Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Rain Forest, Cloud Forest.. Green All around

We've been enjoying the green of the Green Season (aka wet season).. but global warming is leaving it's mark here too.. not as much rain as they usually get and the farmers are worried. When we took a tour of  Monteverde Cloud Forest the guide said they are seeing species of birds that wouldn't normally be there.. that tended to live in dryer habitats. Guiltily though, being here in the Green season and not getting the rain has been great for us.

We had a clear night for our night walk and saw a two-toed sloth moving (which is quite a treat as they spend 18 hours a day sleeping!), saw some cool insects, porcupine (which looks more like a monkey and lives in the trees), and an owl. The highlight for us was was seeing the huge tarantula and Sean thought seeing the snake was pretty cool too (the snake was found in the guides house.... they tend to seek out dry places in the rain, so it's common to find snakes in the homes!).

Yesterday we went to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve (a world heritage site) and paid for the guide which was pretty amazing.. very nice guy, Alexander, and who was keen to make sure we saw some wildlife.. and we saw the resplendent Quetzel ! which is quite rare as it only lives in cloud forest areas.. it didn't have it's full tail feathers (it grows it each year for the mating season).. but it is still such a beautiful bird. There was a full on scrum on the trail though.. it was funny.. groups jocking for the best spot to see it, the guides setting up their high power telescopes to make sure their group got a view. It was a full on trail jam.. wish I took a picture of it actually.. it was pretty comical. Eric said it was like paparrazzi for the Quetzal. Our guide also showed us a green pit viper that we would definitely have never of seen on our own.. coiled up comfortably on a branch.. such a beautiful green.

After the tour (which happened all in the early morning.. everything happens early here.. it feels like late morning to me and I check the watch and it's only 8:30 or 9.. I have to get used to the new rhythm that follows the sunrise and sunset), we killed a bit of time, then had lunch, then headed back to walk the trails on our own. The rich green, lush, tropical, forest was amazing to walk through - epiphytes, ferns, and vines (which actually aren't vines, but roots reaching down to the soil).. like the walk through the Redwood forests in California.. just good for the soul. We hiked to the the continental divide ridge where the wind was strong and could see the clouds just whipping by, so close to us.. and could see the clouds streaming down the side of the mountain. It was a nice 5 km hike but with our sense of time being off, we ended up finishing the trail to an empty park - we were the lone car in the parking lot and everything was closed up! oops.. the sun was starting to set and we were graced with just a beautiful view down to the coast.

We have decided to stay one more day here, love the relaxed atmosphere of the Pension and with a communal kitchen, it helps us keep the costs down. We are having a homeschooling, relaxed, no need to go anywhere day (though the owner just told us about a great waterfall that the kids would probably like.. so now I'm feeling a a bit guilty thinking of having a lounge day when there is this amazing thing to see/experience...we'll see).

I hope everyone is weathering the storm okay (the guide was asking us if we lived in the same area as where the Hurricane hit and we said "no, where we live, we don't get hurricanes"  !.. it wasn't until later that night that we realized what has been happening back home!.. Hope everyone and their property is okay).

Night Walk - Day 3

Red-kneed Tarantula

False Coral Snake

Beautiful Moon lit night
Day 4

There seems to be this misting, sun showers each morning..
which leaves amazing rainbows

Resplendent Quetzel

Inside a Fig Tree where the original tree was choked out
Fig Tree (these are the roots of the original tree)

Trogan bird

Pit Viper - yes.. very venomous!


Fern Trees!

Sean with a Poor Man's Umbrella

see the trees reflection?

Liam pretending to be a Toucan (his new favourite animal)..
it was windy up there! "I can fly.. I can fly.." he says.

epiphytes everywhere

Looking west down onto the Nicoya Peninsula
 (where we are heading tomorrow)

Monday, 29 October 2012

Adjusting to travel

Day 2 & 3 - Costa Rica
If I had written this blog yesterday it may not have been so positive but today seems like we are starting to get into a travel groove. Mainly I think the boys are starting to adjust which makes life a bit more relaxed (who am I kidding.. it's making things so much easier!). The strangeness of everything was making anxieties come out; the lack of full meals because the boys can't find anything to eat was making them grumpier; and even though there is only a 2 hour difference in time, our sleep patterns were off (which makes everyone a bit less tolerant and flexible). We are having small break throughs on the eating front and had some luck with ordering Hamburgesa y Fritas (which believe it our  not.. was originally refused because they didn't like the ketchup!) and well.. not sure what other breakthrough there has been.. !  Being surrounded by Spanish I think is starting to feel a bit  more comfortable  (the boys are saying Gracias instead of Thank you) and for Eric and I, we are regaining the little bit of the Spanish that was stored deep in our brains.. it's slowly coming to the forefront. Eric and I are getting used to the prices and the conversion rates (roughly 500 Colones is $1.. so we are getting used to seeing prices in thousands! The boys thought we were rich when they say the bills!).

