Sunday, January 27, 2013

Toucan Ready

From here we made our way to La Paz Waterfall Garden, a by far underrated tourist stop.  

La Paz Waterfall Garden
I don’t know if you have every been so excited that you had to hold back tears, but I have.  First off, we enter the aviary and I see the following Crested Guan just chilling.  We convinced her to go back into the aviary, because I am sure she was ready to dart out and escape if enabled.  Then we walked into another aviary that was full of toucans!  I almost cried when they put the toucan on me.  It was one of my happiest moments.  We saw all these beautiful birds, and my excitement just continued rising.  Nothing could have prepared me for what happened next.  We entered a separate aviary and I found out that it was filled exclusively with toucans!!  I was ecstatic to have seen two in the trees a couple days prior, but never did I imagine that we would be so close to them.  This entire place was just amazing.  They had the largest collection of butterflies in the world.  They were everywhere and just landed on us as we walked around.  We also saw scarlet macaws, snakes, big cats, frogs.  We ended the tour by hiking to a couple waterfalls.  All in all, this was my favorite day in Costa Rica.  

Crested Guan

Toucan liked Nat too

Toucan Ready!

Little bird within arms reach

Scarlet Macaws
Butterfly garden
Butterfly landed on Nat

Venomous Snake 
Looking for frogs

Climbed in an ox cart
120ft waterfall 
These guys came up because they wanted people food
Poor man's umbrella

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Onward, Ho!

From here we continued our trip to the surfer town of Jaco.  We had delicious tacos for dinner than walked to a bar for margaritas.  While enjoying our beverages, we saw cops trying to bust a couple gangsters in a stationary car – unsuccessfully because after minutes of searching they were unable to find any evidence.  Hey, at least the cops are patrolling the streets, right?  The next day we walked along the beach before heading back to San Jose.  The temperature was in the 90s, which is great after the cold weather in Dallas and San Francisco!

After settling down in San Jose, we made our way to the Jade Museum.  We passed by lovely churches and the national theatre on the way there.  Most exciting, in my opinion, was finding the flock of wild parrots!  So far, I have found the wild folks in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami and now San Jose.  

Church in downtown San Jose
Wild parrots are in San Jose too!
National Theatre of San Jose

The Jade Museum boasts the largest collection of Pre-Columbian jade pieces in the world.  It was a very interesting collection of stone, jewelry, and vases.  My favorite was by far the erotic portion of the museum – fertility vases, penises and figurines holding their breasts.  Although, nothing rivals seeing Rasputin’s penis at the Erotic Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Love this one too

cute bowl

Check out the filed teeth! 
Fertility statue

Not sure what this bowl is used for
Rasputin's penis - St. Petersburg Erotic Museum, 2006

The next day, we took another driving tour out of the city in search of the Poas Volcano.  After more frustrating dead ends and confusing directions, we finally found our way up the mountain into the Poas Volcano National Park.  We were pressed for time because at about 10AM, the clouds from the forest billow down into the volcano crater, obscuring the view for tourists.  While in line for some coffee at the airport, I heard another tourist say that he didn’t see anything at all – too bad he doesn’t have someone like Nat cracking the whip to make sure we made our time deadline!  There were times he would basically be dragging me up that hill.  We made it though!  At the risk of breaking her hip, an older woman agreed to take our photo from the elevated pegs that surrounded the viewing points.

