Saturday, July 18, 2015

Day 1- Traveling to Arenal, Costa Rica

We spent the week packing prior to leaving for Costa Rica.  We were able to pack everything into eight suitcases and six carry on back packs.   We didn't have tons of space in the van or on the luggage rack, and frankly, I didn't really want to deal with tons of luggage-- stuffing fourteen carry-ons into the overhead bin compartments on the plane didn't sound like fun.  One of the suitcases was full of donations that once empty would hold all of our wet towels and shoes on the travel back home.  The other seven suitcases were each shared with two people.
I made sure to pack Tide laundry detergent to wash clothes, and a medical/first aid kit that had everything from antibiotics to Epi-pens and everything in between.
We packed Cup-O-Noodles, Goldfish, and plenty of granola bars for Will-- which were life savers more than once.
Finally, Friday, July 17 was here.
Though our flight did not leave until 1:50am Saturday morning, we left around 8pm for the airport.
Traffic was not bad until we got to the exit for the airport.  It must have taken us 45 minutes to go two miles.
We parked in Lot C and waited what seemed like forever for our shuttle.
We did not do early check-in 24 hours prior to our flight so we had to stand in this line.  Not too bad, if you like to people watch.  Gave us plenty of time to write tags for our luggage.
I chose Avianca because they had flights that allowed us to maximize our time in Costa Rica.  Plus, my ticket was free. 

Finally, our bags were checked and our tickets were in hand.  Jonny and Andrew were so excited-- this was their first time flying on an airplane.

Avianca was a really nice airline.  Not only did it have individual tv screens in the back of the seats, but they had plenty of blankets to hand out, and served a meal on each flight.

Somehow we all managed to get a few hours sleep.
We stopped in Guatemala City for an hour.  We didn't get off the plane however.  It was interesting watching the safety and cleaning crew go through the plane during the short layover.
Kids were playful and chipper as we got ready to land.
Going through customs was a breeze.  There was no delay in picking up our luggage either.  It wasn't long before we saw our name on a sign.
We worked with Erick Hidalgo for majority of our in-country travel.  He was very professional, affordable, and went out of his way to ensure we had a wonderful experience.
For the fourteen of us, we had our own private transportation.  The driver was ours for the whole day (tico time) so we were able to stop wherever and whenever we wanted.

The drive to Arenal was lush and green.  Gorgeous.  My heaven on earth.

After driving for an hour we decided to stop at a local "soda" for something to eat.
We tried a variety of foods-- empanadas, stuffed yucca, nachos, and a large chicken sandwich.  We also tried a few local dishes made with chicken.
We got to try some of the local fresh fruit drinks-- one of them called chan juice which had little black, slimy seeds.  Stasia particularly liked it.
We made one more stop along the way.  Stores like this are seen everywhere, often times attached to the front of the owner's home.  I bought a large candy bar resembling a Big Hunk for all of us to share.
As we drove through La Fortuna it was surreal to be driving down the same road past all of the hotels and hot springs that I had been virtually traveling on Google Earth for the past thirteen months.  It was everything I had envisioned and so much more.
Up ahead there was some traffic.  Erick Hidalgo explained that there were little coati begging for food alongside the road.  We thought he was joking.
He wasn't.

After the entertainment, we continued to drive on the nice, main, paved road for another 10 minutes.  Then we turned off onto a gravel road.
We were well on our adventure.
And oh so close.

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