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Birds, Butterflies and Coffee of Costa Rica..... and those Potholes !


Chakra
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"Why Costa Rica ? What's there to see ? How expensive ? Not letting you blow your money again !!", said, She Who Must Be Obeyed :angry:

 

"How about Zika? ", asked my eldest daughter, up to date with latest news :rolleyes:

 

"Where is that place ? ", asked my younger daughter. Hers was the easiest question to answer :)

 

I have been targeting a proper rainforest and swampland experience for a while, especially after reading so many excellent reports of Pantanal and Brazilian Amazon. But it is not a cheap experience. I'm willing to spend some cash within reasonable limits but for four of us (the girls are treated as adults for most purposes now) with private guides it was costing an eye watering amount. The same with Grizzly Bear viewing in Alaska, which I was discussing in another thread today.

 

And it was not possible to leave the kids behind, not yet, just a few more years to go !! ;)

 

So I started looking for alternatives and Costa Rica was heavily promoted by my good friend Xelas who also happens to be a Destination Expert on CR in Tripadvisor. So I guess he knows a thing or two about CR.

I started researching and came across a few excellent reports from @@Alexander33, @@SafariChick , @@Atdahl and of course from @@xelas. Tripadvisor is also a good source of planning, if you know how to traw through thousands of same queries.

I started feeling that spending 3 weeks in CR would give me a reasonably comparable experience at a lower cost. Of course I was aware that jaguars and a few other species will not be present, but one can't have everything.

And most importantly it was possible to self drive with help of guides when needed. I generally do not like the idae of being driven around.

 

So armed with my knowledge I tried to sell CR to my family members. One big plus point was that BA had just opened a new route of direct flight from London Gatwick to San Jose, thus avoiding the dreaded US customs. San Jose caused more confusion with my family as they thought we'll have to fly to USA :unsure:

 

Anyway for people who are not very familiar with Costa Rica , here are a few fact checks.

Let's start with the map to show tiny the place is !!

 

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The national flag

 

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Now some important info which I was hoping would clear all the confusions of my family members and generate interest. Because of my profssion I'm very used to public speaking and I mentioned chocolate every other sentence to keep the interest going ^_^

 

Costa Rica : The Rich Coast. National motto: Pura Vida (Pure Life), a very appropriate motto indeed ! Pura Vida means everything here.

The Land of “ Tico” and “Tica” : nickname for Costa Ricans.

Capital : San Jose, Juan Santa Maria Airport, not San Jose California !!! My kids know one of my favourite songs is Dionne Warwick's : " Do you know your way to San Jose ?" so they immediately started making fun of me !!

Time zone: 6 hours behind UK. Flight time : 11 hours, So expect serious jet lag !!

Language : Spanish. It is now time for girls to show that the money I am spending on their Spanish classes at school is well spent. It was indeed helpful as I was struggling after Buenas Dias and my exprssion suggested Mui Mal :wacko: English spoken but mostly in touristy places.

 

Currency : Colones. US dollars readily accepted in big touristy places and we found ATMs in all touristy places.

 

National Food : Galo Pinto : rice, beans and meat combination. Great dish, I vouch for that !! Delicious !!

Chief exports : Coffee, chocolate and banana and Tourism. High emphasis on Chocolate :)

Tourist routes: Pacific Coast , Caribbean coast and the Central mountains ( least explored region). Large number of Volcanoes ( several active ones, one of them decided to vlow a few weeks before we were due to rravel) and many waterfalls.

 

Osa peninsula : the richest Biodiversity in the world, even more than Amazon rainforest. Don't just believe me , check Nat Geo.

Ha Ha Pantanal : in your face !!! <_<

 

Very dense rainforests and cloud forests with rain more than 300 days a year. And I can again vouch for that after wearing wet socks for 3 days!!

Main attractions : Resplendent Quetzal bird and hatching of Olive Ridley turtles ( in May-June) and frogs, insects, beaches and rainforest in general.

Weather : cold and dry in mountains all the time and rains in July in most of the areas.

Sadly July is the only time that we could go.

Famous people (actually the only Costa Rican I knew of) : Kaylor Navas. Currently the best goalkeeper in the world, plays for Real Madrid. Football to us, soccer to you guys across the pond.

