Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Swinging in the Clouds!!

Today we were off to a full day of tourism so there are LOTS of images here.  Our new guide Greivin is enthusiastic and knowledgeable.  Exactly what we needed to make this trip turn around!!  This river that we crossed, on one of the very few bridges in Costa Rica, encompasses the Pali Verde National Park.  It's part saltwater, part rainwater and low tide as we cross over.
Then we see it!!!  SALT WATER CROCODILE!!!!!  Posing nicely for us in the middle of the river with his mouth open!!  Unfortunately I couldn't get a better shot, but at least you can tell what it is!
After a couple hours heading back along the road to the Monteverde Cloud Forest turnoff, we stopped at a rest stop to use the facilities.  Although they were available on the bus, our guide noted that anything that went in, stayed in for the entire trip.  Not a pretty picture, so everyone ran a race to the "banos".  At this small bakery/buffet, macaws hung out in the trees and posed nicely for tourist pictures.
Although you weren't supposed to feed them, some people couldn't resist.  It brought back memories of when I used to raise these babies ... along with blue and gold and military macaws ... but that's ancient history.

Finding our turnoff to the Cloud Forest, we were again back on dirt roads.  Being in a 45' diesel pusher bus, these bridges didn't look very safe, and sometimes our driver Jason went VERY slow, making me think he knew something we didn't.  We barely skimmed by this gentleman who thought we should wait.  Many times a quick honk of the horn was the magic that moved both cars and people out of the way.
Luckily for me, Patty and I were awarded the front seat.  With my carsickness pretty prominent on these terribly curvy rough roads, I was happy to sit where I felt better.  That however, was a double edged sword ... we also had a birds eye view of the road conditions and 15% grades.
CLIFF!!!!  Most of this road had a steep cliff on one side ... as an RV driver, I couldn't imagine driving my rig on these roads.  Jason did an amazing job!!
 Not a side road ... this is the main road we are traveling.  See what I mean???

Finally we arrive in the small town of Monteverde as the road becomes paved again ... just through town however.  Another political discussion continues concerning what roads get paved.  The Monteverde Cloud Forest is a huge attraction in Costa Rica, but doesn't seem to have enough clout to get the access road paved.  Greivin apologized for the "coach massage" from the rough roads.  Here are some typical road signs ... mostly hand painted.
November is monsoon time here ... and many culverts had been washed out before our arrival.  The people were working hard trying to repair them.  Many times as our left front brushed the bushes, our right rear was also scraped by trees as the tires barely hung on to the roadside.  Being a "bus" driver, many times I just held my breath!!
Along the way the locals were checking us out.  The number of tour buses here was amazing.  Some small, some as big as us, tourism is in the top 4 money-makers for Costa Rica.  First is high tech computer chip production.  In Costa Rica, every child is required to attend school up to 12th grade.  The better you are in school, the more chance you have to go to the university, expenses paid.  That makes for an educated work force eager to have a better life.
Greivin put this map up of the places we drove to.  The dark line is mine and shows the later trip around Arenal Lake.  The one going up and to the right, is the trip Patty and I took ... just to give you an idea of how far we traveled.  It was at this point that we discovered Greivin and I had something in common.  Talk about a small world ... this coincidence is just amazing.  A few years ago I traveled to New York City to watch the last baseball game played in the OLD Yankee Stadium before they tore it down and moved to the new stadium built in the parking lot of the old.  Apparently Greivin is a baseball fan also ... and when he had the chance to visit New York for a short time with friends, he ALSO went to the Yankee Stadium for the last game!!  Pretty amazing I should meet him here!!
I'm combining two days here ... the first forest walk we didn't see much and ended up at our hotel for the night.  Pretty spectacular place ... and all I could hear was Patty oohing and aahing over the flowers!!  I have to agree they were pretty spectacular ... the hydrangeas were as big as basketballs!!
This place was beautiful!!  It was so big it required we call a hotel taxi just to get to the restaurant.  We all wondered what was "really" going on here ... once a farm, it was turned into a hotel with at least seven huge building units.
You can see from the ground, it's VERY steep, but this morning we chose to walk back up to our room.  The cactus in the background is taller than Patty!!  Cactus????
AND me!!
The first stop the next day at the Cloud Forest was the Butterfly Exhibit.  A huge building chock full of gorgeous butterfly-friendly plants and flowers, with thousands of butterflies.  Here are a couple that have just hatched and are drying their wings.

