Sunday, May 13, 2012 1:30:35 AM
Saturday 5 May, 2012. We're touring one last time in Alajuela, and leaving Costa Rica in the afternoon. We'll be home Sunday evening.
We were drawn to the square near our hotel, that faces the Alajuela Cathedral.
We spotted a man who looked typical under his bright white hat.
And we crossed the square and there was a little girl with a pink polo shirt and her abuelo who were busy feeding pigeons. Hundreds of pigeons. People were gathering around them and watching. She was so happy and he was so proud. The grand-father poured a few crumbs on the little girl's head and soon both of them were assailed by birds.
Attracted by the commotion, squirrels crept down a tree nearby. I didn't think so many squirrels could populate a single tree. They wanted their fair share, of course. And children and adults were happy to deliver.
Vlad was close to one, extended his hand and the squirrel sniffed the empty hand before trying someone else.
Each squirrel would snatch the food and hop back on the tree trunk and climb someplace to eat, wary of other hungry squirrels.
Back to the little girl with the pink polo shirt. She decided the pigeons were more rewarding and got back to them. This is her, holding a plastic bag full or crumbs, proudly leading hundreds of pigeons. Such a happy face.
But we wanted to explore Alajuela again, since it had been raining the day before and there was sun on that fine morning. We walked for two hours and a half, not very fast, and spotted six churches and four soccer fields. And we explored only a fraction of the city!
We followed a man who was pushing his cart on the road. We had seen several of them already. He seemed to sell drinks and snacks. What we had also seen in other places through the country, are people at street lights selling bagged fruit or vegetables that they hold in both hands, and even shrimps in a bucket.
Another thing that striked me compared to where we live, was how prettier their advertising posters and paintings are. Except in San José and Cartago, cities have modest posters and advertising paintings that appeal to me far more than the industrial, gigantic printed ones. Here's the advertisement, painted on corrugated iron, for a car wash and parking, and much more, it appears.
We got back to our hotel, via a part of town that was more spacious and nearly deserted. Maybe it was that people were eating lunch. I had the feeling we had the streets all to ourselves. Here is a bright blue minivan parked in front of a house where people sold pineapple, 3 for 1000 colones ($2).
And here is the outside of the fruteria Las Delicias.
Soon after, we checked out and hopped in a taxi. The fare was supposed to be around $6, but when I asked the driver, at the airport, what he said in Spanish sounded like 13,000.00 colones. I realized, but too late, that he had probably said 3,000. Ahem... I gave him 11,000.00 and was looking for more when he gestured it was enough. Then he seemed to be looking in his wallet either for change or for a receipt, and we were getting our backpacks. Since he wasn't handing us anything we said good bye and left. He followed us with his eyes. This is when I realized he had let us give him nearly twice what he wanted. Oh well. He had been a decent and friendly driver.
And before 5 p.m., we left Costa Rica, relaxed although tired, and our heads full of extraordinary memories. We had wanted to visit that country for years and we were not disappointed at all. Vlad did a wonderful job organising the trip, choosing the route, selecting places and lodges. It was such a great vacation.
Saturday, May 12, 2012 1:15:44 AM
Friday 4 May, 2012. We're leaving Lapa Rios lodge in the beautiful and preserved Osa Peninsula. José, who drove us there four days ago, drove us back, as well as two other people from the lodge who needed to be in Puerto Jiménez. José spotted a caiman on the way; we had told them how foolish we had felt the day before, standing only meters away from one and joking we had yet to see a caiman.
We were in Puerto Jiménez at 11 a.m. and had over an hour to spare till we needed to board our flight. It is a small city by the golfo dulce (because the ocean water is "sweetened" by much river water). We walked in streets, few of which were in asphalt concrete, circled towards the waterfront and back to the airfield.
The plane was even smaller than the small one we took four days prior, however, the flight was devoid of any air pocket and I enjoyed it even more. We flew to Golfito where a few passengers got off and a few others boarded, and then we took off for San José. It was all so very lovely from above.
We were going to spend a night, the last one, in Alajuela, which is the closest city next to the San José airport. It was raining but not a lot and we spent our time improvising a tour, taking pictures of what we found beautiful (and I took a lot of pictures).
