Saturday, May 31, 2008

Under the Volcano

My second day in Costa Rica began with me waking at daybreak with a breathtaking view of the full volcano outside my window.


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This is a rare event indeed, and within a minute or two, it looked like this. By the end of the day, it was completely shrouded, so that you couldnt even tell there was so much as a hill there.


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The tour I scheduled the evening before was with Canoa Aventuras of Cano Negro wildlife reserve, though I was not planning on using a Canoe. A nice driver picked me up at my hotel for the bumpy ride toward town to meet the other tourists. That was the main disadvantage of staying at the Observatory Lodge--the distance from town over the bumpy 9 km road to meet the main road--in total, about 30 min. It cost extra for everything. But, with the view I got and the sounds of eruptions that greeted me in the shower, I think the experience was worth it.


My driver treated me to my only view of a sloth my entire time there. It was very nice of him, as we were running late. (He kept having to tell the main office where he was into the squacking CB). I had told him (in faltering Spanish) a few minutes earlier that I really wanted to see a sloth. I admire sloths because part of me aspires to their lifestyle. I think I actually have  known guys with their lifestyle. Essentially, sloths eat leaves that have hallucinatory/drugging effects--hence their slow movements. They pass out and seldom climb down from their perch in the trees--only to mate and defecate. Anyway, my driver swerved off the road and pointed the little guy out. Not much to see, particularly without binoculars, but like I said, that was my only view of the elusive creatures.


P5160061When I finally arrived at the Canoa Aventura office, I met Angela and Kevin from Santa Barbara and their guide that they'd hired from Bob Beard Costa Rica (a well-known established scuba-centric tour organization). They are divers--and continued to impress me with all the places they had been to dive. Soon, the others arrived--Rob & Bethany, a couple  (she--American, he--from Northern Ireland) that lives in Munich doing missionary work (organizing young adult groups); a couple from Madrid, and Paul, a plucky middle age Aussie. We made the 1 1/2 hour trip northward to Cano Negro.


After a snack of tortillas and cheese, we were treated to a boat ride on the Rio Frio, where we witnessed a variety of wildlife: howler monkeys, spider monkeys, caiman (crocodile family), turtles, long nosed bats, Jesus Christ Lizards, iguanas, and a wide variety of birds--pardon my spelling (herons, Great Poton, Great White Egret, Berry Throated Tiger Heron, Analinga, Amazon Kingfisher, Green Kingfisher, Boat Billed Herons, and others).


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Iguanas on the way to the reserve.


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Long-nosed Bats. Shortly after this photo, they dispersed, thus dispersing us!


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A Caiman--they were plentiful.


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Our guide, Pedro, looking for wildlife. 


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The river was very peaceful. Ahead, was a canoe outing from the same tour operator.


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Spider monkeys (look closely). A mom had pulled branches together to make a bridge for baby. So adorable!


After the boat ride, we had a lunch of rice and beans (a common meal!), and headed back to La Fortuna. I had also scheduled an afternoon hike at El Silencio--a reserve under the volcano--and an evening at the Baldi hot springs complex.


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Here, our guide, Julio, gives us a brief history of volcan studies with the covered monster in the background.


Julio took us on a short hike and gave us a history of some of the flora in the rainforest. We didn't see much wildlife, but you did get the sense that it was out there hiding somewhere.


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The hike ended with us waiting to see lava flow at a viewing area. We did see a few, but it wasn't being very cooperative. Still, the other tour-goers seemed to feel satisfied!


We then went to Baldi hot springs. After my hot springs experience in Taiwan, this was very interesting. It's a HUGE tourist set-up. Nice hot springs, but very built-up. Swim-up bars, disco balls, loud music--oh my! Here's a blurry vision of it from the entrance.


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Apparently, it continued back about twice the distance of the pools I actually visited. The complex included a mock Mayan temple and water slide.  I somehow missed this. I guess that is how they justify their incredible admission costs--you'd be well-advised with any of these hot springs places to go with a tour. The tour groups get good discounts. I found this out when I paid for dinner. Somehow, that had been left off my tour (as if I was going to somehow get dinner on my own?). So, I arranged to pay through the tour group. The girl at the front desk charged him $9 and he charged me $15. The cost if I paid Baldi would have been $25. That's how it works.


I was taken home and this night, was not kept up by viewing the lava, as the volcano was well hidden behind clouds.


ps--Typepad: still driving me crazy!!!!

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