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Archive for January, 2004

January 21st, 2004: 2:48 pm

The following is from a series of emails sent out during our three week trip to Costa Rica in January 2004:

While in Montezuma we took a snorkelling trip out to a remote island where they let you go and see various exotic fish. Very colourful! I hope the underwater camera photos turn out… the snorkelling is then followed by a bbq they prepare out on the island, which is pretty good.

We did some general relaxing while in Montezuma, and then made our way back to the capital (San Jose) on Friday. That trip was a bus to a ferry, which stops in Punterenas, where we briefly stopped the week prior on the way to the mountains. This town is located on a peninsula, which is 1.5km long by maybe 300 m wide (two to three blocks wide depending on where). Unfortunately the ferry terminal and the bus station are at the 1.5km opposite ends of town, and we made the mistake of walking the whole way (with all our backpacks and stuff on) while trying to find the bakery for a sandwidh. We thought it was only a few blocks away, but it was actually close to the bus station. Getting there, it turned out they didnt have sandwiches. Doh!!!

The next few days were spent just outside the capital in a town called Heredia. We met up with a friend of mine for one of those days and had a great visit! We went to the San Jose promenade where the main shopping is, and found their equivalent of a mall as well. Also downtown we checked out a gold museum, which houses many gold pieces from the Costa Rican days before Columbus and when other greedy Europeans set foot on the land. The artifacts ranged from decorative (pendants, etc), ceremonial (burial gifts), medicinal (used by shamans), and for war purposes. This whole museum is owned by the National Bank, and is actually in a large underground vault. Lucky for us we werent locked in that overnight.

The other museum we checked out (there are actually many more) was a Jade museum, which actually had ceramics in half it, and Jade in the other half. I guess ceramics arent exciting enough on their own. The Jade seemed to be mostly decorative in purpose.

The last few days in the city made for a good way to wind down from the trip, and gear up for returning home. Most of the country (including the places we went to) are rural, and illustrate a different lifestyle than that in San Jose. While the Costa Rica is not that big, the terrain makes getting here and there a less than trivial issue, and there is a wide variety of things to see and do, without getting bored too easily. And theres no snow!!!

While its hard to leave a place like that to come back to colder snowier lands, there were three things I came up with to look forward to back home:

  1. hot water shower with loads of water pressure
  2. my electric toothbrush
  3. not having to put on sunscreen and feel gross for yet another day
  4. (okay I lied, theres four) Canadian Beef!!!

Technology showcase: Three weeks resulted in some 800 high-resolution digital photos totalling 2GB (or 3 CDs worth). But how was it possible to store all of them while on the go? The Apple iPod, while notoriously stylish and renouned as ont of the more popular portable MP3 players can also serve as a mobile hard drive! With over 20 albums on the road with us, there was still plenty of room to spare for my excessive photo habits!

I look forward to seeing you all soon

Chris Christou

January 14th, 2004: 7:37 pm

The following is from a series of emails sent out during our three week trip to Costa Rica in January 2004:

In our second day in Liberia, we went on an all-day hike. I thought this would be some easy, flat-land walk here and there to see this n that, but thats where I was grossly mistaken. In the hot, sweaty afternoon, we walked ten kilometeres!!! Over RUGGED TERRAIN!!! This was one of the dumbest ideas of the trip (physically exhausting ourselves), but the things we saw were pretty cool. The first leg was a 3km loop that shows off a waterfall, a sulphur steam pit, and bubbling mud (which I wanted to see). The second leg was 4 km in to a waterfall (then 4 km OUT) with a blue-water pond that you can swim in. This stretch of hiking I was not a fan of, becayse heading in, we had no clue how far the waterfall actually was! Needless to say, we did not collapse (but barely — 3 days later we are still sore), the natural views were spectacular, and the Tilley hat remained resillient!

