Adventure

Cerro Chato Volcano Hike

Posted by on Dec 18, 2014 in Adventure, Costa Rica, Drama, Live Your True Nature | 2 comments

Over the few rainy days, I got to know the people in the tiny town, and relished the fog lifting to show off the view of Lake Arenal and the Arenal volcano, which last erupted in 2010 and is illegal to climb.

Arenal Volcano

Arenal Volcano

Instead, I chose to hike Cerro Chato volcano (3740 ft, which last erupted 38,000 years ago). It’s said to be about a 4 hour round trip walk. Though less hiking time, that was about right with all my picture taking! The hike starts out on the lovely grounds of the Arenal Observatory Lodge. White-nosed coati, or pizote as they are called in Spanish, roam freely. More on them as they are frequently seen.

Pizote in Spanish or White-nosed coati in English

Pizote in Spanish or White-nosed coati in English

I was lucky enough to spot the less frequently seen anteater. He greeted me with open arms;-)

Anteater or Oso Hormiguero

Anteater or Oso Hormiguero

The Cerro Chato trail is more like a narrow path sometimes a foot deep and wide enough only for one foot. I was glad the rains of the past couple days had ceased, or this would be slippery!

Deeply rutted Cerro Chato Volcano Trail

Deeply rutted Cerro Chato Volcano Trail

Caterpillar not to be messed with

Caterpillar not to be messed with

It was definitely steep and a good workout in the humidity. When I got to the top, the view of the crater lake was socked in, so I hiked down the muddy trail to take a swim in it! When I came back up, the fog had lifted enough to reveal the beauty of the laguna.

Happy Honeymoon Hikers David and Maria

Happy post swim in the Cerro Chato crater lake. Thanks to David, Maria for the photo

Espejito or Glasswing Butterfly

Espejito or Glasswinged Butterfly

Cerro Chato Hike

Cerro Chato Hike

I descended with David and Maria who were on their honeymoon. We shared the steep descent, waterfall side tour, howler monkey show and baby coatis on the run. They so kindly offered to give me a ride back to  where I was staying since the bus wouldn’t be coming for a while and it would be making a long detour first.

Happy Honeymoon Hikers David and Maria

Happy Honeymoon Hikers David and Maria giving perspective to the rutted trail

Again, today I was grateful for the kindness of fellow travelers. A family of four gave me a ride from the hotel to the trailhead in the morning, which allowed me to leave an hour earlier. I was amazed and happy to see them at the top of the volcano with their young kids about ages 4 and 6. And David and Maria told me they got a good view of the Arenal volcano after they dropped me off, so it was a great day for all!

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Land of the Mist ruled by the Queen of the Night

Posted by on Dec 16, 2014 in Adventure, Costa Rica, Live Your True Nature | 0 comments

I was definitely feeling ready to move on from Alajuela, but found it difficult to choose where to go. After talking to everyone and then just choosing, I finally decided to head a few hours north east to the La Fortuna, Arenal area. The bus ride was pretty over the curvy green hills dotted with Christmas trees and cows. Local passengers didn’t talk amongst themselves, but talked on their phones. I had an entire afternoon in La Fortuna before the regular 5:30 pm transport left for the village of El Castillo where I would stay. As I roamed the town, I was surprised at how touristy it was. It seemed to be a town built for the tourists. Perhaps there are many such places built around the expats and tourists in Costa Rica, or perhaps I would need to stay longer to discover the tico (Costa Rican) locales in La Fortuna. I would not find out. When the van taxi for El Castillo came, I took the seat next to the driver to have the most settled stomach on the curvy roads and to practice my Spanish. Luis was happy to help me with my Spanish and work on his English. He pointed out the free natural river hot springs where I would return to enjoy days later.

Free Tabacon Hot Springs. See the steam rising off the river?

Free Tabacon Hot Springs. See the steam rising off the river?

I was the last stop high on the hill beyond the village. I arrived in the dark and settled into my deluxe canvas/plastic tent with a cement floor, one wall with a window and a roof as well as double bed with single bunk above it. A closet-sized metal storage locker in one corner and a wooden bench under the window. I awoke to the deep sound of howler monkeys, understandably called congos in Spanish.

The next couple days it was rainy and foggy, but beautiful exploring the trails (with borrowed rubber boots as caution to the snakes as well as mud and stream crossing).

