Hot and Cold in La Fortuna

After our three day yoga retreat in Santa Teresa, we took a six hour journey back to mainstream tourism. We like to mix and match our travels with equal amounts of off the beaten path and touristy stuff. Hey, it’s our first time in the country after all so why not enjoy its popular sights and attractions too.

Anyone who has been to Costa Rica has been to La Fortuna and its surrounding areas. From San Jose (the capital city), it is a quick three hour ride amongst beautiful mountain views. You will never run out of things to do in La Fortuna since it is the town where most everything is based. For the thrill seeker, this place is nirvana. I also found La Fortuna surprisingly clean and not very busy considering the amount of tourists that come every day.

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Arenal Volcano is one of Costa Rica’s more popular volcanos with its near perfect cone. Situated in the Arenal Volcano National Park, it is only about 4 miles from La Fortuna. You can see its majestic presence looming over town like a watchful sentinel.

Hot Springs

Upon arriving at our hotel, we immediately went straight to a hot springs resort. The area, considering its proximity to the volcano has so many hot spring resorts, be it big or small, fancy or simple, expensive or cheap. Whatever your mood is for the day, there is a hot spring waiting for you. There is even a free public one beside a huge spa resort where the locals and the more adventurous tourists go. Why pay when you can go for free? But then again you don’t get the extra amenities that the resort offers. It really is all up to you.

The Eco Termales Hot Springs Resort was the perfect one for us that day because we wanted a smallish romantic hot spring experience without the large crazy water park crowds. It boasts of an almost all natural setting where the pool and its surroundings make you feel like you are in the middle of a rainforest. They also control the number of guests by assigning time slots on your reservations. So if you want peace and quiet and ultimate relaxation, then this is the place.

They only have five pools, each with varying degrees of hotness. I can only take the first one, pictured below. The rest was just too uncomfortable for my body, not even my toes could handle it.

This was the hottest of them all at 103 deg F.

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They also have a cold refreshing pool just behind the others to give your body a chilling shock after being in the hot waters for awhile. No more than 30 mins in the hot springs was the rule. But once your body has acclimated to the heat, jumping into those cold waters can be freezing!

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Cold Waters and Canyoneering

The next day we booked a canyoneering tour from Desafio adventure company. If you haven’t been on one before, you should try it at least once in your lifetime! If you love the outdoors, if you seek that adrenaline rush, if you want to challenge yourself, canyoneering (or canyoning) is the perfect activity.

We started out early in the morning, got picked up from our hotel and then proceeded to “base camp”. We got lucky there were only six people, including us, for that day. I heaved a huge sigh of relief. That means no long waits for everyone to be done.

The drive to the drop off point was super bumpy riding in one of their “jungle limos”. You have to grab a hold of something otherwise you would probably fall off your seat while your body sways back and forth as your ride navigates seemingly endless waves of rocky roads.

Once there, you get fitted with a harness and a helmet and the team briefs you for the safety orientation. After that, it is all systems go!

What exactly is canyoneering/canyoning?

It is trekking through a river, over rocks, boulders and fallen trees…

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Climbing up and going down wet slippery rocks…

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Rapelling down a 150 ft or a 200 ft waterfall… or more!

Jumping into a refreshingly cool pool of water…

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And just enjoying the awesomeness of nature and each other!

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It only took us about 4 hours and at the end, back at their drop off point, was lunch waiting for us.

Which activity do you think you would enjoy the most? The hot springs or the canyoneering? Ultimate relaxation or pure adventure?

Quickie Quad Quests: Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

ATVs or all terrain vehicles… those powerful 4 wheelers, also known as quads, come in many different sizes and shapes. It is usually used for recreation driving off road in the dirt or mud, mostly, the dirtier and wetter the better the experience.

Though in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica, an idyllic coastal community paradise where roads are so bumpy and full of pot holes, quads are a convenient means of transportation. So aside from the ATV rentals or ATV tours available, locals can be seen doing their daily business on their quads with a basket or crate at the backseat for storage.

One rainy afternoon after an amazing lunch of local food, we decided to explore the area beyond our hostel. Of course, the rain would make it harder but the sun eventually showed up and we were ecstatic! After three days, there was only so much yoga my hubby can take. He was kicking to do some adrenaline action.

It was our first time to be on an ATV. My hubby was driving and I was just perfectly content to be on the backseat. He had a quick driving lesson up and down the little road and in ten minutes we were on our way!

