Costa Rica, Part 2
|As we departed Alajuela, the traffic on the Pan American Highway wasn't too bad to start.|
But as it neared San Jose:
This is now Highway 39, the southern ring-road around San Jose.
Typical motorcycle behavior: the dashed line painted on the road is a "lane", right? (and left) -- sometimes there will be one passing on the right as well.
|We stopped at the McDonalds on the east side of Cartago for lunch. The delivery person was just setting off with his food-laden M-emblazoned backpack.|
|on a motorcycle...into that traffic.|
|The traffic got better after leaving Cartago. The road the GPS took us down from Paraíso was closed (perhaps a washout), but there were clear signs to get to our first view of Lake Cachí and the distant town of Cachí -- we'll be up the valley to the left where the houses thinned out.|
|The correct road took us down to the dam that formed Lago de Cachí...|
|... and then we passed through Cachí itself, over a very narrow bridge, and up this narrow and very pot-holed street through the neighborhood of Peñas Blancas (White Rocks).|
...and there we were stopped for about half an hour, about 200 meters short of our goal ...
|The concrete truck had gotten his rear wheels stuck in the mud as he tried to back down a path to the construction site. We waited while they brought up a backhoe from the site to pull the stuck truck further in...|
Our goal had been this gravel driveway on the right, just before the pavement turned into dirt and rocks on the left...
|The driveway devolved into a 300-meter-long rough-and-rocky path past several houses and through a gate to Bill's Cabina.
(4-wheel-drive wasn't really needed, but it would've been "interesting" without it)
|The Cabina was light and airy, with elegant woodwork..|
|The back wall was rough-hewn log sections. The old bases of the branches gave it a fascinating texture.|
|A real shower! All of the taps in the house were plumbed with hot water!
(this was the only one of our four homes that had that amenity)
|We spent a lot of time just hanging out on the elevated front porch.
Our airy aerie.
|It was great for watching the weather ... and sometimes "the daily toucan" would cross that gap|
|Visited by grasshoppers|
|lots of brown jays (just as squawky as our local jays)|
|and miscellanious small birds that don't photograph well (blue dacnis?)|
There was a banana grove behind the house but the fruit was still green
|The two Norfolk island pines flanking the drive were covered in epiphytes.|
|Looking out the way we had come towards the other side of the main valley ... when conditions cooperated, the cloud cap over Volcán Irazú would be visible over the distant ridge.|
|there was a babbling stream beside the road|
|Spanky, one of the two resident dogs, returning from the gate after he gave a good barking to a neighboring dog's incursion.|
|Just up the hill was this Spanish-moss covered tree sheltering...|
|... one of the municipality's water sources (the overflow feeds the stream by our porch)|
Another moss-laden tree was a bit up the hill beyond Bill's house (with the red "mule" in its garage: we got a ride in it later)
|At least once every day we walked up the "road" through Bill's property towards the top of the hill. Just beyond Bill's house there were some storm-fallen trees.|
|... with lots of epiphytes that were going to die if not placed back in a tree.|
|Karen rescued some.|
|Bill's friend Richardo was busy salvaging the wood. Both the cabina and Bill's house were built from wood harvested and milled on site (they brought in a portable mill).|
|Next up the hill was the small citrus orchard, a remnant of when the property was a more active farm.|
|Yes, there is fruit under and among all the epiphytes|
|Fairly frequently, we'd simply turn around and look. Here we're just past the orchard, looking back downhill.|
|And now looking up and to the left.|
|To the right is one of many waterfalls ... the road will meet some of them higher up.|
|This is a landscape shaped by water. A "Bomba de Agua" is when the soil holding onto the slope becomes so full of water it gives way. The gush of water, trees and soil is very destructive.|
|One of the more recent falls (13 years ago?)|
|another waterfall along the climb|
|This is a closer view of the top of the rockfall two images back.|
|Lots of plants along the way: these brown mats near the falls are probably an alga?|
|and more familiar shapes like this birds-nest fern|
|familiar houseplants in wild array|
|Peperomias (the gold-ish plants with the brown-ish stalks) climbing on other plants|
|Gesnarids we're used to seeing in a pot festoon the trees.|
|plain old begonias are common|
|as are red bananas, many peeled open by animals or birds.|
|This species is very seedy so not used for people food.|
|some with seeds (unlike at home these have their proper pollinators: most likely hummingbirds, since bees don't see red)|
|And lots of orchids|
|... would you believe that it frequently took us a half hour to advance 20 feet along the road?|
|No, this image isn't sideways -- the orchid is growing out of a vertical wall.|
|And then there were the plants that I've never seen at Home Depot|
|And even a frog|
|In the afternoon, back from our walk or adventures further afield, we would sit on the porch and watch the clouds come down the hillsides|
|Our first morning we headed out to Jardín Botánico Lankester in the bigger town of Cartago. This is our local Peñas Blancas neighborhood of the town of Cachí with Lago de Cachí below in the distance.