Higuera or fig tree with yellow echinacea flowers

Higuera or fig tree with yellow echinacea flowers

Heliconia Butterfly

Heliconia Butterfly

Palm

Palm

Blue Grey Tanager

Blue Grey Tanager

La Reina de la Noche or Queen of the Night. Also called Angel's Trumpet

La Reina de la Noche or Queen of the Night. Also called Angel’s Trumpet

 

 

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Finding Beauty Yet To Be Seen

Posted by on Dec 14, 2014 in Adventure, Costa Rica, Live Your True Nature | 0 comments

The only thing I booked for my winter in Costa Rica was my first two nights just 10 minutes from the airport in Alajuela. I went on a recommendation to stay at this little hotel with a handful of rooms, communal kitchen, back garden, wonderful English speaking manager, kind cook and night receptionist.  I ended up staying a bit longer to settle into hearing Spanish, buy a local phone and decide where to go next (which has perhaps been my greatest challenge so far;-). While in Alajuela, I was reminded of Thailand with the bustle of the traffic in town and simultaneous easy going spirit. I explored the local market and headed out on a day trip to Ojo de Agua which was recommended as ‘muy lindo’, very beautiful. Eye of Water or the source of water was a spring bubbling up into natural pools for swimming with hiking trails around it. I was up for a dose of nature, so I walked to to the bus station searching for the San Antonio de Belen-Ojo de Agua bus. No easy feat with a big bus station lacking signs. After wandering around looking for a bit I stopped to ask a gentleman dressed in dress slacks and button down shirt where that bus was. He turned around with me, walking the opposite direction, asked a man seated at a bus stop if this was the right spot for that bus and confirmed it was. I waited and observed.

Snacks While Waiting for the Bus

Snacks While Waiting for the Bus

A closer look– look at the cuteness of those shoes and that little hand on the right. I took another close up of the hand, but I’ll restrain myself with the postings;-)

Waiting for the bus

Waiting for the bus

The bus came. It said Ojo de Agua and I confirmed with the driver. I talked with a woman who sat next to me speaking impeccable English to her phone. She mentioned Ojo de Agua would be the last stop. Indeed it made sense since that was written on the bus. It was wonderful to leave town and get closer to the green hills I’d been longly eyeing. At one stop the bus driver stretched, leaning back looking at me expectantly. “Ojo de Agua?” I asked.  Somehow I understood from his Spanish explanation that we had already passed it. I was relieved he was headed back that direction. He told me where to get off though when I crossed the street and laid eyes on Ojo de Agua, I was sure there had been a misunderstanding somewhere. I saw a couple big swimming pools. I tried communicating with the ticket takers. I explained I wanted to walk. The woman called a security guard who took me around on the cement path. I tried to explain I wanted to see the source of the water, so he brought me to the cement basin where the water bubbled up and then down into the swimming pools. Sure the water was natural in the pools–no chlorine, but the true natural pool I saw was not for swimming. It didn’t look so clean and was just for the ducks. I decided to make the most of it and discovered horses on the steep hillside and a few birds. So behind the initial lack of beauty, here is what I experienced:

Banana Trees with their purple 'flowers' which I haven't seen anyone eat here like they did in Thailand.

Banana Trees with their purple ‘flowers’ which I haven’t seen anyone eat here like they did in Thailand.

 

Green Heron

Green Heron

 

Two Great-Tailed Grackles grackling away loudly!

Two Great-Tailed Grackles grackling away loudly!

 

Great Kiskadee Flycatcher from the back

Great Kiskadee Flycatcher from the front

 

Great Kiskadee Flycatcher from the back

Great Kiskadee Flycatcher from the back

 

Muscovy Duck (?) paying homage to a tree

Muscovy Duck (?) paying homage to a tree

 

Cat on a Tin Roof (at least I hope that isn't the Great-Tailed Bird Hunter)

Cat on a Tin Roof (at least I hope that isn’t the Great-Tailed Bird Hunter)

May you find beauty wherever you are even it there doesn’t appear to be much at first glance!

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First Food Impressions

Posted by on Dec 13, 2014 in Adventure, Costa Rica, Live Your True Nature | 2 comments

There are many food options in Costa Rica from fried chicken, western fast food to tico food. Love the little boy in the opening of Pollolandia–Chickenland. Notice also the sink in the corner of Pollolandia. I was surprised to see sinks with soap in almost every eatery, even a market stall.

Pollolandia

Pollolandia–Chickenland for the whole family

Yes, the whopper is apparently a bit like me and makes it’s home wherever it finds itself in the world.

Fast Food in Costa Rica

Fast Food in Costa Rica

No Burger King monopoly, McDonalds is also here; I spotted the golden arches high above the weekly farmers’ market. A few organic venders were here and I got my first pipa fria since Thailand 12 years ago. With his machete, the vendor hacked the top off the green coconut shell just enough to poke a straw through so I could drink the cold coconut water. When I finished he skillfully cut a slice of the green shell off and then hacked the coconut in half, and with that piece, scooped the coconut meat so I could eat it.