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The goals of this trip: to check out Montezuma, a hippie beachside town, and that huge banyan tree somewhere along the way. No other specific itineraries, just go and enjoy the drive.

As we drove south past the busy town center, houses and buildings became more sparse and the scenery turned more rural and green. Potholes and muddy roads notwithstanding, the bumpy ride amused us to no end. We thought we got lost several times because there was no one else on the road and road signs were hard to come by, but still, we carried on our way amidst tall trees and rolling hills.

 

 

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We made a left from Mal Pais, the town 5 kms. after Santa Teresa to get to Cabuya on the other side of the Nicoya peninsula. Watch out for the road signs here! From Cabuya, turn left and proceed to Montezuma, about 10 kms. A few minutes down the road will bring you to the famed El Higueron de Cabuya or the biggest banyan tree I have ever seen. I was super excited over this than getting to Montezuma, honestly. But before that, we had a false alarm earlier mistaking another tree for THE big one, it was pretty much a tall tree but not as big as I pictured it would be. As you can see, we were excitedly taking photos.

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Duh. Wrong tree!

 

 

So can you imagine my surprise when this ginormous tree came into view? I poked and poked my hubby telling him to stop, stop, stop, oh my God, oh my God… Wow!!! (umm, yes, really, I sounded that way)

No one knows how old this tree is. Right before we left, I whispered to the tree to stay alive as long as it can…

We went on and drove past hidden beaches, scenic coastlines and not a whole lot of tourists until we got to the town of Montezuma. Nah, it didn’t impress me that much so we just continued on driving. From Montezuma, make another left to get to the town of Cobano, 8 kms away. This was a bigger town, lots of people, vehicles and buildings. We reached this main intersection and we were not sure where to go, we might have missed the sign or something so this was where my limited Spanish came into play. I told my hubby to approach this kind looking elderly lady and I asked her “donde esta Santa Teresa?” She gave me a big smile and pointed to us the correct direction. “Muchas gracias!” Making a left at the intersection would take you back to Santa Teresa.

We reached town just before sunset, all in all it took us about 4 hours to drive around the tip of the peninsula. We did three river crossings (they were more like streams), and that was some splashy fun! My butt was sore and my legs were almost numb from sitting at the backseat even if we did stop at intervals to stretch. We ended our day eating pizza at a popular restaurant by the beach where there were lots of surfers and beachgoers frolicking about. A busy scene yet a relaxing one when people watching and sunsets are involved.

Do you like going on spontaneous adventures? Let’s go!

 

Quote Challenge Day Two: Adventure

paulo Coelho

And this is why I travel my wandering gypsy heart… “I don’t do lethal!”

Special mention goes to three adventurous bloggers, who may or may not join in this little tag-a-long inspirational game but regardless, here you are:

de Wets Wild

Small Town Girls, Midnight Trains

Janaline’s World Journey

The rules are to post 3 quotes in the next 3 days and nominate 3 bloggers each time to carry on with the challenge.

Quote Challenge Day One: Fear

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I am deeply honored (and quite flabbergasted) to have been nominated by this sassy très chic mummy of Estelea’s Blog for this three day quote challenge.

The rules are to post 3 quotes over 3 days and nominate 3 bloggers each time to carry on with the challenge.

And the nominees are (you don’t have to participate really, I just wanted to mention you that’s all):

Lost in the Bermuda Triangle

From Hiding to Blogging

The Girl in Glasses

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A little background on the photo.

That is me, yes, yours truly, rappelling down a waterfall in the Philippines. That was one of our many unforgettable adventures and I am so glad I did it! Fear did not win that day.

My Favorite Hiking Trails on the Blue Ridge Parkway: Part Two

In every walk with nature,
one receives far more than he seeks 
~ John Muir

I have a long list of favorite hiking trails on the Blue Ridge Parkway. They range from easy to moderately strenuous. To put them all down in a single post would be too lengthy (you all know how much I love to take photos!) so I decided to break them up into sections. I guess I would consider this post or series of posts a work in progress because we will forever be hiking trails when we are around this area.

If you missed the first part, please click here.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is touted as one of America’s scenic roads spanning between two states and runs for 469 miles through Virginia and North Carolina. It is a part of the Appalachian mountain range connecting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina to the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.

Along with that you can find more than 100 trails for all skill levels from Virginia to North Carolina. How incredible it would be to do at least half of them!

