billboards and t-shirts.  I equate the phrase with my experience here…..chill, go with the flow, enjoy.

small part of the breakfast buffet


Last night, I had really planned on going on a horseback riding tour, as well as a canopy tour.  As always I was up by 5 am and walked down to the lobby to work on posting my blog. (That’s really the only place with a good Wi-Fi signal.)  I went on up for breakfast way before anyone in my group was up.  The meals are always huge, all-you-can-eat buffets with many choices.  I’m glad to see all of the fruit and vegetables.  We haven’t really had that the last few days.


I didn't have to twist too many arms to go with me shopping for shoes.

As I was finishing, some of my group said that the horse backing riding was canceled because of the rain.  Steve Johnson, one of our leaders from Tampa, had checked into hiking trails and he found one for us.  I had already decided that flip-flops and Toms wouldn’t really work for any of the tours, so our friendly bus driver Jose, took a few of us down the road to some shops and I found some reasonably priced hiking boots.  We had a quick Spanish/English lesson with Jose.  (Hoy = Today, Ayer = Yesterday, and Manana = Tomorrow)  Also…. (Aqui=Here, Ayi=There, Aya=over there.



Steve had found out that the first part of the hike was down and it was the worst part.  Let’s just say I was glad I had my hiking boots on!!  There were 6 of us and I’m pretty sure I was the oldest one there.  We climbed over slippery stones, branches, mud, mossy rocks and everything else.  It was often necessary to hold onto small trees, and I was hoping I didn’t grab anything else.  It was steep enough that some of us kind of crab walked down.  We got to one point and it seemed as if we had lost the trail or had gone the wrong way.  We thought we saw it below us, so Steve ventured down.  He said he didn’t recommend that way because he slid down a steep hill.  Rachel, the daredevil, insisted on going that way and slid far enough that she was afraid she wasn’t going to stop.  I think she earned a raspberry on her bottom.

Most of the way was steep with wet leaves, rocks, roots, etc.  I was not too proud to crab crawl all of the way down.



Steve found the trail below and the rest of us went another way that was completely over grown with vines, which we had to push our way through.  We finally made it to the bottom were we found the river and that is where we named ourselves “Amazon 6”, a little ways further we found the waterfall.  Rachel, always the daredevil says, “I’m going in” and then, everyone one else took their shoes off and waded through rushing water, and climbed over slippery rocks to the waterfall.  They all convinced me it wasn’t too hard of a climb, so I joined them.  Steve went back and took a great picture of us doing posing.  I did the yoga tree pose and believe it or not, I had better balance in rushing water than I do at the yoga studio.


We were rewarded with this at the bottom of the mountain.

Here is some of our group touring the canopy.  They were finishing just as we got to the end of our hike.


Boat selfie

I had also planned on doing the canopy tour, but after my hike I decided I had seen it all from the ground and I would  just get in the hot springs pool and treat myself with a massage.  Now, it seems some of us are going to go on a boat ride….I will let you know!!  Pura Vida!!




I can’t remember if I told you that the preacher and his family from Purral came with us.  They are Costa Rican, but had never been to this area.  He and his wife have two daughters and they seem to be enjoying this mini-vacation.  At lunch, he and some others were discussing a boat tour on a lake at the base of the volcano.  It just so happens that Jose, our bus driver, knew Anthony, the owner of the boat.  So, at 3:30 about 10 of us got on the bus and headed down the road to the boat tour. 



The boat ride was very pleasant.  The area was very secluded, beautiful and peaceful.  Even though, the temperature has been mild, of course there was a nice breeze on the boat ride.  The tour gave beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.  As far as we can tell, the area is either a national park or is protected.  We did see the location of a village that was destroyed by an eruption in 1968.  Needless to say, it was desolate, but beautiful.  At one point, the pilot of the boat stopped and we were able to get out and look around.  Right before we got back on the boat, someone was saw a small snake. 

This is the Arenal volcano, the top is almost always covered with clouds.