After sunset, we found ourselves near the Alajuela Cathedral and went inside. It was very pretty. Vivid colours, some parts painted as fake marble, a narrow but long vaulted ceiling with several biblical scenes painted in bright colours, rows of white neon lights. We were intrigued that there was a band inside, tuning their instruments and rehearsing. And there was a steady flow of people, all dressed up, who were coming in. Was it going to be mass or was there going to be a wedding, we wondered. After more than an hour, mass hadn't started, more people kept coming in, and the band had rehearsed tunes and songs a couple of times. We felt sort of out of place, not dressed up and while we were respectful of the place and people, it had been mostly curiosity that made us stay. So we left. We found a bar and had a drink (Imperial bier for Vlad, tequila sunrise for me). We walked by the cathedral again an hour or so afterwards and mass was taking place. The big cathedral was filled up. I don't know if they were celebrating something particular of this is their regular Friday mass, but I was impressed. I suspect the former, as there was a crew filming, a master of ceremony with a microphone, one cleric dressed in golden-coloured clothes and a dozen others dressed in white.
Thursday, May 10, 2012 12:49:00 AM
Thursday 3 May, 2012. Third day at Lapa Rios in the Osa Peninsula. A day of adventure, like I wrote yesterday as a teaser. The helpful staff at Lapa Rios had asked whether they could help us make arrangements or provide information, so we told them we were keen on a day tour in the Corcovado and had heard there was a bus going to Carate and it would be helpful if they had more information. They said the bus in question was called "colectivo" (or camion) and wasn't a bus strictly speaking. It is a truck and behind the cab the passengers area is made of wooden planks as floor, two long benches and this is covered with a tarp. I think most of the lodge staff came to us over the two days prior to make sure this is how we really wanted to travel. One of them even said it could be a traumatic experience (sic). We thought we would live through it. We actually enjoyed it, being a one-time experiment.
We woke up at 5.45 a.m. to prepare ourselves, get an early breakfast (again, the staff was kind enough to accommodate us, as the kitchen normally opens at 7), and be by the country road before 7 a.m. with one of the staff members, Eli, who wanted to make sure we were on the right track and find out from the driver when and where we had to be to make it back to the lodge on the same day ;) We paid the flat fare ($8 per person for a single ticket), climbed inside and waved Eli good bye. With us were four or five locals and four other young tourists.
It was a long trip, all in all, 1h30 for something like 20 km. It had been bumpy, some rough patches even hurt our back. The truck passed through water (either rivers, or puddles big as small ponds), climbed steep rocky hills at the speed of the sloth, but the driver was pretty good, I found. We arrived in Carate around 8:30 a.m.
It was already hot outside and the weather was gorgeous on that day, with sun and big white clouds. We needed to walk on the beach forever to reach La Leona, where the entrance of the Corcovado National Park was. The beach was splendid. We wondered why nobody was either sunbathing or swimming. We later heard there were rip currents. And sharks.
After an hour of walk along the beach we reached La Leona, gave our tickets to the guard and mumbled something about high-tide around noon, crossing the river, "walking two hours". We nodded and took off, it was nearly 10. We entered a forest by the beach but were walking on a trail in the woods. There was something peculiar about the light during the morning. I think it had to do with the very fine mist created by the breaking waves which crept inside the forest and was visible when met by the sun. I saw beautiful sunbeams through the trees. We soon saw capuchin monkeys, at eye level and only a few meters away from us. This appears to be a favourite position:
We found ourselves at the river the guard had mentioned. It wasn't noon already but the waves met the water of the river. We took off our walking shoes and socks, rolled up our trousers and waded in waters that weren't too deep (mid-sheen) but reached our knees when a wave was breaking. We met a couple of trekkers who tipped us that there was a Baird's tapir near the Cementerio Madrigal and they explained how to find the place, not far from where we were. We were looking for a smaller animal than it actually was (my idea of a tapir was that it was as big as a cat, and Vlad thought it was the size of a dog). Then I saw it. Huge. The height of a poney, the bulk of pot-bellied pig, the feet of an elephant and a dinosaur, the ears of a hippo and that snout which is so distinctive.
We came a little too close to the tapir who went away. We followed. Then Vlad spotted an anteater in a tree. This too, was larger, longer, and bigger than we thought. It was really beautiful. Alas, it was pretty active, moved a lot and at some point we couldn't keep up.
We were near the beach and walked to it. Perfect place to picnic. The Lapa Rios staff prepared sandwiches, crips and cakes.
At 1 p.m. we resolved to turn back and take our time. We had to be in Carate where the colectivo had dropped us by 4 p.m. (or spend the night and catch the next one on the next morning). The light has changed. Less over-exposed. But the mist and sunbeams were gone. We crossed the Rio Madrigal again.
