Wrapping up my second class in Costa Rica!

On Tuesday this week, I wrapped up my second class, Advanced II, in Costa Rica! This time, I finished with an A!

Advanced II primarily focused on conversation and not grammar. During the course of the past 4 weeks, I do believe my conversational skills have grown. They are not quite where I want them to be quite yet, but improvement is improvement!

To celebrate finishing our second module and also successfully climbing Cerro Chirripó, Hannah, Audrey, and I went with our sore bodies to the central part of Heredia. There, we went to an ice cream shop and bought Superconos. Best. Decision. Ever! Who doesn’t like an ice cream cone the size of their face?! Better yet, ice cream that costs 1700 colones the equivalent of $3. In anticipation of this venture, I did not eat any lunch.

Oh happy day! A girl and her Supercono!
Hannah and Sydney: ice cream fanatics
Supercono selfie: Hannah, me, and Audrey

I will have you know, I ate all of the ice cream in my Supercono and almost finished all of the cone. Towards the end, I started to feel a bit queasy. I decided to err on the side of caution and call it a day.

Now that I have had one Supercono, I do not think I see a second in my future. One is enough for me!

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

Cerro Chirripó: Day 3

If you haven’t read about Day 1 and Day 2 of , click the links respectively to read more about the adventure!

Audrey, Hannah, and I were up at 1:45 am to start the 5 kilometer hike to Cerro Chirripó: the tallest peak in Costa Rica. I once again slept horribly maybe 3 hours due to once again having nerves and anxiety.

We locked up our items in our lockers and by 2:00 am, the three of us were hiking the path in the dark with our headlamps.

I had the impression that hiking in the pitch black dark would be scary, but with two friends and a sky full of stars, I could not believe at how beautiful and wonderful hiking in the dark could be.

The first 3 kilometers were primarily flat. We did not have many issues at all. However at one point, the three of us could not figure out where the path continued. Luckily, I spotted a carin stone pile which signifies where a trail continues.

Audrey was our timekeeper and at the 2800 meter mark, she announced we were doing amazing on time and could take our time for the last stretch, which the German couple from Casa Mariposa had also said was rough.

As the day before, I fell behind Audrey and Hannah. Once again, I had to get my “better” and “stronger” mantra going in my head. The last stretch was VERY hard. At some points, each of us were climbing with our hands and feet to get to the next portion of the trail. All I have to say is thank goodness for the bamboo sticks!

I eventually came to a tall rock formation. In the dark, I thought I could see the Cerro Chirripó sign. I hollered up to Hannah and Audrey to ask if this was the end. They responded with ecstatic “yeses!” I scrambled up the rock face and when I reached the top, Audrey asked me with her phone recording how I felt to which I responded with “Holy f***ing hell, I did it.” She and Hannah both started laughing.

We were the first people to the top of Cerro Chirripó on October 20, 2019. I cannot begin to even describe to you the feeling of accomplishment our little trio felt while freezing our butts off in the wind. To celebrate, we gathered for a group hug with smiles plastered to our faces. Soon after, others began reaching the top of Cerro Chirripó as the sun began to rise. For the rest of my life, I will never forget the beauty of seeing the sun come up from the tallest point in Costa Rica.

Because the sun was behind the Cerro Chirripó sign, a gentleman by the name of Antony brought a light with him to shine on everyone to capture perfect pictures. With a lighting assistant, he took photos for everyone and said he would send them via Whatsapp. They turned out amazing!

As the sun continued to rise, the clouds became thicker and engulfed the surrounding peaks. This added to the beauty of the lakes and the view, but prevented us from seeing the Caribbean or Pacific Oceans which can be seen from Cerro Chirripó on a clear day.

At 5:45 am, we began the descent back to base camp to have our breakfast. Though I enjoyed hiking in the dark, I loved being able to see the surrounding mountains in the daylight. I could not believe I had climbed certain areas when I saw how dangerous they looked with the sun shining.

Around 7:00 am, we arrived to base camp. The three of us ate our hearty gallo pinto and eggs, grabbed some pictures with the park sign, and packed up our items to do the 14.5 kilometer trek to Casa Mariposa.

