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20120222-Granada-267
20120222 Granada 267

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Welcome, to our site! After living for some time in Israel and then in the UK we've now moved to Germany. We'd like to share our experiences with you. We hope you have as much fun reading as we have writing.

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March 2021
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Up side down, inside out honeymoon?

The day after the POCHO we had a chance to relax. After a lie in many of the guests stayed in or around the hotel. We had lunch with a whole group and checked out pictures of the previous day. In the evening we traveled to a(nother) jazz club in San Jose for the closing party. Of course there were again some speeches, this time even more touching, because we were all so much more a part of it now. There was also a short video, a first version of what was to become the POCHO video clip. But what everybody was waiting for were the results…how many cyclists joined, how much money was raised etc. Well, let’s put it this way…San Jose may have this Ronald McDonald type of place sooner than anyone could have hoped for!! Maybe next time when we’re in Costa Rica, we can actually go there and know we’re kind of part of it, in a very small way…

With the POCHO behind us it was finally time for…yeah, what do you call that? Traveling around with a bunch of people, most of whom you’ve never or only recently met, and all that in preparation for a wedding… Pre-honeymoon? Wedding-Journey? Crazy-Dutch-People-Trip??? Well, whatever you want to call it, it started that next day. Together with all our luggage we were squeezed into a kind of mini-bus that would bring us to our destinations. The first destination was only a two hour drive: Hacienda La Isla, our first hotel.
Actually, hotel doesn’t really cover what we found on arrival. Hidden between bits of forest and garden, small clusters of rooms create an impression of camping in the middle of nature. Big doors stretching the whole length of the rooms open to a shared veranda that opens up directly into those gardens and the forest. The rooms themselves are spacious and exude a kind of understated wealth. You can imagine were VERY pleased with the choice!
The afternoon was free to spend lounging on the veranda, walking in the gardens, or dip in the pool. We left the latter to the kids, some of the guys and Renée and Ed’s dog and enjoyed the first two.
Dinner took place in the dining room, a roofed terrace overlooking the creek that meandered through the grounds. Just before sitting down we discovered an alligator at the edge of the water…I’m not sure of the significance of it lying in wait that close to the dining area, around dinner time… :wink:
Our early morning start the next day had everybody wondering when our actual holiday would start :wink: But it was worth our while, cause we were going white water rafting. Cause I’ve never done anything like that I was quite nervous, but I just kept thinking…’Emanuël is a good swimmer, Emanuël is a good swimmer…’ :mrgreen:
It took about an hour to drive to the meeting point of the ‘Exploradores Outdoors’ the company that would take us rafting. We started there with a sturdy breakfast of gallo pinto (the traditional rice and beans mix) with egg before heading out to the Pacuare River. During that short trip we were given our instructions, explained the commands our guide would give us and told what to do or not do. Although the explanation was in English, it was basic English and interspersed with something I can only call local slang, so we’d be told things like ‘careful with your paddle, cause a black eye in Costa Rica is NOT SEXY!’ Or listen to your guide, cause an upside down raft in Costa Rica is NOT SEXY!’ Of course this resulted in the guys asking what IS SEXY in Costa Rica…you can imagine the conversations following that had very little to do with rafting…
At the starting point we were split in groups of 5 or 6, given our paddle, life vest and helmets and introduced to our guides. Thankfully the most important of the instructions were repeated and practiced as soon as were seated in the boat and then we were off.
The Pacuare River is one of the top 10 white water rafting locations in the world, with rapids of the highest level, level 5, when the water is high. Luckily this is the dryer period of the year, so the river was lower and we only had one level 4 rapid to look forward to. It took us a few rapids to get the hang of it, to respond instinctively to the commands. It’s very strange to respond to ‘Paddle Forward’ when you’re sideways in the river and have no idea where the guide wants to go. But we had a real good guide, who got us to understand that we needed to just paddle and he’d get us where we needed to go (he did the actual steering, we only needed to put some power behind whatever he did…I think…).
Miraculously, we even got to the point where our guide tried a few more daring things…we did a few rapids backwards, we did one standing in the raft (as far as that was possible :D) and we did one while spinning circles!
Luckily the river wasn’t only rapids. Regularly there would be a stretch of relatively calm water and a few times we could even leave the raft to swim a bit. Those stretches would also allow us to enjoy the nature around us. Our guide pointed monkeys out to us, the beautiful Blue Morpho Butterfly, several kinds of Herons and some Black Vultures.
After about two hours of rafting we went to the shore and had lunch. Our lunch consisted of tortillas with all sorts of filling, all brought with us on the rafts in barrels. By the time we had to get back to the rafts we were somewhat dry again and all of a sudden the water actually seemed cold. But we didn’t get much chance to dwell on that. Soon we were all wet again and fully focused on paddling. It took another one and a half hour to get to the end, where it was only a short walk to where we had breakfast that very morning. After a drink we headed back to Hacienda La Isla, where we spent the rest of the afternoon lazing about until it was time for dinner.