We then headed back to the coast, where we are now. After the cold, windy, rainy mainland and mountains, we were more than ready for the heat and beaches. We spent two days in Tamarindo, a tourist trap where there are more Americans than locals. We did go on a horseback ride for a few hours, with the highlight being able to gallop down the beach shore, and the lowlight being that I didnt know how to ride a horse to start with — very bumpy!!!! But, loads of fun :)

Today we headed to Montezuma, which is some kind of hippie hideout or something. But it is very laid back and relaxing. Earlier this evening some grunge-hippies were playing in the town centre, drumming up a frenzy. The traffic did not manage to reduce the headcount of frenzied dancers in the street.


January 10th, 2004: 7:34 pm

The following is from a series of emails sent out during our three week trip to Costa Rica in January 2004:

Hi all, and here we go again!

So that crazy type of rain I talked about in the past email — it turns out that is actually the inside of a cloud! It sounds like more fun than it actually is apparently.

Last email we were in Santa-Elena. We were ready to make our way out of the mountains, but the next stop was either a seven hour public bus ride around the mountain, or a $21 USD per person tour ACROSS the mountain in a “jeep-boat-jeep” package. This is the zaniest terrain I have ever seen that was called a ‘road’, and was 90 minutes of riding in a blender. All my internals should literrally be mixed together now! Tem minutes short of losing it, we stopped (thank goodness) at a place where we take a 30 minute boat ride across a lake, which goes to a point on the road near our next stop, the town of La Fortuna.

This was a nice little town. Its feature attaction is the Arenal Volcano. This volcano is known for being very active, apparently erupting every few hours. We heard it and it sounds like thunder… very neat. The key tour is to go to an observation point where you can see the lava running off the top of the volcano, with a fiery red hot glow. Unfortunately it was very cloudy and raining on and off, and so even after staying a day longer to try and catch a glimpse, no view. Postcards it is for this album.

Today we left from there, and took a series of three buses over six hours to the city of Fortuna. Population 50,000 we expected this ranch-town to be as dirty and unenjoyable as San Jose, but it isnt! It is actually a nice place with lots in the centre-street area (ie: downtown) to walk around and see. Since we were in a bigger populous, I wanted to find a music store to get some latin music. This escapade took over an hour to find such a store, asking people who didnt know English, and getting directions in spanish and pointing, and no two direction sets were the same. But we finally got the right directions from someone who knew how to explain in English! yay!

Technology highlight: The plumbing is not set up too well here. I think that while tourism is a major industry in the country here, it caused lots of hotels and stuff to get set up pretty quickly. As a result, I am guessing that certain infrastructures that were in place and built on top of cannot handle the use we’d expect. As a result, most toilets we have encountered you cannot flush toilet paper down. You actually have to place it in a trach can beside the toilet. Nothing like that outhouse scent in your indoor, modern-day loo!

Take care, and hope to hear from you all again soon. We can’t wait to get back and visit! But after a little more relaxing…


January 7th, 2004: 5:44 pm

The following is from a series of emails sent out during our three week trip to Costa Rica in January 2004:

Hello once again!

Sometimes you hit a better internet spot than others ,and sometimes you get a bit more free time than others to send out an iupdate. Also sometimes ytou get a grossly sticky eyboard (thats also a spanish board) which makes you type a lort of typos, so thats why the internet will be slower as you download all my typos toady.

We are in Monteverde until tomorrow morning now, and this plae is high up in the mountains (translation is litteraly “Green Mountain”) The weather is weird here. Not like the “wait 5 minutes” addage in Alberta. Here it is extreemely windy, and rainy (its uyp in the clouds, so had I thought about that it would have made mor sense BEFORE coming here). The rain is not usual though, its like these tiny water particles you can see, just swirlking around in the wind untill they hit somethuing (like you). And they are so thick that it makes things very foggy, much like when it snows a lot. And when its sunny and clear out, its still raining like this! So anyways I will be glad to be in warmer locales again soon (not that this was a bad place)

So today we took a “Sky Walk” which is a walk in and above some rainforest (also called Cloud Forest, being so high up) and its part nature trail and part walks over suspension bridges. Very fun but the rain kept me from taking too many photos.