 We followed the path through the huge building, pointing out beautiful specimens everywhere.
The employees gather the cocoons and pin them to boards in order to keep an eye on the process.  Many were in the wing-drying stage and are shipped around the world to other butterfly collections.
Here is the beautiful ... okay, I don't remember the names of any of them.  I tried to write notes in my phone, but was too busy taking pictures.  Someone called it a Mariposa.  This is the same as is hatching above.  The interesting part is that they reflect the light, making the color blue.  When he held it the other direction, it was brown.
 More beauties ...

While waiting for our jungle walk across the suspension bridges, this coatimundi was scrounging for tasty morsels.  The night before, we heard this horrible ruckus that sounded like coyotes at our back door.  Turns out it was a group of these guys digging up the lawn outside our door, looking for food.
There were also many hummingbird feeders around providing nourishment for the many who migrate here every year.  Costa Rica is the end point for many varieties of migrating birds, including the Oriole which we saw and heard on several occasions.  They were just too fast for a picture!!
The swinging suspension bridges were originally built for the biologists who needed access to the canopy.  These trees are over 100 feet tall and harbor lots of creatures.  They also bring you up to the level of the bromeliads that grow in the trees.  It seems most of the forest growth is DOWN, not up.  All the stuff that gets rooted in the canopy, sends out roots to the ground, eventually strangling the tree.  Because of the weather here, trees rot pretty fast ... the resulting crash to the ground opens up the forest for more sunshine and more growth.

 Each bridge is higher and higher in the canopy until we reached the top!!
Although we could hear water running in a stream below us, the jungle was so overgrown we never did see it.

Lunchtime!!!!  Everywhere we went we were served the typical Costa Rican dish of rice and black beans with cilantro.  This restaurant however, had only sandwiches ... wonderful bread with one small VERY thin piece of cheese melted inside.  I would have added some type of lunchmeat, but didn't really recognize anything I thought would stay in my mouth ... the bread and cheese was delicious however.
The last event of the day was ziplining!!  I tried to talk everyone into going and those that physically could, accepted the challenge, including Patty.  Surrounded by handsome Costa Rican climbers (what could be better?) we zipped through the forest screaming our heads off ... well at least "I" did!!  It was a great time!!
After about number 7, we came to a 60' tower for the Tarzan Swing.  I haven't done this before ... but it looked easy when the Costa Rican kid jumped off.  What I didn't realize is that I was next!!!  Although a little hesitant, it sounded like the same fun I had in the barn as a kid, swinging from the ceiling-anchored ropes.  I'm sure I screamed bloody murder, but it was a kick in the pants!!  After swinging for a few minutes, they grab your feet and slow you down.  Surprisingly, MANY of our group jumped!!!  Congrats guys!!!  Three more zip lines and we were soaking wet from the rain.
Back on the road to the hotel ... yes we DID meet other buses and cars on these roads ... and we barely squeaked by.  I'm sure Jason replaced those mirrors a time or two!!
If you are wondering about services ... here's the garbage truck.  Everyone leaves their garbage in plastic bags placed in holders above the ground.  One guy drives the truck while two hang on to the running board, jumping off to gather the trash and throw it in the truck.  No automated stuff here!!
The flora and fauna were like I've never seen before.  I won't bore you with all the images I took ... suffice to say EVERYTHING grows well in Costa Rica!!

As do the bugs ... here was a stick bug Patty found on the walkway.  Although there was the occasional mosquito, we didn't really see any until Patty and I got to the Caribbean side.

Instead of the usual hotel fare, Greivin took us to his favorite pizza place for dinner.  This is a marguerite pizza ... it didn't look like it to me either!!  It was rather tasty however.  
Back at our hotel we were honored with a spectacular sunset.  There's nothing like sitting in the quiet jungle watching and listening to nature present itself.  

However, we all hoped the Howlers would sleep in this day.  We haven't seen them yet, but have heard them screaming many times.  They must be as big as a house!!!


  1. Your photos are outstanding! I am envious. Beautiful work!

  2. Nicely done. I enjoyed your post and the beautiful pictures! Looks like you are having fun on your trip Costa Rica.

    1. There were several hiccups, but we survived!! Gorgeous country ... rather like Hawaii.