Life, Travel

Costa Rica White Water Rafting

So, you know how I was freaked out about riding ATVs? And How I redeemed myself by not freaking out at all while ziplining? Yea… I was SO freaked out about White Water Rafting. More than the ATVs. When it came to rafting we were at the total mercy of mother nature. I couldn’t control the gas pedal or feel safe in my harness. I was sitting on the edge of an inflatable raft with my foot tucked under a simple strap to “keep me in” …. uhhhhh what?!

Rewind…. We got picked up to go rafting, brought to the local office to fill out paperwork (aka – sign your life away) and then we were told it was going to be an hour plus drive to our destination. I was SO not mentally prepared for that. I was tired, scared, and a bit sunburnt from our adventures on the catamaran the day before (I’ll write about that later). Anyway, we all pile into this van with our rafts strapped down to the top. And we were off!

quepaexpeditions

We learned a lot about the area as one of our guides told us all about the history of that area. There are lots of huge Palm Tree plantations. They use them to grow and harvest the fruit of the palm tree that has the palm oil in it. It is, apparently, a pretty lucrative business to be in. Good to know. After driving a little ways on actual roads we turned off into a gravel path that we would travel on until we got to the part of the river we were going to start at. It was beautiful. So lush and green! We stopped at a tiny rural store/market where we saw the ugliest animal I’ve ever seen.

uglycow

After a few scary twists, turns, and hills we finally made it to the place we were going to start. They gave us our vests and helmets. The guides seemed overly excited because the rain brought the river up a couple inches higher than normal. Yay? Again… I am telling you these helmets look good on no one.

raftinggroup

This was our “proof” that we started, you know… in case we didn’t finish. haha. Once we were all geared up it was time for the instructions. They told us the basic row forward and backward motions. They talked about using your whole body, leaning into it and rowing long and hard instead of short strokes. Sound like CrossFit much? Functional Fitness! Then they spent a long time explaining to us what we should do if we fall out of the raft. Uhhh I didn’t plan on falling out! But it was good to know that trying to stand up was the worst thing you could do. We were taught the white water survival position. Good to know!

costaricarafting

(that’s my “We are going to WHAT?” face. ha.)

And then just like that… we were off! It was exhilarating and terrifying. They split us between two rafts, I was with the husband and his Uncle and our guide Scotty. I was in the middle of the boat, scotty at the back, and Chris and Kevin at the front. I was thankful that our guide was so laid back, but so in control. He never made me feel like he was panicking. The people at Quepoa Expeditions are really good.

costarica_savegre

“Oh look here comes a rapid”

rapidrafting

Just going down the rapid…

IMG_3299

EPIC.

yes, that is us. under the water. in our raft.

About half way down the river we stopped to have a snack (pineapple!) and check out a waterfall. With all the rain the waterfall was rushing, so we couldn’t get too close to it. One of the guides said that the creeks around the waterfall were the highest that he’d seen them. It was fun to get out of the boat for a minute, mostly to let my hands regain circulation because I’d been hanging on to my oar so tightly.

IMG_3350

After we crossed the creek to get to where the waterfall was we attempted a group shot. I’d say this pretty much sums up our group:

IMG_3383

uhhh yea. apparently we ride the short bus. let’s try this again.

costaricawaterfall

much better.

We hopped back on the river and I was actually feeling way more calm and starting to enjoy myself.
I still had my death grip on my paddle though!

I was so impressed at how incredibly well these guides knew the river. We got to one rapid where our guide noticed a broken tree limb/log hanging in one of the rapids. like in the middle of it. They knew the way the water flowed and had to figure a way to go around it. There was just enough room to the right for the raft to fit before hitting the huge rock wall. We had to navigate just right to be able to squeeze through. I was convinced we were going to smash into the wall and die flip the boat. We made it. barely. Our guide said that was something they do on Class 5 rafting trips. Talk about adrenaline rush!

IMG_3416

I was ready to hit some more big rapids… and then I realized we were at the end. Sad day! I have to go rafting again now that I’m not deathly terrified.

So we pack everything up and climb into the truck to head to dinner. There was another car in front of us carrying a family that had gone down the river with us. Apparently they had to drive separate because the woman got carsick. Still not sure how they made it down the river without her getting sick, but whatever. Anyway, it had rained the whole time we were going down the river and coming back down the roads there was a creek that we had crossed over that had risen quite a bit. There was a bridge there, but it was broken so you had to literally drive across the creek. Well the people in this car, a rental Toyota Corolla (who drives that into the jungle? I have no idea), decided to try to drive across this creek. And of course… they didn’t make it. Good thing we were behind them with a van full of muscular men!

