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Returning to Costa Rica – Adventure #5 – June 2014


Glass-winged Butterfly

Glass-winged Butterfly

This trip would turn out to be one of definite possibilities. I flew to La Fortuna using my frequent flyer miles as I simply could not afford to buy a ticket. I had lost my job in February, and was only able to find part time work. Things were getting really boring, not to mention discouraging, and I did not know which way to jump. I was spending endless hours every day looking for a job, and quickly realized that for someone who had 40 years of experience in various aspects of office management, I may possibly have a shot at getting a job that paid up to $10 an hour. Houston has a lot of jobs, but employers are wanting to hire well-experienced people for inexperienced salaries. They get around offering benefits by working you only 29 hours per week. But I did not care what it paid, I just needed a job. I submitted at least a dozen resumes every week with no response. To pass the time, I was building bird houses—a hobby I had taken up one year earlier. It was fun! I found out that I had a knack to use a miter saw and all the other tools necessary. It was a great relief but there was no fortune to be made  in building bird houses. I needed to get away, as cheaply as possible. By using my miles, the plane fare ended up costing me taxes only of something like $25. I got a 20% discount at The Hotel Arenal Green; I rented a car at Europcar for $18/day (that included insurance!). And for my spending money, I sold my plasma for $50/week (2 donations weekly). So, scrimping and saving every penny I was off. And who would know that I would hit gold on this trip.

Hotel Arenal Green in La Fortuna

Hotel Arenal Green in La Fortuna

As soon as I walked into The Hotel Arenal Green, I met the new hotel manager, Alex. And our eyes met. Ever have that moment when you see someone and your stomach jumps? “Oh…my….God. Don’t look at him,” I kept telling myself. “Don’t be crazy; you don’t even know who this guy is.” Okay, so that lasted all of a minute. During my 10-day stay Alex took me to a festival in the nearby town of El Tanque and introduced me to some of the Tico culture. It was much fun! So, yet another friendship was born. (I quickly realized that the Tico people are quick to make friends, and Alex was just one of many friends I would soon make.)

I spent the next 10 days re-visiting the same sights and adventures as I had on previous trips. Here’s a quick recap of those beautiful places (you can read more on the other pages of my blogs):

Ecocentro Danaus: I saw this bird that had the strangest behavior ever. It stayed close to the ground, jumping from one plant’s trunk to another and making this extremely loud “clicking” sound. When he finally sat still long enough, I was able to get these photos.

Manakin at Eco Centro Danaus

Manakin at Eco Centro Danaus

You can see in the first photo his neck area looks common enough. But in the second photo

White-collared Manakin at Eco Centro Danaus in La Fortuna

White-collared Manakin at Eco Centro Danaus in La Fortuna

he has “bristled” his feathers. It turns out that the White-collared Manakin does this whenever a female is in the area. Needless to say, this absolutely made my day. (It doesn’t take much to please me. One fantastic photo a day keeps me happy.)

 

Blue Jean Poison Dart Frog

Blue Jean Poison Dart Frog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also got numerous photos of the Blue Jean Poison Dart Frog for the first time.

 

Butterfly

Butterfly

Arenal Ecozoo in El Castillo featuring the Butterfly Conservatory: After browsing the Mariposas in the four screened areas, I set out to walk the trail leading down to the river. Shortly I saw this Brown Jay.

 

Brown Jay at El Castillo Butterfly Conservatory

Brown Jay at El Castillo Butterfly Conservatory

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another great find for this wonderful day! I also saw a couple woodpeckers, but could not see through the dense foliage good enough to identify them.

 

 

 

 

 

Cindi at Cano Negro

Cindi at Cano Negro

 

 

Canon Negro River Float: As always, this river trip is totally amazing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Animal sightings included the Capuchin,

Capuchin at Canon Negro

Capuchin at Canon Negro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Howler Monkey

Howler Monkey at Canon Negro

Howler Monkey at Canon Negro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and the Black-handed Spider Monkey

 

Amazon and Ringed Kingfishers (first time sightings)

Ringed Kingfisher at Canon Negro

Ringed Kingfisher at Canon Negro

Amazon Kingfisher at Canon Negro

Amazon Kingfisher at Canon Negro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swallows that were picture perfect

Swallows at Canon Negro

Swallows at Canon Negro

 

 

 

Anhinga-Anhinga (male) at Canon Negro

Anhinga-Anhinga (male) at Canon Negro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anhingas

Great White Heron (male) at Canon Negro

Great White Heron (male) at Canon Negro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great White Egret

Jesus Christ Lizards

Jesus Christ Lizard (male)

Jesus Christ Lizard (male)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caiman

Caiman at Canon Negro

Caiman at Canon Negro

 

Iguana (female)

Iguana (female)

 

 

Iguanas

 

(You can book this tour through the Canoa Adventura group at The Hotel Arenal Green.)

