02 January 2009

Costa Rica and Panama

Have always wanted to visit Costa Rica, having heard some many good things about it from numerous people over the years. So when Katharine and I started planning our “get out of Norway in the dark-wet period that is December”, we decided to give it a go. I was super busy at the end of last year and Katharine did a fantastic job of sorting all the logistics and booking hotels etc. All I had to do was pass the odd opinion and then turn up!

We flew to Panama City and as is often the case with KLM my bags didn’t turn up, useless bastards, but at least for a holiday in the sun you don’t need to much stuff anyway. Spent a night there and although we were pretty jet lagged managed to get out for a meal. Considering all I knew about the place was a canal, some hats and General Noriega it was pretty impressive and very cosmopolitan.

From Panama we flew to San Jose in Costa Rica, still no bag. San Jose was a bit of a dump and not at all impressive. Went shopping for shorts, t-shirts underwear and a tooth brush. We spent a night there and then caught an early flight to Drake Bay which lies down in the south on the Pacific Coast. Now it felt like the holiday was starting properly. Wild flight in a twin otter, landing on a grass strip in the jungle.

Drake Bay was beautiful and very relaxing. We spent a day diving where we saw sharks, rays, eels and all sorts of other neat stuff. Then a day relaxing followed by a day in the Cordova National Park with a wildlife guide who pointed out birds, lots of monkeys, a sloth and a tapir. Lots of great pictures.

Drake Bay was good but everyone went to bed at 9pm and got up at 6! Fortunatly we met some brits who wanted to drink beer and stay up until 9.45! Anyway after all that sleep we were ready to move on after a few days so we flew back to San Jose and I got reacquainted with my bag.

We also picked up a hire car, with a nice upgrade from Avis to a big pick-up. At the last minute we opted for a sat-nav which was good and bad. It managed to get us out of town but then sent us a very long way around the gulf of Nicoya despite our plans to use the ferry. The roads in Costa Rica are totally awful, a 4WD drive is definitely required, if just for the clearance. Despite the detour and shitte roads we made excellent time and arrived in Mal Pais just as it got dark.

Checked in to the Moana Lodge which is extremely nice, with a somewhat strange, but tasteful African theme. The place is run by a really nice Irish chap called Aden who rants more than me – no really he does, and he hates taxi drivers! Instant bonding! Spent 5 days surfing, sleeping, eating great food and just relaxing. Met some nice people and enjoyed beach life. A great way to spend Christmas, although I still suck at surfing!

From the beach we headed into the middle of the jungle to see the volcano at Arenal. Stayed in an amazing lodge with a medicinal garden. The guy who ran it gave a fascinating tour and told us all about the drug research and history of all the various plants. We also saw the volcano, with lava tumbling out, very impressive in the dark, did a rain forest walk and visited some hot springs.

From there we headed back to San Jose, dumped the car and flew back to Panama where we spent 2 days including New Years eve at the Gamboa Resort. This is a huge hotel, full of loud annoying Americans. We visited the canal – well you have to really! It is amazing, especially the locks. We also did a tour in the jungle and best of all, went kayaking on the canal. Not actually the cut bit, but where the canal goes through a huge lake which supplies the water. That was awesome, saw loads of wild life, monkeys, iguana, birds etc. Highly recommended.

We then flew home on new years day. Due to chaos on the plane I managed to get us both upgraded to business class and immediately forget that I hate KLM! Arrived back in Bergen on Friday evening and it was -2 and clear. Lola was extremely pleased to see us!

I was a fantastic holiday in a great part of the World with just the right mix of activities and resting. Just what I needed at the end of a pretty long year! Katharine did a fantastic job of sorting it all, I have suggested that she should give up working and become a tour operator!

Now ready for the ski season to start…

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