When: April 4th thru April 10th, 2013
Where: The city of Tamarindo, the city of Nosara and the Barra Honda National Park. Guanacaste peninsula, Costa Rica (Map Link)
What: A bunch of friends meeting up to celebrate Jake and Annie’s wedding while exploring a new country
he distinct smell of burning wood cuts through the jungle heat as we rumble towards another village perched deep in the countryside. This lone jungle road has us weaving through the hilly, thick-forested landscape of the Guanacaste Peninsula in Costa Rica as we head south from the city of Tamarindo to Nosara.
The previous 50 miles of road were devoid of vehicles but a highway for cow herds, iguanas, basking vultures, soccer matches, howler monkeys, and motorcycles with whole families on them. After several hours of travel, a couple points of confusion, in-accurate maps, and the occasional glance of the ocean, We turned the corner to face a pristine black sand beach just outside the city of Nosara:
This was our 3rd full day in Costa Rica with the prior few being spent in the somewhat touristy town of Tamarindo celebrating our good friends marriage. After the wedding a group of us headed south on a bit of an adventure to the vibrant, yet sleepy community of Nosara via a back-road route deep in the countryside. With 3 nights in Tamarindo and 3 nights in Nosara we just got a little taste of the good life (also know as the opt-spoken “Pura Vida”).
1st Stop – Tamarindo: Wedding, Surfing, Coconut Drinking
The first full-day of vacation and we quickly found ourselves some shade, a couple surf-boards, and cold-coconut water served in it’s shell. Gabe enjoying the easier and consistent waves of Tamarindo:
The first real evening ended with a perfect sunset, fresh seared ahi-tuna tacos, and meeting some new friends at the wedding recital party. Next day repeated with nearly the same routine: eat some pastries, make a fruit shake with tequila, go to the beach, surf, leave my debit card in the atm at the bank, burn our feet on the hot sand, enjoy life. Strolling through the town of Tamarindo:
Tamarindo is a town of transition as it becomes a world-wide destination for tourism. Less then an hour from the airport and with it’s beautiful beaches, it is easy to see why this place has become a favorite. First found by surfers in The Endless Summer, Gabe had the pleasure of meeting one of his life-long idols, Robert August, who runs a restaurant and surf-school there.
Jake and Annie’s Wedding at the Cala Luna Hotel:
A simple ceremony on the isolated beach on our second full-day finished up just as the sunset began to show it’s true colors. I set-up my gear and snapped a few shots of everyone as the sunset lit-up the ocean. Under this perfect sunset I took a lot of photos: Annie+Ashlee+Laura, Tom+Nancy, Annie+Ashlee+Laura (2nd shot), Liz+Matt+Bret, Below is a group shot (L to R: Justin/Liz/Matt/Jake/Annie/Gabe/Dani/Bret/Andy):
Gabe and Danni:
Jake and Annie:
2nd Stop – Nosara: Land of many Sunsets
It’s sunday evening and we stroll to the main beach for our first taste of Nosara, after spending the day driving there via back-roads. It appears the entire community has gathered to enjoy the cooling afternoon air highlighted by an incredible sunset. Golden hues dominated the beach as we worked our way to the rocky point to watch the sunset fall behind waves crashing. Just Another Sunset, This Time Pink, over Playa Guiones at Nosara:
Every evening the sunset lasted for-hours changing from brilliant orange, to pinks to deep blues; this is a shot overlooking the beach of Nosara:
Nosara is beautiful as all of the development is set back off of the beach. The town is stretched over a handful of roads with villas, local hotels, and restaurants tucked into the jungle. The waves were bigger and much more fierce, which everyone struggled with except for Gabe and Matt. We spent a whole day baking under the sun surfing as the high-tide rushed in. Liz Winding Down with a bit of Beach-Yoga:
While Tamarindo was a nice place to visit, Nosara is a place you come to and forget to leave.
Side-trip – The Caves of Barra Honda:
At the entrance to the park we picked up our guide, an weathered gentleman whose name translates to Saturn (Saturno). Our first objective was to hike to the cave. It was just three of us this day (Bret/Matt/Andy) and through our guide’s partial english and our partial spanish we had a very enjoyable and informative hike. Along the way Saturno pointed out trees with spikes on them, plants that smell like anise, howler monkeys, bee hives, hollow ground above other caves, and numerous other items in this unique forest.
