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Serious Business in Costa Rica – September 1-4


Having stayed a week in La Fortuna with the low season in full swing, Alex and I headed back to Quesada City for 10 days. Alex needs to attend to personal business in San Jose, and I need to play catch-up on my blogs and marketing research for Coque and Tatiana at the Miradas Hotel.

The day before we left, Coque erected the sign for the new hotel–Gecko Rustic Hotel. Gecko Sign 9416 It looks rather stunning, don’t you think? He also put signs on the road leading to the hotel. Within the next two months the newly-refurbished Gecko Rustic Lodge would get its facelift and be in business, just in time for the high season. But in the meantime, Alex is not needed so we head back to Quesada City.

Taking the bus to Quesada City is about a 1-1/2 hour ride from La Fortuna. The cost is $ 1,350 Colones ($2.70 USD). The busses are just like the Grayhound busses in the US, but without air conditioning. Here it’s called “fresh air conditioning!” And no, they don’t have people getting on with goats and chickens. HA HA!

I was excited to be back at Judy’s house where the newcomer Sloth had made its home last week. Did you know Sloths only come down out of the tree top one time weekly to go to the bathroom? And then they bury it deep so as not to attract predators. Often you will see that their fur is a greenish color. Yup, that’s mold. They are in the rain every day and with their fur so dense, it never dries. Poor things! Makes you want to scratch, huh?

Sloth at Quesada City

Sloth at Quesada City

Judy greeted us with fresh coffee and fried yucca.

Making fresh coffee

Making fresh coffee

Fried Yucca

Fried Yucca

I have been here only one week and already pawing-at-the-trough to bake. But very few places have ovens. The homes only have propane countertop burners much like you’d have on a camping trip. Only recently have they been installing a complete range. Therefore, a lot of the women do not know how to bake. However, Judy has an electric range and oven and I was so excited to bake something. The first thing I had to do was to figure out how to improvise some of the ingredients. Unless you go to a mega supermarket, you cannot find things like chocolate chips, brown sugar or walnuts. You can either improvise by making your own brown sugar (add molasses to granulated sugar), buy candy bars and chip them up and chose Macadamia nuts instead of walnuts. Or, you take the plunge and travel extra distances to the mega stores. Even then, they certainly do not stock the large array of products like we are so accustomed to having in the US. But I did find a ready-made graham cracker crust for a cheese cake. YES! That is certainly an item on my To-Do list.

The dairy products are so different here. The sour cream is sold in a two-cup plastic bag and is rather liquid. If you put it into a cold refrigerator, it will solidify. Cream cheese is sold the same way—in a small plastic bag. However, I did find it in a tub in Quesada City. Butter is more yellow than yellow can get. Since this country is a dairy farmer’s dream, you can usually stop at a farm and purchase these items fresh. Or you can visit one of the many Farmer’s Markets and get all you need. They don’t seem to have the health department requirements here so if you buy fresh, here will be no expiration date on the package.

PHOTO

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies

So back to the cookies. They came out very well, much to my surprise. I fully expected them to be a flop. Thank goodness. I was so ready for something sweet to eat. Next feat will be a Texas Sheet Cake. That should surely please everyone.

While I was busy baking and making chicken soup for lunch, Alex was in the backyard preparing the soil for planting a garden. Not sure what he will plant, but I bet he’ll have lots of vegetables. Be sure to check back often for updates on our progress with the Farmer Joe stories.

 

All photos are copyrighted by Cindi L Rogers

 


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Craftori

Serious Business in Costa Rica – August 2014


Jesus Christ at Carlos Lodge in La Fortuna

Jesus Christ at Carlos Lodge in La Fortuna

Having spent the last two months constantly in touch with both Alex and Monica regarding a return trip to La Fortuna, I had decided that I would return for three months. But this would be a more in-depth visit and I would spend my time providing comprehensive photographs and data offer the hotel properties tools to market their services (websites, blogs, photography).

