February 7th, 2009

wedding couple

McDougall Adventure in Costa Rica, Days 1-2

(Written offline on Friday night, Feb 6.)

After a nice day celebrating my birthday with some of my favorite things - chocolate, sex, pizza, and music - we arose very early Wednesday to taxi to SFO for the first leg of our flight to Costa Rica. As the second leg was delayed a couple of hours, we had a three-hour layover in Houston; fortunately boyziggy's first-class upgrade netted us access to the Presidential Lounge, with comfy chairs and free wifi. Ziggy had stayed up very late making lots of yummy vegan food, which was great since we couldn't get much of that in the lounge or on either flight.

Coming in for a landing at the Liberia airport, we were warned there would be a lot of turbulence, and there was. When we got off the airplane the wind nearly blew all of the curls out of my hair. Customs was quick and easy, which was a relief to me as I'd never had to fill out customs forms before, having never traveled outside of North America. A guide directed us to a waiting tour bus, and once we filled up with fellow McDougall Adventure travelers we were on our way to Ocotal Beach Resort.

We arrived at the resort around 9:45 p.m. (Central Time). Fortunately plenty of food was still available; even though I had eaten on the plane I sampled several dishes. The McDougalls greeted everyone and were very friendly. We found that our room is quite far away from the dining room, but the back patio literally opens out onto the beach. We have two full-size beds, one of which we're using basically to dump clothes and stuff on as we don't have a dresser. We also have a ceiling fan, air conditioning, and a TV that shows a surprising number of American shows. We can't get WiFi from our room, and we have frequent brownouts which are annoying. There are also ants in the bathroom, but nothing worse so far.

Thursday I had hoped to go on an early-morning nature walk, but we couldn't bring ourselves to wake up before 6 a.m. after a long day of travel. We got up around 6:30 and hiked up the hill to breakfast. Among other things I had a tamale, French toast, and fruit - all were tasty. At 9:30 we went to the nearby village of Playa del Coco. Nothing remarkable in this small town. We got a handful of items at the supermarket, including a much-needed outlet converter (the ones in our room are two-prong and our laptop needs a grounded outlet), and were surprised by the number of American and European products available. We did a bit of souvenir/clothes shopping but didn't buy anything. We walked to the beach but the wind was so strong it was rather unpleasant, so we had a couple of piña coladas at a bar (2500 colones each - i.e. $5) and then Ziggy wrote and mailed a few postcards.

Back at the resort we had lunch - I think I had some rice, beans, and vegetables. Ziggy and some others were complaining that the food was a bit bland; McDougall later explained that the dishes were very low in sodium this year, and we could always add salt, hot sauce, etc., at the table. I opted to add freshly ground pepper. But I enjoyed most of the food, especially the various fruits, and the creative desserts.

After lunch Dr. McDougall gave a lecture, which mostly covered things I'd already read or heard from him before, but it was still entertaining to hear him talk as he was so enthusiastic. He talked about all the changes he would make if he were appointed Surgeon General, and how he'd have to do them all quick as he'd probably get shot by the end of the first 24 hours. We had an afternoon snack afterward with tortillas, baked chips, beans, salsa, guacamole, and yummy cookies. Then there was a lecture on Costa Rican history which I opted to skip, having heard some of it on the bus from the airport. We had an orientation at 5:30 covering the upcoming activities for the week, then dinner at 7. I tried to have different dishes at every meal, finding it hard to avoid getting stuffed with all the great food; thankfully it was all oil-free and vegan.

Wildlife encounters for the first day: big iguanas, cute raccoons, beautiful birds. Photos to come.
wedding couple

McDougall Adventure in Costa Rica, Day 3

(Written offline on Friday night, Feb 6.)

Friday morning we again arose around 6:15-6:30, showered and breakfasted (I tried hash browns this time, which were not as good as I'd hoped, but the tamale and pineapple were very tasty), then went to the dive shop to go out on a boat trip. I was nervous since I don't swim, but we made sure I got a lifejacket. We had to go on a small "pontoon" boat just to get to the dive boat, and the waves were very choppy near the shore. boyziggy had taken a Dramamine but I hadn't; as we rocked on the waves I said "I actually feel fine; I'm glad that we're doing this."

Then the engine roared and the boat started going fast. Really fast. I clutched onto Ziggy for dear life, but eventually relaxed and enjoyed the trip. We were sitting in the covered part of the boat, and it was tilted upwards so we didn't get splashed much, which was good as I had my camera and Ziggy had brought the camcorder as well. We had about eight passengers and three crew on our boat; everyone except me planned to go swimming and most of them planned to snorkel as well. We saw a dolphin briefly but no other wildlife other than birds while we were out on the open water.

We arrived at the beach where we to drop anchor along with the other boat on this trip. We couldn't drop anchor for some reason so they just let people off and the boat kept moving around a bit. I didn't mind; I shot video and took photos, then eventually lay down for a nap. Ziggy came back first as he'd sprained his calf muscle. He said the water was cold and he had trouble breathing with the snorkel, but he'd seen a whole school of rays and a baby sea turtle. The others came back to the boat, and we were offered water and fresh fruit. We were going to make another stop, but no one wanted to go back in the cold water, so we returned to the resort.

As it was too early for lunch, Ziggy went to try to get online; Internet access had been offline for quite awhile yesterday, which was annoying as he was trying to make an important phone call over Skype. I went out to the pool and lounged in my bikini; no one else was around. Eventually I hiked up the hill to meet Ziggy and go to lunch; again I tried to have different foods from before, I don't remember all that I tried. I then went back to the room and crashed for awhile, Ziggy doing the same soon after. We got back out around 5:30 to walk on the beach and take photos at sunset.

Dinner was at 7 again; we got there a bit early, while Dr. McDougall was still giving a lecture. It ended up being on the exact same topic we'd just seen on video at the McDougall brunch, so we didn't feel guilty for missing it. We chatted with others before and during dinner, which included wonton soup (yum) and some kind of sweet squash dish which was very tasty. I had several different desserts at both lunch and dinner today; all were fabulous. Then we had musical entertainment, which we'd also had the previous two nights, but this time I got up to dance. We even did a conga line at one point. Good times.

Now we're back in our room relaxing and watching a bit of TV, at least until the electricity goes out again (knock on wood). Tomorrow we had a river rafting trip scheduled for our group but we let the tour director know we were skipping it; I told Ziggy I didn't mind if he went without me but he said he just wanted to relax here with me. There are three other trips scheduled, two of which I want to do for sure and one, the tree canopy zipline tour, I haven't decided on yet...