2016: Costa Rica

03.13.16K Monteverde Three MusketeersLiberia, Costa Rica
March 12-19, 2016

Friday, March 11, 2016: My train trip to BWI was uneventful. Grateful for ride to train in New Haven from Kay, and meeting at BWI by Jeff M. Enjoyed Chinese food.

Saturday, March 12, 2016: Jeff S arrived bright and early and we were off to BWI. An easy five hour flight to Liberia, Costa Rica, arriving ~1:10pm. Picked up our car at Alamo ($590 by the time we added full-coverage insurance) and off we went.

Just south of Canas, we stopped at JSM gas station for lunch. Arroz con mariscos, tamarindo drink. Hamburgers. Not the best! As we continued, we got a flat tire, that we fixed along the side of Interamerican Highway (Pan-American Highway) Ruta 1. Got to Santa Elena at 5:30 and checked into Mari’s B &B. Stunning views of the sunset and hills from our rooms. Dinner at Sabor Tico, an upstairs balconied restaurant (chifrio? Fried pork/rice/beans), cas (Psidium friedrichsthalianum) a tart drink made from a local fruit. We stopped at the local supermarket; it cooled down at night.

03.13.16N MonteverdeSunday, March 13, 2016: After a pancake, fruit, and Tang breakfast at our hotel, we dropped off the spare time for repair on our way to Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. We hiked about three hours on the Wilford Guindon and Camino trails to La Ventana (The Window), an overlook with a wide view of an elfin forest below and returned by the Bosque Nuboso trail. It was damp and drippy, cool and misty. Saw: quetzal, red-tailed squirrel, thrush, robin type, heard bell bird. We ate lunch at the park (arroz con pollo, mixed fruit drink – papaya, mango, passion fruit). We picked up our tire and returned to our hotel. JM wasn’t feeling well, so JS and I walked around town, looked at stores, etc. and returned in time for our night walk at Kinkajou’s. Black and turkey vultures overhead.

Our two-hour night tour yielded nighthawks, white-nosed coati, kinkajou, two-toed sloth with baby, emerald and rainbow toucan, green vipers, cottontail rabbit, tarantulas (white/Brachypelma albopilosum? and orange-kneed/Megaphobema mesomelas) with Juaquin as our knowledgeable guide.

03.13.16Z6 dinner at Soda VarrillaDinner at Soda Varrilla which included Casados pescado (tilapia, rice) mango drink. The restaurant had entertaining sculptures of local fauna as part of their decorations; we sat at an outside table along the noisy road.

Monday March 14, 2016: Mari’s breakfast of fruit, eggs, and Tang. Drove to Santa Elena Cloud Forest where we hiked the Encantada and del Bajo trails. Many more open areas here with birds and butterflies easier to see. The local futbal team was there to do some community service work on the trails.

Lunch at The Garden at Selvatura. Palm heart salad and the best maduras I’ve ever had. We took the Hanging Bridges Walk that included eight hanging bridges.  We were thrilled to see a group of monkeys (Mantled howler Alouatta palliate) with three babies with their mothers, a few others and a male – probably 8 total. Later we heard them howling! We had a great look at a black guan and sooty thrush.

We returned to Santa Elena and ate dinner on the enclosed porch at Soda La Salvadita across from the UNED, The State Distance University. Fish (corvina/sea bass) casado in cream sauce with avocado, yucca, beans. Papaya drink. Very good! Family run and pleasant, although noisy road traffic.

03.15.16M ArenalTuesday, March 15, 2016: After our pancake/fruit/Tang breakfast at our hotel, we drove to Arenal. We paused in Nuevo Arenal at the German bakery for an expensive but pleasant snack. We stopped along the lake where there were kayak rentals (kingfisher, great egret, swallow-tail? kite). The view of Arenal Volcano against the long Lake Arenal was beautiful. The reservoir provides much of the country’s hydroelectric power (along with windmills we saw on the surrounding hillsides) and flooded the town of Arenal. Three other local towns were destroyed in the 1968 volcanic eruptions.

We stopped at Arenal Volcano National Park to hike. It was very hot, humid, and draining. We hiked to the edge of the 1992 flow and farther along the trail saw a 400+ year old ceiba/kapok tree. We drove to another view point and, with a clear view of the top, saw steam flowing from the vent, spoke with a park employee, and were visited by white-throated Magpie-jays.

We checked into Hotel Las Flores on the edge of Fortuna, which included a hospitable manager and various tire-sculptures (frogs, toucans, etc) and Great kiskadee nesting in yard. Dinner at Mi Casa across the street included Corvina casado (with macaroni and potato salad; I’d asked for no rice). We shared desserts of tres leches and coco flan.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016: We had a Costa Rican breakfast of eggs, tortillas, rice and beans (and Tang) before heading out to the Arenal Observatory Lodge. This stylish former macadamia nut farm was well appointed. At the Observatory Deck, we saw Oropendula, crested guan, hummingbirds, and at their feeders. We headed out on the Waterfall trail where we saw a coati near entrance. At the falls, which were attractive, we saw an iguana. We then headed along farm trails through cattle pastures. We saw Acorn (?) woodpecker, Tropical Kingbird, Social Flycatcher?, black grassquits, cattle egret.

