Costa Rica Vacation - Summer 2015

July 2

First day in Costa Rica.  We arrive early at the airport.  the transportation is running 20 minutes late or 40 minutes Tico time.

First Stop   - LaPaz Waterfall


Kids hamming it up near the waterfall

Kids hamming it up near the waterfall

Second stop - Roadside Cafe 

Along the way, we stop by a roadside cafe to see the hummingbirds. The hummingbird place was a little restaurant or cafe where they had coffee and some good local food like rice and cheese empanadas.  Everything was cooked over fire.  Alex got to hold a chick and loved the puppies. When we walked out, we saw a "Boxers for Sale" sign.  The humminbirds had no fear, you could stand there and they would come right up where you were, as long as there was a bird feeder.  

Hummingbirds at the feeder

Hummingbirds at the feeder

 Arrival at Selva Verde

We got to Selvs Verde.  The place really feels like home.  We got put into a little apartment.  It is perfect. Right by the river and it has a bedroom for the kids and a bedroom for us.  It also has a kitchen and living room and games and Internet, though we are limiting its use for the evening.  

A picture of the front room of the Casona

We went to dinner and was offered a glass of wine by Andrea Holbrook. I didn't thinks she was here but then she showed up and it felt so good.  Loved seeing her.  

Thoughts  - it was nice to hear the kids speak some Spanish.  Kirk may not speak it well, but he understands a lot of it.  He was reading the newspaper and trying to get Anthony to translate different things. When the driver would speak Spanish, Kirk knew exactly what he was saying.  Wouldn't it be great to live here?  It is cool that Josh is a natural at rolling his Rs.   Our anniversary was today, we didn't do anything just for ourselves, but still is a trip of the lifetime.  We also found out that school is taken seriously here. High schoolers go from 700-400. They do not miss school for any other reason than a doctor's note.  


July 3

 I woke up this morning and am sitting in a rocking chair on the porch and listening to the river.  It is 6 In the morning and it is very light out.  I love the humidity. Getting hungry.  I wonder if anyone is up.

We started off the day with a great breakfast of rice and beans with scrambled eggs with green onions.  Alex ate Cocoa Crisp cereal. Josh tried the Fruit Loops but decided plain old bread was the best. Anthony poured hot milk onto his cereal....oops.  Alex found that she enjoyed cafe con leche without sugar. 

We wanted to go out on the self guided trail but found out it had been partially washed out from the flooding that took place a few weeks ago. We ended up roaming the botanical gardens across the street from Selva Verde.  Found a group of of leaf-cuter ants and a cool looking lizard. Lots of pretty flowers and leaves.  Great opportunity to play with camera settings.  

We came back and rested (20 minute naps are the best!).  After that, it was lunch. The boys were thrilled to find out spaghetti was being served. Alex, Kirk, and I had pork chops. Josh even tried the pork chop and declared that the cook at Selva Verde was the best cook ever!  This would seem to be true as it is a rarity to get him to eat meat. 

Following lunch, we got ready for our first guided hike. We met up with our guide and spent a good 10-15 minutes trying on different boot sizes to get the right ones. The kids were the easiest and found the metric size inside their shoes that matched their boot size.  Our guide was ever so patient.   We started our walk and the first thing we saw was a type of walking stick?  It had moss growing on it and looked just like a praying mantis. What was cool was when you put it back on the tree it would look like a dangling piece of moss. Perfect camouflage. 

Josh and the walking stick

Josh and the walking stick

We saw a few birds as well and the encountered another camouflaged anima, a basilisk.  Huge lizard blending in with the tree limb it was on   I would almost like to say it was sunning itself. Along the way, Anthony had a question about s beetle shell that he found hanging.  He found out it was an empty shell from a cicada. We learned that the life cycle of this animal is after its metamorphosis, it will live only for 3 to 5 days afterwards. Did you know that once the cicada males mate, he dies right away.

