Settling In

I know it’s long overdue, but I’ve finally gotten around to a new post.  In some ways the last couple weeks have been hectic, but at the same time I feel as though we’ve settled into a routine.  I know that sounds a bit crazy, but that is how life here is: a bit crazy.  What have we been doing since the last post? Finding a new house, having parent conferences (eight hours worth of them in two days…), visiting the hot springs in nearby  Orosi, watching an old-fashioned Costa Rican rodeo on a private farm, mastering driving the stick on the mountain roads, and celebrating Torie’s birthday at a quiet beachfront hotel in Esterillos.

I’ll start with little anecdote that really sums up life on our side of town.  I’ve said before we live in this in-between area: ten minutes west takes us to the hustle and bustle of San Pedro, a large suburb of San Jose and home to several universities, and ten minutes east takes us into farm land.  Another town, Tres Rios, is also close by – about a ten to fifteen minute drive depending on traffic, be it cars or livestock.  Despite the at times frustratingly under-signed one-way roads, Torie and I like Tres Rios.

Orosi Valley River Costa Rica
River in Orosi, Costa Rica

For Costa Rica it is a big city, but for us it still feels quite small and is easily navigable once we learned which streets run which way.  Anyway, we were on our way there one night, and as we swerved down the steep, curvy mountain road that leads to town, I said to Torie, “It’s a little more nerve-wracking driving at night because you never know when you will come around a corner and there will be a broken down car, people casually walking, or cows in the road.  Because of the steepness and constant turns of the road, visibility is limited (not to mention the complete lack of street lights).  Not thirty seconds later we turn a corner and eight cows are walking up the other side of the road.  It’s not like we were driving down some gravel back road – we were on the bus route.

Orosi Valley Lookout
View from the lookout near Orosi

This may sound like a once-in-a-million coincidence, but it really isn’t. That is just how it is here.  Avoiding cows is sometimes as common as motorcycles driving on the sidewalk to get around traffic or being run off the road by buses.  There is never a dull moment on the streets.  Surprisingly enough, driving has started to feel normal – it’s going to be hard to follow “normal” driving rules again when we come home for Christmas.

A highlight from the last month was a day trip we took to the Orosi Valley.  If you recall, this is the same place we went before and had the car troubles.  This trip, however, went much more smoothly.

Coffee plantation Costa Rica Hot Springs
Walk to the springs through a coffee plantation

We’d heard there was a place on the river with natural hot springs created by the nearby volcano, so we thought we would take a trip and try to find them.  The springs are pools of water along side a good-sized river that is otherwise freezing cold as it comes down out of the mountains.  We found the springs after a five minute walk or so off the gravel road that leads to Tapanti National Park.  The walk took us through one of the coffee plantations that we traveled past a few times on our last excursion to the area.

The springs weren’t hot-tub hot, but they were warm.  We spent a couple of hours there along with several locals who were also there.

Another highlight of our last month was two weeks ago when Torie and I celebrated her birthday at the beach.  Her family rented us a room/cabin on the beach in Esterillos Este which is about thirty minutes from Jaco or two hours from our house.  This was a nice change of pace for us after a couple trips to Jaco and one to Puerto Viejo.

Hotel in Esterillos
View from our cabin in Esterillos

Esterillos Este isn’t a town or even a village: it is just a few houses and hotels along a quiet stretch of the Pacific.  No one was trying to sell us cigars or zip-lining tours; there were actually few other people around the first day we were there. Not that we don’t still feel like tourists at times and doing the tourist activities, but this was a nice getaway for a couple of days.  We couldn’t have asked for anything else from the hotel either.  As you can see from the pictures it was about a thirty yard walk from our cabin’s front door to the sand.

Last but certainly not least, we’ve decided to move.  For many reason we started looking for a new house a couple of weeks ago.

Playa Esterillos
Playa Esterillos

To sum up the reasons, we felt we could find a place that would be better for us for less money.  We aren’t completely unhappy with our current house, but it’s not perfect for us – that was a risk we took renting a house before we ever saw it.  As with our car, we didn’t have to look long before we lucked into one that does seem perfect for us.  We’re planning to sign the contract today and should be moving in sometime in the next month, maybe sooner depending on when a new renter moves into our current house.  We wanted a house in the same area because we’ve grown to really enjoy the neighborhood, and we found one that is not far off the same road on which we live and sits in the middle of a large coffee plantation.  We don’t have good pictures of it yet, but I’ll post some as soon as we get them.

The countdown is on until our first visitors come! My parents and sister will be here in three weeks.

Orosi Valley Costa Rica
Orosi Valley

The plan is to spend a day in Manuel Antonio, a couple around here in the Central Valley, then head to Playa Samara and explore the Guanacaste region for a few days.  Torie’s family has a trip planned for Spring Break, and a couple more visits are also in the works.  We couldn’t be more excited to see some familiar faces!

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4 thoughts on “Settling In

  1. You are going to love Samara. We just spent 7 weeks there this summer, and 6 weeks there in 2010. In fact, we are moving there in January to live for a year (maybe longer?) I know that town like the back of my hand if you want help finding accommodations or recommendations for restaurants. Happy to help!

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    1. Everyone we’ve spoken to here has only great things to say about Samara. We’d love some advice on good authentic food in the area – my family has never been here, so they will need to try some good casado. Have you done any of the “touristy” activities around there? Thanks so much!

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      1. Lets see… Almost everywhere in town makes a good casado, but I think the absolute best is at Sheriffs. If you walk down the main drag all the way to the beach the restaurant is beachfront on your right. They are only open for breakfast and lunch. One of the casado options is this stewed meat (can’t remember if it is beef or pork) and it is to die for. My mouth is watering thinking about it. :). The ambience is lacking, but the casados are worth it.

        If your family wants to splurge on a meal, El Lagarto on the beach is really good BBQ, however on the expensive side. 3 of the more popular places with the locals are Rancho de la Playa, Casa Esmeralda, and Pablitos. They all have platos tipicos. If you friend Samara Info Center on Facebook they post about all the different specials at the restaurants and some of them are 2X1 and worth planning your eating itinerary around 🙂

        Samara is a great place to take surf lessons, perfect waves for beginners. Didier at C&C Surf school is great, also John at Chillasana Surf School in Carrillo. We have also done the kayak tour to Isla Chora. It was fun, but the snorkeling is nothing great. There is also a small zip line tour, but depending on the adventure level of your family and where else you plan on going you might want to save that for another place. The zip lines up in Arenal and Monte Verde are much more spectacular.

        Let me know if you have any more questions!

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