At Quepos – our final destination on our round-the-world trip – we arranged to spend a week with my sister and her family. In reality, we joined them for a luxury summer vacation in Cost Rica. When my brother-in-law, Tom, sent us the link to the “house” he reserved; the kids went crazy. They told anyone who would listen that they were going to stay in a mansion with their cousins. After 11 months of every kind of accommodation that one can reserve on a target budget of $100 USD per night, this place was spectacular. Our new home was perched on a steep hillside, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and surrounded by dense Costa Rican jungle. While hanging out at the pool, which had an infinity edge looking out over the Pacific, we were visited by white-faced monkeys, colorful birds, and we even spotted a sloth hanging out in the top of a Monkey Tree.
The house is called “Casa de las Ventanas” or “The House of Windows and Doors”. I think this may be the first place we rented that has its own name, even our house in Danville doesn’t have a name – yet! Virtually every wall in this house is made of glass and has an ocean or jungle view.
The first morning Suzanne and I were awakened at dawn by both the rising sun, and a troop of monkeys playing on the roof. Alex and her cousin Camarin played a game of “monkey see” when a couple monkeys climbed out of the trees and took a close look at them through their patio door. At about 2AM one night a storm rolled over us and the bright lightening bolts flashed through the glass doors and bone-rattling thunder woke us up out of a dead sleep. I have never seen anything like this storm – it was enough to make one believe that Zeus is at work up there keeping us mortals humble.
I was happy to hang out at our Casa of windows, lay in the pool, catch up with my sister, drink a cold beer, smoke a Costa Rican cigar with my brother-in-law, and generally bask in newly-found luxury. However, the kids were relentless in their insistance that we “DO SOMETHING”. So we called up the personal concierge who comes with the house (!!) and scheduled a drive down the coast, off-shore fishing for the boys, horse riding for the girls, and a jungle zip-line adventure for the whole family.
Our drive down the coast was aimed at a place called the Whale Tail, a spit of land that protrudes into the Pacific Ocean the looks like a whales tail from above. Unfortunately we didn’t check the tide tables, and we arrived just as the tide was coming in and couldn’t get out on the tale. So we had lunch and set off back North to Quepos. During the drive we crossed areas of jungle, beach front, and miles of African Palm Tree plantations. We learned that the African Palms produce palm oil, which has become a very important export commodity for tropical countries like Costa Rica. The trees reach maturity very quickly and produce fruit year-around. Apparently the local vipers thrive in the big palm trees and the men who harvest the small nuts from the trees are often bit from snakes that fall out of the trees with the bunches of nuts. It looks like some really hard, dangerous, nasty work. And I really started to appreciate how hard it must be for these guys when, during our drive home, the skies opened up and the rain started. I struggled to keep our 4-wheel drive car from hydroplaning off the highway, my wipers were unable to keep up with the amount of water sheeting the windshield, and lightning and thunder exploding all around us; holy cow! Then we passed 4 guys on bicycles riding along the road carrying 20 foot poles (the poles are equipped with a blade and used to cut the nuts from the tall palm trees). Wow – just wow!
Unfortunately we were in Quepos during the off-season for big-game fish, but we still picked up a red snapper that grilled for dinner. I also insisted that we keep about 20 pounds of the other fresh fish we caught. Luckily we had a full-sized Viking refrigerator. We ended up making a couple batches of ceviche and giving the rest of the fish to the staff at the house.
While the guys worked hard to provide fresh fish for the family from the bounty of the sea, the girls enjoyed a few hours riding through the jungle and a stop at a waterfall for a little diving and swimming.
The zip-line jungle adventure was a lot of fun. They loaded everyone into a giant jungle buggy for the ride up the mountain. At first I thought the heavy-duty vehicle was a bit of overkill, but once we started up the steep muddy road, it was clear that a normal 4×4 would not be sufficient. After a short nature walk through the deep jungle, we arrived at the gear shack where we put on the (unflattering) helmets and harnesses. The cables are strung between trees and platforms along a beautiful little river that rushes down a jungle canyon. We zipped along among the trees, through waterfalls, and repelled down muddy cliffs. By the time the normal daily downpour of rain started we were all soaked to the skin, and having a great time.
This week of luxury, adventure, relaxation, and family fun was a great capstone to our around-the-world trip. We packed our bags for the last time, said a grateful good-bye to Kim, Tom, Thomas, and Camarin, and boarded our plane to home – San Francisco, California.