Saturday, May 26, 2007

1. Costa Rica Trip Begins (5/26/07)

Saturday, May 26, 2007
We were anxious as the 14 members of our travel group were slow to arrive at the American Airlines gate at Jacksonville International Airport. It was the beginning of Memorial Day weekend and the lines were extremely long at check-in and security. Finally the "Group of Five" arrived just in time to board the tiny prop plane taking us from Jacksonville to Miami.
Uh-oh, the plane is unbalanced! Jerry and Linda, our selfless leaders, volunteered to move to the back of the plane, enabling us to leave on time at 6:55 AM. Our day began VERY early today.
Two hours later we were finding our way to the international gates in Miami for our flight to Costa Rica. While sitting in the waiting area, we were introduced to the rest of the "Costa Rica's Jungles and Volcanoes" tour group. This tour was organized by Holbrook Travel and planned by program leader Linda through the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve. Linda's husband Jerry was co-leader, and he was also Brynne's Biology and AP Environmental Science teacher at Fletcher High School. That's how we learned about the trip.
The Stumpes? I think we were the only ones whose last name everyone would know and remember!
After a delay due to mechanical difficulties, our 10:05 AM flight left at noon for a two and 3/4 hour flight to the San Juan International Airport in the capital city of San Jose in Costa Rica. Retrieving checked baggage and going through customs was very quick and we were soon under the care of our local guide, Jimmy. We sat in the small 20-25 passenger bus as the driver, Enrique, and Jimmy loaded the luggage on the roof under a tarpaulin. Linda & Jerry unpacked emergency snacks from their luggage and Jimmy had cold bottles of water for us on the bus.
Headed west and stopped at an open-air restaurant called Pipasa.
Pipasa Restaurant
(I later realized Pipasa was a company that bottled soft drinks, so it was like calling a restaurant in the U.S. after the Coca-cola sign!)
Kent, Brynne, Jerry on left; Tamiko on right
Kent had a lemonade with the local ice cubes and ox-tail soup. Brynne had bean soup and I had olla de carne ("pot o’meat"), a soup with a big chunk of meat, pieces of chayote (green pear-shaped veggie from a vine, that tasted like potato), yuca, and corn still on the cob. We had bottles of Squirt with a straw to play it safe with the water.
Out the back of the restaurant was a view of the foothills and cloud-covered mountains of the Andes. On the way to the restroom sat a Sarchi ox-cart covered with designs from the Spanish provinces of Andalucia and Granada. This cart is a symbol of Costa Rica.
Sarchi ox-cart
Next: 2. Heading to Monteverde.

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