The spider webs in the forest were beautiful, strong, small, tightly woven, and there were many of them. Some bare branches even looked like a whole dream catcher with the amount of spider webs they bore. We saw several golden orb spiders (they're the length of my index finger):
Vlad spotted a squirrel for the second time on that day. This one was reasonably close to us. It was busy munching wood (isn't there good acorn in Corcovado, I ask?), checking on us from a distance every now and then.
Then I spotted a black-throated male trogon on a low branch. It was splendid!
We resumed our walk but stopped almost immediately; I had spotted a black and green dart frog:
Again, we resumed walking but soon stopped under a group of capuchin monkeys with their young. One appeared to smile at me. And then I wondered, was it a smile or was it baring its teeth at me. The latter, most likely. I went from "awww, look, it's smiling at us!" to "wait, this isn't a pretty smile". So here's a non-threatening monkey, looking up at a young one (the baby isn't in the photo):
We exited the forest (and the boundary of the Corcovado) after 2 p.m. and braced for the long walk along the beach, under the sun. We stopped mid-way next to a pond to watch the Jesus Christ lizards run on the water. What a singular spectacle. The spot was lovely. With no wind, there were palm trees reflected in the water. We took a little break. Vlad joked that the one thing we hadn't seen was the caiman. The next instant, there was a swift movement and a splash --a caiman was there, not 3 meters away from us! We were so certain there wouldn't be one (we had inspected the pond edges on the way to the park in the morning), that we didn't think to check again. Oh, the idiots. On the photo I took of the spot, we can see a dark shape by the water, behind a log, it is the caiman (I have increased the contrast in post-processing to make it a little bit more obvious, but still it is a fraction of the photo, and this made me think of where is Waldo).
We laughed at ourselves for a while, and kept walking back to Carate. At the end of the beach, there was one last beautiful animal in plain view. A yellow-headed caracara was perched on a low bare branch not far from us:
We reached Carate at 3.40 p.m., with ample time for drinks and reflection. What a great day. It was as though every animal we had seen had been planted there for us to admire. The colectivo was a little late and we were back at the Lapa Rios lodge shortly after sunset, 5.45 p.m.
We were greeted, like a couple days prior, with wet hand towels and fruit cocktails. And then it made sense. Both were totally welcome and highly appropriate. The staff asked us how it was, they looked worried but not for long, we looked and were delighted.
Tuesday, May 8, 2012 11:35:33 PM
Wednesday 2 May, 2012. The morning of the second day at Lapa Rios, I got to see the sun rise. It wasn't yet 5:30 a.m. and surfers were already in the water between the pan dulce playa and the backwash playa. Two of them. I sat on the deck and sipped coffee, took photographs of what was around me. In the tree above the roof, there was a big iguana which had been there already the day before. It had barely moved. It was partially hidden by foliage but in the morning sun its colours were splendid. There were hummingbirds in the little garden trees by the deck. And butterflies. Pelicans which crossed the sky between the forest and the beach. None of the photos are good enough to post, though. So here is our bungalow as seen from the deck:
It occurred to me that morning, and at other times during the trip, that while one is busy taking a photograph of something, there is often a sound that disrupts the whole process, because one knows this is something else worth photographing. I sipped more coffee with Vlad around 6:30 a.m. when he woke up (the slacker).
