Monday, November 26, 2007

Giving thanks in Costa Rica

There wasn’t any snow, nor was there a Macy’s parade, or even Green Bay football for us on our first Thanksgiving here in Central America. The kids had time off from school, and Dan took vacation days from work, so we decided to forgo the turkey with all the fixings and instead set off on a family adventure: a trip down the Pacific coast to the beach and Manuel Antonio National Park.

Here’s a snapshot of the first day of our memorable vacation, accompanied by a small online photo album, best viewed as a slideshow. (Additional entries about this vacation to follow….)

We began our trip by climbing up from the valley and into the mountains. It was a beautiful morning, and the landscape was incredibly lush and green, dotted with tropical flowers and farms. Included in this variety of interesting vegetation were trees we nicknamed ginger trees, as the trunks looked like giant ginger roots.

We passed through few towns, most notably Cuidad Colón and the picturesque Santiago de Puriscal (where we stopped twice to ask directions, as the roads are not named or marked, and maps are nearly non-existent), and then began a trek on twisting trails through some awesome, mountainous country. I should note, the last time we passed through the mountains to the coast we took a different route—one with much more traffic, lots of buses and mammoth trucks, and too many drop-offs (no guard rails!) on skinny roads for my liking. It’s scary driving along a mountain “highway” where part of the road has washed out and a massive tour bus is barreling down the adjacent lane in your direction. The route we took on this trip, recommended by our friend Paul, was remarkably better.

The highway (two-lane, but paved) is narrow, and commercial traffic is prohibited on the route from Puriscal to Orotina, making the trip much more relaxing and enjoyable. Reasons for this became even more evident when, just before reaching Orotina, we came upon a narrow, one-lane suspension bridge. (The bridges we saw on this trip merit their own blog entry, coming soon—stay tuned for more photos that won’t disappoint.)

Once past Orotina, we stopped for a break at the Rio Tárcoles. We’d been here before—an area rumored to have one of the highest concentrations of crocodiles in the world—and knew we’d see plenty of crocs from our safe vantage point on the bridge spanning the river. Dan got some good photos of these and also saw a cow standing near the water’s edge, which he quickly labeled “target.”

From the river, we continued our drive down the coast until we came to Playa Bejuco (Bejuco Beach), between Jacó and Quepos. Here in this beautiful open coastal town we found the quiet little beach bungalow we’d rented for the trip. We unpacked quickly, had lunch at a nearby restaurant (one of the few in the area), and headed to the huge expanse of nearly deserted beach. (It looks ominously dark in the photos, but it was just a little overcast and nearing nightfall. The sun sets around dinnertime in Costa Rica, year-round.) Dan and I especially enjoyed watching the girls play a made-up game of “Drop Zone” on their “own private island” and seeing little crabs working furiously on the beach and popping in and out of their holes in the sand.

We drove into Parrita for dinner at an Italian restaurant where we all had Thanksgiving pie—pizza pie, of course! We met the owner, a friendly Italian fellow, and enjoyed a bit of conversation with him before heading back to our bungalow (Spanish being the common language between us). The girls slept on an air mattress in the kitchen, while Dan and I fell asleep early in the adjoining bedroom. We knew the following day was to bring exciting new experiences for us all.

This Thanksgiving our family has so much to be thankful for, not the least of which is the gift of opportunity to share our lives together on this incredible adventure of living in Costa Rica. We’re grateful for a God that loves us, family at home who we treasure, friends old and new alike, and blessings too numerous to name.

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