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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

Hotel Arenal Green – La Fortuna, Costa Rica


Hotel Arenal Green in La Fortuna

Hotel Arenal Green in La Fortuna

My most favorite hotel to stay at is the Hotel Arenal Green in La Fortuna. It’s located on the road leading to the cataratas which is about one mile from town on the road leading to San Jose.

The place is absolutely quaint. On the property there are six spacious cabins, each with a patio/porch. Inside you find a sink, apartment-size refrigerator and coffee pot. The bathroom is really nice with a full-size shower and lots of hot water. Some cabins have one bed, some with two and then the villa cabin with three beds and able to fit four, if needed. The villa cabin has a really huge patio complete with full-size refrigerator, bar and bar stools, cook top, coffee pot, microwave, sink and hammocks. All cabins have air conditioning, flat-screen color TV with cable and Wi-Fi. And don’t forget, the water in Costa Rica is safe to drink. But if you prefer, you can buy bottled water at the grocery store for a mere fraction of what it will cost you at the restaurant.

If you walk to the back of the property, there is a large cabin that is rented to those diehard travelers who want to “Get back to nature.” It’s a lovely cabin but with no air conditioning or lights. You do have a shower, but it’s outside. Don’t worry, it’s private.

Hotel Arenal Green outdoor shower

Hotel Arenal Green outdoor shower

There is also a massage hut complete with outdoor shower. It sits at the top of the bank to the river. Listening to the babbling river is so relaxing.

The maid, Blanca, is a true gem. She doesn’t speak a lick of English, but she is always ready and willing to help. She is the cook for breakfast, serving up delicious plantains, scrambled eggs and Gallo Pinto. Breakfast is included in the price of the room. (No other meals are served in the restaurant—breakfast only, as is the case for many of the hotels/cabins there.)

Blue-gray Tanager and Red-legged Honeycreeper (male) at the Cataratas Cabinas

Blue-gray Tanager and Red-legged Honeycreeper (male) at the Cataratas Cabinas

In the early mornings, be sure to walk across the street to the next property. Felix (owner) puts out plantains for the birds. It’s such a peaceful sight to see the awesome birds: Blue Gray Tanagers, Cherrie’s Tanager, Hoffman’s Woodpecker, Parakeets, Red-legged Honeycreepers, Chacalacas and Orenpendola Montezuma, to name a few.

In the afternoon, there is a Keel-billed Toucan

Keel-billed Toucan at Hotel Arenal Green in La Fortuna

Keel-billed Toucan at Hotel Arenal Green in La Fortuna

and a Chestnut-mandibled Toucan

Chestnut-mandibled Toucan at The Arenal Green Hotel in La Fortuna

Chestnut-mandibled Toucan at The Arenal Green Hotel in La Fortuna

who perches in the tree directly across from the cabins. Also, a Hoffman’s Woodpecker

Photo taken at Arenal Green Hotel, La Fortuna

Hoffman’s Woodpecker

is in the tree on the other side of the fence. And don’t miss the two Iguanas snoozing in the trees, too.

View of the cabins

Hotel Arenal Green

When you return from your activities, sit on the patio of your cabin and enjoy an Imperial beer. You can buy it in the hotel for $2. Or, if you prefer, pick up a six-pack at the grocery store. Remember, there is a refrigerator in each of the cabins, so save a few bucks and get the staples you need. Cheese and crackers are great to munch on with your beer.

A side note regarding currency: Every place in La Fortuna accepts American money. Currently, the exchange rate is about 500:1. They will give you the current exchange rate which varies from store-to-store and day-to-day. They will give you change in Colones, so you might want to learn how to count it. It’s so simple. If something costs 500 Colones, just multiple it times 2 and move the decimal point to the left 3 places.

500 Colones X 2 = 1,000

Move the decimal to the left 3 places. This equals $1.00 USD.

Do NOT exchange your money at the airport. The exchange rate there is totally stupid. If you really feel you need to have Colones, do the exchange at the bank in town or even at your hotel. Again, they accept USD everywhere in La Fortuna and at virtually all stores country-wide. Do NOT bring any bills over $20 unless you get it exchanged at the bank. The country has been hit with counterfeit $50s, so it’s not unusual if they won’t accept the bill.