Volcano selfie & yes, the sun is out!!

In this picture, you see the bus driver, Jose, with gray hair, Christian, the preacher in green, his wife, Gendry in hot pink, and his two daughters.


The guys immediately ran over to take pictures and the snake was too happy.  It was small, but it was striking like a rattlesnake.  I didn’t get a picture, but I’m sure I’ll be able to grab one from somebody. (No one has posted a picture yet.)  All of us who went enjoyed our trip and thought it was well worth the $15 we paid.


Since I had saved money on all of the tours I didn’t do, I was bound and determined to get a massage.  I decided I would even if I had to forgo dinner.  (Lunch was huge and delicious!)  I had just enough time to get in the hottest hot spring pool for a while and then I had an hour massage and a facial.  It didn’t disappoint!!

Riding along on the boat, you could see the layers of the rainforest. ( the canopy and the emergent layers).


I’m early writing this blogpost and we had a major storm last night and it seems like it may rain hard all day.  God blessed us with a great day to be here yesterday because I think many activities will be rained out today.  The plan today is to head back to San Jose and stop and tour a coffee plantation (A young guy from Tampa and his wife are living and working there.) and eat lunch there.  Then we were supposed to do some souvenir shopping before we headed back up to our B&B for the night,  Sunday we all head home.



Depending on how things work out with Wi-Fi___33 and the weather, I may not have a post tomorrow.  So…..


Hasta luega!!


PJ  xoxo


PJ  xoxo


Friday, July 18, 2014

There is a reason they are called Rain Forests!!



Today was a travel day for us.  Some of our group had to get up early to get to early flights.  Others were dropped off at the airport, as well as one of our leaders dropped off his rental  SUV.  Traveling with 20+ people can be complicated!!


These pictures are from where we had lunch, Jalapenos.  This is an ox cart which CR is famous for.  These wheels are often used to make cool table tops!!

Most of came down with 2 rather large suitcases, mostly for donations and supplies.  We’ve given those things out and added a few souvenirs to our suitcases.  Our bus driver let us know that his tour bus couldn’t make it over the mountains with all of the extra suitcases, so we made arrangements to drop off our suitcases with our last hotel destination. (A bed and breakfast that we’ll stay in on Saturday before we fly out on Sunday morning.)


Every drive we take is filled with new gorgeous sights and interesting things to see.  After a few turns and some asked directions, we found the B&B, a small place on top of a mountain, with breathtaking views in all directions. 
There were two of these and they could talk and laugh like a little girl!!

 We took a bathroom break and left our extra piece of luggage.  We then headed to La Fortuna and the Arenal Volcano. (The most active in the world, or so I was told)


We found a cool place to eat lunch on the way back down this mountain.  It was called Jalapenos and I ordered chicken fajitas.  It was very delicious, but served a different way that I’m used to, no tortillas and a side order of French fries!!


Our whole time here we have been surrounded by mountains off in the distance.  These mountains always have beautiful clouds around the top.  It is hard to explain, but these are called cloud forests, we traveled through these as we made our way to La Fortuna.  Everything we have seen is beautiful.


I’m not exactly sure how long our trip was, but there was much to see so it went by quickly.  Besides the cloud forest, we traveled through the rain forest.  There was lush vegetation everywhere!  Needless to say, beautiful!

Bridges where only one car can pass at a time


We arrived at Arenal Paraiso Resort and checked in to our rooms, which are more like cabins.  The resort has many things to do, many of them free.  (Pools, hot springs pools (straight from the volcano), trails, spas, etc.)  They also have many types of tours that cost extra. (Horseback, boat, hiking, canopy tours, jeep, and many more) 


Diane and I had a pedicure before dinner because it had been over a month for both of us and we needed it.  We ended the evening with some songs and a discussion of whether some of us might want to do the tours together. 
My plan is to horseback ride for 3 hours and do the canopy tour!!  You only live once!!!  Lord, give me courage and strength!!  J 


Hasta luego!!


PJ  xoxo