Holidays 2008: an epic year

Wow, my last blog post was Dec 10th. So much fun sIMG_2576tuff going on. Well, we did our favorite holiday trek once again, but this time it was a full 2 weeks. Mel was able to coerce Flash in taking more time off this year.

We were in San Jose Dec 19 – 24. What a great time. I love the fact that the kids outnumber the adults. And all the cousins are in the same age range. Young, fun, loud and crazy. Grandma Gordon hosted one amazing evening for the Gordon family.

This year’s ‘fun club’ friend progressive was epic to say the least. There was a 12 person line up of Irish Car Bombers. Full photo alblum here >>>

And of course we can’t forget Papa Smith and the other side of the family. We had an amazing feast at Bucca di Peppo.

We left San Jose Christmas Eve morning to head over Donner Summit. WE CHAINED UP!!! Yes, I’m a dork and actually loved chaining up. Plus I considered it a great ‘team building experience.’

See the Broman Holiday pics here >>>

WE WOKE UP CHRISTMAS MORNING TO SNOW. 5 inches in the valley. This brought tears to my eyes as I fled out the back door with Kaya at 8am. What a site. Kaya in the snow.

The Broman’s threw an amazing holiday for us. The highlight, Mom/Dad Broman’s gift to everyone – the mini marshmallow PVC pipe guns. Yes, you heard correctly. Laughing, laughing, ducking, more laughing and semi wet pants…

Flash and I went snowshoeing in Tahoe and hung with the family. We headed out to Mammoth Dec 29th.IMG_2513 by thegordons.

Well as many of you heard bits and pieces of the ‘Gordon Summit’ planning meeting. Fun stuff, tears, and let’s just say we love each other very much. (no we are not having kids ANYTIME soon.)

Tuesday was followed by a quick day of snowboarding for Flash, when he bailed. Dislocated his shoulder on the 3rd run. IT SUCKED, but in his defense it was pretty ‘radical tumble’. He was a trooper and decided to stay till Jan 2ns. Flash is THE most amazing husband. He looked at me after picking him up from the ER, “babe, it’s only 1pm, you should go back up to the mountain.” And that’s exactly what I did. I went snowboarding the next day too!

We managed to have an amazing week in Mammoth, but we’ll be back as Flash didn’t get to enjoy my Christmas gift to him – snowmobiling.You can see our Mammoth pics here >>>

IMG_2566 by thegordons.

Love you all and can’t wait till next holiday season.

Living the pure life

Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica – 3:30PM MDT Oct 21

Sunday a tour guide took Jeff, Mel and Randy to Cocles waterfall. Vicki held down the fort and sun bathed and curled up to her favorite book, In Search of Captain Zero.

Juppy Hansel picked us up in his ‘jalopy’ at 8:30am. The hotel owners had mentioned we could follow him in our car if we like. However, the 3 of us took one look at his 1996 Prizm with the muffler and bumper hanging on the ground, and no door handles and said, “We’re driving with him!” We wanted the full experience. Juppy is a 40 something Puerto Viejo native. He could be mistaken for 100% Jamaican, but we found out he’s Hindu Indian, BriBri, Asian and African. Such a diverse culture here.

He lead us on a nature trail, we spotted 2 Tucans, crossed a couple streams and then headed for the jungle. This wasn’t as quite the strenuous hike from Saturday, but we were climbing. The waterfall was breath taking. We hung out, swam and took pictures.

Juppy also led us to a native BriBri Indian village. We entered the village through a suspension bridge. We visited one of the homes and bought some authentic crafts. We experienced first hand what the general population only ever sees on a Nat Geo show.

Monday the Broman’s were headed back to San Jose, CR so they could catch their flight back home to Reno. It was hugs, and tears of joy from mom. Jeff and Mel are staying 2 more nights at Banana Azul due to an airline mix up. Jeff and Mel rented beach cruisers and set out on a ride … let’s just say we have bruised butts.

We managed to make it half way to Punta Uva and had to stop at a street side cafe for juice and rest. Our original goal was to get to Manzanillo (1.5 hour bike ride away), but then Mel realized what a ludicrous idea that was in the Carribean sun and heat not to mention our bike seats were not padded which doesn’t align with non paved roads!. We hung at Punta Uva beach, snorkeled, belly-uped to Punta Uva Lounge for beers and lunch. We were hoping for clouds and rain for the bike ride back, but no luck. So we braved the treacherous, dirt/rock road, with crazy drivers, insane dust and face melting heat. What a work-out.

