I love when my friends come to visit. It is a perfect excuse to screw off for a few days and gives me tons of material for you guys. So when my good friend Janie came to visit from Colorado, I took her to Hacienda Guachipelin. I just had to roll out the red carpet. It’s not every day a princess comes to the jungle you know. We grabbed my Amiga Stephanie and the bald eagle Eric, along with Costa Rica Joe, and we headed out at 7 am.
Our good friend Jose owns the resort Guachipelin at the base of the Rincon de la Vieja Volcano and promised to take extra special care of us. There are many places in Costa Rica like his resort, but personally, I rank Hacienda Guachipelin at the top of the list. It is located less than 70 minutes from the beach, so it doesn’t take half a day to get there, like some of them, and you can easily be back by dark so you can still catch the sunset on the beach. I have to be honest with you though, I was just as excited about going through Liberia at breakfast time, so I could grab an Egg McMuffin at McDonald’s. I have clients who always frown when they hear that Costa Rica has fast food. Hello!!!! Of course it has fast food! Everywhere has fast food but Somalia.
I remember a woman once telling me that she would NEVER eat at one of these joints. Really? Seriously? There has to be something wrong with a person who won’t eat fast food. Now, don’t get me wrong, it is not like I eat it every day. But there is a reason there are millions of these restaurants around the world. THEY ARE GOOD. And they are fast! What is so hilarious is that when you go to the McDonald’s, Subway, Pizza Hut or Burger King in Liberia, 99% of the people eating there are Ticos. Come on man, if you had to eat Beans and fricken Rice every day for your entire life, you would go bananas for fast food too. There is nothing better than sinking your teeth into a Big Mac and the world famous fries. Admit it. You love it too. There is no place like home.
So after a quick pit stop for a McMuffin and hash browns (there is NO way you can tell me that the hash browns don’t absolutely rock your world) we were headed up the mountain.
The last time I went to Hacienda Guachipelin, the road was atrocious: Borderline suicidal. But ICE, the government electric company, purchased a large property up there to open up a Geothermal electric plant. Costa Rica, by the way, is one of the greenest countries on the planet. The USA isn’t even in the top 100. There was so much wear and tear on their company vehicles, that they convinced the local municipality to pave the road.
The ride up was always one of the most beautiful drives in the country: Rolling hills: Creeks and streams: Horses, cows and quaint little Costa Rican towns. But now, you could actually enjoy it as you didn’t have to worry about breaking an axle every 50 meters or so.
Speaking of green let me tell you about my friend Eric. He has one of the best Sewage Treatment companies in Costa Rica, so when you are ready to build your house or your project this is the guy to talk to. His company is called Pacific Septic Systems and his website is www.pacificseptic.com and if you want to save the planet, this is the guy to know. You can literally flush your toilet and in something like 48 seconds, it turns into crystal clear water that you can run through your sprinkler system. Obviously, I am exaggerating, but the point is, he has good stuff. Check him out.
My other friend Stephanie is the woman I mentioned in a previous Newsletter, who is opening the new bar in Hermosa, THE SAND BAR. She is almost ready to roll, and you can be assured I will be doing many more Newsletters and updates on her, so stay tuned.
Now, Costa Rica Joe, this is a story. He is originally from New York City and you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure it out. You can hear his accent 2 miles away. Joe and his beautiful wife Pam were clients of ours first, like most of my agents, and they bought a gorgeous house in Hermosa about 6 years ago. On the plane ride back to the USA, he sat next to my partner Chris and by the time they landed, Chris had convinced him to move to Costa Rica and start selling real estate with us. I remember getting a call from Houston. “Mike, I met this guy Joe from New York City. He is going to call you about a job. JUST HIRE HIM.” So when I got that jingle a month or so later, he barely got his name out when I told him, you are hired! Come on down! And a lifelong friendship was formed. Not only is he one of our top agents, and my right-hand man at RE/MAX Tres Amigos, but without a doubt one of the finest individuals I have ever met in my life.