We began hiking at 8:30 am. The first 6 kilometers went by really fast and were pretty easy. Because of the elevation, the path was not muddy at all. However, when we hit kilometer 8, the trail became really muddy, wet, and the rain began to come down. The three of us put on our rain ponchos and began to do our best dodging particularly super muddy areas with big puddles in order to keep our shoes as dry as possible. Well, this was short-lived as everyone began to slip and slide and fall due to the slickness of the mud and the steepness of the path. Because of trying to keep ourselves safe, our pace was pretty slow.

Since the day happened to be Sunday, there was only one public bus from San Gerardo to San Isidro, which left at 4:00 pm and took one hour. We had to make the bus as our bus for San Jose left at 5:30 pm. The three of us were slightly worried we would not make it down the mountain in time and walk the 45 minutes to and hour into town where the bus stop was located.

Audrey (with our blessing) went on ahead of Hannah and I as both of us were taking our time. She and I had the same pace and looked out for one another. The funniest part of us hiking down together occurred when I saw her slip and fall. I decided to try a different way. However, I soon found myself with my face in the mud and nearly over the side of the cliff. Hannah, in an effort to save/help me, chucked her bamboo stick and stretched into the splits towards me. When I looked up with mud all over my face, we both burst into laughter with her saying “I just peed my pants a little.” Not even 5 minutes later, the two cooks from the base camp came JOGGING down the mountain. Both of which recognized Hannah and I. In Spanish, the one cook says how ugly the weather and path is, while the other points at my face and laughs at the fact that there is mud on it. Hilarious!

After painstakingly balancing, slipping, and sliding, Hannah and I made it to Casa Mariposa by 2:00 pm. We found Audrey and dropped off our borrowed items before walking/jogging into town on sore, muddy legs and toes. We managed to find the time to go to a hostel that stamped your passport for climbing Cerro Chirripó for 1 mil colones ($2) and hopped onto the bus at 4:00 pm. The three of us got to the second station in time for our bus to San Jose. By 9:30 pm, we were all back in our home in Heredia.

I cannot begin to tell you how sore my whole body has been since the hike. I am almost certain my baby toenails are going to fall off from simply how sore they are. However, the pain and mud was 100% worth it. I am so thankful to have shared in this experience with two wonderful friends.

Is Cerro Chirripó now on your bucket list?

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

Cerro Chirripó: Day 2

Did you read all about day 1 of my Cerro Chirripó adventure? If not click this link to read all about Casa Mariposa!

Our first day of hiking began with waking up at 4:00 am. I think all three of us were awake before my alarm went off due to Hannah being startled by Jill’s cat being on her bed.

In silence and excitement, the three of us dressed, packed up our bags, and headed for the kitchen. There, we each ate oatmeal and drank tea in silence to mentally prepare for the 14 kilometer (8.7 mile) hike to Crestones Base Camp.

Around 4:50 am, Audrey, Hannah, and I found ourselves on Casa Mariposa’s porch finding our bamboo walking sticks before beginning the trek. Audrey had the brilliant idea of taking a short video at each kilometer along with a selfie with the kilometer sign.

All smiles at 5:00 am: Audrey, Hannah, and me

When talking with the German couple the night before, they had warned us the first 5 kilometers were REALLY steep. Let me tell you, part way through kilometer one, the three of us were peeling off layers because of how much we were sweating from the exertion of going uphill. I felt extremely winded and stopped every few minutes to catch my breath while Audrey and Hannah led the way.

Truly, the first 5 kilometers were a mental game for me. I am a huge Rachel Hollis and Dave Hollis fan. I love Rachel’s books and her RISE podcast and enjoy listening to her and Dave on their “Start Today Morning Show.” A couple of months ago, they both completed the 29029 challenge. Essentially, participants climb a mountain enough times that its the equivalent height of Everest. Rachel and Dave both talked about how the experience was mental and how the words ‘better’ and ‘stronger’ got them through their last few ascents.

For the first 5 kilometers of Cerro Chirripó, I repeated those words in my head and under my breath like a mantra: better and stronger. I kid you not, those two words helped distract me and caused the time to fly by when hiking. By kilometer 5, I was actually enjoying myself and the hike which I attribute to the Rachel and Dave mantra of better and stronger.

