Mountains, Forests, Beaches & Besties: Costa Rica Part II

Sometimes a dog's just gotta relax, no matter how amazing it is outside, ya know?

Sometimes a dog’s just gotta relax, no matter how amazing it is outside, ya know?

Our next stop on the adventure through Costa Rica was a place called Monteverde. When Victoria and Jason were planning this stop I managed to take a peek at the map. I don’t know much about how humans get around – dogs don’t really think about what’s over the next hill that often – but it didn’t seem very far away. I should know by now that the line on the map doesn’t really mean much at all, especially when it’s showing you the way to a cloud forest.

The road to Monteverde.  Not cool.

The road to Monteverde. Not cool.

It took us like four hours to get there, and me and Maya were green pretty much the whole time. It felt like riding an earthquake! Nothing but bumpy, rocky, muddy roads, and most of them pointed straight up. My Family was loving the view out the window, but I basically spent the whole time curled up in Victoria’s lap, trying to find my happy place. There were some pretty cool moments. We crossed six rivers, saw a happy human riding a horse with three happy dogs running behind, and drove past a field of those cool wind turbine things, which are basically the biggest things I’ve ever seen. When we finally got to the mountain town of Santa Elena and our first stop, a hostel called Pension Santa Elena, I was hungry, tired and all shook up.

Camping almost on the street in Santa Elena. At least the tacos were good!

Camping almost on the street in Santa Elena. At least the tacos were good!

Santa Elena wasn’t really what I was expecting. It was a super busy town with restaurants, traffic and a ton of people. Where was this forest we were supposed to be visiting? We ended up spending a few nights parked in the lot outside of a hostel, and I wasn’t particularly impressed. We did meet some nice people, including a couple who had driven all the way from Canada in a tiny car. Victoria and Jason used this time to regroup a little bit, shopping for food in a big market, eating tacos from the delicious hostel restaurant, getting some work done and contemplating what comes next. They wanted to find somewhere to stay in the area that was actually part of the forest, and I couldn’t blame them. Me and Maya didn’t have anywhere great to run around, and there were so many street dogs wandering that we basically had to be on leash the whole time. I was more than ready when we packed up the camper and took a short trip further up the mountain.

First super bumpy roads and then shaky wooden bridges! Costa Rica is turning out to be more adventurous than any of us could have imagined!

First super bumpy roads and then shaky wooden bridges! Costa Rica is turning out to be more adventurous than any of us could have imagined!

Once leaving Santa Elena behind we quickly found ourselves on a dirt road surrounded by thick forest. This was more like it! I could smell all sorts of people smells, so I knew we weren’t really that far from civilization. Yet the animal and plant smells overwhelmed anything people tried to do out here. My Family was super excited when we rolled into La Colina Lodge, a hotel and campground that was surrounded by nothing but nature. The woman who worked there was super nice, and got us set up with a honest to goodness campsite, in a field right next to the main house. When we got there we saw there were other campers already set up, a nice couple that Victoria already knew from the internet. Yeah, that’s another human thing, knowing someone you’ve never actually seen and sniffed before. Strange, but it happens all the time. I guess how you guys know about me and Maya and the Big Adventure?

This creepy guy hung out by our campsite the whole time we were at La Colina Lodge.  He didn't move a muscle the entire time!

This creepy guy hung out by our campsite the whole time we were at La Colina Lodge. He didn’t move a muscle the entire time!

We spent a couple more days in Monteverde there at La Colina, and had so much fun. Me and Maya got to be off leash the whole time, hanging with the camp dog, chasing birds and laying in super comfy grassy spots in the sun. And for a cloud forest, it wasn’t that cloudy! We saw beautiful sunsets, hiked the dirt roads and trails, and My Family cooked delicious meals with fresh greens straight from the garden! This was a super nice stop, and I don’t think any of us were ready to leave when we packed up that final morning.

Maya may be bigger than me now but she STILL can't get up stairs.

Maya may be bigger than me now but she STILL can’t get up stairs.

Apparently we had to make an unscheduled stop, which meant leaving a bit earlier than expected. We packed quickly, waited while a nice man washed the big truck for us (Jason was very excited about this) and then left Monteverde behind. The drive out was even crazier than the drive in, with the sort of steep, winding roads we hadn’t really seen since Guatemala. Jason spent some quiet time gripping the wheel and staring straight ahead, but we made our way into the valley without a problem. I’m glad I’m never asked to take a turn at the wheel! I much prefer using driving days for napping.