Poas Volcano
Picture from the Peg
This plant is commonly known as the Poor Man's Umbrella
We also hiked a bit further and found this beautiful laguna.  Although I think my highlight was the woman who was teasing a squirrel with a cracker – the squirrel started to climb up her leg causing her to scream and drop the cracker.  The squirrel grabbed in and ran back into the brush.  Serves her right for feeding the wildlife!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Continuing Through Costa Rica

Our vacation to Costa Rica is coming to an end.  Nat and I are sitting in the San Jose Airport, waiting to board our flight to Houston.  We may have one more adventure before us – getting our bags in Houston, through Customs and onto our flight to Dallas in less than 90 minutes.  Should be exciting!  Cutting it close at the airport makes traveling all that more fun. **Update - we caught our flight, even after I forgot my hat on the plane and had to wait for someone to retrieve it!**

Ready to go!
After the Quetzal Tour, we went zip lining through the canopy behind the Trogon Lodge.  Once you get over the fear of accidentally handling the cable incorrectly and losing all the fingers on your hand, it was very fun!  It was exciting to get a bird’s eye view of the cloud forest.  Just beautiful.

Here comes Nat!

After our canopy tour, we packed up our two backpacks and three suitcases.  For the record, traveling this heavy is not my typical style, but I have been on vacation for an entire month and had to pack everything from jackets, heels and swim suits for every occasion.  On my Trans-Siberian journey, I packed one heavy backpack full of necessary items and just enough luxury items (hair products, makeup, jewelry, etc) that most people did not believe I was a backpacker.  Not being confused for a backpacking tourist was kind of a big deal for me.  I digress.

We hauled our rental car up the steep mountains of the cloud forest and headed to the beach.  Costa Rica is full of surprises.  Quite often we would be on a “major” highway but then would find our selves booted into a small city.  We would stumble around in our car, making illegal U-turns in an attempt to find the illusive highway that disappeared.  Eventually we would find our way back, after asking an average of 2 people for directions. 

Driving through the Cloud Forest

Playa Dominical was a small beach city with a few surfer hostels, restaurants and bars.  The highlight of this stop was definitely sitting on the terrace of the hotel and watching the wildlife fly – remember how I mentioned we saw toucans that flew by?  

The next day we headed to Manuel Antonio National Park.  We parked our car and were approached by workers of the national park who offered us a guided tour of the park.  It’s a good thing we agreed to take the guided tour!  There is a good chance we would have walked right through the entire forest and not even seen one animal.  You had to have a refined and trained eye to find the critters that lived in Manuel Antonio.  Often our tour guide would set up his telescope finder and show us a snake, lizard, crab or another creature, and it would take us minutes to even figure out where he was pointing his scope!  It was amazing!  

Black Iguana
Can you spot the green lizard?
Green Anole Lizard
Huge spider

The following photos were taken with an iPhone through the guide's telescope.

Eyelash Viper
Howler Monkey
Wasp Nest
Patriotic Crab
Harem of Bats

Interesting Facts
  • You should always be careful not to touch anything in the Rain forest.  The eyelash viper is venomous and will easily look like another branch
  • Howler Monkeys are the third loudest animal on Earth - after the Blue Whale and the Lion
  • Wasps nests are vulnerable to monkeys when smaller, but by the time they approach the size above, monkeys steer clear of them. 
  • The Patriotic Crab is thus named because it boasts the national colors of Costa Rica
  • Bats often form harems, which include one male and two females

Toward the end of our tour, we found sloths!  I have wanted to see them since I was a freshman in college and my friend had seen them in Costa Rica.  They really don’t move, at all!  Not like the white capuchin monkeys that flew through the trees just feet in front of us.  They were even trying to steal our drinking water.  
Sleepy sloth

Monkey with a plastic bag
They were so close to us!
Thirsty Monkeys
The raccoons were by far the most fearless animals we encountered through.  They would just walk up to a backpack in the middle of a group of people and trying to dig through it before sand was thrown in their faces.  They had become addicted to salty caloric snacks provided by tourists, and were therefore no longer nocturnal creatures.  When they got too close to some tourist's backpack, our guide yelled, "Throw sand at them!" to frighten them away. 
Brave raccoons


After saying “adios” to our tour guide, Nat and I went for a dip in the warm beautiful water that surrounded the park.  This beach may just win out Miami and Cancun for best place to take a dip.
Manuel Antonio
Beautiful beach at Manuel Antonio National Park