IMG_3423

They hopped out and had to push the car out of waist high water.

The girls were still over on the other side of the river with our huge van. We knew the van would have to drive across too so I asked the driver if we should get back inside, he said yea… so Caren and I hopped in. I was like I guess I should close the door? She said she would shut the window… and we were off… SPLASH!

IMG_3438

The van had plenty of power, but ended up getting stuck on a big rock under water.

IMG_3441

You can see Caren in the back, I was one row up. We were like “WHY DID WE THINK THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA?”

Luckily the men came to our rescue!

IMG_3447

And meanwhile the view inside the van:

P1010077 P1010078

Oh man. What a trip!

And that is why we CrossFit. Functional fitness at it’s finest!

I would highly recommend Quepoa Expeditions if you are in the Manuel Antonio/Quepos Area of Costa Rica. And I certainly plan on trying white water rafting again, since I’m not quite as terrified!

Have you been rafting? Scary, fun, or Both?

 

 

Travel

Costa Rica Waterfall Repelling

Are you guys getting tired of hearing about Costa Rica yet? I hope not because I have a lot more to share! I’ve already talked about my disgust with Spirit Airlines and driving ATVs in the Jungle, I’m so excited to share our next adventure with you… Costa Rica Waterfall Repelling and Zip lining! I was so excited about this one. Funny thing is some of the people in our group were totally cool with the ATV adventure but completely freaked out by this one. I was totally opposite. I was freaked out by ATVs and Totally cool zip lining and repelling. I’m backwards I guess.

When we got picked up for the zip lining adventure we went on one of the scariest taxi rides yet. The guy was just plain old nuts. He’d slow down every once in awhile and we’d joke he was going to tell us to get out and find a vine to swing on or something.

scarytaxi

When we arrived we were greeted warmly by our guides and told to go to the bathroom “one last time” and get our harnesses on. It was like we were suiting up for a Village People reunion or something, ha! I was ready to bust out the YMCA… or fix some phone wires or something. Also, canwe just agree that these harnesses are NOT flattering. Or comfortable. Just sayin…

harnessedup

Alright so we were all suited up and ready to go. Now we had to get out to the jungle. Remember how I told you we drove ATVs to the waterfall we were going to repel down? Well since we didn’t all have ATVs we piled in the back of a 1980 jeep and drove along the tiny trails. At one point I was absolutely certain we were going to flip into a ditch with a stream that we were trying to cross. So what do I do? Take a picture of my terrified (or terrifying) face!

scaredface

What?! I was legit scared. Can you see the stream behind me?

Anyway, once we got to the point the jeep couldn’t go any further (thank the Lord…) we got out and walked to our first platform. It was absolutely beautiful. I guess I missed a lot of the scenery the day before since I was so focused on not dying while driving the ATVs.

CostaRicaJungle

When we got to our first platform we were told we had to climb up the ladder to get to our first zip line. I honestly wasn’t nervous at all, just excited. As I started to climb the ladder I was SO thankful that I CrossFit. I can’t imagine climbing that ladder 30lbs heavier and not nearly as strong. It wasn’t as hard as I expected it to be.

costarica_zipline

Oh, and lets just talk about these helmets. They are ALWAYS crooked. And make you look like you escaped special ed. And I look like i’m 12. Moving on…

Once up the ladder we were strapped in on the platform for safety and waited our turn to go on the first zip line. I watched a few people go before me and still wasn’t nervous at all. They strapped me on the line, gave the 321 and I was off!

zipline1

Ok- this is my first time really looking at these pictures and I can’t stop laughing. I promise I wasn’t as scared as I look! Although I was going pretty fast headed for that tree… I don’t know. These are priceless though. and again, the crooked helmet!

There was another platform we stood on while we were waiting for the second zip line. What does one do while waiting for a zip line in the Jungle of Costa Rica? Selfie!!

selfie

selfie2

The second zip line was even more fun than the first because you already knew what to expect. I was determined to try to NOT freak out about hitting the tree at the end. It was easier to relax since we already knew how it would feel. A few people went in front of me and then it was my turn, hooray!!

costarica-zipline

hahaha- oh these pictures. I look like a total nutcase! That last one I’m all like “I’ll get you my pretty! and your little dog too!” At least I was having fun!

After the first two zip lines came the suspension bridge. I had a bad run in with one of these before. I was a part of a Youth Leadership team in High School and we did a high ropes course one time. On the suspension bridge I totally hyperventilated and the ropes were shaking and I freaked out more and one of the staffers had to come “rescue” me. I was NOT going to do that this time. So I controlled my breathing and strolled across. Seriously, my heart rate didn’t even go up! It was fun!

