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2008-02-16 - 2:48 p.m.

Fri 11/1: We were up at a decent hour because I wanted to see as much of the National Park as I could and then spend the afternoon lazing on the beach. Pretty much everyone did their own thing during the day, although we bumped into Ian and Emma several times while we were walking. Had a cheap and very filling breakfast of Gallo Pinto, pancakes and fresh fruit at a backpackers down the road from where we were staying, then made our way to the Park Entrance. It was a stinking hot day- and Jo was cursing the fact that she was wearing jeans almost as soon as we left.

Manuel Antonio National Park was easily the highlight of the trip for me. There's not much I can say that could do it justice- the only way you could not like it is if you're one of those "Costa Rica was great 10 years ago but now there's too many tourists" people. Tourism is the #1 export of a country that is still a developing nation, so I'm not about to complain that there's too many smelly tourists walking the same trail as me (although seriously- the 15 year old girls talking at the top of their lungs about crap when we're trying to spot wildlife...)

The beach inside the National Park was way better than the one outside. Unfortunately for Jo she didn't come prepared for swimming while we were walking- but she probably would have burnt to a crisp anyway. I went for a swim in the incredibly not-cold water, while Jo guarded our belongings from the raccoons that were pottering around the beach. There were heaps of white-faced monkeys that were far too tame due to the fact that tourists feed them (a big no-no)- the advantage of that is that you can follow the rules but just rustle some plastic and they'll come out for photos, thinking you're going to feed them. I saw a couple of Coatis in trees (they were the cute little things that we saw heaps of by the side of the road at Arenal) and a couple of well camoflauged Agoutis, which were basically giant rats which moved surprisingly fast when they wanted to. Jo had enough walking after a while, but I continued to hit the tracks for another couple of hours. Both of us saw Sloths in trees (actually moving- the three-toed sloths of the lowlands move about during the day, while the two-toed Sloths found in Monteverde are nocturnal) and took good pictures on our separate escapades. I walked up quite a hilly path to an awesome view of the ocean. And I forgot to mention how muddy and slippery one of the paths we took was. I was ducking and weaving under tree branches like a monkey, trying my darnedest to avoid the mud, but Jo ended up covered in it (and not in a dodgy cable TV show kind of way).

The exit to the national park was a stone's throw from our lodge, and after ducking in to see if Jo was there, I headed back into the village and found Jo at Coconuts (of the awesome sushi from the previous afternoon) sipping on a Daquiri. We hung out there for a little while, before getting ready to swim at sunset (when Jo wasn't being likely to be burnt). The water was as fantastically not-cold as it was earlier in the day, but even with Jo in there I have a short attention span when I'm in the water- there's only so much to do in there.

So we got out, and headed back to the lodge again, and managed to keep missing the rest of the group, who were all coming back from Coconuts when we were heading back down there, then heading out as we were coming back, but that comes later. While we were back at Coconuts, contemplating what we were going to do for dinner, all the power went out in the entire village. The staff came out with candles, but we weren't that keen to keep drinking- but we also knew that it would be absolutely pitch black back at the lodge. Nonetheless we braved the dirt road back, where we ran into Emma, Ian, Deb and Catrina coming in the other direction, planning to catch a taxi somewhere where there was power (I think they went to a pub with a generator), and advising us not to bother going back to the lodge unless we were planning on having sex, because you couldn't see a thing. I'm always planning on having sex (right now I've got a 2-6 month plan).

Anyway, at some point we found Ursula, Joanna, Silvia and Robert, and we decided to go back into the village and buy candles, snacks and wine. Jo and I never did end up getting dinner, but pringles, nuts and other junk food sufficed in the end. The aforementioned minus Robert played shithead/arsehole/whatever else you want to call it for a while, and probably went to bed just after midnight.

Sat 12/1: We didn't have to catch the bus back to San Jose until midday, and I had big plans to go down to the beach at 6am and have a swim, but on balance a sleep in was a better option. We left ourselves enough time to pack and head down in the ridiculour morning heat to the village for brunch, and then it was time to go. We got to the bus stop only to find that the bus wasn't coming this far down because there were too many cars parked on the admittedly narrow road- Silvia wasn't happy with the bus company given that they knew this when she bought the tickets the previous day, but after lugging our bags another kilometere we made the bus in time.

I think it was about 5.30pm by the time we got back to Hotel Vesuvio in San Jose, and within a couple of hours the whole group, except Deb and Catrina, headed to El Pueblo, where Jo and I had gone on the first Friday night. There are two prominent restaurants there and we went to the one we didn't go to on the first Friday. Jo, Ursula, Joanna and I shared a gigantic meat plate (which I think we managed to get through), and some wine, and after dinner us young 'uns (actually, Ursula, Silvia, Jo and I- Joanna went back with the oldies) went back to the pub/bar that we'd gone to on the first night (Nexus?) and had more Guaro and beer, and Ursula and Silvia hit the dance floor, and then I guess it was the end of the tour, even though we saw most people the next morning as they were checking out.

Sun 13/1: We slept in, but not so late that we didn't get breakfast at the Hotel, and then we moved back the the Hotel Clarion where we had stayed on the first Friday. We didn't do too much on our last day in Costa Rica- just grabbed a bite to eat for lunch and checked out the pre-Colombian Gold Museum, and had a flashy dinner at Restaurant Tin-Jo (which pretty much had a bit of everything on offer).

Monday 14/1: We were up particularly early (maybe 5.15am?), but at the airport in no time, and so had plenty of time to grab breakfast (a Burger King Gallo Pinto) and then had a fairly decent 6 hour flight to LA (I think I got a decent amount of sleep). Jo's frequent flyer status meant we were on top of the standby list for a 2pm flight from LA to San Francisco, rather than the 8.30pm flight we were booked on (I was already steeling myself for an 8 hour layover in Singapore- I didn't fancy the idea of being in LAX for longer than it would've taken to drive to San Fran), so that was cool. We were back in Berkeley by about 6pm I think. Jo created something out of the leftover turkey for dinner and we lazed around watching TV- I think.

Tuesday 15/1: A lovely last day together in Berkeley before I had to head home. Slept in, then went to Jo's favourite breakfast place ("La Note") for a late breakfast. Got the photos from Jo's camera burnt onto a CD, did some shopping at the Berkeley Bowl, Jo made some really good Beef Casserole thing in her new slow cooker and we found some way to pass the time while it was slowly cooking. And then at about 8pm we headed by train to the airport. My plane left after midnight, at which point it's pointless me trying to separate the days between then and when I landed in Sydney on Friday morning at about 8am.

The flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong took us up to Alaska, across the Behring Strait and down the coast of Far East and South East Asia, and took over 15 hours, but I slept really well (as far as plane sleep goes)- I'm a fan of the late night flight, when you've been doing things all day and it's the time you'd be going to bed anyway. The 10am Sydney to LA flight always killed me. Hong Kong to Singapore (3 hours) passed in no time at all, and then I had to pass the time for 8 hours in Changi Airport. Which is probably one of the best airports in the world to be in transit at. They had a transit hotel, but I didn't really want to sleep, because I was keen to sleep soundly between Singapore and Sydney (another late night flight), and they also had lots of generally comfy loungy areas where people were sleeping. I revisited my Hainanese Chicken Rice obsession and managed to fit in another meal in the time I was there, used the free internet to incessantly check email, and started reading Tim Winton's "Dirt Music" (or did I start that back at San Fran?)

And I did sleep well on the flight back to Sydney. It was good to be home, but I so wasn't looking forward to going back to work the next Monday. And now it's hard to focus on anything other than Jo being back here with me.

 

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