Last Day Here

Well... here we are. It's Christmas Eve and I'm sitting on a private balcony overlooking an amazing tropical garden back where we started this whole adventure. Yesterday we checked out of our resort hotel at Sugar Beach right after breakfast. That place really went beyond our expectations. We had an amazing three days lounging and saw more tropical wildlife there than we did in the rain forest... but I'm getting ahead of myself.

We drove and drove and drove. The roads. My goodness, someone could make a fortune in government contracts if they decided to repair, or in most cases pave them. The unpaved ones were the blessings, because at least you can grate a dirt road and don't have unexpected feet deep pot holes to contend with. Deadly. Driving the longest distance of any day we journeyed, and in this case, through mountainous passes in which unmarked, we were never certain whether we were even on the right road. (Hard to be sure if you are on a major interstate when suddenly it seems like the road has only been used to herd cattle.)

Don't get me wrong. The driving might have been our favorite part, despite the discomfort of actually doing it, we saw some of the most lovely parts of the country. We went through a really cowboy area where everyone was on horseback and had leather-holstered machetes (or were out in the feilds machete-ing away.) One guy was hitchhiking with a 12 inch knife on his hip. (We didn't pick him up.) These cowboys have a swagger that reminds me of home in a way. My dad would've loved it.

We paid my trumped up traffic ticket at a national bank in Liberia and made our way to the Monteverde Cloud Forest. Finding the forest was a little tricky. When we got frustrated, we stopped at an Italian place for lunch. We ordered pizza expecting little personal sized ones and got two full sized pizzas. (Mine had gargonzola cheeze, asparagus, mushrooms, and motza with a homemade sauce... Mark got ham, both were wood-fired.) So cool. We ate outside and they served the pizza with flavored oils. One had hot peppers, and was actually so hot that even a little drop of the oil on the pizza made the bite flame with smoke out your ears. It was great. (I could have discovered this before I finished my diet coke.)

But we made it to the Cloud Forest and went on a short hike. We didn't hire a guide. We only had a hour or so before the park closed (at 4:30 pm... we left Sugar Beach at 8 am. That's how long it took us to drive approximately 200 kilometers.) We did pass some groups on the trail that had a guide. One guy was doing bird calls to try to get a quetzal to call back. They had a scope to view through. I watched for a while, but no birds were calling back and I was having a very hard time not laughing. This guy was doing some pretty good bird calls. The hike was really, really amazing. We went to a waterfall and then circled back to the beginning. There were some really lovely plants, a Ferngully tree that really amazed me, and moss and those rope-thingys hanging from everywhere. No one should miss how pretty the rain forest is. It started raining a really soft mist just as we left. We were trying to beat the sun down the mountain because these switchbacks were pretty daring and of course, there are no street lights. We didn't quite make it, but we got the worst of the pass behind us. When we finally made it to the freeway, some truck was backing up the traffic for miles going only 5 mph. We followed him for about an hour. Very agrivating because this road was paved and sans pot hole. We could've gone 80 kpm easy and should have been the easiest part of the drive. We drove up and down the streets of Atenas looking for our hotel. At this point, we had been driving for 12 hours. The hotel was not well marked and we spent about an hour looking for it. When we finally found it, it lacked amenities. It didn't have shampoo, or a tub (just a stall,) air conditioning, a tv, a coffeemaker, anything. And the plumbing was the kind where you have to put the paper in the wastebasket. It was actually more expensive than the all-inclusive resort. If it had been cheap, we probably would not have minded the lack of amenities... but it was priced at about four times what you get, so we were not excited about staying two days. (We reserved the "master suite" which was so small I kept hitting the walls on accident changing my clothes. -- We were expecting this to be the nicest place we stayed.) As soon as we woke up this morning, we checked out cancelling our second day on the chance that we could find something else. We drove around town for a while and I called the hotel we stayed at the first day when Mark was sick. It was very nice and he sort of missed out on enjoying the gardens. We got a room and relaxed a little.

It is Christmas Eve and everyone is very festive. They are setting up for the carnivals and parades during the Semana de Santas (Holiday week.) We ate at Denny's and returned the car. The car rental place shuttled us back to the hotel where we got showered and ready for the day. Today we plan on getting a taxi out to see a butterfly garden, the zoo, and if time permits, the "world of insects."

Tomorrow we fly home early. It would be nice if we could just stay on vacation for a month like the French do. We are having an amazing time.

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