Monday, September 08, 2008

Pura Vida Day 6 - Pacific Journey

Thursday, August 7, 2008 - Another sunrise was hidden behind a deluge - it was raining in the rainforest. But never mind, for our bags were packed and set outside our door for those mysterious forces who would spirit them away towards the Pacific sands while we enjoyed one last breakfast on the slopes of Arenal Volcano.

After one last solitary walk of the hotel grounds - umbrella and video camera in hand - we were on the bus and making our way to La Fortuna to kill some time before our flight to Quepos. Over 40 rain-free minutes, we strolled the sleepy streets, poking our heads into shops to buy coffee and souvenirs for those left behind in more northern latitudes. La Fortuna is actually a lovely little town with it's central park and iconic church-tower framed by Arenal - her attendant clouds in the distance.

La Fortuna in the shadow of Arenal

Next stop was the La Fortuna air-strip where The Gang would board 2, 19-seat Twin Otters that would take us West, over The Great Divide towards the Pacific coast. Boarding the planes was complicated in its simplicity - get off the bus, walk across the airstrip, and get on the plane. If you like, take some pictures on the airstrip. Pose with the pilot. And leave your shoes on. A bewildering process for North Americans. In celebration of these strange, new freedoms, I made a bandolier of extra-large water bottles whilst employing a nail trimmer to clean the soles of my platform shoes. Oh yeah, I'm a Bad Boy.

Welcome to Nature Air!

While only 35-minutes in duration, the scenery from the Twin Otter was nothing short of breathtaking. The jungle plateaus of Arenal gave way to the mountains that serve to divide the flow of rivers, East and West. Small villages appeared here and there and I wondered why they were there. Soon, we could glimpse the twinkling of the Pacific waters and follow the salty foam where ocean meets sand.

As we exited the planes at Quepos air-strip, we were met by Sun and warm breezes. It felt tropical! Waiting for us were 2 shuttle buses ready to whisk us 15 minutes down the road to our next home - Arenas del Mar. The road from Quepos hugs the Pacific cliffs and around every bend was a new ocean vista that would elicit actual Ooo's and Ahh's from The Gang - the surf, the rocky shores, the small islands all furry with green.

Arenas, as we would learn, also hugs the Pacific cliffs. The entrance gate is more-or-less a welcome station where we found an efficient squaron of 6-seater golf carts waiting to drive us down the winding switchback trail to the hotel proper. Along the way we spotted iguanas, sloths, and even a few monkeys. It felt like we'd arrived at an ocean paradise, really and truly. But this was only the appetizer.

Scenic Shuttle Service

As our rooms were being prepared, we were treated to a barbeque lunch on Arenas' private beach. The buffet and barbeque were setup in a shady grove with plenty of tables and chairs setup on the fine sand. Beyond the welcoming shade was the pounding surf in a little cove that resonated Pirates of the Carribbean. One could almost imagine Disney built all this just for us, because no place like this could exist by chance. Translation: Sipping a cool Imperial on a Pacific beach under a palm tree with the smell of barbeque in the air was just about the best time I could have imagined right then.

After lunch it was time for play. The hotel had supplied boogie boards for us, and the kids and Dads put them to great use in the pounding surf. Many Moms pulled chairs into the shallow surf to supervise the smaller kids. At almost 3 hours into our Beach Afternoon, the dark clouds came rolling in from offshore. Weather was coming for us, but it was time to find our rooms anways.

Our ocean paradise under threatening skies.

Just off the beach is an open air lounge/bar, which is where we gathered while Fico and Rae handed out the room assignments. As families were assigned their building and room numbers, hotel staff stepped in to lead us in the right direction. All in all, a very organized procedure, I'd say. Our room was up the cliff near reception, and our 3rd-floor room afforded us an amazing sweep of the Pacific - punctuated by rocky, green islands just off the coast. It was picture postcard perfect!

The rooms themselves were splendid. At the center was a living area with couches and chairs looking our floor-to-ceiling sliding doors towards the water. On either side of this room were 2 bedrooms - one for the kids and one for the adults. Off all 3 rooms was a large terrace that pretty much spanned the entire living space. This would all do quite nicely.

As we were settling in, the dark clouds became rain and intense wind - a storm off the Pacific! The howling was almost surreal. The force of the wind and rain was enough to force no small amount of water around every opening in the living room's sliding doors. It wasn't long before the tile floor was a puddle extending 4 feet into the room! We gathered bath towels from all 3 bathrooms and jammed them along the bottom of the doors. They were quickly soaked, wrung out, and soaked again. One call to Housekeeping and we found 2 hotel staff at our door with mops and many towels. They assured us they would take care of everything, and that was our cue to find our dinner (complimentary umbrellas in hand).

The kids would be dining back down at the beach open-air lounge for a Junior Adventurer's night. The agenda for this event (led by Rae and Fico) was a mystery, known only to our Guides and only the highest levels of the Masonic Lodge. The adults would be dinng in the hotel restaurant near Reception. The menu was ours to explore, and Disney would cover the bill. Any thoughts of a romantic dinner with Dee evaporated when we met the rest of The (adult) Gang in the bar area. Our good friend from St. Louis offered that we all dine at one long table, together. And that's just what we did.

Kids' night out

The meal was great. The wine was great. I cannot remember having such a relaxing good time. We simply ate and laughed for 2 solid hours. It's a rare thing to suspend One's cares so completely - and I was glad to be in the moment.

But by 9pm we needed to collect the Junior Adventurers, so we went down the winding paths, en masse. By all accounts, the kids had a fine time watching a movie, eating junk food, making crafts, and playing games. From the youngest 5 year-old to the hippest teen, they were smiling and thanking our Guides for a wonderful evening. I think they were in the moment, too.

Back to our rooms, we found all traces of the storm wiped from existance. By 10pm, all were in bed save Your Scribe. I elected to sit in the living room, journal and pen in hand, warm Pacific breezes drifting through the open door, keeping the moment just a little longer.