Monday, May 20, 2013

Day 8: Goodbye Tenorio; Hello Santa Elena

We woke up and it was time to leave Tenorio National Park. It was going to be sad leaving Tenorio. Although we had only been here 4 days, it felt like our home in Costa Rica. I was going to miss all of the rangers and workers we have met at Tenorio. As a sign of their appreciation for our hard work, they gave us a piece of wood yesterday. Ethan carved it and we all signed it. It is now hanging on the ranger station at Tenorio with signs from many other groups from across the US and around the world.

Our next destination was Santa Elena, Costa Rica. It is a couple of hours away from Tenorio, but we made several stops along the way. Our first stop was just a few miles down the road at a giant tree called “The Peace Tree.” The tree was absolutely massive and has been growing for like 300 years. We spent about 15 minutes just walking around the tree and admiring its size. The photo on the bottom left is me in front of it to put its size into perspective. 

This was the last day we were going to be with Ricardo. We would be dropping him off at a bus station along our way so he could go to a different National Park. In just the 4 days we have known him, Ricardo has grown close to our group. We were all sad to see him leave. As a sign of our thanks, Ali gave him a WKU intramural champions shirt and Scott gave him a Red Towel that we all signed.

The journey to Santa Elena exposed us another unique part of Costa Rica. In this picture we are driving through the part of Costa Rica that is in a rain shadow. It is very dry and desert like, receiving only a few inches of rain a year. It is crazy how drastic the landscape and climate is in this small country.

Our second stop along the way was at Las Pumas Animal Rescue Preserve. This place takes in animals that have been rescued from poachers. Poaching is a huge problem in Costa Rica. We enjoyed our time here as we got to see the wildlife you expect to see when you come to Costa Rica!

Our third and final stop was at a gas station. Our vans needed to get some more fuel for the rest of the trip. This is also where we were dropping off Ricardo. We were all sad to see him have to leave. In just the four days that we have known him, our group had grown very close to Ricardo. He was our translator, group leader, protector, and friend over the past four days. The man of few words, many animal sounds, and many sarcastic comments would be greatly missed. As we were driving away, he waved his Red Towel for us!

We now drove back up into the mountains to get to Santa Elena. The drive up was pretty dangerous with skinny, gravel roads and huge drop offs. We have gotten used to roads like this in Costa Rica! Although we only had to drive like 30 miles from the animal preserve, it took around 2 hours. It was a beautiful drive though.

Our first adventure in Santa Elena was zip-lining. It was one of the most exciting things I have ever done. We did probably about 15 zips, but nothing compared to the final zip. This zip-line was 1 km or 2/3 of a mile long and we reached speeds of nearly 45 miles an hour. Words can’t really describe it; you just have to see it. To watch the final zip, click on the link:

After zip-lining, we went back to our hotel. Our hotel was fittingly named The Sunset Inn. Scott gave his presentation over cloud forests and then we all relaxed until sunset. It was beautiful! It really is just the little things that are truly amazing. I never have time to just sit and watch the sun set back in America. I was really glad I got this opportunity.

For dinner, we went into the small town of Santa Elena. It is a really small town that relies on tourism. Since we have been here, we have always tried to pick local, not very touristy places to eat. However, after being here for 8 days, we caved and went to the Tree House CafĂ©. I mean, we couldn’t really pass up the chance to eat in a restaurant that has a tree growing in it! All of the tables and chairs were made of tree stumps to add to the idea of eating in a tree. The food was great, but the best thing was the fresh pineapple juice. It was a great dinner out with the group!

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