The first part of the hike took Audrey, Hannah, and I through the damp and muddy forest. Around us was lush vegetation, bamboo, and huge trees. Horses passed by us carrying supplies and bags back down the mountain with their handlers. If you do not want to carry your bags to Crestones Base Camp, you can have a horse carry it for you for a hefty fee of colones per kilogram.

Before the three of us could believe it, we arrived at the halfway point: kilometer 7. At kilometer 7, there is a rest stop with food for purchase and restrooms. Everyone drank water and ate some snacks to recharge for the next 7 kilometers. While waiting at the halfway point, Audrey, Hannah, and I had to throw our layers back on again because the temperature had cooled with the high elevation.

After 30 minutes, we packed up and continued onward. Within the next couple of kilometers, the vegetation began to shift away from “rain forest” to more dry and temperate. I would say the second 7 kilometers were the most peaceful. There were a couple of times where we stopped and basked in the silence of the forest and mountains. Because permits are required to be able to enter Cerro Chirripó National Park, there is a maximum of 55 people hiking at a time. This made the hike all the more enjoyable because there was hardly anyone on the trail. Once again, we were met with incredible views of Costa Rica. The clouds hovered over the mountains creating misty and stunning views. Hannah, Audrey, and I could not stop “oooing” and “ahhhing.”

At kilometer 14, we were met with disappointment. Crestones Base Camp was not there. Tired and hungry, we continued onward for another half of a kilometer and eventually saw the camp in our sight. Collectively, Audrey, Hannah, and I agreed kilometer 14 was one of the worse simply because of how long it seemed to drag on for.

For as slow as I felt and seemed, Audrey and Hannah were always having to wait on me to catch up, our group average 25-30 minutes per kilometer. This meant we arrived to base camp at 12:45 pm. Pretty awesome for not really preparing for the hike!

Once at Crestones, we checked into our room and promptly put on more layers. The wind was strong and chilly. Crestones does not have ANY hot water or heat, so layering everything we brought and huddling under our provided blankets was our only option.

In our room, we ate our packed peanut butter sandwiches and snacks. Afterwards, the three of us went out to inquire about purchasing breakfast for tomorrow (we had only planned on dinner and changed our plans) and went to play Jenga. Audrey, Hannah, and I purchased our breakfast and played two rounds of Jenga before deciding we needed short naps. Audrey caught me curled up under my blankets like so.

While having an hour or so before dinner, the three of us got into Hannah’s bed and watched School of Rock before heading to the dining hall for a massive plate of chicken spaghetti. I tried my best to eat everything, but it didn’t happen. Notice we all have our winter hats on because Crestones was freezing!

Carb loading for the big/long day of hiking tomorrow!

After dinner, the three of us headed to bed at 7:30 pm because our day of hiking was going to begin at 2:00 am!

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

Cerro Chirripó: Day 1

Last Friday, I wrote a quick blog post about my second long weekend plans which entailed hiking to the tallest peak, Cerro Chirripó, with two friends: Audrey and Hannah.

On Friday morning, I woke up at 5:00 am to get around quickly. I ate a quick breakfast of cereal put out by my mama tica. In Spanish, she told me that I needed to take lots of pictures and report back on whether or not she would be capable of doing the hike herself. Before saying farewell, she wrapped me in a big hug.

At 5:45 am, I headed out the door and headed to the train station to meet Hannah and Audrey. When 6:13 am rolled around, the three of us hopped onto the crowded train with our packed backpacks to head to San Jose. Once in San Jose, Hannah navigated the three of us to the bus station which was a 20-minute walk. We happened to be early, so the three of us chatted about our upcoming adventure.

At 7:30 am, our 3 hour bus journey began to the town of San Isidro de General. The bus wound through the Costa Rican mountains, which were absolutely stunning but made my stomach turn.

Around 10:30 am, our bus arrived to San Isidro. The three of us disembarked and went in search of the other bus terminal. After asking for directions at the tourist office, we managed to find the bus terminal. At the bus terminal, we frantically began searching for the only public bus that goes to San Gerardo de Rivas. It was imperative we get on this specific public bus because we had to check in with the park rangers before hiking the following day. Our other option if we missed the bus was to take a taxi, which is super expensive!

