My Costa Rica travel narrative

For all your wanderlust readers out there, my memoir about love and adventure in Costa Rica is live on Amazon Kindle! https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MTP4L7H

I hope you enjoy! Pura Vida.

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Surviving San Jose Costa Rica

San Jose, Costa Rica is one of those cities where most travelers want to get out of just as quickly as they arrived. When you think of Costa Rica, images such as monkeys swinging off of lush vegetation and rustic deserted beaches with perfect swells for surfing may come to mind. Unless you have a direct flight to the Pacific coast into Liberia Internation Airport, wanderlust travelers must first make their way through the hectic capital of Costa Rica.

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San Jose isn’t on my top major city list, but there are some diamonds in the rough. First of all, if you are into cosmetic surgery abroad, this is a known destination for plastic surgery complete with many options for recovery in secluded havens surrounded by nature.

Men who are into the nightlife scene and the vast variety of legal prostitutes find themselves  in heaven at The Del Rey Hotel and Casino; it’s one of the largest brothels in Central America. Beautiful women from South and Central America travel to work at this popular pickup spot. I ventured out undercover a few years back as a working girl in The Del Rey Hotel. I got the inside scoop from the men who were in search of their evening delight and interviewed working girls on their view of the industry.

You can find my write up at https://www.amazon.ca/San-Jose-Nights-Emily-Turner-ebook/dp/B006ZOPA8W

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If you have some extra time during a layover or a few days stuck in the city, you can easily squeeze in some hiking and nature at Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo. It is just thirty minutes outside of the city. It is open from 8-4 daily with a $10 entrance fee.

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If you don’t have a rental there are easy options for a quick day trip. Public Bus: Any bus going to Guapiles, Siquirres, or Puerto Viejo will pass the Zurqui Ranger Station where travelers can pay their entrance fee and proceed to the hiking trails. Buses depart from the Gran Caribe Terminal at Calle Central and Avenidas 15/17 in San Jose. At the end of the day, just flag down a bus for the return journey. Terminal del Caribe Tel. 2222-0610

Taxi: Travelers can make arrangements with a taxi driver for round trip transportation to the park for around $50-$60 from San Jose.

Accommodations are easy to find, but I have two hidden great spots. If you have an early flight or connection and just need a place to crash near the airport, I stayed at a hostel which was walking distance to the airport. It had hot water and was safe. The owner is super cool and picked us up. http://www.hotelelcacique.com

If you want to stay in the downtown area of San Jose, I love this next spot. The neighborhood leaves something to be desired, but the lodging itself is great for the price. Hotel Aranjuez. http://www.hotelaranjuez.com It is what I would call a small boutique hotel/ bed and breakfast. You have the option of a shared bathroom for a lower price or rooms with a private bath. A single room with a shared bath is only  $32 a person, and it comes with a killer buffet breakfast, a safe in the room, and computer access with wifi.

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The shared bathrooms are super clean, and I never have problems when I need to use them. The gastronomic breakfast entices me to ensure I have a layover in San Jose. Click on this link for pictures. http://www.hotelaranjuez.com/DesayunoBufetGaleria

One of the great things about traveling through Costa Rica is the fact that the public transportation system is on point. The buses travel frequently and are reasonably priced. If you want to take the off beaten path and throw caution to the wind with a rental vehicle, I strongly recommend only considering an SUV. The roads can surprise you. One moment you are cruising down paved highway bliss, and the next moment you are dodging oncoming trucks, cattle, and flying over potholes through the dusty roads.

I’ve experience hell when first handily dealing with the rental car companies down in Costa Rica. The are beyond sketchy. We tried renting a car in the Nicoya from Hertz and the rate was over $90 for the day and it didn’t include insurance…which you totally need down there. We tried adding full coverage and they said they didn’t offer it there. I once rented a car from a company and paid for full insurance. I was glad I did, because I got in a costly accident. The owner of the rental company which was a sub owner of a major company (it’s tricky) tried hustling me. He had my bank account frozen and was trying to charge me for a whole month’s rental for the SUV; the time it would take to repair it he said. I was about to give up rentals in Costa Rica all together and stick with riding horses until I found the best rental car proprietor ever!     24715_10150170457795481_797465480_12039920_4875596_nI have been renting from Peter for over 7 years. His vehicles are maintained to the best care, and he is an honest and loyal expat. He will meet you in the San Jose area for your pick up and even drop you off at the airport. His prices are the best in the country; believe me I’ve shopped around, and it’s no bull shit. They come with full insurance, unlimited miles, and can handle the rough terrain. We’ve even had minor issues with scratches, or a random run in with a palm tree and he didn’t overcharge us for repairs, he is hands down the best rental company. If he wasn’t renting anymore, I would just take the bus. His prices vary according to how long you rent and what season, but you can call or email him through his website. http://www.amigos4x4suvrental.com

If you are stuck at the airport or near the airport, there is a cafe with free Wifi. A quick $7 taxi ride about five minutes away will take you to Hooters. I killed some time there by myself watching sports while munching on snacks and tossing downs a few beers to kill some time.

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There is also a shopping plaza with restaurants and a movie theater only a six minute drive from the airport. http://www.cinemarkca.com/es/citymall-alajuela/portada/

If you have a few days in the capital of Costa Rica by choice, or because someone stole your passport; lock those up in your safe travelers, there are a few other options to spend your time enjoying the culture of the city.

  • The Jade Museum
  • The Zoo
  • Explore local markets for great food and authentic items
  • Check out the PreColumbian Gold Museum
  • Visit Teatro National

While the beach or the mountains may be your main destination, San Jose Costa Rica doesn’t have to be a buzz kill. Enjoy the journey! Pura Vida

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Off the strip Vegas

When most people think of Las Vegas, certain ideas come to mind such as,

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A tropical oasis with an abundance of bright lights and one of a kind resorts.

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The capital of strip clubs. There is an over supply of scantily clad women.

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A candy land of casinos. Go big or go home.

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A broad range of entertainment to suit almost anyone’s creative preference.

And it’s array of high and end unique restaurants.

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With over 40 million visitors per year, Las Vegas is an adult’s playground. How could anyone get bored? After coming here with friends for years, then visiting friends that migrated out west for the weather, I actually got a bit tired of the same scene. Don’t get me wrong, the new resorts and clubs never cease to amaze me. There’s always a new lounge to check out, and the for old time’s sakes strip clubs and late night parties; after all, it’s not like you go to Vegas to stay in and play Scrabble. ( I actually did that one night with a friend who moved there. ) My last few visits to Vegas I have thrown caution to the wind, I’ve stepped outside the norm of the Strip, and found there is life outside of Las Vegas Blvd.

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Here is a list of some inexpensive, yet fun side trips when you want to enjoy life like a local in Las Vegas.

  1. Shoot a gun!  I grew up with a shooting range, but never was interested in my dad’s guns. In Vegas I decided to try it out at the Gun Store Las Vegas. It is located 2900 EAST TROPICANA AVE, an eight minute ride from the strip. There I was able to shoot an oozie and an AK47. I was so excited I was a natural; I shot the target in all the right spots and they let me take it home.                                             turner
  2. Take a scenic drive to the Valley of Fire. It is a beautiful 50 minute drive outside of the busy city of Las Vegas. A peaceful and windy trip on the highway, sometimes you are the only person for miles driving. The Valley of Fire is just phenomenal. You can simply drive through the rocks, or park and hike a bit. They have camping which would be totally fun for only $20 per car.red-rock 20151008_113212
     

     

  3. Hike through Red Rock. A quick twenty-minute drive outside of the city limits, you will find some awesome hiking trails of every level. We accidently missed the correct path and wandered up the cliffs at high noon in over 95% degree heat while I was 16 weeks pregnant. We had some nice views and cooled off in the ice box, another hike that led us into a valley of rocks that was significantly cooler.

