! ! WOW ! ! What a trip ! !

A totally magical vacation.

Jane and I, my daughter Juniper and her husband Jeremy went to Costa Rica for a week, over the holidays.
I got interested in visiting Costa Rica about ten years ago, hearing tales of rich bio-diversity, a high standard of living by Central American standards, and an ecologically friendly national government. Jane said we could go once I got back on my feet. Juniper said she would like to go along, with Jeremy, we said "Great!" Once this was decided Juniper started looking for good air fares, found them, after consulting made non-refundable reservations. Then she got a feeling, did a pregnancy check, got a positive. Yep, I shall be a grandfather. Decided to go ahead anyway. Juniper and Jeremy started prowling the web, made reservation to rent a car and three hotels in different parts of the country.

We drove to Boston. Our flight out was 6:AM on the day before Christmas, so we tried to sleep for a few hours, taxi picked us up and dropped us at the airport at 4:00. Security didn't hold us up much, maybe because of the early hour, or maybe they've gotten deft at Boston's Logan. Changed at Atlanta, seamlessly, touched down in San Jose about 1:PM. Picked up our rental and headed for the Pacific coast. About 200 miles, we had all afternoon, no problem. Haha, guess again. The Inter-American highway was about as good as Higby Road, Velocidad Maxima 80 kph, about 50 mph. And open to everything, bicycles, motorbikes, pedestrians, dogs and chickens, buses, belching big trucks. Not hard to get past dogs, but road too curvy to have a lot of passing zones. And that was the best, quality of roads went down from there, way down, pavement on our planned route was good luck. Jeremy did all the driving, what a hero.

About 8:PM we got hungry, stopped by side of road at Rancho Mingo. Juniper had muy pocolito Espanol, asked if we could get dinner Christmas Eve, was told, "We're always open here." Place was 20'x60' ramada structure with a wall on the short end by the kitchen, about five feet deep. Had a great dinner, arroz con camerones, and lots of it, beer was good too. Should we be how careful about drinking water, and ice cubes in drinks? Anyway we chugged on, about 9:PM we got to Tamarindo on Pacific coast where our first hotel was.

When we got up in the morning realized, what a beautiful place,

Main area was back of reception and a little bar, outdoors, palm trees with coconuts, banana trees, and flowers, flowers and birds, little iguana came poking about every so often. We ate the breakfast buffet, fresh fruit, papaya, pineapple, fresh ripe bananas, bacon and eggs and, Costa Rican coffee. Astonishing, Costa Rican coffee, rich, fragrant, enervating, a new dimension in coffee. Behind this area, through a gate was pond with pet crocodiles. Babies about a foot long, bigger ones up to five and six feet,

We heard about the big mother, but only got a glimpse of her, at feeding time,

they throw in a bucket of meat scraps about 5:PM.
Past that, beach went right down to Pacific, with surf, more beach at low tide, waves rougher.

Jeremy took a surfing lesson the next day, from a shop few hundred yards down the beach.
The Laguna Cocodrillo hotel, where we were, was owned by a French couple, so eating Christmas dinner there was like a French restaurant. Starting with beer , or wine if you will, we were served a complimentary appetizer, two steamed mussels, in the shell with sauce, like oysters, then baked Camembert. For entrée I got spiny lobster au chef, almost too much lobster, we couldn't do dessert.

Next day we wandered around Tamarindo, made arrangements for turtle-watching the next night. That was more than remarkable. Leatherback sea turtles, an endangered species. Bus picked us up at hotel at 11:30PM, went about quarter mile, then we embarked in boat, to cross river running into ocean just there, then walked out on beach to ranger station, waiting for reports of turtle coming ashore, had to go in small groups to minimize disturbance, finally, got one, had to walk another quarter mile up the beach, there she was, about the size of Volkswagen, digging deep hole with hind flippers, laying eggs. Biologists collected the eggs, showed us, big ping-pong balls, took them to hatchery protected from predation. Would shepherd the to water when the time came.
Next day we drove to Central Cordillera. Where the volcanoes are. Very rugged terrain, very. The Cocos plate, in the Pacific is subducting under the Caribbean plate, giving rise to Central America. It's hot down there, so volcanism. We were going around a very large lake, came to stopped car, as we went around saw why.

Coatimundi, over a dozen of them being fed, more all the time, when they ran out of handouts so coatimundi whisked up cliff on far side of road. We came to our hotel in town of Arrenal. Arrenal is biggest volcano. Another fine dinner, Imperial beer is the best. We decided to go to nearest hot spring that evening, Baldi, a kilometre or two up the road. Another remarkable place, eight or nine pools, differing temperatures, luxuriant plantings, hot showers from pipes at places around the edges, maybe about a hundred people enjoying themselves, biggest pool in the middle had a swim-up bar, with folks sitting in the water drinking and smoking cigarettes. I found the pool that had right heat to wash me out, totally. Got back to hotel, took long and careful shower, didn't notice the temp.

