8.11.2012

Pura Vida


Pura Vida! Those words spoken by Costa Ricans separates them from other Latin American countries and can mean almost anything, hello, goodbye, thank you, you're welcome, fine, cool, etc.  My time spent in Costa Rica was amazing.  We divided our week between the Arenal volcano and the Pacific coast at Guanacaste.
We landed in San Jose.  San Jose is the capital of Costa Rica and the largest city holding roughly half of the country's population.  There were street fairs, markets, performers, beautiful museums, colonial homes and cathedrals and statues everywhere you looked.  There was also police everywhere you looked.  San Jose doesn't have a crime problem compared to any large USA city, but the police are there as a preventative measure.
After San Jose, we drove 3 hours to La Fortuna.  La Fortuna is a small town located near the active Arenal Volcano.  We drove a little more into the national park and stayed at the base of the volcano.  Sometimes you can hear what I thought was light thunder but was actually the volcano rumbling.  Volcan Arenal was not know to be a volcano until 1968 when it erupted from its side and left an enormous path of devastation including destroying the old La Fortuna.  The volcano has been active ever since.  There is plenty to do around the volcano.  We participated in all the normal tourist activities: zip-lining, hanging bridges, whitewater rafting and hiking.  The hanging bridge hike was my favorite.  There were howler monkeys EVERYWHERE.  We saw a viper, some tarantulas, a parrot, army ants, many birds and butterflies.  There was also a crazy plant than would fold on itself when you touched it. Whitewater rafting was a different story.  We were supposed to be going down the Toro river, but because of low rainfall this year, they took us on a different river. They said the river was Class IV.  I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about white water rafting and felt comfortable with this since a few of the rapids in the canyon on the Snake are class IV.  I was wrong.  We were in small 6 person rafts bouncing around this enormous, but choppy rapids.  The first one we went down, the boat almost flipped and was stuck on a rock.  The second rapid we went down, we did flip.  Everyone went under the boat.  My father's foot was stuck in the raft and he had to dislodge it before he could come to the surface to breathe.  The rest of us went through a class V rapid out of the raft.  My only thought was to keep my feet up so they wouldn't catch something and drown me.  Other than that, everything was a reaction, pushing off of rocks as a slammed into them, trying to keep my head above water as I was shoved under by massive waves.  I slid between two rock and felt my ankle catch a rock out to my right in front of me, then my body was shoved forward.  I finally managed to swim out to the edge of the river and grabbed onto one of the other guides who's boat had flipped at well.  He told me to stand up and get out of the water and that's when I realized something was wrong with my knee.  After having ACL and lateral meniscus surgery, I take extreme precautions to protect my knees even though they are 100% now.  Looking back on it, if I had remember to take my brace to Costa Rica, then I would have definitely been wearing it.  Fortunately, I had forgotten and was brace free preventing that massive black bulk to catch anything under the water.  Once the guide pulled me out of the water I looked around and saw my Dad and brothers slowly getting out of the water as well.  I also saw two Spaniards that had been in our raft, standing on the shore, bleeding from multiple cuts on their bodies.  I decided to call it quits and left with the Spaniards to ice my knee and nurse our wounds.  My brothers and Dad continued on and managed to survive somehow.  Another girl was injured after a boat flipped a second time and had to be taken to the clinic. They though she may have broken her femur.
After that experience, it was a relief to go to the beach.  Being from a small coastal state, spending most of my childhood summers at the beach and having gone to a college on the coast, it is difficult for me to be away from the ocean for a long period of time.  Its the one place where I am the most relaxed and feel the safest.  The resort we stayed at was great.  I enjoyed just laying on the beach and reading a book for two days.  It was a beautiful way to end the vacation.
Costa Rica shares a lot of similarities with Jackson.  People care A LOT about the environment there.  Since Costa Rica is a mostly agrarian society, people know how to live off the land and appreciate it deeply.  Costa Rica is all about the beautiful nature that is there.  The people are very knowledgeable about there surroundings and how to use them to their advantage.  They are also very conscious of their impact on the land. Below the Arenal Volcano, is Lake Arenal.  The hydroelectric dam there provides 35% of the electricity for Costa Rica which relies on hydroelectric systems for 75% of their electricity.  In the mountains dividing the rain forest from the coast, the government has placed windmills to help with the remaining electricity needs.  Costa Rica's government, education and healthcare systems are something to be admired as well.
I'm sad that I had to leave Cost Rica after only 1 week, but just like the pilot said as we were landing in Jackson, "Welcome to Jackson Hole and for anyone who is lucky enough to call this place home, welcome home."
I feel so lucky.


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