Celebration of Life

“Traveling tends to magnify all human emotions.”
-Peter Hoeg
When Jeff and I were planning our Central American adventure, one of our best friends (who joined us in Thailand last year) had also booked a trip to a wellness retreat in Costa Rica.  Once we realized that our dates overlapped perfectly, Tierney decided to extend her time in Costa Rica and we rented a house on the Caribbean Coast.  About two weeks before our arrival there, another travel bestie, Kait (who also joined us in Thailand last year) was fearing all she would be missing in Costa Rica, so she booked a flight and decided to join us as well!
Jeff and I landed in San Jose and had a joyous reunion with our two travel gal pals at Atlantico Norte Bus Terminal; from there we journeyed five hours to the small town of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca.  The bus dropped us off late afternoon in the centre of the coastal town, where we planned to get some groceries before heading to our VRBO rented home, which was about 2.5km out of town.  Just as we started on our way to the nearest supermarket we heard, “It’s about time you guys showed up!” As we turned around, riding up on a bike behind us, was but another one of our best friends from home, Garret.  We had invited Garret to join us in Costa Rica months prior and he had the best intentions to do so, but when we never got word of him having flights booked we assumed he wouldn’t be joining us after all.  Little did we know that he had booked a last minute ticket and arranged the rest of the details with Kait, in order to surprise
 Jeff and I in Central America.  It’s safe to say we were both absolutely, completely shocked and thrilled that he had decided to come down for some fun.  The five of us spent that first night bar hopping in town; from Hot Rocks where we swung on swings to Mango Sunset where we danced to 90’s hip-hop.  Nothing could get us down, as we were thrilled to all be together, under the hot sun having the time of our lives!
The following day we awoke early, made a hearty breakfast in the kitchen of our beautiful home and ventured to Playa Negra, only 200m from the house.  We began the day with a swim and some frisbee.  All was well in our world until Garret sat down beside me on the beach and told me that he thought he was having an allergic reaction. I noticed his lip was quite swollen so we decided it was best to get back to the house and get some Benadryl into him.  Within the five minute walk back, Garret’s entire face began swelling up, his throat began closing and breathing became quite difficult.  It was at that point we knew this was not an issue we were capable of solving without emergency medical attention.  Kait and I ran to the nearest hotel to have them call a cab, who then drove us to the clinic in Puerto Viejo, at which point Garret’s eyes were nearly swollen shut and he could no longer speak.  Once we were able to track down a doctor and make it clear that it was a, “Emergencia!!!” they had him laying down, on IV and were administering numerous needles of various medications in minutes.  It didn’t take long before he was looking and feeling better; four hours and $700CAD later and we were out the door.  One of the last things the doctor told Garret before he left was that he was very lucky, because if we had waiting 5-10 more minutes before arriving at the clinic he would have died.  He explained that Garret was having a very severe allergic reaction, which was only progressively and quickly worsening.  After leaving the clinic we grabbed groceries for dinner at home that night and made our way back to the house for a calm and relaxing night of celebrating life, just the five of us.
We all felt well-rested the next morning and ready for a full day of exploring.  We hopped on our rented bikes, rode into town for breakfast and the first place that caught our eyes was Tiara Italian Pastry Bakery.  It was a very indulgent morning of chocolate filled croissants and platters of pancakes with various dipping sauces and ice cream on the side.  The owners second guessed Garret’s request for bacon with his pancakes, and laughed their heads off when he had a bite of both together.  From there we rode about 12km south to Punta Uva, known as one of the best beaches on the coast.  It lived up to our expectations and we thoroughly enjoyed some time in the sun, after our stressful day prior.  On the ride back towards town we made another stop at Playa Cocles where we had lunch and drinks at Playa 506 Restaurant and Hostel.  We rode all the way back through town and to the house just as the sun was beginning to set.  However we hadn’t had our fill of beach time yet that day, so we dropped the bikes on the driveway and walked to our beach, Playa Negra.  It was there that we enjoyed the last bit sun and one last swim of the day.  After washing of the sand a saltwater back at the house, we headed into town for some gallivanting.  Jeff, Tierney and I called it an early night, but Kait and Garret checked out a few more local hot spots, ending their night on the beach, at Johnny’s Place.
After our 30km bike ride the day prior, on our fourth day in Costa Rica we decided to take it pretty easy.  Breakfast at the house, followed by a walk to Playa Negra, where we spent the morning jumping and getting smashed by the biggest waves any of us had ever seen; the tallest of which were upwards of 15 feet and had enough force to rip any bathing suit clean off.  Ten minutes in and we were beaten, battered and out of breath; thirty minutes out and we were boiling hot and back in for more fun.  By midday we had had enough sun and returned to the house for lunch of homemade loaded nachos, followed by an afternoon of card playing on our patio.  That evening we headed into town for dinner at the chic and trendy Koki Beach Restaurant, located right across from the waterfront.  We sat on the front deck/lounge and enjoyed a long and leisurely dinner of sharing plates, cocktails and wine, topped off with the most decadent brownie in existence!  By 10:00pm we were all stuffed and headed back to the house.  After a few games of cards, us three girls called it a night, while the boys pulled an all-nighter.  They woke us up at 5:00am and we all headed down to the beach with coffees to catch the sunrise to begin our final day together in Costa Rica.
Following a morning nap, after the 5:00am wake up call, we were back at the beach, basking in the sun, by 10:00am.  We had the beach to ourselves and took full advantage.  Five hours later and we were all a little sun-drunk, beer-buzzed and making incredible memories.  We headed back to the house to freshen up before heading into town, where we ended up at Koki Beach Restaurant again for our final dinner, where we were joined by other travellers, friends of friends back home.  After dinner we headed back to Hot Rocks, from night one, where some of us took part in karaoke and we partied with the bartenders, who we knew on a first-name-basis by then.  The last day was the best day, perhaps because we knew it was our final hours together in paradise, or perhaps by complete coincidence, because the stars aligned for each of us at the same time.  Either way, it was a day most friends only dream of sharing and one we will never forget!
Our five days in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Costa Rica, were one big celebration of life.  After Garret’s near-death experience on our first day as a party of five, we were all in such shock that once every few hours in the few days following one of us would inevitably say, “I cannot believe that happened!”   We were all feeling blessed to be together, healthy, on vacation and, most importantly, alive.  We seized every moment, took lots of photos and lived the dream under the Central American sun!

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