Costa Rica is the only country with no regular army. That appealed hugely to my vegetarian Jain wife, who hails from the same place as Mahatma Gandhi !!

 

And my family members were all sold , so it was time for me to make some serious preparations.

I guess that is enough for a prologue and let's meet the Prince of Costa Rica now :)

 

 

 

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Edited by Chakra
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Firstly apologies for so many typos. ST only allows editing once. I thought I had got rid of all, but clearly not :( :(

 

Back to logistics.

 

We are a family of four, kids now 16 and 12 and we approaching half century. Not very fit, just average. I love to explore off the beaten places and rest of the family grudgingly follow me ! Daughters are seasoned travellers and long accepted the fact that Disneyland will have to wait while dad goes chasing the sunrise and sunset all over the world!

We live in England where sunshine is as rare as hen's teeth and the significant fall in value of Pound after Brexit vote makes everything even gloomier in this usually gloomy island !

Because of school holiday timings I am restricted to travelling mostly between mid-July to late August and I try to take a longer break, preferably 2-3 weeks this time and covering my colleagues during other holiday periods.

 

I had 22 days in my disposal and the trip started on 9th July 2016 and ended on 31st July.

 

Where to go in Costa Rica ? So many things to see :unsure:

 

After my extensive research and number crunching I noted that about 80 % of the questions in Tripadvisor forum relate to two or three places : Arenal, Monteverde and the Pacific coast beach resorts of Nicoya peninsula. So it was simple for me to decide to exclude those places apart from Monteverde which despite the hordes of tourists sounded quite appealing.

 

The more I followed the TA forum the more I started to get worried. One guy asked, " Where to find dry cleaning for my suits ?" and several people replied. Goodness me, I surely was not looking to bring my suits to Costa Rica and he did not mean Wet Suits :rolleyes:

 

CR is not a cheap destination anymore and it is becoming increasingly popular with North American tourists for cheap air fares. That has led a boom to rise of all-inclusive resorts and looks like the sense of adventure is slowly getting replaced by guided tours, being driven around and expectation to see wildlife on a platter.

Do not expect the rates to drop in the so called Rainy Season of July/August as CR has opened up to Europe and that coincides with the school holidays.
Rainy season has its pros and cons but if you come prepared you'd enjoy. After prolonged El Nino effect the La Nina arrived just as we are leaving and it led to significant rainfalls in July leading to landslides, tress uprooted and road blocks. Currently La Nina is in her full swing and would probably last a while. Whatever precaution you take you are bound to get wet so just go for it and protect your camera gear all the time.

 

But with right guidance one can still find relatively cheap accommodations ( say less than $100 per night self catering for a family of four) and it is very easy to build a self-drive itinerary if you are willing to face a little hassle.

The cabins at Quetzal valley were for 70 USD a night while the nearby resorts like Savegre hotel, Dantica lodge etc are 4 times the value. But when the Quetzal came out it didn't give the people from Savegre hotel a better show. The wildlife do not stick to lodge premises only.

 

One of the most important factors is to get a good guide and go for personal tours, if you can afford. They are not cheap and for four of us it was genuinely hurting my pocket. But I could see the difference.

I was privileged to have the exclusive service of Andres Alvarado of Forest Alive in Monteverde and Nito of Surcos tours in Corcovado, who were two of the best guides that I have ever come across and they made the experience memorable. Whereas in La Selva biological station we were with a guide and six other people. The guide had the attitude of a typical employee who was just doing his job ( we spotted more creatures than he did) and could not wait to finish the trip and get back to his A/C office. And let me tell you just one idiot in a group is enough to ruin everyone else's experiences.

 

Car rental is a mine field and I'm so so thankful to @@xelas for pointing me towards Thorsten of Wild Rider. I also had prompt response and comparable quotes from couple of other companies but decided to go with Thorsten and did not regret it at all.

 

I had 22 days in my disposal and decided to stick to the Pacific side and a little bit of the central area, leaving the Caribbean side for another time. I didn't have much interest in Nicoya and its beaches and decided to skip Arenal area completely as it looked too touristy for my liking.

 

So here is my route starting with San Jose and then going north and following a clockwise path :

 

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Starting on 9th July 2016.