  4. Play the Price is Right. Ever since I was three years old, and I watched The Price is Right with my grandpa, I have dreamt of being on the damn show. Well finally, in 2007, my dreams came true. My friends all flew home early, and I decided to test my luck and watch the show. I was the last person of the day called up to the podium. I was beyond ecstatic. Let’s just say you would have thought I won an Oscar, not that I was bidding for a popcorn machine. I didn’t win, but it was one of my finest memories in Vegas.                Image result for price is right las vegas
  5. Check out some local restaurants. Don’t get me wrong, The Strip has every food option you could desire. Don’t forget to check out the classic diner, The Peppermill. But if you take a cab or a fifteen-minute walk to Paradise, you will find some great local restaurants. Here are some of my favorite spots. This one is closer to the airport, Skinny Fat’s. http://skinnyfats.com/ It has a kickass menu at great prices $8-15 for some interesting healthy and maybe not so healthy dishes. From unique sandwhiches to breakfast platters, juices, and one of a kind eats, this place is sure to leave your stomach and your wallet full.    Image result for skinny fats las vegas                                                                       I’m a huge fan of In and Out Burger, it is just a classic west coast thing, you try it once, and you will make a habit of it every time you visit if you aren’t from the west coast. Fire Fly has a few locations, but the closest is on Paradise. It has a great atmosphere, outdoor seating, brunch, nightly happy hour specials, and a fun tapis menu that is great for sharing with just one or large groups. Some evenings they have local live music. The prices are reasonable, and the food and wine selection is great! http://www.fireflylv.com/  Image result for fire fly las vegas If you are into some authentic Moroccan cuisine and want a little side dish of entertainment, Marrakech Vegas has belly dancers and a sexy ambiance with the dim lit dining room. http://marrakechvegas.com/bellydancing/    Image result for belly dancing restaurant las vegas                                   Image result for gangnam bbq          One of my favorite spots is a Korean BBQ restaurant called, Gangnam BBQ. They also have a happy hour where the food and the drink prices are ridiculously low and great quality. Even the regular menu is priced well. Try the spicy edymame, cream cheese wontons, and the bacon wrapped asparagus. You won’t be disappointed; just thinking of Gangnam makes me want to book a ticket to Vegas now!  This hot spot is great for dates, families, and large parties.
  6. Clark Country Wetland’s Park. A free lush park that is home to hundreds of species of animals and plants. It is open daily from dawn until dusk. Some trails allow dogs, others are great with children. Clink on the link provided to see what trail might suite your needs. http://www.clarkcountynv.gov/parks/Pages/cc-wetlands-park-trailsmaps.aspx   Clark County Wetlands Park
  7. Drink with locals. Sin City is overflowing with great drinking spots. There are some fun local spots off the strip that is a quick ride away. The Golden Tiki, is near Chinatown. When you step inside you are transported to a tropical Caribbean island. Patrons sip on tropical cocktails in the pirate themed bar. They have light bites and weekly events and entertainment.   Image result for the golden tiki las vegas  Image result for the golden tiki las vegas20151006_220236
  8. Ski the snowy slopes of Mt. Charleston. In the morning you can be in hiking in the desert, and by afternoon you can be skiing. So cool right?  Don’t expect the same fluffy slopes that you’d expect in the Alps, but you can have the opportunity to ski, snowboard, and sled at Mt. Charleston, located just 40 miles from Las Vegas. Check out Lee Canyon http://www.leecanyonlv.com/site  The best months for skiing are from December through March. January is typically the chilliest month in Las Vegas.
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I used to get soo excited to play the slots Circa 2003
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Bigger is better! 2005
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When posing in parking garages was cool 2007
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2007 Oh my
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2011
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2013 with my husband

 

2015 I’m prego! Only sparkling water for me!

My 7 year itch with Costa Rica

I remember nearly fifteen years ago hearing about this enchanting destination where the palm trees danced next to clean azul waves and monkeys were your friendly neighbors …the jungles of Costa Rica. It had been a dream destination I thought someday just someday I hoped I’d be lucky enough to experience.

Nine years later I had finally taken a leave of absence from my job for 2.5 months. I traded in my heels and the concrete jungle for my flip flops in the real jungle. Living in NYC for tens years I was inclined to scout out the smallest hippy towns in search of real people, tons of nature, and weed. I chose to travel alone so I could write, enjoy the peace of my own company, and no one could witness my freak outs to insanely humongous insects in my cabin. I’d have the opportunity to mingle and meet new like minded people… including my husband!

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My first trip was surreal. It was exactly the adventure I needed as a 28 year old single gal living in NYC for eight years. It re-balanced my perception of what was important and not quite so much in life. By the end of my trip I had fallen in love with Costa Rica and was starting to fall harder for my never ending fling. FYI travel insurance doesn’t cover broken hearts. We married a year later 🙂

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It has been 7 years since I first learned to surf on Cocoles Beach in Puerto Viejo.

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Saw my first terrifying Brazilian Wandering spider in my jungle cabin.

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And jumped off the adrenaline inducing Montezuma waterfall.

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I’ve been lucky enough to go back to my paradise haven every year since my first visit. While some trips last eight weeks and others fly by quicker for short pop ins, one thing still remains, I don’t have the 7 year itch!

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Sure I travel to other places, I’m not just stuck in Pura Vida land. Barcelona is full of color and life. Great food and wine and the locals are beyond hospitable.

China is a neat destination. You feel as if you are thousands of miles away…because you are.

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One cannot beat the pristine aqua beaches of St. John. The natural backdrop of the parks are incredible.

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 Yet Costa Rica satisfies all my wanderlust needs. The air is clean and the humidity gives me the perfect volume and curls. I instantly morph into a jungle goddess.

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The water is warm enough for splashing, yet refreshing from the heat.

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The locals are so humble, hardworking, and kind. I’ve safely hitchhiked, and even had help when my bike was stolen from a local thief. Yes it happens, and I got my bike back after 5 locals with machetes ran around in search of my bike. While crime does happen I always bring an extra dose of street smart and I’ve always managed to get along just fine. I feel safer in Costa Rica than I do some parts of the US and other destinations I’ve been too.

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It is a melting pot of culture and stories. Expats from around the world migrate here and it is no secret why. It can be as unpredictable as I want, yet I have the ease and comfort of knowing which bus I’ll hop on to get to a beach town. What is a good and cheap soda shop for lunch, and what beaches are safer to swim.

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I love not being confined to a resort. Don’t get me wrong being pampered in a high end resort with great food, wine, and room service can be very relaxing, but three days is my limit.

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I want to run free down a deserted beach.

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Watch the sunset fall into the ocean alone with the one I love.

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Sing in the jungle with no one but a few sloths to judge.

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Drive down dusty roads and maybe even get lost, knowing I will eventually find my way back home.

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Kiss a wild horse that acknowledges I’m one of her kind.

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Eat eclectic local food at restaurants with some of the most talented creative chefs from around the world.

I enjoy finding random new beaches and house parties, possibly making new life long friends.

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I fall asleep knowing I’d love to do it all over again.

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There are times when I go back and I get a bit jaded at my soulful towns. Why did the food prices go up again? These are big city prices in a third world country. Yes I’ve been to this beach many times before …am I possibly missing more?

Locals start to know me, do they think it’s kind of weird? I’m so damn predictable I come here every year!

Sometimes I leave saying I think I’m over Costa Rica. I don’t want to go back for awhile. It’s like an old relationship I’m just not excited anymore. There has to be somewhere greener, better beaches, more stores. Later I do my research on the places I must go. Kauai, Tuscany, Cambodia, the Azores, New Zealand, even some mountains with snow.

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But those places seem like vacations to me, exciting and unknown. Lots of planning and money, what if I end up wishing I was back home?

Then I get the nudge Costa Rica is begging me to return. It’s like a warm and fuzzy feeling from someone you’ve known for a long time. It doesn’t feel as much as a vacation as I place I call my second home. And while I might explore new destinations and even skip a few years visit, I know Costa Rica is a place I will always return to because the grass is greener there in every single way.

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The surfers are not competitive and let beginners have a good wave.

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The local food is healthy and fresh. After eating clean for a week I feel my best.

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I look forward to returning in my old age to my favorite beach, and looking back at all the memories and adventures I had there as if they were at arms reach.

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No other place can fulfill my mind, body, and soul the way Costa Rica has and always will. Pura Vida!

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Montreal French Tasting Les Infideles

Montreal is known for its beautiful cobblestone streets you could get lost on in the Old Port.

Its variety of beautiful French women.

It’s amazing French wine and cheese selections.

And above all it’s amazing French cuisine and restaurant scene.

A great thing about Montreal is that the locals J’adore their wine and you will find a variety of excellent bring your own wine restaurants with no cork fee. You heard me, No Cork Fee! Unlike some cities which will charge you $5-20 bucks wine fee per bottle you bring in.

On the search for a great French tasting bring your own wine restaurant in Montreal these were the the top list.

 

Fine French cuisine meets Quebec products in the heart of the Plateau, the Mecca of bring your own wine restaurants.
There are no menus in this restaurant, only refined propositions varying according to the chef’s inspiration.
Zeste de Folie specializes in fresh ingredients and offers creative fare with many culinary influences.
Bring your bottle of wine to Monsieur B, a French bistro with a warm décor and sophisticated cuisine.
 
Duluth Street is the street of many bring your own wine restaurants if you want to just wing it and explore you options on a more spontaneous trip.
My favorite is Les Infideles, located off of Rachel and St. Hubert. It’s not everyone’s first choice for bring your own wine, but every time I have out of towners visit, mostly from New York City where we appreciate great food and atmosphere both, they go crazy for this place. It is constantly amazing. It books fast especially on the weekends and during holidays and only accommodates under 60 people.
It has a basic setting, yet is always packed.
 
