Saturday, February 27, 2010

We Were Tourists

About noon today we got new of the earthquake in Concepcion, Chile. Our thoughts and prayers are with our friends there. We are in Costa Rica on this trip but the original plan was to be in Chile, and if we were there we would very likely have been in Concepcion today....

Yesterday we did some real touristy things, and I was skeptical, but the canopy tour with zip-lines in the cloud forest was a real rush! There were 14 lines and the longest one was a kilometer long. We had a guy in our group who runs a challenge course in the US and he assured us that the safety procedures here were not near as stringent as they are in Oregon, but no one fell that we saw. Take a look at this video to get an idea what it was like:

AND, if you really want to hear Kathy scream, play this one:

In the afternoon, the girls toured a coffee plantation, and had a great time with Don Juan, the founder/flirt of the plantation. They found out all about coffee production, and heard a really convincing story about why Don Juan is not a fair trade plantation (apparently there is a rather high fee for certification and is too expensive for such a small plantation -- they actually pay higher wages than required to be considered fair trade).

Today we went on a hike to a great little water fall south of Monteverde. It was a short hike, but the view was spectacular. I even went for a swim. It is hard to believe that the water can be this cold in the tropics!

This afternoon I went up into the Monteverde Biological Preserve in hopes of seeing a quetzal. I did not see one but I had a great guide and added about 10 new birds to my list.

Kathy and Linnea went to the Monteverde cheese factory (that is really how we ended up here-- Linnea is always looking for the new culinary experience.) This area was settled by Quakers who objected to registering for the draft following World War II and 4 of the founding members were sent to federal prison for one year and a day. They immigrated to this country because at the same time Costa Rica abolished their army following their civil war.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

From Hot and Dry to Wet and Cold

We left the heat of the Nicoya Peninsula and headed for the cloud forest in Monteverde. We took the ferry over to Puntarenas (Ty, the ferry really wasn't all that scary, not all that different than the ones we took in the San Juan's). We had an other flat tire, but it didn't take all that long to fix. I think they are pretty common here :-)

From Puntarenas we headed up the mountins into the cloud forest around Monteverde and Santa Elena. We found a nice funky place to stay and the folks seem a lot more down to earth than the rather stiff Belgians that were our hosts at Cabuya.

Tonight we did a night hike in the cloud forest near where we are staying. It was a great hike, but we did not see all that all that much in terms of wildlife. The interesting thing about this cloud forest was how similar it is to what we know. They have the the same raccoon we have, there are raspberries, and blackberries, along with some really exotic species too like toucans, and anteaters.

Tomorrow we are going to participate in what has to be a Costa Rican tradition-- the canopy tour with zip line descest all the time innts. It is the only thing that Alysson says she will be disappointed if we don't do.

(Joel, you might notice what it missing in this picture-- hint it rains almost all the time in cloud forests too).

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What a difference a day makes

It is amazing how our perception of a place can change! When we got to Cabuya, we were tired and crabby from a 12+ hour long drive on rough roads. Finding a less than wonderful place to stay, meant that we were more than ready to head further down the 4x4 path in the morning. When we found Mal Pais to be a little too touristy for us and it looked like the whole west coast was going to be pretty much the same, we came back and found a better place to stay right on the ocean and a new appreciation for Cabuya!

We found a nice beach with almost no other people on it to spend a few hours. We ate mangos with our feet in the ocean and the occasional wave splashing them with salt. It was a good afternoon with only a little bit of sunburn.

Today we drove down the end of the road on the Nicoya Peninsula and did a hike in Cabo Blanco National Park. The hike was not all that far, about 5 miles round trip, but it was steep and hot, (so yes John and Kat, I am considering this a level 4+ hill workout). We saw several blue morpho butterflies on the way. There was a nice beach at the end of the trail, so it was a nice way to cool off half-way through the hike. I was able to get a little visibility snorkeling and saw some interesting fish. This is not a coral reef area, and I was surprised how little there was in terms of aquatic life.

