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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

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

Final stay of My First Visit to Costa Rica – March 2010


Scarlet Macaw at the San Jose Zoo

Scarlet Macaw at the San Jose Zoo

The last day of our fantastic vacation was in San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital city. It was quite unlike the little, quaint towns we passed and stayed in the previous days. It is a bustling metropolis. Terribly crowded. Unbelievable traffic. Noise. Diesel. Not relaxing at all. But then, you must have a central hub to make everything else what it is.

We stayed at the Don Carlos Hotel. A lovely mansion converted to a hotel. It is located in the Barrio; not a particularly upscale part of town. I chose this hotel only because it is located within walking distance to the San  Jose zoo. And I might mention at this point that I am a volunteer at the Houston Zoo as a docent. My love for animals will be even  more obvious as I post photos and tales of my encounters with the wildlife in this amazing country.

We had less than 24 hours in which to explore, on a very small scale. We visited the zoo and Jade Museum (which was less than a block from the Don Carlos).

I would like to spend just a little space on the zoo. It is very, very small. You can tour it within 30 minutes. While the habitats and exhibits were very clean, they were rather small. The lion and lioness looked as though they do not receive adequate food as they were very thin. It appears to be a struggling refuge. The entrance fee was 60 cents. They are run by Fundazoo, an institution receiving funds from only the entrance fee and private donations. The government was trying to close the zoo and either release the animals or sending them to another refuge.  The problem, of course, like many zoos, they house animals that were rescued which need constant care or the advantage of a permanent, safe home–they cannot be released into the wild. This is of the upmost concern. But due to contractual technicalities, the zoo will remain open for at least another 10 years. In order for them to remain open and care for these animals, the Fundazoo organization must have funds. If you feel so inclined, you can visit their site and donate. Here is an article written by CNN.

While in San Jose, we had the opportunity to visit the Jade Museum. It is located just down the street from the Don Carlos Hotel. While a very small museum, it houses the history of the people of Costa Rica, displaying their works of art, not only statues but also a lot of jewelry. It is worth the few dollars for the entrance fee.

And so our journey comes to end. For the time being. Unknown to us at the time, we would re-visit Costa Rica many times to come.

Stay tuned for our second, third, fourth, fifth trips to the land of nature.

 

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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Second part of My First Visit to Costa Rica – March 2010


After having all the thrills we could imagine from zip lining in La Fortuna, we took out to Manuel Antonio.

Photo taken from downtown La Fortuna

Arenal Volcano

But before we got into the car, for the first time since arriving in La Fortuna, the clouds parted and we actually got to see the very top of the Arenal volcano….for all of 5 minutes. It was something Becca really wanted to see, and she got her wish.

The drive to Manuel Antonio was long… 5 hours long. At least the drive was through exquisite countryside. Lots of really huge trees, banana plantations, coconut groves, acres and acres of tropical plants that they export to the states.

Did you know that pineapples grow from the tops of another pineapple that was set flat on the ground? From there it grows into a plant only a few feet tall. I did not know that. I always thought they grew at the top of a pineapple tree. They take one year from the time of planting until they are ready to harvest again. In Costa Rica you would buy an extremely large pineapple for 75 cents. Bananas were 10 for $1.

After a couple hours we hit the Pacific coast passing some breath-taking sights like the coast line. It was strewn with boulders jetting out of the water. The shoreline is densely populated with forest growth.

Pacific coast

Pacific coast

We finally arrived at Manuel Antonio and stayed at Tres Banderas Hotel. It’s run by a Russian who migrated to the states and then to Costa Rica. That first night he invited everyone to sit in the hot tub with him and drink beer. Only problem was that the hot tub was an ice tub. He said it was too hot to sit in hot water. He was so totally right! We thought we’d die from the heat and humidity. At one point we walked up a very steep hill to get to a recommended Soda for lunch. By the time we got there (walk must have been all of 3 minutes), I was beet red in the face. I thought I’d die.

I just want to warn you about the cicada. At least during March they sing “all the time.” It is an ear-deafening sound. It’s like they are trying to drown out the next guy. Had it not been for the room having air conditioning, there was no way on God’s green earth that you would have been able to sleep. So keep that in mind when booking a room in Manuel Antonio: you need a/c.

The next morning we drove the one mile to the park entrance. They only let in a certain amount of visitors at a time so we got there early.

It was about a one-mile hike through the forest to the beach. On the way we spied our first three-toed sloth.

Three-toed Sloth at Manuel Antonio park

Three-toed Sloth at Manuel Antonio park

The beach was beautiful. The kids made friends with some other Americans and enjoyed a short visit. We headed back to the exit stopping along the way at a more secluded beach. The sight was breathtaking. Making it to the water’s edge was a true feat. The sand is volcanic black sand and hotter than coals. But Miles made his way to the water for a dunk while Becca sunbathed. I just sat there and took photo after photo.