Because we did not see the bus, Hannah ended up asking a shopkeeper where the bus pulled into and he kindly told us the information. Soon after, the bus pulled into the parking space at the bus terminal and everyone began boarding.

During the 1-hour bus ride, many ticos got on and off the bus like any public bus. This was the first time, however, I felt a small-town feeling in Costa Rica. The passengers called out to one another and carried on conversations. I could tell the route was local and specific to the small town. An elderly woman sat down next to me at one point. I ended up helping her out by pushing the stop button so she could get off. The funniest part of the bus ride happened to be when we passed by a school bus. A boy looking out the window said to me “HOLA GRINGA,” which made me laugh!

Around 12:30 pm, Audrey, Hannah, and I got off the bus and walked to the ranger station only to find them on lunch break. We took the opportunity to eat our packed lunches too.

When 1:00 pm rolled around, the three of us headed to the front desk and got checked in with the park ranger. Said park ranger then informed us that we needed to go to the next park ranger station next to the soccer field to get more paperwork related to our base camp reservation. So, we began our trek on the road to ranger station #2. There, Hannah, Audrey, and I got our meal tickets and papers to stay in the base camp.

With all of our necessary and required paperwork in hand, Audrey navigated us to our accommodation for the night: Casa Mariposa. Unbeknownst to us, the walk to Casa Mariposa was long and uphill, which we did not know. Right as the three of us arrived at the doorstep of Casa Mariposa, the sky let loose and it began to pour.

Jill, the owner, welcomed us into Casa Mariposa where the three of us instantly fell in love. The hostel/bed and breakfast fusion of a place had so much rustic character and was nestled into the lush Costa Rican forest. Jill, as we found out, is originally from Seattle. 12 years ago, she and her husband had stayed at Casa Mariposa during a vacation. The owner some time later, tracked Jill and her husband down in the states and asked if they would be interested in purchasing the property. Jill’s husband was up for the challenge and the two acquired the place. Over the years, Jill explained her husband and herself had put a lot of time and thought into updating and adding onto Casa Mariposa. Her husband during the remodeling and expanding tried to keep everything as organic and natural as possible. As a result, Audrey, Hannah, and I were flabbergasted when we entered our room for the night and saw that the beds were a part of the rock.

After getting settled, Jill gave us a breakdown of the rules at Casa Mariposa and recommendations for the hike to Cerro Chirripó. She recommended that we begin at 5:00 am in the morning, which would get us to base camp in early afternoon. Luckily for us, Casa Mariposa is roughly 50 meters from the trail head, which meant we would not waste much time beginning the hike. For breakfast, she suggested something light, like oatmeal, which we had brought with us. Additionally, Jill told us what clothing pieces the three of us should have and what we could borrow from Casa Mariposa’s communal closet. Her musts were a winter hat, gloves, rain poncho, windbreaker, and a bamboo walking stick (one per person). Jill informed us of what we could buy at Casa Mariposa food-wise (boiled eggs, trail mix, etc.) and that we could pay $2 for a shower once we returned from Cerro Chirripó if we desired.

With a general game plan in mind, Hannah, Audrey, and I spent the rest of the rainy afternoon talking with the other guests at Casa Mariposa. A couple from Germany had just completed the hike, so they offered some great advice on when we should leave for sunrise at Cerro Chirripó, earlier than 3:30 am. An English couple gave some recommendations on what to do in Boquete, Panama, while there for our visa renewal. A group of ticos arrived soon after us and went to sleep promptly thereafter as they planned to begin hiking at 10:00 pm Friday night to reach the summit by sunrise Saturday at 4:45 am and then return in the afternoon on Saturday.

Because of the rain and the fact that Casa Mariposa was a 2 km walk from the town, the three of us decided to order pizza for carb-loading purposes and have it delivered. Great decision!

Hannah, me, and Audrey with our Hawaiian pizza with fresh pineapple!

After pizza, the three of us got around for bed and went to sleep around 7:30 am in anticipation of waking up at 4:00 am for breakfast and getting around.

I had a fitfull night of sleep due to nerves, anxiety, and excitement about beginning the hike. All in all, I think I managed 5ish hours of sleep. All too soon, my 4:00 am alarm went off.

Stop back tomorrow for day one of hiking!

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

Bicichocolate Tour!