Yesterday's concrete truck incident was about 3 telephone poles down this slope from the Funeraria.
The hills opposite are the slopes of Volcán Irazú. Cartago is about 10 miles off to the left and outside this, the Orosí valley.
|Lots of vultures enjoying a morning thermal.|
|After some discussion with the GPS we reached our destination. The Jardín Botánico Lankester is run by the University of Costa Rica.|
|The initial landscaped grounds are full of exotic plants like this Bird Of Paradise (African).|
|As well as trees covered with local epiphytes.|
|The first stop is the orchid house where they start with a display of the showy blooming plants|
|...flanked by a couple of greenhouses crammed full of tables of less showy or non-blooming plants...|
|...lots and lots of species.|
|A portion of the property is given over to a Japanese garden, with water features, bridges, a function room and separate tea ceremony building...|
|... sculptures ...|
|and several species of bamboo|
|Then comes a "wild" area of second growth forest and unlabled plants|
|With hanging roots from figs and other epiphytes.|
|Next is a grotto of ferns|
|tall horsetails (fuzzy stuff in the middle)|
|And an especially photogenic tree fern|
|A path lined with traveler's palms and other banana relatives such as|
|the red banana we've seen before,|
|several species of Heliconia,|
|as well as several gingers|
|Circling back towards the entrance path leads through more houseplants on steroids.|
|to a very fine cactus and succulent garden.|
The garden didn't offer much for food so we went a block away and across the street to a very nice restaurant, Casa Vieja.
The staff worked in creative ways to figure out which dishes could avoid Karen's food allergies.
|Casa Vieja was on a rise about 20 feet above the street level, so our views were unimpeded by traffic or its noise. Note the grey-ish dome centered in the left window.|
It looked like a circus was setting up.
(we passed by here a few days later and it was gone...)
|On the way back from Cartago, we came to the adjacent edge of Paraíso and stopped at the ferreteria (hardware store). Bill, our AirBnB host, had advised us that that was where to go to get rainboots.|
One "problem" (or "opportunity for adventure") when travelling in foreign lands is trying to figure out where to get common (or uncommon) items. After our La Paz Waterfall soggy experience, Dick had marched through Alajuela looking for boots, without success. With Bill's knowlege, we learned that hardware stores sell boots and animal feed stores sell rain coats.
|back to the Orosí valley.|
|With a stop at the Agricola (farming) store for rain-proof coats so we won't get so soaked.|
|Some of the few cats we've seen lounged about the Agricola's parking lot.|
|Now we're set for wet weather.|
|How will folks tell us apart?|
|In the morning we head into town with Bill for some electrical parts to fix a light fixture.|
|We pass the site where the stuck cement truck had been (on our arrival in town) to see cattle now enjoying the mud.|
|past the old bridge (probably a victim of a Bombe de Agua)|
|across the new bridge|
|...to Cachí's ferreteria and an interesting time trying to describe electrical parts in broken Spanish.
("Wire nut" just wasn't making it ... a botanical nut is "nuez". My pocket dictionaries simply didn't have "tuerca", which was still wrong).
|Repair completed, we drove to the end of our 300 meter driveway and turned right, instead of the usual left. We crossed a narrow bridge and the pavement became somewhat "occasional".
We bounced up and up the 2 kilometer road that led up into the immediately adjacent valley from "home".