Room Rates: During the low season (May and June and again September through November), single occupancy is $45; double occupancy is $65; triple occupancy is $85; and quadruple is $105. Prefer the villa? It’s priced between $125-$165 depending upon number of occupants.

During high season (January through April, July and August and again during the month of December), single occupancy is $65; double occupancy is $85; triple occupancy is $105; and quadruple is $125. The villa is $135-$175.

Prices include up to two children under the age of six sharing a standard room with the parents. Children 6-11 years pay $10 each that includes breakfast and taxes.

For all occupants, breakfast of scrambled eggs, plantains, sausage/bacon and Pinto Gallo is included in the room price along with taxes. This is a cost-savings of an estimated $8 per person for breakfast and 13% for taxes that you would pay elsewhere for both the room and food costs.

If you need assistance with booking a tour or just to simply find out where to go and what to do, the front desk person is knowledgeable and most helpful.

They have a spacious parking area behind the reception area. You can get laundry service whenever you need it. They have a security guard who walks the property throughout the night, not that I have ever been afraid as crime is very low in La Fortuna. They are having many illegals coming from Nicaragua to work, and so the security guard is simply a safeguard.

If you aren’t renting a car at the airport, they will pick you up.

They accept Visa and MasterCard.

I rate this hotel a GREAT VALUE stay.

Phone: 506.2479.8585 or 506.2479.8383

Fax: 506.2479.8383

Email: info@arenalgreen.com

Hotel Arenal Green is located 1 km south and 1 km west from La Fortuna on the way to the cataratas. It is about a three-hour drive from San Jose Airport. (I highly recommend getting a GPS in order to get around in Costa Rica. They rent for $10/day.)

GPS Coordinates: N10.45736; W84.65128

 

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

SOLO TRIP – MAY 2012


Iguana (female)

Iguana (female)

Preparing to take a trip away from home is always a burden as I have three dogs and two cats. It’s difficult for someone to come over daily to check on the critters, especially in Houston since the traffic is frequently lousy. But I have a friend who offered to take charge and make daily visits to the house. The dogs have a doggy door to go in-and-out whenever they need, I just needed someone to ensure they were okay. So with that burden relieved, I was once again set to make what was my third trip to Costa Rica—but this time I would go alone.

There was a great amount of fear inside of me planning this trip. I am not all that adventurous alone. And with the driving fiasco the kids and I ran into on the previous trip, I was mortified, to say the least. But it would turn out to be a really wonderful trip.

View of the cabins

Hotel Arenal Green

The first worrisome hurdle to jump over was finding a hotel, one where I could feel comfortable, safe and was affordable. I wanted something close to town but yet out in the country where it was quiet and I could soak up the nature. (La Fortuna only has a couple thousand people, so I don’t mean to make it sound like it’s huge metropolis.) Searching endlessly on the internet, I stumbled upon the Hotel Arenal Green. It’s located on the road leading to the cataratas, about one mile outside of La Fortuna coming from San Jose.

The rates at that time for May 2012 were $40 for a single cabin. I COULD AFFORD THAT! I didn’t know what to expect for that rate, but it said it had air conditioning and that was my main requirement. And since I already knew where the cataratas was located, I felt reasonably comfortable.

And so I was off for a week of solo adventure.

The goal for this trip was to do everything I had not done before. What were those things? I had no idea. Last time Miles and I visited the butterfly conservatory and serpentarium in El Castillo (Arenal Ecozoo), La Paz, La Fortuna cataratas, our usual hangout – Lava Lounge and Proyecto Asis wildlife refuge. So I was going to wing it.

The drive to La Fortuna was totally uneventful. In fact, the drive took me only a little over two hours (it can be anywhere between two-and-a-half to three hours). When I arrived at the Arenal Green I was greeted by Monica Lopez, daughter to the owner, and Anna, the activities director. They were most welcoming, and I started to feel at home pretty quick.