DSC_0113

uhm… can we be honest here. This is NOT a flattering picture of me at all. I almost wasn’t going to post it just because I thought it was so bad. But I wanted to post it to show you I am a work in progress. I have come a long way on my journey, but I have a long way to go. I still struggle with self image and how I portray myself on this blog, and you deserve to know that. I struggle like everyone struggles. So I decided to put it out there. This is unedited pure badunkadunk. Harness + Cuban Booty = Hot Mess. Ah well, at least my husband likes it 😉

Once we all safely crossed the suspension bridge (besides the hubs dislocating his knee… and popping it back into place…) One of our guides asked if we wanted him to take a group picture. We said yes gave him my camera and he did this:

alex

That’s Alex and Genesis. Genesis is the owners daughter, she is 6 and started doing this when she was 4. Impressive!

and now for the actual group shot… we are a hot mess…. I’m telling you those helmets, SO hot right now. LOL.

groupzipline

After the suspension bridge it was time to repel the waterfall! Remember the beautiful one we saw yesterday during our ATV adventure? Yea, that realllly tall one… We were going to repel down it!

So they gave us a crash course on repelling, but made sure we knew that Armando would be on belay the whole time. So if we were to let go of our rope he would make sure we wouldn’t plummit to our death fall. To start out they flung us out over the waterfall and then slowly pulled us back to where we needed to be to go down correctly and then told us to start repelling.

waterfallrepelling

repellingcostarica

Doesn’t that look so hard core?!

Unfortunately the video doesn’t look nearly as hard core. Nothing like the movies actually.

I didn’t notice for the first few minutes after I finished repelling because I was on such a high, but apparently I hit my shin pretty good on one of the rocks on the way down. I came away with a souvenir! It was a pretty good scrape and ended up bruising up pretty bad over the next few days. I wore it as a badge of honor.

shinscrape

After we all made it down the waterfall (mostly) safe we had a snack. The pineapple there was UNREAL. And they had these white cheese cookies that I swear were made with crack. So good. So NOT good for you. Pura Vida! <– the Costa Rican version of YOLO. ha.

DSC_0189

I thought this might be the end of our excursion, but no… there is more. Are you still with me?! This is the best. We moved on to what they called the “Monkey Drop” So basically they strap you in and fling you over the edge of another waterfall where one of the guides had control of your rope. He would blow his whistle signaling you to lay back and put your hands behind your head. He would then drop you straight down into the pool of water (some he dunked, some he let land softly into the water). This was hilarious. and SO fun.

 

After we all collected ourselves from the fear and laughter of the monkey drop we had one more zip line to do. This one was so laid back and fun because we had already done all the “scary stuff”

zipline3

To get down we just repelled straight down from the last platform.

This was seriously such a blast. For those of you who have the opportunity to zip line or repel, DO IT! It may be intimidating or scary, but it is just SO FUN.

Oh! The funniest part of the day… remember how I said my husband gave me a hard time about Roy (our ATV guide) being so “friendly” towards me? Well, the whole day we spent out here he had his own little fan being extra friendly towards him. Meet 18 year old Carin. She was VERY friendly towards him allll day. ha.

DSC_0124

And he played it up. Touche, hubby dear, touche.

Have you ever gone zip lining or Repelling? Would you?

 

Travel

Costa Rica ATV Tour

So after our horrible travel experience we were ready to have some fun in the sun! Sunday we were scheduled for our Costa Rica ATV Tour. I was excited. Like excited in the “I’m going to die” kind of way. Something I figured out on this trip: I had no fear or anxiety of heights or anything on the zip lines/repelling… but put me on a piece of heavy machinery and I was terrrrrrified. Also- riding in these Taxi’s they picked us up in was always an interesting experience…

costaricataxi

We get to the parking place and strap on our awesome helmets

atvadvenure

Then we each had a turn practicing on a small course with turns and such. I was first. Which must have been hilarious. Roy had to correct me along the way and I barely touched the accelerator.

ATVdrivingschool

ATVtour

After everyone had a turn on the test course it was time to head out. Roy was in the front and I was right behind him. There were six of us, so I knew that I was setting the pace for the other 5.

ATVgroup

As we turned out of the parking area it was very rocky and uneven and I went so slow it was stupid. I kept apologizing to everyone behind me because I was so terrified. When we finally got to the bottom of the hill Roy came back and told me this next part was flat and it was ok to go a little faster. haha.