One of the first things Renée had asked me when I confirmed we’d be coming for the wedding, was to do her hair and make up… Somehow I seemed to have given her the impression in the past that that’s something I’m good at… Well that evening was our first chance to see how good… After dinner I got out my bag with beauty stuff. I actually brought enough to fill a small overnight bag…overcompensating I guess 8) I started out trying to get her hair done, but very soon handed over that task to Eveline, another Dutch friend of Renée’s. I then gave her make up a try together with Tanja, an Australian friend of Renée’s…Let’s put it this way…it’s a good thing I don’t have to make money in the beauty industry!! Either way, the gin and tonic Tanja brought with her ensured we had fun and more importantly Renée finally got a chance to relax after weeks of stressful preparations (although I think she did stress out a bit about not having the perfect hairdo straight away…).
That following day we had to say goodbye to Hacienda La Isla and continued our journey to our next destination. This next destination was to be a pineapple plantation, where we had a lovely lunch and a tour around the plantation. Although we’ve been to a pineapple plantation in Hawaii we didn’t get as close a view of the workings of a plantation as we did here. We started in the fields, where we were shown how pineapples grow and how one plant provides aside from the pineapple also stems for two new plants. From there we were taken to the work floor, where the pineapples are checked, categorized and packed for (mostly) export. Turns out, Costa Rica is one of the biggest exporters of pineapple!
But we still had quite a stretch to go that day, so we all got back into the bus to travel the last part for that day. An extremely bumpy dirt road eventually brought us to a river crossing, where we transferred to a little boat that would bring us across to our next hotel, Maquenque Ecolodge. And again, hotel is not really the right word (and Lodge doesn’t really cover it either). The rooms were actually luxurious cabins, overlooking the rainforest, or the lake.
After a nice dinner we had a chance to do an evening walk through the jungle, which of course we didn’t want to miss. Our guide showed us little frogs, huge spiders and enormous ants, called bullet ants, whose bite can be lethal. Add to that his mentioning poisonous snakes and tarantulas an you may understand we weren’t entirely comfortable during that walk (I swiped almost nonstop at my arms thinking something was crawling over me…) but hey, it did add an edge of excitement! ;) We ended the walk at the stretch of land slicing through the lake at the hotel’s grounds. Our guide pointed out little reflecting spots…not fireflies…no alligators, or at least the light of our flashlights reflecting of their eyes… Turned out we were pretty much surrounded by them!!
But it wasn’t alligators that kept us awake that night… sometime around 4 in the morning we were roused from sleep by howler monkeys! I’d have never believed an animal that small can make that much noise!!

That morning Renée was heading out ahead of the group for some last minute preparations at the wedding site. She’d asked Eveline and me to join her, together with her parents. So after having had our breakfast we got into Ed and Renée’s car (they’d driven separately, a lot easier with their baby boy Youp and the dog Chico), and headed for Rancho Margot. We stopped for lunch in a village called Muelle, where a huge number of iguanas has made their home in some trees next to a touristy restaurant.
At Rancho Margot we again had cabins, these even bigger than the ones at Maquenque. Every cabin came with it’s own veranda, with a view at the gardens and the Arenal Volcano. We got to there sometime around midafternoon, and after a walk around the grounds, to get a feel for what would be happening in a few days, we spent most of the afternoon lazing in the hammock at our cabin (I shared one with Eveline that night) and in the little hotel pool.
At some point during the day I’d managed to get an email out to Emanuël to see how the jungle hike they‘d planned to do had been. At some point at the end of the afternoon I got a reply, and I’m pretty much copying here (and translating): ‘The jungle hike was great, but not without dangers.’ Nothing more…no ‘but we’re all fine’, no ‘just kidding’ just ‘not without dangers’!!! The next email mentioned something about falling and a nest of bullet ants…at that point I decided I didn’t want to know!! 8O (We heard later that they’d actually gotten themselves in the middle of a nest of bullet ants and some people had gotten bitten, luckily without any serious consequences.)
We decided the men were able to take care of themselves and continued our lazy evening. Dinner was followed by another session of hair and make-up, this time with much better results, mostly at the hands of Eveline. Eveline and I ended the day with a little panic about a BIG insect in our bathroom (following which I chose not to use the toilet anymore that night) and some antics with a mosquito net that resulted in neither of us using the net (very unpleasant odors and sizable holes…!). May not sound like it, but we had good fun!
The next day was a day of preparations. Flowers were gathered and arranged to decorate the site of the ceremony, the restaurant, the bar and the dance floor. Hair and make up were given a last trial run. Locations for pictures were chosen, discarded and chosen again… Sometime that afternoon the rest of the group arrived, which included a friend of Ed, Ineke and her husband, Eduard, who’d be taking pictures on the big day, together with Emanuël. They took the whole tour as well, made some suggestions and all in all caused the whole schedule to change again ☺
With all the nervous excitement for the day to come we were glad to get to bed. We (Emanuël and me) of course especially so, because we’d had to miss each other the previous day and night :D

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