We then drove ~ four hours to Liberia and checked into our hotel Hotel El Bramadero. We walked around the town, looking unsuccessfully for suggested restaurants. We ended up at Toro Blanco where Jeff M and I shared their pulpo dish that was extraordinary. Mango drink. Birds: White-winged and Inca Doves, Great-tailed Grackle.

Thursday, March 17, 2016: After Costa Rican breakfast at our hotel (eggs, real OJ, rice, beans, white toast), we headed north ~25 miles to Guanacaste National Park, close to the Nicaraguan border. Unfortunately, there were no areas open to the public, so we went to Santa Rosa National Park, Costa Rica’s first national park established in 1971, instead. We enjoyed a scenic overlook of the tropical dry forest and then ended at the museum and an old hacienda building, “La Casona,” which was the monument commemorating the fallen heroes of the different battles that took place here. It was too hot and draining to walk the trail.

03.17.16G Santa Rosa NPWe started down to road to Playa Naranjo, with a stop at the cafeteria. There we were thrilled to see a group of White-headed capuchin (Cebus capucinus), who groomed each other and draped themselves languidly over branches in the difficult heat. We then veered from the noted “road” to a side road that took us through some burned fields. Along the road, we spotted Mantled howler (Alouatta palliate), Black-headed Trogon, high-stepping lizard, and 3 white-tailed deer.

Heading south, we took a back road to Rincon de la Vieja that took us through sabanero country (cattle and cowboys) on very rough 4-wheel drive roads skillfully driven by Jeff S and well-navigated by Jeff M. It was all I could do to just hang on at times!

We returned to our hotel for a quick dip in the pool (only me) and dinner at our hotel (steak, onions, beans, maduros, salad, tamarindo drink). We took a brief walk, sat outside around the pool for a bit, and then into our rooms because it was still hot and humid.

03.18.16E coastFriday, March 18, 2016: After our Costa Rican breakfast (with big glasses of real OJ since I wasn’t having café), we found a flat tire in the hotel parking area. Alamo responded quickly and in a short time, we headed past the airport to the beaches.  Flamingo, Hermosa, Coco, Ocotal. The sand was black lava. I swam at one of them. Others had large coral boulders, rip tides, vendors of native whistles and pottery, picnic table-based cafes. We saw: Tropical/Pacific (?)Screech Owl, magnificent frigate bird, brown pelican, great egret, turkey vulture, howler monkey.

03.18.16M Rio TiempistreWe looped around to Rio Tempisque Basin, and found a dirt road parallel to the river. The first stop included a man driving a yoke of oxen to the river, with another adult and several children and dogs (including two puppies in a bike basket). There was another man in the river emptying a small metal dingy filled with mud/silt/sand from the river bottom (“alluvial mining of aggregates” extraction of volcanic sands by a cooperative of ~120 local). One of the children jumped in the river to help; a tractor driver came to meet us, explain this was private property but we could stay. Another man offered to take us on a boat ride. The final interaction was the man frantically calling his dogs who had jumped into the marsh vegetation to chase an iguana (we’d seen it run away from us) and he said the problem was crocodiles! Birding here was lush: bare-throated tiger heron, reddish egret, limpkin, slilts, jacana, anhinga, gallinule, great egrets, smooth -billed ani, and tons of other birds we couldn’t see or identity. We drove along the river for several miles, stopping many times along the way. We were on a high levee (the river had flooded in the past, particularly in 1995, 1999 and 2007). We left through the city of Filadelphia, which has native cemeteries (although we didn’t know it at the time), much of the county’s sugar cane production, and cantaloupe farms.

03.18.16UJS Beth in jailWe returned to Liberia and a snack at Iguana Relax (yuck). We walked by people receiving confession at 4pm on Friday – four or five confessionals on the back lawn, with lines of people waiting for each one.  We also visited the Comandancia del Plaza (El Cuartel), which currently had no exhibits but was used as a music rehearsal area. We examined the building, which obviously had served as a jail, with desolate solitary cells, and currently roosting bats. We also saw a local event for the children in one of the plazas. Eventually, we ate dinner at Morales, which was supposed to be a cowboy/sabanero bar/restaurant. It was pretty quiet for a Friday night, even when we were leaving at 7:30pm. My pork ribs were almost unchewable, although the yucca fries were good (made like tostones, which they called patacones there). We returned to the hotel for postres (coco and caramel flan) and then packing for tomorrow’s departure.

Saturday, March 19 2016: After our Costa Rican breakfast, we checked out of El Bramadero and returned the rental car. To the airport and our most expensive meal yet – two hamburgers and veggie quesadilla and two drinks for $75! Easy flight home, customs was perfunctory and we were on our way. Stopped for Indian food and Jeff S dropped us off at Jeff M’s.

Sunday, March 20, 2016: Took the 9:53 AM train back to CT to beat an impending snow storm.

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