We continued on and saw that birds can have nests in places other than trees. We were shown a birds nest (for warblers) made in a mode slope. Across the road we went back to the botanical gardens and the hidden Ocelot Trail, where we saw all sorts of plants and creatures. We learned that some plants will have different scents. Some sweet and some not so sweet to keep predators away. We saw more leaf-cutter ants and learned that it wasn't the leaves that they eat but the fungus they feed the leaves to.  They even have three different roles for the ants, the carriers, the cleaners and the soldiers   

We also learned that the worst sting you could ever get is from bullet ants. Stay away from then!   We saw leaves that looked like flowers to attract pollination, even a set of leaves that were named for the way that they looked, "Hot Lips". A big highlight was finding the green parrot camouflaged in a tree.  All the kids had lots of questions. The hike that was normally 2 hours ended up being 3 and we loved every bit of it. Drinks of Fanta and beer were much appreciated. 😃 

Dinner was great and better yet was going back to the "Casona" and taking off our shoes, playing Presidential Scrabble and bridge.  Needless to say, sleep was calling everybody's name. 

July 4

The day was rainy.  Non-stop.  Luckily we had a balcony with rockers and a great view.  As I was watching the view I noticed a Green Iguana on one of the tree limbs.  If I hadn't been more aware it would have gone unnoticed. Camouflage was doing its job.  The best part was when we noticed he had actually moved.  We didn't know that was possible.  

Alex brought Duck tape for crafting.  Wasn't sure what she would do with it.  Today she got asked if duck tape was available to help with repairs at the compost part of the SCLC learning center located at Selva Verde.  

Fun part of the day began about an hour before dinner, Alex got invited to a dance class as a thank you from the SCLC.  I went with her and got to dance Merengue, Salsa and one other traditional dance.  It was great fun but very tiring.  

The rain continued some but seemed to stop when we started out on the coolest hike we have ever been on.  The "Night Hike" at Selva Verde.  

We started out meeting with the same guide that did our nature walk the day before.  Renaldo.  We were also joined by another family from Belgium.  Once we got our boots on we go ready to cross a bridge that would take us to the Primary Forest lit by the flashlights we had on hand.  Think Jurassic Park, or at least that is what I was thinking, as you had to open a locked door to get on the bridge and go single file as the bridge seemed to sway side to side as you hear a fast moving river below you.  It was quite the adrenaline rush.  

Once we reached the other side we got a chance to seem some amazing things.  

An insect that only showed itself at night that looked like a leaf

A glass frog, where if you shine a flashlight on it, would show all the inside organs and veins of the frog.  

Glass Frog

Glass Frog

We saw mushrooms the lived inside logs and glow in the dark fungus.  A bird sleeping in a tree.  

Grasshoppers and tarantulas.  Really rare and cool was finding a male rectangular glass frog that was protecting a group of eggs that were on a leaf.  We were told that once they hatched they would slide from the leaf to the pool of water that was below the leaf.  We were also told about frogs that lay eggs that have water in them.  The eggs/larvae would turn into tadpoles inside the eggs and upon hatching you would see an actual frog.  There was also a four eyed possum climbing high in the trees.  We did run into a couple of other frogs during our hike.  Both were cool.  One was the red eyed frog, another a green dart frog ( I was running into these several times throughout the stay.). We also found a green frog with black markings.  And another frog called a strawberry frog that was all red.  Seriously, you could study about frogs for weeks and still find something new to learn.  The most interesting fact was that you can touch a poison dart frog and be okay, as long as you washed your hands thoroughly after, otherwise you would transfer the poison from your hand to the food you would eat.  This would then cause you to have many stomach/digestive issues.  

July 5

Today was our last morning at Selva Verde.  Alex and I would have been happy to have stayed there longer and named Selva Verde as our resting place.  We will gladly come again.  

My mom had a chance to see Reynaldo again this morning and she finally sighted the elusive Toucan that she had been trying to find since arrival.  Needless to say she was thrilled.  

Alex with renaldo

Alex with renaldo

That afternoon we continued our Journey to Arenal Volcano.  We got to  our lodging.  It was beautiful and not as humid or hot as Selva Verde.  You could sit outside for quite a while enjoying the cooler breeze.  A little rest and dinner and we were off to.the hot springs pool which had water warmed by the volcano that was so close by.  The water was a big bath tub and felt wonderful after our drive. The pool even had a water slide that the kids enjoyed for the rest of the evening.  

