A Travellerspoint blog

Monteverde Cloud Forest

overcast 24 °C
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Friday, January 26
We booked a private tour with a guide, for the Monteverde Cloud Forest. We also decided to make it an overnight trip and then do something else the next day since we were a,ready there. We got up and hit the trail. Out tour guide was meeting us at the hotel/resort at1:00. We left at 9:30 for the 40 km trek to Monteverde. Since we have already driven around some, we thought it might be beneficial to leave a little early, turns out that was a very good thing. The first 10 or 15 km were ok, and we had already been oh this stretch of road a couple times. Not great, but wide enough to pass, some pavement some gravel. However, once we passed the section of road we had previously travelled, the road deteriorated rapidly. Still mostly wide enough the meet or pass, but very rough and full of holes. There was one section where the road was absolutely dotted with potholes from one side of the road to the other. Some were deep! So needless to say it was slow going and a little stressful and frustrating for my driver. We finally made it to our location, at 11:30. It took 2 hours to get 40 km. I was very glad to finally arrive and get out of the car. Poor little rental car. If I were ever to come back, I would make sure to rent some sort of SUV.
The lodge where we decided to overnight is nestled in the forest and surrounded by paths. Very nice. We had a bite to eat at the restaurant, I had a lovely salad with homemade dressing. Watched some hummingbirds. Our guide, Johnny, was early to pick us up and we were off for our tour of the cloud forest. I am all about doing things yourself and exploring alone etc., but sometimes having a guide makes for a very knowledgeable and enjoyable experience. His fee of $50 included his expertise, park entrance, coffee and an empanada (the best empanada I have had yet). He is an orchid expert, he is currently finishing his masters degree in botany, specializing in orchids. He also was very passionate about the preserve, nature and knew lots about the flora and fauna. I learned a lot. For example did you know, that there are over 100 varieties of avacado trees in the cloud forest? Our hike was 4 hours around the Monteverde Preserve. We saw many types of trees and plant species as well as, spider monkeys, coati, dozens of hummingbirdsand the piece de resistance, a quetzal (very elusive, colourful bird of Central America). Johnny drove us through his hometown of Santa Elana and then back to back to our resort.
We arrived back just in time for happy hour and the amazing sun set.

Saturday, January 27
After an amazing breakfast of fresh fruits, toast and homemade tropical jam, we decided to walk the trails around the lodge. We walked for about an hour and then packed up and checked out of the hotel. We decided to check out one more park, called Curi Cancha Reserve. For $15 we were allowed in and we walked around on very well marked trails for about 2.5 hours. It was kind of cool to spot the plants and trees that Johnny had talked about the day before. Didn’t see any monkeys, but a coati did steal an empanada out of Bill's hand.
The it was time to face the drive home. It took us 2 hours, but at least this time we were prepared and knew what to expect. Got back to our Condo at Tronadora and relaxed a bit. Then we headed into Tronadora to a small family owned and run Italian restaurant.I had a pumpkin ravioli and Bill had lasagna. The ravioli was to die for! Who knew!

Sunday, January 28
Gorgeous sunny day, finally. Just relaxing and enjoying The Sun. Went for a long walk down the road. We saw spider monkeys in a tree by the side of the road. We might go back to the Italian restaurant again as it is our last night here and we have run out of groceries.

It has been a good couple of days!

Posted by Basebrown 12:15 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

A Brewery and Waterfalls

semi-overcast 24 °C
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Monday, January 22
Today was a sunny day, yippee. Decided to take a drive up the road to a microbrewery we had passed on Saturday. About a 20 min drive on the curvy, twisty roads. We decided to try their sampling flight of beer. My favourite was the chilli beer. It was a light beer, but finished with a tang of hot chilies. I had a traditional Costa Rican dish of rice, beans and chicken. We chatted with the owner for a bit. He was a very friendly fellow, originally from New Mexico, has lived here and operated the brewery/hotel for 29 years.
Tuesday, January 23
Up really early today, argh. No reason, just awake and the sun was out so... I finally got a great photo of Arenal Volcano to the east of where we are staying. It has been too cloudy to see it, but apparently you have to be awake at 6:00 for the view.
We decided to take a short drive and check out some waterfalls we had heard about, called Viento Fresco. The drive there was uneventful. You pay up at the top where their office/restaurant is which is just to the side of the road, then drive down to the parking lot. This is where the real adventure begins. We turn off the road onto, well...a one way, one vehicle track and head approximately 1 km to the parking. Yikes is all I can say. I am glad we didn’t meet anyone going down or coming back up, cause there was no where to turn or pull over. Our pathetic little rental just about didn’t make it, an SUV is the ticket for this country.
There are 5 waterfalls to hike down to see. A path made of rock or cement steps, with a handrail made of black PVC plumbing tubing to hold onto. Lots of the steps were a killer for my short legs and gave my legs a workout. We hiked all the way to the last waterfall, in total 1.2 km down and back up. The 3rd waterfall was the most spectacular. I am not sure I have ever sweat this much in my life. It was hot and a workout. We were back to the car by noon, that’s what happens when you are up early and on the road by 8:30. Geesh.

98B153C7-B..A3DAFE09A8B.jpeg7F29697F-A..64BEBAB9FDD.jpegECE609F7-5..6A7BBE28CFD.jpegF8400BE9-C..D09F359F229.jpeg90_7FC6CD92-4..93E58C68F66.jpegWe were going to do a loop we were told about, that would bring us back to our casita from a different direction. But pretty soon we came to a Finca de Vaca (cow farm) and the end of the little road we were on. Oh well back the way we came. Wrong turn somewhere or bad directions.

A good couple of days, despite the rain and wind here at our casita.