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Over the years, so far, these are what we have accomplished.

Linville Falls

Our very first major road trip was in 2009. We took nine days off work and our goal was to see the Niagara Falls. We stopped at different states along the way and made sure to visit and explore a couple of cool and interesting tourist spots.

Cruising along the Blue Ridge Parkway, we chanced upon the Linville Falls sign along Mile Marker 316. I wanted to do something spontaneous and unplanned so we stopped to take a quick look. We had no idea at that time that the Linville Falls is the most popular waterfall in the Blue Ridge Mountains because of its accessibility along the Parkway. We just wanted to see some waterfalls.

Because this was a detour, we took the shortest and easiest trail which ended up in the first overlook with the small double falls. From the double falls, the water came in a swirling gush through a narrow channel of rocks down to a foaming pool. We didn’t know there was another big one after that! Take note, this was before smart phones so researching stuff on the internet was pretty much basically done at home on your desktop.

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So, fast forward 2013, my parents came to visit us for three months. On one of our trips we took them to Asheville, North Carolina and the Blue Ridge Parkway was on our list. Naturally, we had to stop at Linville Falls again.

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My mom doing the hiking thing with us
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The parents at the first overlook

We followed the same route. This time we were more prepared gear wise but we couldn’t go very far because of my parents. They weren’t really physically prepared for this activity and we didn’t want to tire them out or much worse, get them sick! But if you want to hike some more, there are more beautiful trails where you can see the river, the falls from different angles and the Linville Gorge.

I couldn’t help but try to compare photos taken from the very first hike. Spot the (obvious) differences if you will.

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Grandfather Mountain

Seventy miles North of Asheville, Grandfather Mountain is one of the highest peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountain range. Like Mt. Mitchell, you can also drive up almost to the top. It is close enough from Linville Falls so if you simply plan to sightsee and not to do some serious hiking, then you can probably do both attractions in one day.

When we came to Grandfather Mountain, hiking was not on our itinerary since we brought our parents along. We just decided to check this place out and after crossing the famous Mile High Swinging Bridge, we found out that they have a short “challenging” rocky trail to the very top of that peak.

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Mile High Swinging Bridge

Challenging because my mom can only see with one eye making her vision not as good. Eventually, all three of us ended up coercing her to go with us despite her unheard pleas of staying behind and waiting. My hubby promised my mom he wouldn’t let her hand go and guide her every step of the way.

So this was how it basically started and ended.

My dad and my hubby, both of them guiding and guarding her step by step till she reached the very top of the rocks.

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By the looks of this photo, my mom was mighty proud of herself for getting up here, that is, after giving my hubby a very tight death grip which almost hurt his shoulder. Regardless, it was an accomplishment since she was never an adventurous person and led a very sheltered life growing up. So all these outdoor stuff is unfamiliar territory for her. We were all glad she came even if it was against her will initially.

Okay, so there was no true hiking done here to say the least but there are a couple of very challenging (for real this time) and strenuous trails going up to the mountain. Maybe, one day we happen to pass this way again.

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Update:

**Is it legit to say that we adore Linville Falls so much that a couple of days ago we hiked it again? But this time it was totally different. We were there for the leaves. Plus, we got to go all the way up the overlooks!

Stay tuned!

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I didn’t have a tripod with me and we were too shy to ask strangers for a photo of us with our backs turned away, so the old photos of us walking together were not recreated!
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Just had a hoot sitting on almost the exact same spot again, for the third time! It was a challenge this time though with the hordes of people around.

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My Favorite Hiking Trails on the Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway is touted as one of America’s scenic roads spanning between two states and runs for 469 miles through Virginia and North Carolina. It is a part of the Appalachian mountain range connecting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina to the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.

That’s a lot of mountains in between.

There are numerous references and information you can read about the Blue Ridge Parkway online not to mention hundreds of free tourist brochures on display in rest stops, visitor centers, restaurants, gas stations and hotels along the way. They even have a Blue Ridge Parkway app! So if you are in the area, there is never any reason you stay uninformed about this pretty popular drive. Take a quick detour and go on a few miles along its winding roads. Whats more, there is also never any shortage of fun stuff to do.