He is definitely Mr. Costa Rica. The guy knows everything, hell he is even a bird watcher. It is funny because Joseph has Acrophobia, or better known as a fear of heights, and has done everything there is to do in Costa Rica, but refused to Zip Line. Last year another friend of ours Karla and her family came to visit and we literally had to hog tied Joe and drag him kicking and screaming to the Canopy Tour. But he survived, and this would be his second trip back on the wire, confronting his demons, facing certain death in the face.
As soon as we arrived at Hacienda Guachipelin, we were greeted by this wonderful staff, which helped us get ready for the ride of our life. They had us climb into this harness, and strapped us in like we were professional rock climbers or something, and then marched us through the jungle, up a hill to this ramp. Standing on the planks, you could see for miles in every direction, the jungle floor below, a huge waterfall pouring and a river racing over the rapids. We were at least 200 feet up, maybe more.
There was actually quite a large group of people, from all over the world, and even a nice older gentleman about 75 or 80. He was fearless. But a couple women from Canada were a bit nervous and needed some reassurance that they weren’t going to die. So who do you think turns into professional Tarzan of the Jungle? Costa Rica Joe. Just a couple months ago, he was peeing his pants at the thought of doing this and now he was giving instructions on how to hold the line, how to stop and even how to go UPSIDE DOWN. “Don’t forget to watch the scenery” he said like he had done this his entire life. You just had to laugh. Way to go Joe. Just like a Pro. Remember, he is from New York City, where the only thing he had ever been on was the subway. “Look Ma, No Hands!” he screamed as he launched himself off the ramp, flying through the air like Superman.
I have been on dozens of Canopy Tours, but Hacienda Guachipelin has one of the best. Most of these, you just go from ramp to ramp, platform to platform, unhooking from one line and clicking on to the next. But this particular Tour has it all, and the entire time you are zig-zagging back and forth over a gorge, with this raging river below you. Some of them are almost a mile long. They have one where you start off on a slide, like a little kid’s playground. You slip down the chute and then you are shot across the valley. Another one has you rappelling down the side of the mountain, only to have you rock climb back up the other side.
Don’t worry, all you lazy folks, they tie a rope to you, so if you can’t climb back up, they will pull your fat ass to safety. There are about 15 or 20 lines in all and they seem to just get better and better as you get further into the journey. As you get to the end of the trip, 90 minutes later, the last two or three are the best. You have to swing across the gorge on a Tarzan rope, and it takes a little bit of skill. As usual, I wasn’t paying attention to the guide, doing my own thing, and as soon as he clicked me on I just started to jump.
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO he screamed and this nice Canadian woman grabbed me and reeled me back to the starting point. I guess I was still tied to the other 4 people on the safety line, and if I had gone, they would have gone with me. Typical Realtor. The next one has you ripping down another line, through these really tight canyon walls to get to the last ramp, where you then gingerly walk back across on a hanging bridge. As you step over the boards, the whole contraption shakes violently, and the fear of falling creeps into your mind.
I flashed back to that scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, where he cuts the rope bridge with his knife and all the savages fall to the crocodiles below. I realized I didn’t have my trusty lion tamers whip to wrap around the handrail, so I kept trying not to think about it, and just get to the other side. The entire adventure is actually very safe, mind you, as you have security lines the whole time, but that doesn’t stop you from panicking a little bit. That is what makes it so much fun. A little fear of death is good for the blood flow.
Another great thing about Hacienda Guachipelin is all the animals you see. Of course the whole ride, Costa Rica Joe is playing Mr. Rainforest tour guide, pointing out them out. “Look, that’s a Pizote. There’s a Monkey. Check out the Iguana! Heh! Was that a Sloth?” We were back at the starting line, and you feel a little like a warrior who just came back from battle. You are sweaty and dirty, as you remove all this gear, but no matter how many times you do this, you still feel a sense of accomplishment. I SURVIVED!! As you probably expected, the first thought in my mind: I need a Pilsen. Eric offered to buy and set off on the small hike to the hotel bar. But when he returned, I noticed he had more than 5 beers.