Les Infideles specializes in French cuisine. Chief Louis Legault uses a lot of Québec products, such as deer, duck, veal and seafood and fish, depending on the season. Local cheeses are served with homemade jam and nuts. Their menu also offers gourmet five-course meal specials.
The five course meal is normally around $43 depending on the selections you choose.
You start off with fresh bread and the soup de jour, followed by a delicious appetizer.
I normally choose their scallops with a mango chutney. They scallops are perfectly seared crispy yet moist inside.
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They then bring out a sherbert of the day mixed with rum. While it cools your throat you feel the warmth of the rum, and you anticipate your entree that is about to come.
Some of their entree selections are :
Duck in an orange marmalade
Fresh bison or deer
Jumbo shrimp sauteed in cognac sauce
It is down right delicious. You feel like royalty being served such amazing food while you enjoy your wine or champagne. The best is the service is impeccable. The waiters are nice, not snobby in the least bit and go above and beyond.
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The meals are always cooked to perfection.
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It’s so perfectly prepared you don’t know where to begin, so you take a picture.
The desserts are just as fabulous as the meal. They use local cheeses, prepare homemade chocolate mousse and creme brulee. I’m already craving this restaurant as I write this.
Les Infideles is the perfect place to enjoy a solo lunch while reading a book, a bottle of wine catching up with a friend, a date, or entertaining a larger group.
C’est tres bon!
Bon Appetit!

Bavarian biker’s paradise

Mystical Mittenwald Germany, when I say this town to even the locals of Germany they say …where? There’s a good chance I am pronouncing it wrong, but it is also a tiny hidden gem mostly visited by Germans.

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A year ago my husband somehow turned me into a biker which was a far cry from what I was used to. I’ve ridden in Mr. Softee trucks, limos, managed to steer horse carriages in Manhattan up 5th Avenue in 5 inch heels and a 4 inch skirt. I’ve driven taxis in New York when the cabbies let me, and even hitched rides on the back of fire trucks. In New York I always found a crafty way to get to my destination in a record breaking time.

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I married an outdoorsy Canadian and bam here I am biking my way to lunch and to the store. Dave and I share a passion for travel and adventure. We met abroad in Costa Rica. We’ve drank wine in Spain, climbed the Great Wall, and fell in love all over again in Rome. I normally have a good say in our next trip, but finally I said “Babe this trip is all you.” I said I wouldn’t plan one detail, micromanage or decide any single factor. He decided his dream vacation would be to take his mom and I on a mountain range and bike through Germany and Austria for one week straight. Our flights were booked through Prague where we would first start our biking journey mid June. I began biking on a regular basis to prepare for what I called a hellish vacation. I seriously had to bike to my next hotel and I was only allowed a few outfits?!

As luck would have it, for me that is, a week before our trip Northern Germany and Prague had record breaking rain storms resulting in flooding. All tour operated bike tours were cancelled indefinitely. David was so depressed and too busy with work to re-plan a trip at short notice, I assured him wifey would handle it and off to computer surfing I went. Yep I was planning yet another trip. As much as I wanted to train it to Italy for some lakes and vineyards I had to stay on course with biking, mountains, and lakes to swim in around Germany and Austria.

I was looking for a few key basics in my trip

  • A destination 5-6 hour train ride from Prague
  • Mountain backdrops that leave you in awe
  • Clean lakes and rivers for a summer dip
  • Abundant biking trails for all levels, bike rental locally, and day trips we can do on our own
  • Picturesque tiny authentic local towns
  • Easy access to Salzburg  (we had a few days booked there and planned to return to Prague from there)

My great search led me to a few towns we could get to in Germany that were known for biking:

Quedlinburg: A town in the Harz mountains, set with cobblestone streets and prewar buildings.

Meissen: A romantic tiny town north of Dresden near the River Elbe which was flooded at the time. Next….

Cochem: Think medieval and wineries.

We almost went here Rothenburg: Alongside the famous Romantic Road  Rothenburg is beautiful and still has a partial intact medieval city. There are many great bike trails here as well.

There was just something missing, and that’s when I fell in love with Mittenwald. Fresh Alps Mountain air, you can literally bike across the border to Austria, an abundance of gorgeous lakes, tiny local bed and breakfasts, a mountain you can visit, and amazing local cuisine.

 

 At last I had found my biking town!

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The easiest way to get here is to take a train from Munich Germany. Trains leave regularly and its only an hour and a half ride through some of the most beautiful scenery in Germany. The town is very compact everything you need including the train station is centrally located.  When you first arrive in the town you feel as if you have been time warped to a magical fairy tale. All the houses, restaurants, and family run hotels are picture perfect.

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Lodgings book up fast so while it’s always advisable to book in advance, I normally book through bookings.com we did however find extra lodging for my mother in law at last minute. Staying in the town center is convienant yet if you want a breathtaking view of the Alps I suggest staying a bit above town. The walk is easy, it’s only ten minutes into the center of town. A great place to stay is Pension Schwalbennestl. Every room has a view of the mountain and breakfast is included. Rates run about $50 per night.

 

As far as the eye can see is an endless horizon of majestic mountains. I breath in the fresh dewy air and become enlightened by the natural beauty that surrounds me.

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Our first night we took it easy from the commuting across Europe and walked through the postcard perfect town streets. A town so small it’s home to under 7,000 residents, yet so full of life and rich with culture. We passed many fantastic restaurants with live music and cute one of a kind shops. The most beautiful backdrop of the town is the mountain range that cascades behind it.

 Women leisurely shop at the market, men enjoy their pint of beer, and children soak up the sun as they play in the river.

Our first stop was taking an incline up the mountain. If you are afraid of heights I suggest you get past your fear and go up the mountain, but close your eyes on the ride up, it’s a bit scary. Umm are we there yet?

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I’ve never felt higher on earth literally than when we were on top of the mountain. The look out is insane, and the birds eat out of your hand. It’s the perfect spot for a picnic and you can hike along outer mountain trails.

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The coolest aspect is the snow. Even in June while it was warm enough to wear shorts the snow tipped mountain top was gorgeous. I was jumping for joy!

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The mountains are filled with wild flowers that dance in the breeze.

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Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you watch as people trek out of a secret door. I excitedly go through the door and it becomes a dark corridor which reminds me of and episode of Lost. Where ever will this lead me?

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I open a metal door and outside is the other side of the mountain, it’s pretty much incredible. You can even lay in the snow to cool off.

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Before going back down the incline we grab some sausage sandwiches and German beer and sit on a patio watching adrenaline junkies grab plastic service trays and slide hundreds of feet down steep mountain slopes. After much hesitation I grab a tray, drop my bag, and race to the smallest slope before my nerves get the best of me.

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The next day we woke up early to rent bikes for the day. They seemed a little pricey but there is only one bike shop that runs the show so no negotiating. Bikes were about $60 a day, but well worth the price. They were high end mountain bikes that felt like the Bentley’s of bikes. You barely had to peddle and they were so damn smooth.

We stopped at the local grocery store for fresh fruits, cheeses, sandwiches, water, and but of course wine. There is nothing better than seeing a  wine you like to drink that you normally pay $20 for, at only a mere cost of $3.00 Euros!

When it comes to biking in Mittenwald the possibilities are endless. If you are a beginner biker and just want to explore the town, bike to a nearby lake only ten minutes away, or have children there are plenty of biker friendly paved trails. It’s easy breezy. If you are an avid biker the black trails will suit you at very experienced levels. You could easily stay in Mittenwald for over a week and have new trails each day. We chose the blue level which was a few steps up from easy.

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There were a few hills I had to get off my bike and push. Most of the hills going up were at the begining so it was easier as the day went on to fly back down the mountain. We chose to do 30 kilometers our first day, and props to my mother in law for keeping up! I felt as if I was in Lord of the Rings, the trails were stunning, and for the most part we barely saw any other bikers. When we needed a rest break we would stop at one of the many clean lakes for a swim.

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 Running out of water was never a problem since there are fresh spring water outlets along the trails.

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Perfect pit stop for a picnic.

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We came across a field of sheep and I had to take a picture of the black one. I’ve always been the black sheep.

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We accidentaly took a wrong turn which led us to the cutest chapel I have ever seen.  We informally renewed our vows alone since we were the only ones in the chapel and gave a little donation for a postcard.

We biked until we could peddle no more….

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and that led us to one great dinner. There are tons of choices to choose from, but the top rated venue earns it credit. Gaststatte Restaurant – Romerschanz, is a family run establishment off the main  town center. The food is local home cooked cuisine at reasonable prices. You can get a seat outside and people watch while enjoying the great food and beer. It is custom Bavarian food with a cozy atmosphere.

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The next day we biked an easy paved road to the Austrian border which only took us about thirty minutes. We crossed rivers and valleys and promised ourselves we would be back to visit Mittenwald Germany again.

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Whether you are an adventure seeker or just want to relax and soak up the culture and nature this safe and charming town will suit your interest.

Surfing

Surfing, it was something I wanted to do at a young age. To feel the sun warming my skin with the fresh salt water cooling it as I rode the powerful thick waves to the golden beaches. A feeling of freedom and power, serenity and adrenaline.

I grew up in the country hundreds of miles from the ocean so the only surfing I started off with was channel surfing. Maybe relaxing for the mind, but not so productive for the body.

