Costa Rica: Recap of Arenal (April 23, 2014)

Today we woke up bright and early once more to go water repelling. Yes, that means repelling down rocky waterfalls in the rainforest of Costa Rica. Seems awesome, right? Well it was! I was actually a bit nervous going into this activity because I had repelled down a waterfall at my sleep away camp yet it left me in tears and with shaking hands because I dreaded the majority of the repel as I slipped from the rocks and feared my descent into death; well that’s a bit of an overreaction but I wasn’t exactly comfortable during the activity and it was a bit difficult, so I was scared it would be even more difficult here. Turns out it was ten times easier. As I pushed my feet and sprung from the top I swiftly descended and the rope easily slipped through my fingers allowing gravity to take its toll. It was almost like free falling with two backup safety systems! They didn’t take any longer than a minute to get down, if anything 30 seconds! The longest was the first, which probably took about a minute. After one of them you landed in a pool of water!
We then relaxed back at the hotel for a bit to revive and recover our energy for our last activity, a nature hike and tour of more of the forest. We hiked about two miles up towards the arenal volcano, which is actually currently active. We saw quite a bit more wildlife such as a white-faced monkey whilst we were under a 500 year old tree taking a picture and surprisingly, it climbed down from the tall branches to come up in closer proximity to us and most likely analyze us just as we were him. The white-faced monkeys are known to be mean; they will purposely destroy hummingbird nests or crush and crack animal eggs for the sake of fun! The howler monkeys are a bit nicer, but if they see you standing underneath them on a tree they will purposely poop or pee, and they have great aim. SO, they aren’t THAT much nicer. I even saw a tiny green snake that is extremely poisonous by the end of the tour, which excited me because I was sort of hoping but also dreading the idea of seeing a snake. It was such a cute little slivery thing. I learned about a leaf that grows on trees that has many different uses. When its ripe you can brew a tea with it that supposedly helps you lose weight. When it’s rotten and dead you can use the stem as a sponge and apparently you can even use the leave to smoke and it gets you high! Not that this is the BEST use for it. Nature is insanely incredible. Another fun fact I learned is that since squirrels don’t have that much fur and it can get cold, they wrap their tails around their necks for extra warmth and that is where the idea of the scarf came from!! Also a good tip in the forest: brightly colored frogs as well as mushrooms, and probably just any animal that is brightly colored like a snake for example, is most likely poisonous. You can tell because of the color! I also learned that for one year the arenal volcano was extremely active and would go off every 20 minutes! But it isn’t the traditional liquid pouring red lava you see in movies its often solid by the time it reaches the top of the crescent because it took so long to travel all the way up and the molten lava solidifies as it cools at the top! SO it’s like giant boulders exploding from the volcano. The rainforest is breathtakingly gorgeous; it is remarkable to see the millions of shades of green and abundance of tree types flourishing in the rich soil. The infinite amount of different species of insects in Costa Rica is unbelievable and a bit startling. And what’s even more impressive is all of the locals’ extensive knowledge of all of these species, this environment, and their huge emphasis on preserving its beauty by being extremely eco-friendly and gentle with nature and the animals. Not one piece of trash on the ground, and never will you see somebody waste a plate of food or waste anything for that matter. If only it was like that in LA. Tomorrow we head off to our last hotel! Salut!
~xoxo Ali~

Costa Rica Post 2: On Route to Arenal and the VOLCANO (April 21st, 2014)

I am currently on route to Arenal,sitting in a poorly air conditioned bus for the next five hours glancing out at water-deprived plains and grazing cows and banana tree plantations. We just left our hotel in Manuel Antonio, Si Como No and it was a bittersweet goodbye. I am sad to leave its lively beach and friendly locals but I am eager to experience the other flavors of Costa Rica. Yesterday we walked through the National Manuel Antonio Park in hopes of scouting out the famous white faced monkeys and other well-known animals to this exotic ecosystem. Our tour guide informed us of a bacteria-like looking bug that tastes like cotton candy, a plant that many of our cleaning supplies are derived from, and a toxic grape like fruit that will shut down your nervous system even if its skin touches yours an absorbs into your body. They were scattered all over the sand at one point of our tour and since I was wearing flip flops, I was a bit anxious to keep moving along rather than stand in the midst of these life-stealing juicy balls of death and hear more about them. Luckily, we saw a couple of white faced monkeys including a mother and her newborn baby, which clinged on to her back; I guess it should be called a monkey-back ride instead of a piggy back ride! She was slowly climbin the branches of the trees scouring for food while her paparazzi (us tourists) snapped away. It was probably one of the cutest things I have ever seen. I also saw about three sloths including both two toed and three toed ones. I learned that while they rarely move during the day due to their extreme laziness, they manage to climb all the way down from their trees to the ground and dig an entire hole just to desiccate and then cover it up and climb all the way back up. If they are so lazy you would think they’d just let it all out at the top of the tree! Landon, the Canadian I met yesterday also told us that they have sex for an entire week. Fun facts of Costa Rica.
During the walking tour we took a midway break at this secret beach cove. I have never seen such a beautiful beach in person in my entire life. The water was a turquoise color, like the Mediterranean sea of Greece I have always dreamed about. The water was calm and gently dancing with the light wind; there wasn’t a string of seaweed or a pesky sandcrab to be found and the sand was velvet on your skin. I floated in that buoyant sea and let my body’s weight become non-existent. I love the float in the water and immerse my ears in the sound of the silent sea and feel like I am one with the ocean. When you wake up from your float mediation you feel refreshed, revived, and completely relaxed. We then continued our walking tour and ended up coming back to the beach we had been before. We finish our tour eating fresh pineapple and watermelon as a treat (the same treat we got after we ziplined so it seems to be the popuar snack of Costa Rica) and then went back to our hotel for a snack and back once again to the beach.
The weather was scorching today and the humidity dampens and weightens the air, like living in a sauna to say the least. I tried my best to tough out the sun and tan, dripping sweat as I did and feeling the burning sensation of a potential sunburn arising. Luckily I haven’t burned too bad but I still have, because with this sun it’s almost impossible not to if you are only using SPF 30 and your are sweating and swimming the protection off every hour. My mom, dad and I ate a dinner of steak and fish at a nie restaurant a little ways off from our hotel, after leaving two other hotels. One of whih the menu looked so unappetizing that I pretended to feel sick so that we’d have an excuse to leave after we had already been seated. My mom was very upset and embarrassed that we did this but I don’t care because I’ll do anything for good food.
~ xoxo Ali~