We had decided to go down to the beach again before breakfast and left at 7:30. Pan dulce playa and Backwash playa:
There were several surfers, by now. Here is one who was smiling (perhaps it isn't obvious on the small photo):
From the beach this is the view we had on the bungalows:
On our way and at the beach, we saw spider monkeys, crabs, scarlet macaws, a black vulture. We left in time to get breakfast up-hill at the lodge, and came back down. On our way, we finally spotted the sloth in one of the trees. A naturalist had told us the day prior that a sloth had been spotted in that tree and there was a good chance it was there. But the tree was quite tall and not exactly bare of leaves. Anyway, there it was, far up, and we saw its fur. For a good while we could not guess in which position it was. We were pretty sure its back was facing us and this is it. After some time, it moved slowly. One has to see it to reckon how slow the movements are. We distinguished an arm and guessed where his head was. We knew this was a male; we had heard from a guide in Manuel Antonio national park, that male sloth have a black strip along the neck. We were keen to wait to see more of him. I was thinking of my good friend Amy who is endeared by sloth. Eventually, he showed us his face:
We had spent so much time there that returning to the beach wasn't a plan anymore. We indulged in lazing around for a bit at the bungalow and went for lunch. Food was delicious there. I can't think of any good reason to miss a meal at Lapa Rios ;) All the more reason that from the deck next to the tables we had seen many birds and animals. And there happened to be spider monkeys, albeit a bit far:
In the afternoon we went back down-hill along the edge of the rainforest. We meant to walk on the country road a good while and reach a flat area with fields and a river, where we expected to see herons, birds of prey and possibly a caiman. But we didn't since we spotted so many other animals after travelling only a short distance --a yellow-headed gecko with a blue body, the sloth again (which was apparently sleeping and had shifted position a bit, he was sitting and bundled and his arms were hugging a branch and his head seemed to be rested between his folded arms). We also saw an agouti which we sort of tracked as it progressed in the forest parallel to our trail. A little farther down, Vlad spotted a blue-crowned motmot, a lovely colourful bird with a long tail which tip resembles two rackets.
We went into the forest, instead of going to the plain. We were looking for a waterfall but had no idea where it was. We crossed a river but couldn't progress on the side of the river we thought we could find the waterfall. We saw more vegetation than wildlife, to the exception of ants with a big yellow abdomen that looked almost golden. Some of the trees had colours on the bark that made me think of camouflage. Here is Vlad next to one of them, a big one:
We found ourselves on the path we had taken the night before with the guide. We easily found the tarantula nest. Vlad couldn't resist; he grabbed a thin stick and did as the naturalist had done to coax the spider out. He lightly touched the mesh of thin web outside and around the edges of the nest --hairy brown legs darted out to attack the stick. Guillermo had described this as fishing. So Vlad fished the tarantula out. It took him a couple of minutes. Well done.
As the guide had said, it was too bad we didn't have a grasshopper for the spider, as it had really earned it. I wasn't going to find it myself, scared as I am of insects. Again, I was so eager to be out of the forest. It was going to be sunset soon and this part of the forest was already getting dark.
The sunset colours were pretty. I can't believe it took us two days to look for them.
The dinner time and evening were rich in emotions. During dinner a huge brown grasshopper decided to land on my back and stay there until Vlad carefully took it away. Already the night prior at dinner, a couple of lizards had landed on my hand from a beam in the ceiling and they scared me, but I didn't freak out about the lizards as much as I did about the grasshopper. Then we walked to the bungalow, where I went straight in while Vlad stayed outside and walked further down to look for tree frogs or poison dart frogs. As soon as I closed the door I noticed another big brown grasshopper which was on the door, inside the bungalow. I called Vlad and asked him to come save me again, which he did. Whew. But that wasn't all. A few minutes afterwards I spotted a big black cockroach inside one of the white mosquito nets that surround the beds. That wasn't all, there was another one, one of the kind that is wide, long, flat and brown. It was at eye level, on the mosquito net that served as separation between inside and outside the bungalow. Both of them were immobile. So I did that too, at a safe distance from each of them, and surveyed them till Vlad returned and was my hero again.
The week prior in the mountains, a huge green grasshopper flew straight to me cheek and landed next to me on the bench. There has to be a law that the insects will go to those who are scared of them. If Vlad had similar experiences during our stay, either I wasn't around when it happened, or he didn't make a big deal out of it and didn't tell me at all ;)
We're now back where insects are minuscule and I can tell that these don't scare me as much as they did pre-Costa Rica. Last night even, I ushered a spider outside. Yay, me. End of the insect phobia rant.
Closing statement of the entry at hand. Our next day in the Osa Peninsula was going to be quite an adventure and this is a story for next time.
Tuesday, May 8, 2012 2:17:31 PM
Lovely morning. I was up early but not early enough to see the sun rise. Still, as the sun was rising to reach the layer of clouds that hung over us all day, the view at that time was really pretty:
This day was devoted to spotting wildlife, as was the early night since we had signed up for the lodge night walk with young naturalist Guillermo.