 

In my mid twenties I was in between apartments in Manhattan. Finding a place to crash your head in the big apple is a sport in itself, getting approved by the landlord is another full time job, this led me to … couch surfing.

GOT COUCH?

Luckily I have amazing friends who I could count on hard times and let me take over their small living rooms with my shoes and purses and beauty supplies.

It wasn’t until I was 28 years old until I finally got a taste of my childhood dreams. I was traveling to one of the top surfing destinations of the world, Costa Rica! I found an awesome private surf instructor in Puerto Viejo named Peace. After my first try at surfing I was humbled by the avid surfers and the strong waves, real surfing is no piece of cake. While it took me a few tries to get up on the board and my body felt like cooked spaghetti for a few days after I was hooked. Surfing is a sport where you can go inward, reflect, and excel with practice at your own pace.

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Nothing feels better to wake up to a sunrise and see the perfect swell.

Nothing feels more empowering to ride in that wave start to finish.

Why I love surfing

1) You feel one with nature. Water, sun, sand, air, and wildlife, I can’t get enough.

2) Surfing is a sport for all levels beginners to pro, it’s never to late to learn.

3) There are so many great destinations to surf.

4) It is a full body work out. Mind, body, and soul.

5) Its exhilarating and challenging.

I always dream to go bigger, push myself to limits beyond my reach. Sometimes I get scared, but it is fear which is one of greatest downfalls.

Here are some great surfing destinations around the world aside from the no brainers: Hawaii, Australia, Cali, and Indonesia.

Tofino, Vancouver Island, Canada. Canada’s surfing capitol. It is surrounded by lush jungle and pine with a mountain backdrop. This Pacific coast has great waves for all levels of surfers, but don’t forget your wetsuit.

Costa Rica, a rustic and serene jungle atmosphere where monkeys howl on the beach and surfers from around the world migrate to surf the warm waves with perfect swells rising between 6-10 feet. While the country is small the surfing opportunities are fantastic. You have over 100 beaches, most do not have coral to scrape you up, and miles and miles of perfect swells. The beaches never get too crowded with surfers, and the locals are happy to share their surfing spots with the ever changing tourists. Pura Vida!

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Joe’s Point, Sur, Oman. The Middle East isn’t all about the beautiful desert, it also is a fantastic destination for surfers with its miles of breaks just waiting to be surfed upon.It has a soft sand bar underneath and a ride that lasts over 45 seconds.

San Sebastian Spain, What is a better way to spend a vacation than a destination with a siesta? Combine people watching on the beach with some surfing in between trying out tapas and Spanish wines, this is the perfect mix for a vacation filled with culture, in a relaxing European atmosphere. The waves are not scary, and the beaches are packed with surfers of every level enjoying the waves and the scenery.

Ecuador, another versatile destination where you can surf on a Monday and go skiing on a Tuesday. The people are warm and friendly, and the waters are warm and welcoming for surfers. It is a very up and coming destination that hasn’t been overly populated or commercialized. La Buena Vida is a family run surf camp and boutique hotel on ocean front property with perfect waves. Mix with down to earth surfers across the world and enjoy some fun in the sun together.

Where is your favorite spot? Some surfing spots on my conquer list are:

1) Waikiki, Hawaii. Warm waters, safe reef, and beginner friendly. Great destination for long boards.

2) Tahiti. A classic for both men and women.

3) Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica. I normally swim and layout here, but it looks like a great spot for beginners with an awesome sunset after surfing.

Wild hearts and wild horses are two of a kind

I don’t consider myself too irrationally crazy, although a handful of others may disagree, but I LOVE LIFE! While I can be overly organized (my clothes are color and purpose coordinated), overly neurotic, and even at times pessimistic, I am a free spirit lover of the greater universe. When I am happy I skip and leap for joy. #noshame.

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When I’m in a pickle I plan A,B,&C. I’m always dreaming and scheming. Sometimes I feel as if I was an animal I’d be a wild horse. I would just want to run and never look back. In Costa Rica you will find wild horses all over.

Some are a bit weathered

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But they all know what it’s like to live life without any boundaries.

I was lucky enough to make a friend in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica. After some sweet talking and positive energy she was kind enough to let me kiss her after ten minutes of telepathically pleading, please I swear I’m wild like you. She kicked her hooves up almost embarrassed as her five friends neighed and waited for her. I didn’t get a bareback ride down the beach, but maybe someday our paths will cross again.

Even wild horses slow down for a break.

With a little patience….

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We connect on a rustic beach….

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And she let her guard down and trusted me…. Kiss!

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Here are some destinations around the world you can find wild horses.

1) Virgina City, Nevada. Off of Route 341. Nevada has the most wild horses in the United States with over 15,000 horses living in the meadows and mountains. They are not always easy to see, but they are in different parts of the state as well.

2) The Bahamas, wild horses have been known to run on the beautiful beaches of the Bahamas, so pack some carrots with your sunscreen.

3) Sable Island, Canada. Wild horses have been living here since approximately the early 1700s. The island is protected by the government so you will need permission to visit.

4) Koniks, near Amsterdam, wild horses can be found near the Koniks and other places not too far from a day trip from Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

5) Assateague Island National Seashore, which extends from Virginia into Maryland, is home to probably the best known wild horses of the Southeast.

6) Costa Rica, this rustic pristine jungle environment is the perfect home for wild horses. They can romp on the beach, swim in the ocean, roll in the never ending valleys and eat mangos and bananas all day.

7)  Pilot Butte, Wyoming. Here you can drive through 23 miles of wild horse country, through the wild horse loop. You may even see some extras such as coyotes, eagles, elk, and deer.

Have you encountered wild horses in your travels? Share your spots!

My first trip to Costa Rica

I have a tendency to on occasion take things too far. If I say I’m going to do something and people doubt me, I feel it is my duty to prove them all wrong. For years I heard about this magical place called Costa Rica where monkeys ran on the beach everyday at 3pm and the locals danced on the beach until the sun came up.


I was in between working four jobs and switching my apartment for the twentieth time in six years of living in Manhattan. City life was catching up to me and I needed to plan my great escape. My life long dream of a career on camera was going nowhere due to the fact I had no time to pursue my acting and no voice from working too many nights at my hospitality job. My ENT doctor advised me not to talk one word, peep, or whisper for 14 days minimum. The longest I had been known to go without talking was three minutes tops. The only sign language I knew were the thumbs up, middle finger, and hand job gesture. After a night out on the town with friends I began to assess my life. What did I really want to do? Act or write? Get married or play the field? After a gorgeous male approached me and asked me my name and all that came out in my broken voice was half my name … Lee I knew I had to get my voice back, but that wasn’t going to happen in the city that doesn’t sleep. That’s when it hit me I could crack two birds with one stone, recover my voice while writing somewhere far far away, desolate and tropical, Costa Rica. Where was a better place not to speak than a country I didn’t speak the language?
For the next moth I checked Craigslist daily for tree houses secluded deep in the jungle. The only neighbors I wanted were the monkeys and the sloths. I was ready for an adventure. I was amazed at the lifestyle I could live in the tropical magical rainforest for just a third of my Manhattan rent. The trip took me six months to plan and about $8,000 bucks to drop. I was able to take a leave of absence for 70 days from my job.  I bought my plane ticket departing on my birthday January 23rd, and packed my suitcase large enough for 1,000 bikinis and a monkey. I stuffed it with books, bikinis, photos of New York in case I got home sick, powerful pepper spray that sprayed over 50 feet ( a gift from my dad), nail polish, condoms, and snacks from the dollar store. Jake an ex-roommate decided to join me for the first three days since his birthday was a day before mine. Jake is the pot toking, laid back guy who enjoys playing make believe at age 27.  Jake promised to pretend he was a secret agent and scope out the property for safety, he even would find an escape route if trouble came my way.  After a four hour flight I was in Costa Rica, ready to start a new chapter of my life.