We were seeking lunch ....
|Bill had recommended the restaurant at Hotel Quelitales. It is very good. We ate here 4 times.|
|We did have to contend with the geese guarding the parking lot.|
|We tended to dine slightly off the peak times... and always managed to be seated at the window table immediately to the right of this couple.|
|They have their own trout pond to provide fish for some of their dishes.|
|As you wait for your meal the birds entertain you: tanagers, male and female|
|Clay-coloured robins come in too, attracted by fruit placed on the rail.|
|The food arrives. Karen loves the trout almandine. Dick has the house sweet-and-sour: Pollo Tropical, presented on a plate-sized slice of roasted pineapple.|
|We finished with an absolutely wonderful Mousse de Café while watching the hen try, and eventually succeed, in fluttering up to share the fruit with the other birds.|
|... we mentioned the Mousse de Café ... we ate there four times. Four mousses (meeces?). Forty photos of the room, the food, the fish, the birds, the surrounding terrain. You'd think we'd have gotten at least one of the mousse.
Our cameras simply couldn't respond quickly enough....
|We dropped down into town for groceries and spotted this rainbow on the way back. As can also be seen, Cachí itself has wide, paved, streets.|
|The clouds (and we) are in for the afternoon|
|Dick spends the time reading the owners manual for the car. (How many liters of fuel fit in there??)((54)).|
|With our new raingear in the back we set out the next morning for Tapanti National Park. Bill's property backs onto the park but there is no easy access nearby.
Down through Peñas Blancs...
|But instead of turning right to cross the dam, we turn left to circle around the bottom of the lake. The road takes us past shade-grown coffee|
|and across narrow bridges
("puente angosto" on the signs.. one end will usually have a "ceda" (yield) sign...)
|into another branch off the main Orosí valley. We've left the paved road for well-packed dirt.
Something we noticed throughout the trip was that tree shadows across the road seemed to collect potholes.
|... another bridge (note the patched wooden roadbed)|
|Occasional signs tell us we're in the right area.|
|The landslide looks recent and has moved the river-course.|
|We enter the park and drive to the furthest end|
|for the short trail to the viewpoint.|
|... er, short steep trail. Up the stairs we go.|
|... which are not quite so well maintained at the top. Given the number of fallen trees, rot, wind and rampant vegetation, we are surprised that the parks can keep the paths as well maintained as they do.|
|The view of the waterfall is well worth the climb|
|We drive back down a bit to the head of another trail, the Sendero La Catarata.|
|Although it's listed as a fairly long trail with a lot of altitude loss, we take it just a short way for a view of a different waterfall.|
Some new plants and some old: (Heisteria, or naranjillo)
(noted while writing these pages... this looks quite a bit like the plastic single-flower hummingbird feeder we met at La Paz Waterfalls)
|very fine liverworts around the supports for the stairs|
|an arum (big heart-shapped leaves and red oblong inflorescence).|
|and lots of tree ferns.|
|Further down the road, at the head of Sendero Oropéndola, a loop trail down to the river.
(They didn't translate the sign's first message: don't enter the river and no swimming)
|The trail dropped over 300 feet to the river level...|
|...with a quick re-route of the path through a fallen tree|
|down to the picnic area|
|and the river|
|Apparently this is very popular with Ticos on the weekends
(Tico: an affectionate slang term for Costa Ricans)
|even flush toilets.|
As with so many areas, the park had sections which had previously been farmed. Here's the old sugar cane plantation.
(other hikers said that half of the lower circular path was very muddy so we went back the way we came. Our boots were 300 feet above us in the trunk of the car.)
|We stopped at the small museum on the way out.|
|The rain held off till we were out of the park. It is hard to judge the depth of water-filled potholes.|
|The far side of the bridge was being worked on so we worried we might be stopped for a while but this stop-and-go was quick.|
On the way back we stopped in Cachí at a hotel with restaurant on the lake, La Casona del Cafetal.
The guys on the roof were repairing a whole section.
|The outdoor seating was lovely|
For a place set up to cater to busloads of tourists, it was quite good.
Karen's having a crepe, Dick's having chicken in tamarind sauce.
|And they had coffee ice cream (surprisingly difficult to find).|
|Being close to the shore of Lago Cachí, they had nice views|
|and a red passion flower in bloom|
|...and nice grounds to wander|
|In the parking lot on the way out was a tree with a few oropéndola nests. The birds were being loud.