During breakfast one of the naturalists came in the main bungalow, holding a small coral snake on the back on his hand:
We thought this had to be the non-poisonous fake coral snake, which pattern of coloured rings differs from the venomous one. But it was the Costa Rica coral snake. It was just still too little to be able to bite. The naturalist let it go on the ground next to us, where it tried to hide under Vlad's flip flop, and then under a rock. A bit later, it was about to slither away:
We decided to walk down to the beach. On our way we saw a young green iguana:
And we saw a couple of coati mundi in a mango tree, hunting for fruit. Here is one:
We ventured away from the country road into what we thought was a short cut to the beach but was in fact a private property, and back-tracked. But I stole (snapped) a few photos, including a pineapple, a bungalow, and a beautiful red hibiscus flower that looks like a Christmas tree bauble:
At the beach our attention was drawn to a tree that was squawking. Several scarlet macaw were perched and as we drew closer we saw them through the foliage. Here is one holding in its beak what it was going to tear to pieces and eat (almond), and the same bird flying away later in a blur of red and blue feathers:
We also saw a mangrove black hawk perched on a palm tree and surveying the beach:
Back up the hill to the main bungalow. After lunch we observed a couple of Swainson toucans who were pretty close to where we were on the deck:
The sun sets around half past five and it gets dark shortly after 6 p.m. We were at the naturalists' station for a night walk around one of the trails in the reserve. There were two other people with us, and Guillermo, the guide. The walk lasted almost two hours and near the end, I was glad I was doing it, but *so* ready to be out of the woods, away from its insect diversity. Here is is impressive list of what the guide spotted to show us: giant brown grasshopper, gaudy leaf frogs, basilisks, Jesus Christ lizards, a weird-looking angular black insect from the same family of the scorpion, wolf spiders, jumping spiders, asleep blue-throated female trogon, baby scorpion, Fer-de-lance snake, and finally, a tarantula.
And since we're at the chapter of the night residents, here is a large moth (its width was about the length of my hand) that I photographed the day before:
After the emotion, we were ready for civilization, dinner and we rewarded ourselves with red wine from Chile.
Monday, May 7, 2012 6:29:23 PM
I used all the data of my Kolbi SIM card pretty quickly, hence the interruption in the flow. We're back home since last night. I'm now catching up.
Monday 30 April 2012, we left Savegre Albergue de Montaña under the fog and drove to the city to return the rental car. The drive took almost three hours. After so many days away from cities, it was a bit of shock --all the animation and traffic. San José itself was crazy. Not only was there a lot of traffic at mid-day, but we drove past three accidents although people don't speed that much (none of the accidents seemed serious, fortunately). At this intersection, for example, a truck had collided into a car (not visible in the photo), and while policemen were taking measurements, the traffic was taking place around them, both on the road and on the sidewalk visible at the right of the truck:
The car rental guy agreed to drive us to Tobias Bolaños international airport, a very small airport. So small that it didn't have a bar or cafeteria, not even vending machines. We were starving. It occurred to me to try to catch one of the big birds or climb the giant mango tree and pick ripe fruit. But we just sat outside in the shade, enjoying the breeze, killing time. We were going to travel very soon in the blue plane:
The plane in question was a Twin Otter, and it wasn't the smallest of the airline (since we flew in a smaller plane on the way back). About 15 passengers boarded around 3 p.m. and soon we took off. It was really impressive, more impressive than the usual big airliner. It wasn't scary or anything (at least, not for me; I don't want to tell on him, but this isn't necessarily true for Vlad), the plane lift off quickly but not as high as big airliners do. So we had time to see the immense San José under us getting smaller and smaller, but it is such a large city that the entertainment lasted a while:
Then the city went away and came the hills and their curvy ochre country roads, and meandering rivers between hills, and then clouds. We flew through clouds and above them. At some point during the 50-minute flight the pilots couldn't avoid a series of air pockets. It lasted just long enough for my body to prepare to get sick (that is, five long minutes), and then to be glad it was over.
We landed in Puerto Jiménez, right behind the seafront and next to a cemetery very similar to those we saw in Guadeloupe last year, with white and black tiles decorating or protecting graves. We were going to be in the Osa Peninsula for 4 days, staying at the Lapa Rios Lodge, a luxurious ecolodge of 16 bungalows, for which we got a special offer. But first there was a short stay at the local office of the lodge, where we were greeted with a local drink --agua de pipa (coconut milk) and banana cake (very nice):
Then we set for a forty-minute ATV drive, as Lapa Rios is 18 km south of Puerto Jiménez. On the road, our driver showed us three big birds --crested caracaras, one young and two adults--, some monkeys in the trees, and a juvenile blue heron. When we reached the lodge there were two members of the lodge staff to greet us with wet hand towels and cocktails of fruit juice. How nice and unexpected.
