Costa Rica travelogue

Greetings from Costa Rica!

My mom and I are on a two-week sojourn through costa rica. 10 days on a caravan tour, followed by 5 days on our own with a rental car to see a few other spots and visit some friends who live here now.

Here are some highlights so far to give you a taste of what we are seeing here.

Today is day five of our caravan tour. They really have all the bases covered. We are staying in really nice hotels and resorts and the tour includes all our meals (buffet style). We are a group of 46 with our tour guide Jose who is very knowledgeable, and bus driver Jaime who navigates the narrow streets and mountain roads with incredible expertise. Since i don’t speak spanish (even after 4 years if high school spanish) this is a great way to get aquainted with a foreign country and then explore on our own after we get the lay of the land so to speak. So far i have ‘hola’ down pretty well, and here they say ‘pura vida’ (pure life) as kind of an all purpose greeting and response.

Our flights were uneventful and we even got a hot meal on our flight to costa rica. Easy breezy through customs, and caravan tour bus was waiting for us to take us to our hotel in san jose.

The next day they took us up through the cloud forest to poas volcano. On the way we saw lots of rainbows

which made up for the fact that when we got up to the volcano rim it was so cloudy and misty we couldn’t see into the crater.


There is a volcano down through that mist :

Our group milling around at the top of the crater…



On the way back to san jose we stopped at a restaurant overlooking the central valley.


And then toured a coffee plantation

And saw more flowers…

Day two was a very very long bus/boat ride to Tortuguero in the Caribbean coast in the rain forest. The trip there was long and slow up over the mountains in the rain.

We stopped for lunch at a roadside restaurant that had a nice little butterfly garden.

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On the way we passed through little towns with little stores and carts

And i am sorry to report that walmart has invaded.

The last few miles were on a narrow dirt road through some beautiful countryside

Did you notice the satellite dish on the roof?

Our huge bus had to go about 5 miles an hour due to pot holes and uncertain narrow bridges.

Eventually we made it to the edge of the swamp and The boat ride to the lodge was nice.

Tortuguero has quaint resorts with Clusters of rustic cabins in the midst of the rain forest right at the Caribbean coast.

It rained a lot our two days there (surprise!), but we did get some sun. We had a few monkeys running through the encampment,

along with lizards and a few birds, but I was sorely disappointed by the noticeable LACK of fauna of all kinds. I was expecting much more. Very few birds, not much in the way of insects (thankfully), and we were not awoken by howler monkees as we were warned, although we saw them around. A few sloths, iguanas, and a couple crocs and caymans. But it was not “teaming with life” as i had expected. Indeed my mom’s place on bayou liberty in slidell louisiana has more abundant wildlife just outside her front door. Guess i’m spoiled. But we enjoyed the thick flora, lots of greenery and flowers. Still very nice.

They took us to the turtle nesting grounds on the beach, and then through the touristy village of tortuguera. Cute, but i guess after living a couple summers in a real caribbean fishing village of port royal, jamaica, this was not something i needed to experience.

The next day we went on another boat tour looking for wildlife. We didn’t see much – a couple sloths, blue heron, a cayman, a few other birds.

Can you see the tail of the cayman (small croc)?

An anhinga drying its wings after the rain

After another long boat/bus trek back out of the jungle, we headed towards arenal volcano near the west coast.

 

On the way we stopped for lunch at a restaurant that had a huge ancient tree called the white almond, still around because the wood is so hard the loggers couldn’t float them out and nails can’t be driven into it. They told us this type of tree was the model for the tree in the avatar movie. Does kind of look like it.

Some of our bus mates to try to give you an idea of how truly massive and tall this tree is.

We also saw a sloth on the grounds, more flowers, and a poison dart frog Jose found for us.

 

Can you see the sloth?

So now here we are at a super nice resort at the base of arenal volcano, a still active crater, although it just spits steam mostly lately.

Most of the day the top is covered by clouds, but i was able to catch it early this am and could see the steam hissing out of the top. Our “cabin” is next to a field with cows and orange trees, and there are bananas growing in our front yard.

Last night after traveling all day across the country we soaked in the hot springs here. Sweet.

The food so far has been nice, lots of beans and rice, but what really stands out is the fruit we get every meal. Sweet and fresh. We stopped at a pineapple plantation, and we pass many banana plantations, guava groves, and all manner of sweet edibles.

The banana picker hauls the bananas on a track to the processing plant.

Lots of cows – well treated and mostly bramas. Nearly everyone has a dog or two and they appear well cared for. Roads are good, only saw one minor fenderbender, and not much poverty, mostly on the outskirts of san jose. We drove through a lot of little towns, and the houses are small but neat. People are super friendly, and do seem very happy.

Costa Rica is a unique country. They abolished their military so they could apply those funds to healthcare and education. Everyone gets healthcare. Education is very important. And it really shows. Internet is everywhere. Everyone has cell phones. the cars are nice and fairly new. The country is modern and clean and they try to do things in a responsible way. Big on ecology, conservation and agriculture. Tourism is the biggest indusry here and you can tell they care.

Internet has been good everywhere so far. Free either in the room or at least near reception. So i have been able to keep tabs on my email and voicemail, upload pictures and of course send this out. Even allowed myself to check the news, but am trying to avoid that.

Tomorrow we head to a marriott resort on the Pacific coast for some sun and sand, and then back to san jose to wrap up the canned part of our trip. From there we rent a car and drive back down to the southern part of the Pacific coast for a few days near Dominical.

But today we are taking it easy, catching up with laundry and rest, the weather is perfect, and life is sweet.

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