Before I could make this trip, I had to resolve the issue of care for my dogs. I would have to either find someone who would stay at my house to care for them and the two cats, find someone who wanted them at their house or “something.” With funds becoming slimmer all the time, I needed to make this move pretty quick. I knew I could only stay three months on a passport—which was fine as I could not bear to be away from my “kids” for any longer. I lucked out and my friend, Danielle, offered to keep the dogs at her house. Now came the nitty-gritty: plane fare. United wanted $950 roundtrip for last-minute reservations. That’s it….. I cannot afford this trip. Two days later I got a spam email advertising low fares on Spirit. Oooo-kayy…. Sometimes spam has it’s qualities. $364 roundtrip. So what’s the catch? Nothing, it seemed. I could go as early as NOW for this price. So let’s go!!

On August 28 I left Houston at a decent time, 6:15 p.m. But…. no direct flights were to be had with Spirit. You flew to New Orleans, then on to Fort Lauderdale, and finally to San Jose. Arrival time would be midnight. Ugh. No problem…. Alex and his friend Alberto met me with open arms. We would drive as far as Quesada City (one-hour drive from the airport, it is one of the region’s main trading and business centers) and stay with a friend, Judy, before traveling on to La Fortuna.

While at Judy’s house over the next two days, I had the opportunity to meet the neighbor, Leo.

Leo - Quesada City

Leo – Quesada City

He is such a sweet man. He and Alex escorted me all over the area to sight birds—birds I had not yet seen before. There were literally hordes of Green Parakettes flying all over, squawking obnoxiously. One really large tree was full of Green Parrots.

Parrot in Quesada City

Parrot in Quesada City

I had never seen such a sight. Totally amazing. While I was trying to focus on the Parrots, Leo was grabbing at me to make me look behind me. Not 15’ up in a tree was a….. SLOTH!!! OMG!

Sloth at Quesada City

Sloth at Quesada City

I have photographed Sloths in the park, along the road, but have never been so close. No way was it possible that this creature was sleeping right outside my bedroom window. This was the first sighting; no one knew he was there prior to now.

Bus to La Fortuna

Bus to La Fortuna

On Thursday, we thumbed a ride with a friend into town where we boarded a bus to La Fortuna.  About 1-1/2 hours later we arrived in the town I knew so well, “My home away from home.” Stopping at the grocery store to grab a six-pack of Imperial, we got a cab to take us to our first stop, Miradas Arenal, a hotel about 10 km outside of La Fortuna on the way to the volcano where Alex is employed. (This is the actual address if you were to send mail. There are no actual street addresses in most of Costa Rica. It can drive you nuts so you absolutely MUST have a GPS to navigate. In the GPS, you don’t enter a street address. Instead, you enter the name of the place you are going.)

Carlos Lodge hill

Carlos Lodge hill

Ending up at the Carlos Lodge (where we will stay for the next week), I found myself in this huge cabin, on a property recently purchased by the owner (Coque) of the Miradas Arenal. The property is undergoing renovations: painting, flooring, electrical, etc. So it’s just me and Alex. Ever see “The Shining” with Jack Nicholson? This was the first thought that came to mind when we got here in the total darkness. It was so dark, I didn’t know there were 11 other cabins up the lane.

Settling in I needed to shower. OMG!! WHERE is the hot water? Did they unplug it for renovations? Lordy. What a chill. The temperature drops several degrees as you head north/northwest out of La Fortuna and there was a little chill in the air. Add to that an iced cold shower. “Buggers!” Nevertheless, slept with the windows open. What a wonderful breeze. Snuggled under the blanket. Amazing. What a relief from the Houston weather.

