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Serious Business in Costa Rica – September 1-4


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

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

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

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

Sloth at Quesada City

Sloth at Quesada City

Judy greeted us with fresh coffee and fried yucca.

Making fresh coffee

Making fresh coffee

Fried Yucca

Fried Yucca

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

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

PHOTO

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies

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

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

 

All photos are copyrighted by Cindi L Rogers

 


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Craftori

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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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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