The kids enjoying the beach at Manuel Antonio

The kids enjoying the beach at Manuel Antonio

When we got back to the parking lot we were greeted by a family of Capuchin monkeys hanging out in the trees above the cars. It was out first exposure to real live monkeys that weren’t in a zoo. At that point we were all happy campers. Capuchin1405Sm

And so we headed back to San Jose the next morning. The drive was only about 2 hours on a two-lane highway.

Leaving there was like bidding farewell to a dream trip as we would spend the final day in a bustling city that reminded us of New York.

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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My first visit to La Fortuna – March 2010


Arenal Lake 8535

In March of 2010, I had an urge to visit Costa Rica. My son, Miles, my daughter, Becca, and I embarked on the most beautiful trip we’ve ever taken.

I don’t know why, but we chose La Fortuna as our first stop. Yes, I did a ton of research on the internet for three months prior to our visit. La Fortuna called out to me. And so it was to be, the first of many trips.

When our plane was backing off the tarmac in Houston, I started crying: tears of joy, of course. My daughter asked me what was wrong. I simply told her that this was a dream I thought would never come true. Especially since the plane was delayed in leaving the gate because of ………. yes, because of my son. It appeared that his passport looked suspicious. He had previously spilled water on the cover and it was not only faded, but a piece of paper had become stuck to the front. After the gate agent called security and her manager, after much questioning, they decided Miles could go to Costa Rica. However, they did say that if Costa Rica didn’t like his passport they would send him back on the next plane. A little nerve wracking, to say the least. When he finally boarded, he sits down. We are backing out. He says, very casually, “I sure do hope our bags got reloaded onto the plane because I saw them taking them off.” No, I did not slap him upside the head, but the thought occurred to me. He was 31 at the time so a little old to be slapping around.

Four hours later we landed in San Jose. Passport? Yes, the immigration officer looked at and said, “Did you spill something on it? You’re good to go. Enjoy your visit.” So much for that!

The drive from San Jose through San Ramon was awesome. Of course, with new surroundings, everything greener than green, you would expect awesome.

We made our way through the quaint city of San Ramon and began “The Nightmare of Nightmares!” Winding roads, narrow, hilly, people walking on the road, dense fog, cars coming at you around a curve in your lane while passing, cars passing you on a steep hill around a hill. I was sitting in the backseat with my feet firmly planted, holding onto the front seat with both hands, elbows locked, tears in my eyes. I was actually praying, kinda. I was gasping so much I never did finish even one prayer. Poor Miles, he was reaching into the backseat trying to get his muscle relaxers out of his bag but every few seconds there was another hair-pin curve to maneuver. Luckily, he never got to the pills.

About halfway through the trip we sited our first waterfall. It was a tiny trickle down the side of the hill, but it was a taste of what was to come.

Three hours later we arrived in La Fortuna. It was about 5:00 and getting dark!?! What?? It’s only 5:00. Okay, must be because it’s winter, right? Little did we know that sunrise is about 5:30 and sunset is 5:30 all year round. Okay, we’ll have to be up at the crack of dawn and waste no time in getting started. Thank goodness we are all early risers.

Our first night we spent at Los Lagos Hotel.

Los Lagos Hotel

Los Lagos Hotel

Bringing the horses in at Los Lagos

Horses at Los Lagos

Beautiful campus. It’s located on the road going towards the Arenal volcano. (I’ll post more about this property later.)

The first activity we had decided to try was zip lining. I had researched it on the net, and decided on Sky Trek, Sky Tram. After taking the tram up the hill, they dressed us with helmets, rain coats, gloves and seated us in a harness. We took a couple practice zips to make sure it was something we really, really wanted to do. I have a photo of Miles zipping with his tongue hanging out. What does that tell you?

The first zip was way, way, way, way across to the other side. As I recall, it was one-half mile long. You reached 50 miles an hour and you were 650 feet in the air. Miles was like a little kid–first in line. All the other people went. And then there were two: Becca and me. Uh, “Becca, you go ahead.” “No mom, you go first.” It was a standoff. Would either one of us go? I needed to be the brave parent and show my daughter I was brave. argh……. Okay, so I went. OMG! What a visual! All  you could see was Lake Arenal with the clouds over it. So beautiful. So amazing. So scary!! I held my breath for as long as I could. As I recall, it took an ENTIRE minute to get to the other side. “What if I stopped halfway? Just don’t think about it.” Well, it was awesome. I made it just fine. But Becca, well, I could barely see her coming across in a totally strange position. It looked like she had a second head stuck on the side of her head and two additional legs in a V shape coming from her arm. What in the world? The guide had to ride piggyback with her or she wasn’t coming. It was a little late to back out as she would have been left at the platform alone. Funniest site I had ever seen. From that point on (nine more lines to zip), she was on her own. She butched up and had the best time ever.

By no means is this the end to the story. But from here, I will blog about all of the adventures we had while in our maiden trip to a land of nature.

 

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.


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Craftori

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