Tuesday after the wedding we arrived at the airport at like 5am for our 6am flight out to Costa Rica. It was still hot as hell in beantown.
The flights to Miami and then to Liberia, CR were pretty uneventful. We watched "The Bucket List" and snoozed a bit. We got off the plane in Liberia and went "in" to the customs building. The customs building was a roof with two ( corrugated plastic ) walls, and two of the biggest ceiling fans I've ever seen. They were like helicopter blades! We'd come all this way, and what was I most stricken by in this wonderful tropical land? Fans. Soon enough though, that would change. We hopped in a cab and drove to our first destination: Utter Paradise. I must interject here though, that perhaps our perception of said Paradise was skewed by its contrast to the ride there. 1.5 hours on decent paved roads through little towns and villas, through beautiful mountain passes. Not so bad. Then a quick jog onto a dirt road. Not so bad. Another 1.5 hours later, our gizzards were thoroughly jumbled thanks to the suspension of our ride and the fact that this dirt road wasn't just dirt, it had essentially been carpet bombed by the "green season" and had the profile of an ice cube tray. But the jolly cabbie kept us distracted with good conversation. Finally we arrived, and our joy was prodigious.
The hotel itself was perfect. The beach was beautiful. The pool was relaxing and the temperature cozy. The food was ridiculous; fresh and simple. There was wildlife: crabs and lizards galore (What? crabs are awesome!). We took long walks on the beach, stumbled into the raucous surf, sunned ourselves by the pool, enjoyed rare and wondrous beverages, explored the exquisitely designed grounds of the hotel, played a little ping-pong, dangled from individual personal hammocks, ordered desserts when the timing was clearly inappropriate, showered indoors, showered outdoors, ordered ice cream and ate it while petting adorable doggies, dunked in the pool, air-dried in the sun, and did some other stuff I don't remember right now. But it was exactly what we needed, and we paused frequently to contemplate our luck and make sure we really noticed the beauty we were experiencing. It kicked ass big time.
After 5 days of this we had had enough. And by "had enough" I mean "booked nights elsewhere to see other things that this wondrous country has to offer, but were nervous about it measuring up to the glowing perfection of the Harmony Hotel." So we headed off to a nearby airstrip to continue our adventures.
Now I'm sure you're expecting some crack about the "Airport" and that teeny little plane, but fortunately both of us had previously been on even smaller planes than that one, so we were not intimidated or nervous. My one observation is that the plane depicted on the "Aeropuerto" sign would never fit on this runway so it's a bit of false advertising. That's all I got, sorry. Off we flew to San Jose in the twin-prop, noting how turbulent air affects little planes in such a more tangible way than something like a 757, and also how smaller planes that fly so much lower are able to have much bigger windows, thus affording exquisite views. From San Jose airport we took another cab to Los Angeles Cloud Forest. We were dropped off at Villa Blanca, a fancy resort on the top of a mountain which is practically always shrouded in cloud-cover. It's really beautiful and really interesting because the view changes constantly; sometimes you can see the next range, sometimes you can only see trees 20 feet away from you, and with everything in between comes an entirely different perspective on the environment you're in. Very cool.
This was less of a "relax and do nothing" type of place; we had a couple activities planned for the 2 full days we had available to us. We went on a rainforest tour hike, and on a zipline canopy tour. Both were wicked cool for different reasons. The first day we went on the nature hike with a guide who was working on his english. It was just the three of us. He was really nice and knew all sorts of interesting things, and you could tell he was a native because he was super comfortable just going up to all the plants and touching them and testing the strength and stickiness of different spiderwebs with his fingers. Attributes like that, for some reason, scream "I'm from around here!" to me. I guess it's a lack of fear based in knowledge and comfort with his surroundings. Anyway, he pointed out all sorts of crazy plants and told us many interesting facts, which I could relay to you if I remembered any of them. There was a huge "Tree Fern" which is a beautiful fern that grows ... to the size of a tree. Interesting to me because in my view it has two states: beautiful large fern with trunk-like base, and terrifying spiky pre-fern tendriled monstrous thing. You'll see in the pictures below. The guide also told us about the Trumpet tree, which has a number of interesting traits. Visually interesting because of its semi-above ground root structure, which is weird because the trunk stops before it hits the ground. Also interesting because pretty much all other trees in the forest are covered in a thick carpet of moss or entangled in strangling vines. The trumpet tree attracts army ants (fire ants?) which live up in the canopy and occasionally come down and eat / kill anything growing on the tree ... it's one of the many symbiotic relationships we were shown in the rainforest. For this reason it is good to remember: stay the hell off of trumpet trees unless you want an army of giant alien killer robot ants climbing into your shorts.
It was an incredibly beautiful place, and I felt like time was standing still while we were in there. Could you pick out the photo of the young tree fern? Yeah, the one with teeth and tentacles. Lovely, right? After the hike we were intellectually and physically spent, so we spent the rest of the day relaxing in a bubble bath, cloud forest style.
The next day was crazy canopy adventure day. At 10am with another honeymooning couple, we were shuttled off to the zipline tour. We were introduced to our tourguide, who announced upon meeting us that this was "his first time." We all laughed and followed him up to the room where they outfitted us with harnesses, helmets, and gloves. They were very professional, and cracked a couple jokes to lighten the mood, because despite the fact that the other couple met in the military, and despite Kate and I having decided that "Danger" is to be our last name, we all had the feeling that what we were about to embark upon was mortally terrifying. We headed out to the first platform and after a brief explanation of how everything works, we promptly started taking pictures of ourselves to prove that we were alive at the beginning of the outing. The other guy went first. Then his wife, and then Kate, because she's braver than me. Note Kate has a huge smile on her face! Across the valley and into the trees you go!
Here's some video I took on the way down:
The first one broke the ice. From then on it was smooth sailing and everyone thought it was fun and there was no more talk of fear or death or even gravity. The only scary part came right before the last zipline, we ran into a baby tarantula on its way home from school. A baby tarantula is a fucking monstrous creature. There is no sense of scale here, but that thing is only a little smaller than my hand. I guess as they get older they get fatter and hairier.
So ziplining through the rainforest is rad. After the canopy tour, we headed back to Villa Blanca and relaxed for a bit, and then went to check out the humming birds. I had seen humming birds before, but never had I seen such cheeky ones. They would land on your hand or your head and would therefore allow you to take surprisingly good close up photographs of them. Before I learned about their audacity I was trying to take photos of them from our casita's porch and decided that they were officially the most difficult creatures to photograph in nature. I'm glad I was wrong.
Look at their little feet! So cute. And here's some video of them being generally crazy while Kate tries to get them to land on her outstretched hand.
Fun! Another video I took has nothing to do with anything, but what's a trip to the rainforest without remarking upon the ants that carry giant leaf chunks on their backs? For some reason, probably due to all the nature shows I watched as a kid, when I think "rainforest" I think ants. So here's proof that we were indeed in a rainforest, and there were indeed highways of ants all over the place:
Another interesting thing about the cloud forest is that at night there are about 500 billion moths that come out and try to fly into your face. It's pretty cool because the moths are sometimes the size of a frying pan. And sometimes they forget to go home when it's light out, and they join you for breakfast.
Sadly, eventually we had to come home and return to our actual lives. This is exciting and cool because now our lives are fundamentally different. We're married! But it's also a bummer because zipping through the sky or sitting in the sun and doing nothing all day was a pretty superfantastic existence. We had to pack up and head home. With beauty in the past and promise in the future, we sat in airports for about 7 hours because Miami International was hit by lightning and American Airlines' timetable blew up.
We finally got home safe and sound at like 4:30am.