On our way through customs I let Jake walk a few steps ahead of me so it wouldn’t feel like we were a happy couple on our honeymoon. Jake breezed through customs as my agent continuously swiped my weathered passport. I told Jake to go to baggage claim and find our bags, I’d catch up. The customs agent shook her head no and frowned at me. My passport wouldn’t register.
“No good,” she said in broken English as she began ripping the fraying leather from the paper thinking it was a fake.
“No! Don’t do that!” I shrieked as I tried to take it back. “Water damage.”
She began rapidly speaking Spanish to me.
“No hablar Espanol. Aqua no bueno,” I said attempting Spanish.
“You go back,” she said as she pointed to the airport.
The bitch was trying to send me back home. I argued for five minutes and she finally called for a manager. Forty minutes later my passport number was punched in manually. She rolled her eyes and summoned me through the gate. That would have just been my luck not even making it out of the airport, I would have never heard the end of it from my friends and family back home.
Jake and I rushed to a cab, in hopes to make the last direct bus to Puerto Viejo, a Caribbean town four hours away. I pulled out my Costa Rica translation book and shouted “rapido!” As we tore into the parking lot the last bus was just pulling away. The cab driver convinced us the best bet was to pay him $100 bucks and he would drive us three hours and we could connect to a local bus. Too tired and hung over to argue from my birthday dinner the night before I wearily agreed. All I wanted was a slice of pizza and a bloody Mary, I sat in the car while Jake ran into a local market to pick up a six pack of beer and cigarettes for the road trip.
“This is going to be fun,” he said as he smiled. Couldn’t he see I was in pain?
Nothing about a three hour drive in Pueblo’s clown car with no a/c was going to be fun. It hadn’t even been a full 24 hours and Jake was already starting to slightly get on my nerves. I let him sit gunshot so he could smoke his cancer sticks and annoy Pueblo with his three hundred questions until our driver dropped us off in Limon to catch the local bus to Puerto Viejo.  Six hours, a cramped leg, and bladder infection later our bus pulled into a dark desolate town. As we exited the bus I looked at a tourist’s legs covered in red welts. She caught me staring and smiled.“You’ll get used to the bites. The first two weeks I bathed in bug spray, but you give up after awhile.” The bugs were not going to accentuate my tan. I was so happy I left my malaria pills back home. A friend had warned me of the side effects of the pills. He told me I’d shed like a snake, shit my brains out, and have nightmares that would cause cold sweats. After a days research I decided the side effects of the medicine were worse than the malaria itself. Jake grabbed his bags and looked around the empty dirt street. As quickly as the bus sped away so did the tourists leaving Jake and I alone and confused. I saw dim lights flickering from a corner market with a few Ticos loitering outside.
“Well this is it,” Jake said positively. “Your new home for a whole month. What do you think?”
I was speechless. Puerto Viejo was a far cry from what I had imagined. I pictured blond surfer boys cruising the tropical streets surf boards in hand. Exotic Spanish women dancing on the street corners in sheer bliss, maybe a welcome to paradise sign, the only sign I got was we needed to get a cab and quick.
“I wish I could find my mace,” I said nervously.
“Don’t worry it’s gona be fine. We are gona have so much fun!”
Why was Jake so damn optimistic? I wanted to slap him until he pouted and cursed. A Spanish man in his fifties convinced us he was a taxi driver in so little words. I tried to explain directions to my casita through an array of gestures … over hill, up cliff, through woods. He looked confused, tossed half of our bags in the trunk, and the other half in the back seat. He drove down a single dirt lane out of town and into the jungle. After a few wrong turns in the black of night he finally stopped at a gated property. A happy expat couple Sherrie and Don came running out to greet us after a few honks of the horn. They led me through the gate past their neighboring house and down a shrub path to my new home, a one bedroom hand built cabin.
“This is it,” Sherrie said as she unlocked two locks. “Always lock up even if you are just going down the road, we’ve had some robberies.”
The one bedroom wasn’t much smaller than my New York apartment, yet the price was just a fraction. It was rustic and cozy with a small bathroom and kitchen/living area and bedroom. It had seven widows that opened up to the wilderness surrounded by tropical plants and flowers of every bright shade. Don went over the infinity of rules that made me feel as if I was back home in high school all over again. They kept making remarks insinuating Jake and I were a couple such as, you two probably want time alone, you will love the seclusion, isn’t this romantic? I finally had to break the awkward tension and, “Um Jake is my friend, and he gets this bed,” I said as I patted a pad on a wooden box in the living area covered in bugs. Jake checked the shower as I unpacked my belongings and spread them out across my full size bed under my ruby red bug net. He told me the shower was cold, not just luke warm, but freezing cold. There went my nice clean shaves and bubble baths.
“Whoo hoo it’s your birthday,” exclaimed Jake.
“Great.”
“Well it’s Friday what do you want to do? Go into town and party it up? Should we check out that hostel Rocking J’s?”
All I wanted to do was roll over, fall asleep, and wake up from my bad nightmare. Had I accidentally taken the malaria pills? Was this all a figment of my imagination? As soon as I stepped foot into the freezing shower and heard Jake screaming about a gigantic bug I was shocked back into a sobering reality. All I wanted to do was to be left alone, but I was forced to hear Jake plan out the next few days. We packed a bag for the night with a flashlight, pepper spray, some money, and a map to my house in case we needed a taxi back. The owner of the restaurant called us a cab so we would get to Rocking J’s quicker. I looked out the window into the deep dark jungle, it looked so scary with no street lights, people, or cars. I pictured myself walking down the long road with just my flashlight and walking stick to ward off snakes and other exotic creatures of the night. Would I survive a month in this jungle?

The taxi pulled in front of a bright yellow and orange Rocking J’s sign lit by a spot light. A Dave Matthews cover band was rocking out on the stage by the bar. Grungy hippy types flowed freely in and out of the exit. Jake hurriedly whipped out some dollar bills and flashed them at the driver.
“Here ya go buddy keep the change. Em we’re here, isn’t this great?”
We hadn’t even stepped foot out of the cab and he was already going into convulsing orgasms over the cool beach front hostel. I was still taking it all in. I was going to be living in the jungle in just three days alone. We grabbed a beer at the bar and tried blending in with the crowd. I tried messing up my hair a bit. I looked down at my perfectly fit tank top, bright flowy skirt, and yellow sandals. The truth was I wouldn’t fit in if I tried, I looked more like I was ready for an episode of celebrity survivor. Most groups seemed to know each other at least by some small acquaintance. Jake casually cruised the room saying how every other girl was hot. I watched as a Land Rover pulled up and a hefty man from the driver’s seat unloaded boxes. It had to be ‘The’ Rocking J, the owner of the hand built hostel. All the hippies waved and smiled at him as he walked through the bar oozing confidence. Jake thought we should have scored weed straight from him, but I told him to find it else where, I didn’t want to get in trouble on my first day. Jake ended up bargaining for a bag of brown Jamaican grass from a local that claimed it was the best smoke around. Jake then convinced me to walk home because I should get used to the walk and he would help. The 45 minute walk consisted of Jake making awkward three word comments, “It’s dark out, I hear waves, watch your step, and this is fun.” Until it started pouring a torrential down pour soaking us through our clothes and past our skin then his comments were, “Fuck it’s raining, we there yet, hold the flashlight,” he said attempting to light a joint.
The next two days I kindly insisted I wasn’t in Costa Rica to party and black out, but to detox and see the light. He obliged and fried his brains out on the hammock as I made excuses to secretly explore my new surroundings in the peace of my own company. I bought groceries at a little store a ten minute walk down three hills. I tried to pick out items I knew I could cook successfully, screw proof items such as cheese and crackers, fruit, and ice cream sandwiches. The following day Jake did the unthinkable he lodged his laptop into a tight safe along with all of our valuables, cash, and passports. Hours later I realized it was jammed as Jake made 101 excuses to what it could be. I flipped my lid as Don tried opening the safe with the master key. He insisted it would open it, but after two hours of trying it didn’t budge. Jake rationalized the situation as he broke out into a sweat. He thought he could just take the safe with him to the airport with his passport in it, but the safe was bolted to the floor, and I wasn’t paying to have the whole cabin re-floored. Seven hours later Don slid out from under the muddy casita in pouring rain. The lock came un-jammed after he pounded the safe from underneath the floor. The next morning Jake decided to go home a day early, but needed some cash to get home since his money was spent and his credit cards were maxed. The bus was already over sold but I flirted with the station attendant to squeeze him on so I could get on with the rest of my vacation alone. My hectic day ended with a night of no electric. As I lit my candles I missed my bath tub back in New York.

For the next ten days I was caught in a tropical storm. The rain in the Caribbean is nothing like I have ever seen before. I conveniently left my umbrella and goulashes back in New York, consequently I was forced to stay in my wooden casita listening to the rain drops the size of quarters pound on my tin roof. For the next two weeks I woke up at 6 am, open my boarded windows to see if there was any chance of a sunny day. Every morning it was the same predictable weather, a never ending down pour that felt as if God was hosing down my casita. I made my breakfast a cup of tea, fresh juice, & cheese and crackers. I wrote until I could no longer physically hold my pen any more. I enjoyed the peace of my own company and the fact no one was around to see me jump at my own shadow, or hear me scream when I saw a beetle the size of my palm resting above my bed. I finished my first novel in a record breaking seven days. I had never written a novel before I thought it was a decent turn around time.

Some days the rain stopped, but only for a moment. As soon as I stepped foot out of the gate it showered over me soaking me wet to the bone. Sometimes I heard the storm flying over the Caribbean angry at the world and watched it come in minutes later above the rainforest. I took in a variety of stray dogs during my stay. I showered and fed them, but they were as fluky as the weather, some would stay for a day or two, others just came for breakfast, but they all ran back to the pack eventually. I read novels nightly then dozed off into daydreams of what I would be back in New York city with a toned tanned body, a voice, and four manuscripts. I pictured myself in Jimmy Choo heels dazzled in crystals, a form fitting boyfriend blazer, and designer jeans at my book signing. I pictured myself jet setting across the globe, dining at fancy dinners, and making appearances on talk shows. I fell asleep nightly listening to the rain pound on my roof, mace in one hand, my flashlight in the other. I was happy the rain scared away the robbers, bugs, and other nuisances.