Hi everyone! I know you are probably antsy in anticipation of photos and pictures of Cerro Chirripo, but I really wanted to talk about the chocolate tour I had a week ago.

Last week, myself and the rest of the ‘Group B’ Sol students went to Bicichocolate for a tour.

Bicichocolate is an artisan chocolate business run out of a house in Heredia. All of the chocolate is made by the son who has a fondness for chocolate and his mother. In order to make bicichocolate, bikes are used to mix and grind the ingredients hence the name bicichocolate.

During the first portion of the tour, the owner went through the history/discovery of chocolate. Then, we learned about how chocolate is made and sampled the cacao seeds and homemade hot chocolate. I did not realize cacao beans grow on the trunk of the tree and the seeds have a sweet fruit-type jelly coating on the outside which is edible.

After listening to the history of chocolate, our group followed the owner into the kitchen. There, he took us through the production process of the chocolate using the bicycles. A few students served as volunteers and pedaled to mix and grind the ingredients.

Once the bicycle demonstration wrapped up, we watched the chocolate be scraped into molds. While waiting for the chocolate to set in the fridge, everyone sampled little chocolates ranging in bitterness. Eventually, the chocolate in the molds were ready for eating. Everyone sampled a regular chocolate, chocolate with dulce de leche in the center, and chocolate with passion fruit in the center. The passion fruit chocolate was my favorite!

Once we finished sampling, everyone made purchases and then we headed back to the university.

A fun and interesting culture tour!

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

I am hiking the tallest peak in Costa Rica!

Well friends, I am off to hike the tallest peak in Costa Rica: Cerro Chirripó.

A few weeks ago, I talked to Hannah D. about photos I had seen of Cerro Chirripó and how cool it would be to hike the tallest peak in Costa Rica. Truly, I thought the possibility of hiking Cerro Chirripó was a pipe dream. Hannah enthusiastically responded with “I want to climb a mountain. Let’s do it!”

After an afternoon of research, she and I figured out what climbing the peak would entail: permits, accommodation, a rough timeline, etc. Then, we invited Audrey to join in on the experience as she is an avid hiker. Immediately, the three of us booked our permits and accommodation.

Cerro Chirripó is the 37th most prominent peak in the world with a height of 3,821 meters (12,536 feet). To the summit is a 19.5 kilometer (12.1 mile) hike.

On Saturday morning, we will hike the first 8 miles to the base camp where we will stay the night. At 2:00 am on Sunday morning, we will wake up and hike to the summit to watch sunrise. From there, Audrey, Hannah, and I will make our way down and take the bus back to San Jose.

Wish us luck! See you back here on Monday!

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

Uvita, Costa Rica: Day 4

Once again, I found myself awake early. This time, though, I was not rushing around. I went outside and sat in a porch chair and watched the rain fall and chatted with Hannah D. While relaxing, Rosita brought over fresh coconuts to Hannah D. and I that Benito had chopped from the tree. I savored my fresh coconut juice while I rocked in the rocking chair.

Eventually, our group of 7 made their way out. Everyone packed a peanut butter sandwich for the bus ride and loaded up their backpacks. We said goodbye and thank you to both Benito and Rosita who were so kind during our stay.

Since our bus was supposed to leave at 10:40 am and we had purchased tickets the day before, we took our time getting to the bus station. We arrived around 10:15 am and noticed a bus already in the parking lot. However, we assumed it was another bus. Much to our surprised, though, this bus was going to San Jose and the bus driver said we could hop aboard. I still to this day not 100% certain if this was our assigned bus or not. Regardless, the bus was very empty which meant we did not have to sit in our assigned seats. Additionally, the bus left 10-15 minutes early, which is very uncommon in Costa Rica.

A short 4 hours later, we arrived to San Jose. From there, our huge group walked to the Heredia buses and took the public bus back to our host city.

A wonderful first long weekend!

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

Uvita, Costa Rica: Day 3

My third day in Uvita began like the day before: very early! Audrey and I once again cooked breakfast for our group.

At 7:15 am, our group began walking towards Ballena (translation – whale) National Park for our whale watching tour with Costa Rica Dive and Surf. This tour is the reason why the whole group had decided to come to Uvita in the first place. Luckily for everyone, Audrey and her mama tica had managed to talk with the owner prior to the trip and negotiated the price to $52 from $75. Score!

