Thursday, July 3, 2008

Costa Rica: day 15 - San José & the Flight Back Home

Breakfast at 7:30 was nice. A big buffet with custom omelettes and homemade pastries and the usual and then some. We got showered and went back to the market to buy more stuff in time to come back late, check out, and take a taxi to the airport ($16). We were even more late because of traffic, an accident or something.

We checked in slowly but made the flight because it was running late also. (Note that you'll have to pay an exit tax of $26 per person at the airport, and this will add on some time.) It was slow going through security because of the s l o w people in front of us.

Once we made it through security, we decided to get lunch. Church's #1 didn't carry the chicken sandwich, so we had to go to Church's #2 - they did. Anyway, the plane took off 45-60 minutes late, so we arrived about an hour later than scheduled.

* * *

Many times, at the end of a vacation - no matter how good it was - you are ready to return home. We were not at all ready to return home.

So when can we go back?!

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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Costa Rica: day 14 - Back to San José

This last ride was pretty bumpy, like a rollercoaster. A bit scary.

In the Pavas airport, we said goodbye to the family from Plano, then took a taxi to Hotel Aranjuez ($18).

Later, we walked through el Parque Central and photographed the art cows.

We then walked towards the National Museum - cool building (the one below may or may not be the building) - ...

...and found a place to have lunch called Nuestro Tierra. It was good, though I should've had what Nick had - and everyone else in the restaurant - which was the almuercito , basically a casado. But no, I had to order half a roasted chicken with mashed beans, corn on the cob, a and salad. Needless to say, it was way too much chicken! Good, but WAY too much. (I'm not sure why I thought that was a good idea.) Also, we should've had the coffee. It looked really cozy in the wooden stand with the cloth bag. And it was rainy - it would've been perfect.

Next we went to the market to look for more gifts. We bought a pair of earrings and a soccer jersey - all we had money for. Then we went back to the hotel for showers. There I had a nap - I was exhausted. After that, we went to Soda Isabel again. We shared casado con pescado y empanada con papas (potato empanadas). Then we went to bed.

It was cold and noisy, and the room this time #28 just wasn't inspiring. It wasn't as charming as the first room we had. And the fact that I could pull out the burglar bars was none too inspiring. Ah, but then I noticed the area outside was protected by giant, looped barbed wire atop the fence, and I had one of those "is this a good thing or a bad thing moments." Yikes!

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Costa Rica: day 14 - Lapa Rios Goodbye

I woke at 5 am to the now-familiar noises. Got out of bed after 6. Before getting out of bed, I took 40 seconds of video to capture the audio. I wanted to get a recording of the Howler Monkeys. You can hear them best about 30 seconds into it.


Coffee, journal, get ready for breakfast.

Nick had pancakes; I had the Tico especial. Out on the deck, we filled out the check-out form and gave tips.

Bye little lizard!

We had to have our luggage ready at 9:30, so we got ready. We spend the last hour (until 10:20) looking through books at the main lodge library. To my dismay, we weren't able to buy the Lapa Rios Story (which is a story/cookbook) because they didn't have any copies. They were supposedly printing a new edition that they said I could order online. [As of 11/11/09, I'm still waiting...]

We were driven to Puerto Jiménez, along with a father and daughter (from Costa Rica and Dallas, respectively). They gave us some suggestions as to what to do in San José. We checked in at the little airport and waited for the 12:15 flight to San José.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Costa Rica: day 13 - Lapa Rios Birding, Waterfalls, Rain, & Private Dinner

We were up at 5 am to get ready for the Early Bird Walk at 5:45. It's really not that difficult to wake up early here. (That's why I included our wake-up times, and we're not early risers.) In fact, if you don't, you miss out on so much!

We had coffee and banana bread that was set out at the restaurant. The guide had a telescope set up on the main deck and had found a sloth. I think he said it was the more uncommon two-toed sloth. And we saw several monkeys quite close up on our way to the tour hut. They were cracking open the green coconuts and drinking from them - with gusto!