We were then given a short tour and introduction, and were taken to our bungalow. It was dusk, there was still enough light to discover the view from the deck; long big waves in Cabo Matapalo, behind a thick forest:
Monday, April 30, 2012 3:22:40 PM
We're near San Gerardo de Dota, in the mountains, and it's quite cold except in the sun. We even lit the fire in the room at night.
The weather is splendid in the morning and we set on a walk yesterday, looking for quetzals. We were told about a couple nesting not far from the lodge, by the dirt track.
On the way, we saw tall trees covered in moss and epiphytes.
And some birds, too. Although we heard many more than we saw, a species of woodpecker was all over the place. Here's one at the entrance of a hole in a tree.
We kept walking toward the small church and soon enough we spotted a group of people with a guide by the fence of the dirt track. A binocular was aimed at the top of a beheaded tree, some twenty meters away. Two long green and blue quetzal feathers emerged of a hole in the trunk --the nest, and were flying in the breeze.
The group had been here for a while already and they had been lucky to see the male quetzal outside of the nest, ruffling its feathers in the sun. The guide said the female would be back shortly, as she goes away between 45 and 60 minutes and then the male can leave.
Our wait was interrupted by the thunderous and surprising sound of horses galloping. Seven or eight horses were coming at us at high speed. My 100-300 lens was fitted on the camera and I could photograph but details of them as there was a curve near us and they soon disappeared.
The wait continued. After an hour, the group left. The female should have been back a half hour prior and the people had other things to do. We waited some more. A little wile afterwards, we saw the head of the male quetzal emerging from the nest, looking in every directions. I took a few photos and suddenly it plunged and flew away behind foliage. We never saw him again and thus, couldn't get a picture of its full body.
The female had to be back sooner or later... A half hour later I spotted a bird landing in the distance, zoomed in and it was her. Green with a medium length tail that appeared spotted or striped. She ruffled her feather and I noticed some red below her chest, under her otherwise green feathers. She stayed on that high branch in the distance for 25 minutes before she flew to the nest at noon.
Soon after, she got into the hole, hidden from view. We didn't see the young. Her head and upper body emerged 45 minutes afterwards, she looked left, right, top, tilted her head a few times, and went back in. We waited some more. By now the weather had worsened. It was raining slightly. Woodpeckers were still flying from one tree to another, entertaining us. Here are three aligned on a bare branch.
We decided to wait till 1.30 p.m. and leave, weather we see the male again or not. And we didn't. Meh. The rain was coming down harder anyway.
The mountain had been pretty in the sun, but in the rain, with low hazy clouds visible, it was even prettier.
It was pouring rain by the time we reached the lodge. We rewarded ourselves with lunch; it was 2 p.m. Sheltered by the roof outside we looked at hummingbirds, mostly black ones with a straight long beak, but also green ones with a curvy beak.
Monday, April 30, 2012 2:29:18 AM
We left Manuel Antonio under a pale sun and after a breakfast of gallo pinto (white rice and black beans) with ham and eggs. Here is a photo of the ocean above a red corrugated iron house roof and a hedge of red hibiscus:
We were driving on the CN34 between Matapalo and Barú when a flock of big birds in a dirt field caught Vlad's attention. We stopped on the side and saw dozens of black vultures. Some were perched on chopped wood, others on a fence, and the rest was in the field, packed. We approached slowly and they let us within five meters of them.
On the road again but not for long. Soon we reached Dominical. The view from the bridge that crosses the river Barú was astounding. We saw big water birds (a grey heron, an egret) and stopped, but soon we saw an aracari (a sort of toucan), and beyond the river there was the ocean and big waves.
We stayed two hours between the river and Playa Dominical, photographing leafcutter ants, cormorants, basilisks, a green heron, black vultures, crabs, brown pelicans. I leaned so close to the female basilisk that I can see the shape of my body reflected in her eye.
Then we drove on a track next to the river Barú, wondering if we'd see crocodiles, as there were signs warning against them. Also, openstreetmap didn't have that track. It was about 3 km long and when it stopped, it did at the river, steeply. We parked. Soon after, a pick-up truck crossed the river. It was impressive. We walked a bit along the river. Vlad saw a little crocodile but it dived immediately and we never saw it again. I photographed a tiny brown frog, flowers, etc. and Vlad, crossing a ford in the 4WD, of course.