After crawling down a 50ft overhanging-ladder (somehow Matt did this with a cast over his thumb), the massive main chamber of the cave surrounds you. The main cave called “Terciopelo” (name of the fer-de-lance snake) with the small entrance and the barely visible 40ft ladder (Cave Map photo):
Looking Deep into the Abyss of the Cave:
Luckily there was one other group of two that we did the tour with as one of them was fluent in spanish and we were able to learn specifics about the history of the caves. These limestone caves were split into a few sections that we crawled through each offering different formations ranging from large fins on the walls to typical stalagmites/stalactites.
The end of the trip we were brought to an overlook of the valley which provided us views all the way to the other-side of the peninsula to the Nicoya Gulf.
On the way home we stopped at a restaurant along the road that overlooked a valley below. Easily the most beautiful location we ate at it also had some of the best casado’s (traditional Costa Rican dish) of the trip.
“Pura Vida”, yes it is a well-overused term but after spending our evenings watching sunsets melt into the ocean, spending the days playing in the surf or exploring the various wonders of the landscape, eating delicious food, and meeting great people, you begin to understand why that phrase is so deeply rooted into this country. Overall a really easy place to travel to and to explore and a special place one should not miss!
Click below to see the Interactive Trip Map along with photos in the map:Read More»
Dates: Dec 28th, 2012 – Jan 5th, 2013 (4 days more then originally planned)
Who: Caitlin and Andy
Trip Overview: (CHECK OUT the interactive Google Map)
- 6 Days in and around Tokyo visiting Tsujiki Fish Market, gardens, temples, etc
- 3 Days traveling around Mt Fuji visiting Lake Yamanakako and the Hakone Region
- New Years Eve at Meiji Shrine
- Lots of delicious food, crazy sights, and incredible encounters in a very interesting and beautiful city
This will not be a normal blog posting where everything follows a sequence of events as we had a non-linear agenda and enjoyed some places multiple times.
TSUKIJI FISH MARKET
Forklifts whizzing by with hundreds of little carts weaving between semis, bikes, and tourists. Everything moving past us at the fastest and most efficient pace possible. Unusual smells, many unknown sea-creatures, and plenty of excitement. Visiting the Tsukiji Fish market is quite the experience. Octopus at one of the many interesting and sometimes weird stalls in the Inner-Market:
I am convinced that if this market was in any other country that was not full of people as courteous as they are in Japan, it would literally kill a handful of tourists a day. Especially considering our first visit was just days before the Japanese New Year which is Japan’s largest holiday resulting in an influx of Japanese tourists and flooding the already cramped market. One of the Many Fish Market cart drivers weaving between cars, people, large trucks, and other carts all while sucking on a cigarette and balancing a huge load on the back:
Being the world’s largest Fish and Produce market with daily sales of ~$20 million, you can imagine how many people are required to keep this large market running. Around the Outer Market is a collection of sushi restaurants which serve some of the freshest fish you can get from all over the globe. Tiny, each one seats around 15 people with lines forming very early at every door. The wait is worth it and the bowls of rice covered with huge pieces of sashimi were incredible. The Inner-Market is where all the magic happens and is only open after 9am to Tourists (the early morning Tuna-auction was closed to the public when we were in Tokyo). Walking through the massive halls of thousands of little shops was the coolest market experience I have had yet. Below is a photo at one of the many stalls with a worker delicately preparing a Tuna steak:
Hundreds of individual stands squeezed together and stretched over a quarter mile specialize in nearly every form of seafood available inside the Inner-Market in Tsukiji:
The Outer Market restaurants were so good we ate there three times for breakfast. Get here early and enjoy the experience. Waiting in line to eat some of the best sushi I have ever had, the old lady on the left directed the line of people (as many as 30-40) while the young man took everyone’s order before they entered the tiny restaurant (picture menu on the right wall):
Temples: Meiji Shrine, Yasukuni Shrine, and Asakusa
The temples in Tokyo are interesting as they all have a lot of history, but the actual physical structures are generally very new. Considering Tokyo was founded in the 1600′s and subsequently burned down every couple of years, in retrospect it is not that surprising; this required a mind-shift from my time in China when paintings/structures/art can be in their form from 1,000-3,000 years ago.