The next morning I am absolutely starved. Realizing I hadn’t had anything since lunch on Thursday, I trek down the hill to the little restaurant (abandoned) thinking the kitchen would be stocked with food. I thought wrong. However, there were tea bags and ice cubes, a “must have” for a true Texan. Also found some coffee, so I was set. Shortly thereafter Coque’ arrived with eggs, bread and sausage. Daily nourishment followed by compiling a grocery list, for sure. Later today Coque’ is taking us into town to the Farmer’s Market. It’s a place where the local farmers bring their home-grown veggies and fruits. Open only on Friday, it is “the” place to shop. We were able to get homemade sour cream (sold in a little plastic bag), freshly grated white cheese, vegetables (broccoli crown was $1.00) and a chicken hen which was very expensive–$6.00. Since most of the people here grow their own fruits, chickens (eggs) and with plantain, banana, avocado, etc., trees in every yard, you only need to buy a few items to survive. You can buy a really large pineapple for $1.25; bananas are 10 cents/lb. And eggs are sold by the weight and are almost always brown. The growing season in Costa Rica is 365 days a year (although avocados do have a definite growing season; they are imported from Mexico for $1.00 the rest of the year). The temperature varies only slightly, and the sun-up/sun-down times varies by maybe 15 minutes. Sun-up is 5:30’ish, sun-down is 5:30’ish. (One could become a creature of habit here.) Even the “dry” season is rainy, just not as frequently or as heavy. So with a shower virtually every day along with very rich soil, it’s a farmer’s paradise.

Moving on to my first day adventure as a new-born writer, blogger, for-hire photographer, “idea-giver,” I find myself sitting here writing.

Until later………

All photos are copyrighted by Cindi L Rogers
 

Craftori


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Returning to Costa Rica – Adventure #2 – November 2010


It didn’t take but a few months before I had an itch to return to La Fortuna. In November of 2010 my son, Miles, and I took the first flight of the day back to the land God created with me in mind.

Unlike the first time we drove from San Jose to La Fortuna, the trip was so much easier. There was no dense fog, no crazy drivers and absolutely no stress involved. The previous three-hour trip was now only two hours.

Photo of the pool with the Arenal volcano in the background

Arenal Lodge

Photo of the room at Arenal Lodge, La Fortuna

Arenal Lodge

We stayed at the Arenal Lodge (on the way to the volcano, just over the bridge of Arenal Lake). It was so beautiful. The room was very spacious with two queen beds and a sitting area complete with refrigerator and coffee pot. The floors, walls and ceiling were of wood. Patio doors and windows made up the back wall that led to a huge patio with several recliners and table. It over-looked the hotel pool out to the pasture with the volcano in the distance.

The first morning, at breakfast was amazing. We were sitting in the beautiful dining room looking out the windows when I spied my first encounter of a multitude of birds eating fruit on the bird feeder. OMG! I grabbed my camera and out the door I remained for at least an hour, taking a multitude of photos. Finally, Miles brought my breakfast out to me to eat on the patio.

Our breakfast buddy at the Arenal Hotel in La Fortuna

Blue-gold Macaw

We were sitting there when the hotel’s resident Blue and Gold Macaws flew overhead and then landed on the patio. One of the little guys was very precocious. He came over to our table and attempted to steal our plantains. Miles picked up his plate and turned away. The Macaw was having none of that! He reached out and grabbed Miles’ arm with his beak and pinched him until he gave in. The Macaw won. He had his breakfast.

We headed out to El Castillo, not far from the main road to visit Arenal Eco Zoo which is a snake conservatory. (When  you get to the guard house [east of the lake], turn towards the volcano. Pass the park entrance, cross the little bridge and you will see a sign on the right for the conservatory. Turn right and follow the road to El Castillo. When in the town, turn left and the conservatory is on the right.) Even though it was only a few miles from the hotel, it took about 30 minutes to get there. Once again we had to drive down the horrid road that also leads to the Sky Trek ziplining tour we had taken on our first visit. The secondary roads in Costa Rica are not paved. Instead, they are made of rather large rocks. You can only drive about 10-15 MPH on these roads. The rocks are tossed up by your tires, hitting the underneath side of the car. So you need to go slow enough to hopefully not damage something. Also, once the rocks are thrown up, they leave holes in the road. So you are constantly driving “all over” the road in an attempt not to hit potholes.