 

Day 1 : Hotel Robledal at Alajuela overnight after a long flight

Day 2,3,4 : Car delivered to hotel, drive to Rainbow valley lodge : St Elena, Monteverde

Day 5,6,7,8,9 : Finca Verde lodge, Bijagua, Tenorio Volcan NP

Day 10,11 : Posada Cristina Andrea at P.V de Sarapiqui

Day 12,13 : Quetzal valley cabins at Sa Gerrardo de Dota

Day 14 : Cabinas Tropicales at P. Jimenez , leave car

Day 15, 16 : Fly in and out of La Sirena Ranger station , Corcovado

Day 17,18,19,20, 21 : Pick up car and drive to Toucan Terra guest house Cabo Matapalo

Day 22 : Hotel Los Ranchos at Jaco

Day 23 : Drive back to SJO-return car and catch afternoon flight back home to UK.

 

Now the serious fun begins :P :P :P or rather as Ticos say, " The adventure begins when the tar road ends."

And here is the beginning of my adventure : the road to Monteverde :wub: :wub:

 

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Edited by Chakra
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Some general observations which any future independent minded traveller may find useful :

 

Driving : not too difficult apart from Cerro de la Muerte driving through mountains when it rained non-stop with dense fog, but almost everyone slowed down. You are bound to get stuck behind large lorries and just be patient. In the beginning I was getting overtaken by grannies riding on their mopeds but after a day I was fine. The Ticos will overtake at blind bend and at high speed but you do not need to compete with them. Overall the drivers were not too bad and even in San Jose I survived twice with expert navigation from my wife :o

 

The tarred roads are well maintained but the gravel roads can be very challenging. After getting stuck in mudslide I tried to take a back road through Tenorio NP to reach Bijagua. The craters were as big as grand canyon. But even that paled into insignificance in Osa peninsula. The roads after P. Jimenez are horrendous to say the least and I shudder to think how they are after the rainy season. The turn into Cabo Matapalo is a big drop with a huge pothole, which I misjudged and for a second my heart was in my mouth :o

I went looking for some Ocelots and snakes to a place called La Tarde in Osa. I was told it was just 10-15 km from tarred road but they did not told me the condition of the road. That is where I got stuck trying to go uphill and the Tucson was underpowered to pull me through, I revved and was in deep trouble and a very friendly Tico helped me out. :huh:

 

No need to rent the exorbitantly priced GPS units. Download Google maps offline beforehand and Miss Google was surprisingly accurate in offline mode ( with GPS coordinates set up beforehand) apart from once directing me to turn right towards San Gerrado when that would have meant going down the mountain slopes and she completely lost it on my way to La Tarde and kept on asking me to make a U turn.

Waze app will also help you out and Google and Waze have teamed up now. I also bought the Toucan paper map and it was helpful as well.
I saw traffic cops on several occasions, especially in bigger places like San Isidro etc but thankfully they did not trouble us at all. In the tarred road most people were driving above speed limit.

We speak a little Spanish ( rather my daughters speak ) and that was always appreciated.
Obtaining a Kolbi SIM card from SJO was super easy ( free and only 2 dollars for initial ) and so was topping it up from a supermarket.
We are mostly vegetarians and had no problem at all in finding decent food. In big towns the eating was certainly not as cheap as other developing countries but outside that it was quite affordable.
I drank water straight from tap everywhere apart from La Sirena where I used my water purifier tablets. I even could not resist eating delicious corn on the cob and meat on skewer from street vendor and my tummy did not protest at all.

 

Money : USD widely accepted and all the bookings I made from UK beforehand wanted to be paid in USD. ATMs were surprisingly frquent, often had a guard, and in touristy places they offered me an option of withdrawing either in USD or in Colones but in other places it was Colones. You can surely withdraw colones to pay locally but if you had previously agrred to pay a certain amount of US dollars then the exchange rate the vendor gives you on the spot would be lower than the current official interbank exchange rate and they'll often round it up. So carry Dollars for the bookings you have made in dollars and use Colones wherever you can and use up all the Colones in the duty free shopping !!

 

Lastly the people. Very very friendly. I took usual precautions and did not feel uneasy anywhere at all. Once I realised I had lost a wheel nut and drove into a repair shop. Had a bit of a problem in communication there and they did not have the exact replica for the Tucson and those guys actually found someone who could speak a bit of English.

 

Now the most important part : Photography.

