I slept in this morning…it was hard not to…I was so tired from yesterday’s hustle and bustle and so damn sore, not to mention that a gentle rain was falling and it was so easy to just linger in bed. Finally at 8:30 I realized that I needed to get going in order to eat breakfast and be ready for the walking tour at 9 a.m.
The tour this morning was a leisure one along the “Sacred Seeds” patch – an area where plants are grown, but not exactly harvested. Stephen, the head of farm operations, told us that he is trying to get back to the forgotten art and local lore of grandmothers who kept their seeds year to year, generation to generation. He referred to it as a sacred, though forgotten tradition. Many of the seeds he maintains and plants are for species that are not yet extinct, but are on the path to extinction within the next 50 years. He is hoping to make this a refuge of sorts but also create a network of gardens and farms across that world that will keep these sacred seeds that have very important medicinal purposes. This farm is also collaborating with the nearby Earth University and regional Texas A&M school right down the road to encourage these efforts. I didn’t have pics of this tour as I wanted to be unencumbered by my heavy camera and be able to fully enjoy the experience sans additional weight to carry.
The walk was very educational and interesting, but damn, Mother Nature turned on the humidity today. After our hike, I needed relief and soaked in the fresh-water pool, which they encourage guest to utilize so they can aerate the water through their movement helping to oxygenate the water and keep algae at bay. Say no more! I stayed in for about 45 minutes and totally cooled down my body in ways that no shower could have.
We left at noon for a trip back to La Fortuna for EcoTermales, the volcanic hot springs. The city of La Fortuna is located at the base of the Arenal Volcano, and the magma heats up the springs coming down the volcano. This hot springs location was gorgeous – a tropical paradise. The landscaping was phenomenal, the pools and waterfalls were amazing, the food wonderful. The 5 pools all vary in temperature from hot to fuego hot! Being the cold-loving mountain girl that I am, I alternated between the hot pool – which was 95 degrees and the fresh water dunk area – about 70 degrees (which was meant to help with circulation between the varying hot pools, however, it was a base for me!). It didn’t help that I got sunburn on my shoulders from the uphill hike yesterday so the hot water stung everytime I submerged, but I do admit that the first hot pool felt pretty darn nice. I even attempted to go to one of the hotter pools because it had a short but wide waterfall cascading onto the pool below where you could swim past the water curtain and sit behind the waterfall. That was very cool. Additionally that pool also had little sprinklers overhead which helped to refresh and balance the hot water. However, it was too hot for this wimp and though I admired the spot, I quickly returned to my “cooler” pools, respectively speaking. We stayed for several hours and even got to enjoy several rain showers while enjoying the springs.
We returned back for our farewell dinner and reminisced about the week. I wish I had more time to revisit all the great, memorable spots we were taken to, just on the farm alone, but we were just so busy and seeing it once was still better than not at all. I wish I could have taken more pictures, but I am pleased that I still was able to capture some great moments with all the activities planned.
Though my scope is very limited as I was only here for five days and in one small area of Costa Rica, I’ve learned some things and have some tips for you if you were to trek out here, which of course, I HIGHLY recommend!
- if your clothes get wet (which they likely will), they’ll never dry, so bring extra of everything so you can stay dry and either make plans to launder your clothes or bring a trash bag to store them for your trip back
- vanity goes out the door (so leave your makeup, hair dryer, straightening iron and nice clothes at home, for you will constantly be sweaty, sticky and wet)
- the locals are lovely but will be that much more helpful if you make an attempt to speak even a couple words in Spanish – everyone knows “por favor” and “gracias” and that combined with a sense of humility will go a long way
- don’t wear anything new, fancy or white while in the forest as you are sure to be covered in mud, lots of mud
- you’ll eventually climatize a bit, but it will still be hot and humid, so pack with that in mind
- wear good shoes – flip-flops are fine for in-town, but you’ll be miserable if you don’t bring a sturdy pair of waterproof hikers (I have good hikers that are not waterproof, and they are still soaked from the very first hike)
- flashlights are great, headlamps are even better!
- take in the sights! Sure you’ll probably want to relax some and hang in a hammock, and that’s great, but be sure to experience all that is around you, including the isolated AND populated areas…you’ll be glad you did
- the cities price most of their goods in US dollars, not the local currency, colons (pronounced cologne), so it’s okay if you don’t exchange your dollars
- bring extra water, better yet, a reusable water bottle/canteen – you will sweat lots and if you hike, bring several – you will need it and you don’t want to drink from streams
- speaking of water, the tap water is safe to drink – this is not Mexico
- taste the local food…sure you’ll have cravings for the sure-fire goodies from back home, but try the local recipes; and if you divulge in goodies, buy local soda in glass bottles (Iswear it tastes better) and locals snacks (save the doritos and snickers for home – you eat plenty of it there anyhow)
- the bugs are really not that bad! I know, I spoke of dive-bombing flying cockroaches the size of a small mammal earlier as well as the biting ants, but I really expected scary bugs and lots of them and I swear, there aren’t any more bugs here than I’ve seen in other muggy locales such as the East Coast in the summer, so go with natural bug repellants and skip the Deet - the chemical kills the rainforest
- the nights are early and the mornings bright, so plan accordingly
- the howler monkeys have good aim so watch out for them (I only heard them once, but one group opted for a canopy walk in lieu of the zip line and said that the lil’ rascals tried peeing on them and flinging poo! )
- likewise, watch out for horny billy goats…’nuf said
- spend some time in a body of water, particularly a waterfall or freshwater pool – it will really cool your body off and you’ll remain cooled off for many hours
- bring large ziploc bags to keep your camera dry; additionally bring a waterproof backpack (I also saw lots of travelers with waterproof bags that cover their backpacks because it rains a lot here)
- if you are presented a challenge in the form of a physical challenge, break out of your comfort zone and go for it…you’ll be cursing the whole time but will be so proud of yourself in the end (and how will you ever know how far you can push yourself if you never try?) – this goes beyond physical accomplishment, it leads to spiritual development
- bring an umbrella or small poncho – but not a close-fitting raincoat, otherwise you’ll create a self-sustained sauna for yourself and end up preferring being soaked in the rain over the latter option
- support the local artisans and buy their local arts and crafts – sure you’ll see a lot of chotchkes but you’ll also find quality goods
- tip graciously to the wait staff, tour guides, hosts, drivers that save your ass - they make peanuts and deserve our respect and appreciation (little things like this also speak volumes to the perception of Americans and we all know, we have a long way to go to bridge international relations)
- there are lots of Americans traveling here so say hi and strike up a conversation – you might just learn of a great spot they’ve found off-the-beaten path or they may recommend a city to visit, place to eat, etc. They can also be of assistance if you’re in need of help and are having difficulty translating to the locals
- trust the local guides – they’ll know of all the tourist traps as well as all the alternatives and secret spots that you may have not otherwise found
And most importantly, if you do come to Costa Rica, spend a day or many at the farm/resort we stayed at and help support a local, sustainable farm while having a wonderful place to visit:
which literally translates into the “New Moon Farm” – you’ll be glad you did!