One of the downsides to being in Tokyo during the New Year was that virtually any public place (park/museum) that required a ticket or entrance fee was closed for a number of days before and after the 1st. Luckily we could work around that fairly easy and there was still plenty to do.
Asakusa is a major destination with lots of shops and a great temple to visit. Luckily this was the only day it rained and moving through the massive crowds of umbrellas was an interesting challenge:
While at the Meiji Shrine some sort of Shinto Ceremony was going on. We watched for a while as they did their blessings and prepared for the new year:
New Years in Japan is their largest holiday. Therefore we thought it would make sense to visit the largest shrine in Tokyo, the Meiji Shrine, on New Year’s eve. After an enjoyable afternoon stroll through the park we returned just before midnight to a massive crowd of Japanese and a handful of foreign tourists. A countdown happened with some drumming, but little fanfare. This photo is from right at midnight and at this point a quarter mile and thousands of people stood between us and the inner-temple; we quickly called it a night after that:
Imperial Gardens and Other Parks in Tokyo
Being the middle of winter most of the foliage was hibernating. Regardless, every park we visited was pristine and the meticulous landscaping was still an incredible sight to see.
The Imperial Garden was finally visited on the last day of our trip (day #9) as it was closed the entire time prior to that. Amazing park to walk through and I can’t imagine seeing this place with the Cherry blossoms in full bloom:
Our last day in Roppongi (day #5) we were greeted with clear skies which allowed for us to spend some time 60 floors up in the Mori Tower. Amazing to see this massive city from this height. Caitlin peering through the glass from the Mori Tower in Roppongi with Mt Fuji sticking up in the upper-left hand corner and Shinjuku city center in the Upper-right:
Mt. Fuji and Lake Yamanakako
Awaking to a beautiful day with Mt. Fuji towering over the surrounding countryside was well worth the effort of the unplanned travel. The previous 36 hours were full of uncertainty as we tried to figure out what to do in Tokyo for an additional 4 unplanned days once we realized that we could not fly standby to Bangkok . We were both pleased with our decision to visit the Mt. Fuji region and get some fresh countryside air. Mt Fuji our first morning in the area near our hotel:
We ended up walking around Lake Yamanakako which was one of the highlights of the trip. It took longer then expected as the side of lake we walked along ended up being 5 miles long and took 3 hrs to get to the next small town section. After a late lunch we stumbled upon a small shrine that was in the area. By this time we had visited a number of shrines and knew that you needed to follow a specific set of steps to cleanse ourselves. Under the helpful guidance of one of the local priests we preformed our new years ceremony which was a treat to do it in such a local spot. Afterwards I had to take a photo of the fountain that you cleanse yourself in as this one was the most unique. Dragon fountain at Yamanakako Suwa Shrine:
The hotel was a little dated but had quite a bit of character. It was a “traditional” hotel (ryoken) and had it’s own Onsen (essential a public hot-tub). Pretty cool experience and I wish we had more time to explore other Onsens. The winter is generally off-season so sleeping at night was more like camping than a hotel. However, it had paper walls which we had fun with:
Hakone Region of Mt. Fuji and Owakudani
A series of perfectly timed transportation connections was a fresh change compared to any travel I have ever done anywhere else. A local bus to a highway bus over a mountain pass to another highway bus to arrive at Lake Ashinako in the Hakone Region was the first leg of the journey. A 2.5 mile gondola ride over thermal valleys, followed by a cable-car, then back to a train that descends 2,000 ft along switchbacks, finally getting to the bullet train (aka “romance car”) back to Tokyo, where we had to take one last subway to our hotel for the night was the last leg. A miraculous day of travel that went somehow flawlessly (have to love Japan!) and along the way was full of some worthwhile sites. Crossing over one of the mountain passes in the morning had the best views of Mt. Fuji and gave us interesting views:
Along the way we saw pirate ships, feral cats preying on ducks, ate magical black eggs that extend your life by 18 years, saw thermal features and hot-springs, were 2,000 ft high above the ground, stashed our luggage in a snowy forest, had great views of Mt. Fuji, found a indoor tropical garden, and saw the ocean. A portion of the geyser field called Owakudani with plenty of Japanese tourists:
For a trip of this size we were able to make it come together with just a little bit of planning. Thanks to Japan’s efficient systems and ability to actually make tourist destinations easy to navigate we had a great time. This is an easy country to travel in and one that everyone should travel to as there are few barriers to having an amazing time. Every meal was high-quality food, 7-11′s are actually really nice, you can buy beer in vending machines on the street, and everyone we met was incredibly helpful and great to be around. Can’t wait to continue to explore this great country! Myself and Caitlin in front of Mt Fuji:
Please Expand to see the Trip Map and a Detailed Itinerary:Read More»
Highlights of 2012 (The Year of the Dragon):
- 30 Nights of Camping over 13 trips (18 nights in Utah!)
