The honeymoon was one of my few responsibilities for the wedding. This goes some way towards explaining why it happened five months after the fact. The other reasons were lack of funds/vacation time, and wanting to use any break as an escape from a probable Boston winter that would make a eunuch of a brass monkey. For some reason we decided on an all-inclusive trip to Costa Rica. And then we changed our minds. And then we chose an escorted tour followed by an all-inclusive stay at one resort before deciding we wanted to see more of the country and semi-escorted was the way to go. Then we thought we’d be better off going to Mexico. Then we were going to take a series of weekend breaks before finally settling on a self-drive tour of Costa Rica with a little adventure to begin with, followed by a relaxing rest of the trip.
Sitting on the plane, I engaged in light conversation with the old lady beside me. We discussed our mutual interest in gaming – Solitaire, Free Cell, Spider Solitaire – and I asked her if she had been to Costa Rica before. She had lived there for 25 years. I was getting nervous about driving and wondering if I had done everything right at this point so I told her I was driving.
“Wait, you’re driving?” she asked, somewhat incredulous.
“Eh, yes I was planning to anyway,” I replied trying to sound like I had done all of the research and knew what I was talking about.
“Well I’m sure you’ll be fine as long as you stick to the big roads,” she offered, “Just be careful. You’re as likely to see people and animals on the roads over here as cars.”
“Oh, don’t worry, I learned how to drive in rural Ireland,” I joked. “I’m well used to things like that.”
She smiled a thin smile, nodded almost imperceptibly, and went back to playing her game of 2-suit Spider Solitaire. Her nod suggested that I hadn’t a notion what I was talking about.
We would see a volcano, do some zip-lining and some hiking up north before heading down the coast to sit by a pool where our only movement would be craning our necks to find the straw in our grossly expensive, fruity cocktails. I got on the road in my shitty rental car almost two hours later than I had hoped, following a huge line at immigration.
The drive north to the volcano saw a concoction of sweats (fear, panic, heat) greasing my palms against the steering wheel and gear stick. The road had more hairpin bends than 60 laps of the Monte Carlo grand prix, more ups and downs than a mile on a pogo stick, and narrower than some of the buses barreling against us. I shifted between first, second, and (sometimes) third to try and make it to our ultimate destination, our ears popping every few miles due to the dramatic changes in altitude.
I couldn’t have been happier reaching the hotel, the pitch darkness making conditions for the drive even tougher for the last hour. We were at the hotel now. We’d be in our big fancy room soon, we’d see the volcano tomorrow and do some adventure stuff as planned.
Our big fancy room was unfortunately the next problem we encountered. Instead of booking one of the 47 standalone cabins with two decks and a view of the volcano, I had accidentally booked one of the six economy rooms the bus drivers and tour guides stayed in. Nice job on the honeymoon so far, dickhead. Christina was nice about it all as I was beating myself up enough for both of us. The hotel was booked out tonight but there was a couple of free rooms for upgrade the following day. Could be worse.
Strolling around the grounds the following morning I couldn’t help but feel like I was missing something. I didn’t think much of it until after breakfast when we moved to our new, spacious room and I ventured out on to the deck. Where the fuck was this volcano we were supposed to be in the shadow of? The website suggested you could see it from basically anywhere on the grounds. It was only then that I came to the cripplingly disappointing conclusion that the volcano was there. I was staring directly at it but it was enveloped in a pea soup of fog and cloud. As this realization hit, so too did the rain that was vacating the sky in a hurry, fully drowning my already damp spirits.
We waited half an hour for the rain to stop. This was not going to deter us as we took off for the national park and a hike around the elusive volcano. We got there just in time for the heavens to open again and for god to piss down right on top of us. We waited as Christina cursed herself for not dressing warmer. We thought we caught a break with the rain and made a run for it but it seems god only took a quick intermission to invite some friends over for a pissing contest. Five minutes in we thought about tucking tail and running back to the car but we were already soaked through and twenty minutes after that we were on the actual lava trail of the volcano. We were climbing this thing and I still couldn’t see it. Before I knew it we were back down and in the car. I still question whether the volcano actually exists.
In the afternoon, having dried off sufficiently we took a trip to the hot springs. They were beautiful and relaxing and impossible to stay in for any more than an hour due to the incessant heat. We were lucky that it was a fairly shite day weather-wise or we would have been properly cooked. We headed towards La Fortuna for dinner as Christina had a hankering for some guacamole. We found a little place at the side of the road that did good barbecue pork and served the same three shitty Costa Rican beers as everywhere else. We were both relaxed and happy.
