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Little Grape Big Grape

Little Grape Big Grape

October 25 – 26, 2008

Christian waiter at Xandari
Scott with Christian, our awesome waiter at Xandari

I had mixed feelings about leaving Xandari. It was heavenly, yet I knew there was more to come! Our last breakfast was served by someone other than Christian, but to our delight he showed up and bid us farewell. We connected with Chris, a writer and photographer of the Moon travel guide. He joined us and shared with us places to visit as we adventure throughout CR. He took our photograph as we overlooked the valley, and I promptly dropped pineapple pieces on my lap as he was snapping the photo. What a cool gig he has! He’s spending 3 months in CR and then going to Cuba for 3 months to tool around and find the best places to write-up.We departed around 9:30, drove through the incredibly rough road leading to Alajuela and became lost AGAIN! It took us nearly 2 hours to get around San Jose. Very confusing roads.

Our drive to the Caribbean took longer than anticipated, about eight hours with one stop – this includes getting lost at the beginning. We drove through the Port town of Limon, which was by far the dirtiest town we saw in all of Costa Rica. But ahhhh….arriving to Puerto Viejo, Caribe, the invitation to reeeeelax was in the heavy air.

So, we arrived at Puerto Viejo around 4:30. I was eager to try out some of the veggie restaurants. This place more than the others had about four choices, and it’s a small town with a dirt road. We got a drink at outdoor the bar/movie theatre. My first veggie choice, Veronica’s Place was closed. As we continued on the way to our desired final destination, Punta Uva (Uva is grape in Spanish) we found Loco Natural (choice #2) and ordered 2 Thai dishes to go. It was nearly dark by 5:20. Rainy. Unpaved road. People walk and riding their bikes zigzagging on the road to avoid the NUMEROUS potholes. Messy. And add darkness and unfamiliarity. Enough said. Our first lodging choice was Casa Vida. We couldn’t find the owners, so we settled for Itaita, less than ¼ mile away.

Picture this. Rain. A long driveway with cars scattered about – no real logic to parking. An open-air, one story, patio/office with a receptionist/housekeeper/facilities operator. We approached her, and the receptionist (again, using that term loosely given there was no reception desk per se) inquiring about lodging and prices. I instantly felt a vibe. She proceeds to tell us we can only use Colones even with the sign directly in front of me that read, “VISA, Mastercard, American Express” accepted. We were tired. We were really hungry. And still, we kept our cool. We asked to see a cabin. She showed it to us. We exchanged some small talk, remained pleasant and returned with her to the reception desk. “we’ll take it”. Hey, it was only $68.00. It was nothing to write home about, but we needed a place to sleep. THEN she offered us an upgrade – a bigger cabin – for the same price. Okey dokey. The upgrade was modest to say the least, but hey, we got a bigger bang for our buck! Old. Musty. VERY buggy. There was a little fridge. We hit the local mercardo and got some Pilsen to fill it. After everything was settled in and we had our cold beers in tow, we sat down outside to eat our dinner. Much to our chagrin, they placed our TOTO orders in plastic dishes. The hot food melted the plates. The mosquitoes were the only ones to eat well that night.

In the morning around 6:00 am, everything looked brighter. The rain dissipated. The sun shone brightly. The grounds were again, lovely and lush. We walked to the beach, which was only about 200 meters from our doorstep. We had our breakie (it was included) on the patio/porch/reception area. I sat entertained by the synchronized rolling, dancing crabs dressed in brilliant reds and oranges. Very cool.

Before committing to another night at Itaita (we liked the price but figured we would get a better night’s sleep elsewhere), we decided to give Casa Viva one more try. It was well worth the effort too!

Jeanie was there. A sweet, spry woman seemingly in her 70’s (I would only guess this by her experience not by her looks which would put her in the early 60’s). Jeanie, originally from Chicago, moved to CR 15 years ago with her husband. This place was stunning. The reader may very well tire of my use of that word. Can’t help it.

We spoke with Jeanie for some time. She mentioned her husband, Dave, several times. Casa Viva was his vision. He designed the grounds and the cabins. Sadly, he died of stomach cancer this past February (2008). It was quite apparent the immensity of this loss to Jeanie. I could see she was holding back the emotions. Face tightening while sharing stories of her love. I felt melancholy. She and her life partner went on this grand adventure and he left her there. To fend for herself. Quel loss.