 

I carried Nikon D 750 as my primary camera with 200-500 Nikor lens, weighing around 3 kgs plus. I clearly remember the report from@ Alexander33 where he described how a very energetic group of birders arrived at Bosque del cabo in Osa with their heavy equipment and by the end of day one, they all looked totally deflated. Following sensible advise I bought the excellent Blackrapid shoulder strap. It was ridiculously priced but believe me it was worth every penny. My Amazon review here :

https://www.amazon.co.uk/product-reviews/B002WR7VSS/ref=cm_cr_dp_synop?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=0&sortBy=recent#R35SWEK31R84Q1

 

The Vibration Reduction was very effective and I did not feel the need for a monopod or a tripod. CR was probably the toughest challenge I had so far. I did think about buying a flash extender but how much gear can you carry ? A Teleconverter, even just 1.4 would have struggled to autofocus in this low lights.

 

But surprisingly shooting in Corcovado was much easier. As hunting has been banned for many years now the creatures have become very habituated to humans, especially around the trails near Sirena.

We found Trogons, Pitta and a Micahel Jackson manakin near the trails. In India these birds would have flown away but here they were surprisingly tolerant and one manakin actually had a bath on the puddle in the middle of the road just about 10-15 feet from me. A group of Koatis foraged within touching distance and peccaries almost hopped into the little plane with us for a ride.

 

I hardly ever used focal length below 400mm.

This is a photo taken in practically total darkness in Corcovado but the tiny little fearless bird was so close and enjoying his bath in the puddle that even my in-built flash was able to illuminate it adequately.

 

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Is that a Manikin my learned friends ? And I am slightly curious about the white-bluish reflection from the back of its eyes. Just hope that he is not developing cataract.

Normally the glow of reflected light from human and animal eyes is Red, Yellow or Green . Is that not the case with birds ? Again I ask my learned friends !

 

I'm not a hardcore birder and I enjoy every creature big or small and the scenery wherever I go. Sometimes my birding friends get too fixated on target species and ignore the surrounding beauty on offer. I enjoyed every time I was out in the nature in CR.

Edited by Chakra
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Hola @@Chakra!

 

Your long awaited trip report has started, and excellent timing, just before many of interested readers will go for their x-mas/new year trips. Of course I don't expect anything but a very long and a very detailed report, the one that will make others wishing to visit Costa Rica also themselves.

 

However, as mentioned as a DE on TA, I have to correct you in two items:

 

- chocolate is far from being an important export item; the fungus has decimated the crop severely already years ago. On the Caribbean side, pineapple plantations are taking over, Dole has moved its production from Hawaii

- and luckily there is no boom of AI resorts in Costa Rica. Just a handful of them, all of them on the nothern part of Guanacaste province, area also known as Tamagringo (originally Tamarindo).

 

Thanks for the photo of the Prince ; similar photo and big red eyes lured me to Costa Rica for the first time.

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However, as mentioned as a DE on TA, I have to correct you in two items:

 

- chocolate is far from being an important export item; the fungus has decimated the crop severely already years ago. On the Caribbean side, pineapple plantations are taking over, Dole has moved its production from Hawaii

- and luckily there is no boom of AI resorts in Costa Rica. Just a handful of them, all of them on the nothern part of Guanacaste province, area also known as Tamagringo (originally Tamarindo).

 

 

Yes, of course. In fact when we went for the chocolate factory tour in Tirimbina I saw half the crop was fungated.

Pine apple is indeed the Big Thing now but to my family members Chocolate was more exciting than Pine apple.

I partly agree with your second statement, Yes the AI resorts have not hit other parts but the effect of Gringofying is probably felt in other areas as well.

Edited by Chakra
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Flights : now we have two direct flights from UK, one with British Airways and one with Thompson Holidays , who mostly take their clients to the Riu hotel in Pacific coast. I tracked the flights for a while and as expected the prices in July never came down properly. Just after Christmas there was a sale and I managed to pay just below £600 per head. Not that cheap.

BA operates old planes in this route and the Cattle Class experience was just as one expects. I have got to say after getting used to Emirates and their modern fleet with superb AVOD the old BA in-flight system was a rude awakening. But most importantly the flight was on time.