The staff drove us to a place on the main road maybe a half mile before the Escuela Carbonera, then we made our way back toward Lapa Rios. We got to use binoculars - it was fun! (However, I would definitely recommend bringing your own pair of binoculars - they would've come in handy so many times!)

We found out those birds we always saw from our deck that fly like buddies, always in pairs, were Scarlet Macaws. They are monogamous pairs that live to be up to 80! We saw green parrots, parakeets, herons, buzzards, lots of others I can't remember. It's an easy walk, though you have to cross a bit of water. I didn't take any pictures of the birds because I would have needed a telephoto lens.

This is the Carbonera School, a school that was set up by the founders of Lapa Rios and the surrounding community in this remote region where no schools previously existed.

* * *

We were back for breakfast at 8 or so. Nick had the pancakes again. I had the tico especial again. Mixed fruit is one of my favorite of the fruit juices. We had just enough time to stop off at our bungalow, then we proceeded to the Wild Waterfalls hike.

* * *

On to the Wild Waterfalls hike...

But first some interesting trees. It looks like a puppy in there.

If I'm not mistaken, that's the sap from the Calomina tree.

A Golfo Dulce Poison Dart Frog.

That was a lot of fun. Kinda difficult and lots of water to cross. Water shoes would work the best. I didn't know if my Tevas would have good enough traction, and by this point, Nick had given up on the Rafters even on dry land, so we used the rubber boots that the lodge provided. At one point, after fishing around for just the right spot...I managed to step in the deepest part and completely submerged my right foot. I poured out like a gallon of water from it! It was like a cartoon!

* * *

Another picturesque view on the way back to the bungalow.

We saw a Coati doing the same as the monkeys in the morning.

A Golden Orb Spider near the pool.

Now we're washing up, getting ready to go to lunch, and it's raining.

For lunch, Nick had casado con pescado, and I had the salad with tuna - medium rare and absolutely delicious! Succulent! I had the welcome drink (another of our favorites). Nick also had mixed fruit. The chip of the day was yucca and the juice was something neither of us cared for. It was made out of rice, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Nick had the brownie for dessert.

We then looked through books in the main lodge by the sofas and bookcase, about animals of Costa Rica and the Lapa Rios story.

Then we came back to our bungalow and had naps. During the napping came a mighty rain. This is how I imagined the rainy season - this kind of rain all or most of the time. But it wasn't like that at all. I'm glad we had this as part of our experience at Lapa Rios though. It was beautiful to hear and watch.

I got up and watched the storm and read. Nick slept a bit longer. We enjoyed this then got ready for our private dinner at 7. This was part of the Honeymoon Package.

The private dinner was out by the pool under the hut. They had it set up with a dining table, 2 chairs, and candlelight. It was very nice. I think when it's not raining (it was still raining), they set this up by a waterfall, but I'm not sure how they execute this, as the waterfalls seemed difficult to get to.

It's all good that tonight was the night for the private dinner because they had pulled down the rainscreen in the restaurant, so you didn't have a nice view. When the waiter, Javier, led us out to the table, there was a HUGE tree roach on the champagne cooler. Dude, like 6 inches in length! Javier ever so gently encouraged him to move away.

The appetizer was tomatoes, palmito and parmesan on thin, hard bread slices. I had the Tico tower for the first course; Nick had some kind of salad. The main course was Churraso-style steak with chimichurri sauce, those potoato-y things and some sort of sweet, grainy mixture surrounded by onion and bacon with a sprig of rosemary.

It was a lovely dinner. The service was excellent, and the company most enjoyable.

Part of the company...

We walked back with our umbrella and talked a bit on the veranda. The rains had stirred up this lovely fragrance. Not sure, maybe jasmine. This was probably the hawkmoth flowers. [previous post about hawkmoth flowers, near the end of the post]

Well, off to sleep in the magical, tropical rain forest...

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previous post > day 12 - Lapa Rios Night Walk
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Monday, June 30, 2008

Costa Rica: day 12 - Lapa Rios Night Walk

The night walk was pretty cool. There are simply so many nocturnal creatures in the tropical rain forest that if you only search for them during the day, you are really missing out!