Posted by Basebrown 12:19 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

Tronadora, Costa Rica

January 18 - 20

rain 22 °C
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Thursday, January 18

Up early again today to head into David to catch our plane to get to Costa Rica. So we have to fly from David to Panama City, then catch a flight to Liberia, Costa Rica. Domestic flights at the airport in Panama have to park far away from terminal and then you get off plane and get bussed to the terminal. So we do that, get to the terminal and find our gate and wait. When it is time to beard, we go thru the gate, and back onto a bus and it takes us right back to the exact same plane. Our seats for the flight to Costa Rica are one row behind where we were sitting for our flight from David to PC. Makes you laugh. Anyhow finally arrived at the airport in Liberia, Costa Rica, got our car rental and headed out for Tronadora. Tronadora is a small town about 5 km from Lake Arenal which is where we are staying. After google maps got us lost we activated our phone and used the Waze app to actually get us here. The casita is small, bathroom, kitchen and main area, which includes a queen size Murphy bed in the middle of the room. Windows on 3 sides of the main living area and NO blinds, or curtains, so I guess we will be up early. Wifi, but no tv. So I guess we will do a lot of reading.

Friday, January 19
Up early - go figure. Raining and windy again. Seems we can pick the places with the crappiest weather. We just hung out today.

Saturday, January 20
Up early, but not as early. Guess what? windy and rainy again. No wifi this morning. We headed out to drive into La Fortuna which is in the other side of the lake. Windy, twisty roads to get there. It is far more tourist than I remember. Quite busy too. We wandered around for a bit, went to the grocery store and to Down to Earth Coffee. We have been to this place before. But he had moved, so we had a bit of a time finding him. He sells his coffee and chocolate covered coffee beans. A really nice guy, and he remembered Bill (or so he said). Had a short visit with him and headed back for home. 1 hour 45 min drive around the lake to get back home. Not something I would want to do in the dark. Still no wifi. So we read and I went to bed early. Not a lot of options.

Posted by Basebrown 09:42 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

Birding and Coffee Tour

Boquete, Panama

sunny 26 °C
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Wednesday, January 10

Today we were up early, as we had booked a tour to go bird watching and then on a tour of a coffee plantation. Jason, our guide, picked us up at 6:30 and we drove through Boquete south for about 45 min. We eventually arrived at the property of a friend of his named Mishael. We went through Mishael’s house to his deck on the second level, where he had between 25 and 30 hummingbird feeders. We watched hummingbirds flying around, fighting with each other and feeding. They were not particularly afraid or wary of humans. Jason and Mishael identified 6 or 7 different species of hummingbirds for us. Then Mishael went downstairs and cut open 2 papayas and set them on a feeder. Soon there were dozens of other species of birds all competing to get to the papaya. We saw many species of birds including: mot-mots, toucans, tanagers and a chicken from the farm next door.
We watched birds for about an hour, and the they took us for a walk into the surrounding forest. Here we saw many other species of birds. My personal favourite was the blue dacnais.
We wandered around for about an hour, while they pointed out birds to our untrained eyes. Wow can they spot the birds. Jason had brought along a spotting scope, and you could really see the birds up close and personal through the scope. We returned to the house and watched from the deck. Mishael put out more papaya and more birds came. I was most fascinated by the hummingbirds.

Anyhow, we eventually jumped back Jason’s Toyota and headed the 45 min back to Boquete where we went to a small 12 acre coffee plantation. Jason took us on a tour of the coffee trees and told us all about the coffee berries and the process of turning the berries into coffee beans. We even met some of the migrant workers hand picking the berries. Yes they are all hand picked, as they only pick the ripe berries. The pickers are native Panamanians that come in at this time of year to harvest the crops. Jason said they come from a reserve nearby. They get paid about $3.00 per 5 gallon bucket of berries. They pick about 8 buckets a day. Next time you think your job is hard, think about picking coffee berries for 8 hours a day, rain or shine for a whopping $24. Perspective.
I never knew it was so complicated or required so many steps. I know I will appreciate my next cup of coffee. Our tour ended with roasting a small sampling of coffee beans and a cup of coffee. The owner of the plantation is quite resourceful and has used old parts from automobiles to create much of his equipment. As a result, he is know as Mr. Coffee MacGyver. We got to watch them run the days harvest through the machine that separates the coffee bean from the pulp. It reminded me very much of how a combine works.

Back into the vehical and Jason drove us back to where we were staying. Our tour had been almost 11 hours. I would say we definitely got our money’s worth.

As it was our last night in Boquete we drown up the road to have supper at George’s Fireside Grill. George as there and I think he might be Greek. As we had an appetizer that included: tzakaki, baba ganouch and hummus. All made from fresh ingredients from his garden and served with fresh, fire roasted pitas. It was excellent.
Off to Costa Rica tomorrow.

Posted by Basebrown 09:19 Archived in Panama Comments (0)

And now for something compelely different...

Boquete, Panama

semi-overcast 27 °C
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January 11

Today we left Bala Beach, Maria Chiquita on the Caribbean side of Panama and flew from Panama City to David, Panama. Only a 43min flight, the best kind. Short and sweet. Arrived in David, found the car rental place and drove to Bouquete. A nice, scenic drive and a cool little town. Reminds me of Banff. A hikers Mecca. Found our rental and went back into town for some groceries. Got waylaid at a brewery where we had to have beer, cider and snacks. Liking it here very much.
Bouquete is having their coffee and flowers festival, so will have to check that out later this week.
Currently we are sitting on the veranda drinking wine, listening to the cicadas. Earlier I was watching birds, particularly hummingbirds. Can’t wait for tomorrow morning to see the bird life. Trying hard not to think of what else is lurking in the shadows and dark corners. I’m ok if I don’t know or don’t see it.

Posted by Basebrown 17:14 Archived in Panama Comments (0)

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