Tuesday – We took it a little easier today, skipping the butt bruising bikes for a walk along the dirt road that parallels the beach on the way out of town. Then we walked back down and into town to buy our tickets for the bus back to San Jose tomorrow. We had lunch at one of our favorite places, Chili Rojo. Then we opted for a cab back to the hotel, the sun was blazing and we just weren’t down with getting all sticky and dirty. Then it was a few hours in the hammocks on the beach, reading and napping. What a great way to enjoy our last day here.

We’ll be up early tomorrow to pack, then it’s a 5 hour bus ride back to San Jose where we’ll spend the night. Thursday we have an afternoon flight out of San Jose to Charlotte, where we’ll spend another night, then a 7am eastern time flight back to San Diego. Friday night we will be attending our friends’ wedding in Temecula, and then, finally, on Saturday we’ll be back home. What a trip!

Please tell everyone we’re not coming home…

Just kidding. We are sitting on our deck, listening to the waves, birds, geckos, and the thunder roll in. Can’t wait for dinner and hoping for one last Carribean thunderstorm. Banana Azul serves dinner Monday – Saturday at 6:30pm sharp. An amazing 3 course meal for $10/person. Tonights menu is Salad, Red Snapper and a yummy ‘milks cake’ dessert.

Looking forward to visiting with some other travelers we’ve met in the common area. We met the USA Today travel editor and her husband. She’s on assignment and interviewed us. Hopefully we’ll be mentioned in the November article she’s working on.

The Bribri Jungle

Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica – 8:15PM MDT Oct 18 Last night we found another good restaurant, “The Jungle Love Cafe” and stuffed ourselves again. We traversed our way home through the Friday night crowds in the town center and spent another night relaxing – noticing a trend here?

Today was the day we had scheduled to meet up at Barry and Nancy’s house. We met a 13-year old Bribri boy named Alejandro and his 10-year old brother Willie. Randy, Mel and Jeff went with the brothers on a jungle hike while Vicki stayed behind to help the Stevens prepare their weekly soup they provide for the Bribri families.

Now, this was a JUNGLE hike. They took us the long route around “their jungle” to their “house” and then back again. We spent two hours sloshing through the mud, plants, trees, streams, ants, bugs, spiders and snakes. Alejandro speaks a little spanish and almost no english, Jeff speaks a little spanish and zero bribri. It was mostly a quiet hike with Alejandro pointing things out and saying them in spanish, getting an english confirmation from Jeff, and everybody shaking their heads in agreement.

“pajaro,” “bird.” Everybody shakes heads, yep those are birds.

“araña,” “spider.” Everybody shakes heads, yep, thats a spider, can we get away from it now?

“tapa de la montaña,” “top of the mountain.” Everybody agrees we’re at the top.

Not long into the hike Willie was nice enough to cut us some walking sticks with his machete. Yes, the 10-year old had a machete, and yes, Randy was jealous. They showed us a good amount of flora, fauna, and wildlife including some ripe cacao fruit (chocolate plant) that they tried to get us to eat (before roasting it’s a slimy, gooey mess, only Jeff was brave enough to get near the stuff.)

The hike was an amazing experience, not only for the chance to get really deep into the jungle where most people will never go, but also to see the way these families live. This is a 30 minute hike (taking the short route) from their house to the main road. No roads, power lines or water pipes go out there. We’ve got more thoughts and words to describe what this was like – too much to put here in this blog post. You’ll just have to wait to hear it from us!

Here’s a video of us hiking through the jungle.

We turned funky piano into groovy

Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica – 3:45PM MDT Oct 17

Upon arriving out our dinner destination last night, we found out the calypso band had canceled last minute. We sat down to a ‘funky piano’ single man band. Within minutes we couldn’t bare it and left. Think keyboard meets karaoke. We headed down the road to El Loco Natural for some great curry food and a live local band.

Friday was a lazy day, as we all hung at the hotel, at the beach and in the hammocks. One of the gardeners spotted a SLOTH. We spent most of the day laying under the tree and watching her.

We decided to forgo any scuba diving and save $$ for another trip. Also, the surf is FLAT. No surfing for this trip, but we’ve had some amazing body surfing!!

Well it’s Friday night and we are off to find some reggae music.

Pura Vida

Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica – 6:00PM MDT Oct 16 After last time’s massive word dump we’ll be short and sweet this time around.