At the snake conservatory we met an intriguing guide. As is the norm, many of the people there speak fluent English. He asked where we were from and what we did for a living. Miles piped up and told him that I volunteered at the Houston Zoo. That opened up a door for an amazing adventure of which I had never dreamed. Miles Snake 4698 CrpSMThe guide started opening the snake exhibits and  handed snake after snake to us to hold. I don’t know, but maybe he thought since I worked at the zoo I would naturally love snakes. Before that moment, I was terrified of snakes. If I saw one in the yard, it would be dead in a matter of minutes. For the next hour we handled more snakes than you could shake a fist at. It was totally awesome! This experience caused me to get my docent certification at the Houston Zoo to handle snakes which I do every time I work there. I am still afraid of snakes when I encounter one in the yard, but I do not run for the shovel anymore. Every time I return to La Fortuna, I always visit the conservatory.

Holding onto a Bermese Python

Holding onto a Bermese Python

Our next visit was to the Hanging Bridges.

Hanging bridges

Hanging bridges

(Coming from La Fortuna, cross the bridge at the lake and immediately turn right. Go up the hill and you will come to the entrance.) The hike takes you up and around the park on brick-paved stones. You must go slowly, constantly observing the side of the hill and into the forest. If you walk too fast you will miss snakes, birds, leafcutter ants and all sorts of little creatures. There are 16 bridges to cross. Each one is named for the adventure to come. For example, the Tarantula bridge takes to the area where there are a multitude of tiny holes in the side of the hill. If you peer into the hole, you will see hairy legs. Yes, tarantulas. They have assured me they are not venomous. But still, I do not pester them. Another bridge takes you over the tree tops. You can see for miles. In the tree tops do not miss the butterflies! You can walk down to a small waterfall at one point.

Hanging Bridges waterfall

Hanging Bridges waterfall

The entire hike takes about two hours, providing you are taking your time.

Hiking is in my blood. I cannot hike “forever,” but I do love to walk. We decided to visit the Arenal National park and volcano. (The part entrance is down the road across from the guard building.) How often is it that you are offered the opportunity to get “up close and personal” with an active volcano?  We hiked up to the base, as close as permitted, to see what it was like. Yup, there was a huge sign that said, “Do not come any closer or you DIE!” Cindi Miles Arenal Volcano 5146CrpSmOkay, close enough for me!

Warning sign

Warning sign

In the forest, they have a tree that is touted as being one of the largest in the country. The photo shows Miles standing at the base of the tree.

Super huge tree!

Super huge tree!

Looks huge enough to me! We didn’t see any birds except the White-throated Magpie-Jay in the parking lot.

Bird White-Throated Magpie-Jay at Arenal Park

Bird White-Throated Magpie-Jay at Arenal Park

Immediately following this hike we relaxed at the Lava Lounge in La Fortuna.

A favorite place to kick back and have an Imperial

Lava Lounge

It has become a favorite place to kick back and relax.

From there we visited Proyecto Asis located in Ciudad Quesada. It is a refuge for rescued wildlife. When we arrived the door was shut so I knocked. A guide opened the door, I asked if we could tour the park, and he motioned us in. I did not realize they were closed—I just thought you had to knock to get in. No worries: he hooked us up with one of the caretakers and we got a private tour. There were habitats for injured, abandoned and confiscated animals. We got to play with the raccoons,

Playing with the raccoons

Playing with the raccoons

feed the baby Kinkajous,

Feeding the baby

Feeding the baby

pet the rescued sloth and listen to the amazing stories of how the animals got there.

Especially of interest was the sloth and her baby.

Proyecto Asis

2-toed Sloth

She was found hanging from an electrical wire. She had apparently climbed the electrical pole to claim it as her home. She must have slipped and ended up dangling with her arm over the live wire. Someone noticed her, alerted the center, and they were able to get her down. They had to amputate the arm, but she appeared to be okay. One month later, much to everyone’s surprise, she gave birth. They did not know she was pregnant, or how she managed to hold on to the fetus with all the electrical current that invaded her body. But mama and baby were fine.

They also confiscate animals that are in people’s homes illegally. One such animal is the monkey.

