Pura Vida

Costa Ricans, who call themselves Ticos, use this phrase all the time. It means something like “How are you”, “I’m great”, “Take care”, “Have a good life” etc. etc.

Well, we had lots of Pura Vida in our three weeks in Costa Rica. More than once we considered to discard our tickets back to the US. For a European or American, Costa Rica is a true paradise, Bountyland. And even if there is obvious poverty there, the Ticos are a good deal better off than many of their fellow Latin-Americans.

Costa Rica is a democratic country, it’s democracy has been functioning well for 50 years. It has no army and no death penalty!!! And there seems to be very little corruption. They are doing their best to turn the threat of devastating mass tourism (Americans – Hawaii has become too expensive) into sustainable eco-tourism.

We didn’t really do anything that last week – we just hung around the pool or the beach. Dane became pretty good at surfing on the rented boogie board in the sea, and he learned to dive and swim under water in the pool. The only unpleasant thing that happened all week was that I got a bad sunburn. On my lower lip of all places! The rest of me and both David and Dane got away with slight reddishness when we forgot ourselves in the sea or pool. I guess my lip got burned because that morning I couldn’t find my usual lipsalve, so just grabbed another one. Afterwards it dawned on me that it was one without SPF. It hurt like the devil and I looked like him too. It’s healing now, but is still rather unpleasant. I wouldn’t recommend it…

We had hoped to change our return ticket to Los Angeles instead of Las Vegas, but that was not possible. That’s another of the new rules the airlines have had to put up with because of the patriot act. How that should deter a terrorist is beyond me, but what do I know…

So – here we are, back in Vegas, which we really don’t like. This time in the Stratosphere hotel. Tomorrow at midnight we board a flight to Brisbane, Australia…

Hadn’t it been for the useless Wi-Fi provider in this hotel, some really nice photos would have accompanied this post. As it is, I just couldn’t upload them, the connection (which I’m paying good American $$ for) is that unstable.

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Las Vegas, Grand Canyon and off to Costa Rica

We didn’t really like it much in Las Vegas. My brother liked it more, but then he had friends there. Our last night together was really nice though, with a lovely meal at Mesa’s grill in Caesar’s Palace and two views of the great fountain show at the Bellagio.

The following morning we got up early and drove east towards Grand Canyon. It was a long drive past the Hoover Dam and through the Mojave Desert. All the northern slopes were covered in snow and the closer we got to the canyon, the more snow and the more the temperature dropped. We had quite a scare on the way, because we discovered that we’d forgotten – or really didn’t know or thought about – the time difference between Nevada and Arizona. The GPS claimed that there was a two hour difference, which would have meant that we’d miss our paid-for helicopter ride over the Canyon. Luckily the GPS was wrong (something with daylight saving preferences) and the difference was only one hour.

We only had a few hours there, because the drive is almost 5 hours each way. We made the most of those hours, taking a short peak at the Canyon from the rim and then driving to the helipad. The ride was half an hour, which was quite enough for Dane and me, who both got a touch of motion sickness. Also Dane was squeezed in between David and another grown man, and contrary to what we’d expected, it was very hot in there.

As you can imagine it was a spectacular sight. We’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

After the helicopter ride we went back to the rim and drove along it to catch the sunset. Just after sunset we met a flock of elk cows who really loved having their photographs taken.

We were exhausted when we got back to Vegas and the next morning we were off to Costa Rica. We arrived there in the evening and caught a shuttle bus to the completely non-descript hotel Best Western Irazu. The rooms were clean and everything was fine, but the hotel restaurant was a Denny’s, a very bad American fast food chain that we had successfully avoided in four months in the US. The local restaurants in the area were all closed and we were terribly hungry, so we really didn’t have a choice. And David had what was probably the worst steak in the whole of the world. It neither tasted nor had the consistency of meat. It looked a little bit like meat though…

The next morning we got our rental car, a tired old 4×4. But it works. We drove 5 or 6 hours to our first destination, the lovely hotel Arenal Paraiso (if you have Explorer, you can see the hotel’s own homepage here) where every room has a view of the very active volcano Arenal. Just spectacular!!

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A madhouse

Today we’ve walked up the Strip. And down the Strip. There is nothing you can say or write that can quite capture Las Vegas. It really is the oddest of places! Here are ALL kinds of people. Maybe even more so this week, when there’s the electronics fair and there are thousands of nerds and geeks, you know, bald and with black-rimmed glasses and black t-shirts with “secret messages”? And what I guess is “the usual crowd” of tourists in awe, local hustlers, Mexicans peddling “Girls delivered to your room in twenty minutes“, girls and women with very little clothes on and fat, sweaty guys at the slot machines.

New York, New York by night. Dane’s in complete awe of the Statue of Liberty and cannot believe that’s she’s even bigger in the real New York City!

Excalibur at night. It’s just so ugly it’s makes your eyes water!

New York, New York in bright daylight!

Inside The Venetian. It’s just larger than life. The sky is blue 24/7, for it’s not the sky, it’s the ceiling… You’ll believe me when I say that the gondoliers sing to their customers, won’t you?

Something new is under way. Apparently the money never runs out in this place.

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