Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Costa Rican Critters

While Costa Rica clearly has plenty of familiar animals, cats and dogs, raccoons, cattle, familiar birds like egrets and pelicans, we also saw quite a few that we'd seen only before in zoos, or in other tropical environments like Jamaica or southern Mexico.

Man with traditional oxcart, historically used to transport coffee.

Iguanas are common. They're vegetarian, and clearly accustomed to humans.

I think this is a caiman.  We saw warning near streams and rivers to stay out of the water because of these reptiles.  They are smaller than alligators or crocodiles.

One river tour we took went looking particularly for crocodiles.  This 80 year old croc is seventeen feet long and weighs an estimated 1, 700 pounds.

We saw several sloths lounging in trees.  This might be a two toed or a three toed sloth, a couldn't see to count. 

For me the most fun was seeing monkeys.  There were white faced monkeys, like this one, black howlers, and tiny squirrel monkeys like those in the picture below this line.  We saw them often, even near one of the resorts where we stayed.  There they made a racket early in the morning, before it heated up, and threw coconuts on the tile roof of the building.

I have a small, inexpensive camera, and we often were walking in a group, so I missed shots of many beautiful creatures - iridescent butterflies, warblers with brilliant flashes of red, brightly colored hummingbirds, green parrots, and toucans with bills like hatchets.  It was a riot of movement, sound and color, and tonic to eyes weary of winter.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Under a Volcano - a Week in Costa Rica

February in Wisconsin wears me out psychologically.  Christmas is long over.  Gray skies and snowdrifts have lost their novelty, and spring isn't particularly close.  I get tired of wool socks and lots of layers of clothing.  I grow really tired of scraping ice off the windshield.

So, since we retired, we have tried to take one or two trips around now, to get a chance to expose our winter white skin to the sun, to smell flowers, and to hear birds.  This month we traveled with UW Whitewater to Costa Rica.

It was great, though the trips there and back were long and tiring.  Still the people were nice, the weather was good, and we saw things we had never seen up close and personal before.

First new experience, volcanoes.  The highland of Costa Rica have six active volcanoes, and we saw two, Poas and Arenal.  We saw Poas first, and noticed first the thinner air, as we had to hike to the crater.  I was also surprised how misty and foggy it was, though I realize now that fog and mist is common in a rain forest.

The crater is filled with rain water and sulpher, which bubbles and spits.  Sometimes it was visible, and sometimes it disappeared into a cloud of mist.

Arenal has the perfect cone of a cartoon volcano, complete with steam venting from the summit.  We stayed at a resort whose widows all faced the tremendous cone.  It was stunningly beautiful, and vaguely threatening.  In 1968 it erupted, killing 88 people.  Currently it is classified as resting.

This was the view from our room.  I loved the giant crotons that served as a privacy hedge.  In the morning the evening flocks of white egrets would fly across this scene, and roost in a tree near the small river that flowed nearby.  That river water was off limits, since it also housed caymen, but we did take advantage of a swimming pool filled with very warm hot spring water.  Heaven on aching knees.

Thing seemed to be blooming everywhere, and there were lots of birds and butterflies to go with the flowers.  I could resist a couple photos of flowers.

In this area we also visited a coffee plantation.  The pictures that follow show coffee cherries, workers sun drying beans, and our guide Jose with samples of coffee. The coffee served everywhere was strong, smooth and flavorful. 

I'll continue with a few more highlights of our eight day trip in a day or two.