 

In the flight the captain had set the destination as Rio and the flight map kept on showing us travelling to Brazil. I thought, Wow !!BA will sponsor my trip to Pantanal.

 

On arrival I hardly faced any queue, bought a cheap SIM card for $2 from KOLBI shop next to luggage belt, collected my bags, cleared the customs smoothly and was immediately thrown into the confusion of the taxi drivers trying to get a fare. I could not find the van from Hotel Robledaal despite following their instructions to stand next to a restaurant.

Then a guy who was directing some taxi drivers , but did not have any official uniform came up to me. I thought he was going to get me into a taxi and was trying to avoid him but he actually was a very helpful chap and told me I was standing in front of the wrong restaurant and then directed me to the right place where I saw the van from hotel.

I apologised to him in English and broken Spanish , just shows that one should not judge a book by its cover.

 

Fifteen minutes drive took me to Hotel Robledal, a small family run hotel in a suburb called Alajuela. There was an inviting swimming pool which refreshed my energy after 10 hours of flight. We were all too tired to go out for a dinner again , we had some sandwiches with us, so coffee and some sandwich , followed by two melatonin tablets and I was soon sleeping like a baby by 8 pm.

 

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Of course the Melatonin was unable to counter the time lag completely and I was up by 4 am and at 5 am eventually left the room to meet some good-looking hotel guests practising yoga by the pool side.

Well, I went looking for Mother nature leaving them to their meditations.

 

Soon it was time for breakfast and my first taste of Gallo Pinto. I actually loved it very much and had several helpings. Being Indian I am very used to rice based food, although not first thing in the morning, but this was clearly a healthy dish expected to last long.

 

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Hotel staff were very helpful. Mostly family. They have a small area behind the hotel which was a protected area for Ferruginous Pygmy Owl nesting and they not only kindly opened that up for me but even mimicked the call to draw one out.

This was where I was reminded that I was not strolling in my back garden. I was following some birds which were grazing in the grass , when one of them just jumped up in fright and I saw it was a snake. The snake was extremely well camouflaged even in short grass. Took some photos and showed to staff who told me it was probably a Cat eye snake which ate frogs and only mildly venomous. But I was glad that my holiday did not start with a close encounter.

 

Some flora and fauna in the grounds of Hotel Robledaal

 

Pygmy Owl

 

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Inca Dove

 

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Grackle with a stone

 

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My first Butterfly

 

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Dance of Death : The Danse Macabre

 

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The Unexpected Encounter

 

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Soon the Hyundai Tucson was delivered. A very detailed briefing followed. I paid my $1200 rental fee and $ 1000 dollar deposit by a card without any hitch and we were ready to leave.

 

Got out of the hotel, drove at a speed of 20 kmph for a while to get used to the "wrong" side of the roads, took wrong exits couple of times, got overtaken by grannies in scooters returning with grocery shopping and then found the highway towards the coast. It was a very nice drive going through deep valleys. Had several toll point with no delays. Drivers were mostly following the speed limit. Had our first glimpse of the Pacifico. It was a Tico holiday and the beaches were very busy with lots of people having Barbecue on Beach !!

Much more interesting was the para-gliders floating above us.

 

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And then I reached the infamous Inter-Americana

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Dry cleaning, really?

 

Sorry, can't name your bathing bird but I do like your frog. I'll admire the para-sailing from the comfort of my chair with all 5 castors on the ground.

 

I edit many times on ST. Testing: 1st edit - 2nd edit

 

 

You're off on a fantastic self driving adventure.

Edited by Atravelynn
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Can't help with the bird either, but the spider is one very commonly seen in Costa Rica, Golden Orb Spider. With that many Americans coming to have their dream wedding in this country, a dry cleaner is as common as an Golden Orb Spider, specially in more touristic locations like Manuel Antonio, Tamarindo and La Fortuna.

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Dry cleaning, really?

 

Sorry, can't name your bathing bird but I do like your frog. I'll admire the para-sailing from the comfort of my chair with all 5 castors on the ground.

 

I edit many times on ST. Testing: 1st edit - 2nd edit

 

 

You're off on a fantastic self driving adventure.

 

Thanks Atravelynn. Once you get used to the idea of self drive then it is difficult to get back to being driven around. The editing is still flummoxing me ! Once I reply then I can see the Edit button once but once I have edited the post once and saved it then the edit button disappears. Must be something simple which I can't get.