Next day, this is what I was waiting for. A rain forest canopy tour, using zip-lines. Make like Tarzan, or maybe cheetah the chimp, with harness and carabiners. On inquiry, pregnant women were not permitted, so Juniper couldn't, Jane did not want to, so Jeremy and I flew. Jane and Juniper took boat tour on a flat jungle river, saw monkeys and sloth, didn't hear anything about snakes and spiders but you know I would have been looking. For the canopy tour, bus picked us up at hotel, went three or four miles, at another hotel, we were harnessed, with hardhat and gloves, one glove had heavy pad for a brake-shoe. A pulley was clipped to harness. Then we walked to start of tour, mostly uphill. When we got here we met the guides and they gave demonstration and instruction. You put your brake hand on the cable behind your head and watched the guide on next platform, he signaled you when to brake by pressing down with brake hand. Then we climbed tree to first platform, staircase built around the trunk. Jeremy and I were almost last to start so we had plenty of opportunity to observe other first-timers. The guides were deft and conscientious, at no time were you unclipped. Guide took pulley from your harness, put it on the cable, you stretch a bit and your harness was clipped to pulley, then you sat down in harness, lifted your feet, ZZIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINNNGG.

At next platform I braked a little much, and had to swing around and pull up the cable hand over hand last few feet, UP the cable. After that did fine, only hit a little hard once, There were about 10 zip cables on the tour. Most of the time was spent waiting around on the platforms, 50-80 feet up in the tree's canopy. The longest zip took almost a minute, zipping along over the river, going downstream about 35' under your right elbow. At the end we had to walk up a muddy trail to a farm wagon with seats, tractor pulled it way more uphill to hotel we started from. Bussed back to bus the ladies.

It was till early and our next hotel wasn't far, on the map. Haha. We had to turn off main road, about the quality of Bennett Road, onto less of a road, got lost, asked directions in broken Spanglish, got going on a long road, so curvy, constant sharp curves to left and right, and steeply uphill, on and on and on. Then the rain, heavy at times, combined with total fog, headlights that wouldn't aim right, unless you were a night bird watcher, mechanical difficulties with unfamiliar transmission. Jeremy the HERO. Finally, a sign we took to be driveway, looked like a farm trail, we went down to gates in barbwire fence, @Went back to the road, could find nothing else, went back to trail, found an open gate, bounced down the track, at last, came to stone castle.

The Poas Volcano Lodge, was more than elegant. Geovanny, the major-domo, insisted on bringing us anything we wanted to drink personally. Game room downstairs had pool and ping pong, warming fireplace on first floor, all sorts of books. We had made it in time for dinner. In the morning we could see the elegantly planted surroundings. Many birdfeeders attracted many birds. Hummingbirds were always active. Cone of volcano jutted up few hundred feet just to the west. GPS informed us we were at 6200' Of altitude, about the same as Mt. Washington, comfortable in t-shirts during day, we put on jackets at night, when you could see your breath. The building was put up with mortared chunks of volcanic rock, I felt as if I could climb the walls. By day we took excursions from the lodge. We went to Doca Coffee Plantation, Acres and acres of hillside covered with rows of the Arabica coffee trees.

We sampled the beans

at every step of the process,

at the end, the most delicious brews. Then the ladies insisted on visiting Sarci, publicized as an artisan village, in reality more like Tiajuana Tourist Trap. We got back early enough. Next day was rainy, Jane elected to stay by the fire reading, Juniper and Jeremy took me to the Waterfall Garden. A wonderful place,

they had a butterfly garden also,

screened enclosure about the size of a football field, beautiful display cases and plantings. It was rainy, so most of the flutterers were staying curled up under leaves, but plenty of fine caterpillars were out and about, chrysalis' couldn't go anywhere. There was hummingbird garden too, outside, an area like my living room, trees and stands with many feeders, 10 or 15 people passing through and HUNDREDS of hummingbirds.

They were everywhere, could get up close and personal, they didn't' seem to mind.

Stone path and steel stairs led one around the ravine with five powerful waterfalls and many little ones, got wet, from rain or spray. Got to end of trail, waiting for bus to take us back for lunch, a coatimundi came up. Sat in each of our laps, asking for handouts, he even touched his nose to mine.

After lunch we went back to Volcano Lodge, Jane was happy. Another dinner that couldn't be beat, I had a grilled flank of sea bass. We played pool and Scrabble.
People we met were consistently warm and friendly. Not a lot of Costa Rican people because of language barrier, but they did try, to be helpful and friendly. At the hotels we met others touring in Costa Rica. A lot of French people, many of whom were fluent in English, People from Paris, and the French alps. Canadians from Vancouver and New Brunswick, Folks from all over the U.S., a lot of bird watchers. I didn't hear any German being spoken though my ears remained alert. Next morning was our day to leave, it was raining. Our flight out wasn't until 3:PM. We blundered down the mountain and into San Jose, largest city in Costa Rica. Checked out the sights, had a burger for lunch, quesoburguesa. Bought a few things, took photos.

Processing and flight out was uneventful, went through customs in Atlanta. Arrived at Boston's Logan airport on the stroke of midnight, New Years Eve. Taxi to Juniper's, we crashed on her floor, arose next day and lit out for home. Got here a little after 1:PM, stumbled into house with baggage.
Ahh, there's my Metamucil.