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There is something for everyone along this long stretch of concrete and its nearby areas. From the adventure seekers to the quiet creative ones. You can joyride with your car/truck/motorcycle/RV (traffic can be slow at 45 miles/hr specially during peak season in Fall), take thousands of pictures, camp at private or BRP designated campgrounds, take a hike, bike, view/swim/play in waterfalls/rivers/streams, visit museums/vineyards/wineries/farms, enjoy whitewater rafting/kayaking/canoeing/stand up paddle boarding/tubing/horseback riding/zip lining/canyoneering, go on a hot air balloon, attend festivals/flea markets/farmers’ markets, you get the idea… The.List.Is.Endless.

My husband and I both love nature so every chance we get, we like to go out hiking. Over the years, we have been coming back to this part of the country to stay for a few days. You could say we can’t help but fall in love with this place every time we visit. It just keeps on getting better. When we landed this travel nurse opportunity this year, we grabbed it head on.

We’ve done a couple of hikes here and there along the parkway. So far, we haven’t been on one that we didn’t like. Each trail offers something different hence, every experience is different. However, some of them were way off the parkway so I am not including them on my list here.

Craggy Gardens 

From Asheville, head up North along the Blue Ridge Parkway till you reach Mile Post 364. (Tip: Mile Post 0 starts in Virginia, so the further North you go, the lower the Mile Post will be) There is a visitor center once you get there, bathrooms and drinking water. Picnic areas can also be found close to the visitor center.

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The weather can quickly change up in the mountains, as you can see in the photo above. Fog and clouds can creep up as quickly or as slowly and the next thing you know, it is a few degrees cooler than the city. Or worse, it could rain. So, bring a jacket!!!

I didn’t. It was a nice warm sunny day in June in Asheville. Who needs a jacket? You will be hiking and sweating anyway. Boy was I wrong. Good thing my hubby left his sweat shirt hoodie in the car. He didn’t need it. He doesn’t get cold right away, unlike me.

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My oversized instant cold weather gear. Thanks to hubby. And no, I wasn’t doing any business behind that rock.

Now that we got the essentials out of the way, there are two trails here. Craggy Gardens Trail, which we took, the shorter one since we were pressed for time and Craggy Pinnacle Trail which boasts of panoramic views at the top.

Check out this old post about this hike.

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This was the end of the trail, a “bald patch” on top of the mountain.

Mt. Mitchell

The highest peak east of the Mississippi River with an elevation of 6,684 ft. This one is a few miles off the Blue Ridge Parkway laying Northeast of Asheville and is part of the Mt. Mitchell State Park.

There are several trails leading to the top of the mountain ranging from easy to strenuous. Heck, you can skip walking and just drive up to the peak, well, not to the very peak since you have to park your car and then walk a short distance uphill on a paved road to get to the summit.

We took the Old Mitchell Trail which was marked as moderate to strenuous. It was a 4 mile roundtrip hike starting at the Park Office.

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Lots of beautiful flowers along the trail. The bees were busy pollenating and there were even raspberries that my husband was snacking on as we walked. Eventually, the trail got steeper and steeper, the woods denser, lots of roots and rocks to watch out for and to make matters more exciting, we “almost” got lost when we missed the switchback.

I had a bad feeling about the path that we took because it was just so many trees in front of us, they were literally in your face. We were climbing straight up the mountain with no clear marked trail until we got to a fallen tree that looked as if it was there forever with moss and lichen covering it when I insisted we go back track to the last trail sign we saw because my gut tells me that this is just wrong.

Further, to make matters worse, upon turning back because it was so steep, my husband slipped and almost hurt himself because he was hurrying to get to that trail sign.

It couldn’t be that hard. All we need to do was follow the yellow dots.

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Suffice it to say, I was more or less huffing and puffing most of the way up. Thank God for hiking poles! Not to mention I was scared shit from that earlier wrong turn we took. I didn’t want to run into any bears (hikers reportedly heard someone seeing a bear in the area) nor did I want us to fall off an unseen cliff or something horrible like that. 

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Two hours later, we get to the top along with several others who either hiked a different trail or drove up.

After all our efforts, we were rewarded with this.

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After a few minutes of breathing in the summit air while enjoying the breathtaking 360 degree scenery and at the same time taking some photos, it was time to go back down again.

Can’t we just hitch a ride back to the parking lot, I say out loud? Fat chance, hubby gave me that look. But I knew going down is much easier than going up so off we went to finish our hike for the day.

Not that we were warned to begin with.

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For more hiking stories, stay tuned for Part 2.