I finally started getting the hang of it as we went up into the mountains and through trails. I was still a bit shaky, but feeling pretty good. I wish I would have taken in the surroundings a little bit more as we explored. I swear I never took my eyes of our guide and I was holding on to the handle bars so tight my hands went numb. I kinda chuckled at the thought that I was actually driving an ATV through the Costa Rican Jungle. We had been taught to lift our legs up when crossing water so the water from the engine didn’t burn us. I did well crossing a few puddles like that. We eventually came to a stopping point (where Roy helped Caren and I put on some more sunscreen, lol) and he said he was going to cross first so he could get pictures of us crossing the water. Oh ok. No big deal, just cross that little creek right?

rivercrossing

WRONG.

It was more like this:

rivercrossing

I literally questioned everything in that moment. Roy took off across the MASSIVE FREAKING RIVER and I had no choice…. I had to follow him! And of course… I was first. So I just gunned it. Ok, so maybe I didn’t “gun it” but I got across… and it was terrifyingly exhilarating. And the pictures he took as we crossed did make me look a little Bad-A. Just sayin.

ATV_River

So after that I was pretty confident and starting going faster (much to the relief of the rest of the group behind me). I also kept imagining I was hearing the hubs going “Cmon Courtney!” … turns out it was actually Caren behind me.

We eventually got to a stopping point where we got out and hiked up to a beautiful waterfall and got to swim in it!

waterfallcollage

After swimming for awhile we hiked a little ways further up to an even taller waterfall. Guys, it was so breathtakingly beautiful that these pictures don’t do it justice.

waterfall

The funny thing is we didn’t know it then, but this is actually the waterfall we were going to repel down the next day!

The ride back was way more fun. Since Roy knew I was more comfortable he took us across some different water and even a few jumps. That I nearly opted out of. ha. On the last stretch of flat ground before the end we opened it all the way up… we were flying! I couldn’t believe how fast we were going! Roy kept looking back to see if I was keeping up and when he saw I was he would speed up even more. It was such a blast.

costarica

After we finished our excursion Roy took us to a local restaurant and we had our first taste of local Costa Rican food. And oh man… it was goooood.

costaricafood

It was rice and beans, chicken with mushroom sauce, fried plantains and yucca.
heavenly.

Also while we were eating there were monkeys everywhere!!

monkey

The whole experience was just such a blast. I loved that I was able to do something that I was terrified apprehensive of and end up having a blast with by the end of the day. Roy even told me I was his favorite driver… which my husband didn’t really appreciate… he ended up getting “payback” later in the week for this… haha.

Have you ever driven an ATV? (in or out of the jungle)
Have you ever done something you were scared to do and ended up loving it?

Travel

Costa Rica: Travel Days

This post is alternately titled “Spirit Airlines is Horrible” 

We have been talking about this trip for over a year. We started planning it in March of 2012. We found a house (which actually got destroyed in an earthquake… so we found another house, which worked out even better) and then it came time to book our airfare… *whomp whomp whomp*

International flights are pricey. So, we were pretty excited when we found what we thought was “reasonably priced” flights to Costa Rica on Spirit Airlines. It ended up being around $500 a person from DFW to San Jose. We traveled with 8 people, so that was around $4000 total just on airfare. After we booked the tickets we didn’t think about it again until the weeks leading up to our trip when we started to catch wind of their baggage fee rules. If you neglected to pay attention to this… frankly, you’re screwed. If you register for their special club (a $59.95 upsell) pre-pay for your checked baggage before online check in it is $20 each way or $30 each way without their special upsell. If you wait until travel day to pay for your checked baggage it is $50 each way or $100 round trip. They do you the favor of allowing you one “personal item” as a carry on, but if you want to use the overhead bin you have to pay extra for that too. $35 each way. If you wait until the gate to pay for your carry on… another $100!

So lets do the math here… 8 tickets @ $500 = $4000
Upsell for lower baggage prices $59.95
$40 round trip checked baggage charge for 8 bags – $320

Luckily none of us had to check anything at the gate.

We left STL and flew American  to DFW to meet up with the hubs family so we could all fly to San Jose together. We left STL Thursday afternoon and got back to his Uncle’s house around 10ish… got to bed closer to Midnight and were up at 2:45am to take our shuttles to the airport for our flight to San Jose.

We flew from DFW to Ft Lauderdale for our first half of the adventure. We quickly realized that EVERYTHING is an upsell with Spirit. Their seats don’t recline and are SO uncomfortable. If you even want a drink of WATER… $3. FOR WATER, PEOPLE!

