The rainforests and beaches of Costa Rica are already a dream; the sunsets, warm waters and animal life we experienced on our recent trip only lingering in our thoughts and on our hard drives.
The trip was a result of a combination of factors: the New Year and a big birthday to celebrate, co-travelers from Latvia, the US and Canada, the longing for warmer temperatures and a lifelong wish to visit this eco-tourism capital of the world. Shortly after our tour of Michigan, Chicago and Ohio where we had passed the holidays and celebrated our son’s christening with family, we were on a flight to Houston. (And by shortly, I mean just over twenty-four hours to unpack and repack… I don’t suggest this and have put a note in the file. One tends to forget important things, for example raincoats for the rainforest.) A brief layover, then another tiny seat with no leg room with yet another passenger choosing to recline into the lap of mother with baby. (Another note for the file… don’t fly United, for a dozen reasons that I don't care to review.) Four and a half hours to San José, plenty of time for me to question the wisdom of traveling to Central America with three small children, and calling it a ‘vacation.’
But we arrived in Costa Rica, emerging in warm temperatures and a dusty chaos to find Roberts’s brother Matīss and friend Krišs waiting for us. A windfall, really, as the rental car company had not sent anyone to greet us, and navigating the bedlam outside the airport might have proved rather expensive. The shuttle to pick up the van was located and we were quickly ferried to a gated compound where Līga, Krista and the baby Mīla awaited us.
Eventually the last members of our party arrived, and we were off! not really knowing what lay ahead. Navigating the complicated rental car arrangements proved just as difficult as finding our way out of the city, and multiple stops for food, directions and pictures meant that darkness overtook us while not even halfway to our destination. As we headed north each road was sequentially smaller and zigzagged more, the darkness masking the magnificent views (and steep drop-offs) as we progressed north into the mountains.
Costa Rica has an interesting system of addresses, indicating location in relation to another place; for example the address of our lodge is ‘2 km north of’ an adventure park, whose address is ‘on the road to Monteverde Reserve,’ which actually encompasses over 40 square miles. Not helping the situation was one carsick little boy, a dense rain, and the two-vehicle caravan which had no means of communicating with one another. Add to this our unfamiliarity with Costa Rican road rules, the lack of signage for roads and towns, the condition of some of those roads, and it is remarkable we made it to the lodge before midnight, despite having arrived in the early afternoon.
Total distance – about 140 kilometers, or 87 miles. The first 100 km took about 2 ½ hours, the google maps estimate for the entire trip. The last 40 kilometers took something like three hours. Is it possible we averaged only 8 mph those 25 miles?
But as we (or rather Roberts) unpacked and battled with the mud in the cold rain, it sunk in – we were in Costa Rica! In a rainforest next to a volcano, furthermore! Despite the hectic events of the past two days, it was clear our adventure had only just begun. On that first night in Costa Rica, we snuggled under the layers of comforters and blankets and immediately fell asleep, the sound of the rain whipping and howling around the mountain a strange lullaby to our tired selves.