Monday, September 26, 2011

Day 12 September 26 Gainesville, FL

This morning at 830AM we were met by our driver from Destination Costa Rica for our transfer to the airport for our departing flight to Orlando.  Our Jet Blue flight departs around and check in at the International Airport is 3 hours prior to flight time.  Once you arrive at the airport you must go over to pay the departure tax of $28.00 per person, you can pay this in US cash, colones or with a Visa Credit Card.  They do charge a service fee for using your Visa card.  Once you pay this you then check in at the airline and check your luggage and then go through customs.  At the gates there are several areas to shop and to eat.  They do have complimentary wi fi at the airport so that was nice.  Our flight was about 15 minutes late, but it was okay cause we were going home.  We got to Orlando at , by the time we got through customs in Orlando it was right at , we then got our shuttle to our car, where it was $102.00 to get our car.  We left rain in Costa Rica and returned to the sunshine state having rain as well.  John drove to Cocoa where I dropped him off and wanting to see Jaylee and having to get to work the next day, I left Cocoa about 730PM and got to Gainesville at 10PM. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Day 11 September 25 San Jose Xandari

This morning after our breakfast buffet we joined Felipe on our transfer back to San Jose, we left about and the transfer is about 2 ½ to 3 hours.  Felipe and I talked about the different package that is in the works for Selva Verde Lodge and Savegre, a perfect package to combine the rainforest and the cloud forest.  About we arrived to San Jose to our hotel for the night, the Xandari.  The Xandari has 22 individually villas nestled on a 40 acre coffee & fruit plantation overlooking the central valley of Costa Rica.  It is at an elevation of 3900 feet so has a perfect temperature of around 70 degrees all year round.  Each villa has private garden terraces and panoramic views of the central valley.  After lunch we had a hotel inspection of the hotel and the surrounding areas – this is a perfect way to begin or end your visit to Costa Rica.  The views from the hotel in the evening were incredible!  The entire central valley was lit up – breathtaking! 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Day 10 September 24 Savegre Cloud Forest Go GATORS

Early morning wake up, but not to the howler monkeys.  We enjoyed our breakfast and about 730AM we met our guide for our morning tour in search for the quetzal.  We search for about 30 – 45 minutes before we saw the first male bird.  The males are much colorful than the females.  We stayed in this area for about 2 ½ to 3 hours and saw 4 male and 2 female quetzals.  It was so exciting.  Don’t get me wrong, I am no birder but after all the years of hearing about how difficult it can be to see the quetzals, I was so excited.  Savegre has over 22 miles of hiking trails and we hiked about 3 miles through the forest.  On our hike we saw the many differences in the environment, from the páramo, with its sparse dwarf plants, to the majestic cloud forest and its abundant flora and fauna.  We returned to the lodge about 1230PM and following our lunch we decided we would walk to the waterfall.  Well about the time we walked down the hill – you guessed it the rain started; we got an umbrella and decided to walk anyway.  We walked about a mile down the road saw where there were people  trout fishing and decided to head back to the lodge and by the time we made it back it was really raining hard!  So it was nap time again!  We got up and headed to the bar as it was Saturday and Saturday means Gator Football and we were playing Kentucky!  This week we were able to listen to the radio as well as the blog with Gator Scott on so life was good.  We did have to laugh as a group arrived to the lodge and about 5 or 6 people from Kentucky sat right next to us.  They just told us to wait until basketball season!  Anyway, after the game we went back to the room to get ready to depart for San Jose as our vacation was fast coming to an end. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Day 9 September 23 Savegre Cloud Forest