Our road was closed for over an hour.  It wasn't terrible because My Family let me try Cool Ranch Doritos, yumma!

Our road was closed for over an hour. It wasn’t terrible because My Family let me try Cool Ranch Doritos, yumma!

This was a super long driving day, broken up with a stop at a place called Angel Valley B&B. I didn’t really understand this stopover at the time, though I do now. Angel Valley was a small hotel with a very pretty view, and when we rolled up I was ready to cut loose and run around the yard with Maya. I guess My Family was thinking about spending a few weeks looking after the hotel for the owner. Instead we basically wandered around, looked at stuff, stretched our legs and got right back in the big truck. Didn’t like this so much, especially because the detour took us right through San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica.

I know what you’re thinking – what’s wrong with that? Capital cities are pretty cool right? Maybe we’d see the Queen of Costa Rica, or the Captain or whoever it is that runs things down here? Nope. All we saw was traffic. Lots and lots of traffic. Jason cursed our timing, once he realized that we were crossing the city during something called ‘rush hour’. Well, that’s officially my least favorite human concept. First of all, it took way more than an hour, and secondly no one seemed to be rushing anywhere! It should be called ‘slow afternoon’. By the time we got to the other side of the city it was already getting dark. We don’t usually drive at night, so my hackles were up. My Family wasn’t concerned, except for the fact that we now had to find somewhere to stay in the dark.

My view from Victoria's lap as we drove into the clouds!

My view from Victoria’s lap as we drove into the clouds!

We navigated another mountain and down into a valley to find the town of Orosi. I liked this place right away. Even at night, with the clouds rolling in off the mountain it was pretty, with lit up streets and lots of people walking around. We pulled up in front of a hostel we had heard would accept campers, then stared at it for a while, as they had no driveway. Victoria and Jason spent about ten minutes debating whether it was safe to just park on the street, when finally a nice man waved us down from the field next door. Jason got out to speak to him, and discovered he was friends with the people who run the hostel, and was going to let us stay on his property! He drew back the fence and we rolled onto a cozy, quiet, grassy field to spend the night. Good thing too, because just then it started to rain. We were all pretty grumpy from the long drive and from dealing with traffic for the first time in like forever, so My Family quickly set up the camper and we hunkered down to stay dry and listen to the drops hitting the roof.

Sometimes we camp in actual campgrounds.  Other times we camp on a field owned by a kind stranger.  Life is certainly a Big Adventure!

Sometimes we camp in actual campgrounds. Other times we camp on a field owned by a kind stranger. Life is certainly a Big Adventure!

The next morning was just as wet, and super cloudy. I guess the cloud forest had followed us down into the valley towns! We said goodbye to our host and drove on. The roads evened out, and after a couple of twisty turny mountains we reached the highway. Jason pointed the big truck east, and a couple of hours later I caught a glimpse of something I hadn’t seen since Nicaragua: the ocean! Of course, this is a different ocean. It’s called the Caribbean Sea, and it’s on the opposite side of the country from the Pacific Ocean, which is where our home in Venice was. In fact, we hadn’t seen this particular ocean since our time in Belize! I don’t even really remember back that far.

The roads out at the beach weren't great but a lot less bumpy that when we were in the mountains!

The roads out at the beach weren’t great but a lot less bumpy than when we were in the mountains!

Jason said he was expecting light blue water and reggae music. Well, we got the second one. We spent almost a week in the tiny beach town of Cahuita, and it rained every day. The water was all churned up; it looked mean and cold. Since swimming was basically out of the question (phew!), My Family was very happy to find Camping Maria, which was a really great place to visit. Maria (the owner of Camping Maria, of course!) was super nice to me and My Family. She had a dog named Mancha who was pretty sweet, too. She got on my nerves a little bit, but Maya absolutely loved her. I think they would have played all day together if they could. Maria brought My Family coffee every morning, gave us a comfy covered spot to hang out in, shared fruit from all the fruit trees on the property and told us super funny stories in a unique mix of Spanish and English. I hate rain even more than I hate swimming, but with such a nice hostess, a cool town to wander around and another dog to distract Maya from bugging me all the time, I was pretty much good to go.