 

 

 

Night walk at the Arenal Oasis Lodge (this was a new activity): Something I had never done before was to take a night walk in Costa Rica. I am a scaredy cat when it comes to the dark. But Alex encouraged me to go, so off I went. It was at the Arenal Oasis Lodge just around the corner from The Hotel Arenal Green. I was so glad I went! We saw the

Red-eyed Tree Frog

Red-eyed Tree Frog

Red-eyed Tree Frog, Cane Frog, icky spiders, and a wonderful snake! I love snakes! I convinced the tour guide to let me handle the little feller for everyone to touch. Needless to say, it MADE MY DAY!

 

 

 

 

One of the best friendships I had made in La Fortuna was with the daughter of the owner at The Hotel Arenal Green, Monica.

Monica Lopez and Cindi Rogers

Monica Lopez and Cindi Rogers

 

In order for me to get together with Monica, I needed to drive to Guapiles where her husband had secured a job working in the agriculture arena on a pineapple plantation. (He graduated from the university earlier in the year.) It’s a five-hour bus ride from Guapiles to La Fortuna which is unpleasant with a five-year-old, so if I wanted to see Monica, I would have to drive there. No problem. Off I went. As luck would have it, it would be a full day of rain. Argh…… But it was well worth it.
Monica had arranged to visit a local farm that was run by the ladies living within a small community. Their desire is to get their farm on the tourist route so they can educate the rest of world as to how industrious and cooperative the Tico people are. The problem is that Guapiles is rather out-of-the-way for the usual tourist. They were reaching out to Monica (with her hotel/tourist experience and her degree in Tourism to help them.) In turn, Monica wanted to pick my brain regarding marketing issues (I worked for a business-to-business marketing firm for 16 years and had learned a little about how to research and market.)

Costa Rica women growing pineapple

Costa Rica women growing pineapple

The ladies grow all their own food. Their massive garden consisted of plantains, bananas, yucca, various herbs, corn, cocoa and so much more that I honestly cannot remember everything.

Bananas

Bananas

 

 

 

 

Strawberry Poison Dart Frog

Strawberry Poison Dart Frog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We even got to see some of the local Poison Dart Frogs and their resident goat that provided them with fertilizer and milk.

Eating sugarcane

Eating sugarcane

 

A tour of the ladies’ farm included eating sugarcane straight off the stalk and tasting all sorts of fruits and veggies. To end the tour they prepared a complete Tico meal of fried yucca, rice and beans, slaw and hamburger. It was absolutely delicious!

 

 

 

 

It was a wonderful day full of new adventures and visiting a side of Costa Rica I had not yet been. It was a great way to end another wonderful vacation.

 

 

Returning to Houston I quickly found out that I had left a wonderful friend in La Fortuna. Alex was calling me daily, texting me, and wanting me to return. “Okay, but you have to find me some work there as I must work and I need an income of some sort.” “No problem,” was his answer.

And so the plans of making a three-month trial visit was underway. But this time there would be work intermingled with the fun. Right? Stayed tuned…..

 

All photos are copyrighted by Cindi L Rogers


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Craftori

Returning to Costa Rica – Adventure #3 – May 2011


Passion Flower

My third trip to La Fortuna was going to be a solo trip. My daughter was busy with college and my son had already taken his vacation earlier in year. This was something that really scared me. Although I felt I knew the ins-and-outs of driving the roads, it was still going to be a challenge.

Upon arriving at the San Jose airport, I easily enough got on to the van to the car rental. I had decided to use Mapache Rent A Car again since we had a good experience with them previously. The people there are very nice and accommodating. So I took out for La Fortuna, arriving there in plenty time before dark, and I somehow managed to evade traffic on the long, winding roads.