July 6

Another early wake up.  Today we were heading out to Arenal Volcano National Park with one of the local guides.  We started out by walking one of the paths that lead to an old Lava Flow trail.  As we walked we discovered a small yellow Pit Viper snake that was waiting for a lizard or hummingbird to stop by.  We kept our distance as we were told it was venomous and quick to strike.  We also saw a leaf that closed in on itself if you touched it.  So cool.  We learned about a tree whose buds had many little flowers inside and could only be pollinated by wasps.  We learned that although Arenal Volcano is inactive at this time, that there is an expected explosion at some point in the coming years.  The biggest explosion occurred in 1968 and went down the west side of the volcano and left the other side aline.  You can still see the difference of the two sides today.  One has vegetation and the other is still black.  

As we hiked the lava flow trail we encountered many rocks and a rough walk as we slowing moved upwards to get a closer view of the volcano.  Most amazing was seeing my determined mom navigating over the many rocks so she could get to the top for a view of a life time.  With a bit of help from Kirk and the guide, she was able to see this.  

Arenal and Arenal Lake, which was a man made lake made to create electricity for much of Costa Rica.  

When we got back to the vehicle, a bottle of beer and other drinks were waiting.  What a great way to end a great hike. 

That evening, too tired to do much else, we grabbed some cards and played bridge with Nicole's parents.  

July 7

Sleep in day.  We were tired.  Of course sleeping in on this vacation was more like 7 -7:30 AM as Costa Rican time is 2 hours behind Florida.  

Breakfast was great and rice and beans were still a favorite.  This was the day we signed up to do the zip line tour.  My mom had wanted the experience but due to the large group size we were in, decided to wait for a future time when she could get more help from the zip line crew.  

Ready to try zip lining.

Ready to try zip lining.

Of course I was most concerned about Josh, who seemed so little for such an activity but he was ready and super excited about doing this.  He started out and I couldn't believe how well he did.  Basically zip lining consists of a pulley that glides down a tight cord from platform to platform.  You are given a leather glove contraption to insert on on hand and are told to pull down as hard as you can to slow down/stop at each platform.  Most of these platforms are high up in the trees and you have no way of getting to the ground until you have slid down several cords.  Some of these slides of the cord had you going down an incline at fast speeds so most of the time you were watching your guide on the platform before you to figure out when to break/slow yourself down.  Each of the kids got to go hands free and were hooked up to a guide so they could pretend they were flying.  

When we were finally done with the 13 platforms we all decided that we must do this again.  My goal will be to find one that is slower and has visual wildlife, maybe one in the early morning that would give me a glimpse of monkeys and birds.  

We went back to the hot springs swimming pool that afternoon to relax.  Dinner and packing followed and all of us saying that this trip was the top of the charts.  

July 8

We woke up at around 5 this morning.  Early, early, as it was a 3 hour drive from Arenal to the San Jose airport.  But wait, our adventure did not end.  What should have taken us a little less then 3 hours took us a good 4 hours with a 2 minute look see to check out the furry sloth sleeping in a tree by the road.  Now you would think this hour delay would have been due to rain or the conditions of the roads but you would be only partially right.  Only in Latin America would you see the most creative protest ever.  You see in Costa Rica, in order to drive a taxi, you need to follow certain regulations and pay certain taxes in order to be a certified taxi driver.  There was a large group of taxi drivers that were protesting the taxes.  How did they protest?  They formed caravans that either stopped smack dab in the middle of the road or would drive very slowly in clusters so you could not pass them.  Seriously, there was one point where a group of them stopped and started pouring cups of coffee while standing by their cars in the middle of the road we were on.  Our driver had to get very creative in figuring out a way past these cars.  

A wet sloth hanging on and sleeping in the tree

A wet sloth hanging on and sleeping in the tree

We finally got to the airport with two hours to spare.  Of course, we got another surprise.  Unbeknownst to Kirk and myself, Alex had picked up 3 big lava rocks along with some small ones and put them in her carry on.  Needless to say Security confiscated the larger rocks and let her keep one small one.  She was saddened by this but quickly recovered as she was invited in to the cockpit of the airplane we were going on to meet with the pilot and co-pilot.  She was thrilled.