We got to Ft Lauderdale and daaaang that airport is a hot mess. The spirit airlines terminal in particular. Over crowded with only 1 hot food place open and not enough bathrooms to accomodate everyone. This is where things really started to go downhill. Mind you, we were also running on less than 3 hours of sleep.

We boarded our flight from Ft Lauderdale to San Jose, which was already running late. Then there were some “passenger issues” where a guy got kicked off the flight for being drunk. Just as we were getting ready to leave the flight attendant realized the people in the seats behind us put their 3 year old on his dad’s lap, which is apparently against the rules. Turns out Dad’s seat was in the front of the plane and instead of trying to get it moved he just took his 3 year old’s seat and put the 3 year old on his lap. Said 3 year old then continued to have a total melt down that he had to sit in his own seat and his mom moved across the aisle. Screaming at the top of his lungs for FOURTY FIVE MINUTES. The flight attendants did NOT deal with this well at all. Did I mention they were right behind us? Poor Aaron had to sit next to them! This is how Payton felt about our Spirit Airlines experience

badspiritairlines

We eventually got to San Jose. late.

finallyincostarica

Then we went through immigration. Finally got to baggage claim. and guess what? Spirit lost Chris’ grandma’s walker. She needs that to get around. and they lost it. So we sat at the airport for another 30 minutes filling out lost luggage paperwork. Through customs and then to the rental car shuttle. Realized we had crazy amounts of luggage.

luggage

Got to National, which we have used before and never had a problem. We are even Emerald Club Members. It took for-ev-er to get our cars and turns out in ended up costing TWICE as much as we thought. Then they gave us directions to get out to the main road. and a GPS. Neither of those worked. We got lost in San Jose for 2 hours. Talk about the longest day ever! The trip from San Jose to Quepos/Manuel Antonio where we were staying, which should take us 3 hours at the most, took us 6 hours. SIX HOURS. We were up for around 20+ hours most of which was spent traveling.

lostinsanjose

When we finally got into Manuel Antonio and met up with our rental agent to take us to our house it was raining. The roads are windy and full of hills. It turns out our rental house was at the top of a steeeeeeeep hill. We had 200lbs+ of luggage in the back of our tiny rental SUVs. We drove for 6+ hours on top of the worst flights ever. We tried to get up the hill…. and we didn’t make it. The car started to slip backdown the hill. The clutch was burning. We got back down to the bottom and poor chris was so tired. He decided to try one more time and gunned it. We barely made it to the driveway of our house. but we made it!

The house was beautiful and we were just excited to be done traveling. We spent the evening in the pool and then hit the sacks. The next day some of the folks went on a jet ski excursion but I was still exhausted and Nana still didn’t have her walker, so I stayed back with her and Payt. We ended up getting in touch with our concierge and had a walker delivered from San Jose. It cost a total of $150, including delivery fees. Thanks, Spirit.

I’ll be writing separate posts for our other excursions: ATVs, Waterfall Repelling/Zip Lining, Catamaran, and White Water Rafting.

After an awesome week in Costa Rica we were ready to head home. We woke up early to drive back to San Jose and got back in less than 3 hours, hallelujah. It took for-ev-er to turn the rental cars back in to National. We got to the airport an hour before the Spirit Airlines check in counter was open, so we were literally like first in line. When then finally opened it took us 1 hour and 10 minutes to check in. That isn’t waiting in line. That is standing at the ticket counter working with an agent. Also, it turns out Spirit Airlines puts a 40lb weight limit on their baggage (which we already paid an outrageous amount just to check in the first place) so 7 out of 8 of our bags were over weight. That’s an ADDITIONAL $25 per bag for a total of $175. So far that is $4554 for 8 of us to travel on Spirit airlines. That isn’t including the drinks and snacks that were purchased. Riding Spirit Airlines drove me to drink the most expensive and smallest bottle of Jack I’ve ever had.

spiritairlinessucks

Oh yea! Speaking of paying for drinks… when we got through security in San Jose we got snacks and drinks. And guess what? As we boarded the plane… They searched every one of our bags and made us throw out all of our drinks we just bought! I’m guessing it is so we had to purchase THEIR drinks on our nearly 3 hour flight. Ludicrous.

Our flight from Ft Lauderdale to DFW was extremely oversold. And late. No surprise.

All this to say never EVER ride Spirit Airlines. Like Ever. They may seem cheaper, but in the long run it just isn’t worth it.

The good news is we got there and back safely. even if it wasn’t on time.

and we had a heck of a time.

Have you ever flown Spirit?
What is your worst travel story?