Tomorrow, we head over toward Monteverde and the cloud forests there.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Little More Time To Blog

I have a little more time to blog now that we are not in a German coffee shop in the middle of a 400 km drive on Costa Rican roads, some of which might be considered single track, if I were on my mountain bike. We are so thankful for the recommendations that our host at Alajuela Tropical Hostel gave us. They have really made the trip! The waterfall at Baja del Toro and the lodge at Laguna del Largarta where fantastic.

I think one of my favorite photos so far was on this green basilisk. It is one of those lizards that can run across the water, but this one was doing to squirrel on the back side of the tree thing with me :-)

We have been seeing birds here that I have always wanted to see, and here they are fly right up the the perches that the folks at Laguna del Lagarta have right in front of the deck where they serve food. Yesterday's drive was a long time in the car (like 12 hours) and on these roads that was a little long even for me. When we finally got to Cabuya, the place we found on the internet was not all that great, The "junglow" felt like it was going to fall down, we had planned to stay here for several nights but decided to leave in the morning to find a better place in Mal Pais. As it turns out Mal Pais is a big surfing town like Tamarindo and it seemed a little too much like a tropical version of Hayward WI (not that we don't like Hayward, it is just that we were looking for something a little more remote, and peaceful.) We ended up back in Cabuya at a place just down the road that is run by a Belgian couple and it is just grand.

I promised a few more pictures:
Green and Black Poison Dart Frog

Our guide said this was called the Red Hot Lips Flower in English but it has a different name in Spanish if you happen to know our travelling companion Alysson you might ask her, and while you are at it you could ask about some of the subtle differences between Mexican Spanish Costa Rica Spanish :-)
On the way to Cabuya we ran across a family of howler Monkeys. A different family kept us wake during the night :-)If you know Kathy very well, you know how unusual a shot like this is, but it was really hot....

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Long Way Out!

We left Alajuela early in the morning on Saturday and headed North. Talking to Alanzo, out host we decided to by-pass La Fortuna and head to Baja del Toro, a waterfall that he recommended because it did not have as many people as the one at La Fortuna. It was a gorgeous place! A 150 meter fall, and a rather aggressive hike (especially back uphill) to get there and back.

We stayed at the lodge/restaurant where the people were quite nice, Alysson met a new friend, and apart from some major sparks from the Central American shower in our room. It was a great night!

In the morning, we took a chance and headed further north almost to the Nicaraguan border to another place that Alanzo told us about. We had sent them an email to see if they had room for us but we were not able to get online so we didn't know if the 40 km drive on the road with coconut sized gravel was going to yield us a place to stay or not.

We got the last 2 rooms at La Laguna del Lagarto Lodge. We had an exceptional hike in the rain forest, seeing many poison dart frogs, a couple of species of Toucan, and OMG, a nesting Great Green Macaw! There are only about 200 left in the wild and maybe 30 breeding pairs.

That night they had a cayman feeding event. Pretty amazing, the German speaking Tico would call them out of the lagoon and up they would come for some chicken scraps.

Hopefully we will have wireless tonight so that I can say some more and post some more photos!

Friday, February 19, 2010

The View From Last Class

Well, we got our Costa Rica tickets through Cheapo Air, and I am thinking they lived up to their name, the seats were not all the inexpensive, but they were a little cheap, seeing as how two of the three flights that it took to get here we sat in the very last row of the plane (as far from first class as you can get). There advantages and disadvantages to being in the last row. On the positive side you don't have far to go to get to the restroom, but on the down side, you are right next to the restroom (if you know what I mean). On the positive side you get to see them getting the drink and snacks ready, but on the down side, you also get to see them roll that cart all the way to the front and slowly work there way back to you while you are hoping they won't run out before they get back to you.

We got to CR a little late and when we got to the car rental place, they didn't have the 4 wheel drive that we reserved, so they gave us a Prius with the assurance that they will deliver our mid-sized 4x4 in the morning. So we will see.

Tomorrow we are head up north to La Fortuna and the volcanos and hot springs!