The next morning we headed off for our long drive to the coast. It was mostly backtracking what we did a couple of day previously with an added hour along the coast. Daylight made all the difference. We skirted alongside the volcano for a while but it wasn’t ready to peak out just yet so we broke free from its lying bastard shadow and continued south. The driving was much easier today as I was now settled and acclimatized. We wound through some interesting towns and settlements, endured some shit-your-pants hill starts, and pulled in to let many the car pass us on narrow roads.
Three and a half hours later and we arrived at what appeared to be someone’s house with an electric gate outside. We shared a you’ve-got-to-be-shitting-me look with each other. Christina’s was directed at me, mine at the internet for deceiving me so cruelly with its creatively angled photos and bullshit descriptions. We were greeted by an extremely friendly gentleman who showed us to our room, complete with snacks which we duly devoured. The hotel was small but we certainly had a deck and it overlooked a beautiful pool. Joe delivered on this one. Only for we pruned up worse than an elephant with a peanut allergy, we probably would not have gotten out of the pool until we had to leave the next day such was the heat and need for relaxation following the journey.
We pretended to ourselves we were going to get up for a hike the next morning before we left and we went through with it – until we couldn’t find the trail. We gave up almost immediately, abandoning the hike for a few more sweet hours in the pool. Our next and final hotel was only a further two hours down the coast so we were in no hurry leaving. The only thing that did hasten our exit was our fear that we were in some type of Costa Rican Jurassic Park. A couple of lizards I happened upon the previous day had sensed my approach, climbed to two legs and covered ground faster than a female velociraptor chasing someone who she thought was trying to harm her velociraptor babies.
This was the easiest leg so far and I was glad for it. Quepos is less a town and more a long stretch of road with establishments for people to eat and drink. There was also one high class gentleman’s club that looked neither high class nor gentlemanly. Following a mile of extremely narrow and windy road past more hotels than you would find in all of County Galway, we arrived at the end of the line – The Hotel Parador.
Five minutes there told me that the chances of me starting the car in the next four days were extremely slim. The Lobby Boy here informed us he has been to La Fortuna three times and never seen the volcano either. We spent the remainder of the vacation by the pool or out on our balcony. I always said “I’ll have the same” when Christina ordered a cocktail as if I was too lazy/manly to look on the menu. The truth was I wanted all the fruity cocktails I could without having my testicular fortitude questioned by the barman. I’m quite sure I didn’t succeed.
Aside from that, we had a couples massage and a special private dinner as part of our package. At the massage we were both so sunburned that one of our masseuses came down to us in the spa after with aloe vera because she was so worried about us. At the dinner we realized we had no cash on us to tip our private waiter so I had to run the five minutes to the room and back after dessert as Christina nursed the dregs of the wine. The sweat patches and ceaseless panting probably gave the game away.
The only time we left the premises (aside from a quick trip to the beach) was on the morning of our last full day. We had meant to do something semi-adventurous and dammit but we were going to get that done. So we went zip-lining because we’re real thrill seekers. We chose 7.30am as we wanted more time by the pool. As we waited in the lobby to be picked up, we noticed that Charlie Sheen was on the wall of past celebrity guests to the hotel. Christina remarked that he was most likely a patron at the gentleman’s club we had passed on the way.
The zip-lining was fun and our guide was great. It turned out we were the only two on the 7.30 run (there were 23 in the 10am group) so we basically got a private tour, finished quickly and were back to the pool by 10. It probably couldn’t have worked out any better. It was due to get pretty stormy around 4pm so I headed off on the monkey trail at around 3. We had attempted this earlier in the week. Unfortunately Christina only has one pace in life with no patience for the exploration of nature so we had accelerated through the primary trail in under fifteen minutes without stopping or following any monkey noises.
Sadly for me, all the monkeys seemed to have disappeared in preparation for the storm this time round so I arrived back empty handed in time for the sky to purge itself of all moisture. We took off early the next morning for our two hour drive before our flight back. The journey home was eventful too as some of the more nervous members of our traveling party (Hint: It wasn’t me and there was two of us) had a shit fit thinking that we wouldn’t make it through immigration in time for our connecting flight. I do have to commend the airport in Miami for having their shit together on that one – extremely smooth process.
If anyone is thinking of a nice sun vacation with lots of adventure, wildlife, or just plain sitting by the pool sucking on cocktails, we’d highly recommend.