Confiscated monkey

Confiscated monkey

People buy or sometimes steal them from the mother to have as a pet. But after a few months, the monkey becomes uncontrollable and they either confine them to a much-to-small cage or set them free. This is a problem since they do not know how to fend for themselves and will surely die in the wild.

At the center, the animal is cared for and will hopefully be returned to its natural surroundings. In some cases, the animals must live at the center forever.

Proyecto Asis is a non-profit organization. They welcome volunteers to help care for, feed and build habitats. Check out their website if you have a desire to make a difference.

No trip would be complete without visiting the cataratas in La Fortuna.

La Fortuna Cataratas

La Fortuna Cataratas

(From downtown it’s about 1 mile to the road leading to the waterfall. Turn right, go to the dead end. There you are!) I had absolutely NO idea how physically taxing this hike was going to be. I looked down the hill, into the forest, and could see nothing but steps. “Hummm… how far was it to the cataratas? Couldn’t be that far. Think I’ll count the steps as I go.” HA! The steps are bricks placed at uneven positions. Some are a three-inch drop; some are 10”; you may have to step out farther to reach the next brick. Every step of the way you must look at your feet or you will stumble. At one point you hold onto a rope and make a hairpin turn while kinda jumping down to the next level. Finally, about 400 steps down, you see the cataratas. What a site! Unlike the small cataratas at The Hanging Bridges, this was a site to behold. We spent about an hour at the cataratas not only to absorb the beauty, but also to soak our extremely tortured calf muscles. When we reached the bottom, my legs were shaking worse than I had ever imagined. I really did not think I could walk even one step farther. After soaking in the cold, cold water of the river,

Soaking in the La Fortuna Cataratas river

Soaking in the La Fortuna Cataratas river

I thought I was ready to ascend all those steps. Lord a mercy! I think I got maybe 50 steps up when I was gasping for breath. Miles had lagged behind and decided he would run up the steps. He caught up with me, and he was not much better off. It took quite a while before I finally reached the top. Needless to say, for the next few days I bathed in Ben Gay and moaned each and every time I had to walk.

During our week in La Fortuna we visited every butterfly habitat we could find. Unknown to us, there were a lot of other adventures of which we were not aware. Oh….. this means that yet another trip needed to be planned for next year.

Before heading to San Jose, we decided to visit La Paz Waterfall Gardens in Vera Blanca.

La Paz

La Paz

We had heard about the beautiful cataratas there, and wanted to see another work of God’s beauty before leaving. To get there, you take a different route out of La Fortuna and we were told it was only about an hour drive. After we got through various small towns, we turned off onto a road that would become the drive from hell. At first we thought it was so awesome to see the road below us and all the hairpin turns. It didn’t take long when we realized there was absolutely no other traffic—coming or going. Suddenly we hit a place where the road seemed to drop with the pavement reaching out over the side with no earth under it. Screech to a halt! Heart throbbing. Panic attack. What happened to the road? Oh, man. We got as close to the inner side of the road as possible and drove so slowly so we could actually see every pebble in the road. This one-hour drive took us three hours. Nerve wracked, we finally passed two vehicles. We felt a little better. Shortly thereafter we sited the majestic La Paz cataratas directly in front of us. Praise the Lord! We had made it.  What we were NOT told is that the road was hit hard by an earthquake earlier in the year. Ah, mystery solved. The road wasn’t even open to thru traffic, yet there were no signs posted. “Just another adventure successfully completed.”

Photo of Miles in front of the waterfall at La Paz

La Paz Cataratas

We ended our vacation in San Jose. I wanted to visit the zoo yet another time. I was able to makes a donation while there that really helped me feel like I could maybe make a difference. Again, we stayed at the Don Carlos Hotel (see previous blog for details).

And back to Houston, we came. This time with so many more memories and hopes to return sooner than later.

 

All photos are copyrighted by Cindi L Rogers

 

If you are interested in visiting this wonderful country, or if you would simply like more information, please don’t hesitate to bookmark my blog for continuous updates and additions to my travels and explorations. Or you can always email me privately. If you decide to visit La Fortuna, let me know and perhaps we can meet up so I can give you a tour of the town.

Craftori

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