And xelas is right , it was a question from one of the wedding guests.

Trying Edit 1 and save change

Trying Edit 2 save change

Trying Edit 3 : still working.

It must be then some sort of time bound thing. I'll come back after 5 10 minutes or may be once someone had posted after me I can't change.

My experiments shall tell :wacko::wacko::wacko:

Edit 4 : after 10 minutes and another post.

Proves I'm an idiot

Edit 5 : I've cracked it. The Edit button is greyed out and to get Edit available again I had to hover over with my pointer. Thanks Atravelynn !!

Edited by Chakra
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"We don't want our roads to be repaired, we want potholes and boulders ". This is quite different from the usual petitions to local municipality and when I read about this place I was sold.

So off I went to the Green ( Verde) Hills ( Monte) of Monteverde. This is a rare success story in our changing world where some people with vision had come together and acquired land to live simply and halt the progress of " civilisation".



In the process rejuvenated nature and the amazing biosphere of Cloudforest has returned. This clearly shows that if you give nature a chance she can pay you back.

People sometimes look down upon Quakers as weird religious people. I don't think I can live their lives but I have nothing but huge respect for them for their simple living and love for nature.



Of course things have changed. That horrendous road to Montverde is now partially paved, the famous homemade cheese factory of the Quakers has been taken over by a Mexican company but thankfully the Cloudforest has managed to grow and grow .


Leaving Pacific ocean, surfers and paragliders, I turned into another iconic road of central America :

" The Inter-Americana" : a road whose story is linked with the building of Panama canal and which forms a part of the world's longest road: Pan-American Highway stretching from the tip of Argentina to the north of Alaska.

There is only a 100 Km long gap in this road where even with the help of modern satellite imagery it has been proven to be absolutely impossible to build any road : The Darien Gap of Panama. That's is my next destination now that FARC guerrillas of Colombia have at last declared ceasefire.



After getting stuck behind 18 wheeler monstrous lorries carrying supplies from one end of America to the other, I then turned towards the hills and the paved section of the road with big black vultures floating on thermals to give me company.



And then came the Road. It was not that bad ( lot worse was to follow) but unfortunately there was a bike rally and I regularly met cars with bikes on board. And I was on the cliff side , which did not help. The helpful drivers even warned me when a bus was coming down.

After a bone jarring ride the hills came to view and I immediately realised why these were called Green Hills. During my stay there I actually saw the whole process of mist coming out of Pacific, slowly drifting towards me, getting heated by sun and going up, hitting the hills and forming into clouds which then drench the sides of the hills and returning to the ocean via waterfalls and rivers.



Soon I was on the top of the Continental Ridge. I love the Continental Ridge and performed my ritual of unzipping my trouser and peeing once to my left and once to my right.

Amazing to think that left pee will roll down to meet the Pacific and the right pee will eventually meet the Atlantic through the Carib sea. I had done it in Yellowstone as well !!

 

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Standing on the Continental Divide

 

 

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The Green Hills dotted with sheep

 

 

 

 

 

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Clouds rolling in

 

 

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Cloud Burst

 

 

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My destination was aptly name Rainbow Valley Lodge and this was the best accommodation of the whole trip. Surprisingly affordable.

Christian is a gem of a person . I've had several e-mail exchanges with him and he was always prompt and precise. He works on an honour based system with no deposit required so please do give him plenty of notice if you decide to cancel after booking.
Costa Rica is turning into an expensive destination for budget minded travellers but it shows that it is still possible to find excellent accommodation under $ 100 per night if you are happy to move a little away from main attractions and do not mind doing your own dishes.
I had originally booked one of the chalets but Christian was having some renovation done and he upgraded me to the Casa rainbow valley which was a fantastic accommodation for 2 adults and 2 kids. Plenty of space to store our large number of bags. 2 toilets and can accommodate 6 people.

True to its name a rainbow did appear one of the days. It had a row of Cat Tail flowers in front which was a magnet for number of butterflies and hummingbirds.

We could hear the Three Wattled Bell bird across the valley and I believe sometimes people saw them here. White faced Capuchin and vultures visited us in the morning.

 

All these pics were taken in the property premises. Butterflies galore and I even managed to practice some high speed photography to capture the Humming Bird Moth which looks like a shrimp !!