The little bits of wild life they boys have encountered  and the anticipation of seeing lizards and crocodiles and monkeys keep the boys level of engagement up. The leaf cutter ants were a big hit at our first hotel.. Sean and Liam had a great time watching them, then putting up blockades, then giving them  leaves and eventually they thought they would experiment with putting the ants on leaves and putting them in the pool (yes, we left our kids unsupervised !). They actually named some of the ants. We stopped at a "El mundo de Serpientes" yesterday on our road trip into the Mesa Central and seeing phythons, Boas, pit vipers and their favourite lizard Basilik spurred their imagination for more (and made Eric a bit nervous as many of the "Very Venomous" had natural habitates in Central America). They saw a woodpecker this morning and I saw a hummingbird and Liam had his eyes pealed to the trees on the drive today in hopes of seeing monkeys.

So, as I write, we are in a Pension in Santa Elena  up near the cloud forests of Monteverde and the room price is much more to Eric and my liking. The room is super cool because it has bunk beds and an upper loft area, and in the main lobby area there is a common sitting area and common kitchen area - all geared for budget minded backpackers (our comfort level!) and they even have broadband wi-fi!!! (so I"m hoping I can load up a bunch of the pictures of our road trip yesterday and our drive here). The boys have done a bit of reading today, wrote in their journals and we are set up for a guided walk in the cloud forest tonight.. should be pretty amazing!

I'm sure the adjusting to travel will keep us on our toes but this afternoon feels like we've found a bit of a smooth groove. (Eric and I were starting to wonder if we made a huge mistake !)

Here are pictures from Day 2 (road trip in the Mesa Central.. small towns on the slopes of Volcan Poas) and Day 3 (drive to Santa Elena.. near Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve).

DAY 2 - Sunday, Oct. 28th

Town of Zacero

eyeing up the "Soda" store offerings

Happened upon a celebration.. parade with traditional Ox and Cart

There were more striking view but could never catch them in time..
lots of ups and downs and twists

At "El Mundo de Serpientes"

Crazy! I guess the Boa's weren't hungry..
 the mouse actually ran across the snakes head!
Hotel Brilla Sol in Alajeula (near the San Jose Airport)..
..the boys decided to rescue the ants in the pool.
DAY 2 - Sunday, Oct. 28th

They have live trees as fence posts.. love it!

beautiful drive
Mountain side home.. horse country

..and cattle and cowboy country

view down to the coast 

The coolest room !

Banana Tree in yard

Lounge area (that is my laptop.. in mid stride with the blog)

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Canada to Costa Rica

Well we made it! Not that there was any doubt but what a process...

...starting with the line ups to check in our bags at Pearson Airport, then security, then TimHortons line that we gave up on, then a delay at take off, then turbulence that slowed us down (we didn't mind... we were all happy to be plugged in- I got to watch two movies!) then more showing of our passports, luggage, customs, waiting for shuttle to get our car rental, paperwork, luggage slung one more time, then off we go.... and we didn't even have directions nor reservations to the hotel. Somehow we sort of figured it out after a bit of detouring and wondering if we really messed things up we eventually made it! So that first sip of Imperial beer at our hotel (Hotel Brilla Sol ), surrounded by the humid air and tropical plants was awesome. We could stop and everyone was in good spirits....

Going a bit "squirrely" after sitting on a plane for 6 hours

Waiting for the Alamo Shuttle
humidity and beer.. a perfect combo for Eric
(the humidity is for his eczema)

...until dinner and there was a crash big time...two over tired boys on our hands... They were pushed just a little too far. Yah.. we wouldn't try to venture too far tomorrow. Just enjoy the morning coffee, the tropical surroundings and let us adjust ( ...and catch up on some sleep) and find that travel rhythm that works for all four of us.

I hope everyone is having a great weekend.