Day 2 in Costa Rica — Arriba, Abajo, Centro . . . Cheers!

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Today is our first real day of active adventure! I got up at 4:30am for our 6 am departure. Now if you know like you know me I’m a real stickler for punctuality. I always arrive 10 minutes early for anything . . . anywhere. If you told me to meet you on Mars at 7 pm this Thursday, I would be there at 6:50 pm just to ensure that I got the best parking spot for my spaceship. So much for adhering to Tico Time for this gringo. Who’s got two thumbs, a pink buff, and all his gear ready first? This guy!

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Just in case you are wondering why I’m wearing a pink buff . . . about a month ago I competed with a team in an obstacle race called Tough Mudder (www.toughmudder.com). Our team captain was a girl and she picked out the colour of our buffs. I didn’t agree with the colour but I liked the versatility of the buff. I was going to give it away and buy a buff in a “man” colour, but both myself and the buff have been through a lot thus far: we’ve been electrocuted, dunked in ice cold water, rolled in mud, and climbed the “Everest” obstacle (One time baby!). So I kept it and rocked it like a BAWSE this entire trip! Besides, if someone decided to bust my balls about wearing pink and question my manhood, I just said that I supported breast cancer research : ) If there is anything more “manly” than supporting breasts I haven’t heard of it ; )

So here’s the morning rundown: take a bus for 2 hours to base camp, eat lunch, travel another hour to a drop off point somewhere in the jungle, board another bus for 20 minutes, get off and hike down to the rafts. Good thing I brought my brand spanking new Olympus “Shockproof-Earthproof-Fireproof-Windproof-Waterproof-Heartproof-CaptainPlanetproof” digital camera! I’m going to take awesome pictures with this baby! Guess what I learned? I take horrible pictures! You know what else? I take horrible pictures of pointless scenery! Observe:

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What the hell did I take a picture of? I will never forget the term “Salida De Emergencia” (Emergency Exit). I have like 50 pictures of the words “Salida De Emergencia” and a tree. I can read this term backwards and write it backwards with the letters backwards. If there ever was a zombie apocalypse in Central or South America and there’s an emergency exit somewhere I will be the first mofo to shout out “Salida De Emergencia!” Everyone will be like “Follow the Gringo! He knows where the Salida De Emergencia is!” Actually, based on my pictures I would probably panic and say “Emergencia De Salida!” I digress . . .

Despite my shotgun approach to picture taking I did get some amazing shots that show the beauty of this country:

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Our guides were also very helpful in educating us about region. For example, I learned that it takes a year for a pineapple to grow in Costa Rica. When the tree stops producing pineapples they cut the tree and wait for a fresh sprout to grow. This sprout is then harvested to be planted on fresh soil to grow a new tree. Not a bad analogy for life . . . if you are in a place that prevents you from leading a fruitful life, cut away what keeps you planted, uproot, and make way for fresher soil. It’ll take time for you to grow and blossom in a new environment, but the point is you will grow : )

Our guides also had a great sense of humour. “Ladies shouldn’t wear makeup when white water rafting. Leave the makeup at home. You look like you are melting after you are hit with water.” LOL! And “Use the facilities at base camp. Because after that, you have to use the faciliTREES!” I love our guides!

Once we arrived at the launch point we suit up and got ready to rock the river! I made some fast friends over the last 3+ hours so we decided to team up: TEAM POWER RANGERS! Fully equipped with two Go Pros, two waterproof cameras, and six cans of WHUP ASS for these rapids! They tagged me as the Red Ranger. Thanks! I was afraid they were going to “racial stereotype” me and call me the Yellow Ranger (RIP Thuy Tran). LOL!

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I’ve done whitewater rafting before but it’s been like three years since I last braved rapids. So to say I have experience is quite far fetched. On top of that, I’m afraid of open water. So falling into sharp jagged rocks is not my idea of a good time. However, I’m here to get over that. I want to be UNCOMFORTABLE in an UNFAMILIAR place so I can have an UNFORGETTABLE experience. No one is looking for a “Salida De Emergencia” on this trip. : )

So off we went into the abyss! Six strangers who have known each other for less than 24 hours; forced to operate as a team to ensure their safety. And operate as a team we did. We tackled every rapid, rock, and ravine that our little raft encountered.

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And so did our other team members . . .

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I can confidently say that we had some serious fun maneuvering the rapids, working as a team, and celebrating our victory after every rocky rapid! No one fell over! The below picture shows just how happy we are. This was taken during our break between rafting. Our first of many group shots!

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And then it rained. Again. And we laughed. Again. And again, and again, and again. Nothing was going to ruin this day! PURA VIDA!

We finally made it to our second overnight stay on this trip and we were all blown away. GEEK ALERT: If you know your Star Wars, I can honestly say we stayed on Endor:

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The lodge is actually called the Rios Tropicales. It has views like this:

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Not a bad place to spend the night in the jungle if I do say so myself.

After our brief lunch of sandwiches, plantain chips (addicting like crack. Not that I know what crack tastes like or the addicting nature of it, I’m just saying), and guacamole, all of us decided to take a hike into the jungle. After the industrious work we put in paddling, I was glad to hear that there was an actual man-made staircase for this hike. Sweet! 800 steps? Not so awesome : ( . Our guides warned us of snakes in the jungle so they gave us two walking sticks to move the snakes out of the way. There are 11 of us. I thought to myself “Our safety relies solely on a Nutritionist from Santa Monica and an Accountant from Toronto. I am going to die today. I hereby bequeath my knife and hat to the girl I met in Washington so she may file her nails perfectly and cheer for a real hockey team : ) Go Jets!” LOL!

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At the summit we saw some sheep (baa!), cows (moo!), and bulls (I’m going to gore you! At least we thought they were bulls). I’ve always wanted to see a bull attack someone wearing red just to see if the cartoons from my youth were telling me the truth. Lucky for me we had someone who was wearing a red jacket! The bulls looked at her and her red jacket and . . . did nothing. A couple of them waddled towards us, but no life threatening rush. Maybe they were on Tico Time? : D

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The evening was filled with eating dinner together (with coconut creme brûlée), swapping stories of our first adventure, playing a German card game called Snoutz, and chilling out on hammocks until bedtime. I also had the opportunity to meet a group of international students who were volunteering in Costa Rica (something about saving dolphins). I thought to myself “helping someone in need in a foreign country would definitely give me a unique experience . . . “

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Today’s MOMENT OF ZEN: “Sometimes you just have to jump off a cliff with your friends.” On the rafting adventure there was an opportunity to jump off a cliff and into the rapids. “HELL NO” is what I thought to myself. Only two people went from my raft. Then a third. A forth followed. Then a fifth. I’m the last one in the boat? F That! It’s Morphin Time! Fear of heights? See you later. Fear of water? See you later too. Embracing the unknown. Hell yeah. I’m jumping off this cliff. I’m making this trip UNFORGETTABLE. Just like my new friends : ) PURA VIDA!!!

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