Tuesday – Beach, Books, Beer, Naps, Hammocks, Sand, Food, Happy Hour.

Wednesday – Massages at Pure Jungle Spa. Lunch at Maxi’s in Manzanillo, the true END OF THE ROAD, this part of the road doesn’t go all the way to the Panama border, it just ends a few km before the border. Relaxing and enjoying the good after massage soreness the rest of the evening.

Thursday – Back down to Punta Uva to do some more snorkeling. It was an overcast day and the swell was a bit bigger than Sunday but there was still good fish to be seen. A few beers, fruity drinks and tequila shots at the “grass hut bar” and then it was back up the road. We pit stopped at the end of the dirt side-road with the sign labeled “Chocorart” promising real chocolate plantation tours. We didn’t end up taking the tour but we talked briefly with the owner and left with about $30 worth of real organic chocolate bars of all varying flavors. Now we’re relaxing, listening to the rain (it’s rained every day here, but we love it) and waiting to head out to a restaurant to eat and listen to some live Calypso music.

Jungle Explorers

Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica – 8:30PM MDT Oct 13 During our travel planning, we reached out to a local non-profit, who provides educational assistance, food, and micro loans mainly to indigenous people in Costa Rica. We brought a 50 lbs box of school supplies for the school children. Through this experience we’ve communicated with the owner, Barry and Nancy and finally were going to be meeting them. They live one mile from our hotel. What amazing people they are. We visited for a good hour or longer and discussed:

  • The fact that Costa Rica was just recently bumped from 3rd world status to a ‘developing nation.’
  • We got to see how, according to the UN, 80% of the world lives.
  • We learned about the indigenous cultures within the Bri-Bri culture – where incest, abuse and alcohol and drug addiction is common.
  • All men in Puerto Viejo and surrounding towns carry machetes.
  • We met the local tow truck guy – he travels by horse and his 2 oxen are the tow truck.

The most amazing part is that our family will return this Saturday to assist in the center with the veggie soup kitchen, help children with homework AND a local 13 year old Bri-Bri boy named Alexandro will take Flash and I on a guided tour high up in the jungle (where there are no roads or vehicle access) to show us where he lives.

After visiting Barry and Nancy we headed out to Punta Uva for some snorkeling. After a quick detour (we missed the turn off and ended up at the ‘end of the road’ near the Panama border’) we plopped our stuff down on the sand and ran out into the crystal clear water. Punta Uva has a nice reef protected by a point – this leads to perfectly calm waters to kick around and get a good look at the local tropical fish. After trolling around on the reef for an hour or two we came back into the beach and hit up the beach front cabana for some Imperial beer and tequila shots. After a quick bite of nachos from the cabana the rains started to roll in and we headed back up the road to Puerto Viejo.

This town is a “small town.” On our way back into town we saw Barry and Nancy hitchhiking on the side of the road. When we were at their house they had mentioned they had done away with their car because they could get anywhere they wanted using buses and hitchhiking. Well, we were about to prove them right as we swung over and picked them up out of the tropical rain and they navigated us over to one of their favorite “sodas.” These small restaurants are cheap local eats and we all enjoyed a lunch of chicken, rice-and-beans, salad and spaghetti (don’t ask.)

After dropping Barry and Nancy at their place we headed back to Banana Azul for a quick nap and some rest, relaxation and reading (and maybe a little beer.)

Monday we again arose early because of the “nature” surrounding us. Roosters and visiting couples’ dogs DO count as nature I keep telling myself. Breakfast is again fruit and cereal. Randy and Vicki are testing out the “hot breakfasts” provided by the hotel – so far they have had a delicious breakfast burrito and a plate of scrambled eggs, toast and rice-and-beans. We were on the road by 8:30, stopping at a super-mega justBB outside of town for some beer, cola, sweets, and tequila.

Today was our day to hike the Cuhuita National Forest so we packed our “survival gear” into our car and headed out back north on the main road. A quick pit stop at the mega-super (we needed beer and tequila in the cooler for after the hike) and we made our way through the sleepy village to the entrance to the park.

The hike was (3.5 km two miles each way) along the beach around a point and promised wildlife. Well, it delivered. We saw crabs, lizards, snakes, killer ants, and monkeys who threw fruit at us. Since we somehow missed the monkeys on our first visit to Costa Rica we were very glad to be able to see them this time. The best way to spot a monkey along the trail was to just walk forward and stop whenever you’re almost hit with small fruit. At that point just look up into the trees and it’s a good chance you’ll see a monkey. Needless to say they were damn cute and they were the highlight of the hike.