Since I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do other than visit the usual previous butterfly farms, etc., I turned to Anna to make suggestions. She told me about a boat ride at the Canon Negro Wildlife Refuge bordering Nicaragua. She said you could possibly see the Capuchin, Howler and Black-handed monkeys, birds, Caiman and other wildlife. An all-day event that included transportation and lunch would be $65. It seemed to be a little more than what I really wanted to spend, but hey, I was here to see what I hadn’t seen before. “So make me that reservation, Anna!”

The next morning the tour group Canoa Aventura picked me up at 7:30. There were six other people in the van, and we set off for a couple hour drive to Canon Negro Wildlife Refuge.

Canon Negro Wildlife Refuge

Canon Negro Wildlife Refuge

The tour guide was so informative. She spent the entire trip talking about the wildlife, educating us about birds, sloths, etc. We were toodling down the road when the driver stopped. He had spied a sloth in a tree (unfortunately it was too far away so we couldn’t see if it was a two- or three-toed). We all got to gawk and take photos. We also spotted Bare-throated Tiger Herons,

Bare-throated Tiger Heron

Bare-throated Tiger Heron

various marsh birds, and then the biggest surprise ever! We pulled into a little soda that was situated at a bridge at the top of the river’s bank. In the tree that reached from the bank up to the top of the building were dozens of the largest Iguanas you have ever seen! Totally unbelievable. I never imagined that Iguanas would live in the top of trees.

Iguana (female)

Iguana (female)

It turns out that the females had it all figured out. They basked in the sun while the males stayed on the ground protecting the eggs. And all they did was sleep. Until recently, the people ate the Iguanas; it was a major meat source. They say it tastes like chicken (but then, so does alligator). Hence the term, “Chicken of the Trees.” But since the country has become very aware of preservation and sustainablility, it is now illegal to kill an Iguanas. Good move, dudes.

Howler Monkey at Canon Negro

Howler Monkey at Canon Negro

 

Cindi at Cano Negro

Cindi at Cano Negro

Arriving at the boat dock, we were treated to brunch: pastries, juice and coffee. We were all pawing at the trough to board the boat, so off we went. We didn’t get two minutes away from the dock when someone spotted a monkey on the bank in the trees. It turned out to be a Howler monkey family. Costa Rican Howlers are black with a little brown spotting of hair on the belly.

 

Baby Howler Monkey at Canon Negro

Baby Howler Monkey at Canon Negro

Included with this family was a baby that was orange (appeared to be less than one-year-old, according to the tour guide).(PHOTO The guide informed us that due to in-breeding their babies can be this color. If this monkey were to breed, it did not necessarily affect the coloring of its offspring. And the reason for so much in-breeding is due to the fact that the monkeys cannot cross the river to get to the other monkeys. “Monkey see, monkey do.”

 

 

 

Anhinga-Anhinga (male) at Canon Negro

Anhinga-Anhinga (male) at Canon Negro

Floating along we saw Anhingas, various small birds,

Long-nosed bat at Canon Negro

Long-nosed bat at Canon Negro

Long-nosed Bats and plenty of Caiman.

Caiman at Canon Negro

Caiman at Canon Negro

There really weren’t a lot of any one particular species of animal. Unfortunately we did not see the Capuchin or Black-handed Spider monkeys. It was May and a fair amount of birds had migrated north for the summer and the river was very low as the rainy season had not yet started. Migration and rain had a lot to do with the park’s population of wildlife. The sightings were sparse, to say the least. But, hey, at least I got to see a Sloth and Howler monkey on this trip. You can’t have everything all the time. Guess this means I’ll have to start planning another trip for next year, huh? Yup, good excuse. We got back to the dock in time for lunch. And then the drive back. It was a good day, and everyone was tired and ready to grab an Imperial back at the camp.

The Canon Negro Wildlife Refuge trip is a MUST SEE.

A visit to the Arenal Adventura Park that is located towards the volcano was recommended. At this time it was newly opened and was still being stocked with exotics and the habitats were under construction. I felt the entrance fee of $30 was rather steep. Although I enjoyed the personal tour through the small serpetarium and frog habitat, it did not make a marked impression on me. The interesting items were the Red-eyed Tree Frog eggs and the Leaf Cutter Ants.