We saw lots of bats, some of them quite large. We hiked to a man-made fish pond in which we found a snake on a leaf, a tadpole of the Red-Eyed Tree Frog, a HUGE bullfrog, and some other frogs.

A Masked Tree Frog.


My eagle eyes (Nick will love that!) spotted a bird sleeping in a tree, which, I must say, is a very neat thing to see, that I hadn't seen before.

We hiked along a road. Here you can see the bats quickly fly by you. Then we hiked along part of the Carbonera River. We could faintly see the Greater Fishing Bats that swoop down and catch fish in the water. Their wingspan must have been at least a foot. (See excellent National Geographic video of a fishing bat in Belize.)

We saw a huge gecko on the generator building (you can't really see how huge he is in the picture) and lots of spiders.

There were lots of little shrimp in the water with metallic glowing eyes. Stink bugs (like roaches), a female tarantula, a scorpion. It's too bad that photography is so difficult in these night walks. I don't like to use flash - I don't know if the guides would let you use flash anyways - so your best bet is to have someone shine a flashlight on your subject.

Speaking of flashlights and shine and glowing eyes... Read more about this fascinating phenomena in my post "Eyeshine in Nocturnal Animals." Read more about night walks by clicking on the "nature at night" label at the bottom of this post.

* * *

After the hike, we showered and ended up being pretty late for dinner. The appetizers were the best part - these chicken tamales in banana leaves. The tropical fishcakes were okay. The bouillibaise de Osa was dry, but I have a feeling that was because we were so late. For dessert, the choices were deep, dark cheesecake or drunken watermelon.

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Costa Rica: day 12 - Lapa Rios Flora & Fauna

I woke around dawn but went back to sleep. I got up after 6. We enjoyed our lovely morning coffee on our deck. Then for breakfast we had the famous panqueques Lapa Rios. Nick had his con frutas tropicales; I had banano y granola.

The Lapa Rios staff are so amazing also. When you go to breakfast they come in and clean the place. When you go out for dinner, they come in and prepare the place for night. They put the "day" pillows away for you and leave the goodnight note. The story of Lapa Rios is really neat and inspiring. They are a model in ecotourism and sustainability. Apparently no - or maybe one? - trees were cut down in the construction of the bungalows.

On the observation deck by the restaurant.

I also noticed some interesting epiphytes.

Particularly one that had a pattern of embossed dots, running in two parallel lines.

Termite mound.

As always, the walk back provided us with plenty of critters to see. Lizards, a spider, a lone bat roosting in the hut by the pool.

* * *

Lunch: the soup was gazpacho. Nick had pasta with basil and mushrooms. I had the salada verde a la tica con pescado. With blackberry (mora) juice. For dessert, Nick had tropical fruit. The chip of the day was plantain and the juice was tapa dulce con limón.

Again, the walk back to the bungalow we spotted lizards, spiders and squirrel monkeys. Today seems like a lazy day. We signed up for the Night Walk from 6-8 pm, but we were too late to sign up for the morning tours and weren't that interested in the afternoon ones. Though sunset birds might be nice. Darn! - We can't see the bats or iguanas anymore at the observation deck at the top of the spiral staircase because they're fixing the staircase.

I'm pretty sure this is bamboo, but I've never seen the yellow with green stripes part before.

From our bungalow's deck...

There's a lizard just off center in this picture...

Not sure what kind of grasshoppery thing this is. I love the coloration.

More monkey!

* * *

There's just so much to see in do in Costa Rica. The activities and tours are absolutely wonderful, but equally wonderful is just sitting back and relaxing, taking it all in. Being a spectator in this living zoo. And when you do this, you notice things and start putting them together. I especially enjoyed reading my Tropical Nature book on our deck and being able to look up from the pages and see words become illustrated in the surrounding jungle... I could watch the hummingbirds and insects buzz by, in search of their favorite flowers... (Read about what makes these certain flowers their favorite in my post on "Animal Pollination in the Tropics: Hummingbirds to Hawkmoths.")

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