Jungle Janie's Blog

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Costa Rica was fun!

I went to Montezuma, Uvita and San Gerado and things in-between them and the airport.

After arriving at the airport I took the cab that the first hotel in Alajuela had arranged to the hotel and met up with the people who had taken the first round of fasting with Dr. Doug Graham as they arrived that evening before departing on their flights home the next day.

I also met up with those staying on for the 2 weeks in between, some of them were going to be at the next fast with me, we were going to meet up with others later on...

There was an event in Montezuma, Raw World, going on there and Doug (Dr. Graham) was a presenter there so that was our first destination. He stayed at the event which was just outside of town and the rest of us stayed in town at first. Lennie would walk down to the event to work with Doug pretty much every day. Our first place was too close to the nightlife for the rest of my group so we ended up moving to a different place at the edge of town the next day. Interesting how much cooler it was at night at that second place - I suppose it was because there was more room for the air to circulate.

Both places we stayed there were quite basic - sort of a cross between a hostel, hotel and camping. Both places only had a fitted sheet and flat sheet on the beds - but that's all you needed or wanted anyway. Well, actually, I did end up using my towel for a blanket in the second place 'cause it got sort of chilly in the middle of the night in relation to the daytime. The first place didn't provide towels and I can't remember about the second one. There was no hot water but the water wasn't cold either so I didn't miss either at all. The drains in the showers (no tubs) were basically a hole into a large pipe. The showers were quite large, tiled all around. The second place had a couple of rooms with private bathroom facilities, but the rest shared them with everyone else. The first place only had shared bathroom options.

The second place provided a roll of toilet paper for every bed. Everywhere in Costa Rica putting toilet paper in the trashcan instead of the toilet was the thing to do, otherwise their pipes might clog. It took some presence of mind to remember at the appropriate time, heh, and not just space out and drop it in the toilet. By the time I got home from Costa Rica I was so used to it that it felt strange to drop it in the toilet again for a while.

Montezuma is on a beach. The weather was dry, humid and hot when we were there. The roads were dirt and quite dusty, a bit difficult for breathing when a car goes by when you're running or walking on them. Some of the residents would water down the road and/or put down molasses to keep the dust down. It was an interesting experience when out for a run in the morning and you smell molasses. LOL It reminded me of an oatmeal cookie recipe I used to use molasses in - hadn't thought of those cookies in over a decade, heh.

I adopted a pattern of getting up just before light, showering and dressing for my run and starting the run at first light, before it gets too hot for an hour or so. Sometimes I'd keep telling myself that I could take a nap after my run so that I'd get out early enough. It worked quite well. Then I'd stretch and shower again, eat a breakfast melon and relax and/or nap. It was essentially too hot to do much but relax and/or nap from about 10 or 11 in the morning until about 4 or 4:30 in the afternoon - at first. I started to get used to it more as the week went on.

I would run with a handkerchief in my hands so I could cover my mouth and nose when vehicles went by. They didn't have unleaded gasoline there so it was a mix of dust and icky exhaust. Luckily not everyone used vehicles, which was nifty. Sometimes you'd come across big groups of people walking into town for an evening out. It was a regular thing to see people walking kids to school, to work, or whatever. I liked that - a lot. I liked the dirt roads too - best if no motorized vehicles though.

So I also walked into town and checked out the street vendors' crafts, shops and such and used the Internet Cafes as well as walking on the beach and exploring the area during the day. I would use the Internet Cafe mainly at night though, 'cause of the time difference with home and the hours my hubby worked. I was able to chat with him online if I went there at 7 or 8 at night until they closed at 9 or 10.

The restaurant at the hotel where the Raw World was being held had a special Valentine's Day live food dinner and entertainment thing going on, and my friends went to it. I wanted to be able to chat with my hubby that day in particular so skipped it. We had a special chat date on Valentine's Day - first one we've spent apart since we met in 1987. This was going to be the longest we've spent apart since we've known each other. I had mailed him a Valentine's letter from the Honolulu airport during my layover there on the way to Costa Rica, timing it to arrive just before Valentine's and hidden a gift at home for him to find when I told him about it. We had a great chat, just what I needed that day. :)

I looked at shells on the beach by our place and collected some to bring home and show my hubby. We often collect shells here so I knew he'd appreciate seeing them and knew he'd have liked to come with me if he could have. The shells were mostly like the ones we see here in Hawaii, but different designs so it was really cool. If you like to collect shells you know what it's like to find something different or a new design, so it was like that there. There were also a few things that were different too.