As they vocalized, they'd hold onto the branch and let their bodies drop from above the branch to swinging underneath it. Again and again.
|We didn't shoot this video, but it shows their behavior very well:|
|Driving out from La Casona del Cafetal we saw a tree with lots of oropéndola nests.|
The Cartago-to-Cachí bus was frequently parked here when we went through Peñas Blancas in the afternoons.
Which brings up a related note on Costa Rican addresses: almost no houses have street numbers, even in cities. The addresses are more descriptive: "100 meters north from the post office on Calle 1", for example.
|Tonight there was a bit of sunset rather than clouds.|
|In the morning we decided to try for the summit of Volcán Irazú.|
|Although most of the route was major wide paved roads, there was one spot where all of our maps (two paper, Google, Waze and the GPS) were vague and partially disagreed on the proper way to get from one highway to another. Unfortunately, we took the GPS (which seemed to agree with Google). This was the easy part of the connecting road. Karen was hanging on too tightly to take photos of the worst part. It had mud-filled potholes wider than the car. With farm equipment to add to the fun. That short (1 km?) road was the only time in the entire trip we switched on the car's locking differential to pull us through the mud holes (and yes, the worst was lurking in the shade of a tree).|
|Once we were on the tourist road up the volcano the road hazards diminished|
|... somewhat ... (he was tethered)|
|We can tell we're getting high because of the radio towers|
|and we seem to be level with the tops of some of the clouds.|
The path that starts at the question mark (?) goes along a fenced edge, and looks into the two more dramatic craters. Within that path's "loop" is Playa Hermosa (beautiful beach), a broad pumice plain with an occasional lake.
|Irazú is one of the few active volcano craters you can drive into, hopefully still dormant at the moment. Touists come by the bus-load.|
|Here's Playa Hermosa, the broad pumice-filled older crater: the person along the fence on the right can give a sense of scale. Those are full size trees on the far side. The actual summit of the mountain is just off-screen to the right.|
|The sky has the high altitude blue. Karen is short of breath at this 11,000-foot level. The radio tower is at the summit.|
|We all wander over to the "principal" crater: where they had the last eruption.|
|Over 900 feet deep, over 3400 feet wide.|
|The last eruption was in 1994.|
|After touring the craters, most people head back to the parking lot. Karen heads over to the plants.|
|You can drive or walk up to the highest point for a better view.
|we're now up at the level of the radio tower in the previous photo (actually standing on the structure you'll see pictured in a bit)|
|If there were no clouds you might be able to see the Caribbean Sea.|
|Higher than the tops of the clouds today but very windy and cool.
|This structure is strange but lets you see a bit more.|
|It has an even stranger sign in front of it.
(that's "restored", not restaurant)
|On the way out we stopped at the gift shop|
|One of their offerings: an interesting canned beverage.|
|Back down into the clouds we go.|
|I think I can see the Lago de Cachí in the far distance (center left just at the start of the deeper green)|
|Our more familiar view of Cachí
(The climb up and out, and then the drop back down, became our "commute route")
|For lunch we ended up at Quelitales again. The guard geese were napping.|
|An Asian-themed chicken dish. The chef is also the owner of the hotel.|
We were entertained by an oropéndola
|He would lean forward and give their distinctive gurgling call every few minutes. example|
Home again, Dick theatrically pushes the gate open.
(co-author's note: we do try to keep the navigator amused)
|Next morning we do laundry at Bill's house|
|and look at the scouring one of the recent Bombe de Aguas gave to the stream on the far side of his house.|
|This one was rated as a "30 year event" and took out the pipes leading from the municipal water supply.|
|That afternoon Bill and his friend Rosalie take us on a trip in the mule|
|accompanied by his older dog, Luna.|
|The mule puttered up the hill to the pasture that topped the ridge|
|We can see the white cliffs that give Peñas Blancas its name. A friend of Bill's, who has a house in the next valley at the base of the white cliffs, expects the house will be buried in a landslide within 20 years.|
|The top-of-ridge pasture isn't exactly flat. Nor were its occasional bovine inhabitants in evidence. (Evidence of recent past occupancy dictated watching our steps)
The four of us spent an hour chatting about many aspects of Costa Rican and ex-pat life.