The first day of sunshine I packed my backpack, grabbed my camera, and ran down the steps of the path to the beach. I heard the powerful waves crashing and desired to be diving in the aqua water. To my surprise the perfect white sandy beach was a wreck. Logs and rubbish covered the brown sand like a dirty blanket, the gray waves soared over ten feet high, and pounded down crashing onto the surf. I was surprised to be the only person on the beach, and stared in awe of the powerful ocean. Without thinking I jumped on a perfectly round three hundred pound log and snapped pictures of the ocean until the waves rolled the log backwards with me stumbling on it for balance like a circus act. I almost flew backwards but knew death would have my name if I fell, I would surely get rolled by the log and if not dying on impact I would be knocked unconscious left to drown. Instinctively I jumped to the side and the log rolled up my calf pounding behind my knee. I hobbled out of the dangerous wave break to safety to catch my breath on a bunch of sticks and logs to look at my wounded leg. My adrenaline was still too high to feel the pain of my fractured leg that was already twice the size of the other leg and already turning a wicked shade of black and blue. Moments later by biggest phobia scares me off the beach as a swarm of wasps get startled under the logs and chase me down a wooden path to the road. I stopped running in front of a group of young Ticos to catch my breath. They stared at me with their eyes wide open as they pointed to my feet and screamed, anetas, aneta!
I smiled and attempted my broken Spanish, “Hola me llamo es Amelia.”
“Anetas! Anetas!” The boys repeated worried.
“Que pasa?” I asked confused.
I soon realized the stinging on my bare feet when I looked down to see my feet planted on top of an army of red fire ants stinging my soft flesh. I jumped into a puddle as the boys laughed. Pain sinking into my leg I hobbled to Cafe Rio the internet café, I was in far too much pain to stumble up the hill to my house. To my surprise I received an email from a mysterious internet stranger I met on a travel forum, David the Canadian. He was driving with a group of friends from Montreal and landing in Montezuma my next destination the same day as me. Was he just the medicine I needed on this trip? He had only one profile picture on Facebook, it didn’t say much just the boy next door but just maybe he would turn out to be fling material. At this point in my trip almost any boy would do, but I wondered just how would he kiss? As I was reading his email I received an IM from him. We chatted back and forth for an hour and he seemed like a ton of fun to be around.
The sun set as quickly as it came, leaving me hobbling back home with my tiny flashlight and mace. The internet café owner told me to be careful as I limped out the door. I hate those two words, BE CAREFUL, it’s almost implying one is going to get into some sorts of trouble, but maybe she could see right through me and my bad luck streak. I hesitantly shined the light on the path in search of snakes and other dangerous obstacles. As I shined the light just inches from my face hung a ten foot curvy snake dangling in front of me. It stretched across the narrow path almost hitting me smack in the forehead. I yelped as I jumped back just missing a run in with it. I shined my light on it again to reveal it wasn’t a poisonous snake, but a broker wire of a power line ready to electrocute my brains out. I carefully dunked under the hot wire as the words BE CARFUL flashed through my mind.

I fell asleep with a bag of frozen peas on top of my throbbing leg dreaming of David. The next few weeks I played doctor with myself as I assessed my gut wrenching bruises and fractured leg. It hurt to limp, but what killed me the most was the storm had finally passed and I was unwillingly immobile. I drug myself out of the cabin down to the internet café where I could vent out my frustrations on Facebook and check to see if I was lucky enough to receive a message from my latest crush David. Almost instantly as I logged onto Facebook I’d revive instant messages from him. He asked me how my leg was almost as if he cared, but who wants to sleep with a handicapped person on vacation? We planned our month of March in Montezuma full of adventure, practical jokes, and excursions. We were both landing in Montezuma March 1st, and would meet at the only bar in town Chico’s. I hoped he was exciting enough to hold my interest long enough for me to wrap my legs around his neck for the whole month of March. A week later I finally met ‘The Rocking J.’ Needless to say it was a night of debauchery with a man wearing a t-shirt full of sex positions. After accidentally locking us out of his tree house with all my belongings in it, he first convinced me to climb on his shoulders and slide through a two foot opening to unlock the door.
“I’m not so sure,” I said uneasily.
“You’ll be fine, you’re small. Just be careful there is an electric wire on the top and a barb wire fence on the bottom.”
I hesitantly climbed from his shoulders through the crack scraping my bare thighs against the barb wire ensuring I was safely low enough I wouldn’t get shocked.  I kept to myself the remainder of my time on the Caribbean. Some days were better than others. One day I got nipped by a Pitt Bull I was playing tag with, another day I came home to find the cops looking for a convict who was registered at my cabin named Yolanda. It took me sometime to explain to the cops I was the all American girl Emily Turner even though they were suspicious.
I was lucky enough to find the missing legend Captain Zero. He told me all his stories of the FBI chasing him back in the 70’s and all the legends around him. After almost drowning in one of the most dangerous points on the three mile long beach I wondered if I’d make it back to New York in one piece.

By the last day on the Caribbean I was pleased that I had managed to stay out of trouble and finished two novels, that was until two lesbians Brit and Lindsey convinced me to go out on the town. After two boxes of fine wine at a neighborhood bonfire we ventured into town for a girl’s night out with our flashlights and mace in hand. The rain began to pour so hard we could hardly see. Cars flew past us spraying gravel in our faces. I convinced the girls hitch hiking was the way to go and after a few unsuccessful attempts at flipping my thumb I hiked up my skirt and scored us a ride in the back of a farmer’s truck filled with wet hay and chick shit. We danced off our dampness and soaked our livers all night with the free shots of tequila and rum for the three hour open bar. I felt on top of the world I had finally gained popularity in the lesbian scene. I fended off the dirty locals who tried hitting on the girls as if I was their body guard. The last bit of the night was a fuzzy blur after I did my last shot of alcohol amnesia.

Britt and Lindsey recapped the night for me. After leaving the club barely able to stand we stumbled to find a cab, but they were all taken so I took it upon myself to chat up a group of cops at the corner of a dark alley. Moments later we were being chauffeured home by the cops in the back of their truck bed sitting next to Oscar and Jaco. Oscar was the sleazier cop in his thirties who tried putting the moves on me as he caressed my leg and whispered in my ear. The cops in the front of the truck smiled evilly as they peered through the rear view mirrors. I told Oscar he was gross and that I was “Miss Hollywood.” The girls gasped when I asked him if I could slap him.
“You are gross, I am Miss Hollywood. Do you know Sharon Stone? Cameron Diaz? I am Hollywood!” I mumbled at Oscar. I still have no idea where those icon’s names came from, or why the hell I claimed to be a Hollywood icon myself, but I have a feeling the open bar had something to do with the confusion. The truth was I had been in Hollywood once and it was no walk in the park, yet I was claiming to be the next big thing and turning into the next biggest disaster. Oscar did agree to me slapping him, and I did just that before I pulled him in for a quick closed mouth kiss on the cheek. The cops ended up being shady and thought they were going to get some action as they passed my casita and pulled to a dead end spot. I began slurring Spanish, “Voy a matarte” (I will kill you) before we jumped out the back of the truck and ran to the safety of my private property. The next day I was glad to be venturing on to greener pastures, March in Montezuma with David.I rented an SUV and headed to a 60 acre villa near Montezuma my week in between roughing it in cabins in Puerto Viejo and Montezuma. This was my treat to myself. A 5 bedroom open concept villa complete with a horse Shawncar.

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The owners must have thought it was bizarre to find a young girl traveling alone, renting a huge house for just herself, but it was my prerogative if I wanted to sleep in a different bedroom every night of the week. I spent my week writing a romance novel and tanning by the pool daydreaming of my upcoming romance in Montezuma. What was this David all about? I couldn’t wait to meet him and finally have a jungle romance. I only had the SUV for one week and had plans to rent a horse from a farm in Montezuma for the whole month, so I decided to sharpen up my riding skills with Shawncar my last day. After he took off down the dusty road in a full fledged gallop the owner apologized for Shawncar.