Mancha from Camping Maria.  She's the second Mancha we've met on our trip.

Mancha from Camping Maria. She’s the second Mancha we’ve met on our trip.

Me, after running on the beach.  I really L O V E the beach.

Me, after running on the beach. I really L O V E the beach.

The puppy likes to chew things, even in her sleep!

The puppy likes to chew things, even in her sleep!

I wasn’t all that impressed when Victoria and Jason said it was time to leave. I was even less enthusiastic when I overheard their plan: to drive across the entire country in one day. Yep, brilliant idea. Wake up on the Caribbean Ocean, fall asleep on the Pacific, in a small town called Uvita. As I’m now a seasoned adventurer, I knew this would mean a very, very long day in the big truck, battling for Victoria’s lap supremacy with the puppy. I was in quite a mood as we drove away from the ocean and through some pretty bleak towns. We were on a boring stretch of highway when Victoria called out “There’s another truck camper!” Jason was still trying to locate them when Victoria said, “It’s Doris and Torsten!”. This perked me right up. I knew those people! I was standing on Victoria’s lap with two feet up on the dash while Jason drove us around the block, across the highway and into a Walmart parking lot. My Family hadn’t even stopped the truck yet and I was already scrambling for the door. It was true, it was Doris and Torsten!

Reunited and it feels so good!

Reunited and it feels so good!

We hadn’t seen Doris and Torsten since Mexico, which is way too long, because they are two of my absolute favorite humans. Torsten is especially my favorite. He’s so nice, and he loves hugs and kisses as much as Victoria and Jason do. Victoria had tried to get us all back together a couple of times, but we were always a day or two off from crossing paths. And now there we were, in a Walmart in Costa Rica? This adventurous life is pretty strange. Anyway, after standing around chatting and hugging as much as four people and two dogs reasonably can in a Walmart parking lot, My Family decided to scrap the coast to coast plan and join Doris and Torsten for a night up in the mountains.

We split up to run some errands, and then set off to meet them at a place called Mirador de Quetzales. It was sunny and warm when we started driving up this next mountain, but that changed in a hurry. Up ahead we could see what looked like a white wall approaching. We passed through it, and found ourselves in the middle of the thickest cloud I’ve ever seen. Jason could barely see the car in front of us, and nothing beyond that. The rains started, the air cooled and the road pointed almost straight up. We later found out this place was called Cerro de la Muerte, or ‘The Mountain of Death’. Yeah, not very encouraging.

View from Victoria's lap as we headed up The Mountain of Death.

View from Victoria’s lap as we headed up The Mountain of Death.

Slowly but surely we made our way through the cloud and found the Mirador. ‘Mirador’ means ‘Viewpoint’ in Spanish, but there wasn’t much to see when we got there. The clouds were there to stay. Thankfully, our friends weren’t far behind! Along with another camping couple, Heidi and Tomas (who we had met once before back in Antigua, Guatemala), we enjoyed a great night at the campsite. The jungle was thick here, and smelled amazing. I got to spend hours on Torsten’s lap, and everyone was laughing and having such a great time. I didn’t even mind that Maya was getting attention, too. This was the kind of night when there was more than enough love to go around.

Unfortunately, we only had the one night with our friends. Doris and Torsten were headed for Panama, where they are going to ship their camper down to South America. That’s a whole other continent! A continent is a bunch of countries put together, by the way. Torsten joked that I could go with them, and although another big adventure like that was tempting, I would miss My Family too much. Even Maya. She may be an annoying puppy, but she’s kind of growing on me. We saw our friends off, and then packed up to leave as well. We had to make the Pacific Ocean today. Apparently, something different was happening in Uvita. This wasn’t a stop like other stops we’d made, when the timing isn’t really all that important. I didn’t know what was different this time, but anticipation was in the air. Before I’d get any answers, we had to finish crossing Cerro de la Muerte. That meant another two hours of climbing through the foggy dampness before a 12,000 foot descent, to the ocean far below.

Driving through the clouds on our way down the mountain.  Scary.

Driving through the clouds on our way down the mountain. Scary.

PS: Some of the photos My Family took are on our Facebook page.

19
May 2014
POSTED BY Neli
POSTED IN

Costa Rica

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