The Leaf Cutter Ants are amazing. They carry large amounts of leaves to their nest making 1,000 cuts per seconds with their jaws. The largest nest recorded spans one-quarter acre.

Brown Siporeta Butterfly

Brown Siporeta Butterfly

A return visit to Arenal Ecozoo in El Castillo beckoned me. I must absolutely take that horrid road that turns off from the main road leading to the volcano, directly across from the little Police station. No trip to Costa Rica would be complete without at least one jaw-jarring road trip. It couldn’t be more than two miles from the cut-off to the next turn to get to El Castillo, but it takes about 20 minutes as you cannot drive any faster than 5kmh. The road is …. what they call “gravel,” but what I call “boulders.” (Grin) The rocks are not tiny by any means; they are good-sized rocks. If a rock becomes displaced, a rather gaping hole is left. And, of course, with the rock protruding up several inches, it makes for the most bumpy road you have ever driven. I had a water bottle setting in the glove compartment. By the time I got there, the bottle had jumped out onto the seat, busted open and drenched my iPhone. So much for that.

But in any event, I made my way to the Ecozoo Butterfly Conservatory. This is one amazing place. They have four butterfly exhibits, each housing a different species. The most intriguing was the Glasswing Butterfly.

Greta - Glasswing Butterfly

Greta – Glasswing Butterfly

When I first entered the enclosure, I thought it was empty. But then I saw something fly by. Upon a closer look I saw this magnificent small butterfly that was translucent. Never had I heard of such a thing. (PHOTO) The four hours I spent snapping photo after photo was the best event yet. For only $11 I felt I had hit gold. This place is an absolute MUST SEE. (Remember, this trip happened in May which is butterfly season. So be sure to check the calendar before going.)

On the way back to the Hotel Arenal Green I spotted a butterfly farm right before entering La Fortuna (located just past the Mega Super, on your way to the volcano, on the left, next to the Sky Trek office). Entrance fee was $6 and it, too, had four enclosures. The varieties were, again, amazing. You walk in and just about got hit in the face by the butterflies. For $6 it was a true value. And it’s located so close! They also had a habitat for frogs, but I only saw one Blue Jean Frog. Again, make sure it’s butterfly season as this place will not tell you they have no butterflies, and they will take your money anyhow.

Waterfall Cataratas 5421

La Fortuna Cataratas

After thinking about it quite awhile, the decision to get more than just a little exercise by descending and climbing the steps to the La Fortuna Cataratas turned out to be a true experience. (Entrance fee is $6.) Going down the steps was a little more digestible this time. Not only was I better prepared mentally, I figured out that I needed to rest occasionally. So getting to the bottom was more pleasant. (PHOTO) After spending about one-half-hour sitting at the waterfall’s edge, it was time to get back to the top. It looked like rain. Up I go. All of a sudden the sky opened up its over-abundant supply of water and drenched me in a matter of seconds. I quickly grabbed a cheap plastic poncho I had in my backpack and wrapped it around my camera. There was no way I could afford to lose yet another expensive part of my happiness. Losing the cell phone was enough disaster for one day. Making my way back to the top, the rain just wouldn’t quit. I finally dashed to the car and drove the 1km back to the Hotel Arenal Green. It rained the rest of the day into the night with winds gusting severely. It hit the roof of my cabin so hard I literally could not hear the TV. I later found out they had a tropical storm. It sure did make for great sleeping!

Parrot at Cataratas Cabins in La Fortuna

Parrot at Cataratas Cabins in La Fortuna

The next morning came the sunshine, 5:30 a.m., as usual. “Up and at ‘em!” The birds were chirping and there was motion all about. It’s a great place to be for early risers. If you like to sleep in, I suggest you simply go to bed early as it’s dark by 5:30 p.m. That, in itself, will get you 12 hours of sleep.