“Are you ok?” She asked concerned as I caught my breath.
“Uh yeah I think so.”
“I’m sorry I forgot to tell you Sonny was a race horse before we bought him.”
“A race horse, like when?”
“Oh up until just last year.”
“That explains his one gate, GO,” I said laughing at the thought I rode a race horse.
The next day I had another stroke of bad luck as I wrecked my SUV on the last day of the rental as I side swiped the right side on the narrow bridge to my cabin. I was glad I had agreed to the full insurance policy the rental clerk advised me to upgrade when I rented the car.
After settling into my new home, a wooden bungalow on a cliff overlooking the Pacific I was ready to primp myself for my first meeting with the stranger. I opted for a low cut white tank, khakis, and flip flops. I rustled my wavy hair a bit messier and dabbed on some coral gloss. If David was at all cute I wanted to ensure I had his undivided attention, I had no time or patience to compete with the loose backpackers. I took a few puffs of my pipe to calm my nerves, and made a stiff bloody Mary that would knock Tara Reid off her heels. Whenever I tend to drink too much I have a habit of swinging my hips back n forth like windshield washers, and over pronouncing certain words as I talk with my hands and roll my eyes. I had a feeling this night might be one of those nights as I parked my rental on a side street and giddily made my way to Chico’s. I ordered myself a beer at the packed bar and scanned the room for David. On the beach sat a group of younger people that looked my way. A guy in a blue jersey gave me a half smile and took a sip of his beer. I took a gulp of my beer and shamelessly approached the table. All though six sets of eyes were staring at me all I could see was the stranger. There was something inviting about his laid back charm, messy sandy brown hair, and hesitant smile. While there wasn’t one attribute that stuck out in particular, his whole demeanor and confident presence instantly pulled me in. I was going to have no problem having him as my morning breakfast, and midnight dessert. After a few rounds of beer his friends decided it was safe to leave him alone with the internet stranger.

Within a half an hour I did the unthinkable. I rambled every useless fact that came to mind to my new friend. After all I felt as if I already knew him since we had been messaging and it had been so long since I had someone to vent to. He knew more information about me than my friends I had known for ten years in New York, but I could no longer sensor my thoughts, the alcohol was talking. Was it necessary he know until what age I wet the bed, or who my imaginary friend was, or how many men I had slept with in my ten single years of Manhattan? No, but I continued to ramble dramatically as he sat patiently and listened, he was too polite to stop me or interrupt. When the lights came on for last call I flung my head back and took my last sip of beer as I pointed my finger in his face giving him an ultimatum. I started it with “Do you know what mister?” I then continued to almost threaten him, that if he wanted to hook up all month it would be cool. I do believe I used the word bang, but if he just wanted to be friends with me I threatened him that he would fall in love. I said this all crossed eyed and slightly slurring of course. David concluded it was time to go home as he walked me to my SUV.

David needed a ride the next morning to the ferry an hour from town to get his broken down Jeep on the mainland. I was headed there just three hours later to return my rental to San Jose. I insisted I pick him up at 4 am on the dot. He thankfully agreed …that was before he rode with me and saw what a driving hazard I was. I sat in the car and revved the engine moments before slamming my hand on the horn.
“Arg! What the heck?”
David remained silent as I continued to peer out the window before jumping out of the car and looking at the row of cars ahead of us.
“What is up with all the traffic?” I screamed.
“Uh,” David said quietly, “Um this is a dead end street. Those are just parked cars.”
“Oh really?” I said lightly as if I turned the switch back on. I laughed at myself as I slammed the gear into reverse and squealed the wheels leaving a trail of dust behind us as I played chicken with pedestrians. I sped past the hidden drive to David’s property three times before reversing at 60 mph on the desolate unpaved road, and tore down the narrow pathway in the forest.
“Oh my gosh David you are so fired,” I said as I lifted my knees up to the steering wheel and began digging under the seat for my Ipod.
“Uh what are you doing?”
“I’m finding music! You suck at playing DJ, and I can’t drive without tunes.”
David ripped the steering wheel from my knees and pulled it to the side moments before the SUV flew off the ledge and down a cliff. He looked at me speechless as he caught his breath. Oblivious to our first near death experience I laughed as I grabbed the wheel and began singing to Bob Marley, “Don’t worry about a thing…every little things gona be alright.”
I confirmed I would be back in two hours, and warned David not to be late. Somehow I figured out in the dark of the night how to make it back to my bungalow, only to pass out for two hours until I woke up instinctively with no alarm. I looked down at my broken watch with a cracked face, it was 3:55 am. I scrambled to get myself ready as I spritzed on body spray, brushed my teeth and changed my shirt. I had five minutes to make it back to David’s cabin. A rough start to the day, it took me over 45 minutes to find his property. David jumped in the car reeking of an intoxicating cologne. I tried not to pass out at the wheel as I rolled down the windows, I had to return the car on time or they could charge me for the wreck. Just as luck would have it the ferry was pushing off the dock the moment we pulled up to the gate forcing us to wait 2 hours for the next ferry and awkwardly nap next to each other. The two hour ferry ride David and I had small talk, the boring stuff you talk about on a first date, goals in life, family, and the future. I drove like hell on wheels passing three semi trucks at a time as I tried to make it back to San Jose in record breaking time. When I returned the car the service agent was very sympathetic to my accident as she had experienced a bumper collision on her way to work, that was until she saw the damage of the SUV. She asked for a police report to attach to the insurance which I didn’t have. I had yet to even see a cop on the pacific, it seemed as if even they lived an everyday vacation. As she dropped me back off to the ferry she advised me to keep in touch with the owner, the lack of a police report might be a problem. I found David sleeping on the ferry and wore him up as if we were old buddies. His Jeep was still broken, so his day turned out to be just about as shitty as mine. We ended the day with the last two slices of pizza at the pizza net in Montezuma and walked separate ways as the sun set back to our cabins. My night ended with a baby skunk smiling at me as he ate my leftovers on the kitchen counter. I named him Maxwell and tossed him a few more cookies before I rolled back over for some sleep.
The next day made hell seem like an all inclusive resort. I fought on the pay phone with the rental car owner for one hour screaming broken Spanish at the top of my lungs. I was screwed, he had my debit card information and was about to go ahead and charge me 4,000 for the damages. What small print did I neglect to read this time? I pleaded with him to give me until morning and I would resolve the situation. I slammed the phone down and began frantic search for the local police station. When I finally found the small white square building it was closed at 2:30 on a Tuesday. Were all the cops on vacation too? Hours later I found two cops chatting with a local, by that time I was furious and on the brink of a major melt down.
“Please help me,” I cried to the cops as I tried to explain my story. All I needed was a police report.
They shook their hands in confusion as the lady they were talking to said, “They do not speak English.” She then attempted to translate my predicament. They simply threw their hands up in the air, there was nothing they could do. I fell to the ground gasping between breaths and tears.

The lady convinced the cops to drive me to Cobano a twenty minute drive to the main cop station. After fighting on the phone with the rental owner, and with the stern cops on duty I ended the day hitch hiking back to Montezuma with no resolution. The nicer cop Eduardo told me in so many words, mana polica hora oche and gave me the thumbs up. I had to be at the Cobano police station in the morning and everything would be fixed.
That night I wrote a four page letter in Spanish using my translation book. By 10 am my problem was solved, my little funds to last me until I got back home untouched, and I was on my next mission finding the farm that had the horse I was set up to rent for $100 for the month. I had enough with cars, and I was ready for a ride what wouldn’t break down, but to my surprise my horse Jessie was just as problematic as my rental car. Jessie was one of the only horses that wasn’t malnourished. This barely broken horse had two speeds, stop and don’t stop. Some days I would make her trot harder as I rode into town with my freshly cut whipping stick, other days she was so stubborn I had to pull her up the two mile hike back home as tourists sped past us on four wheelers laughing. After she almost passed out one day I decided to give her a break and focus my attention on finding the Canadian. The only problem was we didn’t have phones, or any means of communication, it was just like the olden days we’d have to meet by chance.

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I conveniently ran into David on a Thursday night in town as I was pretending to go to the internet café, he was pretending to pick up some groceries, but it was obvious we both wanted to see each other again. David’s crew and I spent thirsty Thursday at Chico’s tossing back beer and playing pool. He insisted he drive me home in his Jeep that was finally fixed so he could see where I was staying. After that night we were practically joined at the hip, except for the fact we hadn’t slept together yet, nether less even kissed. I wanted to kiss him, grab him by the neck and pull him in for a passionate romp on the beach, but for some reason I got nervous around him even though he was the boy next door kind of guy. Instead we spent afternoons hiking through the jungle in search of the 60 foot waterfall we could jump from, days at the beach where I’d bust his chops for not swimming as far out as me, and nights cooking dinner at home with his friends telling stories while drinking adult beverages, not a care in the world.
David and I had our second near death experience driving after he picked me up to play a joke on his friends arriving late at night in Cobano. On our way up the dusty steep hill David had trouble with the Jeep. It almost slid off the cliff as chunks of earth broke away.
“Shit,” David said as he looked out the window.
“What’s wrong?” I asked aimlessly.
“We are sliding off the cliff.”
“Do you want me to jump out of the window?”
“No! Don’t do that, I need your body weight.”
The Jeep putt up the hill as a huge chunk of the cliff fell into the swamp.
“We made it!” I said cheerfully.
“Oh my God we almost died,” David whispered.
“Well we can’t die until we play a joke on your friends silly.”