This afternoon we went to a frog pond thing, which has a bunch of frogs local to Central America on display in booths that recreate their natural habitat (else they´d be dead). I think the Telus guy was there too further exploiting these guys. But seriously it was neat to see.

The local bus system in Costa Rica is excellent, and cheap! There is no equivalent that I know of in Alberta and makes the Greyhound look rediculous. For usually a few bucks you can hop from town to town, varying between 10 kms to 200 kms (there are longer too). The buses are pretty frequent as well, but the most amazing part is that a trek between towns is not trivial at all! The roads are windy, bumpy (Edmonton doesnt know what a pothole is), and very hilly. This in my opinion makes these bus drivers heros, equivalent to what firefighters are to the USA now.

Technology highlight: The tilley hat is not only stylish but functional as well! For $65 (available at your finer local outdoors verdors) you can have a hat that floats, will never leave your head in the craziest of winds, will keep your head dry in the craziest of rains, shade you from the sun, and is guaranteed for LIFE (yours) not to break or get lost (or they will replace it!)!!! This is a definite must have for any traveller!

No that wasnt a plug, it was a serious testimonial.

Okay take care and hope to hear from you all real soon


January 6th, 2004: 7:13 pm

The following is from a series of emails sent out during our three week trip to Costa Rica in January 2004:

Nasa gets to Mars again!!!!! Horray!!!!!!

Meanwhile, the Christou Costa-Rican rovers have been busy crossing the crazy central american lands on their own exploratory mission. Considering I have already written a fair bit in my own book, I will pick and choose from this, and try and give a more detailed account of what goes on more frequently in the coming week. Locations wont mean much to you, so go over to mapquest.com or something and try and look these places up.

Dec 29 we got to San Jose (the capital) in the evening, after waking up at 4am to start this adventure. Add to this that we were both still pathetically sick from before Christmas, and this was a sad sad start to the trip.

San Jose actually smells like an exhaust pipe, so we took off on Dec 30 for the Pacific Coast, a beach town called Jaco. Descending from the higher grounds gives you a definitely noticable change in humidity. It is very scenic there, and the food is great. With one exception — Here is a ‘Christou style’ excerpt from my journal:

*** …walking around after supper I still hadn’t found pineapple, which is supposed to be plenty, delicious, and white. A pizza kiosk looked to be closing for the night soon so I asked to buy some slices of pineapple. Apparently he had some pre sliced fruit wrapped up. 200 colones (pronounced co-LONE-ehzzz, about 60cents CDN), thanks, and start walking down the road. Oh buy, unwrapping, I cant wait to eat this! BLAAAAAAAAAA! IT TASTES LIKE BEER! I think it sat there all day and was very rotten. I want pineapple :( ***

Since then I have learned to get it sliced up fresh in front of you. I have also found some pineapple since then, and it was indeed delicious!!!

okay where was I… we were there a few days, and then went to Manual Antonio (further south along the Pacific coast) for a few days. It is another beach community. There is a national park here, at which we saw some monkeys, sloths, iguanas, and a boa constrictor. Also we took a tour into a rainforest, which had numerous zip lines (some 120 feet into the sky on the massively tall trees), and repell lines straight down. This was very cool!

Today we took off for the mainlands/mountains, it couldnt have been better timing. A huge downpour started yesterday and continued into the morning, which wouldnt have allowed for anything outdoors anyways. One transfer, 6.5 hours, and hundreds of windy roads later, we are in the mountain regions of Monteverde (Santa Elena). It rains a lot here and its actually chilly. There is not as much humidity since we are not near the coast, but the big upcoming attraction will be a continuously active volcano! More in that after we get there.

Okay we are bring kicked out of the internet cafe as it is closing, so I have to wrap it up here!

talk to you all later