Back on the road, more curves, more bumpy tracks, more rivers crossed, including the Rio Savegre. I was in awe in front of a tree next to a house by a bridge crossing the Rio Savegre. A tall tree bare of leaves but full of pink blossom. Here, see:
Before and after the big city of San Isidro the road kept winding and climbing, except that after San Isidro, it was called a highway. That is, one lane each, limited speed of 50 Kph, with many big trucks that drove well above the limit, in both directions. We passed through small villages, watched the very green pastures, forests, in the sun and above clouds.
Then we were in the clouds. Around 6 p.m. the clouds around us had a pink or orange glow. It was eerie.
We climbed some more, and soon were at the highest point, 3360 meters, and we understood the glow ealier. On our left there was the most amazing sunset we had ever seen. High as we were, there were mountains underneath, each valley filled with thick white clouds, the summits emerging, and above us there were several layers of clouds that the sun was colouring in deep pink, bright orange and red. Here, see:
We were late, but nevermind, really. Soon after the pass, we drove downward, took a left and drove, in the dark, on a bumpy track during 9 kilometers (how long? Between thirty and forty minutes) and we reached Savegre Hotel de Montańa.
Saturday, April 28, 2012 2:52:40 PM
We left the Arenal area and set to drive for a good while under the sun, for a change.
We stopped by the side of the road as Vlad spotted monkeys in a tree, spider monkeys.
We made quite a detour to see the Catarata de Cortés, the prettiest waterfall I ever saw.
In its vicinity there was a little pool of water where no tourist was, that was populated by lizards, one of which was really big, grey, and crested from head to tail, possibly a basilisk.
We didn't stay long as there was driving to do, but Vlad took a dip. On the road again, we quickly saw the change of vegetation and scenery as we were driving south. Less forest, more plaines.
We were in Tarcoles, our next stop, around 4 p.m. This place is famous for its long bridge under which many crocodiles rest.
We even saw an iguana.
We had a little more than two hours of daylight and hit the road again to reach a place between Quepos and Manuel Antonio. We arrived a bit after dark which comes a half hour after sunset. And then there was thunder and rain.
Fast forward to next day, a rainy day, but the one day we could visit the Manuel Antonio National Park. In a tree right next to our room there was a howler monkey.
We were advised to take a guided tour as only a guide could show us animals on this rainy day, but we didn't feel like being with a guide and preferred being on our own, taking our time. We didn't regret that choice. We saw so many animals!
A deer, a toucan, woodpeckers, a bird big as a pigeon with a red chest and a striped tail, butterflies, dragonflies, an urubu (red-headed vulture), hermit crabs, crabs, spider monkeys, a bird of prey which was all black, a female capuchin carrying her baby and which let us follow her for a while in the forest --a most magical experience!-- and finally, a female sloth.
The Park also had lovely beaches. Vlad went in the water (I forgot my gear). As I was on the sand, I saw two raccoons.
The park closed at 4 p.m. It was still raining. We rewarded ourselves with drinks and a late lunch of snacks. I chose a mango rita, the most delicious cocktail I ever tasted.
Thursday, April 26, 2012 2:53:28 AM
The Arenal volcano is supposed to be active, although not to the point that there is lava flowing or explosions. What we saw is a lot of cloud activity around it! But on two occasions, the summit was clear enough that we saw the shape of it, and we distinguished two sources of fumes, like thin streams of clouds, except they were going in opposite direction from the clouds.
We're staying at the Arenal Observatory Lodge. From the deck that faces the volcano, we tower above a lovely garden, that many animals inhabit. Mostly birds --including hummingbirds, toucans and oropendolas--, but also a coati or two and a couple of great curassows.
Yesterday we walked on a few of the trails around the lodge, reaching a river with old lava, a hanging bridge, a waterfall.
Today we went to the Arenal Hanging Bridges, a park of 600 acres of rainforest with 6 hanging bridges and numerous regular bridges, a trail of 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) that we "achieved" in slightly over 4 hours (possibly a world record of unspeed).
We saw a blue ara in the parking area. It flew noisily above us and landed close to us. Then it posed on top of a fence and even let us stand quite close.
Inside the park we saw lizards, ants, a few birds, two black squirrels, insects (not a lot, thankfully, there was one, somewhere between the ant and the wasp, that was as big as a little bird. Eek).
On the way back we stopped next to a field where cows were grazing. Or rather a breed of cows. They looked like zebus with ears like those of donkeys. Their head was very much like that of Jar-Jar Binks, in fact.