You see, I can smell this stuff half a mile away. I get goosebumps just thinking about it now. Tequila. I hate Tequila. I would rather drink Gasoline than Tequila. It reminds me of 1986, and trust me when I tell you, those are skeletons I will never reveal. They are dead bolted in my closet and I swallowed the key. Sure enough, there was a “special” at the bar that day and Eric just couldn’t refuse, but do you think he bought just ONE SHOT each. No way. He bought doubles, maybe they were even triples. These weren’t shots; they were tumblers, almost full to the top. I knew this wasn’t going to be good. Right then, the guide yelled out “Get ready to saddle up” as the horseback riding was next.
I have never been a big fan of those animals, I really feel like they should just go directly to the glue factory, so I thought maybe the Cuervo would do me some good. I downed it like a man, held back the tears and trotted over to the stables, shivering like Sir Ernest Shackleton on his failed Antarctica Expedition.
One at a time, they bring these horses over and each person climbs aboard. I got this pretty mild horse named Toucan, who didn’t seem too overly excited to be out on a ride that day. Perfect, because I wasn’t that fired up either. But when Janie got on her horse, it was a little bit of a different story. I asked the ranch hand what his name was, and they told me Diablo. Now you gotta understand Janie is 5 foot 2, 102 lbs dripping wet. A horse named The Devil is probably not the best choice for a woman like this, so I had a feeling it was going to be a heck of a ride. Right from the beginning, Diablo was on his own mission. While the rest of our horses stood around, swatting flies with their tales, hers was walking around in circles, obviously agitated that he even had to be there that afternoon. Not that I am a horse trainer or anything, but I probably should have gotten Diablo and she gotten Toucan, since I am the old guy and she is the little package of Dynamite. It was going to be one fun ride, that was for sure, and when they opened the corral, off we all went.
The first mile or so of the ride was pretty uneventful, as the pack thinned out there was probably 40 or 50 of us total. Of course the scenery was incredible. It was like something out of Bonanza, with thousands of acres of forest, trees and landscaping. But 50 horses tend to kick up a lot of dust, and before you know it, you couldn’t see much more than 20 yards ahead of you. And then it happened. For some unknown reason, the horses got spooked, and they took off cantering down the path. I found myself looking around for Janie to make sure she was ok, when all of a sudden, you hear this screech. WHOOOOOA NELLIE, as she goes zooming past, bouncing up and down like a top. Bless her heart, she was riding that bastard like there was no tomorrow, and I found myself laughing so hard it hurt. Here is this petite little woman, flying by, three feet off the saddle, pulling and kicking, holding on to her hat.
Finally, we get the pack back under control, and into a slow trot, and who do you think comes up the trail? Costa Rica Joe. He had turned around and come BACK for us, to make sure we were all ok, like the Lone Ranger or Tonto. “Just checking up on ya” he said, and Stephanie, Eric and I chuckled. This is a guy who never rode anything but a taxi, and here he is playing John Wayne, kicking the horse and steering the reins with one hand, the other hand pointing out various wild fruits and berries. “That’s an almond tree.” I am tearing up just writing about it again.
There is one plant you should watch out for if you are hiking in Guanacaste. It is big rose thorn looking bush, with NO roses. The thorns are more like Shark teeth and these little deadly black ants live inside the plant. If you scratch up against this, not only will you get a good size gash in your leg or arm but the ants will get into your wound, and man do these suckers HURT. Brutal.
The trail comes to an end and everyone gets off. There is this old school bus there, waiting to take us all to the final adventure of Hacienda Guachipelin, the River Tubing ride. As we board the old yellow boat and take our seats, everyone is moving a little slow, as muscles were aching that I didn’t even know I had. You would think they could come up with a softer saddle, after hundreds of years of riding these stupid animals. Slamming down onto a rock hard piece of leather is not exactly the most comfortable way to travel. Although the bus looked like it might break down at any second, and I feared the bus ride from hell, I figured anything was better than another mile on the back of Secretariat or Sea Biscuit. Sure enough, not a mile down the road, this lunatic in a pick up truck is flying around the hair pin corner, skidding on the gravel and just misses slamming in to us by about 3 feet. It was a good thing the bus driver had such quick reflexes or I might not be here to tell you this story. Guanacastecans can easily maneuver a horse or tame a bull, as they seem to be born knowing how to do this, but automobile driving is still an acquired skill that many of them have not quite figured out yet, so ALWAYS pay attention when you are out for your Sunday drive.