We also went on the public bus to another town one day when we heard a farmer's market was running there. It turned out that we had missed it by a few hours, so we shopped at a market that had stocked up from the farmers at the market that day (so it was fresh). We got almost a week's worth of food there. LOL I wonder if they've ever had so many tourists buy so much each before, heh. There were 5 of us, all eating 80-10-10. Luckily they were well stocked so we didn't clean them out like we would have done in Montezuma at their little market. We had a bit much to take on the crowded bus, so we shared a taxi which ended up being cheaper between the 5 of us than the bus.

Lennie & Kevin had leftover fruit from the fast with them - mainly bananas, but there were some mango & papaya, so we didn't need to get much of them. Let's see if I can remember what we got there. Cabbage, lettuce, celery, tomatoes, bell peppers, watermelon, cantaloupes, cucumbers, avocado, pineapple, mango & papaya mainly - more cabbage than lettuce 'cause it tasted better there. After the raw event was over they offered to sell us some of their leftovers so we went over to pick out what we wanted from it. We didn't need much at that point though 'cause Doug had ordered some produce to be delivered to the place we were going next (Uvita) and it is easier to travel with less rather than more - especially in a water taxi. Yeah, water taxi.

We had done a combo of driving, ferry and driving to get to Montezuma from Alajuela and were going to take a water taxi and then drive to Uvita. It was fun! :) We carried all of our stuff back down to the beach (right by our first accommodations) and met up with the water taxi. We bagged everything and put it in there and climbed into the speedboat for the ride. So fun, it was like riding a mechanical bull that didn't twist around - for about an hour or so. Sometimes you can see flying fish there, but I didn't see any. One of the people in our group said they think they did though.

We then helped the water taxi people and our van driver carry our stuff out of the boat onto the dry part of the beach when we landed. I ended up sitting up front with the two drivers and had a chance to work on my Spanish and learn about things we passed and such during the drive (I think that one was an hour and a half, two hours or so).

The place in Uvita had townhome sort of accomodations with their own driveways. It was more Westernised as was Uvita in general. There was a paved highway and some of the side roads were paved too. They had a hot water device on the showerhead that heated the water with a hot coil or something like that I think (couldn't see inside, but the name of it made me think that's how it worked). It worked pretty well when there was enough water pressure to take a shower in the room I shared with one of our group. We were on the floor level of the townhouse and above us Doug, Lennie & Kevin apparently had more trouble with their water pressure and hot water than we did. They had large tub showers there so it looked more Western standard, however I think I prefer the ones in Montezuma 'cause they actually worked all the time and I didn't need hot water... although I did enjoy it when there was enough water pressure for a shower in Uvita.

The townhome rooms were on a hillside and the lobby and pool area were at the top of the hill, with an extraordinary view. The beach was not too far from the hotel - just walk down the hill, across the highway and down a few blocks and you're there. It was a wide flat smooth beach with hardly any shells. Every few yards or so you'd see a shell or two - often they were like fairy wings: two halves of the same shell still connected, and completely in tact (as there didn't seem to be anything else around to break them up). There was a long line of coconuts planted along the edge of the land before the beach in one area which made interesting walking too. It was a great beach for running on 'cause it was so level - you could either use running shoes or go barefoot easily due to it's nature as well.

It was not as dry and dusty in Uvita, nor as hot and humid, so the evenings were cooler and the beds had bedspreads at the hotel. They also provided towels (no hand towels or washcloths as I don't think they use them) and maids would come and clean the rooms and change the linens a couple of times during the week (perhaps daily, I can't remember), empty the trashcans and replenish toilet paper if needed.

There was an Internet Cafe on the highway at town, and the hotel was outside of town. Not many people walking for transportation here - at least on the highway. I did see some on bikes and in the actual town area people were walking as well as riding horses at times. This is where I went on the river hike and hike where I saw the monkeys and they saw me... We also went hiking up to Doug's land, had all you can eat rolenia that we picked from his trees, swam in a crystal clear water hole, and hiked back. Nice day hike - a bit challenging when walking up the steep hill for a while, not knowing how much farther it was. When I thought we were just over half-way there it turned out we were just short of being done. LOL So just when I was thinking it was going to be a hard hike to get there, it was over all of a sudden.

We had met up with some friends who met up with us in Uvita at the hotel to spend the time in Uvita with us and would travel back to the airport hotel to meet up with the new group of fasters before flying back home again. They were in the townhome just up the hill from us. It was great to see them again. I knew them from the Health and Fitness Weeks I had attended in 2005, as well as the VegSource discussion board before that. My roommate and I didn't go with them back to the hotel though, we went directly to Rio Chirripo where the fast was to be held. We rode the public bus to San Isidro and took a taxi from there. Our driver had lived in the US for a while so was acting a little like a tour guide for us too, which was fun.