 

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Rainbow over the valley overlooking Rainbow valley Lodge

 

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Celestial Lights from the setting sun lighting up the clouds

 

 

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Monkey on a Hot Tin Roof

 

 

 

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Looks like a shrimp with wings

 

 

 

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Christian : the very friendly host

 

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Rainbow gone . Fog !!!
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Apologies for uploading the pics in Large size. Did not realise that. They will fill up your screens and may take a while to download !!

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Next morning was an important day as I had taken a lot of trouble to secure the services of Andres "Andy" Alverados. He is certainly not cheap but he is clearly one of the best. What my wife really liked was that he catered to all the members of our family and paced it just right.

I have already read countless reviews so I had an idea about his tours but he still bowled me over. We decided to go to Curri Cuncha and as soon as I got off the car I heard the "Boiing" of the bell bird. But he was so elusive it was unbelievable.

There is a saying in CR that the bell bird causes more broken bones than other birds and I can see why. The calls sound like coming just next to you but you can't see him and in your desperation you forget to check where you are going and end up with a broken leg.

What I also liked was that there were several guides who were clearly helping each other out. It is pointless to go to cloud forest without a guide. The mimicry Andy showed us ( more in the night tour) was truly mind blowing. Moths which resemble leaf, stick insect and many other. We did not see that many birds or creatures in Curri Cuncha but I was just happy to learn about the biome and see small creatures. A little centipede which emitted a smell just like almond was the highlight.

Andy tried his best to spot a Quetzal without any luck and he looked anxious when we could not spot the bell bird. But success at last. The bird was sitting at a much lower branch and that fooled Andy. The call is indeed loud.

We went for a hearty and delicious Pizza lunch at Bon appétit with Andy and then off to Selvatura hanging bridges. There are millions of reviews so I'm not going in details but I think one must see the Cloudforest from the canopy. Met our first Howler monkeys and Andy told us how they got white testicles. Apparently the god of Thunder got annoyed with their howling and sent a lightning bolt. The monkeys covered their testicles in a haste and so the rest of the body got fried black but the testes remained white !! Their brain sizes are significantly less than the Spider monkeys and they are possibly the stupidest monkeys in CR.

It rained quite a bit in Hanging Bridges so photo op was limited and the light was poor but we still managed to take a few shots at the Hummingbird garden, which thrilled the girls to no end ! I know it is slightly artificial but still unique experience. Saw some ant birds and it was indeed a unique experince to see the forest from above. They have a massive tree there which the guides have named "Avatar" tree and I felt humbled by its presence.

Andy told us that some of the Jurasic Park shooting was done here and I could see why. I was expecting to see the T rex any minute.

 

Photos from Curri Cuncha day trip with Andy.

 

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The Three Wattled Bell Bird

 

 

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BOINGGGGGG !!!!

 

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Angry looking Motmot

 

 

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Orange bellied Trogon

 

 

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Trust is everything !!!

 

 

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Sprangled cheek Tanager

 

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The Long Hanging Bridges of Selvatura

 

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Two tourists being chased by T Rex

 

 

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The Avatar Tree

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It does rain in rainforest

 

 

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Huge Strangler fig tree

 

 

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The Irritated worm which smells like almond

 

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Jurasic Park !!

 

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Intricate Design. Brail ?

 

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Costa Rican bamboo

 

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The larger than life Andy

 

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You have excelled with the butterflies. That first Continental Ridge photo in #11 is gorgeous, whether pre- or post-pee.

 

Such beautiful light and a rain, then all gone in a hurry with the rain.

 

Irritated worm that smells like almonds--the jungle with far more diversity than the Pantanal--has loads of surprises.

 

You may have practiced on the humming bird moth but you also got some real hummingbirds.

 

I counted all 3 wattles on the Three Wattled Bell Bird.

 

That's your happy family and guide photo above?

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@@Chakra

 

What a great start to your report. So glad to hear that your trip was a success. There are certainly some advantages to going during the rainy season.

 

You've really gotten off to a good start with the bellbird. Those are incredibly hard to come across. I would love to see -- and hear -- one, not to mention to have the opportunity to photograph one as well as you did. Amazing!

 

So looking forward to the rest of your report.