We put on our crash helmets and life preservers, and grabbed our big inner tubes and headed down the pathway to the river. After a morning of hiking, zip lining, horseback riding and bus rides, filled with dust and sweat, heat and humidity, it was NICE to get into that fresh cool water. For the next 90 minutes we floated down stream, bouncing over mini rapids and water falls. Most of the time though it was very relaxing, as you just sat back and enjoyed the ride. We went through this huge ravine, almost like a mini Grand Canyon, where the walls on both sides shot straight up in the air. At some points you could barely see the sky, and other times we were surrounded by the lush jungle and forest. The stream was pretty low, as we are at the end of the dry season, but in September and October they say it can get cooking pretty good. They have Kayak tours as well, but I wasn’t up for any physical exertion this particular day. Many rivers in Costa Rica also have white water rafting, and in some parts of the country, they actually have Class 4 and 5 rapids, which are some of the toughest to navigate in the world. So all you adrenaline junkies, there is plenty of action if you seek it. But for us today, it was about having some fun, making new friends and enjoying an uneventful ride down the stream. By the time we got back to the resort, we were ready for that lunch, let me tell you, and of course some more cold beers. Count me out on the Tequila though.
Words do not even begin to describe the lunch that we had at Hacienda Guachipelin. It was what they call a Casado, a Costa Rican specialty. It was a plate of rice, black beans and salad, with plantains, vegetables and either a grilled piece of Tilapia fish or a chunk of filet mignon. The entire restaurant filled with flavor at the smell of this dish, and your mouth was literally drooling when it finally arrived. Mmmmm Mmmmm Good. There was even tiramisu for dessert. All of this was included in the original price. Everywhere you go in this country, the food is amazing: some of the best you will ever eat in the world. No additives, no steroids, just the way Mother Nature wanted you to consume it. Most people who move here tell me how they lost 10 pounds in the first few months, just from the healthy adjustment in their diet. Personally, I could probably use to lose another 6 or 7, but that would mean giving up my Pilsen, and you can bet your grand children’s lives that it just ain’t gonna happen.
It was a short distance to the hot springs and mud baths and by the time I got there, I was completely ready to relax and just do the “Calgon Take me Away” thing. We spent the next 2 hours, bubbling like lobster, bouncing from one pool to the next. We covered ourselves in the natural mud which was served in a bowl like pudding. You hear how it is supposed to be good for your skin and takes all the toxins out of your body, but you really don’t believe it until you try it. It works. When you finally peel the crusted layer of gook off, it is almost like a snake shedding its skin, and you feel like a brand new person: Ready to conquer the world? More like ready for a long nap! What a relaxing way to end our adventuresome day at Hacienda Guachipelin.
As planned, we got back at 5:45. We wandered down to the boardwalk in Coco and grabbed a couple lounge chairs at Donde Claudio, a killer little spot right on the beach. Within a matter of minutes, the sky lit up like fire, and we watched another amazing Costa Rican sunset. No matter how many times you are fortunate enough to see it, you will never get tired. You find yourself wondering; how many crayons are there in that big old box in the sky? We clinked our drinks and sat back in our chairs, each of us lost in our own private thoughts. Mine are always the same. I am the luckiest man in the world. Hope you can join me someday. Pura Vida. Take care. Ciao. Good to see you, Janie, hurry back.
Tank Tops Flip flops Newsletter edition no. 19
If you have had a great experience with my office and Costa Rica, I want to hear about it. Please send us a video of yourself telling us WHY and I will post it on my website for everyone to see. Or send me an email and I will put it in my Testimonials. I appreciate your business and that you have decided to read this Newsletter more than I could ever tell you. THANK YOU. Please take a little more time and check out the entire site. We have added a lot of information lately that I am sure you will find helpful. Also, please forward this to any friends you think might be interested in learning more about Costa Rica. Is there a story behind Tank Tops and Flip Flops you ask? Of course, but you have to stay tuned for another Newsletter. I hope all is well. Stay healthy. God Bless you and your families. Stop procrastinating and hurry back!