From March 12, 2012
Welcome to the Rain Forest Mystery Tour...my adventures in Costa Rica 2012!
I saw this sign at the retreat center we stayed at and thought it was the perfect title of this adventure. Now, where do I begin?
Well, I just finished up my yoga retreat in Costa Rica. Though I cannot even begin to find words to describe the time I've had, I can give you some insight into what went on. Of course there was a ton of adventure, as well as self-inquiry. Costa Rica has a beautiful way breaking people down.
Complete darkness found me as I touched down in San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica, on February 22nd. I was an hour late due to delays. I tried my best to not be irritated, as my vacation was beginning and I wanted to start with a positive mind. When I arrived last year (in 2011), it was at 2:30 in the afternoon and the sun was shining; quite a difference this time around. I was exhausted at this point. I had left Detroit at 11am and then to Newark Airport in New York, where I spent a lofty 4 hour layover, before a 5 hour flight to San Jose. Yeah, I just wanted a bed.
Because I arrived late, my cab was not there and after some back and forth with a cab-hustler at the airport, I somehow got a hold of my original cab guy and a half hour later I was being whisked away from SJO and to La Orquideas Hotel where I found my two travel buddies who had arrived earlier that day (Julie & Casey). We chatted and sleep found us.
Julie, Casey, and I arrived two days earlier than the rest of the group, so this first tale is a prequel of sorts to the retreat. Because of my late arrival, I left it up to my fellow adventurers to figure out said adventures for the next day and in that task they were successful.
We woke up early that next morning, I ate my first meal in Costa Rica this trip, and off we were with a hired tour guide, Luis, to hike a volcano about a 30 minute drive from San Jose. I'd never been to a volcano at this point and was surprised to learn from our guide that Poas Volcano has three craters; not one like the stereotypical volcano. Wow! One crater had a geyser...
...and then there was a lake higher up...The lake was unswimable due to high acidity levels.
The land was beautiful and it reminded me of why I chose to return to Costa Rica. (By the way, another piece of knowledge I gained on this excursion is that a pineapple is not a fruit, but an edible flower. Right? You're welcome.)
The Poas Volcano hike took about two hours and around 11am, I believe, we went a few minutes down the road to a ziplining place. You may recall from last year that this wasn't my first time flying through a jungle. It was, however, Julie's first time, which made it fun.
From ziplining (and, yes, this is still the same day) our guide took us to this wonderful Mom & Pop-type Costa Rican restaurant and besides the food being amazing, we had these strawberry milkshakes that were to-die-for. For real, they're the best I've ever had. Speaking of Costa Rican food, my new crack is this brown sauce that the Ticos put on everything called Lizano Salsa...
With two adventures down, we headed over to Doka coffee plantation, where I learned more about coffee than I ever cared to. Really, I don't drink coffee, but Casey has (ahem!) an addiction. The good news is that she got a job offer out of it...
It was a very insightful tour. I learned that the coffee plant is related to the Cherry, among other bits of knowledge.
After we left the coffee plantation, we stopped a fruit stand and bought some coconut cookies, wine bottles filled with honey, and strawberries (which Julie and I took back to the hotel and proceeded to make rum daiquiris).
After all of this, we still made it back to the hotel by 5pm. Not a bad first day back in Costa Rica, if I do say so myself (and I do).
Check back soon for Part 2, where we squeeze in one more adventure before the rest of the group arrives!
From March 15, 2012
My adventures continued promptly the next morning, Friday, February 24th. With our delightful driver and guide in tow, Julie, Casey, and I spent the morning at a "secret" waterfall near San Jose. I say "secret" because even some Ticos don't know it's there. We pretty much had it all to ourselves. Once parked, we traversed down a trail through the forest for about 15 minutes, passing some amazing trees and birds. One of Luis' most endearing qualities is that he's a bird watcher. We'd be walking along and he'd hear a bird, stop short, and tell us what specific bird it was. Fascinating!
When we made it to the first of two waterfalls, we stripped to our bathing suits and waded into the frigid river. Other than the water being cold, the riverbed rocks were quite sharp. Both Julie and I ended up with bruised feet.
Now you may recall from last year that I had an incident with a waterfall and Julie had me determined to overcome my fear of the falls. This fall, unlike Nauyaca, was not as deep in the pool at its base and we were able to walk waste-deep in the water under the fall. Julie pulled me through. Fear entered. I flashed back to Nauyaca, and I threw myself against the wall behind the fall, took deep breaths, and finally calmed. I stayed there for a good minute or two, until I proved my point, and was out of there. I still have no desire to go underneath a waterfall, but at least I faced that fear.
To get to the second of the two falls, we had to walk in the river around a bend. It was beautiful, but I have no pictures to prove such because my camera was back with my bag.