- Camped at least one night in each month from February to December
- ~8,500 miles driven on the above camping trips
- 110 days of photo taking
- 10,500 photos made it onto my computer
- 3 Major Parties (Wild West Whiskey B-Day, Backyard Bouldering Competition, Halloween Apocalypse)
- Lots of climbing, disc-golfing, ball-sweating (it was the hottest year on record)
- Finished it off in Japan (with just a few days in 2012, I am calling that one a 2013 trip)
It is always good to reflect on what you have accomplished in order to figure out the future. This last year seems as if it was a whirlwind of adventure as we made sure that there was at least one camping trip a month plus all the other craziness of life. We truly lived the Weekend Warrior lifestyle this year and it was well worth the effort.
Here is a recap of the previous year: 2011 Trip Highlights
2012 Trip Reports:
- 30 Nights of Camping:
- Top Adventures of the Year (these are my favorites and feature the best trip reports):
- Skiing Trips
- Hahaha…sniffle…crying: It was one of the worst snow years on record, so no trips worth writing about
- Climbing/Camping/Rafting/Hiking Adventures:
- Parties and Random:
Looking forward to another year of fun and adventure!
Thanks for checking out my site. Here I am enjoying Chaco Canyon a little too much:
Camped or slept under the stars at least once a month for 11 month’s straight (Feb-Dec). Drove ~8,500 miles during this time over 13 different trips. Spent 30 nights in places as far as Zion National Park in Utah and Chaco Canyon in New Mexico to as near as Devil’s Head, one hour from Denver. To say the least, 2012 was a great year.
Initially, this wasn’t a planned goal; it just happened that after a few consecutive months it was decided to maintain this good momentum and continue to explore a small chunk of this world. 30 nights just ended up being a lucky number that was hit during this adventure.
The below are pictures of almost every campground or a picture signifying something major near that campground. These are not meant to represent my best photography skills, but to just document a small achievement in 2012.
#1 and #2: Moab, Utah. Feb 25th and 26th. Goal: Climb at the Big Bend Boulders. Trip Report Link.
#3 and #4: Zion National Park, Utah. March 28th-29th. Goal: Angel’s Landing and The Narrows. Trip Report
#5: Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. March 30th. (part of Zion trip above). (Tent just behind camera)Read More»
Dates: October 5th thru 8th, 2012 (Friday thru Monday)
Who: Caitlin and I
Roadtrip (Link to Map of Route):
- Stop 1: Penitente Canyon, San Luis Valley, Colorado = Climbing and Camping
- Stop 2: CHACO CANYON, New Mexico = exploring ancient cultures, hiking, camping, mind-exploding
- Stop 3: San Juan Mountains, Durango, Colorado = camping, Aspen leaf watching, ass-freezing
Friday October 5th, Denver saw it’s first snowstorm of the 2012-2013 year as we woke-up to a solid 2 inches of fresh on our lawns and cars. While refreshing to see some of the white-stuff it was a clear sign of a quickly changing season and forced Caitlin and I to head-up to the mountains to experience the last of the Fall season.
Based on some really quick planning and weather watching we ended-up heading south towards the border (and into New Mexico) with several different stops with some unique experiences:
Stop #1: Penitente Canyon in the San Luis Valley, Colorado
Friday afternoon we rolled into a nearly deserted campground at Penitente allowing us to be able to camp in one of the best spots. The drive in was pretty weird with Denver being ~35 degrees when we left, thick fog on HWY 285, and then clear-blue beautiful skies (plus~20 degrees warmer) once we hit Bailey; classic Colorado. Four hours later we find ourselves preparing to do some sport climbing in one of the most beautiful canyon’s in Colorado:
The weather was perfect (~70 degrees cooling down quickly), but we were able to get a couple routes in before the sun completely left the sky.