The view of our cabin as seen from the beach
The view of our cabin as seen from the beach

We saw the cabin (it was actually part of a duplex, so there was a neighboring cabin on the other side), and loved it. We could see and hear the ocean from inside and out. We helped Jeanie take water back to our cabin, which was only $50.00/night. We were kicking ourselves for not getting two nights here. This place was twice as nice as Itaita. The grounds…spectacular. How’s that for a shift in verbiage? The beach was RIGHT THERE. Hummingbirds whisked in and among the brightly colored flowers. This place was right out of a Disney movie. I was expected Snow White to come out of the jungle with a blue bird and butterfly entourage.

Scott and I had the sheer pleasure of watching a Blue Morpho glide across the yard directly in front of us. We were awe struck with our first Blue Morpho siting…and frankly with each one thereafter as well. At first we both thought we were hallucinating. This brilliant electric blue creature! Every time she flapped her wings, she lit up! Magnetic and electrifying! I surmise, because of her large size, that she was flying so lazily because she simply couldn’t go faster. From that point forward, I was Blue Morpho crazed. I was like a Morpho Maniac.

We hit the water in an attempt to snorkel. Unfortunately, I had no fins, so we spent about 45 minutes trying to get fins from this man (whose fascinating name escapes me) who would disappear and come back with the wrong fins. He was a big big man. A Caribbean guy with a lazy eye. He seemed well known in the area as everyone directed us to his log when we inquired about fins. There he was. On his log just as we were told. Eventually we followed him to the secret fin storage space and found some that fit me. The snorkeling, however, was a disappointment. I couldn’t find my groove. The water was fairly rough and quite murky. I really only wanted to use my underwater camera. I did, but snapped nothing special.

El Caribe
El Caribe

Back to our balcony at Casa Viva, we settled into our late afternoon/evening habit of doing as little as possible while watching the world be. We stayed on that balcony until sunset with the aspiration of seeing Howler Monkeys for the first time. But to no avail. We headed back to Puerto Viejo for dinner and gift shopping. Dinner – Chili Rojo – fantabulous. They cater to vegetarians. Scott got a scrumptious veggie plate with the best falafels ever. I got a coconut Thai dish and burned the hell out of my throat with a pepper. It was all worth it – especially after eating plastic infused Thai the previous night. We capped off our night out at the bar/theatre place with a fancy, smoothie drink.

We managed to stay up until 9:30 pm. Amazingly, our bodies fell quite easily into the light/dark groove. We were asleep early and up just before sunset around 5:00-5:30 every morning.

October 27, 2008

Oh, and did we hear the Howler Monkeys. They make for an alarming alarm clock! OMG!. Marie (BFF) described them oh-so-correctly. She said they sound like ghostly dinosaurs. Wow. I never heard anything like it. I stalked one monkey in a tree (no, he, not I was in the tree) in an attempt to get a photograph. I caught one flash of a little monkey and he was gone. How exciting! I want more!

Ps: thanks Gawd for mosquito nets. They are, by far, a necessity here at the Caribe.

Once again, we found ourselves on that tragic, dirt road. The one that negated the delightful massages we received not even three days earlier. Our greatest fortune was that it was still slightly moist after a night’s rain. This translates to a minimal amount of dust we had to inhale. There were many beautiful sites to see on this drive especially after we passed Limon, Trash Centrale of CR. We started our drive to the Peninsula Oso at 8:00 am and pushed through until 4:00 pm arriving at Punta Uvita (little grape as opposed to Punta Uva – just a regular grape or maybe it means sour grape).

If you’d like to follow all the Costa Rican posts, click click click away and enjoy!

Post #1:  The first days of our Costa Rican Honeymoon here
This is Post #2::  Little Grape Big Grape here
Post #3:  First Monkey Sighting here
Post #4:  Spazztacular Sunset here
Post #5:  Looking at Lava with my Lovah here
Post #6:  The Sanctuary here
Post #7: More of the Sanctuary here
Post #8:  Playa Pan de Azucar here
Post #9:  Yes We CAN!  here
Post #10:  Back at the Sanctuary here
Post #11:  Adios Sanctuary!  here

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