We stayed and enjoyed the falls for a couple of hours total and then returned to the hotel to await our fellow retreaters who were arriving sporadically throughout the day.
Next up, the group arrives and we head to Finca Luna Nueva to begin our retreat.
March 23, 2012
So now we get to the "meat" of my trip to Costa Rica; the main reason I went...the retreat.
The afternoon after the waterfall excursion, other retreaters began to arrive and on into the evening. It was neat arriving early and playing the welcome party to everyone else. We had everything figured out ahead of time and were happy to see everyone.
Early the next morning, February 25th, the group set off from San Jose and arrived several hours later at Finca Luna Nueva Lodge in the cloud forests.
Finca Luna Nueva is a biodynamic farm, and most (if not all) of the food we ate came right from the land around us. I also got to stay in a cool little bungalow.
Yes, they make towel art too! We were so spoiled compared to last year. After settling in, we had our first yoga class on the wonderful yoga deck that they built for our group. Really, we were the first group to use it. Kind of like last year when Pura Suerte built us a yoga deck too. We're revolutionizing eco-lodges all over Costa Rica, one retreat at a time!
Now let me give you a little background on this retreat, so you have a "jumping off" point for the rest of this story. You no doubt gathered that it is a yoga retreat, but truthfully it is so much more. Aside from yoga and adventuring, we do service work in the communities we visit, also known as "Karma Yoga." The wonderful trio who put all of this together is my teacher Karina Ayn Mirsky, kirtan songstress Kristin Luna Ray, and the brains behind it all Joshua Canter.
This year they organized our service work to help out building and painting benches for a new school room at a church near Luna Nueva.
We had so much fun that day helping out at the church. Later in the week, we went and visited the school and the kids put on a presentation for us, showed us around their school, and played games with us. The kids were very fond of jump rope. It was a great time all around.
There was one other service project that we did, which was at Finca Luna Nueva. I guess I shouldn't say we, since I had to sit it out. I'll explain later, but halfway through the trip, I messed up my ankle going down a water slide and couldn't really walk for two days. Stay tuned for that one, haha! The second service project was a reforestation project on the property that they had fun doing.
This pretty much is the cliffs notes version of our service projects this year. In the next blog I'll cover life at Luna Nueva and later, our adventures to more volcanoes, zip line #2, and the hot springs.
From March 26, 2012
And we're back. This is where the blog veers off the chronological path and we start jumping around. Part 4 (of 6, I think) of this blog series will focus on everyday life at Finca Luna Nueva and the retreat.
As I explained before, Finca Luna Nueva is the place we stayed all week during the retreat. Comparatively speaking, our accommodations this year were quite more posh than last year. Last year we were in a remote area of Costa Rica, La Florida, which was quite rugged. This year we had a pool and a hot tub, not to mention that the grounds were a bit more level than our past retreat center. That's not imply that any region of Costa Rica has level ground.
A typical day on retreat begins at about 5:15am, which is not as bad as it sounds. Since Costa Rica is close to the equator, the sun rises and sets pretty much consistently year round, so 5:15am is just before sunrise. I'd try to down a cup of tea, before silently heading to the yoga deck to begin a meditation practice that would take us to 6:15am, and then we'd do yoga until 7:30. Yes, I know. All of this is before breakfast. As someone who was raised to eat upon rising, this was hard for me to adjust to. By the end of the week I was good. Breakfast came after our morning yoga practice and then we headed into the activities of the day.
If we weren't gallivanting off on some service project or adventure, Karina would lead us in a lecture or we'd tour the farm. We tended to have a lot of free time this year, compared to last, which I enjoyed very much. One of my favorite spots was atop this observation tower.
Lunch would fall around noontime and we'd have some downtime until about 4pm, when we would have some evening practice. One day that stands out, Karina taught a restorative yoga practice, while Luna played guitar and sang to us. Another day, Luna and Joshua led the group in a Kirtan (call and response chanting) session. If you've never listened to Luna, you must go HERE this instant and buy her music, because it's just amazing. Really, though. Her new CD "One Shared Heart" is at the top of the Kirtan charts. Go ahead! I'll wait here...
Told you so. Just saying. Anyway, over the week we had a few Kirtans, at which Luna graced us with some of here new non-recorded music that is just brilliant. Can't wait for the single (I hope there's a single).
Our evening sessions would take us to dinner and then afterward it was free time until bedtime, which was about 9pm. Again, when the sun goes down, so do you. So that's a typical day on the retreat.
During free time, I would meditate, read, write, do nothing, go swimming, go hot-tubbing, hike, lay in a hammock, and hang out to get to know my fellow rereaters.
Next time I'll take you the volcano Arenal, zip-lining 2.0, and to some hot springs. Also, I'll explain my injury for this trip (there's always one).