The next morning we had an incredible hike through the canyon along a trail I have never hiked. Starting off very cold, it warmed up nicely and the aspen’s back-dropped against the canyon was incredible.
We also stumbled upon an old wagon-rut in the rock from when the early Mexican settlers would use an ox and a small wagon to haul wood out of the area to their homesteads and the size of the erosion was impressive (click for pic here).
On-wards to the next stop we happened to cross over Wolf Creek Pass which had perfect Aspen colors and is a pass that everyone must see at least once during the fall leaf-viewing season:
Stop #2: Chaco Culture National Historic Park, New Mexico
The ever-present shaking of the car, mixed with the dust and grit from driving down 21 miles of wash-boarded road was not helping lift our solemn spirits. At the turn-off to the canyon was an apparent “CAMPGROUND FULL” sign and we found ourselves in the middle of no-man’s-land, bumping down a dirt-road, trying to figure out what to do. After driving 4 hours already that day we decided that we were just going to push-on and confirm if the campground was actually full. Pulling-up to the campground host at 4:45pm on a Saturday (yes our timing wasn’t the best), our suspicions were confirmed that yes, those signs were correct, however, there was a group campsite that was open and as long as no-one reserved it in the next 15 mins we could share it with the other late-comers. The Chacoan gods presented some luck to us and we had a place to camp!!!
After claiming our tent-pad we rushed over to Pueblo Bonito to experience the sunset that was about to happen. Most people had already left the area leaving Caitlin and I to run-around and experience a powerful place under a powerful sunset. Caitlin summoning the gods over the massive 5 story building with 700+ rooms and 35 kivas, built over 1,000 years ago:
The Great Kiva at Pueblo Bonito:
Caitlin and I:
Timing was again on our side and that night we went to a incredible outdoor presentation provided by park ranger G.B. Cornucopia on the Chaco culture’s obsession with the sun, tracking time, and many of the numerous questions around the park. The complexity of this culture was beginning to be revealed to us and our jaw’s were on the floor the entire time.
6:45am and the sunrise was just starting to push color into the clear skies and the entire campground was starting to rumble to life. We rushed-up to the nearest butte to experience the morning much like the Chacoan’s would have done everyday in their lives. Caitlin got really excited! Fajada Butte (a major ceremonial spot) under the morning glow:
Our major adventure of the day was hiking to the overlook’s of Pueblo Bonito and Chetro Ketl. Viewing the sites from above provides a much needed perspective on the layout and the differences between the different sites and was by far the best views of the sites. Caitlin over Pueblo Bonito:
While on top we also visited the Pueblo Alto and New Alto sites:
Nothing is more hip then wearing Chaco’s while hiking in Chaco Canyon.
It was nearing 2pm and we rushed back over to Pueblo Bonito to have a walking tour lead by Park Ranger G.B. Cornucopia, who after 2 hours taught us more about the site and the different opinions on what it all meant then we could have ever hoped!!! Exploring the famous dark hallways of Pueblo Bonito:
We showed-up to this park with minimal knowledge of this culture and left being inspired to understand more about this unique place.
Stop #3: Lime Creek Road, Durango Colorado
It was now 5 PM on Sunday as we pulled ourselves away from Chaco canyon. With barely more then an hour of sunlight left we headed north as fast as we could to Durango. Having minimal notes on where to car-camp, we bumped up a rocky-forest service road in the pitch-black until we came to an incredible site that had 360-degree’s of star viewing right next to a pond. We quickly built a campfire, cooked dinner, and enjoyed our last night of the trip.
It got extremely cold overnight, enough to start freezing water in certain spots, but the morning sun was a nice relief as we awoke to incredible views:
Driving home over Molas Pass to Silverton, over Red Mountain Pass to Ouray (with a quick stop at Mouse’s chocolates), back through Gunnison and over Monarch and Kenosha passes, we landed back in Denver satisfied with our last-minute, but incredible trip!