Once getting checked in and paying, everyone had the opportunity to eat the “complementary” fresh fruit before our brief orientation began. Overall, the tour group was pretty small: us nine Sol students, a woman from Switzerland, and a couple from the Netherlands.

Our guide then walked with us to the National Park/beach entrance. He explained the significance behind the giant whale sculpture. Basically, all of the businesses in the area made the commitment to stop using single-use plastic on tours or in their businesses because plastic was continuing to show up on the shore. What an amazing commitment!

The plastic whale

We all walked on the beach and our guide gathered our shoes and explained the boat loaded process. Since it was so early, we were the only ones on the beach besides the tractors that were pulling the boats down to the ocean for the day.

Ballena National Park

One by one, we boarded the boat and stowed our items. The guide explained the humpback whale migration season to everyone and what we needed to look for to spot whales. For the next couple of hours, our captain drove around and everyone looked for water blowing into the air. Occasionally, our guide pointed out other wildlife or other significant landmarks that are special to Uvita. Eventually, we saw our first humpback whale!

My first humpback whale I have ever seen!

Soon after spotting whale number one, I started to feel EXTREMELY nauseous and sea sick. I guess you could say I was casualty number 2 of the day. I took the guide’s advice and fixated my stare on land for a while until my stomach settled. Then, I laid my head on the seat for the duration of the whale-watching portion of the day. In total, I believe 4-6 whales were spotted.

One by one, other students began to feel ill. 6 out of our 9 students ended up feeling sick. Those that were not sick laughed at the rest of us who had our eyes closed. The guide then made the executive decision to call the whale watching good for the day and we headed to a private beach. In our guides opinion “the prettiest beach in the world.” I do have to the say, the beach was pretty amazing!

Pura Vida!

Since our guide is local to the area and had been coming to this beach for his entire life, he recounted stories of his childhood, showed us a little waterfall, and talked about the wildlife. It was at this beach that I began to talk with the people from the Netherlands. The husband, Michele, was so kind and asked me how I was feeling. He also gave me advice on what to do to avoid getting sick. So, so, so kind!

After everyone climbed up to the little waterfall and got wet, everyone walked through a tunnel and ended up on the other side. Along the cliffs, we saw crabs scurrying here and there and in the trees we spotted howler monkeys.

Before getting back onto the boat, Michele took a group picture of everyone.

Front: Chasity and Audrey
Back: Hannah D., Ky’shun, Hannah S., Me, Maria, Kylee, and Nick

Back on the boat, everyone ate some fruit before the boat stopped again and everyone jumped into the ocean for a quick swim. Unfortunately, the water was too cloudy to see anything snorkeling. Then, we boarded the boat to head back to the national park.

Once disembarking, our guide told us we were more than welcome to drop off our items at their office where a staff member would watch them. Then, we could reenter the national park to swim. Collectively, our group took him up on the offer. Otherwise, one person would have had to watch our items while the rest swam.

After two hours at the beach playing in the waves and sand, we left the national park, grabbed our items, and headed back to the AirBnb. Once I cleaned up, I headed to the bus station with Audrey and Chasity to purchase our bus tickets for the following day and to pick up a few more items for dinner and breakfast.

We ended the night once again playing cards and talking about anything and everything.

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

Uvita, Costa Rica: Day 2

Bright and early on Friday morning, myself and Audrey cooked breakfast for our group of 7 girls (two girls came to Uvita after the five of us).

On day one of our long weekend, our group decided to visit Nauyaca Waterfalls. Since there was not Uber or taxis, Benito had called some people the night before to arrange transportation for us for an unknown cost.

After picking up two other group members at their hostel, our group of nine settled into the vehicles for the 30-minute drive. The two drivers parked at the ticket office where we all paid $9 USD/Costa Rican colones equivalent admission price to receive our wristbands. With our wristbands fastened on, everyone hopped back into their respective vehicle and the drivers took us to the beginning of the trail head. There, the drivers told us the cost of the taxi ride…$160 USD. Eeeek!! Luckily, since there was 9 of us in total, each portion equated to $17 each. It was also at this time that I realized I did not have my SD card in my camera. Sigh.