TIME TO HIKE! Yes! I read about a hiking trail that would take you to view the Arenal Volcano slide that happened in the 1960s. (It’s located on the road that takes you past the Arenal National Park. Go to the end of the road where you would turn right to enter Arenal Observatory Lodge. On the left is a place to park.) For the entrance fee of $10 you get a little hand-drawn map showing the two trails. The lady said the self-guided round trip hike was about one-and-one-half-hours. Right off the bat you have to cross this dilapidated bridge. (Maybe they’re saving up the entrance fee to replace the bridge? Ummm…the ladies collecting the fee could possibly just simply be sitting there to collect money for themselves. An answer I would never know.) That should have been my first clue as to we what lay ahead. Within a few minutes I was faced with these steps leading up the hill that were knee-high. Man! I’d have to literally lift my legs with my hands, placing one foot on the stop while grabbing for something to pull myself up. How many of these steps are there? Looking up I could see maybe six steps. Okay, no problem. Hi Ho! Well! What I did NOT see was that the steps turned a corner and there, in front of me, was another set of steps. I ascended this next set of steps only to turn yet another corner. At this point I thought maybe I should throw in the towel. I looked down and realized that to descend would mean I’d have to sit down, kinda jump to the next step and hopefully not fall forward on my face. Lord. It cannot be that much further up, can it? And so I continue, hiking my ass up step after step. I had no idea how high up I was, but it certainly was a long way up. I actually tried to count the steps. After 33 I wasn’t sure that I was counting correctly—I had lost count due to my exhaustion and frustration. Finally I reached the top and sat on the bench with a sign that educated you about the lava flow. I look out across the way and stared; I squinted. Exactly where are these large boulders they spoke of that came from the bowels of this famous volcano? I couldn’t see anything. It was all grown over from the last 40 years. Okay. Well, that was a disappointment. Let’s go home. I’m tired and I need to pee.

While the trek up the hill was an adventure, coming down was another story. I was so relieved to see the exit sign pointing in another direction other than that of the entrance. It was smooth sailing. Along the way I spotted a family of Howlers and a Great Curassow. That made my day even though it was way too dark to photograph.

And then I turned the dreaded corner. The trail ended. In front of me was dense forest; to the right was the same; to the left was a steep climb down—no “steps”—but boulders. Large boulders stacked on top of each other. How in the world are you supposed to descend this? Oh, man, I freaked out. Was I going the right way? Should I turn around and go back the way I came? This one-and-one-half-hour hike had already hit over two hours. I packed my camera equipment on my back, secured the laces on my shoes, and started the descent—the descent from hell. Sitting on my butt, I reached my legs out a far as I could to position my foot on the next rock so I wouldn’t fall into the crevice. I dare say my pants were worn thin by the end of the descent. It must have taken me a good half hour to get to the bottom—it was a LONG way down. Once I got to the bottom I spotted the dilapidated bridge and breathed the biggest sigh of relief ever. This is a wonderful adventure if you like to hike a new area. But there is literally no view to be had.

I love to eat at various restaurants with my favorite being the “Just Good Food” soda that serves absolutely amazing hamburgers (try the Texas burger—it’s the best!) The soda was purchased by a New Jersey tourist earlier in the year. The original owner was ready to retire, and Mike’s inquiry was a deal waiting to be consummated. To find this quaint place, as you are coming into town on the road from San Jose, cross the bridge through the first intersection. In that first block of buildings, near the next corner at the main street, on the right is “Just Good Food.” I ate there several times during my visits over the next two years. (UPDATE: As of 2014 the restaurant is closed. I understand they had a fire and it’s under renovation.)

Another great restaurant is located across the street, on the corner from the bank, directly across from the park. This full-service restaurant  serves an excellent chicken breast in a cream sauce, topped with sliced avacado. It is to die for! The food is a little more pricy but well worth it.

As a side note: be sure to check the bottom of your restaurant tab. Some of the restaurants incorporate the tip into the total. I was unaware I was tipping a total of 30%! Yikes!!!

After a week of adventures, I was ready to head home. I’ll be back next year!

 

Cindi at Cano Negro

Cindi at Cano Negro

All photos are copy righted by Cindi L Rogers

 


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Craftori

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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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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