The cliff from hell       

I was supposed to hustle and scare David’s friends Nick and Lory, but our plans got discombobulated. At the end of the prank they just thought I was a crazy drunk who was supposed to drive them to David’s cabin, but needless to say they were scared just the same. That night I slept over David’s for the first time. We shared a twin size bed next to his snoring friend.
I woke up alarmed to find David had not only failed to sneak a peek or feel me up in the night, but passively rolled over and made a sheet barricade between us. It turned out I was the one who made the barricade, but nabbing the Canadian boy for a fling was becoming harder by the day. That Saturday we all decided to step it out on the town and show Montezuma what we were all about. David wanted to leave the Jeep at home and walk into town with our flashlights, we could just grab a taxi home at the end of the night. We danced the night away under the green and red strobe lights at Chico’s before the crew split up. While David’s friends played pool, we sat on the beach talking as we watched drunken tourists stumble across the cove. Moments turned into minutes, minutes quickly transpired into hours of one light conversation leading to embarrassing stories, hopes for the future, and a few stabs at a decent joke. By the time David and I stopped laughing the music was nonexistent, as well as the customers and the bar help. The only sign of life was the sound of our own breath.
There were no taxis, and all his friends had walked home with the flashlights. The moon was dim on the cloudy night and the only lights were the flashing yellow neon lights from a bodaga. We thought we should stick together for the forty minute walk through the jungle home, after all there was a number of dangers we could run into, snakes, panthers, Ticos. I convinced David the route to my cabin was easier since half the roads were paved, just so I could get him alone for once. My sandal strap had broken when I was spinning around Ticos on the dance floor. I tore off my one broken sandal and hopped on one foot as I leaned on David. We didn’t talk much during the hike, our silence was our nervousness, we had no mace, no flashlight, or walking sticks. David squeezed the small of my back, was that a sign?
“How are you doing?” He asked.
“I’m hopping. Don’t worry we are almost there.” While we weren’t even close to my cabin, he was getting closer to my bedroom by the minute. I was already jumping his bones in my vivid imagination. I latched onto his smooth upper arm, it was thin, but bigger than I first pictured.
“I’m scared David,” I said honestly. This might have been the worst decision I had done to date. Anything could happen in the jungle, falling tree, a mugging, snake bite, the cliffs, pot holes, even falling for a stranger. I couldn’t see his face but I didn’t need to, I could already picture his face full of questioning, second guessing, fear, with a splash of anticipation.
“I just wish we had a dog or something to lead the way,” David said as he flicked a fuel less lighter.
We were dab smack in the middle of our journey with no light. We stopped to hug each other.
“Thanks for coming with me. I’m glad you’re here.” I said and for the first time I could remember I was content. It didn’t matter if I had a dime on me, or that I was hopping shoeless on the gravel through an abyss of darkness, or that I was fearlessly taking home a stranger in the dark I met in a third world country. Time stopped and nothing else seemed to matter.
We heard the rustling of leaves as a pair of glowing eyes ran towards us. David and I froze stiff, moments later a black mutt appeared nobly leading the way back home to my cabin. It was if an arch angel sent us the dog with glowing eyes as our light.
David fed the dog cold pasta as a reward as I took a cold shower attempting to score a clean shave in the freezing water. I consciously lathered oil all over my body, ruffled up my hair, and tossed on a pair of sexy thongs and tank top. David and I laid under my covers finishing each others sentences.
“Wow…”I said as I let out a gasp of relief.
“That was insane.”
“Craziest thing I have done since…”
“Meeting you,” David said finishing my sentence.
“Was that just an insult?”
“No just an observation.”
“Thank God for…”
“That dog.”
“What did it’s collar say?”
“Java.”
“Then thank God for Java. I looked over at David holding the cover up to his chin nervously. I was about to make fun of him until I realized I was doing the same. Before I knew it we simultaneously turned to each other as our lips melted into each others. It wasn’t quite how I pictured our first kiss, but it was better. It was like our tension released at the prick of the moment and for once our guards were let down. His lips fit perfectly into my mine. The rest of the night was a passionate blur, but not a blooper.
Once the hardest part of my trip was cracked I was in full gear in life in Montezuma. Some mornings I would wake at the crack of dawn to see the magenta sunrise, and Maxwell the skunk snooping through my trash. Other times he would wake me up before the break of dawn with a toot of his stink bomb, or an unexpected leap in my bed trying to hop out my window. I continued to leave food out for him until one day I hid all my $900 colones in a loaf of bread.

Maxwell my friend

My landlord told me he had practically eaten the whole loaf of bread and she tossed it out along with a few other items that had been torn into. I ran to the trash can and dug out the half eaten loaf of bread, as luck would have it he stopped munching just inches away from my wad of cash. Afternoons after writing I would bike through the rustic local villages where children tossed soccer balls and cows roamed freely on the dirt streets on my way to David’s cabin. Evenings waiting for David I would reflect on my life as I swung in the hammock listening to tunes on my Ipod. Some nights our crew played poker, other nights we danced until the sun came up at reggae parties at Mal Pais. One night we were so hungry we thought about breaking into a beach front pizza shop and whipping up some fresh pizzas at 3 am, it seemed like a brilliant idea, there were no cops around, and no security cameras. We hopped over the counter and the sound of vicious dogs came running towards, that was the security, no pizza for us that night.
Some nights the locals would get together for movie night. We all laid on the grass munching on popcorn and burnt hot dogs as we watched Juno on a sheet hung between two palm trees. I was starting to get used to jungle life, this was beginning to feel more and more like home. Designer shoes and fancy dinners were irrelevant to me now. All that counted was a hot man by my side who cooked me breakfast in the morning and drank dollar beers with me as we watched the sunset into the Pacific. The world could have been in the middle of a nuclear war, our only concern was what adventure and beach we had on the agenda for the next day. Some nights I’d scream at a tarantula and beg David to kill it while I danced in circles with bug spray in the corner, he was always hesitant at first, but always came through in the end. We got lost in a national reserve with no water, flat tires left and right on the desolate managed roads, I burned my face so bad my eyes were almost swollen shut, but we found humor and fun in every moment of the jungle. Somehow David always managed to stay by my side, maybe he had a case of sun poisoning too, or a case of jungle fever, but he still stuck around.

We spent one night camping at a haunted beach Playa Grande. We hiked an hour at sunset through a set of rocky cliffs holding our tents, pizza, and bags full of necessities: toilet paper, flash lights, condoms,  munchies, bug spray, and beer. We were the only people on the beach under a full moon. We set up three tents on a sand mound in front of a patch of thick jungle. Half of us argued it was safer to camp of sight in the jungle, the other half argued the unknown beasts of the jungle were just as frightening as the ghosts and the beach was an easier escape. We ate, drank, laughed waiting for the ghosts to appear. Nick thought he saw a man’s head pop up in a hut down the beach, but when we went to check it out there was no one to be found.
By the end of our trip it was as if David and I were dating, yet never spoke a word about what we were or what we were doing when the trip was over. We spent his birthday alone together, and while we didn’t make it to the party in Mal Pais because of a flat tire, his birthday night was out of this world. His Jeep conveniently had gotten a flat smack middle of our journey to Mal Pais in the ghetto of Cobano in the dead of night. We left his Jeep in front of a automotive shop, grabbed the bottle of champagne I brought and trekked back the 2 hour walk to Montezuma. We thought we would be walking all night until a taxi stopped an hour later and drove us to my cabin. I felt bad his birthday was ruined, so I decided to give him mind blowing sex. As he flipped me on my stomach he said, “I see a ship.”
Is that what he called talking dirty?
“Again I see it,” he repeated.
“What?”
“The light it moved from the ocean to the sky,” David said as he looked out the opening next to my bed.
I looked out the window to see a massive light emanating pulsing colors of bright white, to orange and yellow. Then on cue the computer and cabin lights turned on and off, on and off.
“Shit the condom broke!” David shrieked.
“Why are the lights doing that? What did you say, the condom broke?”
“I don’t know but that light keeps coming and going.”

At the same moment our computer that wasn’t hooked to the electrical outlet turned on and off. I ran to the shower as an armadillo was frantically burring itself in a bush. David and I watched on my balcony for five minutes as the light came and went pulsating before disappearing forever.

The armadillo

We ended our wild adventure finally jumping off the 60 foot waterfall. I shifted my body as I was plunging into the water and cracked my sternum. For the next month I was forced to hold my chest with one hand and the back of my neck with the other hand every time I laughed, which made me laugh even harder.

The last night in town we all went out dancing at Chico’s. The town streets were filled with hippies fire dancing and tourists drinking and laughing. I began to play with a big, black, stray dog who eventually attacked my face. We were practically French kissing for ten seconds before he decided to release his bite. I ended up with some cuts around my eye and chin that David managed to clean with a bottle of cheap vodka.
My adventure in Costa Rica was a once in a lifetime priceless journey where I not only wrote four novels, but I found out a lot about myself. And while I was prepared to fall and get hurt, break a few bones, and even get the rabies vaccine, I didn’t picture myself falling in love, or getting my heart broken when I was forced to go back to the concrete jungle. As luck would have it, I not only did the same trip again the following year and wrote four more novels, I married the Canadian stranger a year and a half later who loves Costa Rica as much as I do.  This was my first of many adventures to Costa Rica. I have completely fallen in love with the people, the culture, food and wildlife of this country. Pura Vida!

My never ending fling one year anniversary in Costa Rica hot springs