Once everyone slathered on their sunscreen, we began the hike to the waterfalls. The 1.5 hour hike was difficult and easy all at the same time. There were steep portions, flat portions, muddy portions, and unrelenting heat. I was dripping sweat. What I loved most about the hike is that it provided great time to talk with other Sol students who I do not have class with every day. I felt like I got to know everyone a little better.

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Beautiful hiking views!

Eventually, part of our group made it to the first portion of Nayumaca. Immediately, the air temperature changed and I felt so much cooler! Some group members had fallen behind/encouraged the rest of us to walk ahead. This portion of the falls is the more dangerous of the two, which means you cannot swim only take photos and admire the scenery.

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I could admire this view all day!

After snapping photos, myself and Hannah D. walked to the other portion of the falls where you can swim to snap photos and wait for the rest of the group. What I loved about this portion of the falls is that you can see the top portion (where we were previously) flow into the portion where you can swim. A simply breathtaking view!

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So spectacular!
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Floppy hat picture: Me, Audrey, and Hannah D.

Once everyone reapplied sunscreen, we made our way down the slippery rocks to swim! Luckily for us, Nayumaca had an employee who helped visitors in and out of the water. Without help, there is no way I would have been able to do so on my own.

Our entire group lounged in the refreshing cool water for a couple of hours taking in the view and chatting. There were other tourists present, but not so many that the area felt overcrowded.

Eventually, we all reluctantly exited. All 9 of us basked in the sun and enjoyed our packed lunches while the sound of the falls rushed in our ears. Before beginning the hike back, we took one last (almost whole) group picture.

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Front: Maria and Chasity
Back: Audrey, Hannah D, Ky’shun, me, and Hannah S.

The hike back seemed to go much faster. I think this is because I felt so much cooler. Our drivers arrived at 2:00 pm and drove us back to our AirBnb.

From there, some students decided to rest. Others, like me, decided to explore a bit and pick up some groceries and go in search of an SD card.

In the evening, we cooked dinner and afterwards chatted and played cards.

A wonderful first day!

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

Uvita, Costa Rica: Day 1

On Thursday October 10, I headed to Uvita, Costa Rica, with 8 other Sol Students for the first of my three long weekends.

Uvita is a beach town located southwest of San Jose in the Puntarenas province. If traffic is good, the bus ride is around 4 hours long.

After class, I Ubered to the bus station in San Jose with two of the group members: Hannah S. and Audrey. We decided to Uber to save on time because we needed to purchase our bus tickets. Depending on the bus company, bus tickets can sometimes be purchased online. For our bus to Uvita, we needed to purchase them in person, which meant we needed to arrive at least an hour before our desired bus.

Once we three arrived to the station, we went to the window to purchase the tickets. Audrey spoke with the ticket teller in Spanish and said on multiple occasions that we wanted to get on the 1:00 pm bus. After purchasing our tickets, we sat down to eat our packed lunches and to wait for the other two girls who were riding with us: Chasity and Ky’shun.

Eventually, our whole group made it to the station. Anxiously, the five of us listened to the intercom announcements waiting to hear our bus, but we never heard “Uvita.” Audrey and I went to the ticket teller to ask about our bus since it was almost 1:00 pm. To our surprise, the ticket teller told us we had missed our 12:15 pm bus. Apparently, the request for the 1:00 pm bus got lost in the translation. Unfortunately, the 1:00 pm bus was full. For free and for one time only, the ticket teller switched our tickets for the 2:00 pm bus to Uvita.

When 2:00 pm rolled around, our whole group got on the bus and settled in four the 4 hour bus ride.

Around 6:00 pm, the bus made it to Uvita. Our whole group disembarked and worked on calling an Uber because it was raining and dark. However, we soon learned Uber did not exist in Uvita and Uvita did not have any taxis. As a result, our group made the 30-minute walk in the dark to the AirBnb.

Upon arrival to the AriBnb, the groundskeeper graciously showed us around and offered to take us to the cheap nearby grocery store with his daughter. While we grocery shopped, Benito and Rosita both waited for the 5 of us to buy what we needed for the weekend. Once finished, everyone walked back together.

We topped off the night by eating dinner and talking before heading to sleep.

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo