My flight to Costa Rica almost got cancelled.
It was two days after Christmas, and the midwest was being assaulted by a sudden and horrific blizzard. Over the span of an afternoon, the roads had transformed into a twisted mess of rain, snow, slush, and ice. The freezing rain lasted for hours, threatening to destroy the vacation I had been anticipating for several months. As I waited patiently in the airport, overwhelmed with pessimism, the list of cancelled flights rapidly grew longer and longer.
To make matters worse, my three friends, Brian, Omnia, and Mike, were already in Costa Rica. They had departed a few days earlier, avoiding the horrible blizzard that was now pummeling the midwest. While I was looking out the window at the nightmare mix of slush and freezing rain, my friends were posting pictures of tropical palm trees and luxurious swimming pools.
But after an agonizing wait, it turned out that I was one of the lucky ones. Somehow, my flight to Minneapolis was one of the only flights that didn’t get cancelled that evening. It felt like a miracle when I finally landed, because the blizzard was even worse in Minneapolis. I spent the night at a hotel, and awoke very early to take my next flight direct to Costa Rica. The Minneapolis snow was still very bad in the morning, but fortunately our flight took off. After many hours of worrying about cancelled flights and missed vacations, I could finally relax. My vacation wasn’t canceled!
I could barely stay in my seat as the plane finally landed, hours later, in Liberia, Costa Rica. The palm trees and bright sun out the airplane window were a refreshing change from the ice and slush of the midwest. It was a quick pass through customs, a fresh stamp on my brand new passport, and then I walked out of Liberia Airport to begin my adventure.
A wonderful wave of heat hit me as soon as I stepped outside. I was still dressed in midwest blizzard clothing, but now it was 80 degrees and sunny. Brian, Mike, and Omnia were waiting for me, barefoot and in shorts, laughing at all the layers of clothing I had on. I was thrilled to see them! I gave them big hugs, and jumped in the car. They immediately handed me a beer, informing me that it was legal to drink in the car in Costa Rica. And my vacation began.
We took a quick stop at a supermarket to get some basic things that I didn’t pack. I was excited to see the the world was now completely in Spanish. The last time I experienced Spanish immersion was a decade earlier when I studied abroad in Spain. After a couple awkward exchanges with the cashier, I realized I didn’t understand the Costa Rican money conversion at all. I never really figured it out either.
And then we were back in the car, cruising along the open roads. Our spirits high, we drove with the windows open, enjoying the tropical sun. The air was so refreshing, it was hard to believe that just hours earlier I had been in the throes of an awful midwest blizzard. Our first destination was Monteverde, a town atop the mountains of Northern Costa Rica.
At first, the roads were great, but as we began to climb into the mountains, they became thinner and more serpentine. The further we ascended, the more we were rewarded with incredible vistas of lush green tropical valleys and beautiful looming mountains. Several times we had to stop, get out of the car, and take pictures of the views. The warm tropical climate was gone now, replaced by cool mountain air and strong winds. I was suddenly glad I still had my blizzard clothes on.
As we continued to ascend into the mountains, the twisting road progressively deteriorated until it was reduced to an extremely bumpy dirt path. It stayed this way for the last two hours as we made our slow winding journey up into the peaks of Monteverde. We were fortunate to make it to our cabin just before the sun fully set.
Our cabin rested off the road, nestled in some forested trees at the very peak of Monteverde. To be honest, the whole area was a bit eerie. Even though there were other cabins nearby, the area was dark and empty enough to easily be the set in a horror movie. As soon as we got into our room, the power completely went out, further immersing us into the horror movie. Eventually the jokes about a chainsaw serial killer subsided, the power returned, and we decided to go down and explore the town.
We had our first dinner as a full group, and that is when it finally hit me. I was going to spend the next ten days in this amazing new country, having incredible adventures with my awesome friends! After dinner, we went and found a bar nearby. There was a DJ and a dance floor that wasn’t very crowded, but there were plenty of very friendly stray dogs for Omnia to play with. We relaxed and talked about all the adventures we had ahead of us. It was a wonderful ending to my first night in Costa Rica. I slept well that night, in the Cloud Forest on top of the Costa Rican mountain.
Tomorrow the real adventures would begin.