Golden Arches above the weekly Farmers' Market in Alajuela, Costa Rica

Golden Arches above the weekly Farmers’ Market in Alajuela, Costa Rica

Pizza delivery is possible too.

Pizza Delivery in Costa Rica

Pizza Delivery in Costa Rica

My first meal in a market stall was one of my best first meals. A simple meal of rice and shrimp with fresh ‘salad’ that was like a tasty fresh salsa. I added homemade chilero (not the stuff pictured in the bottle), which is various veggies such as carrots, cauliflower and hot peppers fermented in vinegar. Fresh fruit juices are quite common. My first was cas, which is a bit like guava, but more acidic.

Arroz con camarón

Arroz con camarón

One example of a typical meal is called a casado, which is means married because it is as if the rice, beans, ‘salad’, tortilla and choice of meat are married. My drink of choice for lunch this day was tamarind juice.

Typical Costa Rican Dish: Casado

Typical Costa Rican Dish: Casado

 

There was a steady stream of ants along the curb of the market. They found leftover snacks to take home for dinner.

The ants got takeout

The ants got takeout

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First Day in Costa Rica

Posted by on Dec 12, 2014 in Adventure, Costa Rica, Live Your True Nature | 4 comments

In the last post I said Costa Rica was decked out for the holidays. Here are a few photos to illustrate.

Decked out for the Holidays

Decked out for the Holidays

Decked out for the Holidays

Decked out for the Holidays

Christmas Trees for Sale--at the best prices

Christmas Trees for Sale–at the best prices

Here is the back garden from my first hotel as well as breakfast fruit. It’s funny how I didn’t care for ripe papaya at all when I lived in Thailand. Actually I had a strong aversion to it. In the past few years I have eaten dried papaya with no sugar and liked it When I got this plate of fresh fruit my first morning, I devoured the papaya. My body loves it! And those bananas remind me of fresh bananas in Thailand–so much better than the ones that arrive green in Vermont.

hotel garden and breakfast fruit

hotel garden and breakfast fruit

Here are a few scenes from around the town of Alejuela outside of San José.

Las Frutas

Las Frutas

Doorway con cebollas y bananos

Doorway con cebollas y bananos

This colorful street mural looks like it might be of the Costa Rican national bird, the yigüirro (ji-gwe-ro). You may be surprised as I was that this clay-colored bird is the national bird when there are so many exotic ones to choose from. The song is quite melodic and it is said to announce the rains are coming–though I have heard and seen it quite a bit and the dry season is starting!

Tico (Costa Rican) Mural

Tico (Costa Rican) Mural with the national bird the yigürro

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False Start and a Tica Welcome

Posted by on Dec 10, 2014 in Adventure, Costa Rica, Live Your True Nature | 0 comments

At the airport just as it was time to board they announced that Newark had delayed the landing of my flight several hours because the ceiling was too low for so many planes. The delay meant I would miss my connection to Costa Rica.This is one choice that seemed easy–to spend the night at home rather than in the Newark airport! I admit after all the weather stories of delays due to the rain Newark where there was flooding, I researched flights a few days later, but given the timing and all the snow predicted for Vermont, I decided to hope for the best and fly into Newark the next morning. That would give me all day to get there to catch my evening Costa Rica connection.

Take Off

Take Off

I’d never been so happy to land in the Newark airport! I found a meditation room for quiet reflection before my evening flight.

Rainy Newark

Rainy Newark

Costa Rica here I come! Finally on board and with a whole row to myself. I wasn’t the only one who wanted to rest. When you have to sleep, you have to sleep, even if it means assuming pretzel shape or being ‘pretzeled’ by your sister;-)

Airplane Pretzel Snooze

Airplane Pretzel Snooze

It had been a while since I’d flown a big airline. I felt like I was in a spaceship with all the screens.

New Age Flight

New Age Flight

It was gorgeous out the window. Here you can see the United design on the wing and the lights of Newark below.

City Lights

City Lights

And later the full moon and the Florida Panhandle?! I hadn’t paid for screen time, so I wasn’t positive, but it seemed about time to fly over Florida.

Full Moon over the Florida Panhandle

Full Moon over the Florida Panhandle

A ‘tica’ welcome to Costa Rica at the airport! They are all decked out for Christmas. More on that in the next post.

Welcome to Costa Rica

Welcome to Costa Rica

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