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Beaches, Bikes, and Sloths: My Last CEA Excursion in Costa Rica

We just spent our last weekend together as a group in Puerto Viejo in the Caribbean province of Limon. Wow, does time fly or what?

This excursion was originally scheduled for our first weekend, but as I wrote in my first blog post there was a mudslide that inhibited us from making the trip. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and we all can agree that this trip was meant to be saved for our last weekend. We had our farewell dinner planned for a restaurant in Puerto Viejo and we would all be able to spend our last few days bonding and reminiscing together. It was also a blessing in disguise because almost all of the expenses were paid for and all of our bank accounts are pretty much sucked dry.

We were scheduled to leave Friday at 1:00 p.m. from the CEA office for Puerto Viejo, but I had an even better idea in mind. My friends Jill, Melanie, and I didn’t have Spanish classes in the morning and we wanted to maximize our beach time. We woke up at the ungodly hour of 4:30 a.m. and went downtown to catch the 6 a.m. bus for Puerto Viejo. To our dismay the bus was sold out. Since we have become rather seasoned travelers we were not going to let this minor hiccup stop us. We used our persuasive Spanish skills and managed to purchase de pie (standing) tickets from the bus driver. For the next four and a half hours we crunched our legs on the ground in the handicap section while trying to rest our eyes for the long weekend ahead of us. Although I felt extremely motion sick while passing through the winding roads of the mountains, it was all worth it when I saw the sun was shining, infinite rows of palm trees, and the bright blue ocean calling my name. Completamente vale la pena (Totally worth it).

We had already decided our plan for the day before we even got off the bus; rent bikes and go up and down the coast and check out all of the beaches. After we dropped our stuff off and got settled in our hotel, we headed over to the bike rental shop and got some awesome beach cruisers for only $4 a person. Of course I chose the pink one! I have to say, biking down this paved path through paradise with two very close friends was definitely a highlight of my trip. We spent some time tanning and swimming in Playa Cocles, which is only about 1km away from Puerto Viejo and chatted with some local surfers. We continued down the path in search of lunch and ended up biking about 10km all the way to the last beach, Manzanillo.

The rest of the CEA crew finally arrived around 6:00 p.m. and we were ready to get the weekend started! We were on our own for dinner so a group of us went to this restaurant, Chile Rojo and enjoyed some Asian-Caribbean fusion food and some African dancing and music. That night we had a “ratchet-themed” party planned. I know what you’re thinking, what in God’s name is a “ratchet party”? Well, since that word has been the ongoing theme of our time in Costa Rica, we figured we would just dress weird and go out and act “ratchet” (feel free to Urban Dictionary the term if you are not familiar).

The next morning at breakfast we were informed that we would not be able to snorkel due to incredibly low visibility from the rain the night before. We spent the day shopping, picking out gifts, and we ate at this incredible restaurant, Bread and Chocolate. That evening we dressed up for our farewell dinner at Cafe Viejo, an Italian restaurant. We themed this occasion as well, as the Catalina Wine Mixer from the movie "Stepbrother’s". Our table stretched across the entire width of the restaurant and we were able to reminisce, snap photos, sip wine, and indulge on the amazing Italian food.

Unfortunately the visibility was still extremely low the next morning and it was too wavy to go out on a boat, so we had to cancel the snorkel excursion. Instead the majority of us went to Cahuita National Park for a tour. We walked in the jungle alongside the beach with a guide who was able to spot snakes, spiders, and sloths in the distance within seconds. We were extremely lucky and were able to see a sloth close up on the ground. Sloths only come down from the trees about once a week for about six hours. We all quietly gathered around and took pictures and videos as it slowly climbed from the bottom of one tree to another. It was my first sloth sighting in Costa Rica (about time!) and it was the best sloth experience I could have asked for! 

I could not have asked for a better place to spend our final weekend together. Even though we didn’t have the best weather, we were still able to enjoy the beauty of the Caribbean and share many laughs and memories together. I can’t even imagine leaving these people in a few short days. After all of the laughs, tears, and hugs, I know at the end of the day that many of us will be lifelong friends.

¡Pura Vida!

Emily Franks is the Fall 2013 CEA MOJO in San José, Costa Rica. She is currently a junior at DePaul University. 
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