Friday, August 3, 2012

Pura Vida: a Golden Birthday, big cats, and The Springs

We were in Costa Rica for Becky's Golden Birthday.  IE, she turned 29 on the 29th (don't worry, I'd never heard of that, either; but it's a thing).  We started the day by walking to a bridge some miles from the hotel.  I say we walked, but with the landscape down there it's really all hiking.

Becky and I wanted to find a local artist, a husband and wife team with a wood art shop just up the road from the  tree house hotel.  Of course, "just up the road" is relative.  It wasn't brutally hot compared to Miami, but we're not used to being under the sun for that long.  The sun and the bags we carried made us feel every step.

People kept stopping to offer us rides.  Much as in the US, some of the the locals are just being helpful.  Others offer you a free ride and then demand payment before they'll let you out.  A few want to drive you to a remote area and take everything you have.  We had been warned so we kept to walking.  There was plenty to see along the way.

100-acre wood?

Is the horse for sale, or those coconuts?  Because if it's the horse my feet are killing me.

After a while, bottled water wasn't enough to keep us going.  Fortunately, we were in an area with several sodas.  We ducked into one that looked inviting and ordered a couple Cokes.  Three teens sat at a table with several strands of guava (not to be confused with guayaba) and at the urging of a middle-aged man and the soda's proprietor, the teens agreed to share a pod with us.  I've been eating guava since I moved to Miami, in pastries and jelly, but I had to visit Costa Rica to eat one raw.  The consistency of raw guava is something like chewy cotton, but it tastes like a peach tried to become an apple, quit partway, then decided to become some kind of nut instead.  This white weirdness is wrapped around a pit so smooth to the touch that they make excellent high-speed projectiles.  They can also be split to make a lovely pair of earrings.

The locals assured us Leo's was right around the corner.  The highlight?  With all that sexy Spanish Becky was spouting, they mistook us for tourists from Spain.  We thanked them profusely for the cold cokes and free fruit, to which they answered, "Pura vida."          

When we finally reached Leo's, we bought gorgeous rosewood (Cocobola) carvings for the whole family on the cheap, plus Leo gave me an ice-cold coconut to drink (I really wanted to crack one open and eat the flesh, but since he carves the shells into masks I didn't feel it was right to ask; he would have said yes and I would have felt guilty).

Leo walked us to the bus stop to be sure we caught the right bus to La Fortuna.  From la Fortuna, we took a cab to The Springs Resort and Spa.  They're very proud of the fact that they filmed The Bachelor there.  In addition to making it their website banner, you pass billboards proclaiming "As Seen on The Bachelor!" all over the place.  Becky and I don't give a shit about "reality" TV (unless House Hunters counts?), we cared about the Big Cat Sanctuary.  Didn't find it on the website?  Look again.

The Springs are gorgeous and their food is much better than the buffet at Baldi, but I don't care how many beneficial minerals are floating in your water.  They're called "hot springs," not "beneficial mineral springs," and Baldi wins the hot contest by a Costa Rican mile.

Still, the views.

And the cats.

A margay.  Smooch his face.

Another margay.  Smooch him, too. 

A tigrillo.  The smallest big cat, but not very smoochable.

Goliath can be called a puma, a panther, a cougar, or a mountain lion.  He was huge, 220 pounds.

Apart from calling her Tiger from time to time, I don't think I've chronicled Becky's tiger obsession here at Sweet.  As Lenny loves puppies, as Agent Cooper loves coffee, as this girl loves John Mayer, so too, does Becky love her tigers.  The Springs didn't have tigers, but they did have a bunch of margays, a few ocelots, a couple tigrillos, a jaguar, a jaguarundi, and Goliath the mountain lion.  All of them started life as house pets until they reached age four or five and their owners realized, "Hey, this is a wild animal.  What's it doing in our house?"  Too pussy for the wild and too wild for the homestead, these former puts needed a home.  They hunt, some better than others, but they also still crave human affection.

When the guide took us from cage to cage to meet the big cats, Becky's first question was, "Can I touch them?"  The guide gave us a look of horror.  "No, you can't touch the cats."  Then he left us alone for an hour.

After some kitty love, we made our way back to The Springs for a dip in several hot springs and pools.  Is there anything more decadent than getting a drink while floating in a pool?  We talked, we kissed, we got moderately buzzed on shots of local rum ("It's your birthday?  Here, drink this.  Pura Vida!").

Over dinner, we watched the sun set on Arenal volcano.  It was the perfect end to a perfect Honeymoon.

1 comment:

  1. I want to pet some crazy cats. I should have come with.