Costa Rica Part Three

…or sloths, sloths, sloths, and monkeys.

Day Six started with a drive down the mountain on its unpaved road and a trek to Manuel Antonio National Park. The hotel we booked was the nicest of our trip. The Costa Verde Hotel. They are the place with the 727 that’s been converted into a hotel casita. No, we didn’t stay in it, although that would have been interesting. It sure was pretty.

There was one event on the way to Manuel Antonio that I have to mention. Years ago, while doing the college tours, we took an airboat ride on the Louisiana bayou and had a close encounter with an alligator. It was about ten feet long and very frightening. I mention this because in Costa Rica, the crocodiles made that beast look puny. There is a bridge over a river just outside of Jaco, where crocs sun themselves on the banks. There was a monster there that must have been 16 feet long (the picture doesn’t do it justice) and there were at least 25 large crocs just hanging out. One of the creepiest things I’ve ever seen.

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The big guy
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This wasn’t all of them

Anyway, back to Manuel Antonio. This place was amazing. When we parked at the hotel the trees were full of squirrel monkeys, the cutest little golden creatures with cute little whistles. Our hike through the national park showed us three sloths, three bats, two raccoons, two coati, lots of capuchin monkeys, an agouti, and a fer de lance. It was amazing. The beaches within the park were beautiful. They were open that day. Sometimes they are closed because crocs sometimes swim in the waters there. The monkeys, raccoons and one coati came onto the beach to steal food. We watched a raccoon steal an entire bag of chips despite the human playing tug of war with the tote that held the snack and using a slipper to discourage the theft. The monkeys came begging for food too.

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Yes, it was that close.

The afternoon, as we swam in the pool, an agouti casually took a stroll right by, and then later the most amazing thunderstorm and torrential downpour cooled us off(Hey, it is a rain forest). The next morning, we saw the sloth that makes the hotel its home. Just hanging around, right by the rooms.DSCN4830

All in all Costa Rica wasn’t a relaxing vacation, but we chose not to do the resort thing. We went for the jungles and the wildlife. Okay, so we didn’t see as much as a Nature special, nor did we rough it like true wilderness experts—hey, there is a limit to how many comforts I’m willing to forgo—but it was great. No tan, a few mosquito bites, wonderful people, and an experience unlike anything I’ve done before. The jungle is almost a cliché, but it was wonderful to experience it outside of Disneyland (“This is the rarely seen other side of water.”). I must say the humidity made me appreciate our dry New Mexico weather.

I’ve always said that adventure is overrated. Adventure usually means something’s gone wrong and you have to deal with it. So this was a perfect trip, the kind of adventure that means everything goes smoothly, the kind that gives you the chance to learn new things about the world and yourself.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

 

Costa Rica Part Two

…or a feat of determination that still amazes me.

DSCN4707Our tour of Tortuguero (see part one) over, we flew back into San Jose on Sansa Airlines, picked up a rental car (after receiving a long lecture on everything that might go wrong on Costa Rican highways and byways and making all of us nervous as butterflies), we hopped in the car and made the interesting drive up to Monteverde. Why interesting? Because the last 20km or so of winding road up the mountain isn’t paved. It’s gravel, and we saw evidence of several small landslides (very small—not blocking the road…okay maybe half the road in one place only) because of the rainstorms in the area.

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The cloudy view from our cottage

We had rented a rustic (very rustic) cottage a couple of kilometers outside of Monteverde proper, settled in after the long drive (see paved road above plus a stop at a local sustainability and conservation center from which we were renting the cottage) and enjoyed another torrential downpour. But coming from New Mexico, we love the rain. It was downright chilly, but felt so cozy.

The next morning, sunshine. We hopped into our rental car (four-wheel drive Nissan Pathfinder), and then promptly jumped out again as Robot Guy had a little trouble navigating the steep, steep driveway, and, frankly, I was terrified (We’ll get back to terrified later). The three sprouts also abandoned the vehicle, but we were able to find a better path for the wheels and successfully left the cottage.

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Monteverde National Park (and yes, I took this picture)

We drove to the entrance of the national park, and joined an early morning tour. Monteverde has become a major tourist destination in Costa Rica (yet they haven’t paved the roads), and the early morning tour allowed us to enjoy the park with fewer tourists. But that wasn’t the highlight. We hadn’t hiked more than a couple dozen steps into the park, when our guide stopped, set up his scope and said, “Quetzal.” That’s right. The pinnacle of any birdwatcher’s list is the quetzal, and I’ve seen one in the wild. It doesn’t look real. Bright red and green, with white, it’s part of the reason Monteverde has become a tourist mecca. We hiked several of the trails in this beautiful cloud forest. And the number and variety of hummingbirds we saw was breathtaking.

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Haven’t identified this guy yet, but I don’t think it’s a violet sabrewing. I might be wrong.

Back to the terrifying part. Youngest daughter was a trooper and never complained once, but we knew she wanted a different kind of experience. We found Sky Adventures, a local, well, not amusement park, but extreme activity center. Zip lining. But this wasn’t your glide over the canopy at a decent height zipping. Oh, no. These were eight zip lines, the longest of which was over half a mile long and the highest was 328 ft. (http://skyadventures.travel/skytrek/  ; Apparently they have an even longer and higher one at Arenal, but we didn’t go there, thank God. If you want to watch someone else’s video of the zip lines here you go. Yes, it was that loud, and it was a lot windier when we went. At 5:35 is where you really get a sense of the height.  My daughter filmed her rides, but I don’t have that footage yet.)  I closed my eyes for the first two lines that crisscrossed the canyon we flew over. I did peek for the third. When I finished the hour and a quarter session, I distinctly felt that I had accomplished something and was downright proud of myself. Youngest patted me on the back and said, “You conquered your fears. Good job.” She, by the way, had a blast.

Day six started with the drive down the mountain and onto our next adventure, which is the next blog.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Uprooted by Naomi Novik