Once back at Banana Azul we drug our cooler of beer and tequila out to the beach and proceeded to have our own shot, shooter and body surfing party. There’s something to be said for swigging tequila straight out of the bottle while sitting on a deserted beach in the middle of nowhere. I’m not quite sure what that something is, but I’m sure it’s much more eloquent than “awesome.”

Dinner at a “soda” in town (chicken and rice-and-beans, what a surprise) a beer or two at the local bars and it’s back to the hotel for some R&R and blogging. Tomorrow – I’m not sure what’s in store, we’ll see where the day takes us!

Our Journey to the Edge of the World

Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica – 9:15PM MDT Oct 12th Our US Airway flights were all on time, we landed in San Jose, C.R. around 2pm Saturday, cruised through customs and obtained our baggage very quickly. Mom & Dad already had arrived the evening before and were slated to pick us up at the airport in our rental car. While standing in baggage claim, out of the corner of my eye I could see my moms face jumping up and down outside the main airport windows. She was holding a sign that read, ‘GORDON’ – too cute.

We hugged, greeted one another and ran to the car! And this is where our Costa Rican adventure officially began. With Flash in the driver seat and Mel ready to navigate, we found that one hour later we were still lost in San Jose (aka Tijuana) driving around and looking patiently for highway 32. A quick pit stop at the gas station for some directions (yes, Flash actually pulled over and asked the non-english speaking workers how to get to Limon) and we were on our way. It’s important to note at this point in the trip we were already pretending we were competing in the ‘Amazing Race’ and in 8th place (bordering on last place) that it was an elimination round.

Four long hours later, 2 of which were driven in the dark on one lane highways stuck behind semi-trucks. Things we are still processing:

- Most semi-trucks and locals drive with no headlights

- There are no sidewalks for pedestrians or cyclists which pushes everyone into the highway, we came very close to hitting a couple people

- That passing on a one lane highway when it says NO PASSING is ok

- There is what we would consider a significant trash problem in this part of the world. Piles of trash that looks like weeks of trash men on strike.

- Expect things like bad roads, lack of signs and crazy drivers

Below is word-for-word the rest of the directions to our destination, a very Jurassic Park experience:

After about 1 hour of driving, you will come to the little town of Hone Creek. At that point you’re about 5 kilometers from the turn off to Banana Azul and Casa Sol y Arena. You will drive past a hardware store called San Francisco. A few hundred meters past the hardware store is a bus stop with a roof on it. At the bus stop take a left and follow along beach. 5 houses down along beach is Casa Sol y Arena.

And to get to Banana Azul you just proceed past Casa Sol y Arena along beach until you come to Perla Negra Hotel. Banana Azul is 200 meters past Perla Negra Hotel and has a green gate.

Now, remember we were following these directions in the pitch black dark without the benefit of street lights.

Arriving at Banana Azul

We were in complete awe at the fact that we were literally in the middle of the jungle. We pulled up to our hotel gate, no radio and windows rolled down. You could hear a combination of the end of a tropical thunderstorm, the waves and the loudest bugs/crickets we’ve ever heard.

We strolled up to the open air common area and checked in. Nina checked us in and took us up to our rooms. The 12 room hotel is newly built, all wood and very open and airy – almost a hostel like feel. Our room has large doors out to our massive patios with our table, chairs, relaxing chair and hammock. From our bed with the doors open you can hear the distinct sound of calm ocean waves lapping against the shore. Then Nina said a magical phrase that was music to our ears – “When you’re ready head down to the bar for your welcome drink.”

Clothes flew out of our bags, showers were quickly taken and in no time we were downstairs enjoying freshly made Mojitos and Margaritas. Dinner was vegetarian lasagna enjoyed with a few cold Imperial beers and then it was back up to the rooms to succumb to the onrushing exhaustion.

Everybody was up early Sunday morning; some could say it was because of excitement but I’m going to blame it on the roosters. We walked downstairs, grabbed a big mug of coffee and started to explore the property for the first time in the light. We are on the beach. Not like “beach access.” On the beach. After sitting and staring at the water and the long expanse of deserted beach stretching in both directions we headed to the kitchen to enjoy our complementary breakfast of fresh fruit and cereal.

More about our Sunday adventures next time, we’re tired!