|Above us were Vultures enjoying the air.|
|There was sunnier weather across the valley, and Volcán Irazú was in the clear.|
|After the trip the mule dropped us off at home|
|and the weather closed in.|
|The next morning we spent walking around Bill's property, then bounced up the road to Quelitales (again) for lunch. The parking lot attendants were still on duty.|
|Entertainment was provided by an unknown blue bird and female tanager discussing bananas,|
|and a nearby male tanager comparison shopping,|
|with an oropéndola finale.|
|Then we bumped back down, and took the commute route up to the Mirador Ujarrás (mirador=view point), a free public park.|
|The Mirador's park included a paved interior square with benches.|
|The tree at the end of the square was blooming, Karen thinks it looks Australian.|
|Beyond and below the square was a broad grassy space. This is where the Ticos and families spread out for picnicing. We enjoyed the view too.|
|With a telescope we could probably almost see the Peñas Blancas bus stop (up to the left and branch to the right at the end).|
|The Mirador looks down upon the village of Ujarrás. Its claim to fame is this ruined church, the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Concepción. The church was built on the site of a previous shrine built around a found image of the Virgin Mary in 1580. Then the English Pirate Henry Morgan pillaged the area in 1666. The Virgin was credited for a successful replusion of the attack, and this church was built over the next 3 years. In 1833 floods convinced the government to abandon the village and move the inhabitants (and image) up hill to Paraíso. Some guidebooks credit the recently-restored facade as the oldest church building in the country. The town of Orosí, at the other end of the lake, does have the oldest still-operating church in the country, built in 1743.|
|Dick was somewhat impressed by the ornamentation of the property across the street.|
|But on the Mirador's side, just below the grassy park, these figures flanked their owner's property's gate.|
|Back down at the dam, we found a weekend farmers' market going on.|
|So we stopped and shopped...|
|... the trucks were soooo tempting.... but Dick bought a hat, instead.|
|A broken pipe joint made rainbows at the dam.|
|On foot we could see more details of the dam's spillways.|
|Floating water hyacinths covered the lake's surface at the top|
|and they're in bloom. So pretty. So invasive.|
|Looking downriver, we see more rainbows in the outflow spray|
|There were things to see in the traffic flow, too. Someone is getting a new bed.|
|The usual drive-by view of the dam.
Remember the Bomba de Aguas that scoured our hillside? During the recent storm that did so much damage to Bill's property there were others on the surrounding hillsides. The lake filled with floating trees and bushes. They opened the dam and completely drained to lake so that the flotsam could be taken out.
Then they closed the dam, and it only took two weeks to refill the lake.
|back home, gate duties again.
The bends in the gate's metal are from the same Bomba de Aguas.
|to spend the afternoon reading and watching the birds|
|not even many clouds in the evening.|
|Next morning we decided to go to the bigger town of Paraíso to mail our postcards. Here's Paraíso's cathedral, facing the central square.|
|Some of the very noisy flock parrots in the palm trees by the church|
|Can you see them now?|
|We spent an hour or so just walking around the town's central district... in part because we couldn't find the post office. We kept orbiting the block that Google Maps identified as its location, occasionally asking for directions. Finally a helpful person walked us the half-block-and-a-turn and showed us that it was deep inside a small shopping mall.
Given our wanderings, we had a chance to discover many of the smaller features of Paraíso, such as its ornamented sidewalk tiles.
|A pretty manhole cover ... I think that's water in a pipe, not a comet. The inscription translates to roughly "culvert of the municipal river"|
|Looking up a bit, we saw colorful wares|
|... and what may be the world's tiniest McDonalds...
It was a closet-sized booth facing the street, selling only McCafé drinks and soft-serve ice cream cones. The space behind it was a children's clothing and school uniforms shop.
|Mission accomplished and heading home, we encountered (and had time to photograph) a typical coincidence of pedestrian exactly where you're trying to deal with passing (or wide) traffic.|
|Another little spot of our neighborhood we had been trying to get a photo of.|
|once home the weather really closed in|
|and it started to pour.
We stayed in and packed...
all text and images copyright Karen and Dick Seymour 2018,
and may not be reproduced without written permission
Back to the Seymour Stained Glass website:
|DIY Book &