The most monkeys were in Montezuma, and you'd hear the howler monkeys quite often there. We'd see their dark shapes in the trees sometimes, but weren't able to see them as clearly as I saw the other monkeys in Uvita. I think they were spider monkeys. Lennie saw those kind of organ grinder monkeys (can't remember the name offhand) in Montezuma. San Gerado was up in the hills and much cooler than Uvita and certainly Montezuma, too cold for monkeys apparently 'cause we didn't see or hear any there. At sunset-ish you could see fog rolling in over the hills sometimes at Rio Chirripo, which was beautiful.

Even though it was cooler there than here (well about as cool as up in the hills here), bananas and other tropical fruit was still growing there well enough (unlike the hills here, where you can actually grow apples and pears up there). The landscape was quite hilly in that area (by Chirripo mountain) so farms were often on a hillside, not usually terraced either. The river (Rio) there had large rocks and boulders by the edge and ran by one side of the hotel's property. There were a few routes that Doug had figured out for walking and/or running in the area which went through some nice country-like areas as well as part of town. Most of the roads there were dirt roads and were semi-dusty, but not as much as Montezuma. A lot of the route we called "The Loop" was on trails so we could avoid the vehicles for a lot of it. There were other routes that were on roads not traveled on as much too, so I didn't need my handkerchief when running there. I did have some trouble with how cold it was in the morning though as I'm not used to running or breathing hard in cold air (or air that's cold for me, coming from Hawaii), so I needed to do my running later in the day when I could.

There was hot water at that hotel there, as well as towels and bedspreads like in Uvita, however the water pressure was good so we had showers available every day. There were no tubs though, but I prefer showers on a daily basis anyway. Each room in the main building had its own bathroom and two beds like Uvita as well. There was a room up the hill from the kitchen/dining area that had 3 or 4 beds (can't remember), and a cottage down below the pool by the river that had one large bed too. I think I remember there being washcloths and hand towels there, actually. Yeah. So I guess some people use them there after all.

I put some ferns on people's beds as a welcome and helped carry people's bags to their rooms when they arrived from the airport. I met my new roommate and the rest of the fasters and interns too. We interns had lots of fun getting to know each other, exchanging favorite exercises and such at first, while we had more time. I got to know the fasters more over time and especially later in their fast, which was beautiful. It was terrific to witness and help the fasting process as well as get to know everyone better throughout.

The lectures were terrific with information about the stage of fasting the fasters were in at the time, fasting and a healthy lifestyle in general along with case studies and discussions. Doug shared some stories he'd written about Costa Rica afterwards which I enjoyed as well. Often at night the interns would have educational discussions with Doug that were great too.

Eventhough I enjoyed what I was learning and seeing in Costa Rica as well as seeing friends again and making new ones, I got homesick at a certain point. I wanted to stay but was also missing my home and hubby Luckily I was able to keep in touch via Internet chat on some nights (there was a wireless connection there as long as a Mac was connected at the time) and I had pictures and short videos on my phone that helped me through it. We talked by phone one night too. :)

It was a fantastic trip, but it was good to be home again afterwards as well. I was able to get the last mountain apples from the tree in our yard (my favorite) when I got home as well as harvest other things to eat for the rest of that day. My hubby and I went to my favorite beach the day after I came home then went to the farmer's market where I stocked up on a large variety of fruits and some lettuce, some of which were sort of rare to find here too. Nice to be home indeed. :)

Other thoughts and remembrances: The people there in the country areas seemed to be quite happy and those in the cities more stressed, like in the USA. I think they were more friendly and happy overall than the USA though. They have a cultural thing of showing you or taking you to where you want to go rather than giving directions when asked where something is that is quite astounding. I liked how practical the people in the country areas were and how lots of people still walked for transportation in the areas we visited. Like many Spanish speaking and/or "Third World" countries, the houses in populated areas had bars over the windows and carports to prevent theft. The bars turn from wrought iron to wood branches and sticks the more rural you get, and when you get rural and less populated enough, you can find places without bars. The hotels and accommodations don't usually have bars and such though, although the airport hotel was fenced with a gate. Men will often express their appreciation of a woman's looks when passing in a car if she is not with a man, as if often the case in countries like this as well. I did not feel threatened by it though.

I'll put some pics up in the gallery soon.

LOL I guess I'm actually getting this up here a bit late - almost a year later. Oh well, better late than never. I'm going to put this up now rather than wait 'till I've got the pics ready.

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