From April 4, 2012
Welcome back to my Costa Rican Adventures 2012. One of the greatest times that I had during this years' trip was on February 29th. This was the day that we went adventuring around the Volcano Arenal area.
The day began as it normally did, with a yoga class and breakfast, and then we were off on a day full of adventure. We began with some ziplining through the jungle (second time on this trip). Casey, Julie, and I felt seasoned at this point, having gone just a few days earlier. The second time around was great, though, if not better than the first.
As if this wasn't exciting enough for one day, just after we went and hiked the base of Volcano Arenal. Now, I've hiked a volcano before (who hasn't?), but this specific site was special to me because...(wait for it)... it's one of the sites they filmed the first Jurassic Park movie! I know, right?! I had a geek-out/freak-out! Not to mention that the day before we arrived, Will Smith had just wrapped his new movie "After Earth." Kind of a big deal place, just sayin'. Oh, and of course, we did yoga in front of the volcano itself.
The hike took us through the jungle and back to our bus. As if our day wasn't full enough, we then headed to one of the many natural hot springs nearby. This was quite relaxing, but the highlight of the visit was how I damaged myself. At the hot springs, there are many pools and one of them just happened to have a water slide. Now, you must remember that I'm in Costa Rica, not the US, and they don't have the same common-sensical policies on safety that I, up until that point, took for granted. The pool that the water slide went into was only 4 feet deep. That should have been my first clue. On about my 8th trip down the slide, I was coming in fast and as I shot into the pool the side of my left foot hit the bottom hard and a jolt of pain went through my foot and leg. I hobbled out of the pool as best I could and chose the "walk-it-off" method of medicine. Actually, the thought going through my head was "oh shit, I broke my foot in Costa Rica." Thankfully, there was no lasting damage. I ended up cutting up one of my tee-shirts to make an ace bandage and took some medicine for the pain. I could hardly walk for two days, but by the end of the week I was as good as new. Here's a picture of my foot with the tee-shirt ace bandage.
The hot springs ended our adventures for that day. The retreat itself finished that Saturday morning and we all piled into a bus and headed back to San Jose, where most of the retreaters would head back to the states. But not me. Nope. I have one more "adventure" to share with you before this series is complete.
Until next time...
From April 10, 2012
Just a little over a month to the day that I returned from Costa Rica, I share with you the last entry in this year's Costa Rica Adventure series.
When we left off, I was saying goodbye to most of the retreaters at the airport. I, as I said before, was not done yet with my travels. I hopped back into the transport with Karina and two others and we sped away to a hotel in nearby Alajelah, where we would remain for two days before Karina and I went off alone on our last adventure.
Let's pause at this hotel for just a second. Any Costa Rican hotel's website is going to make it look amazing. They spend a lot of money and time on advertising in that sense, but usually the hotel is kind of jankety, if you know what I mean. So we were surprised to see that this hotel was actually as nice as it was advertised to be. That is, until we settled in. Unfortunately, with the hotel, it was one blunder after the next and we left quite disappointed. I won't go into what those blunders were or which hotel it was, as they compensated us nicely for their faux-pas. If you wish to know for travelling purposes, please contact me and I'll advise you.
After our two eventful nights at the hotel in Alajelah, Karina and I said farewell to our two companions and we hopped on a plane smaller than my living room (seriously) and flew down to the southern point of Costa Rica to the Osa peninsula. Karina has had the pleasure of studying yoga with many wonderful people and one of those bright souls is yoga teacher Aaron Star, who owns the Blue Osa resort on the Osa peninsula. At his invitation, we stayed for three nights at his beautiful eco lodge on the ocean, with a secluded beach and the best food I'd yet had in Costa Rica. We were pampered and really taken care of, which made for an excellent and relaxing end to our trip. If ever you're traveling in Costa Rica, especially if you're a yogi, I can't praise Aaron and Blue Osa enough for their genuine care and hospitality. You must go there for at least a portion of your trip. Just remember, I was there for three days, which was not nearly long enough.
On March 8th, after two long, yet too short, weeks, Karina and I woke up early, drove to the airport and got back on that tiny plane. For both of us, this was one of the "driving home" moments of our trip. Both of us felt renewed and excited from our experiences these last two weeks and without words we felt the excited-peace within each other. As we ascended over the Osa peninsula, the sky was clear and there were mountains and sea flying beneath us. Putting on our headphones, we had a little dance party by ourselves on the plane; jamming out to fun.'s "We Are Young" and Foster the People's album "Torches."
I won't go into the hours of plane rides that were ahead of us at that point, because honestly, the trip ended there and what a way to end it. Two best friends jamming out together with their headphones on; flying over the mountains of Costa Rica. Both feeling completely happy and whole.