This morning we had our wake up call from the howler monkeys about ….  But we slept until about 630AM and then we had breakfast buffet and then packed to get ready for our next stop on this vacation, Savegre Mountain Lodge.  This drive was about 2 hours to San Jose and then about 2 ½ hours south to the cloud forest in San Gerard de Dota.  The Savegre Mountain Hotel, located in the midst of a beautiful cloud forest, is dedicated to luxurious and sustainable hotel service. Located in San Gerardo de Dota, a small community in the Talamanca Mountains, Savegre is at an elevation of 7220 feet.  The forest around the hotel is one of massive oaks, colorful plants, and an incredible variety of animal life.  There are numerous insects, mammals, and amphibians dwell in the forest, and the pristine valley is a paradise for birdwatchers: over 170 species of birds can be seen in this cloud forest and the list is crowned by the magnificent quetzal, which lives here year round. In addition, our 35 km (22 miles) of hiking trails make our valley perfect for hikers.  Don Efraín Chacón and his family arrived here in 1954 and were the first pioneers to settle in this valley. The family still own and run the lodge.  We got here just in time for lunch and just as we finished, the rains came.  Boy did it rain hard and turned cold!  We napped while it was raining; best thing to do was to take a nap!  As the rain stopped we got up and walked around the different areas around the lodge.  John built us a nice fire in the fireplace we had in the room and we enjoyed playing cards in front of the fireplace.  LOL, we did the same thing in Peru last year! 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Day 8 September 22 Sarapiqui Rainforest Happy Birthday to me!

It was so nice to have that wake up call by the howler monkeys again!  I do so enjoy this and a great way to start my Happy Birthday to me day!!!!!!!  We got up and enjoyed our breakfast – we ate out on the porch of the dining room and watched the howler monkeys as we visited with the Road Scholar group.  We were getting ready for our excellent adventure of the day.  We would start with horseback riding and then the excitement of white water rafting!!!! 
We were met by our driver from Selva Verde and transferred about 15 minutes to the farm where were we would be horseback riding.  We met our guide Diego and a couple of his horses.  On his farm, he has over 40 horses, some ponies, about 400 cows and over 400 hectors of land.  We were given our safety helmet, then we met our horses, John’s horse was Maria and I had Layla and Diego told us how to ride the horse as it was John’s first time on horseback, the last time I was on horseback was on my last visit to Costa Rica in 2003.  So no prior experience is needed for this adventure!  Not only did Diego join us on our ride, but one of his ranch hands to open & close the gates and about 5 or 6 puppies ran with us.  During our ride we crossed a couple creeks, through pastures with cattle, hills and patches of forest.  We rode for about 2 hours with and we did stop for a few minutes, I am not sure if it was to give the horses a break or to give my bottom side a break!  When we returned back to his house he had juice and fruit waiting for us.  I defiantly recommend wearing long pants for horseback riding, some of the grasses where very high and they had some stickers so it was a good call.  Our driver arrived back to take us back to Selva Verde Lodge about 10 minutes after our ride ended so perfect timing.  We got back to Selva Verde and had some lunch and downloaded the few photos we had taken, changed clothes for the next excitement – white water rafting.  Our guide, Danny and Oscar were right on time and drove us down to where we put the raft in the river at La Virgen de Sarapiqui.  This tour takes you through the beautiful part of the river filled with exciting rapids.   This is a good area to begin for 1st time rafters, this was John’s first time rafting and I had only been one other time about 15 years ago.  The “ride” is about 9 miles and takes between 2 ½ - 3 hours, with a stop about ½ way down to rest and enjoy terrific pineapple!  Before we began our adventure Danny gave us a safety orientation to prepare us for the challenges we will face in the water.  They then handed us our paddles and our safety helmets and we are off and rafting!  Oscar the other guide was in an awesome little kayak; he could do a lot of different tricks and looked like a lot of fun if I was about 20 or 30 years younger!  It wasn’t far down the river before we came up to our first rapid and the water was COLD!!!!  But damn was it fun!!!  Oh my goodness, the excitement could be addictive.  John & I paddled as we were told, and we were in another rapid.  The first part of the river we had quite a few rapids one right after the other.  We almost felt like spinning in the washer machine.  But it was GREAT!!!!  We got to one rapid and Danny asked if we wanted to go surfing in the rapid, and of course we said yes, we were up for anything!  We watched Oscar do this in his kayak and Danny our guide told us what to do so we paddled back upstream and got back in the rapid to do surfing.  I thought it was great, but poor John took the worse of it with the water!  As I mentioned earlier we did stop about half way down for fruit and the pineapple was so sweet and good!  It was much calmer the second half of the trip so we were able to relax a bit and search for different birds and animals.  They dropped us off at the lodge and we got a shower and changed and since it was my birthday we headed to the bar to have a beer or 3!  Selva Verde Lodge had made me a terrific cake and they fixed us pizza!!!!  This isn’t just any ordinary pizza; they have a wood – fired oven to fix their pizzas.  It was a delicious birthday dinner and a wonderful and exciting birthday.