Hotel Arenal Green in La Fortuna

Hotel Arenal Green in La Fortuna

The best decision I ever made was to spend my entire vacation at The Hotel Arenal Green. It’s on the road leading to the cataratas in La Fortuna. The rates were so affordable I couldn’t believe it could be that great. Much to my surprise it would be the place I have stayed every time I have returned. You couldn’t ask for a better place. The property is owned by German Lopez and at that time the manager was his daughter, Monica. They have six cabins, some with one bed, two beds and a family-sized cabin. Each cabin has its own private patio with a table and chairs. The cabins all have a mini bar with sink, nice-sized refrigerator and coffee pot. The bathrooms are spacious with a hair dryer, soap and shampoo. The property itself is very large. If you walk to the back of the property, there is an additional cabin that is for the die-hard traveler. It has no electricity. Nope, not for me! I need my a/c. There is also a hut situated on the river’s edge where you can get a massage complete with a shower under the trees.

Hotel Arenal Green outdoor shower

Hotel Arenal Green outdoor shower

The PVC pipe surrounding the shower is painted to look like bamboo. It’s really neat!

Bonding almost immediately with Monica, I felt at home. I don’t want to forget to introduce you to the maid, Blanca. Even though she doesn’t know a lick of English, she is such a sweet person. She makes your breakfast every morning that consists of the most wonderful plantains ever! You also get the usual “Typical Breakfast” that consists of Pinto Gallo (beans and rice seasoned with Cilantro), scrambled eggs, toast and bacon.

Since this was going to be my first solo trip, I was bound and determined to see and do everything possible. My primary goal was to visit every butterfly farm in the area. I had researched a few places on the internet, and so that’s where I started.

My first day in La Fortuna took me to Ecocentro Danaus, a little wildlife park just outside of La Fortuna , right before you enter El Tanque. (There are more directions and information about this place on my page, “Activities and Locations.”) This is a small private ecological reserve that I visit every time I come to La Fortuna . Hi-lights are the butterfly and frog exhibits, lake and garden. You’ll be sure to see the two-toed Sloth, many butterflies, Poison Dart Frogs, Boat-billed Herons at the lake and the White-collared Manakin, to name a few. On-site is the Maleku indigenous culture store displaying their hand-made crafts with a large variety of masks.

Maleku

Maleku

Walking through the park on your own, considering you will spend some time looking for the frogs and taking lots of photos, can take up to 1-1/2 hours.

The next day Monica arranged for me to take the river float trip in Canon Negro in Los Chilies. (Tour cost is $65.) It’s a reserve a few hours north of La Fortuna on the Nicaragua border (be sure to take your passport along if you go). The tour guide was wonderful. She educated us on all the animals, informed us of purchasing Costa Rican Rum, let us know that pineapples were only 75 cents and bananas were 10 for $1. Did you know Costa Rica is the major importer of pineapples to the US?

Jesus Christ lizard

Jesus Christ lizard

On the way there we spied a Jesus Christ lizard on a fence post. Interesting fact about this lizard is that it can skim across the water. He has webbed feet that allow him to stay afloat. Watch this superb video by National Geographic. It will surely amaze you!

Cindi at Cano Negro

Cindi at Cano Negro

When we arrived at Canon Negro park we enjoyed a complimentary brunch and then boarded a canopied tour boat. Some of the animal sightings included the Long-nosed bat, Howler monkeys, Tiger Herons, Anhinga-Anhinga (both male and female), Caiman, Red-eared Sliders, White-faced Capuchins, Black-handed Spider monkeys, Amazon and Ringed Kingfishers and the Great White Egret.

Ringed Kingfisher at Canon Negro

Ringed Kingfisher at Canon Negro

Swallows at Canon Negro

Swallows at Canon Negro

Black-headed Trogan (male) at Canon Negro

Black-headed Trogan (male) at Canon Negro

Capuchin at Canon Negro

Capuchin at Canon Negro

Baby Howler Monkey at Canon Negro

Baby Howler Monkey at Canon Negro

Cayman at Canon Negro

Caiman at Canon Negro

Great White Heron (male) at Canon Negro

Great White Heron (male) at Canon Negro

Howler Monkey at Canon Negro

Howler Monkey at Canon Negro

Amazon Kingfisher at Canon Negro

Amazon Kingfisher at Canon Negro

Tiger Heron at Canon Negro

Tiger Heron at Canon Negro

Long-nosed bat at Canon Negro

Long-nosed bat at Canon Negro

T

Anhinga-Anhinga (male) at Canon Negro

Anhinga-Anhinga (male) at Canon Negro

The entire day’s events entailed 8 hours of nature and education. It’s a “must-do” for all visitors to Costa Rica.

