Blog 5: Costa Rica

We began our trip to Costa Rica by getting up at 2:45 AM (eastern standard time). We wanted to get to the airport by 4:00 AM for our 6:00 AM flight to Miami, and managed to get there just a few minutes past our target. We got delayed a little longer than we thought we would checking in because the check-in kiosk indicated that we needed Visas along with our Passports. Luckily we had bus tickets already printed for our trip to Nicaragua in March that covered us for our mandatory departure within 90 days of arriving in Costa Rica. It’s Costa Rican policy for all non-residents to leave the country every 90 days. Thankfully, it only has to be a departure to a neighboring country to get your passport stamped and then you can come back for another 90 days. We got everything sorted out at the ticket counter before too long, but not before we honestly sweated whether or not we had a major issue on our hands. After that we got through security fairly quickly and easily. Incidentally, all five of our checked bags weighed between 46 and 48 pounds (a nice little shout out to myself on that one).

Enjoying a quick early breakfast at the airport in Jacksonville

Then 30 to 45 minutes later we boarded the plane and were wheels up shortly after. The flight went smoothly and we landed in Miami a little over an hour later, after getting to see the sun rise over the Atlantic Ocean. The next part was a little more trying, but only because we have an 11, 6, and soon-to-be 5-year-old who get awfully antsy and overly energetic when they have to wait over 4 hours before they can board their next flight. We got to experience a little bit of everything including running around trying to play tag, spilling water all over the floor, laughing, crying, fighting, singing, drawing unicorns, several bathroom trips, and a $110 lunch. “Boy that escalated quickly. I mean, that really got out of hand fast.” I actually take credit for the unicorn drawing (Gemma wanted me to draw her one), and it honestly wasn’t too bad, except for maybe the horn. I’ve come a long way from a Pictionary drawing from several years ago of an elephant that looked more like a fat mosquito without wings.

My unicorn drawing for Gemma

We finally boarded our flight and left five hours after arriving in Miami for Liberia, Costa Rica. As far as flights to other countries go, just three hours on a plane is pretty damn good. The only semi-rough part of it was the descent into Liberia. Due to the prevailing heavy crosswinds in that area, we were tossed around a little. Not the worst flight descent I’ve gotten to experience, but nowhere near the best either. While traveling with younger kids can be pretty problematic, ours were honestly fantastic on both flights. And then we got an unexpected bonus when we went through customs. The customs agents radioed ahead and we got to skip the entire waiting line to go into an area off to the side. Umm…sorry, not sorry. We waited a grand total of about 5 minutes before we got our passports stamped and we were on our way. Sometimes it does pay to travel with smaller kids, as the customs agents did the same for several other families as well. A quick stop for bathroom breaks and the scanning of our checked bags and we were greeted outside by our transport driver. It was warm, very breezy, and felt amazing.

Flying into Costa Rica

It’s normally supposed to be about a 2-hour drive from the Liberia airport to Samara. However, due to another vehicle’s blown tires and the fact that Costa Rica only has two-lane highways/ roads it took us 3 hours. The first hour we didn’t move much at all, but then the rest of the drive went pretty smoothly. Unfortunately we didn’t arrive until after dark, however. This time of year the sun rises around 6:00 AM and sets around 5:45 PM. It’s in the central time zone, but thankfully doesn’t have daylight savings time. Also, for pretty much the entire year there’s around 12 hours of daylight per day, give or take 30 minutes. We found the apartment building we’re staying in for the first five weeks pretty easily. However, I was a little confused as to which apartment exactly and ended up hauling all our suitcases up an extra few flights of stairs only to have to lug them back down after obtaining the keys and having it explained which one we were in. Needless to say, Katie and I were pouring in sweat by the time we got all our luggage into the apartment. My bad.

Now between Katie’s research about living in this part of Costa Rica and what others have told us who live here either part time or full time, we knew the warnings of what we can expect. I did not, however, expect it to happen the second I tried to unlock the gate to our apartment. Most places here have a wire mesh gate door that’s used like a screen door on the outside along with a regular wooden front door on the inside. So I unlocked the gate and as I opened it a good-sized (about 3 inches) dark scorpion fell down to the ground right at my flip flop covered feet. Luckily I was able to channel some catlike reflexes and jumped back quickly. That’s at least what I perceived anyway. I was running on about three hours of sleep from the night before, so there’s no telling what it might have looked like to someone else. I also somehow managed to not scream like a banshee. I’m at least proud of that. I’m also glad the kids weren’t around to see that as we certainly didn’t want them getting freaked out right when we got here. I brushed it away with one of my flip flops and flung it out into one of the vegetative areas several feet away. Not an ideal entrance into our rental to say the least.

One of our typical spider friends here

Since no fans nor the window AC units were on yet, it was pretty steamy. Other things we were warned about were spiders and ants, and we definitely found plenty of each in several places throughout the apartment. While we don’t normally like to treat for bugs, you basically need to here or you’ll be overrun with ants. They’re small and harmless but they can take over if you let them. So we used the spray they had handy and quickly took care of the bigger problems, then we got all the AC units and fans turned on to start cooling it down. Honestly, between the heat and the state of the apartment we came into the kids were pretty upset, crying and saying they wanted to go back to Florida. Katie and I looked at each other and shared their feelings to an extent. But it was now around 6:30 PM and we hadn’t eaten anything in about 8 hours. We were all wiped out but starving, so we headed out in the dark to find something to eat. We were all on edge a bit, but we managed to navigate walking down the road a ways and found a beautiful restaurant right on the beach (as many are located here in Samara). The weather felt amazing and we sat and ate dinner with our feet in the sand. We were happy to at least end our day with a nice meal and refreshing fruit smoothies to drink. Pretty much all the local restaurants here serve amazing blended fruit smoothies and they are as refreshing as you can imagine. We managed the walk back to the apartment and all crashed for the night. Holy shit, we were beat.

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