Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cost Rica, Part 1--U.S. to Arenal Volcano region

Day 1 started as a smooth day of traveling--that quickly changed in Miami! A delayed first flight and a kid that was dying to go to the bathroom made a very short layover even shorter! Surprisingly we and our bags arrived in San Jose without any more issues. Getting through the airport and getting the car were pretty easy, and just after dark (wouldn't you know it!) we hit the road. It was twisty, turny, rainy, and narrow--Frank did awesome!

Day 2 we explored the grounds of the resort, enjoying birds, iguanas, butterflies, and a sloth! After a quick dip in the pool, we joined a tour to Arenal Volcano. The top was clouded, but it was still very impressive. And we saw howler monkeys, black mandible toucans, coati, a sloth, iguanas, and leaf-cutter ants marching through the forest!

The balcony over the San Carlos River at Tilajari
K describing the butterfly life cycle in the resort's butterfly garden.
Arenal Volcano
Toucan spotting around Arenal.
Amazing sky (and a toucan!) at sunset.

Day 3 we did a full-day tour to Cano Negro Wildlife Reserve. The trip to the reserve was nice as we learned a great deal about the agriculture and people of the area. We cruised the Rio Frio via power boat and saw a rare jabiru couple, howler monkeys, snake-eater birds, trogon, heron, and caiman. The highlight was seeing white-faced monkeys, and then seeing one almost get eaten by a caiman! After the tour we let the kids swim before heading out to eat at a local joint. When I ordered the proprietor looked at me and said, "no." We couldn't tell if he was out of something or really disagreed with my selection!

My animals on the river tour.
K collecting coconuts.
Meat.  Need I say more?

Day 4 we decided to do one final tour in the area before heading out and it was amazing!  We floated down the Penas Blancas and San Carlos Rivers with our outstanding guide, Pedro.  Along the way we saw a ton of wildlife--crocodiles, rainbow-billed toucans, howler monkeys, snake-neck birds, tiger rattle snake, basilisk (a.k.a. Jesus lizard), Great Blue heron, long-nose bats, slugs, swallows.  But the most amazing part of the trip was a visit to the estate of Senor Don Pedro, a sweet 100-year old family patriarch and farmer.  His daughters and several farmhands work on the organic farm, sans electricity, and welcomed us with coffee, tapioca bread, plantains, and Brama cheese.  He loved getting hugs from the kids!

Heading out on our river float.
We had a great view of tons of howler monkeys!
Enjoying coffee at Don Pedros.

We closed our visit to the San Carlos Valley and headed toward the shore.  We took a path that took us along Arenal Lake where we attempted a few geocaches, and we tried out a "Soda" for lunch.  I think we just didn't hit a very good one, but it did the trick.  We arrived at the Occidental Allegro Papagayo just after sunset.  After a long day of travel we just hit the buffet and then went to bed.

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