On my previous trip we visited the serpentarium but did not make it further up the road in El Castillo to the Butterfly Conservatory. So on this day, since I was trying to visit more butterfly farms,  I spent several hours going through the four butterfly houses they had at the Arenal Eco Zoo. Considering it was May, there were more butterflies than one could imagine in any one spot. One house contained nothing but Glass Wing butterflies. I had never seen such a beautiful sight! At first I could not see the butterfly since you were looking “through” them.

Glass-wing Butterfly

Glass-wing Butterfly

This is a “must see” while in La Fortuna!

Anna, the tour assistant at The Hotel Arenal Green, turned me on to Arenal Natura Ecological Park that had recently opened. It is close to the volcano (down the road leading to Hotel Miradas Arenal). It is a small park and I felt it was a little pricy. But since they had recently opened, I’m sure they expanded their offerings by now. They had snakes, but you weren’t able to handle them–they were primarily venomous. A frog display, Caiman pond and trails to  hike. I will re-visit this park on my future trips and hope to see more for my money.

There is a butterfly farm right in La Fortuna on the road leading to the volcano (past the Super Christian supermarket). It’s on the left, next to the Sky Trek office where you will pay your entrance fee. At the time it was $6 and well worth it. Just remember, there is a butterfly season. If you go at any other time than in May/June, there may be no butterflies. Be sure to check it out before paying your entrance fee (2014 fee is now $11). They have 4 buildings, each one slam-packed with butterflies. It was definitely an awesome event. It, too, is a “must see” at the right time of the year.

Another trip to the La Fortuna Cataratas? Yup, why  not. I had survived the first torturous stair-climbing adventure in 2011. This time it would be better as I had been walking 3 miles everyday prior to my trip. The walk down the steps wasn’t quite as harrowing as the first. I figured out I needed to rest ….. frequently! While I had been walking a lot at home in Houston, the terrain is flat, so my legs weren’t accustomed to stairs. This time I made it down much easier; I rested and spent quite awhile gawking at the beauty before starting back up.

Majestic "Splash" at the bottom of the waterfall at La Fortuna

Cataratas La Fortuna

For the first time ever I got caught in a downpour. My camera equipment may not be the top of the line, but it’s all I have. And to think it would be ruined if I didn’t act super fast and protect it. I whipped out my plastic poncho from my bag in record time. Wrapped it around my equipment still in my hand and just stood there for friggin’ ever. The rain wasn’t going to stop. I couldn’t even see as the rain was blinding me. Okay, this was exciting. NOT! I decided I needed to make it to the top, no rest periods, just trucking on. It rained for another 1/2 hour. Everything was fine, equipment was dry. That was my first experience of the “rainy” season. Regardless of what people say about rainy vs. dry, any day, any where, you can have a rain storm. For all the times I’ve been there, there were only a few days where it rained for longer than 5  minutes, no matter what the season. So don’t let “rainy” vs. “dry” deter your vacation plans.

Hanging Bridges

Hanging Bridges

Another day, another adventure. The Hanging Bridges must be re-visited. I hoped to spy beautiful birds on this visit, and I was not disappointed. This lovely Mot-mot greeted me on the trail leading to the cataratas.

Rufous Motmot in La Fortuna

Rufous Motmot in La Fortuna

I also was followed by this curious White-nosed Coati on the trail. Looked like he was hungry, so I tossed him a little banana.

White-nosed Coati at Hanging Bridges

White-nosed Coati at Hanging Bridges

And so this ended yet another marvelous trip to the land God created for nature lovers. And yes, another trip is in the making. Next time I will be sure to visit Monteverde for a few days. I hear it’s amazing. Stay tuned!

Parting words of wisdom: Always check to ensure the butterfly habitat exhibits have butterflies. Again, it depends upon the time of year. Unfortunately, they won’t tell you upfront that there are only 3 butterflies in each garden. You’ll pay your money, and then get upset.

All photos are copyrighted by Cindi L Rogers.

Craftori


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