Maybe it was the fact that we watched all three Lord of the Rings movies while we stayed in the condo. Maybe it was the mention in Fodor’s that this area looked like Middle-earth. All I know is that from the moment we arrived at Peace Lodge and Waterfall Gardens, I could think of nothing else.
As we crested a steep incline, unfettered by human or machine, I expected Aragorn to gallop across the green hills. And when we entered our room, I felt sure that Elrond himself would greet us and welcome us to Rivendell.
The landscape was breathtaking in its rugged beauty and the lodge was stunning, down to every detail. The Peace Lodge has only seventeen rooms. There are four or five buildings, which look like houses, each of which has four rooms with separate outside entrances. I’ve never stayed anywhere remotely like this.
Okay, this next one -- this is in our bathroom. Yes, those are live ferns with a waterfall. In my bathroom.
Peace Lodge is also home to a nature preserve and wildlife refuge. It's like having a small zoo just below your hotel room. Eager to make the most of our short time in this enchanted place, we scurried down to the park where we saw monkeys, jaguars and vipers. We also fed hummingbirds.
We were sad to find the frog house closed but John, a young tour guide with just enough English to be funny – or possibly dangerous, convinced us to sign up for a night-time frog tour. It turned out to be amazing – if not for the fantastic pictures then for the animated descriptions given by John. His excitement was infectious. His dedication toward helping Mitch nail the perfect photo endeared me to him, even as he more often than not, misunderstood our questions.
When night fell, clouds swallowed mountains whole and then reached up to our veranda as if offering us passage to the land beyond. That night, with the mountain air coming through the screens, I slept like a princess under silky mosquito netting and woke to the bright sunshine angling through the window and the calls of birds in the aviary below. Next -- our visit to Poas Volcano, a coffee plantation and Rivendell - er, the Waterfall Gardens.
In an epic example of marital miscommunication, Tom and I found ourselves on a standing room only bus bearing all the local beach goers back to the town of Quepos.
We’d spent the morning on a walking tour of Manuel Antonio National Park with a fantastic tour guide. Johan pointed out monkeys, red-eyed tree frogs, several sloths, toucans and many basilisk lizards. These delicate-looking reptiles are about ten inches long and have the ability to walk on their hind legs across water, earning them the nickname ‘Jesus Christ Lizard,’ which I thought was hysterical.
Anyway, after our tour, we elected to stay in the park and enjoy the beach. Though crowded, the beach inside the park was nowhere near as packed at the public beach just on the other side of a huge lava rock.
There was a friend with us, too.
We rested on towels, munched on a packed lunch and enjoyed ourselves. Nonetheless, we were quite tired when we returned so when Tom suggested that we get moving to catch the bus to Quepos, I inwardly groaned. Our condo is gorgeous, with plenty of space, a full kitchen and amazing views of the ocean. Understandably, after the busy days we’d had, he wanted to be comfortable and eat in. I wouldn’t say I was psyched to cook but I was certainly willing, I mean, that’s part of the reason we’d gotten the condo.
There was a small supermarket two blocks from our condo. Imagine shopping in Wawa for all of your groceries. Now imagine that everything in the Wawa is in Spanish. That’s shopping at Super Joseth. Even with the inflated prices, it was still much cheaper than going out to eat but after hearing our local guide talk about Pali, ‘Walmart of Costa Rica,’ Tom got it in his head that if we were saving money, he wanted to do it right.
So it was that we boarded a bus packed so tight that I felt like we were in an intimate relationship with the sleepy, sandy Tico teenagers returning from the beach. Tom said that it was pretty much the last thing he wanted to do. What!? But it was his idea. It was the last thing I wanted to do.
As it turned out, I thought Tom wanted to get the cheaper groceries; he thought I wanted the cheaper groceries. The bus dumped us next to our destination just in time for the worker to shake his head and shut the door. It was Maundy Thursday and everything was closing early for Holy Week. We stumbled into a fruit market and decided we would make rice and beans. Because we hadn’t had enough rice and beans at all the tour lunches we’d eaten during the week. For real. Tom was seriously smitten with the Costa Rican ‘gallo pinto’ and he wanted to recreate it at home. Never mind that we could order it from a little storefront down the street.
We grabbed some fruit, veggies, rice and beans that we needed and then looked for chicken. Didn’t see any. Tom asked if they had chicken. The elderly owner of the market looked at him blankly. I went through the restaurant menus I’d seen – Pollo, I said. Pollo? He replied with a rapid-fire question. I heard ‘para’ and figured that he was trying to learn if we wanted it for cooking or already cooked. I ran through the meager Spanish vocabulary I’d picked up in a couple of day. Nothing. I thought to say ‘Pollo para cucina’ – like I wanted chicken for the kitchen, but I knew that wouldn’t make sense. Or at least it wouldn’t help.
Luckily, the man’s son arrived and with a kind smile he said he spoke a little English. We told him what we needed and he directed us to market. He pointed and said it was some amount of meters but I had no idea what that meant so we just walked. It turned out to be about two blocks. Tom suggested that I stay outside with our groceries while he went inside for the meat.
Proudly, he emerged with both ground beef and chicken breast. Three pounds of each. For two nights. Still, I give the guy credit. I couldn’t begin to guess the translation between grams and pounds. He knew how much he was buying and actually thought we needed that much meat! (Note to self: educate Tom on average consumption amounts). Having had just about enough adventure for one day, we elected to return home by taxi. Sure, it was more money but we’d just saved money by shopping in Quepos, right?