Today was our first official day in Costa Rica and it was memorable. We started bright and early, leaving the hotel by 7:30. We are a large group with nearly 60 students between the three schools so we had to break into two groups and two separate busses. Our group ended up all together on the "short, special bus!". But as we wound up the mountain towards our first stop at the volcano national park, we were all very happy we were on the smaller bus. Plus, it gave our group a special time to get to know each other a little better and I think we actually more fun in our more intimate setting. Plus we had our own personal tour guide, Sergio. He is extremely knowledgable and blended well with our group.
On the way to our first stop, we made a short visit at a small coffee farm. Several students enjoyed a cup of the local blend and it was a wonderful photo op.
Our first real stop was a national park where we were supposed to hike to the top of a 9000 foot volcano for fantastic panoramic views. Well, we hiked and hiked and hiked some more, but unfortunately the volcano is located in the cloud forest and today, we all got to experience being inside a cloud. Special as this might sound, it does not lend itself to panoramic viewing. Lots and lots of white! But they tell us there is a volcano amidst the whiteness and we believe them.
Our next stop was the La Paz Waterfall Gardens. La Paz means "the peace" and this place lived up to its name. After a delicious lunch buffet, we walked through beautiful gardens with many unique flowers and trees. There were also several animals who had been rescued who are housed here as well as interesting enclosures where we were actually allowed to get up close and personal with toucans, hummingbirds, frogs, and butterflies. Once through talking with the animals, we hiked some more to the highlight of today's tour, the waterfalls. Only one word came to mind, majesty!
It was a long and beautiful day ending with a stop at a local roadside fruit stand for fresh strawberries and cheese. Perfecto!
This is a beautiful country. From the mountains, to the foliage, to the waterfalls, to the people. There is a saying here, "pura vida.". It means pure life. How appropriate.