Thursday, February 25, 2016

Pura Vida: Arenal Area

"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet.
Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened,
ambition inspired, and success achieved."
                                                               Helen Keller

 Oh boy, just when a certain amount of peace, contentment, and acceptance had been achieved, Life hit the fan, yet again.  The past six months have been a quagmire of “stuff’ to say the least.  Thank God, I have learned to live one day at a time (most of the time), and believe that “This too shall pass.”  I will say that I am proud of myself.  Yes, that feels good.  And, to quote a certain lady, I have conducted myself with grace and dignity (most of the time).

Healing…has become a way of life it seems.  A dear family member has found that her writing is bringing her comfort (and it has been beautiful and poignant).  I, on the other hand, seemed to have lost my voice.  I am determined to rediscover it.  Much of yesterday was spent writing, and I cannot find it anywhere.  So, here I go again…

Watching from afar my Ladies meet (somewhat at the last minute) in Marrakesh! for a yoga retreat filled me with comfort and joy.  I wanted some of that.  I had been chatting with a Lady about a yoga retreat she was organizing in Costa Rica (a bucket list dream place).  I couldn’t “justify” it.  Nina reached out again on a particularly tough day.  You know what?  Sign me up!  And she did!  (Thanks in large part to Santa Claus and JetBlue).

Nina Orenstein, founder and owner, of Paraiso Adventures organizes, orchestrates, and executes amazing retreats.  I can now lovingly say that from experience.   And, after some chats she helped me in planning a few days before the retreat to explore another part of Costa Rica by introducing me to Erick Zelaya of Volcano Lake Adventures.

Flying standby is a bit like gambling (which I rarely do).  Waiting to get on the plane is nerve-wracking.  But when you get called and get that seat, exhilarating!   Arriving in San Jose after two flights, to warmth and sunshine, was a boon to the soul.  Walking amongst hundreds of cabbies hawking their services and finding a kind looking man holding a sign with my name on it, the cherry on top.

Edwin and I had a lovely two+ hour drive from San Jose to La Fortuna in the Arenal Volcano area.  He speaks very little English.  I speak very bad Catholic high school Spanish with a Boston accent.  It was lovely.  Edwin pointed out the sugar cane, the pineapples, the papayas, the coffee plantations.  We came upon fields and fields of lush green pastures and many vaca, con leche. (indeed the area produces a lovely cheese from these cows).  It was reminiscent of the road to Hana on Maui in Hawaii and Ireland, sometimes at the same moment.

From balcony: Arenal Volcano
A smiling Erick and his assistant Rick were there at Hotel Central Loft to great me.  After a quick settle in, I hungrily went down to the rowdy restaurant bar to get something to eat.  The Super Bowl was playing.  How oddly comforting to go to another country for the rituals of home.  I had my first simple, healthy Costa Rican dinner of tilapia, rice and beans, salad, and friend plantains while chatting with a lovely Lady from Portland Maine!

My first pool of the day
My last pool..
Usually when I travel, half the fun is in the planning.  This time, I put myself into the hands of Nina and Erick, and they planned a wonderful trip that was so good for my body and soul.  Being in the rain forest, I expected wet.  That is exactly what I got.  But that did not hinder my explorations.   Day 1 in Arenal had me at the Baldi Hot Springs Resort.  It was a great relaxing day, with a few hours spent at the Spa having a massage and pedi.  The Buffet Dinner was actually pretty good.  I came home content and rested.  It was lovely, but man-made utilizing the hot springs abundant in the area


Day 2 Eric had me on a wildlife “safari” of sorts to the Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge very close to the Nicaraguan border.  (Why does just saying that still bring fear to me?  It’s clearly not new that our media can instill this…).  It was interesting and we saw huge iguanas, a sloth doing what he does best at the top of a tree-sleeping, many beautiful birds,  Caimon crocodiles, and my favorite..monkeys..white-faced (Capuchian), howler, and spider.  Another simple, healthy lunch was included shared with nice Dutch ladies making for a lovely expedition.

Day 3 in the Arenal area was started lazily reading (so delighted I can do this again, as my attention-concentration has been difficult for that in recent years..Harry Potter has helped in the cure) then meeting with a group for an easy hike in the Arenal National Park.  We explored the Observation deck of the volcano, hiked into a beautiful waterfall (wish I hadn’t already been soaked and cold as I so wanted to play), then the piece de resistance… real natural hot springs by candlelight sharing shots of moonshine.  That’s what I’m talking about!

Erick was all smiles greeting me as I was dropped off, wet and happy. After a warm shower I crossed the street to thoroughly enjoy fresh guacamole and ceviche (both of which are popular and plentiful in Costa Rica) and live Reggae.  Perfect end to a great day.

Early the next morning a sweet smiling young man, Luis, came to pick me up for the ride back to San Jose where I was to meet my Yoga retreat comrades.  Half way to the city, Luis informed me he was Edwin’s son.  Wonderful!  As his English was better than my Spanish, we had a lovely ride.  Next stop: Santa Teresa for Paradaiso’s Yoga Retreat!