Edited by Alexander33
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More of great photos (the bigger the better) and excellent descriptions (I prefer bigger font in post #12).

 

 

Cannot help myself, so here I go commenting on Chak (you can always report me, Chak :P ):

 

Of course things have changed. That horrendous road to Montverde is now partially paved

only true for one road; the most travelled one, from Tilaran, is still in its pristine wild state!

 

-The Darien Gap of Panama. That's is my next destination now that FARC guerrillas of Colombia have at last declared ceasefire.

you can do it. Just leave the family at home ... and your will :P !

 

Rainbow Valley Lodge and this was the best accommodation of the whole trip. Surprisingly affordable.

and its is stayed this way for many years (my first stay here was in 2008). The manager (owner?) changed but not the philosophy!

services of Andres "Andy" Alverados

Andy is indeed larger than life, and still the best guide we have ever been lucky to have (and a good friend, after all that many years). So he deserves proper identification: Andres Alvarado aka Andy

We decided to go to Curri Cuncha

The proper name is Curi-Cancha - http://reservacuricancha.com/

 

Edited by xelas
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You have excelled with the butterflies. That first Continental Ridge photo in #11 is gorgeous, whether pre- or post-pee. Thanks @@Atravelynn. I do not think my pee enhanced the beauty <_< <_<

That's your happy family and guide photo above? Yes, that's the happy family and that is Andy who kept them happy over two days and I am grateful to him for that.

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@@Chakra

 

 

You've really gotten off to a good start with the bellbird. Those are incredibly hard to come across. I would love to see -- and hear -- one, not to mention to have the opportunity to photograph one as well as you did. Amazing!

 

Thanks @@Alexander33. Peter : your wish is my command. Let me see if I can post the You tube video. It is not of high quality as taken through Andy's scope with an i-phone. You'll have to crank up the volume. There are actually two male bell birds. We never found the second one. It takes a lot of effort to make that noise.

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More of great photos (the bigger the better) and excellent descriptions (I prefer bigger font in post #12).

 

 

Cannot help myself, so here I go commenting on Chak (you can always report me, Chak :P ):

 

I am going to report you for being too helpful. :P :P

 

 

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There we go @@Alexander33, Peter.

 

Please up the volume as much as you can. He makes two types of noises. One loud Boiinggg and one shrill high pitched short sharp noise. I belive only males make these loud noise and it is the loudest bird call.

 

Credit : Andy .

Edited by Chakra
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The 3 wattled bell bird certainly has some extension when he opens his mouth.

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The 3 wattled bell bird certainly has some extension when he opens his mouth.

 

Yes, one could see the effort it was putting into the call.

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What I really liked about Andy is that he paid equal attention to everyone in our group and also to all the creatures : Big & Small. I love small creatures and he was superb in spotting them. For example I felt ashamed to spy on this intense love making but it was fascinating.

 

Hey, what's going on here ? :P :P :P

 

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Very satisfied we returned and after a hearty home cooked meal dozed off to sleep listenng to endless thunderstorm.

This was the weather forecast for next Five days !! So just ignore it !

 

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Next morning was the Zip lining with Selvatura. Sleek operation but lacked personal touch. It was like a car production factory, people moved like cars down the line. It was extremely well managed but somehow I did not enjoy it that much apart from one long line where you travel for one km over the canopy. I had much better experience of zip lining over Zambezi where it was a small group and guides were more chatty. The girls did both "Superman ( costs extra) and Tarzan swings" and they absolutely loved the Tarzan swing. I chickened out !

 

 

Cattle class

 

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Flying across the Canopy

 

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Tarzan swing

 

 

Then it was time to visit the famous Heladeria of Monte Verde. Sadly in changing times tradition gets replaced gradually. The cheese factory is not run by Quakers any more but bought by a big Mexican company. The ice cream was delicious though.

 

 

Cheese factory , originally built by the Quakers , now run by a Mexican Company

 

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Quetzals are everywhere in Monteverde

 

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We also visited the Monteverde coffee shop and booked a Coffee tour with them following morning. Nice guys and I really liked this "coffee table" where the top consisted of four different roats of coffee.

 

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The weather deteriorated significantly and my rainbow valley lodge was completely covered in dense fog. Showed how quickly the weather changed.

Edited by Chakra
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